All 20 Parliamentary debates in the Lords on 14th Sep 2021

Tue 14th Sep 2021
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Grand Committee

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Tuesday 14 September 2021

Arrangement of Business

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
15:45
Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, I am asked to remind noble Lords that if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes, though it seems unlikely.

Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Lighting Products) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
15:46
Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Lighting Products) Regulations 2021

Relevant document: 9th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, the draft lighting products regulations were laid before the House on 1 July 2021 and the draft amending regulations were laid before the House on 5 July 2021. Before I begin, I will provide a brief overview of ecodesign and energy labelling and what these policies try to achieve.

Ecodesign policies regulate products that consume energy when in use, such as lighting products, by setting minimum energy performance standards to increase their energy efficiency. More recently, ecodesign policies have included resource-efficiency measures, which seek to make products more repairable and recyclable, thereby reducing the use of material resources. Ecodesign policies make the products that we use in our homes and businesses more environmentally friendly and support long-term product innovation. Energy labelling policies make clear and consistent information on a product’s energy use readily available to consumers at the point of purchase, to help them make more informed purchasing decisions. In effect, energy labelling encourages the uptake of more energy efficient products, thereby reducing energy usage and saving consumers and businesses money on their energy bills.

Taken together, these policies make an important contribution to reducing energy use, improving environmental outcomes and cutting energy bills. It is expected that the full suite of ecodesign and energy labelling policies in force in Great Britain will save consumers about £75 on their energy bills and save 8 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2021.

The lighting products regulations will raise the minimum energy efficiency of lighting products on the market in Great Britain. In effect, this will phase out the least energy-efficient lighting products—in other words, the costliest and most environmentally damaging products to run. The lighting products regulations will replace the existing energy label with a rescaled label, moving from an A++ to E scale to a simpler A to G scale, making it easier for consumers to identify the most energy efficient lighting products. New innovations in lighting technology have led to lighting products becoming much more energy efficient than they were a few years ago, making it necessary to rescale the energy label to show the difference in efficiency more clearly between today’s products. By setting ambitious boundaries for the A to G classes on the energy label, this policy will spur innovation in the design of lighting products as manufacturers compete to achieve the highest energy efficiency ratings.

In addition to rescaling the energy label for lighting products, the union flag must now be displayed on the label for products on the GB market, rather than the EU flag. The lighting products regulations reflect the technical requirements of two EU regulations, which the UK supported when it was a member state and which began to apply in Northern Ireland, under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, and the EU on 1 September.

By introducing these more ambitious and environmentally friendly ecodesign and energy labelling requirements, we will ensure that we will maintain high product standards in Great Britain and push the market to achieve even greater carbon savings. The measures introduced by the lighting products regulations will contribute savings of approximately 1.8 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in the UK by 2030, which increases to 2.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050. On top of this, the resultant reduction in energy use will cut much money from household and business energy bills.

Lastly, introducing these requirements in Great Britain will ensure a mostly common set of product standards with Northern Ireland, thereby avoiding any technical barriers to trade across the Irish Sea and between Great Britain and the EU. A public consultation was conducted between November 2020 and January 2021. Feedback on the consultation proposals showed strong support for implementing these new requirements in Great Britain.

Moving on to the second instrument, the amending regulations will make amendments to retained EU ecodesign and energy labelling law in force in Great Britain. The EU has recently made these same amendments to its equivalent legislation, which must be complied with in Northern Ireland under the terms of the protocol. Therefore, this SI ensures that we avoid technical discrepancies with the equivalent legislation in force in the EU and Northern Ireland.

The amendments this instrument makes are to servers and data storage products with respect to ecodesign; and electronic displays, household refrigeration, dishwashers, washing machines and washer-dryers with respect to energy labelling. The amendments correct technical errors and improve accuracy with the aim of facilitating the understanding of and compliance with the requirements by product manufacturers.

Further, as for the lighting regulations, implementing these amendments in Great Britain avoids technical barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Great Britain and the EU as there will be mostly a common set of standards. A consultation was again conducted between March and April 2021 with those who will be impacted by the legislation. Respondents were supportive of implementing these new requirements in Great Britain.

In conclusion, introducing the lighting products regulations and the amending regulations is aligned with the Government’s ambitions to achieve our carbon budgets and our net-zero target. It will take us ever closer to reducing our energy use and environmental impact. Furthermore, both SIs will avoid technical barriers to trade and ensure an effective regulatory environment for business, while also providing greener choices for consumers and encouraging product innovation. I commend the regulations to the House.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl)
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I thank the Minister for his explanation of these regulations. This is my first time in a statutory instrument debate actually in the Moses Room because I always used Zoom over the last 15 months; notwithstanding that, I am very pleased to see everybody in the flesh.

I have certain questions. I am not opposed to these regulations or what they contain because I firmly believe in striving for climate change mitigation and for energy efficiency, which would help mitigate costs for the consumer. However, in that regard I have some questions and I hope the Minister might be able to provide me with answers. Does the new labelling scale indicate levels of greater safety? I do not think there is an indication of that. Who will monitor the safety of all these lighting appliances? Will there be reports on carbon reduction in relation to these lighting products to COP 26 in Glasgow in a couple of months’ time? Will Parliament receive an ongoing annual report about achieving zero targets in relation to lighting products?

I would be most grateful if the Minister could clarify whether there is any difference between what currently exists and what will exist under these new labelling arrangements. I would also like to ask the Minister what training will be provided to suppliers in terms of the new energy labels. I always fear that, when new labelling comes into play, a cost to the suppliers and those involved in the construction will be attached. I hope that the reduction in energy bills will not result in an increase, or no reduction, because of the costs that will be involved in the manufacture of these new labels. Could the Minister provide me with some detail on that? Will funding support be provided to small suppliers, because they will not have the type of financial outlay that bigger suppliers will?

Apart from flag designations, what other technical differences could exist? Could the Minister advise on that? Will electrical products conform to energy efficiency and climate change mitigation requirements? How will all this assist business development?

I notice that two of the regulations refer to the Northern Ireland protocol. I am glad to note that these are not areas where the contention will apply and that, generally, for these goods and services, there have been no impediments and there will not, we hope, be any. Could the Minister indicate whether he has received specific representations or overtures in relation to the application of the protocol? I note that these regulations apply to England, Scotland and Wales; I therefore assume that the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland will have responsibility for lighting appliances from the Northern Ireland protocol perspective.

I look forward to the Minister’s answers on this welcome piece of legislation.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for his introduction to the two instruments before the Committee today. I am very happy to approve them; I agree that both are uncontroversial as well as sensible and obvious. Energy efficiency continues to be vital in reducing carbon and cost, while we all agree that high cross-border standards should continue to advance in tandem in order to lower barriers to trade. All this helps drive changes in consumer choice towards better products, innovation and improvements.

With the United Kingdom no longer a member state of the EU, it continues to make best sense to maintain improvements in step together across Britain, the United Kingdom and the EU. Can the Minister confirm that that will remain the Government’s intention for the future?

These regulations reflect similar approaches and outcomes. The Committee debated a related instrument at the beginning of June, covering labelling, online and internet selling and welding equipment. Today’s two instruments relate to servers, data-storage products, electronic displays and household products such as washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators on the one hand and light sources and separate control gears on the other. Both Explanatory Memorandums were exemplary and reflected close dialogue with industry, businesses and associations, which underpins successful regulation and will bring confidence to the public in their engagement.

The energy labelling consultation across four weeks in March and April could be regarded as straightforward in that only three responses were forthcoming, so no guidance is envisaged. However, can the Minister be confident that business will be aware of these changes and how does the department envisage further dissemination of information for the measures to be fully operable from 1 October this year? Can the Minister provide any further details regarding the provisions and improved accuracy of the regulations highlighted under paragraph 10.3 of the memorandum, following input from these three consultees?

16:00
The instrument on lighting makes some interesting changes, where the memorandum provides an impact assessment in detail for consideration. Under paragraph 7.6, the memorandum explains that labelling requirements for lighting products should secure
“an expected 10.6 TwH of electricity and 1.3 Mega-tonnes of CO2 by 2050.”
I was not sure whether the Minister mentioned slight variances to these figures that might give a different complexion to those savings. However, I congratulate him on the more ambitious requirements than those that are presently set far below what could be reasonably achievable. Could the Minister put further perspectives on this? How many terawatt hours of electricity and megatonnes of CO2 are currently generated by the lighting industry and what percentage saving does the introduction of these regulations represent? It is imperative that the Government provide coherent and emphatic encouragement for progress towards net zero.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, who asked interesting questions concerning COP 26 and engagement of the public with purchases towards lowering the footprint of the lighting industry in relation to net zero. I am also encouraged by the rescaling of energy lighting labels to a simpler A to G scale. This should provide greater clarity to the market towards the most efficient projects with more intelligent and accurate information. It must be far from clear that the consumer at present appreciates the distinctions at the top end of the scale between A++ ratings and A+.
Finally, I note the concerns expressed under paragraph 10.3 on the
“possible health implications of certain lighting products for photo-sensitive people”,
and that these regulations place
“requirements on lighting products to limit any potential adverse health effects”.
Can the Minister say what considerations the Government are giving towards limiting light pollution in general? I noted that during the pandemic many areas, especially along motorways, limited the usage of lighting during the night hours. Have the Government undertaken any balance of considerations between light pollution and energy saving with safety concerns about dark areas on roads and in our cities?
In finishing, I remain in firm approval of these regulations.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for their contributions to this debate.

As I have said before, the Government are committed to delivering on their carbon budgets and net-zero target. The lighting products regulations will make a modest contribution to achieving those targets by setting higher product standards. I will reiterate the figures for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester: 1.8 megatonnes of carbon savings will be made in the UK by 2030, which will increase to 2.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050. The amending regulations will help to achieve this by safeguarding the carbon savings that will be secured from our retained EU law.

On the questions posed to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, on product safety, which of course is not part of these regulations, the Office for Product Safety and Standards enforces ecodesign and energy labelling requirements placed on manufacturers and importers across the UK. Trading Standards and the Department for the Economy enforce energy labelling requirements placed on retailers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland respectively. The Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for ensuring that marketers’ advertising of energy labelling across various forms of media is in accordance with UK advertising codes. All market surveillance authorities work hard to uphold high product standards on the UK market and to ensure that businesses are supported to understand their obligations.

I can also tell the noble Baroness that there are currently no plans to report on the specific carbon-saving reductions from these regulations, but of course the Government will update Parliament on their carbon-saving targets on a more aggregate level. She also asked about differences between old and new requirements. The main difference introduced by these new energy-labelling requirements is the reinterpretation or reintroduction of the simple A to G scale. Many products under the previous regulations achieved A+ or A++ ratings, so the new scale has been reorientated to make them more understandable for consumers and enable consumers to better discern the most energy-efficient products. This would also encourage innovation by manufacturers to achieve the highest rating. We know that industry is already innovating to meet the highest levels of energy efficiency from lighting products, and we are working with it to understand how these technologies can go further to save even more energy, reduce carbon and of course, at the same time, reduce consumer bills.

On the noble Baroness’s questions about support to businesses, we expect the new requirements to have very limited impact on small businesses. Nevertheless, we have ensured that we work closely with suppliers of the affected products to help them understand the new requirements, and we have liaised closely with trade associations, which play a vital role in providing guidance to small and medium-sized businesses. Despite the new regulations creating some small new costs to manufacturers in the short term, they will in the longer term save businesses and consumers money on their energy bills. We estimate a net saving of something like £18 million a year for businesses up to 2050, due to their reduced energy bills. It is also important to emphasise that no products are being taken off the market; if they are currently on the market, you can sell out supplies of existing products before you need to move on to the newer ones, so nothing will be scrapped and nothing wasted.

With regard to working together with the noble Baroness’s home Province of Northern Ireland in relation to implementation of energy labelling, we work closely with officials in the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that they are aware of the new requirements, including in relation to enforcement of these regulations on retailers, which, as I said, is the responsibility of the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. The OPSS enforces requirements on suppliers across the UK and has an excellent relationship with stakeholders in Northern Ireland.

I move on to the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, who asked about awareness of the new regulations. The noble Lord can be assured that we have engaged extensively with the lighting industry to communicate the changes to the regulations, and we have provided guidance and support to manufacturers that have taken the trouble to contact us directly. The OPSS has also communicated widely to remind businesses of the new regulations coming into force.

On light pollution, ecodesign and energy labelling have played an important role in contributing to reducing UK emissions, and we believe that additional savings through better policy could make an important contribution to the Government’s carbon budget targets and to net zero. We are always exploring whether further energy savings could be made by using light products in smarter ways, which would help to contribute to an aim that we all share—that of reducing excess light pollution. The noble Lord can be assured that we will work closely with our colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to see what more can be done with using smart lighting products and so on to reduce light pollution.

To close, I underline once more that the main purpose of these regulations is to raise the minimum energy efficiency of a range of lighting products sold in Great Britain and to reform energy labels for lighting products by rescaling the energy classes and introducing an energy scale. Both SIs will help to avoid technical barriers to trade, while also bringing significant benefits to consumers in the form of reduced energy bills and to the environment in terms of lower emissions. With that, I commend these regulations to the House.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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May I just delay the Committee for one short moment and thank the Minister for clarifying those figures on the savings from the lighting regulations? However, could he perhaps write to me with wider details of what the power generated is in a more total setting of the lighting industry, and what percentage these savings should represent against that total?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course, I would be very happy to write to the noble Lord with that information.

Motion agreed.

Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:10
Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Motion agreed.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps etc.) (England) (Revocation and Amendment) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:11
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps etc.) (England) (Revocation and Amendment) Regulations 2021

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, these regulations are an important milestone on our journey through the pandemic—and, I hope, beyond. On their introduction, most coronavirus restrictions in England were lifted, so on 19 July we moved to step 4 of the Government’s road map—the final step of our cautious journey out of lockdown.

I do not need to detain your Lordships for very long setting out the content of these regulations. Almost all legal restrictions have been lifted. Businesses across all sectors are able to open again. We can now attend weddings, birthdays and festivals and spend time with our families, friends and loved ones without legal restrictions on social contact. The balance has truly shifted, with most restrictions enforced in law now replaced with guidance.

I am pleased to see that our theatres and the wider entertainment sector are blossoming once again. I know that many of us have enthusiastically welcomed the return of singing in churches and amateur choirs. In the broadest sense, community life has returned, and I do not think we realised quite how much we missed it.

I know that many people may feel nervous, particularly those who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed. We must all continue to act carefully, respond to the latest guidance and remain cautious to protect ourselves and those around us. That means continuing to follow the Government’s advice on protecting ourselves and others: for example, by getting the vaccine, letting fresh air in if meeting indoors, and getting tested when symptomatic and isolating when necessary.

The pandemic is not over. The virus will remain part of our lives. We are undoubtedly in a better place now than when we embarked on the road map out of lockdown in February this year. This is a testament to the expertise and dedication of all those involved in building our defences against the virus.

We have a toolkit in place for tackling the virus in the months ahead. The Government have set out our plan for managing the virus over these difficult months, and the Secretary of State has recently finished making his Statement in the other place. Our plan A is to continue to build on the progress we have made and manage the virus without the need for restrictions that impact on the lives and livelihoods of citizens.

We are implementing the biggest and most successful vaccination programme the country has ever seen, with more than 48 million people having now received their first vaccine dose. Data shows that the vaccination reduces overall symptomatic disease by 80% to 90%, hospitalisations by more and deaths by around 95%. The vaccination programme has substantially weakened the link between infections and serious illness or disease.

We will continue to bolster the wall of defence provided by vaccines by encouraging take-up and through booster jabs. Extensive planning for a booster vaccination programme is well under way, and the NHS is preparing to start booster doses from next week. Details have emerged during the course of today. This will protect the most vulnerable throughout the winter months and strengthen our wall of defence even further.

Vaccines are now being offered to 16 and 17 year-olds, and the Government have accepted the advice of the four Chief Medical Officers to offer vaccination to all healthy 12 to 15 year-olds. Invitations for vaccinations will begin shortly.

Our test, trace and self-isolate system is another of the key defences in our armour against the virus. We have established the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history. The UK has conducted 274 million Covid tests and reached 15.9 million people who have either tested positive or been in contact with someone who has. I look forward to updating noble Lords further on the test, trace and self-isolate systems when we debate important changes to the self-isolation regs later this afternoon.

16:15
We are supporting the NHS and social care. Last week, we announced a £5.4 billion cash injection for the NHS to support the Covid-19 response over the next six months, including £1 billion to tackle the elective backlog. Our world-leading scientific expertise has created significant breakthroughs in the treatment of Covid-19. Robust clinical analysis has enabled us to take decisions based on evidence and rigorous science to improve patient care. We continue to manage risks at the border and support a global response to reduce the risk of variants emerging globally and entering the UK. The safety of the public will always come first.
This comprehensive toolkit will stand us in good stead over the coming winter. As far as possible, we will avoid reimposing social and economic restrictions. The progress made so far is built on the perseverance and resolve of us all. If we are to safeguard the return of familiar freedoms, everyone needs to continue to follow behaviours and actions set out in the guidance on how to limit the spread of Covid-19.
I am sure your Lordships will join me in extending heartfelt thanks to all those in the NHS, the social care sector and wider support services, including the many volunteers, who have helped make this progress possible. Indeed, I particularly thank every person and every organisation that has contributed to this achievement and made sacrifices to protect themselves and others during this difficult time. Thanks to them all, we can look forward with optimism and a sense of resolve as we learn to live with the virus.
I sincerely regret that we are debating the regulations only now. We have always been clear that restrictions would be in place for only as long as they were needed. It was therefore essential to bring these regulations quickly once the four tests had been met, allowing us to move to step 4. The content of each step of the road map has Parliament’s prior approval, and we debated the Oral Statements setting out the shape of step 4 and announcing the move to step 4 prior to these regulations being laid. As ever, I welcome the scrutiny of Parliament and noble Lords’ valuable contributions to this. I commend these regulations to the Grand Committee.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord and to speak to these regulations. They were laid two months ago and, once again, we are debating regulations that in a sense have been superseded by the various announcements made over the last 24 hours. I realise that this week we will probably debate at least two of the Statements, as well as looking forward to a lot of activity when we return.

I will focus on the instruments. At the time they were brought into force, the Government stated:

“The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully … Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated”


and that confidence in vaccine effectiveness against the delta variant has increased significantly. I hope the Minister can update us on that.

Can he confirm the number of adults who have not yet been vaccinated? I think there are figures in the winter plan that I have just seen. Does he agree that, while one should applaud all the efforts of those who have made the vaccination programme possible, it is still striking that so many adults have irresponsibly decided not to vaccinate? I know we will debate the issue of children aged 12 to 15 later this week, but I for one feel very uncomfortable that, even with just one jab, there will be a small risk to those taking it— particularly some boys—partly because of the selfishness of adults in not taking the vaccine. I personally think there are some ethical issues and am not surprised that the JCVI found this a very difficult decision. What else does the Minister think can be done to encourage adults to take up the vaccine?

Could the Minister also say a little about the unknown risks of vaccine effectiveness in high-prevalence environments where transmission pressures are high? I will also ask about the relationship between the booster jabs, which I think the Chief Medical Officer recently announced are to happen, and the flu vaccine programme. I understand that there is concern that immunity to the virus is low, leading to fear that flu, together with other winter viruses, could put the NHS under extreme pressure. Could he also comment on the likely effectiveness of the flu vaccine, which I gather is pretty low?

May I also ask about face coverings? These regulations remove the requirement for people to wear face coverings when using public transport services and in relevant indoor settings. The rationale for that was that the success of the vaccination programme meant we could move away from strict legal restrictions towards personal responsibility and informed judgment. Last week we debated this to an extent and the Minister pointed to data that his department had showing that this had not had much impact on people’s behaviour. From talking to noble Lords, I note that there is some surprise about this, because to the visible eye mask-wearing has dropped off considerably, particularly among men. I wonder about the extent to which this is being monitored and whether we need to step up some programmes about why it is still to be encouraged.

Finally, I will ask about local authority powers. These regulations enable local authorities to take action where an outbreak or risk of outbreak is linked to premises or an event, with local authorities retaining powers to respond to local serious and imminent public health threats. That is a very sensible provision. The Government then describe those regulations as continuing

“to act as an important public health tool for local authorities”.

Could he update me on the use of these regulations since they were passed?

Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker (LD)
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My Lords, I am speaking in this debate because my noble friend Lady Brinton cannot be in her place to take part. We have the technology to enable remote participation in debates in the Moses Room, but the House authorities have not yet permitted that for contributions in Grand Committee, so virtual participation in these proceedings is unfortunately not possible, even though we have seen in this last week that the very few participants who need to take part remotely can be managed very effectively without recourse to extensive speakers’ lists.

It is also a loss to the Committee, because my noble friend Lady Brinton cannot take part for one very important reason, about which she has been quite public: she is clinically vulnerable, and one thing she cannot do is travel on public transport, which she cannot do because people are not wearing masks. Of all people, she should have been able to be here to make that point.

Yet again, these SIs were tabled very late. They came in just before the recess in late July, so yet again we are back to debating things that are long in the past. We have repeatedly asked the Government to respect the House and timetable SIs when they are not genuinely urgent. However, these are, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said, quite pertinent in view of the Statements being made this week.

This statutory instrument mostly deals with the revocation of statutory instruments on 21 July, which confirmed a number of the changes in the Prime Minister’s so-called freedom day. However, there is one extension, in Regulation 4, to the expiry date of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations, which are now to end on 27 September. The Explanatory Memorandum says that this

“will ensure that local authorities retain powers to respond to local serious and imminent public health threats as a result of the spread of coronavirus. The No. 3 Regulations will continue to act as an important public health tool for local authorities in their local coronavirus outbreak management, compliance and enforcement activities. This is particularly important in light of the revocation of the other restrictions mentioned above”.

As we have said all the way through this pandemic, it is important that local authorities have the power to manage local outbreaks. Simply extending that power in law, but not making sure that they have the resources, will not work. As epidemiologists have said to us in terms, there will inevitably be points when it is important to close all the pubs in a certain area, simply because an outbreak has to be contained. While we welcome that, it behoves the Minister to say something about local authorities such as Croydon, which is insolvent, and how it will have the resources to manage this significant and enduring public health problem.

We regret the removal of face coverings on public transport and other crowded venues. I can say, as somebody who travels on the London Underground every working day, that fewer and fewer people are wearing masks and, as more and more people are on the Tube, I am certain we will see a spike in infections as a result. I also point out to noble Lords that the bad messaging on this does not help. There is genuine confusion. One of my colleagues was on a train to Scotland in the summer and, when it got to the border, there was an announcement that the law now required everybody on that train to wear a mask, and they did, as they should have done all the way.

It is now clear that the Government, and in particular the Prime Minister, have been so desperate to place emphasis on the vaccination programme as our primary defence that they have forgotten to look at the role of other mitigations against the disease. Although we support the passing of these regulations, we need to make the messaging clearer as a matter of urgency, so we can avoid the confusion that is now prevalent among people in England.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the regulations and congratulate my noble friend on bringing them before us. To a certain extent, my comments echo those that have already been made by previous speakers. I was fortunate enough to visit my family in Denmark and Scotland this summer, and the guidance in each place was much clearer. Speaking as an older person, I prefer to keep my mask on, on all forms of public transport. I am sure my noble friend will recognise that one of the reasons why there was not a high incidence of flu last year was, in large measure, because we followed the example of the Asians after the SARS epidemic in the late 2000s of masking up. Even the common cold was kept under control.

I understand the Department of Health and Social Care’s concern about a high incidence of flu this year, but I am sure we can encourage people to mask up, particularly in areas of close proximity. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, mentioned the Tube. I am still reluctant to go on the Tube at busy times, but even the trains on the east coast main line are incredibly busy now, and you can find yourself next to someone who you are not normally accustomed to seeing.

To me, wearing a mask is not an infringement of my liberty; it is my passport to health and keeping safe. I hope that it will keep others safe as well. Does my noble friend imagine that the guidance will be revisited? It is in stark contrast to what has applied in Denmark and in Scotland.

16:30
Having visited Scotland, I was alarmed to see that, just 10 days after the schools returned, the incidence of Covid in general circulation was so high and increasing. The Government there have said in no uncertain terms that they will bring back restrictions, as have our Government in England. That is welcome. To what does my noble friend attribute the high incidence of circulation among the general community in Scotland, which we have not seen in England? I take great comfort from that, but is there a concern that, after the schools have been back for three weeks in England, we might see a similar rise here?
I applaud the pace and efficiency of the vaccine programme and I congratulate all those who were involved in rolling it out, from the department down to the general practices, as well as all those in the big vaccination venues. It was absolutely amazing. One of the positives to come out of Covid was seeing the vaccine not only created, approved and produced but then rolled out so efficiently.
My particular concern is the vaccines for those aged 12 and upwards. I would like to press my noble friend on the medical evidence. If I was a 12 year-old female or male, I would be concerned about what exactly the evidence is. I understand that a young boy might be vulnerable to this infection around the heart. Are these young people more at risk of being sick by being vaccinated or are they more at risk of being hospitalised or seriously ill from contracting Covid? Are we asking them to be vaccinated for the health of the general population? It would be helpful to know that from the point of view of the parent and the individual.
I looked at the regulations closely and I may have missed it, so I end with one question about PCR tests. I had to have various PCR tests in my visit to Denmark. I was disappointed that, because we were saying how high the infection level was in July, the Danish Government immediately whacked us into the red zone and I had to quarantine for four days, although it was not unpleasant and I passed the time as best I could. I should add that the PCR tests were completely free in Denmark. They were paid for by the Danish Government, for which I am grateful. I do not contribute to the Danish economy other than when I am there, but the fact that the Danish Government took that approach has helped the tourism trade and the travel industry hugely, so my noble friend may like to revisit that with the Department for Transport here.
My understanding was that the reason why all of us were paying these high levels for PCR tests going out and slightly less for the two-day test on our return was that they would all be investigated to see whether we had contracted Covid—thankfully in my case, I had not, but I was grateful for the opportunity to test myself out of self-isolation. Being a Scot and living in North Yorkshire, I was prudent and shopped around, but I paid about £130 as an individual, which is a substantial amount of money. I understood that, where there were positive tests, they would be investigated to see if there was a particular variant—the delta variant or a new variant. Can my noble friend confirm that that is the case? He may not have the figures at his disposal, but he could perhaps write to me and give a copy of the letter to the Library in the usual way. I am alarmed that these high rates have been allowed with no follow-up on those who have contracted Covid as evidenced by these PCR tests. The term “rip-off” comes to mind. Many of these companies seem to have taken advantage of the British public and others visiting the UK. If that is the case, it is deeply regrettable.
With those few remarks, obviously I welcome where we are today. In particular, as chairman of the proof of age PASS board, it is welcome that those in casinos and other nightlife who rely on PASS cards will be able to open up in the same way as other establishments such as coffee bars and restaurants have done. That is particularly welcome, and I welcome the broad thrust of the regulations this afternoon.
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this late regulation. As I said to him last week, there is a sort of “Groundhog Day” tendency in having to deal with these things. I would also like to register with the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, that the House needs to address the issue of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, being able to access these sessions in the same way that she can access the Chamber. I would even go so far as to say that it is discriminatory that she cannot. As well as that, we are missing her wisdom, words and her representation of her points of view.

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and my noble friend Lord Hunt have covered many of the points and have asked many of the questions that need to be asked on this regulation. As noble Lords have said, it triggers the end of most of the lockdown restrictions in England by revoking regulations and amending regulations listed in the schedule from 19 July. I echo what other noble Lords have said. Does the Minister believe that it was premature to remove face mask regulations? I have not yet read the 30-odd page toolkit document in full, so I do not know whether the option is there to reintroduce them as part of the autumn-winter Covid plans. Would that be mandatory?

At the time of lifting the restrictions, from these Benches we opposed and still oppose the decision to remove the requirement to wear a face covering indoors and on public transport. The risk of transmission inside a crowded bus or train will be high. If it is true, as the scientists say, that one in 70 of us in England has Covid, and the capacity of a double decker bus is about 70 and a full Tube train or regular train carriage can carry up to 140 passengers, that would mean that on average one person on a crowded bus and two people on a crowded Tube train will be contagious. They will have Covid, and with little ventilation and no legal requirement to wear a mask.

I travel on public transport all the time—it is how I get to your Lordships’ House and go home—and it is certainly noticeable that mask-wearing, particularly among young men, has fallen. It is true that on the Tube there are marginally more people wearing masks than on the Overground, but the number has fallen. It is very concerning and worrying, and I have got to the point where I have stopped being a mask monitor and offering people masks if they have not got one on, because there are too many of them on the Tube and on trains without masks on.

We supported the removal of restrictions on gatherings, but we thought the Government were going too far and too fast at the time. We were also concerned that the lifting of all the restrictions was confusing to businesses. Has the Minister had feedback about how effective the lifting of those restrictions was? This instrument extended the expiry date of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations to the end of September to ensure that local authorities retain the power to respond to local serious and imminent public health threats as a result of the spread of coronavirus. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government intend to further extend these provisions? If it is in the winter plan I apologise, but I think we will be discussing that tomorrow or Thursday.

I suspect that the winter plan contains which bits of the Coronavirus Act are being retained and which will be got rid of. However, what worries me is whether in three or four weeks’ time, if infection rates have increased enormously as a result of the schools going back, there will be sufficient powers to deal with that, and sufficient powers if we need to go into further restrictions. The Minister must explain what will happen if the worst happens. The byword throughout the whole pandemic has been “Let’s plan for the worst and hope that we don’t have to use those powers.” If all those powers are being rescinded now, what will we do if there is a new variant further into the winter or we see a spike in the next three or four weeks? We need to know that.

In terms of mask wearing, I went on holiday to Scotland by train and it is true that as we neared the border, there was an announcement that everybody had to wear a mask, and everybody put a mask on. It was not an issue. Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I do not regard mask-wearing as an encroachment on my civil liberties. I regard it as something that protects me and with which I protect others. We seem to have lost that message in the wearing of masks. Are the Government going to do anything about that?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords very much for an extremely helpful debate, and I very much welcome this return to the Moses Room. It is very nice to be back in the intimate and more conversational style of Committee.

The Secretary of State has been on his feet this afternoon to talk about the toolkit. My understanding is that there will be some kind of Statement repeat, and I look forward very much to going through the toolkit during that. I apologise in advance if I cannot answer every question on that right now, but I would like to tackle a couple of points that were raised. Before I do, I will say a word of appreciation for the contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton—her presence is highly valued—and for those who organised the virtual House and our current arrangements. It is all a massive compromise and uncomfortable, but I am extremely grateful for the work that has been done to make this return possible. I am hopeful that even more can be done in October.

A number of noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked about the booster. The NHS will be rolling out a booster programme to protect those who are most vulnerable to Covid, as we announced previously. It will now be extended to individuals who received vaccination in phase 1 of the programme: that is, JCVI groups 1 to 9. That includes those living in residential care, all adults over 50, front-line health and social care workers, and all those aged between 16 and 40 who have underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe Covid.

This is very good news. There is very strong evidence that a booster programme such as this can have a very big impact, particularly on those who are immunosuppressed or who live with the immunosuppressed. The JCVI has advised that the booster vaccine programme is offered no earlier than six months after completion of the primary vaccine course, and that will of course affect many people. The vaccination programme has been planning booster vaccinations for some time, which means that the NHS is now in a position to offer booster doses from next week. As most younger adults will have received only their second Covid vaccine dose in late summer, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later date. I think noble Lords would agree that this is a reasonable and proportionate approach to this complex issue.

16:45
Following the advice from the JCVI, the four CMOs and the NHS, working with the school immunisation teams, will offer a first dose of vaccine to 12 to 15 year-olds from next week. That is incredibly good news and sees through the immense amount of work that has gone into assessment. A decision will be made in consultation with a GP. If there is a dispute with parents, there will be a four-stage process for determining whether a young person has capacity to consent to a vaccination, as is the case with all vaccinations of children, as I am sure noble Lords know.
On the subject of face coverings, this came up last week and after the debate I looked into the figures on the wearing of them. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is right that there has been a change in the wearing—or the perceived wearing—of face coverings. The reassurance that I had seen in previous figures changed after the 19 July step 4 change, as many noble Lords noted.
We believe that the measures we have put in place are proportionate. It is our view that you cannot put something as intimate and detailed as face covering into law for very long periods. We have to trust the people themselves. That is why in step 4 the Government removed the legal requirement to wear face coverings. The success of the vaccine programme is not the only thing we are relying on, but it puts us in a position to relax some restrictions. Face coverings remain an incredibly important way to reduce the spread of the virus and that is why the Government expect and recommend that they continue to be used in indoor spaces where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet, particularly where there is a risk of greater transmission, such as the Tube, whether overland or underground. The government guidance on face covering enables people to make informed decisions about how to manage the risk to themselves and others. It is our hope that people will continue to respect that guidance and to be considerate to others.
The regulations provided local authorities with powers to enable local authority enforcement officers to issue improvement and restriction notices to persons not meeting Covid-secure business obligations, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, rightly noted. These regulations were revoked as part as the move to step 4 of the road map. We believe that the tests set out in the number 3 regs, including engagement with DPHs to ensure that they are proportionate, will mean that DPHs are left in a position to conduct whatever interventions they feel they need to. There is an appeal mechanism, and they can rely on that, if necessary.
In answer to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about how often number 3 regulations have been used by the authorities, I can share with him that they have been used 330 times since the regulations were laid.
I have some sympathy for all those who travel from England to Scotland and have noted the differences in messaging. I think many noble Lords have made that journey and noted the same thing. However, there have been benefits from the four-nations approach. It is important that the leaders of each country take their country with them. It increases compliance if communities feel connected to the leaders who are trying to inspire and guide them. However, after so many months of the pandemic I think noble Lords are right that more alignment would be convenient and more impactful. We are certainly working hard at a ministerial and a CMO level to try to get more alignment in our policy-making, which then flows through to our message-making.
However, it is not right that, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, suggested, we are relying simply on vaccinations. Other important mitigations are in place. Testing, borders and the investment in therapeutics and clinical innovations in the treatment of Covid have all meant that we have massively strengthened our response to the pandemic.
We believe that the spike in infections in Scotland is due in part to the return of schools, which, as noble Lords know, happens earlier in Scotland. We think it is also because the loosening of some regulations in Scotland coincided with the return of schools. We in England loosened a lot of our regulations with the step 4 regulations we have before us, so we hope that there will not be the same spike here.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about tests for travel. Travel is essentially a voluntary business, done by a very tiny proportion of the country. It is therefore our view that it is not reasonable for the broad taxpayer, the vast majority of whom are not travelling, to pay for the tests of those who have the opportunity to travel. However, we are leaning into the test arrangements around foreign travel, and I am aware of the complaints of noble Lords and the public. Since 15 December, when we brought in the day two and day eight testing regime, private industry has come an enormous way to stand up a massive system of testing. It is not perfect but we are leaning in very heavily to make sure that there are improvements. There are currently 500 providers, many of whom deliver an absolutely first-class service, but we have got tough on providers who do not. We are enforcing minimum standards and making daily checks on the pricing arrangements that providers are promising on GOV.UK but not always standing by. For these reasons, we hope that there will be a significant improvement and that travellers will be able to rely on that service for months to come. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
Motion agreed.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:52
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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That the Grand Committee do consider Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, over the past few months, the Government have made a concerted effort to bring forth a sense of normality across the country with the easing of restrictions, while maintaining caution with regard to this deadly virus, which clearly has a long way to run. These regulations are a key part of this dual-track effort, significantly reducing the burden of self-isolation while protecting society from the threat of contagion. The main focus of the regs is the isolation protocols, so I begin by reflecting on the crucial role that contact tracing and self-isolation play in fighting the virus.

Since it was established in May 2020, NHS Test and Trace has contacted more than 15 million people who have tested positive for Covid-19 or who have been in contact with a positive case. Tracing—the bedrock of any public health intervention—has improved substantially over the last several months. In October 2020, 60% of close contacts were being reached. In comparison, over the period from 26 August to 1 September, 87.3% of positive cases transferred to NHS Test and Trace were reached, as have 89.5% of their contacts where usable contact details were provided. That is a remarkable achievement.

The public realise the importance of isolation. July’s ONS statistics that show 79% of positive cases reported complying with the self-isolation guidance, alongside 89% of close contacts. That is a terrific response from the public and it has proven a vital weapon in our arsenal against the virus.

What is the impact of this massive financial and societal investment? A recent study from PHE, published today and called the Canna model after the idyllic Scottish western isle, which some noble Lords may have visited, shows that from August last year to this April, test, trace and self-isolation activity reduced the transmission of the virus by between 10% and 28%. The PHE research demonstrates that self-isolation helped to bring R below one at crucial times, reducing the duration and impact of lockdown. Over the full period of the study, the Canna model estimates that isolation due to test, trace and isolate policies prevented between 1.2 million and 2 million secondary cases. The NHS Test and Trace service has also enabled us to identify peaks and troughs in case rates, supporting decisions on when restrictions should be tightened or could be eased.

We recognise that none of this has been easy. The requirement to isolate creates enormous challenges for individuals and their families across the country. A study in March 2021 by the BMJ concluded that offering financial and practical support to individuals who needed to self-isolate would likely improve compliance. We support that view. Since September last year, we have provided councils with £280 million to issue support payments to those who may face financial hardships because of self-isolation. We have also made up to £100 million available between March and September this year for councils to offer practical and emotional support to some of the most vulnerable in our communities, covering over 200,000 people. It is right, though, that we sought to reduce the burden of self-isolation at the earliest opportunity.

The amendments to the self-isolation regulations we are debating balance these factors and provide a significant easing of burden from self-isolation requirements while maintaining vital measures to reduce the spread of the virus. These amendments came into effect on 16 August and allow those who are fully vaccinated to be exempt from self-isolation if they are the close contact of a positive case. Based on the data, we know that the vaccines reduce overall symptoms by between 80% and 90%, hospitalisations by between 90% and 95%, and deaths by around 95%. Therefore, we have adapted our approach to self-isolation to reflect this and ensure we balance the need to slow down the transmission of the disease with the need to get back to normal.

As well as fully vaccinated adults, several other groups have also been exempted from the requirement to self-isolate. The amendment provides an exemption to self-isolation for the close contacts who have taken or are taking part in an MHRA-approved trial for a Covid vaccine. This will ensure that they are not disadvantaged as a result of their personal sacrifice. We recognise also that some groups cannot be fully vaccinated on medical grounds. The amendment therefore includes an exemption for those close contacts who can evidence that they are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Finally, we have carefully considered the impact on those under the age of 18. There are unqualified harms to children’s educational, emotional and social outcomes as a consequence of self-isolation, as well as of the infection itself. The risk of hospitalisation and intensive care admission in children due to Covid is very low—approximately eight per 100,000 population aged under 18 are admitted to hospital. The incidence of mortality in children as a result of Covid is also extremely low. By balancing these factors, the SI provides an exemption for those close contacts under the age of 18 from self-isolation.

Those who are exempt will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible to check whether they have the virus. Though not required to self-isolate, they will be advised to consider other precautions, such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, as well as limiting contact with others, particularly those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. However, it remains the case that if any of these groups develop symptoms they should self-isolate immediately and take a PCR test. Anyone, whether fully vaccinated or not, who goes on to test positive will remain under a legal duty to self-isolate.

Although I sympathise with the burden and the challenges that self-isolation creates, it will continue to play an indispensable role in containing the virus. The Secretary of State said more on this in his Statement earlier on the winter strategy for tackling the virus. While restrictions are easing, we must all continue to adhere to the self-isolation regulations and the guidance if we are to continue protecting our friends, families and communities. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I very much agree with what the Minister said about the importance of self-isolation. I note that emphasis is given in the winter plan to the importance of isolation in relation to breaking transmissions. The issue I have is that there is a proportion of the population who find self-isolation very difficult, and there are legitimate reasons for that. I have been studying TUC research, which shows that 24% of low-paid workers say they cannot afford to take time off for sickness, as opposed to 6% of high-paid workers. It reckons that only 35% of low-paid workers get full sick pay, as opposed to 80% of high-paid workers, defined as those earning more than £50,000 per annum. Statutory sick pay is only £96.35, less than any other OECD country. It is reckoned that 72% of low-paid workers cannot work from home, compared with 20% of high-paid workers.

17:00
The Minister may respond by saying, “Ah, but we have a self-isolation payment scheme”, and we do, but my understanding is that 34% of applications to councils are being rejected because councils are worried about running out of funds. In areas with a high proportion of low-paid workers who cannot work from home, the approval rate is even lower. Do the Government recognise that we have a serious problem here? If we have to tighten self-isolation rules again—indeed, even under the current, voluntary system—will this be addressed?
I relate this to work by SAGE in interpreting differential health outcomes among minority-ethnic groups in the first and second waves. As it pointed out,
“all minority ethnic groups … have been at higher risk of mortality”
during the pandemic, but there is
“a particular intensity in this pattern of differential mortality among Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups”.
They
“suffer severe, debilitating underlying conditions at a younger age and more often than other minority ethnic groups due to health inequalities. They are more likely to have two or more health conditions that interact to produce greater risk of death from Covid”.
A number of factors provide some explanation, including:
“Practical difficulties of access … to … NHS Track and Trace services due to … site locations, difficulties taking time off … for testing”,
and real fear of
“loss of livelihood if required to self-isolate”,
as I have mentioned.
As SAGE said at the time:
“Furlough, self-employment and business support schemes have helped thriving businesses and better-off self-employed people the most, rather than those in the most hard pressed situations”.
It concluded:
“Unaffordability of taking unpaid time off, or concerns about the effect of absences on job security”
will need to be tackled. How is this to be tackled?
I will comment on the removal of the requirement on children to self-isolate when they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive. The Government argue:
“At present those under 18 are unable to be vaccinated”—
that has obviously changed since the regulations were published—
“but have experienced a significant impact on their social and educational development as well as their physical and mental health through having to self-isolate. Removing the requirement to self-isolate will significantly improve a range of outcomes for this cohort.”
I do not disagree with that at all, but have our schools, in particular, been made as safe as possible? Recently, Independent SAGE pointed out that many of the recommendations it made about schools more than a year ago are still “highly relevant” today,
“including advice on bubbles, distancing, ventilation, testing and support for staff and students, particularly students from deprived communities.”
As it says, not enough progress has been made.
I am glad to see that on page 18 of the winter plan there is a section on ventilation where the Government lay out five ways in which they are going to
“support improved ventilation in key settings”.
They refer to the public sector estate and evidence an initiative in 30 Bradford schools. Will they go further? At the moment, my understanding is that many schools are very concerned about the lack of ventilation equipment. They will not always be able to afford the cost of sorting this out, which sometimes can be very high. It goes with the territory: having removed the requirement on children to self-isolate, which I fully understand, surely we need to do more in relation to school ventilation. I know we will come to debate the winter plan later in the week, but one of my questions is whether there will be some resource available to help schools improve ventilation.
Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker (LD)
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I thank the Minister for introducing the regulations as he did, but it does not alter the fact that the current rules around self-isolation and PCR and lateral flow testing are confusing. People who are not stupid and who genuinely want to know what to do and what they should be doing for the best find them difficult. I heard about someone who had contact with a positive case last week trying to work out from GOV.UK if it was okay that they had had a negative PCR test and had no symptoms—what were they then supposed to do? It is imperative that we continue to have very clear and sustained messaging around testing and isolating.

Ministers have made great play of the fact that the front line of defence is double vaccination. Okay, but that is only as strong as it is if you continue to have the second-line defences of testing and isolating in behind it; if you do not, that places a much greater strain on the vaccination process. We know that from other countries. I know that the Minister said that there were other mitigations, and he talked about investment in therapeutic treatments, but they are not yet with us. Therefore, we need to concentrate yet again, albeit with fewer restrictions than there were before, on who is being tested and who is having to isolate.

I go back to one point on which I have asked the Minister questions for more than 12 months. What about people who are not registered with GPs? There are still such people in the country, perhaps people whose first language is not English and who—surprisingly, perhaps—do not know about what to do about going to get vaccinated. I have come across a couple of examples recently. I do not think that there are vast numbers of such people, but there is a significant cohort in some communities who are hesitant not because they have any great ideological disposition against vaccination—they just simply do not know what to do, or they may have language problems, which means that they are concerned about going to vaccination centres.

I want to talk again about schools, because we have the data that has come through from Scotland. I point out to noble Lords that mask-wearing in schools in Scotland is still in place. From talking to epidemiologists, as we did earlier this year, about the whole process of the country coming out of tight restrictions, one thing that they said to my noble friend Lady Brinton and our team is that with enclosed spaces it is not just ventilation that you have to look at—you have to look at air purification as well. The big health risk is when you have stagnant air into which people who are positive are exhaling droplets of the virus. What has been done to enable schools to look at things like carbon dioxide monitors, as a proxy for measuring stagnant air? Again, I do not think that many schools have had the resources to enable them to deal with that.

I want to make one point that my noble friend Lady Brinton would have made had she been here. We are still talking about 1,000 deaths a week and 50,000 deaths per annum. By the Prime Minister’s reckoning, that is an acceptable but very high number of deaths. The reason why these regulations are not helping is that they seem to be part of a high-level message that says, “It’s over.” A lot of people think it is over, but it is not; it will not be for a considerable time and it will continue to be very dangerous if we chip away at the side mitigations that go beyond the vaccine.

Finally, we have always said that local authorities have a key role to play in identifying those people who are in the communities that are most vulnerable, and they are the communities that need the most help to self-isolate. When will the Government produce a comprehensive report on the funding of local authorities for local self-isolation schemes and their effectiveness?

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hunt made the most pertinent point, which is that, as we have acknowledged, Covid has pointed to the gross inequalities in our society. That can be seen absolutely when we look at the self-isolation regulatory regime and the impossibility of those on low incomes self-isolating because they then have to choose between feeding or not feeding their children; they cannot afford to self-isolate. We still have not solved that problem sufficiently well.

As we move into the winter, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, said, this pandemic is not over. If you have 150 to 200 people a day dying, it is not over. If you have half the ICU beds in our hospitals still occupied by people with Covid, it is still not over and we will never catch up with all the NHS waiting lists that have fallen so abysmally behind in the past 18 months. So it is not over.

Self-isolation is part of the toolbox, to use the Prime Minister’s and Secretary of State’s word, that will help to control the spread of this virus. What the old regulations did—do—is amend the self-isolation regulations. With effect from 19 July, they allow a person to leave self-isolation and put an antibody test in the post, and from 16 August certain people were no longer required to self-isolate if they had come into contact with a person who had tested positive for Covid. The Minister listed who those different groups are, including children under 18. I completely agree with my noble friend about the need to include children under 18, but we have to address the issue of what that means for schools.

The Minister said before the summer, when we were hearing Statements about the easing of these regulations, that people were going to have to behave “in a responsible fashion”. I had a particular issue with that last week, when a friend I was supposed to be meeting called me to say that her husband had caught Covid. Both were double vaccinated, he was not very ill—I am pleased to say. They had been at a wedding, and there was a family there who were anti-vaxxers; they did not know and he caught it. She tested negative for the next four or five days.

I was personally quite torn about what to do: should we meet or not? The idea shocked me that somebody who is living with somebody who has Covid did not have to self-isolate. I worked my way through it; I read the regulations, which I must say are complex and not completely clear. She did not say, “I am allowed to go out”; she was being very responsible, but I thought that millions of people must be facing those issues all the time. Just saying that people have to behave “in a responsible fashion” may not be quite the point.

17:15
Before I talk about schools, I would like to ask whether there has been monitoring by the JCVI and others on the effect of the decision that was taken in July and became effective in August. Are we fully confident that the spread of the delta variant is sufficiently understood to justify lifting that restriction? If anybody gets Covid these days, it will be the delta variant. Are we sufficiently confident in the science to lift that restriction?
This statutory instrument relaxes the bubble rules that would require entire groups of students to self-isolate following positive cases and leaves the decisions to schools themselves. The Minister will be aware that a handful of schools in England have had to close classrooms just days into the new year, following Covid outbreaks among students and staff. This puts schools in a difficult position. First, school leaders need quick, clear and unequivocal guidance about how to respond if they see a rise in case numbers and not to be left on their own to make those decisions. The lack of investment to enable our schools to have clean air in their classrooms is unfortunate.
All our local secondary schools opened last week and one had anti-vax parents demonstrating outside it. I do not know whether this is happening elsewhere. They were demonstrating about 12 to 15 year-olds being vaccinated, and that is very worrying. I will leave that with the Minister. It is shocking, but what on earth can we do about it?
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I am enormously grateful for this rich debate. The reflections of noble Lords are shared by the Government in many ways. I will start with the poignant remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on support. We agree that financial support is an important part of the isolation process. It would be inhumane to suggest that someone can somehow live off the generosity of others to support themselves over this difficult period. We have actively promoted the financial support available to people who need to self-isolate, are working with local organisations to extend our reach and continue to improve those arrangements.

Please do not forget that we have already invested £280 million in the test and trace support payment scheme, which has been specifically designed to encourage more people to get tested and to ensure they self-isolate if they are positive. From March this year, we increased the funding available to local authorities to make discretionary payments under the scheme to £20 million a month. This enables a wider range of people to be supported and addresses some of the points made, not unreasonably, by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the availability of funding and how it might touch local authorities’ provision of those payments.

In May, the Government launched nine trail-blazing pilots in England to try different, creative ways to ensure that people stick to self-isolation rules in areas with a higher prevalence. Some individuals have had concerns about their practical ability to self-isolate, either because they did not think they would get support with food delivery or dog walking, or perhaps because of the impact on their mental well-being. Interventions, such as one-to-one buddy support and the provision of practical assistance, aim to support self-isolation.

The programme has provided funding for areas such as Greater Manchester to pilot ways to reach, support and engage with households within 24 hours of a positive test to develop a personalised plan for their self-isolation. In Peterborough, those living in houses of multiple occupancy or in larger multigenerational environments, who are unable to effectively self-isolate and are more likely to increase transmission through household contact, if they have nowhere to go, have had specific projects of support. Our Local-O initiative means that we are improving local tracing techniques to reach those who need to self-isolate quicker. The support payment itself is around £500 a month.

These are the kinds of measures that we have put in place to improve the reach and effect of our support. Of the £280 million we have spent so far, £114 million has covered the cost of the main test and trace support programme, £116 million has been in discretionary payments and £50 million has been in administrative costs. This, in addition to the medicine delivery service launched on 16 March 2021, which has delivered £17.8 million-worth of medicines, has made a huge impact and supported those in isolation, but we continue to review this area.

Many noble Lords made extremely pertinent points on schools. I completely agree that schools and potential infection from them are critical. That is why we brought in twice-weekly asymptomatic testing in secondary schools and colleges, which will continue during September. That programme includes two tests specifically at an asymptomatic testing site three to four days apart for students at schools and colleges on their return. Most of them have just happened and there is a review point at the end of September when we will assess the levels of infection in schools. We are encouraging schools to continue with twice-weekly asymptomatic testing. We very much hope that staff and pupils in secondary schools and further education providers, and staff in primary schools and early years settings, will continue to do testing and we will assess compliance at the end of September.

I hear loud and clear the concerns about ventilation. We have in fact brought in plans in the winter plan on this matter. Changing the ventilation arrangements of our estate of 25,000 schools is itself a mega generational project of hundreds of billions of pounds, so this is not one that we can turn around overnight. The vaccine will certainly have a lot more impact in its immediate efficacy, but we are investing £25 million in around 300,000 CO2 monitors for schools. That in itself is a terrific initiative and I hope will not only make an impact on the schools involved but give us the learnings to understand how ventilation can be used to stop the spread of the virus.

We will also have trials of high-efficiency particulate-absorbing filter and ultra-violet C air cleaners in 30 Bradford schools, as well as working with stakeholders such as the Rail Delivery Group and the Rail Safety and Standards Board to trial the use of upgraded air filtration devices on passenger rolling stock. I will not pretend to understand the full technicalities of those arrangements, but I am extremely impressed by how quickly officials have moved to address these concerns.

As I said, we are committed to testing in schools and will review it in September. Social distancing remains in place wherever it can, but I am relieved to say that the bubbling arrangements, which were so disruptive in the first half of this year, are now largely in the past.

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is extremely concerned about those not registered with GPs. I assure her that I have a regular meeting with the vaccination team to address this specific point. The outreach we do is to marginal groups of all kinds, ranging from Traveller groups who might not be registered with GPs and have a suspicion of the vaccination programme, through to those who may have religious, language or other distinctive qualities that mean they would not normally be captured in a vaccination programme. We have done an enormous amount to reach out to these groups. Vaccination can now happen without being registered. We have turn-up sites and a vaccination can happen at any of our main vaccination centres without full registration. If the noble Baroness would like to know more details of this part of our vaccination programme, I would be very glad to arrange a briefing. I know that it is very much on her mind.

I do not accept the premise that the Government are running an “it’s all over” programme in their communications. The winter programme that we have announced today is extremely proportionate. It relies on the responsibility of individuals. We cannot legislate for every sneeze and splutter in the country for years to come. We have to rely on people. I think the story that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, told of her friend and the wedding and the very detailed judgments that we all as individuals have to make is exactly what we all have to live with. The Government do not seek to intervene in those judgments—they are for the noble Baroness and her friend to work out for themselves. That is a proportionate climate for us to proceed in. Of course, should the worst happen, and should we need to, we have a back-up plan—described in the winter plan that we have announced today—where we bring back the awful measures that tied this country down so heavily earlier this year. We are seeking to avoid that.

Lastly, on the local authority funding settlement, there is more work to be done with local authorities—the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is right. The funding settlement is not finalised yet. Local authorities will continue to play a critical role in public health protection, emergency response and infectious disease control. They will have support through the contain framework, which continues, and through the enhanced support that we offer through test and trace. I think noble Lords are aware of the surge testing, vaccination logistics support and national funding that we have in place in areas where there are major outbreaks. There is also the education contingency framework, which provides schools with additional support. We are totally engaged with local authorities in discussing the practical and financial support that we can offer them.

I think the place we are in has a huge sense of relief, because the vaccination programme is largely working, but also enormous uncertainty. If the CMO were here today and we were to press him to tell us how exactly things are going to play out, he would say that he could not be sure and that he has never faced a moment of such uncertainty in his life. I am sure he speaks with his normal integrity and discretion on that. As a result, we have put in place a proportionate plan for the near future but are ready to bring in other measures if necessary. I think that is the right approach. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
17:27
Moved by
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion agreed.

Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
17:29
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Relevant document: Instrument not yet reported by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

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 are necessary because of the ongoing need to reduce pollutant emissions from the maritime sector, to protect public health and the environment. The regulations do this by amending regulations in the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) Regulations 2008, which I will refer to as the 2008 regulation, in order that our domestic legislation is aligned with the latest international limits and standards for sulphur and nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The international requirements are set out in annexe VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, also known as the MARPOL Convention. These changes limit the amount of sulphur in marine fuels that are used or intended for use by ships to 0.5% by mass or less. They also require that new ships and new engines be certified to meet the latest NOx emission standards, both globally and when ships operate inside waters which have been designated as an emission control area by the International Maritime Organization.

At this stage, the MARPOL Convention refers to four regions which have enhanced ECA protection status: the North Sea, including the English Channel; the Baltic Sea; North America, which includes both the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada; and the US Caribbean. Ships operating in an ECA must not use fuel which exceeds 0.1% sulphur unless they are using an abatement technology. New ships must also comply with a stricter NOx tier 3 standard. New ECAs could be introduced in future. The Mediterranean is being considered for one and the Government have agreed to consult on a possible ECA for the Irish Sea.

The regulations also enable UK ship inspectors to enforce these new limits more effectively on foreign-flagged vessels calling at UK ports. Currently, under port state control regulations, ship inspectors from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency can apply limited sanctions on ships calling at UK ports for an offence. These include recording a deficiency against the ship, temporarily detaining the vessel or ordering the ship to debunker—empty its fuel tanks—if the ship is using non-compliant fuel, after which access to UK ports and anchorages may be denied if there is evidence of significant non-compliance. These sanctions can be applied to ships only when in port or at anchor.

The new instrument will allow ship inspectors to use the criminal justice system to impose fines on offenders. This is in line with our current approach to other marine pollution offences. The ability to impose fines would be an important deterrent for all foreign-registered vessels within UK waters, whether in transit, in port or at anchor, particularly those that would consider risking non-compliance to reduce costs without the threat of financial penalties. However, I stress that compliance with maritime environmental rules is the norm. Enforcement action by the MCA through the courts is extremely rare and would be funded through existing resources if it were to occur.

The regulations also include an ambulatory reference provision, which will automatically update references in the 2008 regulations to provisions of the convention and its annexes. This implements a key industry request from the Red Tape Challenge, which enables some amendments to international requirements to be transposed into domestic law more rapidly and efficiently than was possible previously. An amendment that is accepted will be publicised in advance of its coming-into-force date by means of a Statement to both Houses of Parliament. However, the ambulatory reference provision is limited. Substantial changes, such as implementing a new chapter into MARPOL annexe VI, would still need to be implemented by statutory instrument.

The regulations also amend obsolete sulphur limits for marine fuels used by ships, which were made under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. Specifically, the new regulations remove references to the 1% sulphur limit for ships operating inside an ECA and the 3.5% sulphur limit for ships operating outside an ECA. Of course, these have been superseded by the stricter 0.1% and 0.5% sulphur limits respectively. The new regulations also remove references in the 2008 regulations to a 1.5% sulphur limit which applied to passenger ships operating outside an ECA. Again, this has been superseded because, like all vessels, passenger ships outside an ECA are now subject to the stricter 0.5% sulphur limit.

While it is important to remove obsolete requirements from our domestic legislation that were introduced under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act, the draft regulations retain others which are still pertinent. For example, they do not amend the requirement for ships to use 0.1% sulphur fuel when at berth in a UK port, which was introduced using Section 2(2) powers in the European Communities Act.

I am sure noble Lords would agree that maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection is vital for public health. It is therefore important that we continue to implement the latest international standards to control ship emissions and have an effective enforcement regime in place. The Government have made it clear that air quality is one of our top priorities. These regulations help deliver on the commitments made in Maritime 2050, published in 2019, and our route map for sustainable maritime transport, the clean maritime plan. It is important for the health of our coastal communities and port cities that we reduce emissions from the shipping industry, and that we ensure we can strongly and visibly enforce the standards we agree at the International Maritime Organization. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her very clear introduction. I have no criticism of the regulations themselves, but I want to concentrate on the backlog of maritime legislation within the department and its impact on the sector. I am very grateful to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. It has repeatedly drawn attention to this problem, which has existed since 2016. Since then there have been five separate updates to MARPOL, to which the Minister referred. I believe the department still needs to implement over 40 changes to maritime legislation. These regulations, although very welcome, are very late as well.

The Department for Transport says that it has not prioritised this raft of legislation because operators tend to comply with IMO regulatory requirements as ships cross international boundaries all the time. That statement is contradicted by the Government’s own Explanatory Memorandum, which states that the ability of inspectors to sanction non-compliant ships will be very limited until these regulations come into force.

My real concern is the vagueness of all this, so can the Minister provide us with a lot more detail? First, on the simple numbers, the SLSC was told that, of the 40-plus backlog, 10 have now been made, 10—including this one—are in the final stages, and another eight are in the very final stages of preparation and anticipated to be introduced in the 2022-23 Session. The remainder are at an earlier stage of development and are anticipated to be complete by the end of 2023. This is far too slow and could mean that some legislation has been delayed for seven years.

Can the Minister explain exactly how many pieces of legislation are in that final slow lane and why they have been placed there? I realise it is far too much to ask for this to be done here, but could she write to us with a list of all the pieces of legislation in this backlog and say which pieces are in which category? The original DfT target to deal with this backlog was 2020, so why has it lapsed so badly?

I realise that the pandemic has affected everything, but in itself that is not a sufficient excuse, because the pandemic goes back only some 18 months and this backlog goes back to 2016. It must be seen in the context of other delays in DfT legislation. We are in a position where we need more legislation on EVs, driverless cars and other key areas of transport development. A major question must be why the department does not devote more resource to keeping up with modern transport developments. I agree with the committee, which labels the number of delayed pieces of legislation “highly disturbing”.

This is not just a numbers game. Let us look at the implication of these pieces of legislation. Many of them, like this one, have environmental implications. This one concerns sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide and is about reducing air pollution; it is another example of a Government who talk tough on pollution but fail to deliver on the crucial detail. We must remember that this is about the health and working conditions of sailors as well as the overall state of our planet. Working conditions for many in the maritime sector are often very poor. Many are subject to exploitation and they are certainly often overlooked. We owe it to them to ensure that the UK upholds the highest standards.

This is London International Shipping Week, and I note that the industry has committed itself this week to zero carbon by 2050. It certainly needs the Government to do a great deal more to support it in achieving that. So although these regulations are welcome as far as they go, I would like to see much more from the Government to demonstrate that they are serious about tackling emissions from ships because of the impact on ships’ crews, cruise passengers and dockyard workers, as well as on our planet.

Lord Greenway Portrait Lord Greenway (CB)
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My Lords, I agree very much with what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, just said about these regulations. I have no problem with them, as she has already said, but I regret very much the considerable delay that has occurred in bringing them forward, and I hope that we will hear some sort of explanation from the Minister when she comes to sum up.

These regulations are not a great surprise. Our shipping industry has been well aware of what is going on for quite some time now, and it has been forced to act by the introduction of these emission control areas, which stole a march on the International Maritime Organization’s regulations by bringing in things that applied not to the whole world but merely to the specific areas that the Minister mentioned. By and large, our own ships have already made the necessary adjustments to be able to operate in these low-sulphur areas.

I have been in this House for 45 years—I am horrified to say it—and in that period I have seen our merchant fleet reduced from a fairly large standing in the world to something that is almost pathetic compared with what it was. We are not the force in international shipping that we were and that is a huge regret, but this country still has great expertise in the maritime field. The Government have set up a new committee to look into things such as finding a new means of propulsion, in effect to try to replace the internal combustion engine. I do not know how that is going, and the Minister probably cannot help me on that, but we still have a part to play in international shipping.

17:45
I am afraid we are no longer involved in the mainstream container business, where P&O was the last company with a large part in that industry. That moved over to Holland, to the Dutch company Nedlloyd, and is now part of the giant Maersk corporation, the Danish giant. There is a company that is entirely committed to reducing marine pollution. The noble Baroness mentioned that at London International Shipping Week, the aim is to have a carbon-neutral industry by 2050. Maersk is very much committed to that and has the first sizeable ship that will use carbon-neutral fuel coming into service in 2023. That will be, by container standards, a fairly small ship—2,000 20-foot equivalent units—but it will be powered by e-methanol, or green methanol, and also able to use standard low-sulphur oil. In a way, the company is hedging its bets, because nobody yet knows how much of the new fuel can be produced, so it must have an alternative. I understand that it aims to produce that e-methanol by using wind power.
On top of that new ship coming on stream, the company has also ordered eight much larger ships—16,000 containers—which will all be in service by 2024. Those ships are quite a bit more expensive than normal ships —10% to 15% more expensive—and cost $175 million. The eight ships are costing $1.4 billion. That has been the problem for the shipping industry: there have been few alternatives to using normal fuel and it has been expensive to make any changes.
What Maersk is aiming to do is a great step forward. It is the bigger ships that cause the problem. I have seen it mentioned that one large container ship with a 100,000 horsepower engine produces more rubbish out of its exhaust than millions of cars. That is probably true, but we must remember that ships provide more than 80% of the world’s trade and, if we are to find any means of solving this problem, it must be one that works well.
There is hope for the future, certainly in terms of smaller ships. There are fuels such as liquified natural gas, biofuels, green hydrogen—even electricity, because one company that operates on the Dover Strait has been looking at the possibility of an electric ferry running between Dover and Calais. All sorts of encouraging work is going on. As I said, the shipping industry has been fairly slow to react, but it is very much getting its act together now, and I hope we will see enormous improvements in future. In the meantime, I support the regulations.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the introduction of these regulations to implement the standards of the International Maritime Organization to limit air pollution emissions from ships. The specific provisions relating to sulphur and nitrogen oxide have been in place globally for some time, and the decision to transfer them to domestic statute should benefit our natural environment and health. With that said, these regulations must be paired with an overarching approach to air pollution that recognises the value of making maritime cleaner but also includes steps to limit emissions from other modes of transport.

I turn to the specific regulations, which relate to an international agreement from 2008. Why has it taken 13 years for that agreement to be implemented? Given that the Explanatory Memorandum suggests that consultation took place only during the drafting of the international agreement, can the Minister explain what steps the Government have taken to ensure that the maritime industry is aware of these regulations now being implemented? On a related note, can the Minister confirm whether the Government have made an estimate of how many ships in UK waters do not currently meet the provisions of this legislation?

Regarding the Government’s broader approach to maritime pollution, and given that it is now more than two years since the Government’s clean maritime plan, can the Minister confirm whether the UK is on track to zero-emissions shipping by 2050? What steps are the Government taking to meet the ambition for all new vessels to have zero-emissions capabilities by 2025?

Finally, on the wider question of air quality, the Government’s transport decarbonisation plan published in July showed that they are still stalling when it comes to the tough decisions on transport emissions. There have been no sectoral deals with conditions on climate action. There have been deep cuts to electric vehicle grants. No serious steps have been taken to encourage people on to rail through cheaper fares. I welcome the legislation and any other steps that would improve air quality, but if the Government are committed to this principle they need to do much more to support cleaner transport.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. I appreciate their support—if occasional qualification thereof—for these regulations. The problems really lie in matters beyond these regulations, which I think make sense to the Committee. I shall cover a few things that were mentioned, and I shall start off by outlining a bit more of the context. Air quality is one of our top priorities. That is what these draft regulations do, although to a certain extent they are belt and braces; they fill in some of the gaps in the regulatory framework and enforcement regime that exist in a more global fashion for the shipping industry as a whole.

Maritime pollution emissions are very important. As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, in 2016 domestic shipping—shipping specifically within the UK—accounted for 11% of the UK’s domestic NOx emissions, 2% of PM2.5 and 7% of sulphur dioxide. That is quite a significant proportion for an industry that is fairly small—but, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, pointed out, incredibly important. The department is working closely with Defra to develop more detailed information on emissions from shipping in order to assess the impact of air pollution prevention measures implemented since the comprehensive study carried out in 2016. In addition, international shipping emissions are significantly greater and have a significant impact on air quality in the UK, from ships both in shipping lanes and while they are at UK ports.

The Government recognise that pollutant emissions from international shipping have an impact on public health and the local environment. Our national targets for air quality include this impact. We work incredibly closely with the International Maritime Organization to address pollutant emissions by UK-flagged vessels and those within UK waters, as well as globally.

Reductions in air pollutant levels are closely linked to reductions in levels of greenhouse gases, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. As they will both know, the Government remain fully committed to our 2050 net-zero target for domestic shipping. This is designed to address both greenhouse gases and pollutant emissions from shipping. Just earlier this week, we announced that we will push for zero-emissions targets for international shipping, to challenge the international community collectively to deliver a Paris-compliant outcome when the IMO renegotiates its strategy for climate change in 2023.

Furthermore, we have continued to make good progress on the commitments we set out in the clean maritime plan, which was published in 2019, that by 2025 all new vessels for use in UK waters are going to be designed with zero-emissions capabilities and that by 2035 zero-emission maritime fuel infrastructure, known as bunkering, is widely available across the UK. We are doing this by providing £1.4 million-worth of funding for a competition for innovation in clean maritime. We have established the marine emissions reduction advisory service as a function of the MCA’s future technologies team, undertaking research, considering the role of maritime clusters in delivering clean innovation and growth and exploring the inclusion of the maritime elements in the renewable transport fuel obligation as part of a public consultation.

Building on the clean maritime plan, the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan in November 2020 announced up to £20 million for a clean maritime demonstration competition to develop clean maritime technologies. If we know one thing from the excellent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, it is that at the moment we are not quite sure what technology will win out in shipping. It is one of those areas that would be harder to reach by battery electric and therefore we need to look at other alternatives, whether that be low-carbon fuels or hydrogen combustion engines. It could be all sorts of different things, and that is why the Government are very much focused on what we can do to support the market to develop the solutions and then be able to support those which are most appropriate for commercialisation.

Turning to some of the issues in the regulations themselves, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, who asked how many ships this would cover in the UK—the UK-owned ships. I do not have that information, but I can say that the additional cost to UK-owned ships that operate only domestically is estimated to be around £2 million a year following the introduction of these regulations. I will see if I can find out more information as to what that would mean per vessel.

In terms of engagement with the industry, the department discussed the draft regulations with the UK Chamber of Shipping and fuel suppliers to consider the impact. We did not carry out a formal consultation on the draft regulations. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, pointed out, the measures were well-known within the maritime and fuel supply sectors so there is nothing novel about the implementation of international requirements. It should also be noted, of course, that these regulations were published in draft back at the end of May because they are part of the enhanced security arrangements relating to amendments made to legislation under Section 22 of the European Communities Act. We had no feedback at all from industry stakeholders on the documents following publication, therefore we were reassured that industry fully understood what was coming down the track.

Turning to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, we will take this on the chin. We recognise that there is an issue here and we will work very closely with the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee to keep it updated with our backlog of legislation. We thank it for its work and for working with us on this. Minister Courts, the Maritime Minister, wrote to the committee on 5 July. I am sure the noble Baroness will have seen the letter. I have various lists of Sis, but I do not think it will be helpful if I read them all out. I might try to put it all in a letter afterwards. The latest stats I have are that there are 43 maritime statutory instruments to be delivered. We are prioritising those that are safety critical or that implement the IMO standards. We have done 13 to date. We have another nine for completion between now and early 2022 and then 21 instruments in 2022 and 2023. I think we can probably do better than that. I also happen to know that the SLSC has been back in touch with the DfT—and rightly so—to have yet another conversation with us about our legislative programme. We will, of course, be as open as we can. We are doing our best to prioritise legal resources. I am going to be honest with noble Lords that legal resources are stretched across government at the moment. It is not just a DfT issue, and we obviously have to work within what we have.

I will not say more on enforcement now; I would rather write, because what I have pretty much says what I said in my opening speech, and I am not entirely sure about this. However, I will go back and look at Hansard to see whether we can provide more information about specific things relating to enforcement and the gaps we are filling in.

It has been a pleasure to be back in real life discussing SIs in the Moses Room—I have missed it. It is also apt that we are having this debate during London International Shipping Week. I know that the noble Lord was a bit of a Debbie Downer on the role of the UK in international shipping, but I have to say that London International Shipping Week is an amazing event. We are able to bring together some of the leading people from the sector. I, for one, feel that the last one I was at, two years ago, was a great success, and I am sure that this one will be too. However, back on the regulations for the time being, once again, I commend them to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (No. 2) (High-Risk Countries) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
18:01
Moved by
Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (No. 2) (High-Risk Countries) Regulations 2021.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office and the Treasury (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are committed to combatting money laundering and terrorist financing and recognise the threat that economic crime poses to our country. Illicit finance causes significant social and economic costs through its links to serious and organised crime, it is a threat to our national security, and it risks damaging our international reputation as a fair, open, rules-based economy. Illicit finance undermines the integrity and stability of our financial sector and can reduce opportunities for legitimate business in the UK. That is why the Government are focused on making the UK a hostile environment for illicit finance. As part of this work, we have taken significant action to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, and to strengthen the whole-system response to economic crime.

Underpinning these efforts are the money laundering regulations, a key part of our legislative framework which set out a number of measures that certain businesses must take to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. These requirements include the need for businesses to identify and verify the people and organisations with whom they have a business relationship or for whom they facilitate transactions.

In addition, the regulations require that financial institutions and other regulated businesses conduct additional checks, or “enhanced due diligence”, on business relationships and transactions involving “high-risk third countries”. These are countries that have been identified as having strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regimes and which pose a significant threat to the UK’s financial system. The statutory instrument under discussion today updates the list of countries specified as high risk in the money laundering regulations.

I will explain the background to this instrument. At present, the UK’s list of high-risk third countries, specified in the money laundering regulations, mirrors those identified by the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard-setter for anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing. The Financial Action Task Force updates its public lists of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies following the conclusion of each Financial Action Task Force plenary to reflect changing risks and circumstances in these jurisdictions and in the global economy.

This instrument will therefore amend the money laundering regulations to update the UK’s list of high-risk third countries to mirror the Financial Action Task Force’s public lists. This will ensure that the UK’s list is responsive to the latest threats emanating from high-risk countries with inadequate counterillicit finance systems, and that the UK remains at the forefront of global standards on money laundering and terrorist financing. This update will therefore help to protect our national security and the UK’s reputation, and will protect businesses and the financial system from money launderers and terrorist financiers.

In summary, the instrument will update the UK’s high-risk third countries list. Businesses that fall under the scope of the money laundering regulations and which deal with these countries will be required to take extra scrutiny measures. This amendment will enable the money laundering regulations to continue to work as effectively as possible to protect the UK financial system and it will allow the UK to continue playing its full part in the fight against economic crime. I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting this legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the Minister to what is for me the first Treasury SI to be held physically since the pandemic began. There is also a sense of nostalgia that predates the Minister: namely, this SI is being conducted by only the Minister, myself and the Government Whip. It is a matter of “never mind the width, feel the quality”.

I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the latest iteration of these regulations. As he outlined, they enact the latest changes to the Financial Action Task Force’s list of high-risk countries for illicit finance, which come three times a year. The last time we debated this topic, towards the end of April, we also covered the logistics involved in defining key terms and ensuring that the UK can mirror the FATF’s list, now that we are outside the EU. Thankfully, the relevant corrections to domestic law have been made, which means that we do not need to revisit that topic in any detail. However, we find ourselves giving retrospective approval to a made affirmative instrument, when the Government’s stated ambition in April was to use the regular process.

Of course, we understand that the work of the FATF may not directly align with the sitting dates of our Parliament. We also accept that delays in bringing forward these regulations introduce a necessary and undesirable risk. While these occasions allow noble Lords to raise a series of related issues with Ministers, it seems unlikely that the Government or Parliament would wish not to enact these regulations when they appear every few months. With that in mind, and given the huge volume of secondary legislation that we now deal with, could the Minister and his department examine whether and how the process giving effect to changes in the FATF list might be streamlined or otherwise improved?

Speaking of peripheral issues, could the Minister also provide a brief update on the Government’s broader efforts in this area? In April, the noble Lord spoke of 52 joint actions being undertaken by the Government and private sector to tackle economic crime. He also referenced 17 extra staff being recruited to the UK Financial Intelligence Unit. How are those exercises progressing? I would be happy for him to write with the details, if necessary.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his participation in the debate today and for his normal, thorough consideration of the instrument under question.

I shall go to his query about the progress on the 52 actions that we have committed to in this area: 20 of those 52 have now been completed, and we are at a key point in the economic crime plan timeline. The Government recently published the Statement of Progress, which details progress made against the plan; it sets out the UK’s future priorities and outlines seven new priority actions that build on the original actions in the plan. It increases our level of ambition to combatting economic crime, supporting our growth and prosperity and enhancing our global reputation as a clean financial centre and a safe place to do business.

As the noble Lord requested, I shall write to him with further details on the work; there is a great deal going on, covering a number of departments—for example, reforms to Companies House to prevent the misuse of companies, which was set out in September last year. We are looking to introduce reforms to limited partnerships and how they operate, and a register of overseas beneficial owners. Likewise, the Home Office is shortly to consult on a number of economic crime-focused legislative changes to ensure that we have the right powers to share information and seize assets. However, as requested by the noble Lord, I shall put that into a letter so he has a full update.

On the pressure on bringing instruments forward, which will be reasonably frequent, I absolutely accept the noble Lord’s challenge. It is always a difficult balancing act to subject government to proper scrutiny in the parliamentary process but also not to clutter up the timetable. We will take back his comments and see whether there is a better way of doing it.

I hope that noble Lords have found the debate informative, albeit short, and that they will join me in supporting this instrument.

Motion agreed.

Capital Requirements Regulation (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
18:10
Moved by
Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Capital Requirements Regulation (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office and the Treasury (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con)
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My Lords, among other things, these regulations support the implementation of the Basel III standards in the UK. I will begin by reminding the Committee of the background to this issue.

I am sure that noble Lords agree that strong prudential regulation is vital if we are to ensure that firms have enough capital and liquidity to operate effectively through periods of economic stress. However, the 2008 financial crisis highlighted major deficiencies in international financial regulation. Following the crisis, the international community came together to remedy this situation by developing updated standards known as the Basel III accords.

The UK, as a member of the G20, is committed to the implementation of the Basel III standards, given their positive benefits to financial stability. Now that the UK has left the EU, we must implement many of these standards domestically for the first time. This includes rules on subjects equivalent to those contained in the EU’s second capital requirements regulation, known as CRR2. Many of these rules do not yet apply in the UK due to the EU’s implementation date falling after the end of the transition period.

The Financial Services Act 2021 enables the Prudential Regulation Authority to make rules updating the existing provision in the UK’s capital requirements regulation for Basel III standards—the CRR—where the Treasury has or will revoke the relevant provision of the CRR. The devolution of responsibility to the PRA for updating these rules reflects its expertise in prudential matters. This is combined with a more flexible and tailored approach that comes with having these regimes set out in regulator rules rather than in statute.

On some of the detail of the instrument, to enable the PRA to update the prudential regime to account for these new Basel III standards, this instrument exercises the powers contained in Section 3 of the Financial Services Act to revoke elements of the CRR and make consequential amendments. These revocations must be within the limits imposed by Section 3(2), which limits the provision to only revoking those parts of the CRR which need to be updated to reflect the new Basel standards, and anything that is connected to, or consequential to, those standards.

When it makes CRR rules, the PRA is subject to an accountability framework, under which it must consider the impact of its rules on a number of areas; the relative standing of the UK compared to other jurisdictions; lending to the real economy; and the Basel standards themselves. For rules made after 1 January 2022, the PRA will also need to have regard to the net-zero carbon target. Additionally, the PRA must consult the Treasury on the potential impacts of any rule changes on equivalence.

This instrument contains additional EU exit-related amendments to the CRR. These are required to ensure that the prudential regime continues to function as intended now that the UK has left the EU. This instrument makes an amendment to Article 497 of the CRR. This allows for the Treasury to extend a transitional provision for certain foreign central counterparties to retain temporary qualifying status. Qualifying status allows UK firms to use these CCPs without being subject to higher capital requirements. Were these CCPs to lose this status, they would become substantially more expensive, thereby reducing the likelihood of their use by banks. This amendment will allow for the transitional period to be extended by regulation one year at a time.

18:15
These extensions are required as there may be non-UK CCPs that are unable to receive qualifying status through recognition for a prolonged period. However, the Treasury still considers it beneficial that they retain qualifying status. This allows the Treasury to maintain the status quo and avoid disruption were any UK firms to have exposures to those CCPs. It will keep these arrangements under review to ensure that they are fit for purpose; however, we do not expect this transitional regime to be used on a permanent basis.
Under Article 391 of the CRR, the Treasury may determine that an overseas jurisdiction applies prudential requirements to same standard as those applied in the UK and grant it equivalence. Smaller UK banks, in particular, benefit from this article as it allows them to lend more as a single loan to overseas firms. At present, more than 50 banks take advantage of this.
However, the UK’s only equivalence decision in this area is for EEA member states. This is because the EU, and therefore the UK, had not, at the end of the transition period, awarded Article 391 equivalence to any other jurisdiction. To get around this, the European Banking Authority issued guidance allowing EU, including UK, firms to use equivalence decisions under a different article, Article 107, as a proxy for Article 391 equivalence. However, this is in effect regulatory guidance overruling primary legislation. The Government and the UK’s regulators consider this guidance inappropriate and therefore do not intend to replicate it in the UK. It is also impractical to undertake the equivalence assessments in such short timescales.
Through this SI, therefore, the Treasury is using Section 8 powers under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act to put in place transitional arrangements. These will maintain the positive effects of Article 391 equivalence for UK firms. In parallel, the Treasury will seek a legislative opportunity to streamline the system by linking the equivalence regime in Article 391 to that in Article 107, such that a 107 decision will also result in these firms being able to lend more as a single loan to entities in that jurisdiction.
The Treasury has worked closely with the PRA in drafting this instrument. We have engaged with industry throughout the process, including in a public consultation. The responses received from this largely agreed with the Government’s proposed approach, but requested that the equivalence provision be removed for equity investments in overseas funds. The Government agree that this is a disproportionate method for addressing the prudential risks arising from UK banks’ investments in overseas funds, which the PRA could address.
The consultation responses requested that some reporting requirements for market risk—risk arising from movements in market prices—that the EU had introduced ahead of the capital requirements themselves should be delayed until those requirements are introduced. The Government have updated our approach in line with these points, recognising the costs outweighed the benefits of adopting the reporting requirements.
I hope I have given Members a comprehensive overview of this measure. I urge noble Lords to join me in supporting these regulations. In short, this measure enables the implementation of Basel III regulation that is key to the UK’s international standing. In addition, it irons out some of the wrinkles of existing EU regulation. Together, these measures will give UK firms certainty and therefore help them to flourish. I beg to move.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, as ever, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument. Unlike the last item of business, which was largely a formality, these regulations represent a significant shift in how the Government and bodies such as the Prudential Regulation Authority ensure that domestic financial regulation is fit for purpose.

During the passage of the Financial Services Act 2021, we spent many hours debating the proposed shift away from the capital requirements regulations to the contents of regulatory rules made by one or more of the Treasury, the PRA and the Financial Conduct Authority. We were told that this was the most efficient way for the UK to implement the new Basel standards, given that the EU no longer does most of the work on our behalf.

Many colleagues were nervous about the new process. This is not because it was an inherently bad idea to set rules domestically, rather than to rely on and continue to amend bits of retained EU law; nor was our concern around giving the PRA and FCA further powers, even if that warranted a higher degree of parliamentary oversight. Rather, there was a legitimate concern about the potential for unintended consequences when large parts of the existing capital requirements framework are revoked at the stroke of a ministerial pen. Indeed, some parts of retained EU law are being swept away entirely, with no requirements for certain revoked provisions to be replaced.

I got to that point in my thinking and was seized by the fact that these are incredibly important regulations. In a sense, the presence in the Room is completely disproportionate to the importance of these regulations. As far as I understand it—I am not an expert in this issue—they are the regulations that secure the safety and stability of the financial systems. Therefore, I thought I had better give it a little more thought. I turned to a letter from John Glen. It was not sent to me; in simple terms, it was sent to my colleague in the Commons, Pat McFadden MP, but it includes me at the end. He sent me a copy of this letter, and therefore I take account of it. I quote the opening paragraph: “I am writing regarding the Capital Requirements Regulation (Amendment) Regulations 2021, which were laid on 12 July. This statutory instrument revokes elements of the UK’s capital requirement regulations to allow the Prudential Regulation Authority to make rules implementing the outstanding Basel standards.” That sentence seems to go to the essence not only of the SI but of the Financial Services Act we laboured over some months ago.

I read on. His next paragraph is all about taking away the rules relating to this area that were in statute, which is what we did with the Financial Services Act, and introducing the rules made by the PRA. It says: “The PRA near-final rules, which fill the space, have been published and you will be able to find them here.” The word “here” is a little blue thing with a line under it. By now I should have learnt that you do not press those, but I did, and I got to a six-page document, which had two parts. One was from 9 July, PS17/21, Implementation of Basel Standards. The other was from 12 February, CP5/21, Implementation of Basel Standards. As I understand it, the first is the current PRA policy and the other document was the invitation to consultation. Tantalisingly, having been introduced to this idea of near-complete rules, I found that the first appendix was:

“Near-final CRR RULES INSTRUMENT 2021”.


Once again I was daft enough to press this. While I had been shocked before, this really took my breath away, because the first page—I had the wit to print only one page at a time—said, in very light grey at the bottom, “Page 1 of 307”. I lost the will to live at that point. I thought: how do you scrutinise 307 pages?

I returned for inspiration to John Glen’s letter, in which he said: “I would encourage parliamentarians”—he is very optimistic using the “s”, I think, but still—“to consider these rules as part of scrutinising this SI. As we discussed during the passage of the Financial Services Act 2021, the PRA ran a consultation on its draft CRR rules from 15 February 2021 to 3 May 2021, which was open to all—businesses, public and parliamentarians—to respond.”

Those two paragraphs seemed to invite us to condition our approval of this instrument on the basis of what was to replace it. Once again, I felt that burden to see whether I could get any way to understand this document better. I am not sure how I got there, but I found a Prudential Regulation Authority document, policy statement PS17/21, Implementation of Basel Standards from July 2021. I thought: let us try that. I turned over the next page, and it has 84 pages. That has to be progress.

At this point, I ran out of time and energy. I thought, “We’re not going to turn this down. Four times since the Second World War, I think, has the House of Lords turned down a statutory instrument. What’s the point?” I thought, “A good compromise is just to read the overview.

I do not know how well the Minister copes with this stuff, but you have only to read the overview to realise that you need a degree in this language to understand it. I did flog through it and, in my ignorance, virtually everything I came across seemed reasonable until I came to paragraph 124. This disturbed me, because this SI is very important—the Minister may say that I have misunderstood its importance, but I think it is important. That paragraph refers to climate change. The world feels a bit rough at the moment—in everything from Afghanistan to the pandemic, it is not in a good place—but the problems we have now pale into absolute insignificance compared with what happens if we do not get climate change right. The odds are stacked against us, let us be realistic. In the UK, we are trying hard, but to get the big powers involved and get them to agree? It is pretty worrying.

I was greeted in paragraph 124 with the words:

“The PRA must also have regard to the target in section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (carbon target for 2050) for rules made after Saturday 1 January 2022. As these rules will be final before that date, they are out of the scope of that requirement. In addition, during the consultation period for CP5/21, the Prudential Regulation Committee’s … remit letter was revised to recommend that the PRC should, where relevant and practical, have regard to the Government’s commitment to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. As consultation was underway at the point the PRC’s remit letter was revised, the PRA could not consider this new have regard for these particular rules, as to do so would have caused an impractical delay to their implementation.”


That struck me as a real Sir Humphrey kick into the long grass. I was very worried that about the only paragraph I felt I could understand did not have the right feel about it. What is more, I was confused because at this point, for reasons I do not quite understand, I was inspired to read the de minimis instrument which is called for to prove that it is under £5 million per year. All it took account of was the time people took to read the document. It did not take into account the fact that if you get these things wrong, the impact on the financial system can be profound.

18:30
That document seemed to say that the requirement to have regard to the target was relevant to this SI, so I was left very uncomfortable with the way this extraordinarily important issue was handled. I would like to know from the Minister when and how the net-zero commitment will be considered in the PRA rules. Is there some future iteration? I know there is this grid or something that says, “we are going to do this, that and the other”, but is that going to be considered at some point?
I then went on to worry, as we did at length when the Act was going through the House, about how we scrutinise PRA rules. In many ways, John Glen’s letter illustrated that if it became an affirmative resolution or something like that, it would be too difficult. But one has to remember that when we were in the EU—I am not talking now about whether Brexit was a good or bad idea—these equivalent rules were considered by the EU Parliament. It took them very seriously indeed and would flog through these rules so that when they came to the member nations they had been examined by a democratic process.
In a sense, all we get here is an invitation to consultation which sits entirely within the PRA and which Parliament can have a hand or an involvement in only if it takes the consultation. It seems to me that you have a situation which all too frequently develops in large organisations and their regulators. When I ran a large organisation, I tried to do the same thing: you try to get your regulator to go native so that you can do things your way. The consultation, as far as I can tell, was among the suppliers of services. There was no way in which the needs of society or customers could be considered.
I recognise that this is a very big question and the Minister might want to write me an essay and not answer today, but is this situation, in which future rules will have no formal parliamentary scrutiny, satisfactory? Should parliamentarians not be more involved in an issue of this importance? If they should have more involvement, how?
Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord again for his very thorough analysis of an immensely complicated subject. I will try to address his two substantive questions. The first was on the scrutiny of PRA rules and regulations by Parliament. I assure the noble Lord that Parliament ultimately sets the regulators’ objectives, and it is right that Parliament has the appropriate opportunity to scrutinise the work of the regulators and their effectiveness in delivering the objectives that Parliament has set them. The letter the noble Lord referred to was clear that we set out a reasonably long consultation period earlier this year and had substantive responses from the key players in the sector, and we have responded to those.

The regulator committed to sending these consultations and draft rules to Parliament during the passage of the Financial Services Act earlier this year. Consultation began in February so there has been a decent period to review and report on them. The PRA published its final rules in July—again, well in advance of this SI. The FSMA requires regulators to undertake these consultations and to consider and to respond to representations from Parliament as well as other stakeholders. Mechanisms for accountability, scrutiny and engagement are considered further through the further regulatory framework review. We should not rush to prejudge the outcome of the FRF review. The Government will bring forward proposals through a second consultation later this year.

On the noble Lord’s question about climate change, the Financial Services Act 2021 was amended to include a “have regard to” the net zero carbon target but its application was delayed until 1 January 2022. This means that the PRA does not need to have regard to climate change considerations in making the rules as a consequence of this specific SI. This delay will ensure that there is no unnecessary and impractical delay in implementing the Basel 3 reforms for 1 January next year, otherwise we would be in the unfortunate position where the regulators would have to reopen or restart their consultations which were first published, as I said, in February this year.

I assure the Committee that the PRA will still need to make rules to implement substantive reforms contained in Basel 3.1. I expect the regulators to use the powers again in future to update their rules: for example, to take account of new international standards or developments in the market. The PRA will need to have regard to the net carbon target in setting those rules.

I hope noble Lords will agree that these amendments strike the right balance between taking action on climate change quickly and taking swift action to reform our prudential regimes that aims to prevent a future crisis. I suggest that we write to the noble Lord to update him on the timetable for his specific concern on the net-zero targets.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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Before the noble Lord sits down, I recognise that what I have said is perhaps complex so I would be grateful if he would also write to me on whether he has any further reflections on how Parliament might be involved. The formal position, as I understand it, is that the PRA can now make regulations without seeking any formal authority from Parliament; indeed, that is almost the essence of it. I sense some degree of sympathy that somehow Parliament ought to be involved, so if he and the Treasury have further thoughts on that, it would be valuable if they could share them with me.

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con)
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Of course we will write to the noble Lord to provide a bit more clarity on that. Again, it is that difficult balancing act with incredibly complex regulations—as the noble Lord has so ably demonstrated as he has fought his way through layers of hyperlinks—and I recognise that.

The Prudential Regulation Authority has consulted on these rules. As I mentioned, in July it published the near-final version of the proposed rules, along with an accompanying policy statement. This set out how the regulator has taken into account the public policy factors in the Financial Services Act.

I hope that the noble Lord has found today’s debate informative. I will write to him on the specific items we have discussed. I hope he will join me in supporting this instrument and I beg to move.

Motion agreed.
Committee adjourned at 6.39 pm.

House of Lords

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Tuesday 14 September 2021
14:30
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Blackburn.

European Union Touring Visas

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:36
Asked by
Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to their announcement on 4 August that United Kingdom musicians and performers will not need visas or work permits for short-term tours in 19 European Union countries, what plans they have to seek similar arrangements for (1) mountain guiding professionals, and (2) other service providers whose livelihood depends on touring in European Union countries.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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The Government are committed to supporting individuals and businesses to adjust to our new relationship with the European Union. The types of activity that UK service providers can undertake without visas or work permits vary by country. We have published detailed guidance on GOV.UK to help business travellers navigate these rules. We engage regularly with our embassies and welcome the opportunity to speak with member states to improve mutual understanding of our respective systems.

Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
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My Lords, many UK providers of specialist services across European borders—in sport, travel, events, cultural and creative industries and numerous other sectors—are deeply concerned at the risk of losing their businesses because of the omission of such services from the trade and co-operation agreement, and feel a growing sense of abandonment by Her Majesty’s Government. Many, such as mountain guides, hold advanced UK qualifications. What are the Government doing to accelerate the process for achieving the mutual recognition of such qualifications? What practical, immediate support will they offer to those service providers who can no longer operate under the terms of the TCA or within the multiplicity of different requirements for working in individual member states—including those under which the Government claim that visa-free and permit-free touring are possible?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a number of questions. This is a complicated area. Of course, the requirements differ by member state, and different qualifications and regimes are applicable in each member state. We are engaging with all member states through our embassies and contacts in the EU to try to improve the situation and provide advice, encouragement and support for them to liberalise their regimes and provide the service providers mentioned by the noble Lord with the appropriate support.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a patron of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. The guild’s UK members fall exactly within the description in the second part of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Will the Minister support the restoration of a level playing field so that guild members may continue to provide guiding services in EU and EEA countries on the same basis as that on which guides from those countries are able to operate in the United Kingdom? Will he also support the guild in achieving recognition by EU/EEA nations of UK tour guide qualifications in the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We will certainly support the guild and its professional qualification associations in achieving mutual recognition. If battlefield guides come under the responsibility of tour guides, which we think they do, that is a regulated profession in 14 EU member states.

Lord Strasburger Portrait Lord Strasburger (LD) [V]
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My Lords, following the Government’s announcement on 4 August, I wrote to DCMS asking what, if anything, had changed for performers wanting to perform in Europe. Last week, I received a long reply from the Secretary of State that said nothing to justify the claims in the August announcement. Can the Minister comment on the industry’s view that the August announcement contained nothing new and was a “cruel hoax” on struggling performers and their crews?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not agree with the noble Lord. The Government have established that many touring activities, such as taking part in music festivals, are possible in at least 19 out of 27 EU member states, including France, Germany and the Netherlands. We were clarifying the law and the rules in those countries for the benefit of travelling musicians.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
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My Lords, I know that various government departments, particularly DCMS, are working hard to get bilateral agreements, which are certainly better than nothing. Can the Minister confirm that Spain will be top of the priorities? Secondly, have the Government made any assessment of the ETIAS regulations that Europe will implement in 2022? Will they help or just act as another burden of red tape and bureaucracy?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, we are working closely with the various professional associations and seeking to clarify the law in existing member states through our embassies, with which we are working closely. We want to provide as much clarity as possible. I am afraid that I do not have information on whether the ETIAS regime will change the situation, but I would be happy to write to the noble Lord.

Lord Flight Portrait Lord Flight (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is asking whether the Government might seek similar arrangements with 19 EU countries to end the visa and work permit requirements for those providing short-term tours and mountain guides. I wish the negotiators good luck, but I suspect that the European Union, especially France, might take a more protectionist view, especially where ski guides and instructors have had to be fully French-trained.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend might be right. If noble Lords cast their minds back even to when we were part of the free-movement regime, it was already difficult in some member states, particularly France—which is particularly awkward about these matters—for ski instructors and others to practise their professions. That was true under the old EU arrangements, so I suspect it would be similarly difficult now.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, whether it is performers, their back-up teams, interpreters, ski instructors or battlefield guides, the Government simply forgot about citizens when they negotiated the Brexit deal. Indeed, had they negotiated a Brexit deal rather than an “exit at any price” deal and put citizens at the heart of it, these difficulties might never have happened. Can the Minister assure the House that real priority and urgency will be behind their efforts to put the future of these professionals at the heart of what they now do?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am afraid that the noble Baroness is simply wrong in the first part of her question. We tried to negotiate an ambitious deal on recognition of different qualifications and movement with the European Union, and it rejected our proposals. On the second part of her question, I agree with her and we will now try to work with all the associations and individuals to improve the situation.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, it is clear that the Government have actually added bureaucracy for anybody who is taking a small band across Europe, for example, and wants to play in more than three or four countries. Given that, will the Government give some form of assistance to ensure that people have enough clerical support and knowledge to actually fill in all the forms they are now presented with?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are attempting to provide as much clarity as possible. It is difficult because, of course, the regimes are different in every member state. They have different immigration regimes and different enforcement regimes, but we are endeavouring to provide as much clarity as possible and we are publishing that information on GOV.UK.

Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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Lord Mann? He is not here. I call Baroness Altmann.

Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
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My Lords, given that these impacts were known and understood during the Brexit negotiations, has the pandemic had any particular effect on this problem? What measures did the Government intend to introduce alongside the trade and co-operation agreement to protect and support these citizens?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is difficult to disaggregate the effects of the pandemic from those caused by EU exit. We will see the full effects in the fullness of time, but we are certainly endeavouring to provide as much support to individuals as possible. As I said in my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, we tried to negotiate these provisions as part of the TCA, but the EU rejected it.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the big problem for the creative and service industries is being able to move easily across borders without red tape or incurring extra cost. For the music industry, the key problem in this regard is cabotage. When will the Government respond to the summer consultation on this, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, referred in answer to a question last week, bearing in mind that the industry is asking for an exemption from cabotage and cross-trade laws for vehicles carrying passengers and equipment, as the rules agreed through the TCA are prohibitive?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Department for Transport has been working closely with the industry to see what unilateral measures the Government could take to support the industry. We are currently considering the evidence that we gathered from the call for evidence that was taken, as the noble Lord says, over the summer. We will endeavour to update the sector on our approach later this year.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
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My Lords, pursuant to the commitments given in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, and the offers of assistance to the British Association of Snowsport Instructors by government on behalf of members of the Alpine Sports Group, does the Minister agree that it is absolutely imperative that the Government redouble their efforts to remove employment restrictions on British nationals working as mountain guides, ski instructors and employees of ski holiday companies in order to counter the negative impact of Brexit on British winter sports tourism and UK snowsport professionals?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, I wish my noble friend a happy birthday which, I understand, was yesterday. It was a shame that he had to spend it voting on the Environment Bill in the House, but I am sure that he enjoyed himself anyway. We recognise how important it is for UK businesses, including those in the winter sports industry, to be able to send their employees across borders quickly and easily. As I said in an earlier answer, EU member states are principally responsible for deciding the rules governing what work UK visitors can undertake in their own countries. However, we met in July with representatives of the UK snowsports organisations to try better to understand the constraints placed on them and to work with them to alleviate those concerns.

Commonwealth Fund Report: NHS Ranking

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:47
Asked by
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Commonwealth Fund Mirror, Mirror 2021: Reflecting Poorly, published on 4 August, and, in particular, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service dropping from first to fourth place in their rankings of countries’ health care systems; and what steps they intend to take as a result.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, we are very grateful to the Commonwealth Fund, based in America, for its very important report and its updated rankings. I note that the criteria in the report have changed considerably over the years. On the report’s key points, I agree that there is more that we can do on patient equity. The Government have put health inequality at the centre of their agenda, and we are working hard on implementation. On care process—the other key finding of the report—we do not recognise the report’s analysis.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Well, how convenient. The UK’s drop in rank in the Commonwealth Fund’s five-yearly research into the performance of the world’s wealthiest 11 countries’ healthcare systems from first to fourth still seems to be associated, as the noble Lord has said, with access to care and with equity. This is important because the key differences between the top-performing countries, of which we are still—just—one, and the worst performing healthcare systems, of which the USA is, by a long way, the outlier, concern universal coverage, removal of cost barriers, investment in primary care systems, reducing bureaucratic burdens and investment in social services, particularly for children and working-age adults. Can the Minister explain to the House how the announcement on social care last week and the current NHS reform Bill before Parliament will contribute to the UK’s healthcare performance and ranking in the next five years?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness half answers her own question. When it comes to universal coverage, I am extremely proud of the NHS and the service that we provide to the British public. There is no other health system like it anywhere in the world. The report makes cogent points on equality, and we have put that at the centre of our agenda, and in the NHS long-term plan, the prevention Green Paper and the newly implemented Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. We are doing that work through the obesity plan, the NHS health checks, the tobacco control plan and the vaccination plan. We are highly committed to this agenda, and we are making an impact.

Lord Shinkwin Portrait Lord Shinkwin (Con)
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My Lords, of course we must protect the NHS and support social care but, given the proposed tax increase, can my noble friend the Minister explain to taxpayers on low incomes how they will know whether their money is well spent?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we raise taxes with huge hesitation. My noble friend is entirely right to hold the system to account for delivering value for money and to question productivity, but I reassure him that we have one of the most efficient health systems in the world. The money spent by the department on behalf of taxpayers is very wisely invested, and we are extremely grateful to those in social care and the NHS for the incredibly effective way in which they go about their business.

Baroness Massey of Darwen Portrait Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lady Thornton has asked about the key features which enhance the delivery of healthcare; I am sorry that the Minister was so dismissive of the report. We know that countries differ in how they organise healthcare, and that vulnerable groups in all societies need special attention. What measures will the Government take to ensure that children, for example, especially those identified in the Leadsom report, are given the support that they and their families need to overcome their disadvantage and to thrive?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to Andrea Leadsom for her report and all those who collaborated in drafting it. The noble Baroness is entirely right that those in the first 1,000 days of their lives are the people we should focus on—that is why we commissioned the report in the first place. We have embraced many of the recommendations and we will continue to see through their implementation.

Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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My Lords, we will now have a virtual contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the report points out that, although the UK is fourth overall in the rankings, we are ninth out of 11 on health outcomes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, outlined, the top three countries are particularly good at investment in preventive services and primary care, but the report also talks about wider social care, including housing, nutrition, transportation and early years services. All these investments tackle inequity and deprivation, as covered in both the Leadsom report and the Marmot report. Given the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement that there is no money for anything other than the NHS and social care, what are the Government proposing to do to address investment in these vital areas?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we are investing a tremendous amount in preventive care, and I agree with the noble Baroness that this is key to the future—to better and longer lives and, on my noble friend’s point, to increasing the productivity of our healthcare system. I have already mentioned the key components of our preventive agenda and I add to that list the £325 million that we have allocated to the diagnostic fund precisely to catch disease earlier, to give people the treatments they need earlier, and to bring down the cost of our healthcare service.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, is one of the reasons for this decline the fact that we have fewer doctors per head than almost any other country in the OECD? When the Prime Minister announced 6,000 new doctors, did he know that it takes six years to train a doctor? In fact, the numbers have gone down rather than up, so what will the Minister and his colleagues do now to improve the position?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, we are grateful to GPs and doctors for the work that they do. Of course, the way to get more GPs is partly by training them, partly by retaining them, and partly by working with GPs from overseas who come and serve in the NHS. That is how we are meeting our commitments on raising the number of GPs in the NHS.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I hope my noble friend has seen recent reports from NHS doctors in the Daily Mail and elsewhere about the slowness of the NHS to embrace obvious change. Does he think that there are sufficient resources such as GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and medical equipment, to allow the new money being made available announced last week—for which, thank you—to be spent effectively, thereby lowering waiting times? I worry that it will just boost pay cheques, as we saw under a previous Administration.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I take my noble friend’s point: there are hot spots of innovation and change in the NHS, of which we should be proud, but she is right that the NHS is a large organisation and change can be challenging. In particular, I pay tribute to the Office for Life Sciences, the Accelerated Access Collaborative and NHSX—three organisations within the NHS that are driving change. I also pay tribute to the People Plan, which is putting innovation at the centre of the culture within the NHS. I agree with my noble friend that more can be done in this area.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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The report says little about the important area of services for mental health, because of a shortage of comparative data. However, a new measure has been introduced into this report for the first time, dealing with access to counselling and treatment for mental health issues. Is the Minister concerned that the data in the report shows that the UK lags behind the comparators in this important area of mental health?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I have not studied the report’s comments on mental health but, in the broad terms in which the noble Lord describes the issue, I agree. We are very committed to improving access to mental health in this country—we have invested in it, but there is more to be done. It is an area of our health system that requires more investment, which is why we have committed more money to it.

Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe (Con)
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My Lords, reference has been made to healthcare outcomes, where we are nearly at the bottom. It is rather like saying, “Everything went well but the patient died.” One of the functions of the NHS is to provide care but, because it is such a bureaucracy, there is very little competition. Can the Minister look at ways to preserve the NHS which include some sort of built-in incentive to innovate?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I remind my noble friend that the report looks at 10 countries, so although we are at the bottom, it is bottom of a very small list. There is competition within the NHS—the 2012 Act organised that. My experience of working in healthcare, which has only been for one and a half years, is that collaboration, rather than competition, is the key to productivity. Getting diagnosis and the patient journey right requires a huge number of experts to work together and huge expertise, often in many different organisations. We are keen to use technology and modern techniques to make sure that collaboration is at the heart of the way in which the NHS works.

Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.

Supported Housing: Funding

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:58
Asked by
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that long-term, ring-fenced funding is available for supported housing.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I declare my interest as chair of the National Housing Federation.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, funding is devolved to local authorities through the local government settlement; they are best placed to make decisions on local services. We continue to work with the sector to address issues of supply and quality. The plan for health and social care announced last week included a commitment that the Government will invest in supported housing, as well as exploring other innovative housing solutions to support more people to live independently at home.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, supported housing plays a transformational role in maintaining independence for those with extra care needs, as well as people rebuilding their lives after street homelessness or domestic abuse. It was never more critical than during the pandemic and needs to be an integral part of our national recovery. Does the Minister recognise the enormous contribution of supported housing? Does he recall the £1.6 billion of ring-fenced funding, which sustained the provision of housing-related support, and does he believe that it needs to be reinstated in the upcoming CSR if we want to avoid a crisis for swathes of the most vulnerable people in our country?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, as I set out in my original Answer, the focus has been away from ring-fencing of funding, but of the £12 billion that has been provided during this pandemic for local councils to deal with the pressures, £6 billion was non-ring-fenced, and a lot of that money can be prioritised for the issues around housing-related support services to ensure that the quality of the services can be continued.

Baroness Thornhill Portrait Baroness Thornhill (LD)
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My Lords, there is genuine concern among councils that there is abuse of the exempt accommodation status, which grants housing run by a supported housing provider additional housing benefit. Does the Minister agree that, to do right by the majority of good providers, more must be done to increase the transparency of such accommodation costs and to give councils greater flexibilities and powers to act against those who are failing their most vulnerable tenants? Does he have any feedback from the supported housing pilots that were working on this important issue?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right: we are concerned about quality issues, and that is why we carried out some pilots in Birmingham, Blackburn, Darwen, Hull, Bristol and Blackpool. We do not have the results from those pilots, but that is why we invested £5.4 million—to ensure that there is no drop in quality.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, following the success of the Everyone In campaign, which protected rough sleepers from Covid, Housing First is the most cost-effective supported housing solution, to stop those most at risk from returning to the streets. It is estimated that 16,000 places are required, but so far the Government have pledged funding for only 2,000. Can my noble friend hold out any prospect of a more generous response?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My noble friend knows that we are committed, in our latest manifesto, to expanding Housing First. The findings of our evaluation, together with our experiences from the pilots, will help to inform next steps.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, a recent report for Birmingham City Council found that an increasing number of landlords claiming to provide social housing are not providing adequate support for tenants or residents. Housing charity Crisis has previously called for tighter regulation to prevent this exploitation. Do the Government have any plans to introduce any such legislation? If not, will the Minister explore the need to do so?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we are aware of the issues in Birmingham. That is one of the reasons why we carried out those pilots, which will inform future policy in this area. It is important that we deal with the small examples where standards are simply unacceptable.

Baroness Thomas of Winchester Portrait Baroness Thomas of Winchester (LD) [V]
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My Lords, as well as supported housing for disabled people, more wheelchair-accessible housing is greatly needed. What action will the Government take to ensure that it is provided?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we are investing a considerable amount—up to 10% is the target—of the £11.5 billion affordable housing scheme in the supply of supported housing. Specifically, the Government have invested more than £4 billion through the disabled facilities grant, which has funded adaptations in almost 450,000 homes.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, in his initial Answer the Minister said that the Government were investigating or exploring innovative housing solutions. How confident is he that such innovative housing solutions will deal with need in the supported housing area and help to underpin social justice?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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We are engaging very closely with stakeholders, such as the National Housing Federation and others, to ensure that we get this right. We will then develop the detail and will announce more information in the forthcoming White Paper on adult social care.

Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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I declare my interest as laid out in the register. The Resolution Foundation has said that the Chancellor’s planned cuts in universal credit, along with other major decisions to be made in the autumn,

“are likely to shape the living standards of millions of families for years to come.”

Have the Government made an assessment of the impact of the Chancellor’s universal credit proposals on levels of need for supported housing?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, it is important to recognise that that was always going to be a temporary uplift in universal credit. We also need to recognise the current amount of money that goes into welfare costs for supported housing. Way back in 2015, the estimate was £3.5 billion, and the sum will almost certainly have risen since that time, when it was last measured. That goes some way to ensuring that there is support for people in supported housing.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, is not here, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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Does the Minister agree with one of the recommendations of the recent report by the National Housing Federation on supported housing, which says that local authorities should be required to

“develop a clear strategic understanding of the need for supported housing in their area, and a plan setting out the types of housing required, for whom, when and where”?

Will his department help local authorities to implement this measure?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, it is an entirely sensible recommendation that it is down to local authorities to base their plans on local needs. That is one of the reasons why we have moved away from specific ring-fenced funding—and of course, the Government can provide support for councils in that endeavour.

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, as a former councillor, I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lady Warwick in calling for ring-fencing for supported housing, particularly for people with disabilities, those who are recovering from mental health issues and those who have come out of prison. Those people appear to be suffering significant neglect in services, with a deficit of essential care which breaches our commitment and ambition for equality and social justice. Will the Minister meet me to discuss some recent supported housing experience that highlights a worrying lack of quality provision, which severely impairs rehabilitation, recovery and the dignity of individuals?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I am always happy to meet the noble Baroness, but I have to say that although there are some poor examples of supported housing—I am happy to learn about and understand that issue, and I will bring in my relevant ministerial colleagues in the department as well—there are also some tremendous examples of supported housing, in particular with the provision of extra care in sheltered housing, which is providing great accommodation for the elderly in our society.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked. We now move on to the next Question.

Flu Vaccination and Blood Test Cancellations

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:07
Asked by
Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the level of cancellations of influenza vaccinations and routine blood tests.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con)
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My Lords, I regret to report that there was a shortfall in the supply of blood tubes of around 13% in the last two weeks of August, which led to some disruption. That has been mitigated through use of government stockpiles, importing tubes and changes in practice. Supply has now returned to normal. It is not true that there is a flu vaccine shortage; the delivery from one supplier was delayed by one or two weeks, but this should have no impact on the flu vaccination programme overall. I am pleased to say that we are in regular contact with doctors, and no issues of cancelled appointments have been raised.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab)
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What the Minister just said about blood tests is good news for those who have regular serious blood tests. But on the subject of flu jabs, does he recall telling me earlier this year that the flu jabs were made in the UK? They are not imported. The lorry drivers problem is a UK issue, so this is a home-grown issue. The websites this morning are saying that, up and down the country, GP after GP has been thrown into chaos because they are having to cancel appointments that were made weeks ago. I have personal experience of this, because even in Ludlow we are having appointments cancelled. The idea that this is not a problem is not the case. Why has this been allowed to happen? Everything involved is under our control in the UK.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, it is not my understanding that appointments have been cancelled. If the noble Lord has any anecdotes, reports or evidence of that, I would be very grateful if he could send me that material. Seqirus, the company concerned, brings its vaccines in from overseas.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I remind the House of my interest, in working with the Dispensing Doctors’ Association. If my noble friend reads the BMA website for 4 September, he will see that it reports numerous cancellations of appointments for meticulously planned routine flu vaccinations. Obviously, that has caused great disruption. Will he undertake to treat this matter with the utmost urgency, to ensure that GP practices are not left to face the music, and that the Government will do their utmost to roll out the vaccine programme?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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As my noble friend knows extremely well because of her close connections with the industry, GPs and pharmacies are responsible for purchasing their own flu vaccines through the seasonal flu vaccination programme, directly from manufacturers or wholesalers. Deliveries are phased and typically take place over a long period from September to November. As I said earlier, the disruption we have had in the supply was from one supplier for one or two weeks. It has not had a meaningful impact on the supply of flu vaccines to this country.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister and the Government need to catch up with what is going on on the ground. I think almost everyone in your Lordships’ House knows someone who has had their flu vaccine appointment cancelled. There are two such noble Lords over there. I know three people in the House whose flu vaccinations have been cancelled. Perhaps he needs to go back to have another look at this.

The BMA has called for a COBRA meeting on the shortages of test tubes and transport. The Minister might think it is scaremongering, but it actually has a right to be alarmed. First, in these circumstances, if there are further delays and shortages, will he and the Government have a system of prioritisation? Secondly, how will the NHS encourage better take-up of flu vaccination among NHS staff?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I hear loud and clearly the very obvious feedback from noble Lords about cancelled appointments. It is not the same as the guidance that I have been given, but I will look into it when I get back to the department and will be happy to write to the noble Baroness with an update on them. With regard to test tubes, I reassure her that guidance was issued to the NHS and GPs recommending actions for medical directors, nursing directors, GPs and pathology laboratories. It required refinements that had an impact, but those with an acute need for blood were accommodated and a COBRA meeting was not needed.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Stuart of Edgbaston.

None Portrait Noble Lords
- Hansard -

Oh!

Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Portrait Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston (Non-Afl)
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That takes me back to campaigning 20 years ago. It is nice to see the noble Lord.

At the end of August I received a text from NHS-NoReply:

“Due to a global shortage of blood bottles, we are unable to provide routine blood tests until further notice”.


If, as the Minister says, this shortage has been overcome in the intervening weeks, will he ensure that GP surgeries send out text messages on a similar line saying, “This is no longer a problem. Will people therefore come for their routine blood tests?”

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I had a similar text. I point out that it was about “routine” use. We were able to accommodate acute use through the whole period. However, the noble Baroness makes a good point, so I will look into it and see whether something can be done along those lines.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, the HGV driver shortage has clearly been exacerbated by Brexit. Will the Minister tell the House what he intends to do about that?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I do not quite know how to answer that question. When it comes to test tubes for blood collection and the flu vaccine, I am not sure that there is a Brexit angle and we have it covered.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, I cannot be the only Member of your Lordships’ House who is slightly confused by the Minister’s answers in relation to disputes of fact about whether cancellations are even happening, and then perhaps the passing of the buck to GP surgeries. When he writes to my noble friend Lady Thornton, will he place his answer in the Library and not just address the vital issue of fact—and trust—as we head into a very difficult winter, but be clear about the priorities between routine testing and vaccination and the more acute category that he describes?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I would be absolutely delighted to put the letter into the Library as requested by the noble Baroness, but please do not think for a moment that I am in any way seeking to pass responsibility. I am pointing out the very clear fact that GPs are responsible for implementing the flu vaccination programme. It is something that they do brilliantly. No other country has a flu vaccination programme with the impact that ours has. GPs are taking on more responsibilities this year with secondary school children being vaccinated. The rate I am expecting for this year will be higher than we have ever seen before.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, any delay in blood tests or flu vaccination must have some impact on patient safety. What monitoring are the Government doing to try to measure the impact? Will the Minister ask the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch to conduct a review?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, my understanding is that patient safety has not been at stake, but the noble Lord makes an extremely good point. I am not sure it is my role to instruct HSIB on this, but I will look into whether investigation is necessary. I reassure him that these shortages have not had a profound impact. We have marshalled the use of the tubes extremely carefully and have pushed back some routine blood-taking. That will have a small impact but we have put in place provision for a catch-up.

Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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We now come to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab)
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After my unfortunate trans moment, I shall now ask my question in all seriousness. Does the Minister recognise that this winter it is particularly important that we get the maximum number of flu vaccinations in this round? It is important every winter, but this winter somebody contracting flu and then Covid is in serious danger.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I reassure the noble Lord that we have strained every sinew to deliver the most impactful flu vaccination programme in the history of the country. We have expanded the range of the flu vaccination and the number of vaccinations available. The NHS depends on us keeping people out of beds. That is why we are highly focused on this.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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Will the Minister answer the question asked by my noble friend Lady Thornton about the BMA’s feeling sufficiently concerned that it suggested a meeting of COBRA? COBRA could have discussions with the Armed Forces and perhaps we could use some of their drivers. There are answers to some of these problems.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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This is not a driver problem; it is a delivery problem.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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Does the Minister not understand the frustration across the Chamber? Every one of us knows that there are problems with routine blood tests and cancellations of flu vaccinations. Everyone would expect the Minister to explain what he is going to do about it—so what is he going to do about it?

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, I hear the frustration in the House, particularly on flu vaccinations. Quite clearly the personal experience of those in this Chamber is different from what is being reported to me. I have undertaken to look into it more closely, to write to the noble Baroness and to put that letter into the Library. I think that is an entirely fair and reasonable response and, if I may say so, demonstrates the effectiveness of this Chamber at holding Ministers to account.

First Reading
15:18
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Tuesday 14th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Membership Motion
15:19
Moved by
Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde
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That Paul Lewis be appointed as an external member of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body.

Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.
Third Reading
15:19
Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con)
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My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, before we progress with Third Reading, I will make a very brief statement and update on legislative consent in respect of the Bill. As the UK Government have made clear throughout the earlier stages of the Bill, we are committed to working closely with the Welsh Government on this legislation in order for it to be of the greatest benefit to leaseholders in both England and Wales. While the law of property is a restricted matter under the Government of Wales Act 2006, we have worked closely with our colleagues in the Welsh Government and taken note of their views in a spirit of collaboration and joint working. This has led to a series of amendments to ensure that the Bill works in the best possible way for the benefit of leaseholders wherever they live.

In summary, these amendments transfer executive competence to Welsh Ministers, meaning that the Bill now engages with the legislative consent process in the Senedd Cymru. The Welsh Government laid a legislative consent memorandum for the Bill before the Senedd in May this year, and we have had continued correspondence with Ministers advising that they share the same policy ambitions as the UK Government in this area. Senedd Cymru has not yet considered its position on legislative consent at this relatively early stage in the Bill’s passage through Parliament. However, I assure noble Lords that we are intent on securing legislative consent for this Bill and will continue to work with the Welsh Government in order to realise this ambition.

Motion

Moved by
Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh
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That the Bill do now pass.

15:21
Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I start by thanking noble Lords from all sides of the House for the constructive approach that they have taken to this important legislation. The Bill leaves your Lordships’ House as better legislation than when it arrived, and I thank noble Lords for their engagement with me both here and elsewhere. Leasehold legislation can be incredibly complex, but we are lucky in this place to have the benefit of a vast amount of knowledge and experience on these matters. I express my gratitude in particular to my noble friends Lord Hammond of Runnymede and Lord Young of Cookham, and to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for the time they have given to me and my officials in sharing their knowledge and expertise, which has led directly to amendments that have improved the Bill.

I am pleased to say that there has been recognition across the House of the importance of getting this Bill on the statute book. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and, before him, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, on the Benches opposite, for the constructive nature of the conversations that we have had on this legislation. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, for her work on the Bill, particularly on the vital issue of transparency.

There were, of course, other issues raised with the Bill. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Stunell, the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for their engagement on the issues of the retirement sector and the transition period that the Government have proposed. Noble Lords who have been carefully watching the Bill’s progress will know that there have been competing views on the length and, indeed, existence of this transition period, including how it should apply to developments that are part-sold. While I remain convinced that our proposal strikes the right balance between the sector and consumers, I have appreciated debating the issue with noble Lords.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for their scrutiny of the Bill; both have made valuable contributions to the debate. My thanks also go to the officials who have worked so hard to get us to this position: the Bill team of Jo Cagney, Rosie Gray, Tom Sedgwick, Sema Ashami, Isabel Hendy, Jenny Frew, Ian Martin, Harriet Fisher, Elly-Marie Connolly and David Gethin, my own private office, Sam Loxton, the Whips, Senedd officials, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and clerks in this place.

Finally, I will take the opportunity to thank the Competition and Markets Authority for its work on behalf of existing leaseholders who have found themselves at the sharp end of unfair practices in the leasehold sector. The CMA’s ongoing investigation is playing a vital role in reforming and improving the sector, and I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to its efforts. The Bill will provide transparency and fairness to a new generation of leaseholders. It is a vital first step towards realising our vision of a reformed and improved leasehold system free from the unfair practices that have been the experience for far too many homeowners. I beg to move.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I join the Minister in thanking Members on all sides of the House for their contributions and expertise in working to get the Bill to where it is today. I also thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, for his courtesy in his dealings with my noble friend Lord Lennie and myself. We appreciate that very much. I also thank all the officials and his Bill team for their work with us. I place on record my thanks to Ben Wood and the office of the Leader of the Opposition for the work that they did.

My involvement was in the Second Reading of the Bill. I then became the Chief Whip, so I departed the scene, leaving it all to my noble friend Lord Lennie. I have come back to make these final remarks as my noble friend cannot be here today. I thank him in particular for all the work he did in taking up the Bill very much at short notice. I think we have made the Bill better than it was when it first came to this House. This is the first stage in leasehold reform; there is very much more to be done. We look forward to the work of the Law Commission and to a Bill that will address other leaseholder problems—but this is a good first stage and I am very happy with where we have got to so far.

Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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My Lords, I too offer my thanks to those who have contributed to the improvement of the Bill and, in particular, to say that the Minister has been exceptionally helpful and generous with his time in proceeding with it through Committee and at the intermediate stages. My noble friend Lady Grender would have liked to be here, but I am speaking in her place on this occasion.

I have given notice to the Minister that I believe there is one aspect of this that still requires a word of clarification, which I hope he will be able to give as we move on. It is clearly very important that this Bill makes rapid progress, and even more important that the second Bill, long promised, follows close on its heels. The issue relates to retirement homes and those blocks that are partially occupied at the time that the changes instigated by this Bill come into force. There is a serious risk of a two-tier market in those blocks if this is introduced wholesale across every part of the same block. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify the Government’s intent and the effect of this legislation, so that those who have made representations to me can have some understanding of the direction in which this legislation will now proceed. With those few words, I am very happy to see the Bill pass into law.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, for giving me advance notice of his question. I have pushed to give him a clear answer on that. It is clear that there is a transition period until 1 April 2023. The Government propose not to exclude part-occupied developments from that cut-off period once the legislation takes effect, which will obviously be later than for all other areas. That is the balance that we are trying to strike, in the interests of consumers but also of the sector.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
Second Reading
15:28
Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Relevant documents: 1st, 2nd and 4th Reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 7th Report from the Constitution Committee

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the first duty of any Government is to keep the country safe. This means working together to prevent and reduce crime, backing the police—ensuring that they have the powers and tools they need—and a fair justice system which ensures that the punishment fits the crime but allows offenders who have paid their debt to society to make a fresh start.

We have already recruited nearly half of the promised 20,000 additional police officers and overall police funding has grown in real terms for the fifth consecutive year. We have also already ended the automatic early release of the most serious offenders sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment or more, we are implementing our landmark Domestic Abuse Act and we have published our new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. However, we need to do more to protect our communities, and the measures in this Bill are directed to that end.

The police undertake a uniquely challenging role in helping to keep communities safe. They make enormous sacrifices to protect the public and, in turn, we should protect them. The police covenant will demonstrate our commitment to back police officers and staff and ensure that the police workforce do not suffer any disadvantage as a result of their role. The Bill will require the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on key issues that we want to prioritise, particularly the health and well-being of the workforce, their physical protection and supporting their families.

Our police and other emergency workers are committed to serving their communities. The overwhelming majority of the public applaud and salute that service but, shockingly, the latest figures show that assaults on police officers increased by 14% compared with the previous year. Obviously, that is unacceptable. The Bill therefore doubles the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker to two years’ imprisonment, ensuring that those who carry out these attacks receive a punishment that is commensurate with the crime that they have committed.

Sorry, some of my speech is missing, but I will carry on. Moving on swiftly, the end-to-end rape review acknowledged that the invasive nature of the process around disclosure has long been an issue for victims. We need to do more to assure victims that information will be extracted from their mobile phone only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in pursuit of reasonable lines of inquiry. To that end, the Bill establishes a statutory framework, backed up by a code of practice, for the extraction of information from electronic devices. Our focus is on protecting privacy and supporting victims of crime and others who voluntarily provide information to the police. In the Commons debates we heard concerns, including from the Victims’ Commissioner, that these provisions do not yet provide sufficient safeguards. We owe it to vulnerable victims and witnesses to get these provisions right and we are continuing to explore how they might be strengthened.

I return to the issue of serious violence. It blights our communities and we cannot look to the police alone to solve it; that has to be a shared endeavour, with all relevant agencies working together. Part 2 of the Bill will require local authorities, specified health authorities and fire and rescue authorities, along with the police and other specified criminal justice agencies, to come together to prevent and reduce serious violence in their area. They will be required to formulate an evidence-based analysis of the problems associated with serious violence in their locality and then produce and implement a strategy detailing how they will respond, including through early interventions. To support such collaborative working, the Bill introduces new powers to share data and information for that purpose.

One way to prevent serious violence is to ensure that we learn the lessons from the far too many deaths involving knives that we see on our streets. Each of these is an individual tragedy, with the most devastating consequences for victims and their families. We will therefore introduce offensive weapons homicide reviews—to be undertaken jointly by the relevant police force, local authority and clinical commissioning group or health board—which will examine the circumstances surrounding a death and identify lessons to prevent such tragedies in future. These homicide reviews will first be piloted to ensure that we design a review process that is as effective as possible before we roll them out across England and Wales.

Part 2 of the Bill also reforms pre-charge bail. As noble Lords will recall, changes made in 2017 sought to address legitimate concerns that individuals who had not been charged or convicted of any offence were subjected to bail conditions restricting their liberty for months or, in some cases, years while the police pursued their investigation. Noble Lords will recall that the experience of the last four years has shown that the pendulum has swung far too far in the other direction, leading to concerns that bail is not being used in appropriate cases to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses.

To address those concerns, the Bill will remove the current statutory presumption against pre-charge bail, instead adopting a neutral position. This is designed to encourage its use when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, based on each case’s individual circumstances and the list of risk factors now set out in the Bill. These changes will be reinforced by statutory guidance issued by the College of Policing to help establish a consistent approach across all forces.

Lastly, in relation to Part 2, we are extending the positions of trust offences in the Sexual Offences Act to protect 16 and 17 year-olds in a wider range of circumstances—namely, in a sporting or religious context—where adults hold a position of particular influence or power. I know this change will be particularly welcomed by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.

There has been much comment about the public order provisions in Part 3. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental part of our democracy. This is not about stifling freedom of speech and assembly but about balancing those rights with the rights of others, including protecting the free press and ensuring that people can get to their work and that ambulances can quickly transport patients to hospital.

We have listened to policing professionals who have told us that the distinction made in the Public Order Act between processions and assemblies is out of date and does not reflect the operational reality. We have listened to the independent Law Commission, which recommended that the common-law offence of public nuisance be put on a statutory footing. We have listened to the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights, which recommended strengthening powers to ensure unhindered access—including for noble Lords—to the Parliamentary Estate. We have listened to the independent policing inspectorate, which concluded that the measures we have proposed in Part 3 would improve police effectiveness without eroding the right to protest.

Part 4 of the Bill delivers on an express manifesto commitment to tackle unauthorised encampments. These measures are not about restricting the nomadic lifestyle of Travellers but about protecting all communities from the distress and loss of amenity caused by unauthorised encampments. In particular, the Bill provides for a new criminal offence of residing in a vehicle on land without permission. It is important to stress that the offence applies only where a person fails to leave the land or remove their property without reasonable excuse when asked to do so and they have caused or are likely to cause significant damage, significant disruption or significant distress. I do not think any noble Lord would want to condone such behaviour.

The sentencing measures in the Bill will target the most serious violent and sexual offenders and those who pose the greatest threat to the public. That includes those who commit the premeditated murder of a child, those who kill through dangerous driving or careless driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and those who become more dangerous while in prison. However, we are aware that delivering public protection and building confidence in the criminal justice system is not just about making better use of custody. In many cases, particularly for low-level offending, effective early interventions and community supervision keep the public safer by preventing further offending. To that end, we are simplifying the adult out-of-court disposals framework, making provision to pilot adult problem-solving courts and increasing the curfew options that are available to sentencers. In addition, we will aid offender rehabilitation by reducing the time periods after which some sentences become spent so that they do not have to be disclosed to employers for non-sensitive jobs or activities.

The Bill includes measures on sentencing and remand for children. We intend these measures to increase confidence in community sentences as a robust alternative to custody and to ensure that custodial remand is used only as a last resort. They also ensure that sentences for the most serious crimes provide justice for victims and reflect the seriousness of those offences. The Bill also includes measures to enable the trialling of secure schools in order to fulfil our vision of secure environments centred on individualised education and care.

I turn now to Part 10, which includes the provision for serious violence reduction orders. These deliver on another manifesto commitment to introduce a new court order to target known knife carriers, making it easier for the police to stop and search those convicted of knife crime. These new orders are intended to help tackle high-risk offenders, by making it easier for the police to search them for weapons, and to help protect more vulnerable offenders from being drawn into further exploitation by criminal gangs. The targeted use of stop and search, as part of a wider approach to intervening and supporting offenders, will help safeguard those communities most at risk.

In Part 10 we are also strengthening the powers to manage sex offenders—one of a number of measures in the Bill which will help tackle violence against women and girls. In particular, the Bill will help positive requirements to be attached to sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders; for example, by requiring perpetrators to attend a treatment programme.

Finally, the Bill includes a number of measures to improve the efficiency of the Courts & Tribunals Service. Our aim is to modernise the delivery of justice, including through the greater use of technology, but only where it is appropriate to do so. We are facilitating the ongoing use of audio and video technology in our courts and tribunals, building on its successful use during the pandemic. This will ensure shorter waiting times and less unnecessary travel for court participants. However, a full hearing in court will always be available when needed and where the court considers it to be in the interests of justice. The decision as to how a hearing is conducted will remain a matter for the judiciary—the judge, magistrates or tribunal panel—who will determine how best to protect the interests of justice on a case-by-case basis.

This is a multifaceted Bill, but there is one overarching objective: to keep the public safe. It promotes multiagency working to prevent and reduce crime; it gives the police the powers they need to fight crime and prevent disorder; it introduces tougher punishments for violent and sexual offenders; it helps end the cycle of reoffending; and it enhances the efficiency of the courts to help deliver justice for all. I commend the Bill to the House.

15:42
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for her clear but inevitably incomplete description of the Bill. Her incomplete description of it is not her fault. We support some of the measures in the Bill, in particular those that seek to increase penalties for sexual and violent crime, but the presentation of the Bill in this form is an affront to the rule of law and the role of Parliament: 177 clauses, 20 schedules, 62 new delegated lawmaking powers and amendments to 39 other statutes. Our constitution requires legislation such as this, particularly because it affects the liberty of the subject, to be properly scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament. With a Bill this size, that is well nigh impossible. Introducing a Bill in this way at this time does not accept, as the Government should, the limitations of time on a parliamentary process.

Quite separately from those complaints that I have about the Bill, the Delegated Powers Committee of this House has delivered a report which makes it absolutely clear that it takes considerable offence to a number of the Bill’s provisions that are giving power to the Executive to pass guidance; in particular, those that will give Ministers undue power because the effect of failing to comply with that guidance will lead to consequences in court, which will have an effect on the citizen. This is not the way to legislate. Yes, there are certain things that need to be done as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, but this Government should prioritise what those things are and then do them.

The Lord Chancellor said in another place that this Bill was designed to increase—or, in his words, restore—faith in the criminal justice system. It does not do that. There were things that he could have done to restore that faith, which is urgently required. I shall identify three things to indicate that. In the year to March 2021, a staggering 21.8% of victims said that they wanted to abandon their criminal case because they were fed up with the system—that is 945,000 cases involving the victims withdrawing their co-operation. A survey by Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner, said that one-third of victims took the view that they would not report a crime again because of the experience they had had in the criminal justice system. As everybody in this House knows, because it has been repeated time and again, the number of complaints of rape goes up every year while the number of rape prosecutions goes down, and the number of convictions goes down as well.

Yes, we do need improvements to the criminal justice system, but a Christmas tree Bill of this size is not the way to deal with it. It is not possible in the time allotted either to me or to any of us to identify every single issue in relation to the Bill, but I will identify 11 issues that may be worth further consideration.

The first is on the policing of protests. The Minister will have seen what the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said in relation to the provisions that have been taken. It says absolutely explicitly that the Government have got the balance wrong between the right to protest and the powers being given to the Executive. To give the Executive the power to ban demonstrations because they make excessive noise is not proportionate; you would expect demonstrations to make noise and we will be looking in some detail at those provisions.

Secondly, there is the issue of unauthorised encampments in Clauses 62 to 64. These go much further than the Minister said. Contrary to what she specifically said, they are an attack on the Roma or Gypsy way of life. It is not necessary and, furthermore, it is not supported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. It is something the Government have done which goes much further than necessary.

Thirdly, the Bill does not bring into effect right across the country Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. If that section had been brought into effect, it would have allowed and led to the ability—right across the country—of victims of severe sexual assault to give their evidence straightaway before a judge. They would be cross-examined about it, but the film of that evidence would then be played at the trial at a much later date. That would allow the victim to avoid that awful period as they wait for the trial to take place. But the Lord Chancellor said in another place only that it should be further piloted. Why is it not being introduced right across the country? A reason given is because there are not enough judges to do it, and there would need to be judges to hear the evidence of the victim. Apart from offences leading to death—primarily murder and manslaughter—it is hard to imagine a higher priority for the judiciary than hearing serious rape and sexual violence cases, so the absence of judicial resource does not seem a good excuse. We would strongly urge that it be rolled out and will introduce an amendment to that effect.

Fourthly, I welcome what the Minister said about the extraction of information from the mobile phones of victims of serious sexual assault. Subsequent to the deliberations of another place, I think, a code of practice was produced as to the circumstances in which the extraction of material from mobile phones could be done. We share the concerns that that code of practice does not adequately protect the interests of victims. In particular, it needs some sort of third party to protect their interests in relation to that; again, that will be debated. I would be very interested if the Minister could indicate to me what protections for the owner of the mobile phone are contained in the code of practice, and whether they can be strengthened.

Fifthly, we think that there should be, subject to judicial discretion in appropriate cases, a minimum sentence for rape of seven years. The answer given by Ministers in another place was, “Well, two-thirds of people convicted of rape get seven years or more now, so why do you need a minimum sentence?” The answer is: so that it is clear what the view of the legislature is on the gravity of that crime. There needs to be some degree of judicial discretion, but that could be built in.

Sixthly, we take the view that the Bill should have addressed as a priority the problem of sexually offending behaviour and provided greater protection. Three specific steps were proposed in the other place. First, a whole-life term should be the starting point for a murder that involved the abduction and sexual assault of the victim. Secondly, there should be an independent review of the sentencing code in relation to domestic homicides. Thirdly, there should be a power to sentence offenders for up to two years if they identify an anonymous complainant in a case involving rape or serious sexual assault.

Last Thursday—I may have got the date wrong—the Government announced an independent review of the sentencing structure for domestic homicide. Clare Wade, a Queen’s Counsel, has been appointed to review the sentencing framework. I do not know and have not seen the terms of reference of that framework. Could the Minister set out what they are and indicate what the relationship of that review is to sentencing guidelines and the Sentencing Council?

Seventhly, this is a perfect opportunity to deal with the Vagrancy Act 1825, which makes it a crime, in effect, to be street homeless. Are the Government, who have been broadly supportive of changes to the Vagrancy Act, willing to see it repealed? An argument given in the past as to why it should not be repealed was that you need something to deal with “aggressive begging”. We on this side of the House believe that that is already covered by other legislation.

Eighthly, this is the opportunity to deal with indeterminate public protection sentences. We recognise the problem that there are certain people whom it would be difficult to release, but they should be a very exceptional and small category. Perhaps they should be a category of people upon whom, if there had not been an IPP sentence, a life sentence would have been passed instead of the IPP. It may well be that everybody else—the number is going up, not down, over a definitive period—should be released.

Ninthly, it was said in another place that the offence of assaulting a shop worker would be actively considered. Shop workers have been rightly praised for keeping the country and the economy going during the pandemic. We need a bit more than warm words. The Minister in the other place said that they would consider it. Can the Minister in this place tell us where they have got to in relation to that?

Tenthly, I understand that the Government are going to introduce in this place amendments in relation to the serious issue of pet theft, although I may be wrong. Could the Minister explain the position on that?

Finally, I turn to the issue of the children of mothers in prison. Time and again, prison sentences for mothers victimise their children. The Human Rights Committee of both Houses said that this is a perfect opportunity to deal with that issue, if on no other basis than that proper information and data be collected. I did not give the Minister notice that I would raise this issue, but if she could deal with it when it is convenient—perhaps not today but on another occasion—I would be grateful.

Separately from the things that we think are right—we have no problem with the police covenant or, as I have indicated, some of the strengthening of sentencing—we would like to focus on those eleven areas. I do not treat them as exclusive, and no doubt there are many things I have omitted, but this Bill is simply a scattergun that will not do enough for criminal justice.

I very much hope that, on 27 October, the key thing we will hear in the comprehensive spending review is that the criminal justice system will be properly funded and that recompense will be made for the 25% of funding that has been taken away from it by this Government.

15:56
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister for explaining the Bill. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, began, I was going to say that I broadly agreed with him on the size and complexity of the Bill. However, I am not sure that adding provision after provision is the best way of dealing with an already over-complex and lengthy Bill. That said, the Bill’s covering such a comprehensive area—anything to do with the four areas mentioned in the Bill’s title will be within scope—simply encourages people to add more and more provisions to it.

Far be it from me to be controversial, but I want to say from the outset that there are aspects of the Bill that deserve our support. But those worthy provisions are few and far between and are overshadowed by a vast number of measures that would undermine fundamental rights, increase existing discrimination or do both. These controversial measures, which have rightly received much publicity, particularly the erosion of the rights to free speech and assembly, mean that other measures that also deserve our attention have slipped through almost unnoticed—but not any more.

This is where this House comes into its own. In Committee, we on these Benches will question and challenge every provision in the Bill that demands scrutiny. But as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has said, we are severely hampered in our duty by the sheer size of the Bill and the number of provisions it contains. With the best will in the world, and, in my case, having spent most of the Summer Recess going through the Bill, we cannot possibly do justice to the fundamental and far-reaching changes that it seeks to bring about when so much is contained in one piece of legislation. Can the Minister say why, after more than 10 years in government, it was necessary to cram so much into one Bill?

On the specific provisions, we welcome the police covenant but we need to understand how and why it is different from the Armed Forces covenant. Protecting police officers in vehicular pursuit of dangerous criminals is right, but so is protecting innocent members of the public caught up in the chase. Of course we need to do everything that we possibly can to combat serious violence, but how are the new duties different from the existing duties of crime and disorder reduction partnerships? Who is ultimately responsible: those partnerships, or elected mayors and police and crime commissioners? This legislation seems to further blur the lines as far as ultimate responsibility is concerned.

With all the homicide reviews that exist at the moment, what is the cost-benefit analysis of adding offensive weapon homicide reviews to that list? Of course the police may need to extract information from electronic devices such as mobile phones, but should, as the Bill says,

“any responsible person who is aged over 18”

be allowed to authorise such intrusion without the consent of the owner in certain circumstances?

In 2017, we told the Government that their changes to police bail were unworkable. Eighteen clauses of the Policing and Crime Act are now all but reversed, relegated to a schedule to this Bill. What has happened to the reasons why the limits on police bail were imposed in the first place?

Measures to combat child abuse are welcome, but why has it taken so long to bring about these changes and do they go far enough?

I applaud the sentiment behind increasing the maximum penalty for a minor assault, causing no injury, to an emergency worker. It should not be an accepted part of an emergency worker’s role, or that of a shop worker for that matter, to be assaulted. But as with all the many and various provisions in this Bill that seek to increase custodial sentences, where is the evidence that someone will think twice, in the heat of the moment, about assaulting a police officer because the maximum penalty has gone from one year to two years, particularly when this Bill also increases the potential maximum penalty for damaging a bunch of flowers placed on a memorial to 10 years’ imprisonment? What message does that send to our emergency workers?

We on these Benches support provisions where the evidence shows that they are necessary and that they will work. We do not believe in sending messages through legislation that will fall largely on deaf ears. It is the culture in society, and among some of the judiciary, that seems to accept assault as part of the job for emergency workers that needs to change. We need existing penalties imposed, rather than yet more conditional discharges or minor fines that ignore the existing or increased maximum penalties.

As the Minister attempted to do, noble Lords will notice I am going through the Bill systematically. I am only on Clause 46 of 117 clauses, and I have not even got to the most controversial parts of the Bill yet, so let me skip over those aspects that we will not be skipping over in Committee and simply highlight some of the most concerning aspects of the Bill in the home affairs arena.

Imposing conditions on public processions and assemblies not only unreasonably curtails the right to free speech and assembly but would place the police in a position that is likely to undermine the whole basis of British policing—that of policing by consent. Like the provisions on unauthorised encampments, there is little or no evidence that existing provisions are inadequate, and substantial evidence that this will add to further discrimination against minorities. We would also contest the Government’s assertion that the police have called for these changes.

A complex system of police cautions appears to make the police judge and jury in their own court, while removing useful provisions such as on-the-spot fines for minor offences, such as dropping litter, and simple cautions where the salutary effect of being arrested and detained by the police is sufficient to deter vast numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens from transgressing again.

For reasons of time, I will leave my noble friends to talk about most of the justice provisions, but serious crime reduction orders are yet another provision that undermines fundamental principles of British justice and are likely to impact disproportionately on minority communities. To allow the police to stop and search someone, for a renewable two-year period, on the basis of no information or intelligence whatever that they have anything on them that they should not be in possession of, simply because an accomplice convicted with them had a knife on them, even if it was not used in the course of the offence and even if no evidence was presented during the trial but because subsequently, on the balance of probabilities, the judge thinks that the accomplice, who the defendant was with, may have had a knife, is as unreasonable as it is complicated. The Minister said that this would be applied to those convicted of knife crime. Perhaps she would clarify that this is the case, because that is not my understanding. It is for somebody convicted of any offence where it is believed on the balance of probabilities that one of the defendants had a knife in their possession at the time.

I have been able to touch only the surface of this Bill; goodness knows what Back-Benchers in this debate are going to do with only five minutes. This Bill, quite rightly, is going to take some time, and we on these Benches are not going to let it pass without thorough scrutiny of each and every provision that demands this House’s attention.

16:06
Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to lead the Back-Bench contributions to the debate on this Bill. As we have already heard, this is very wide-ranging legislation. I will focus my remarks today on Part 3 and the measures about public order, which make it possible for the police to do their job, as people expect, when the methods used by protestors are unacceptable to the vast majority of law-abiding people. I know that some Peers will express concerns about these measures; we have already heard some concerns expressed by the Opposition Front Benches. There may be some legitimate arguments to be made about whether language should be in the Bill or in secondary legislation, and no doubt we will have those debates in detail when the time comes.

If we are to legislate properly, it is important that in giving the police new powers to oversee and manage the impact of protests, demonstrations or assemblies, we provide them and the courts the clarity they need to meet wider public expectations of them in how they do their work. Because this is such a sensitive issue, I believe we must be live to the risk of process and procedure not only undermining what the Government have a mandate to achieve but perpetuating a bigger problem, accidentally or otherwise—that is, legitimising some forms of protest or assembly which are perniciously undermining our society.

In the brief time I have, let me try to explain what I mean. I start by emphasising that this is not about the subject of protests; I am not interested in whether it is climate change, racial equality or anti-vaccines. This is about behaviour and conduct which is deeply troubling because, whether by accident or design, it is promoting division and dismantling our society: behaviour that appears to be based on a belief that if people are sympathetic to a cause they can—and indeed some believe they must—demonstrate by causing disruption and distress to other people, until everyone declares their support and submits too.

As I said in the debate on the gracious Speech, back in May, until the big disruptions in central London during 2019, I am pretty sure most people assumed that it was not possible for anyone in the name of any cause, however important, urgent or noble, to blockade main roads and major junctions and not be stopped from doing so. What dismayed me about those events that summer, including the way that the police initially reacted and some of the media reports, was that common consensus among law-abiding people was at risk of breaking down. In this context, I am talking about the common consensus of what is acceptable behaviour in public when it comes to how we protest and demonstrate in support of things we believe in or are against. It is this underlying risk that makes it even more important, I believe, that we get right our own approach to the way we do our work on this Bill.

Some noble Lords may have been present in the Chamber last week for a debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, who is also speaking today, about standards in public life. During it, I raised the point that we see signs that the social norms which bond us together as a society are breaking down. Our responsibility as leaders is to promote common standards.

In a complex world where people are increasingly angry and distrustful, and asked to take on trust complex solutions, they need reassurance that decision-makers are motivated by a common purpose of upholding what is fair in a decent society. They, and any of us, can judge each other’s motives only through the actions that we can see on display.

My big concern if the House of Lords fails to support the principle of these measures, which clarify what is and is not acceptable when it comes to how people protest in public, especially when they have a legitimate right to disagree or question, is that we encourage more distrust within our society. There are some causes which, ultimately, should attract universal support, but that means we cannot allow them to be hijacked by people whose behaviours serve only to repel those whose confidence and support are very much needed for us all to thrive and meet the challenges of a modern world.

As regrettable as some noble Lords and indeed campaigners outside might find aspects of this legislation, it seeks to deliver the clarity that is needed to benefit us all. We in this House should not support methods of protest which serve to divide us; we need to promote that which unites us, even when we disagree.

16:11
Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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My Lords, this is indeed major legislation—298 pages, and that does not tell us the whole story anyway; it is bunged full of regulations. There are 62 regulation-making powers, and, glory be, dear old Henry VIII comes to the fore to put right all 61 of the other regulatory measures, all 177 clauses and 20 schedules, which are eternal in their length. That is not the way to legislate.

I am not here to argue against any measure which promotes public safety, but I want to touch on one or two aspects of constitutionality that matter. If I really had the nerve and the time, I would simply re-read to the whole House the reports from the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee.

Can we just look at Clause 36 and that group, on the extraction of information from electronic devices? It is done by consent of the user, unless there is a death, in which case no consent is needed. That is fine until we remember—particularly looking around the Chamber, where I do not see many people under the age of 30—how people aged under 30 behave in a way that we do not; they use their devices to convey just about everything you can care to think of about their own lives. They send that to recipients, and they receive messages back. That information is private to the recipient. It may be very rude about the recipient; it may tell him in the nicest possible way that he is to push off and other things that people say to each other on their devices. I sometimes wonder why I should not have one myself—[Laughter.] I did not mean that.

The serious point is that the communications are not protected in any way, shape or form, so a constable, who is an authorised officer for the purpose of the Act, can on complying with the conditions simply extract a whole lot of information which may be immensely personal to lots of people other than the user. We need to think about that; we are talking about young people who have to have confidence in our criminal justice system. We even need to think about the convention, which the Minister has said we are compliant with; I just wonder whether that will turn out to be the case, because I do not share her conviction about it.

I am very concerned about the casual way in which this has been done. We are waiting for regulations. The Secretary of State has to decide about protected information and confidential information. Do we know anything about what they are going to do? No. We are waiting for it in Clause 41. And so it goes on.

We then turn to the provisions on demonstrations, processions and assemblies. I am not going to enter into the debate on that; others will speak on it—whether this is right or wrong or consistent—but I want us to ask this. We are accepting all this on faith. We do not know what this Act means; we literally do not know. We are waiting for a definition from the Secretary of State to tell us. I thought the words were perfectly straightforward, but, no, the Secretary of State by regulation is going to tell us what “serious disruption” means. I think we know what it means, but we are nevertheless asked to enact this measure waiting for the Secretary of State to tell us what she thinks it means. The important point is that what she thinks it means will be in a regulation and that is what it will mean. We will not have the slightest idea whether we agree with it; we may or we may not.

Going on with it, we turn to—no, I shall not go on with it; my time is nearly up.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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More, more!

Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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Noble Lords are very kind.

I support the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, that we have to address the issue of the evidence in sexual cases. Judge Pigot has been dead years. He wrote his report way back in the 1990s. We have gradually introduced bits of it; we are still waiting. It is an eminently sensible, practical proposal. I shall support the noble and learned Lord’s amendment on that issue when I see it.

Can we do a bit more to protect women and children and victims of sexual violence? Can we please not wait for the report from the Law Commission? The consultation document outdoes even the Bill; it is 500-plus pages long without even an index and it is controversial. That Bill will not simply go through the House as a Law Commission Bill. Can the Government either amend the existing legislation or follow the amendment in the name of, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Russell—I am sure he will be talking about it—to add that safeguard?

I could not help reflecting on the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. Many years ago, I heard a programme on the radio in which people were allowed to say what conversation they would most like to have heard of which they had heard only two words. Two dons are walking down the road in Oxford, and the listener hears one old boy say to the other, “And, ninthly”. That is the conversation he would have wanted to hear. We heard all nine from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer.

16:17
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I am grateful for the varied contributions heard today from noble and learned Lords, many of whom have vast experience in this area. I declare an interest as Anglican Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons in England and Wales and as president of the Nelson Trust.

As a Lord spiritual rooted in Christian hope, I look for a criminal justice system which is restorative, responsible and relational, and which is effective in focusing holistically on prevention and rehabilitation as well as appropriate conviction and punishment.

There are some welcome proposals within this very long Bill. These include community and diversionary cautions, problem-solving courts and additional support for employment for ex-offenders. There are other aspects that raise concern, and I will name just a few of them: increasing sentence lengths, police-led diversion, sentencing of mothers, racial disparities and young offenders.

First, the use of life sentences for younger offenders seems to undermine any chance of reform or redemption. It comes as part of a suite of measures on sentencing which will put ever more pressure on an overcrowded and struggling prison estate, with predictable negative consequences for education and rehabilitative work. Decades of tweaks to lengthen sentences have done nothing to improve the outcome for offenders, prevent cycles of reoffending or improve support for victims. Our sentences are already longer than those of most of our European neighbours, who do not suffer from higher rates of crime; nor are their citizens notably less safe.

My next comment is to encourage improvements in enabling considerable investment so police can consistently divert vulnerable people into support services using community resolution and out of court disposals. People often get caught in the revolving door of repeat low-level crime, simply because they are destitute, traumatised, often homeless, suffering mental ill-health and struggling with addiction.

The Nelson Trust runs Project SHE, a point-of-arrest referral scheme in Avon in Somerset. Over 500 women were diverted away from the criminal justice system in its first two years. Seventy-five percent of these women have four or more complex needs. Over the years, I have seen how repeated short sentences and the revolving door of custody particularly damages women and their families. More must be done, as has been said already, to protect the right to family life of children when their mother is sentenced.

Reportedly, the vast majority of children have to leave their home when their mother goes to prison. Parental imprisonment is recognised as an adverse childhood experience that can have a substantial negative impact on children’s long-term health and well-being, as well as educational attainment. It can also seriously affect their life expectancy and the likelihood of going to prison themselves.

I am not suggesting that no mother should ever go to prison. What I am saying is that, through the passage of the Bill, we can ensure that the right and appropriate response is delivered. For the vast majority of women, that is not prison. May I once again say that we most certainly do not need an additional 500 prison places for women?

I want to comment briefly on how troubling it is, after all that has transpired in recent years, that little attention is still being paid to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. It will be hard to build community resilience or confidence in a system while this is not acknowledged. According to research, young black adults are over eight times more likely to receive a conviction for a low-level, non-violent crime compared with their white counterparts. More must be done. One interesting option among a raft of options to reduce this disparity could be to remove the need for an admission of guilt to receive a community caution.

My next comment is around the issue of an expansion of whole-life orders to younger offenders. On these Benches, we welcome the efforts to reduce the number of children held in remand custody, but not measures that could see greater numbers of children serving longer custodial sentences. Treating children as children is paramount, particularly given what we know about maturity. My friend the right revered Prelate the Bishop of Derby, who is unable to speak today, will be following these issues closely.

Time is up, so, in summary, we must find effective ways of preventing people entering cycles of criminality and reoffending, as well as strengthening and protecting communities. This can be done only by a criminal justice system that inspires confidence and is rooted in a consistent ethos and strategy at every level that is based on evidence and research and joins up the work of the police, courts, probation, parole, prison and civil society organisations within a framework that is restorative, responsible and relational.

16:24
Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, I have often reflected that I thought ghosts were walking the corridors of the Palace of Westminster, some with their head tucked under their arm. I am reminded of that because I think we have a poltergeist; when the Minister lost part of her notes, I noticed that a pile of Braille notes that were next to me before my noble friend sat down next to me had gone missing, and I have no idea where they are. But I will suffice with the one that remained in my hand.

This afternoon, there are many things to welcome in this legislation, but there are so many things we are concerned about that it is inevitable we will concentrate on the things that worry us most. What is it that we are seeking to address? Does it require new powers or sentences? Is it proportionate and clear? Will it achieve the desired outcome? Will it lead to confusion, mistrust and more challenges in the courts? Is it a knee-jerk reaction to what is going on around us? All those questions are absolutely crucial as we address, through Committee and Report, the detail of this Bill.

I can deal with only one or two parts this afternoon. Part 7 in relation to sentencing may be an opportunity, under point 8 of the 11 key points that my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer outlined earlier, to put right the mistakes made, including by myself, in relation to incarceration for public protection—IPP—where the revolving door that has just been referred to affects a large number of prisoners and where, with a bit of common sense, we might be able to put some of it right, not least by using tagging instead of a return to prison for minor infringements of the licence conditions. We could put right the silliness of giving people a 10-year sentence relating to what they do to statues, when we should be concentrating on what we do as a society to each other.

I want to concentrate, however, on public order in Parts 3 and 4. I did not disagree with quite a lot of what the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, said—which I am sure she will be surprised to hear. There is a challenge for us to get right in the 21st century. With modern communication technology and the expression of anger in new ways, we need to be able to address those issues, particularly where anarcho-syndicalists take over legitimate protests and either manipulate or confuse those who are taking part in peaceful protest. But I do not believe that what is before us in this Bill actually achieves that. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “‘Words mean what I say they mean,’ said Priti.”—and she is pretty uneasy and quite annoyed most of the time, particularly by the noise of dissent around her. So getting the words right really does matter because, otherwise, the unfettered use of discretion described by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will come back to bite us in a very big way: once mistrust takes hold, respect for the law and consent in our policing system will disappear.

I am wholly in favour of being able to take action against those who believe, or appear to believe, sincerely that the ends justify the means when the means do not justify the ends and, in particular, when the means are in fact damaging the ends they are seeking. Stopping people being able to legitimately use public transport is unacceptable. Let us try together, as we do so well and have done over recent months and years, to use the facility of this House to get this legislation right and achieve the outcomes most noble Lords would want to succeed.

16:28
Lord Thomas of Gresford Portrait Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Paddick has addressed the Bill widely, but I want to address just a single globe on the Christmas tree, which did not merit a mention in the Minister’s opening remarks. Clause 169 concerns the extension of the temporary arrangements under the Coronavirus Act for video and audio links in court proceedings. I have nothing against using technology to improve efficiency. Indeed, in the last criminal trial I was involved in some years ago, I found I had to travel to Kingston Crown Court and hang about on no less than five occasions for preliminary hearings, each about half an hour in length. I know your Lordships will sympathise when I reveal that, under our generous legal aid provisions, these sorties were all unpaid. Obviously, video links would have been much preferable—but these are preliminary matters.

During the worst of the pandemic, it was right to keep trials going in the exceptional circumstances by the use of video and audio links. Section 169 pushes that into the future and goes further: it extends the use of live links to jury members so long as all members of the jury can

“take part through a live video link while present at the same place.”

However, before making these temporary provisions permanent, surely it would now be right to assess to what extent they impinged upon a fair trial.

In June 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Commission reviewed the use of live links and found:

“Almost all the criminal justice professionals in England and Wales who we interviewed felt that use of video hearings does not enable defendants or accused people to participate effectively, and reduces opportunities to identify if they have a cognitive impairment, mental health condition and/or neuro-diverse condition.”


The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, to which I am indebted for its excellent briefing, has expressed its concerns. It is important to understand the dynamics of a trial. Central to its success in convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent is the ability of magistrates and the jury, as finders of fact, to assess the credibility and accuracy of the evidence of a witness, and that includes the defendant. I think we all know that we rely upon body language, expression and tone of voice in making these assessments. We look at the whole person. I have always found it odd that in Number 1 Court of the Old Bailey, the witness box is on the same side of the court as the jury, so its members do not see the witness face to face but catch a sideways view only by cricking their necks to the left; it is like a tennis match.

A full evaluation of the impact of the coronavirus-type virtual proceedings and its effect upon the right to a fair trial is needed. The House of Commons Justice Committee has recommended

“that the Ministry of Justice reviews how well remote hearings have worked for all participants in all jurisdictions before rolling them out further.”

Similarly, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution concluded:

“Research suggests that the format of a hearing may have a substantive impact on the case outcome. If that is true, the shift to remote hearings in response to the pandemic must be scrutinised closely. It is vital that sufficient data are collected to assess the impact of remote hearings on outcomes.”


It also said:

“There are real concerns that remote hearings are disadvantaging vulnerable and non-professional court users, as well as those with protected characteristics. But the requisite data to assess and address these concerns are not available.”


I agree with those sentiments. I should hate to see the day when criminal trials are conducted by a disembodied judge on screen, with a jury on another screen, witnesses on a third, and the only person in court being the lonely defendant in the dock. That would not be a fair trial by any standards.

16:33
Lord Garnier Portrait Lord Garnier (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for performing what I think must have been quite a difficult task in explaining so clearly this long and complicated Bill. In referring to my interest as a barrister in private practice, as set out in the register, I also say how much I am looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of another barrister, my noble friend Lord Sandhurst, who will bring his experience and wisdom to our proceedings, to our collective advantage.

I entirely agree with the Constitution Committee’s report on the Bill, published on 9 September, and with earlier speakers—I have said as much myself in relation to other Home Office and Ministry of Justice Bills over the last 30 years—that the Bill is far too big. I have seen worse examples of this habit of introducing excessively large Bills, but it seems to be a habit ingrained in these two departments. At least this Bill has only one volume, but it has 177 clauses, 20 large schedules, extends to almost 300 pages and covers a large number of disparate subjects. I make no personal criticism of my noble friend on the Front Bench, or other Ministers in this House who have the conduct of this Bill, because I doubt whether they have any say in the matter, but this insidious habit affects Cabinet Ministers from all parties as soon they are appointed to office in these two departments.

I am not sure whether it comes from a desire to appear to be actively responding to what is often mistakenly thought to be some acutely felt public need or to persuade colleagues on the Cabinet sub-committee on legislation that because the Bill is so big, it must be important and should come higher up the programme than other Bills vying for recognition and parliamentary time. Having attended that sub-committee, I know there is always strong competition for a place in the parliamentary legislative programme every Session, but it sometimes looked as though someone had swept an entirely random collection of ideas from Home Office or MoJ shelves into the Bill. Not for the first time, we are presented with a criminal justice Bill that contains some good and worthwhile provisions, others of lesser value or utility and, judging from my right honourable friend George Eustice’s recent press article, will soon have a plainly unnecessary additional provision to criminalise something that is already a crime—namely, dog theft. I think that in this House we can tell the difference between an Early Day Motion or virtue-signalling and a useful addition to the criminal law.

Bills that are too big do not receive proper scrutiny in the other place, where Governments strictly guillotine Bill Committee and Report stage schedules. This Bill is hugely controversial on several fronts and your Lordships’ House will want to give it the attention it deserves. There is no time in a crowded Second Reading debate to set out detailed arguments, but there is much wisdom in the Delegated Powers Committee’s report published yesterday. Many of us would like to see the Bill amended—some of us to take things out, some of us to put things in, and some of us to do both. There is much to be considered in the provisions of the Bill on public order, data gathering, life and minimum sentences, and delegated powers. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, in relation to IPPs. While having concerns about those matters, and respecting the long-standing right to protest, I would like to alter the law on aggravated trespass so that those who disrupt a lawful activity should have the burden of proving, as opposed merely to asserting, that the activity they would like to disrupt, or have already disrupted, is unlawful.

Large criminal justice Bills cause unintended consequences, and I trust that the Committee and later stages of the Bill will not be rushed or truncated. Bills of this sort do not make easy work for the judges and lawyers who have the job of applying their provisions, once enacted, in real cases involving real people. When shadow Home Affairs and Justice Minister, I used to ask Labour Home and Justice Secretaries, including the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, how many of the provisions in the approximately 60 criminal justice statutes enacted by their Governments since 1997 were respectively still in force, had not been implemented or had been repealed before implementation. The answer was roughly one-third in each category. Let us therefore try to enact about 33% of this Bill well and coherently and just write newspaper articles about the rest.

16:38
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I want to mention two specific matters. The first has already been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. Clause 169 will allow members of the jury to take part in a criminal trial remotely through the use of video and audio links, as long as all the members of the jury are together in the same place. I very much share the concerns expressed by the noble Lord: they have also been expressed by the Bar Council and the Law Society.

They expressed concerns because the success of a jury trial depends in large part on a good working relationship between the judge and the jury. Trust and confidence need to be built up. The jury needs to be attentive and mindful of its onerous responsibilities; the judge needs to watch the jury to ensure that members’ interests are protected and they are properly performing their responsibilities. People, of course, go to prison, sometimes for long periods of time, as a consequence of this procedure. Counsel, both prosecution and defence counsel, have to engage with the jury through advocacy and through their questions to witnesses. All of this is much more difficult to achieve through a video screen. The Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Burnett, said last year, and I agree, that a remote jury trial

“would make the jury spectators rather than participants in a trial”.

Most of us lawyers and judges in this House will testify from our own experience in the past 18 months that a remote hearing is a far less effective means of communication than a live hearing in the courtroom. I expect that almost all Members of this House will have had the same experience participating in parliamentary proceedings over the past 18 months. I very much hope that the Government will think again on this very important subject.

The other matter I would like to mention today is an amendment to enhance the protection of women. It is an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, will table for Committee and which I will support. I am speaking on it today because the noble Baroness cannot be in her place. I will do my best briefly to explain the issue.

The House will recall that the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 amended the Sexual Offences Act. Essentially, it made it a criminal offence to take photographs up a person’s skirt or kilt—it is sexually neutral—when this is done in order to obtain sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. In the debates on the current Bill in the House of Commons, an amendment was proposed to add a further voyeurism offence. The offence would be to take a photograph or video of a woman who is breastfeeding, provided that this is done to obtain sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. Sadly, this is a mischief which occurs frequently, and it has understandably caused immense distress to many women victims, as has been explained by Stella Creasy MP, the moving force behind the amendment in the House of Commons. These women complain to the police; the police are sympathetic but explain, rightly, that there is nothing they can do about it.

In Committee in the House of Commons, the Minister, Victoria Atkins, for whom I have great admiration, agreed that this is

“unacceptable, creepy and disgusting behaviour”.—[Official Report, Commons, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Committee, 24/6/21; col. 748.]

Who could disagree with that? But on behalf of the Government, she opposed the amendment to make such conduct a criminal offence because the Government want to await a Law Commission report on the publication of intimate images on the internet.

I can see no good reason why we should not now amend the law to make this form of distressing and inexcusable conduct a criminal offence. I very much hope that the Government will think about this and accept the forthcoming amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, in Committee or on Report.

16:43
Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Portrait Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to speak about a specific group who will be affected by some of the Bill’s provisions. I suspect that I would not need to make this speech had the Government accepted the amendment I moved during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Act, which would have introduced mandatory training for all front-line workers in public agencies where an abused woman may turn up. We discussed then the importance of recognising the effects of trauma on the behaviour of women with experience of violence and abuse. Unfortunately, the Bill as currently drafted would exacerbate the problem and drive more women into the criminal justice system, rather than ensuring that they get timely and appropriate support. I am sure that is not what the Minister wants.

For brevity, I want to concentrate on one example of the provisions in the Bill that may be problematic if introduced without the right sort of knowledge and understanding. The serious violence reduction orders would increase the number of women with complex needs being sentenced to prison. I want the Minister to particularly think about those young women who have been groomed and experience serious and often violent sexual exploitation. Changing Lives—an organisation I used to chair—and organisations it has been working with in West Yorkshire in the STAGE project, has many examples of this and the problems that the Bill would therefore bring. Agenda also tells me of young black women who are often exploited in gangs. These are the women who may well be caught with facing two years’ imprisonment for the possibility that they “ought to have known”—as the Bill says—that someone in their company was in possession of drugs or weapons.

I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the diversion of people from prison is a key aim of the Bill. I know that the Ministry of Justice and, I am sure, the Home Office have been looking seriously at how to reduce the number of women going to court and to seek other ways of avoiding custodial sentences. It would be unfortunate if such work was put at risk in this Bill. I am afraid that the issue I raise demonstrates a lack of understanding of what happens in grooming and sexual abuse and exploitation among adults.

The consequences of this Bill could be very damaging. Could the Minister therefore find the time to discuss with me and some of the organisations working with these women what the consequences of the Bill could be? I have just given one example of those orders, but there are other aspects in the Bill that the Minister and the Government need to think about. Maybe with a civilised discussion we could avoid some of those real problems and not put these women at even greater risk of entering custody, which would not help them at all—nor would it lead to protecting the community more effectively.

16:47
Baroness Harris of Richmond Portrait Baroness Harris of Richmond (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak on Part 1 of the Bill concerning the police covenant, which I am pleased to support but which I believe needs a little improvement, and on Chapter 4 concerning pre-charge bail provisions. There are, of course, other very important parts of the Bill—most notably on restrictions to protest, which I will oppose.

I declare my interests in the register and my honorary membership of NARPO, the National Association of Retired Police Officers. I am pleased to see the inclusion of the police covenant report, which will show the state of the health and well-being of police officers and, importantly, those who have retired. As president of the Police Treatment Centres, which I have spoken about before, I am only too aware of how mental health issues have impacted on the care we give to officers, both serving and retired.

Being a police officer, and the situations and experiences with which they often have to deal, has a significant impact on an individual’s mental health, particularly after they have left their force. It is therefore absolutely vital that the police covenant recognises this and that appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that the necessary mental health support is available for individuals’ physical and mental well-being. I intend to table an amendment in Committee to reflect this concern, which I hope the Government will consider, and I will be doing it virtually.

I support the increase in penalties for assaults on emergency workers. We have seen during the pandemic the quite disgraceful assaults they have endured, and I hope more imaginative sentences can be given to those who carry out these crimes. Simply applying financial penalties will not necessarily stop the perpetrators.

I have long argued for special constables to be given access to membership of the Police Federation, and I warmly welcome this proposal.

Part 2 of the Bill talks of collaboration with others delivering public services which relate to reducing and preventing serious violence, as we have heard. Since I first became chair of my own police authority many years ago, with the support of the excellent Association of Police Authorities we devised collaborative agreements with other forces and the public sector—so this is not new, but from time to time it needs reinforcing.

Chapter 4, which I have referred to, deals with pre-charge bail provisions. In 2016, when we were dealing with the Policing and Crime Bill, I offered a number of amendments—none of which was accepted, of course—so I am trying again. I am once again grateful to the Police Superintendents’ Association, and in particular to its president Paul Griffiths, who alerted me to the concerns it again has about this issue. Had our suggestions been taken on board then, we would not still be in this situation today.

In essence, the association recommends that, should a suspect be arrested and then released on police bail, a summary offence, punishable by a fixed penalty or fine, should be levied for any breaches of the conditions. Under the current proposals, when a suspect breaches their police bail, they can be arrested and brought into custody, but the only action police can then take is to release them on the same bail conditions; there is no punitive aspect to the breach, only a power of arrest. There is no deterrent, so the conditions to protect the public are meaningless. I hope the Government will look again at this, because it seems to me to be making a mockery of the justice system, and I do not understand what the resistance is to this fairly simple and long-needed improvement to police bail.

There are indeed things to welcome in this Bill, but, as I said at the beginning, there are also some completely unacceptable restrictions, many of which will impact disastrously on particular minority communities. I look to the Government to take note of the amendments which will be tabled in Committee and which will address so many of our concerns.

16:52
Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
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My Lords, in the impossibly restricted time available, I can only advise the House on the key findings of the Delegated Powers Committee, which I am privileged to chair. We published our report yesterday, and it is already heading to be a bestseller.

I am afraid that this Bill is yet another we have studied with thoroughly inappropriate delegations which seek quite wrongly to deprive Parliament of proper scrutiny—or any scrutiny in some cases—of important and contentious matters. It is not the fault of my noble friends on the Front Bench. They inherited this delegated powers drafting mess from the Commons, and Commons Ministers of all parties, going a long way back, always worry about the politics of a Bill and never care about the delegated powers in it. I was just as guilty when I was a Minister. The Home Office has not been an habitual offender over the past few years, but some of the delegated powers in this Bill are quite unacceptable.

So who do I blame? Those who drafted it and have an overview of all our criticisms over the years. It seems that the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has blatantly ignored everything the Delegated Powers Committee has been saying over the last five, 10, 20 years; or it has not learned the lesson from those who drafted the Environment Bill, which was absolutely exemplary in delegated powers terms.

So yet again we see in Clauses 18, 31, 64 and 140 so-called “guidance” to which people “must have regard” not getting any parliamentary scrutiny at all—not even the negative procedure. Then there is the usual excuse that, since they will consult all other interested parties, we in Parliament can be ignored. We have the incredible statement that, although this “must have regard to” guidance can be used as evidence in court, it is not binding, so it does not need to be an SI considered by Parliament. I look forward to what noble and learned Lords have to say about that—please explain it to me in simple language.

Clause 43 amends the PACE Act 1984 on pre-charge bail; but not only will Parliament not see the details, the power to make the regulations is being given to a non-statutory body, a company limited by guarantee, in fact called the College of Policing. It was created as a limited company in 2014 and the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that it would be put on a statutory basis when parliamentary time allowed. Seven years later, that has never happened, although it has been granted extraordinary powers to make and enforce laws in the meantime. Honourable though they undoubtedly are, this is still a group of self-appointed chief constables in a limited company making rules which the police and others must obey. I simply say, these are the same people who issued contradictory advice on the enforcement of the Covid powers, contrary to what we in Parliament had actually voted through. I suggest that, until they are legitimised in law, they should have no law-making power and anything they propose should be advanced by the Home Secretary as regulations getting the negative procedure.

On Clause 61 on serious disruption, I emphasise to the House once again that the Delegated Powers Committee has no opinion whatever on the merits or substance of any parts of the Bill. But we all know that this provision is contentious, and the Government have produced an illustrative statutory instrument giving a definition of “serious disruption”. It is only half a page long, so my committee takes the view that it should be in the Bill, with a power to amend it as and when necessary. We take a similar view on Clause 77 and believe that the provisions should be in the Bill with an amending power.

We have also made some serious criticisms of the delegated powers in Clauses 7, 8, 80, 82 and 120 which I have no time to address today.

Our report was published yesterday. I encourage all noble Lords to read it and take forward any relevant amendments to which they may be guided. I do not want answers from my noble friends today, because I know we will get a full departmental response in due course.

Yesterday I was able to stand up in this Chamber and commend the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and Defra for implementing every single one of the Delegated Powers Committee recommendations in a Bill which is almost the same size as this one. Why did Defra do that? It was because, like our recommendations here, not a single one of our recommendations on the Environment Bill removed or diminished any substantive parts of the Bill. We were saying to Defra on the Environment Bill, “Put these from negative to affirmative; publish these; lay them before the House. Let’s have a bit of scrutiny—we do not want to delete anything from the Bill or add anything to it”. That is why Defra could go along with it.

All we are saying today is that the Home Office and the police will be making a rod for their own backs if they do not let Parliament have even a cursory look at highly contentious guidance and regulations.

16:58
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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My Lords, I will attempt to address three short points in the hope that I can push a little on an open door.

On the first point, relating to abstraction from mobile phones, the door has already been opened by the Minister. This problem has bedevilled the criminal justice system for at least nine years, and the opportunity has now come to deal with it comprehensively. The Bill does not do so. My noble and learned friend Lord Judge admirably put the change in the mores in a way which I could never match, but there is an area on which I can perhaps add a bit—the change in technology and the advent of programmes that can be used to assist has greatly changed things. I hope, therefore, with the indications given by the Minister, that we can look for a comprehensive piece of work, in a code or in statutory provisions, that will deal with this subject comprehensively.

The second area I want to turn to briefly is the use of out-of-court disposals. They play an essential part in the criminal justice system; I wish to say nothing about the specific changes put forward. However, with the growth in the use of out-of-court disposals over the past 15 years, there has been the need to ensure consistency, transparency and accountability. Attempts have been made by the judiciary, in conjunction with the magistracy, the police and the Government, to try to set up some form of accountability, particularly through panels of magistrates. I have no time to go into the details of that but a lot of it is summarised in a report by Cerys Gibson of Nottingham University, published by the Sentencing Academy in February. What is needed, if the confidence of victims and the public is to be maintained in this very extensive use of sentencing powers, is proper scrutiny. This will ensure consistency so that one force does not vary from another; we cannot have a postcode lottery. We also want to be sure that the police carry this out fairly and appropriately. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to explore this area, which needs dealing with comprehensively.

Thirdly, Clause 109 concerns a much more specific but important point. For the past 20 or so years, it has been a hallmark of our justice system that matters dealing with the sentencing of individuals are dealt with utterly independently and that people are not put, or kept, in custody for longer other than through a judicial or Parole Board process. The power under Clause 109 may be needed to deal with high-risk offenders in respect of certain individuals, but it is a power referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State. I very much hope that we can do two things: first, ensure that the clause is drafted in such a way that the risk of political pressure is removed; and, secondly, ensure that no one is kept in prison for longer than is necessary and that the decision to keep someone in longer is that of an independent body. As I read the clause, as it is currently drafted, it is possible—by a very late reference by the Secretary of State—for someone to be kept in custody without any judicial determination. I hope, therefore, that the clause can be looked at carefully and amended, because I am sure that no one wants to see us go down the road of terms of imprisonment being extended other than by an independent judicial body. It may be a small point, but the two hallmarks of our system require independence from political interference and decisions on custody being totally in the hands of independent bodies.

17:02
Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach (Lab)
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My Lords, I too look forward very much to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst. He comes to this House with an outstanding legal reputation and we are lucky to have him.

Clearly this is a major and massive Bill with important proposals in it, but am I alone in worrying slightly that the Government should be dealing today with all these matters when it seems, to me at least, that some urgent issues around the criminal justice system are causing it sometimes to be in a state of near crisis? Actually, the civil justice system is, in my view, in a real crisis of many years’ standing. Surely the Government and Parliament should be discussing and debating those issues. If that means getting rid of some of the no-doubt worthy clauses in this Bill, perhaps that would be a price worth paying.

There are issues around case delays, trial delays and the endless desires, wants and needs of victims. Then there is remuneration and legal aid. In the case of civil legal aid, if I may say so, the effects of the LASPO Act—arguably the worst piece of legislation passed in the last 10 years—have been baleful. It has denied, and continues to deny, a large number of our fellow citizens any access to advice and justice. This Bill cannot be a cover for lack of action in those areas.

I have just stood down as a police and crime commissioner, which I did for five years. Day by day, I witnessed policing at fairly close quarters. I believe I am firmly of the view—I think I am persuaded—that the case for raising the maximum penalty for assaulting emergency workers is made out. Every Monday morning, week after week, I would hear of the extraordinary number of police officers who had been attacked and assaulted over the previous weekend, albeit sometimes in a minor way, if there can be such a thing as a minor assault. Of course the prospect of higher sentences—I do not like it in principle, actually; I suspect that the House does not either—is nowhere near a total solution but, if it deters some from offending, it is worth at least trying because the level of assaults on emergency workers is just not acceptable.

I oppose the changes to the policy on the policing of protests. The proposals seem vague and risk undermining the balance between freedom and control that is so vital to our free society. I urge Her Majesty’s Government not to use the police as a cover for these changes. Police officers are members of the public too; this is very much in the Peelite tradition. They, for the most part, treasure and support the freedoms that we enjoy in this country. In my experience, albeit anecdotally, the police are at the very least sceptical about some of these proposals.

Would the Minister be prepared to see me about an amendment I want to make? It is small but reasonably important, and concerns the unique way in which anyone who wants to be a police and crime commissioner candidate—noble Lords may ask why anyone would want to do that anyway—cannot be one if they stole a Mars bar or scrumped some apples 30 or 40 years ago. The Act we passed 10 years ago makes it absolutely clear that anyone with a caution or conviction for an imprisonable offence is automatically excluded, whether they went to prison or not. That does not apply to the Home Secretary, High Court judges or, if I may say so, bishops. I hope that the Minister will, in her usual courteous way, be prepared to meet me on that matter.

17:08
Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates (LD)
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My Lords, I intend to focus my remarks principally on the public order powers set out in Part 3 of the Bill, particularly their potential impact on protest against the failure of Governments here and around the world to take the urgent steps necessary to address the climate and ecological emergency.

When I first heard about the Bill some months ago from someone in the environmental movement, I thought that they were parodying the Government’s proposals. When they assured me that they were not, I thought that they must simply have been mistaken. Then I read the Bill. As we have heard, it provides new powers to ban noisy protests that may cause “serious disruption” or

“have a relevant impact on persons in the vicinity”.

Who determines what all this means? It is the Home Secretary, by regulations; it is not on the face of the Bill. The Bill also imposes a maximum 10-year sentence on those who obstruct

“the public or a section of the public”

or cause “serious annoyance” or “serious inconvenience” to another person, among other things.

I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, has left the Chamber. I listened very carefully to what she had to say, and I do not doubt her motivation in what she argued, but it sounded very similar to the arguments that I recently read in the letter written by the six clergy of Birmingham, Alabama, criticising the civil rights campaign. In response, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his powerful letter from a Birmingham jail, said that the clergy had warned against what they saw as extreme and divisive tactics and the unwise and untimely strategy of direct action.

People take direct action when the political process fails to address issues over an extended period of time. When that failure poses an existential threat to those people, the solution is to address the issues and try to understand the reasons behind the anger and the protests, not to force them further underground. These powers will not remove divisiveness from society, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, hopes: they will do the opposite. They will not quell environmental protests, because acting with the urgency posed by the existential threat of climate change is the only thing that will do that.

During the campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa, many in this House took part in the 24-hour picket line outside South Africa House. We often made quite a lot of noise. I have no doubt that the apartheid regime operating inside that embassy found that protest a serious annoyance, a serious inconvenience and, most likely, a serious loss of their amenity. We were there to cause such annoyance, to be as noisy as possible, and to raise our voices loud in protest so that the world which had not been listening, and the Government in this country who had not been listening, would do so.

Today, environmental protesters are raising their voices loud against the existential threat to life on our planet. They are raising their voices loud against politicians in this House and elsewhere who make bold, long-term promises but fail to take the vital actions to follow them up. They are raising their voices loud against those who, over the past three decades, and even to this day, continue to deny the science of climate change and, as a result, have put our whole planet at risk. Yes, they are using the time-honoured tradition of civil disobedience and peaceful obstruction. Yes, it is obstructing the public and is no doubt causing serious annoyance to people, including, on occasion, to me. However, the reason these people are protesting on the streets is because the people inside this Parliament have recklessly failed to protect our planet over a period of decades.

Those out on the streets are not there for no reason. They are there for one simple reason: because without them raising their voices and forcing their way on to the news agenda, the world would not be listening. They are not the selfish ones: it is they who have shown that they care enough for their community, their country and their planet to take action to raise our attention and the world’s attention to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called

“the fierce urgency of now.”

17:13
Viscount Goschen Portrait Viscount Goschen (Con)
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My Lords, one can sense the eagerness and anticipation in this House, particularly among the seasoned parliamentary guerrilla fighters, to tackle a very broad range of issues that come within this very large Bill. Yes, it is a big Bill, but it covers a lot of very important subjects. I listened to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, attack the scale and scope of the Bill, but I recall a number of pretty weighty criminal justice Bills being introduced by the Government of whom he was a distinguished member, and having sat through many dozens of hours of scrutiny.

None the less, I accept the noble and learned Lord’s point—and it was made in a particularly poignant fashion by my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier—that we should really only legislate where a change in the law would genuinely address a challenge at hand that could not be tackled by better execution of the legislative powers that we already had. That should certainly be our watchword when considering a Bill such as this, rather than to govern by initiative.

Nevertheless, we have some very serious problems that we cannot just duck because they are difficult and complex. It is clearly not right that thousands—and, on occasion, millions—of people should have their lives and their human rights disrupted by aggressive and well-organised militants whose intention is the disruption itself rather than the protest. The world has changed, particularly as a result of technology and related social media, and we have to adapt accordingly.

I do not doubt that it is very difficult to find the right balance, and to find that just line to draw; however, I also strongly feel that it is wrong to belittle serious and thorough attempts to adapt the legislative framework to protect the rights of those who want to protest while equally protecting the rights of the vast majority to go about their lawful business without serious disruption. It is clear in my mind that the balance is not right now, as is shown by daily events. To bury our heads in the sand and refuse to recognise the problem is to abrogate our responsibility.

Have the Government got the balance right in this Bill? I must confess that I do not know. There are a lot of experts in this House, and I look forward to hearing what will be, no doubt, passionate debates on this subject. Similarly, I do not feel that we can ignore the fact that we have a serious problem with unauthorised encampments. There have been too many instances of great disruption and distress caused to local communities that have had to endure violence, intimidation, crime and damage to property, among other consequences. I hope that we will be able to consider this matter in the calm, balanced and respectful manner which is the hallmark of debate in your Lordships’ House, without questioning the motives of those who are seriously attempting to find a fair and balanced legislative solution.

This is an important Bill, covering a very broad range of subjects. I have a feeling that it will be a slightly less broad Bill by the time it departs this House, but we owe it to everyone to examine the proposals put forward, and the manner in which they have been put forward, with due consideration.

17:17
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood Portrait Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB)
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My Lords, I have no time today to talk about what is in this Bill, only to talk about what is not but plainly should be: IPP prisoners, a subject already touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. This Bill represents a further step toward sentence inflation and must inevitably lead to a greater prison population and more overcrowding. Remedying the IPP regime would not only help cure a great and growing injustice in our system, it would also make some contribution—if perhaps only a modest one—towards reducing, instead of endlessly increasing, the prison population.

The very first sentence of the impact assessment for this Bill, under the heading,

“What is the problem under consideration?”,


speaks of too many offenders

“not serving a sentence that reflects the severity of their crime”.

Tell that to the remaining 1,722 IPP prisoners never yet released from their sentences—sentences which, by definition, were imposed before 2012, when the whole discredited IPP regime was abolished by LASPO, although, alas, only prospectively, not retrospectively.

Of those 1,722 prisoners—these figures come from June of this year—96% have passed their tariff expiry date and 555 have served over 10 years beyond their tariff term, which is the term specified, in the words of the impact assessment, to reflect

“the severity of their crime.”

Astonishingly, of those, 207 have actually got a tariff term of less than two years. Are these not appalling figures?  Indeed, many of them have served well beyond the statutory maximum determinate sentence for their offences.  Frankly, this is a system of preventive detention which some know effectively as internment.

That is not the end of the problem because in addition there are now in prison a further 1,332 IPP prisoners recalled under the licence provisions; therefore, making more than 3,000 IPP prisoners still incarcerated in our prisons. Recalls are a growing problem. The number is increasing year on year. The great majority are not for further offending but rather for often comparatively minor non-compliance with release conditions, such as not giving their correct or up-to-date address—and they do not always find that easy—or for mental health reasons.

All these IPP prisoners, whether never yet released or recalled, have to discharge that most difficult of burdens to prove for release that they would then be safe. In the meantime, they and their families live in a Kafkaesque world of uncertainty, hopelessness and despair. It is small wonder that there have been many suicides among this population: twice as many IPPs even than ordinary life sentence prisoners. It is self-harm. It is also small wonder that Justice Ministers past—Tories such as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Clarke of Nottingham, and Michael Gove—have recognised the manifest injustice of all this and called for reform. Indeed, on 31 July I hope at least some noble Lords read Matthew Parris, who devoted his whole column to urging the Government to have the political will—as he put it, the guts—finally to deal with the gross injustices that these prisoners continue to suffer. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity at long last to do something for this cohort.

17:22
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak on this Bill. Every time I have worked on a Bill since I arrived in your Lordships’ House nearly eight years ago, I have thought, “This is the worst Bill I have ever seen”, and every one is, but this is a stinker and it is quite obviously not going to help the police. If you produce a policing Bill and you cannot get former police chiefs, UN special rapporteurs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law on your side, something is wrong with it.

The Minister mentioned that the Government are increasing the number of police officers by 20,000 and increasing the budget, but I point out to her that in fact the police are not yet up to the numbers and do not yet have the budget that they had when the Tory Government took over 11 years ago, so this Government are not particularly kind or good to the police. We all know that policing is tough, but this Bill will not help.

Surprisingly—or interestingly, or however you want to see it—I, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, have 11 issues that I am concerned about in the Bill. I think there will probably be more by Committee and my noble friend Lady Bennett has her own issues as well, which are equally serious and disturbing. I will try to gallop, in the very limited time we have to speak at Second Reading, through these issues.

The first is Part 2. Unprotected data gathering and sharing is a very disturbing part of the Bill. For example, it mimics what has happened with the Prevent programme. That programme has disproportionately targeted Muslims and minority ethnic communities, and it is likely that human rights infringements will be felt most acutely by those already overpoliced and overrepresented in the criminal justice system. These measures could have a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities and groups advocating for social change, with Black Lives Matter, Muslim people, women and climate change activists—among whom I am, I hope, a guerrilla fighter—being particularly affected. This Bill makes it more difficult for those oppressed groups to have a voice in our society at a time when it is so desperately needed.

I agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that we should not be adding to the Bill. We should be removing things. In fact, if we could remove the whole Bill, that would give me a few nights of good sleep. In the meantime, we can fight on all these things.

Part 3 on public order undermines democracy by limiting freedom of speech. It poses a threat to the core purpose of a protest: to allow people who feel unheard by decision-makers to speak and be heard. This part silences them. When we talk about disturbance and unease from noise, I would like to complain about the noise we hear from the other end of this Palace. The way the House of Commons carries on often upsets and displeases me, so perhaps we could apply the Bill to it.

The Bill allows future Home Secretaries to determine what constitutes a disruption. Do the Government really think we trust Secretaries of State to do that? Throughout the Bill the vague language means that it leaves too much up to officers at the scene, and we have seen this year that the police misinterpret laws, partly because they are not given good, clear instructions by the Government, but that is another issue. For example, the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham Common was terrible. To allow through such broadly defined legislation leaves the door open to more poor policing, which the police themselves do not want. There is nothing in the Bill to protect women and girls. That is a tragic oversight.

Finally, Part 5 is on road traffic. I would like to insist on the full review of road traffic offences and penalties that was promised in 2014. We have waited seven years, so perhaps it could happen. We also need to strengthen the penalties for serious hit-and-run offences, those where the driver knew or reasonably ought to have known that the collision was likely to involve fatal or serious injury, and tackle the exceptional hardship loophole whereby convicted drivers routinely evade driving bans by pleading that they would cause exceptional hardship. There was a classic case of somebody who claimed it would be exceptional hardship if he could not use his Bentley to drive one mile to the park to walk his dog.

17:28
Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall focus on one proposal: to criminalise trespass for the first time. This offence has been for centuries only a civil offence. The provision fundamentally disadvantages that small number of Gypsies and Travellers who still keep to their traditional nomadic culture but have no authorised stopping place because of the negligence, and worse, of local authorities in ensuring that Gypsy and Traveller sites and stopping places are available, as judges have found. This is a discriminatory provision. It prima facie breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on respect for private and family life, including traditional ways of life, and Article 14 of the convention on the right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of Article 8 indirectly or directly, as well as the Equality Act.

It is, moreover, a very wide-ranging measure to penalise a very small absolute number. Even a single Gypsy with his van can be caught, so not only might a family have no place to stop, but the vehicle in which all their possessions are may be impounded. Let us have some idea of the numbers involved. There are in England only 694 Gypsy and Traveller caravans—3% of the total—on unauthorised encampments. That is because of the shortage of sites. No family willingly stops somewhere without running water, waste disposal facilities or electricity and where they face hostility.

The Government justify their trigger for this hostile action as the causation of “significant” damage, disruption or distress, and it is the landlord who can start this process. But these are highly subjective terms and, given the widespread prejudice already evinced, open to cruel abuse. The loose drafting of this provision puts people in peril at the whim of a landlord, and nor are the police asking for these powers, as has been said. What assessment do Her Majesty’s Government make of the police reaction?

Numerous civic groups are against the provision. A conservative think tank, Bright Blue, says that the provision of enough sites would solve the problem without the need for more legal intervention. Moreover, the recent planning definition that Gypsies and Travellers must travel to qualify for site provision, thus penalising the old, the sick and those caring for them, is made unrealistically harsh by this proposal—unless it is accompanied by obligations to provide more sites. So why are the Government proposing this? It looks suspiciously like a dog-whistle appeal to prejudice and racism.

Things seem to be better in Wales, where there is an obligation on local authorities to meet the assessed need for sites. Is it true that the Welsh Government consider the proposal to criminalise trespass to be systemic, racist legislation? What has been the Welsh response?

It would be wrong not to acknowledge that there have been good initiatives—some from the Church of England, some from the enlightened approach of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, when he was Minister, together with recent undertakings from the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, and many through the increasing confidence, education and good citizenship of Gypsies and Travellers themselves. But still, this most basic need for appropriate sites to live on is misunderstood by public policy. Some local authorities do well, and there are well-run and harmonious sites as a result, but, as I have said, the percentage of available sites is pitiful in relation to the need—that is the problem.

I hope I am not an impatient person, but I doubt if I have many years to wait for recognition of what should be done. Really, words fail me—not something that should happen in your Lordships’ House. What are the Government thinking of, sending people with no alternative place to settle to wander the roads, making criminals of them and condemning their children to interrupted schooling and alienation, and, in the last resort, sending them to prison? Where is the impact assessment of all this, as well as of the cost of evictions? In the 21st century, after the terrible century of racial persecution we have endured in Europe—still going on for the Roma people there and elsewhere—how can the Government think that this clause is acceptable? Do they really want to go down in history as the Government who drove these ancient peoples from their only stopping places, without recourse to any other lawful destination? I hope not.

17:33
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I am not sure whether the knocking sound behind us has been someone trying to get in or someone trying to get out of the Chamber.

The House recently established a new Justice and Home Affairs Committee, which I am lucky enough to chair. We are currently looking at new technologies and their application in the law—wider than the Bill, but very pertinent to it and to crime prevention and reduction, and to policing and sentencing. Artificial insemination—