All 28 Parliamentary debates in the Lords on 6th Dec 2021

Mon 6th Dec 2021
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part one & Lords Hansard - part one
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part two & Lords Hansard - part two
Mon 6th Dec 2021
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage part three & Lords Hansard - part three

Grand Committee

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Monday 6 December 2021

Arrangement of Business

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
15:45
Lord Brougham and Vaux Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con)
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My Lords, Members are encouraged to leave some distance between themselves and others and to wear a face covering when not speaking. If there is a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn and resume after 10 minutes.

Beyond Brexit: Institutional Framework (EUC Report)

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Motion to Take Note
15:47
Moved by
Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Earl of Kinnoull
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Beyond Brexit: the institutional framework (21st Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 246).

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Earl of Kinnoull (CB)
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My Lords, on 24 December last year the EU–UK trade and co-operation agreement was concluded between the UK and the EU. Few of the 500 million people directly affected would not have been grateful for the clearing of this first great hurdle in establishing the new relationship between the UK and the European Union. The European Union Committee and the other members of our committee family set about analysing what had been agreed that day, which comprised not just the trade and co-operation agreement but two other agreements and 15 declarations. These were the final reports of the family of European Union committees of this House. Those committees—there were seven when I succeeded as chair the outstanding noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho—have sought for almost five decades to scrutinise all matters and to inform the House and people more widely of every relevant issue through report, correspondence or debate.

The suite of five Beyond Brexit reports, three of which we are debating today, were the final reports of the European Union Committee after nearly 50 years of service to the House and just over 50 Brexit-related reports to the House. I hope that the committee today and, through it, the House will warmly thank the staff who have enabled matters. In the Brexit period of almost five years, these 25 or so officials were led by Chris Johnson. I know that all will want to recognise his outstanding service and to thank him. The clerk of the European Union Committee throughout the period was Stuart Stoner, and equal recognition and thanks are due to him and to all the staff concerned. I especially want to cite those who are in less frontline roles. The contributions of all were essential to our efforts in this long period of sustained activity. It is fitting that the noble Lord, Lord True, is today standing in for the noble Lord, Lord Frost. He has also been most helpful and generous with his time in public and privately, and I place on the record my thanks to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Frost, for his similar support.

I turn now to our report, Beyond Brexit: the institutional framework. Some 11 months or so on from the announcement of the trade and co-operation agreement, we have two associated agreements on nuclear matters and classified information, and 15 declarations, which I shall call the TCA package. This debate represents the first opportunity for the House to take general stock of the position and how it matches up to the various words and aspirations of the TCA package. In the interests of time, I will restrict myself to four areas, knowing that the speakers’ list for this afternoon’s debate will enable us to cover many others in this huge, varied and complex arena.

In particular, I will leave all mention of the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol to my noble friend Lord Jay of Ewelme, the chair of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee. I very much look forward to his contribution, as I do those of the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, the redoubtable chair of the EU Services Sub-Committee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, an outstanding veteran of the European committee family, who is stepping in for the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, the equally strong chair of the EU Goods Sub-Committee.

The first of the four areas I want to consider is governance. The TCA governance apparatus comprises 24 committees and working groups of various types. I remind all that this is in addition to the eight set up under the withdrawal agreement. At the top of the tree is the Partnership Council, a very powerful entity that can itself agree changes to the TCA, in much the same way that the Joint Committee, at the top of the withdrawal agreement tree, can.

The speed with which the TCA was created inevitably and rightly left much detail to be agreed at a later stage. The logical fora for discussions on this quantitative detail were the committees, particularly the 18 specialist committees and four working groups of the TCA. These bodies are staffed by officials, not politicians, but I regret that they do not seem to be operating in a meaningful way. Recent Answers to Questions in the House have suggested that they have not even all yet met; and other disclosure has suggested that often, the ones that have met have not had agendas which would suggest that substantive discussions are going on. I therefore ask the Minister to update us on the position of these bodies. Have they now all met? Are they now operational as bodies that will tweak the TCA to the mutual benefit of the signatories?

The second area that I want to touch on is the 15 declarations. The first declaration is a joint one concerning financial services regulatory co-operation between the UK and the EU. The second paragraph states:

“Both Parties will, by March 2021, agree a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the framework for this cooperation.”


No such MoU has been signed, although technical negotiations were concluded back in March. This failure to sign the MoU means, in turn, that the EU will not assess the UK for equivalence, which was originally promised for the end of July. The curious result is that the People’s Republic of China has 14 financial services equivalence decisions with the EU, Mexico has 13 and the UK has just one, which relates to clearing and is time-limited.

A later joint declaration concerns the UK’s participation in EU programmes. This includes Horizon Europe. That declaration’s fourth paragraph states:

“It is the Parties’ firm intention that the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes will adopt the Protocols at the earliest opportunity to allow their implementation as soon as possible, in particular with the ambition that United Kingdom entities would be able to participate from the beginning of the programmes”.


As yet, however, the UK’s vast higher education and research community has no access to Horizon Europe, which is now nearly a year into its seven-year cycle. Could the Minister comment on the above examples and commit to providing the Committee with a full picture of the declarations a year on?

The third area concerns the dispute resolution provisions under the TCA. Chapter 4 of our report is devoted to explaining these complex arrangements. The conclusions set out in paragraphs 129 to 135 note, among other things, that the provisions are “novel”. We have seen in the disputes over fishing with France outstanding matters that need to be resolved. The two remaining disputes, one over UK waters and one over Jersey waters, have been rumbling on for some considerable time, with much work both being done on the megaphone by politicians and in offices by patient officials in the UK, the EU and France. These disputes represent in the TCA the first public test of a dispute, yet the resolution machinery is not being used. This is an active choice by both parties to the TCA, for either is able to engage the process.

I firmly believe that the parties need to use the dispute resolution procedures as part of the confidence-building process in the whole of the new TCA apparatus. Whatever the seemingly attractive reasons for dealing with these problems outwith the TCA apparatus, that reasoning is wrong when looked at in this wider view. Will the Minister explain why the current fishing disputes with France are not being dealt with using the TCA dispute resolution provisions within Part 2 of the TCA?

The fourth and final area concerns the scrutiny of the TCA, in particular parliamentary scrutiny. We dealt with this in paragraphs 76 to 91 of our report. I begin by thanking the Government for their part in the substantial efforts to bring into being the parliamentary partnership assembly. Indeed, I understand that the relevant Motion will be brought to this House later this week. I hope that it will allow the parliamentary partnership assembly to meet later, in the first quarter of 2022. The vital interparliamentary dimension of the new relationship between the UK and EU will then be immeasurably strengthened.

However, the scrutiny committees of both Houses have yet to conclude an agreement with the Government as to how to scrutinise the TCA and the withdrawal agreement. The European Union Committee and its sister committee in the House of Commons had the benefit of the scrutiny reserve resolution in a four decades old agreed process. The current interim and ad hoc arrangements for the TCA and withdrawal agreement serve no one well and are inconsistently applied, as they have not been set out in a clear and precise way.

The winning formula will include agreement on which documents—with, of course, appropriate Explanatory Memoranda—will be deposited with the scrutiny committees; how and when the contemplated textual changes to the TCA and withdrawal agreement will be scrutinised; how often and for how long Ministers will commit to appearing before the committees; and the way briefings will be given on meetings of the Partnership Council and the joint committee. Will the Minister comment on the necessity for proportionate scrutiny and on the wisdom of having these matters agreed in writing in advance?

In closing, I note once more what rare beasts liberal democracies are. We live in a world replete with far less attractive authoritarian regimes where basic freedoms such as free speech are withheld. The things that divide the UK and the EU currently are of a small nature compared with those that unite us. The DNA of the proud European Union Committee, and its torch, have been passed to the European Affairs Committee and several of the other new and vibrant committees of this House. Our work will continue. I therefore look forward very much to this afternoon’s debate. I beg to move.

16:00
Baroness Donaghy Portrait Baroness Donaghy (Lab)
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I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, on securing this collective debate on reports which were published more than eight months ago. The EU Services Sub-Committee did at least have an opportunity to touch on the report before us in a debate on 22 July on our earlier report, seven months after leaving the EU. It was difficult to draw conclusions then because of the impact of the pandemic and the souring of the atmosphere around the Northern Ireland protocol. Members of the sub-committee had very different views on the wisdom of leaving the EU, and I pay tribute to them for focusing on issues on which we could agree. I also thank Dee Goddard, who was an outstanding clerk to the committee.

The report emphasises how central to the UK economy services are. The UK exported 317 billion of services to the EU and imported 217 billion from the EU in 2019. The UK has consistently run a trade surplus in services. The committee and the services sector welcomed the trade and co-operation agreement on 24 December as being preferable to no agreement, but recognised that significant challenges remained and that negotiations on the shape of UK-EU trade and services relationships would continue in the years to come. We felt that it was in both sides’ mutual interest to ensure that there was a positive and co-operative relationship.

On financial services, our concerns were on equivalences, the need for a deep level of regulatory co-operation between the EU and the UK to help manage future divergence, and the need for Parliament to consider how best to scrutinise the new powers of the regulators. It is clear that we have made little progress on equivalences or on a deep level of regulatory co-operation. It is possible that the larger companies are finding ways around this. However, I have one anxiety and one deep concern.

The financial sector is made up of small companies, mainly outside London. My anxiety is that they will need strong support from government, and I am asking the Minister for assurances on the level of support available to them. My deep concern is about the lack of scrutiny in Parliament of the regulators’ new powers. This, of course, is not necessarily a matter for the Minister. The Treasury Select Committee in the other place has decided not to undertake detailed scrutiny of any changes, and the House of Lords is not giving priority to this either. A separate committee is required to deal with what could be a full-time job.

The Government and regulators now hold significant power in setting financial services regulations. The services committee said that the Financial Services Bill was a missed opportunity and recommended setting up a committee dedicated to scrutiny of the financial services sector. I believe that Parliament at present is not providing proper scrutiny of the changes in the financial sector. There are many other areas of uncertainty that cannot all be covered in time available. On research and education, how much good will would be lost by leaving Erasmus, and would the Turing scheme be an adequate replacement—or, if not a replacement, would there be proper funding? On legal services, there is the question of whether smaller firms would receive sufficient help and advice from the Government, the impact of no agreement on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and the general issue of mobility of labour.

I want to focus on the creative industries for a minute. They are a hugely important and influential sector, worth £100 billion in 2019 but already hard-hit by the pandemic. The committee expressed deep concern about the potential impact of mobility provisions in the TCA on the more than 2 million people employed in the creative industries, which would make touring prohibitively bureaucratic and expensive. Recent reports show that, apart from a few minor concessions by individual countries, the cost and uncertainty around cabotage, carnets, visas and work permit charges are causing major difficulties.

The European Commission stated in 2019 that, in the music business,

“UK acts … dominate the European panorama”.

There is a restriction of 90 days in 180 days over all member states on visa-free touring. In practice, some countries, such as Austria, Poland and Sweden, have applied additional restrictions on those 90 days or a requirement to be employed by a registered venue, such as in France. The opera singer Jennifer Johnston has said that the standard rehearsal period for performances is 84 days, which means that she can do only one opera every half a year in the EU. Although the Government have granted a cabotage easement, suspending the inbound rules on cabotage for EU-flagged trucks, this creates an imbalance as it is not reciprocated. The fear is that specialist hauliers will move from the UK, which currently has the vast majority of these trucks, to EU countries, with a consequent loss of UK jobs.

The music industry is looking for a transitional support package and a permanent music export office—ultimately, a cultural touring agreement covering the geographic area of Europe. The costs of carnets and permits, as well as restrictions on merchandise, are already affecting the industry; despite the Prime Minister’s promise that he would work flat out to find solutions, there may have been a lot of effort but there is very little to show for it. If the Minister is unable to update us on this, perhaps he will write to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, with the exact position.

In its report of 17 November this year, the International Agreements Committee outlined its views on the negotiating objectives that the Government should adopt on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP. If we are to ensure that the UK’s standards are safeguarded in a number of areas—including intellectual property and the protection of personal data, which I have not had time to deal with today—the Government need to be clear whether they are seeking carve-outs or embarking on a whole new philosophy involving lower standards and protections.

Finally, our UK services sector is a major success story; so far, the Government have succeeded in only minor acts of mitigation. As the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, indicated, it is a matter of some urgency that the infrastructure for mutual co-operation and consultation is up and running as soon as possible.

16:09
Lord Jay of Ewelme Portrait Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB)
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My Lords, I speak today as a member of your Lordships’ European Affairs Committee and chair of the Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

I want to focus my remarks today—it is of course the centenary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement on 6 December 1921—on Northern Ireland. Although the reports before us on services and the institutional framework are extremely important, they are of less relevance to Northern Ireland than the report on the trade of goods, so most of my remarks will relate to that report. However, I must say, the focus is rather different for Northern Ireland and Great Britain than for the United Kingdom and the European Union. How do we ensure that there is no physical border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland without leading to an unacceptable border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

The sub-committee on the Northern Ireland protocol was established in the spring of this year as a sub-committee of the European Affairs Committee, chaired by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, so we are comparatively new. The members of the committee are, however, immensely experienced. A number of them are very active in today’s politics in Northern Ireland, and they span a wide range of political views. The committee published its initial report in July; it was debated here in the Moses Room in September. It was agreed by unanimity. That unanimity did not, of course, in any way disguise the different political views in the committee, but it did show that all members of the committee, whatever their political views, believe that the Government’s focus in negotiations on the protocol must be on the effects on all communities in Northern Ireland.

Since last summer, the committee has continued its scrutiny of the different provisions of the protocol and its operation. It is worth stressing that the protocol is indeed in operation, even if the implementation of certain provisions of it have been deferred. We looked first at Article 2 of the protocol, on individual rights. This is an important part of the protocol, even if it is often neglected through the focus on trade provisions. It is less relevant, however, to today’s debate, although I am glad that the Government have just replied to the committee’s letter on the subject, which the committee will consider later this month.

We have also considered the provision of medicines to Northern Ireland. This is an issue that affects everyone in Northern Ireland, regardless of their views on Brexit, the protocol or the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. No matter what your political view, if you cannot get the medicines you need, you are vulnerable. The committee took evidence from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry in October and wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Frost, last month. In its letter, the committee highlighted industry concerns over the cost and operational impact of the protocol; the scale and very real risk of product withdrawal; the limited scope for the cross-border supply of medicines on the island of Ireland; the analysis of the impact of the extension of the grace period for medicines; the EU’s non-paper on medicines; and the proposals in the Government’s Command Paper. The committee noted industry’s views that, ideally, medicines should be removed from the scope of the protocol, but with the important proviso that this or any other solution must be on the basis of agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

I note recent comments by Vice-President Šefčovič expressing confidence that a solution on medicines can be reached, possibly before Christmas. This is a crucial issue for the people of Northern Ireland. It would be helpful to have the Minister’s views on the position now in the talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and on the Government’s response to Vice-President Šefčovič’s statement that the EU is ready to take unilateral steps to address the issue if necessary.

Two other issues have been at the front of the committee’s minds this autumn: Article 16 and the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. The committee’s work this autumn has been against the background of the Government’s stated willingness to invoke Article 16 if necessary and their assessment that the circumstances exist to justify doing so. Last week, the committee held an evidence session with a panel of distinguished legal experts on the mechanics of triggering Article 16, the legal consequences of doing so and relevant precedents in other international agreements. The committee also explored other legal powers open to the UK and the EU to address the problems to which the protocol has given rise, the legal status of the grace periods now in operation, the implications of Article 10 on state aid and the role of the European Court of Justice. The committee will be looking at these issues further in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, does the Minister agree that there is a marked gap between the likely consequence of Article 16—more negotiations between the UK and the EU, if in a rather different context—and the widespread assumption that invoking it will somehow amount to an abrogation of the protocol as a whole?

Finally, the democratic deficit under the protocol, by which EU legislation applies to Northern Ireland without its explicit consent, and various proposals to enhance Northern Ireland’s voice and influence both within the United Kingdom and the European Union, were key themes of the committee’s July report. In October, the Commission published a non-paper on engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders and authorities. The committee subsequently held a virtual seminar on the democratic deficit with politicians representing all viewpoints, from Westminster, Stormont, Dublin and the European Parliament, as well as academic experts and business representatives. The committee is continuing its interparliamentary engagement through meetings with the chairs and members of equivalent committees in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Parliament in Dublin.

A less visible but extremely important part of the committee’s work in the context of the democratic deficit is the scrutiny of EU legislation applying to Northern Ireland under the protocol. I was much involved in scrutiny work while we were a member of the European Union, but nothing then was as important as looking hard now at the Explanatory Memoranda provided by the Government on directives, regulations and delegating implementing regulations that apply to Northern Ireland across a wide range of policy areas and to which, as I have said, the Northern Ireland authorities have not explicitly consented.

Our correspondence with Ministers and their replies are published on the committee’s website and copied to the chairs of the relevant committees in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are grateful for the valuable feedback that we have received from them and from others such as the Ulster Farmers Union.

The quality of Explanatory Memoranda from government departments has improved since I drew the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Frost, to this issue in a debate here a few weeks ago. It is, however—and let me be polite—still variable. This is not an academic exercise. I know that departments are busy, but this issue is of serious concern to members of the committee, particularly those from Northern Ireland. The Government surely have a duty to provide a full account to Parliament through our committee of the implications of each new or amended law that applies to Northern Ireland. Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will redouble their efforts to ensure that?

16:18
Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Portrait Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab)
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My Lords, I left the EU Committee in July 2019. I am speaking today largely because the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, who is chair the EU Goods Sub-Committee, asked me to. I think she did so largely for continuity, because the reports that you see today are built on work that has been going on for many years, in this House and in the EU Committee. A lot has happened since 2019. However, much that was done then needs to inform how we assess the work we are looking at today. In some senses, I feel that the loss of the EU Committee may well end up being a little premature. Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has reinforced that view.

The committees have been a significant means of scrutiny, initially of EU legislation and activity, which included the UK’s role in the EU. As we have heard today, there is still not that settled body of institutions and processes that enable effective scrutiny and accountability. I know there is widespread concern about that among Members of this House.

I put on record my thanks to everyone concerned with the committee. They treated me enormously well and kindly when I was on it, even when I was not participating that much because I was ill. I learned an enormous amount from them and from what was going on in the committee and in the EU, which I hope has served me well in my activities in this House.

The report before us on trade in goods recognises that its conclusions are inevitably “preliminary” and that

“the nature, causes and longevity”

of the issues

“are likely to become clearer over the coming months and years.”

That is another reason why I say that scrutiny and accountability in future will be exceptionally important.

The issues in this report reflect much of the evidence we heard some two and a half years ago and form the basis of the concerns of the business community and others today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, has said to me, complex processes and the consequential paperwork have remained significant issues for many businesses, particularly small businesses. It is therefore very important that the Government seek to ensure that, in working with the EU on the implementation of what they are agreeing, they try to reduce the complexity and paperwork for the trade of goods.

The recent crisis in the ability to move goods was a salutary lesson to us all. It demonstrated that the haulage industry faces incredible challenges—not just shortages of labour and drivers but the shortage and poor quality of facilities for those moving goods. I do not know about others here, but I was severely embarrassed to hear the stories of what those workers have to put up with when they transport goods and are stuck on motorways or in car parks, unable properly to use services to look after themselves, let alone the goods they are seeking to move. The problems of the haulage industry also demonstrated to us just how reliant we are on the ability to move goods just in time, as they say in modern manufacturing, where the intricate co-ordination of the supply chain really has to come together.

We have been incredibly unfortunate to have a global pandemic at the same time as leaving the EU. However, the EU remains our largest and nearest partner for trade in goods, and we have to be able to come out of the pandemic in the best possible position to develop trade in goods and services.

I am sorry to keep going on about it but, as many will know, I come from the north-east—the region of England that has the highest proportion of its economy per head of population based on manufacturing. Therefore, it trades with the EU more per head of population than any other region. I have a particular interest in ensuring that all that is talked about in this report works. Unfortunately, in this year, the latest figures for the north-east show an 11% decline in trade with the EU. Unless that is halted, it will have a medium to long-term effect on not only wages but the whole economy—on levels of poverty, levels of disadvantage and so on. I am sure that is not what the Government want. If they want levelling-up, they must address this issue with urgency and have in mind the longer-term effects of decisions that they take today.

Much that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, my noble friend Lady Donaghy and the noble Lord, Lord Jay, have said about institutions and how we develop our relationship with the EU is extremely relevant to this debate. We spent a lot of time and energy on the nature of that relationship before the final outcome, with the agreement signed in December 2019. I remain of the view that we will be far more successful in negotiations if we act as grown-ups, treating each other with respect and as we would wish to be treated ourselves, while keeping our word and acting with integrity. However, there is sometimes a view that if we work in that way we will be seen to be rolling over in negotiations. That is absolute nonsense; if I was being really difficult, I would say it reflects old-time male attitudes.

Let us grow up and treat our partners as real partners who are able to contribute to the development and success of our country as well. We can contribute to countries across Europe being successful and they can contribute to our success. If we think that in today’s world, we can do it all without them or that sort of relationship, then we are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The people of this country have the right to demand that we deal honestly and fairly with them, which also means dealing with the EU in that manner.

16:27
Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, this triple debate surely falls into the “better late than never” category, being nearly a year after the reports were published and with none of the committees and sub-committees who authored them still in existence. However, I am delighted that we have today been addressed by some of those former chairs. Fortunately, their successor committee, the European Affairs Committee, on which I have the privilege to sit, is still chaired by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, who led off our debate so admirably.

Looking first at the matter of trade in goods, about which our European Affairs Committee is on the point of publishing a further report, the issue that stands out, to me at least, is SPS—sanitary and phytosanitary controls. This is resulting in much lost or delayed trade and substantial increased costs on business, in the absence of an agreement between the UK and the EU. These controls are also an important element in the problems which have arisen over implementing the Northern Ireland protocol, about which my noble friend Lord Jay spoke so powerfully. Such agreements between the EU and a third country on SPS do exist. They exist between the EU and Switzerland and the EU and New Zealand. The Commission has indicated, so I understand, that it could contemplate a time-limited duration for an agreement with the United Kingdom, which would meet the eventuality of that agreement conflicting with any free trade agreement that the UK might want to enter into.

Why do the Government not use the trade and co-operation agreement machinery to explore the possibility of an SPS accord, given that several options are available? It is simply not a convincing answer to say that this was considered during the pre-Brexit negotiations and discarded. That was then and this is now, as the noble Lord, Lord Frost, is fond of saying in a different context. Nor can it reasonably be answered that the absence of a SPS agreement was endorsed by the result of the 2019 election. I doubt whether many people down at the Dog and Duck would be aware of what the acronym “SPS” means or entails, let alone that they were voting to do without it without an agreement with the EU.

On the report on trade in services, there seem to be two issues that stand out, both of which have been referred to by previous speakers: performing artists and Erasmus. The committee on which I serve now is already in correspondence with the Minister over performing artists, but so far this feels more like a dialogue of the deaf than a constructive and concerned response to the dire situation into which one of the most vibrant and profitable sources of our invisible exports has been cast following Brexit. The Government’s reliance on bilateral contacts with individual member states to seek remedies to the sector’s problems has so far borne absolutely no fruit and is unlikely to resolve the cat’s cradle of problems over visas, cabotage, carnets and activities involving several member states at a time.

The evidence we took revealed the sector’s impression of the Government’s complacency and obfuscation at the damage caused by Brexit, not simply that due to Covid, as it became daily more evident. Here too I suggest that it is not enough simply to say that the EU rejected our preferred solution in the pre-Brexit negotiations and we rejected theirs. Sure, but it is surely time now to go back to the negotiating table, bilaterally and with the EU as such, and through the TCA’s machinery to explore alternatives to those two failed attempts. I hope the Minister will now say that the Government are prepared to do that.

The decision to drop the UK’s involvement in Erasmus+ has never been properly explained, let alone justified. It looks like an act of vandalism that has brought to an end a process of co-operation that benefited hugely generations of students on both sides, and, of course, generations who have yet to get to university. The Turing Scheme is no substitute since it provides for no reciprocal access to our universities. It would surely make sense now to explore whether some basis for co-operation between Turing and Erasmus+ can be worked out. Again, I hope the Minister will undertake to explore the potential for that.

The final recommendation of the report on the UK-EU institutional framework reads as follows:

“What is vital … is that both sides approach the new relationship constructively, in good faith, with the aim of rebuilding the trust that has been so undermined in recent times. Liberal democracies are precious, and they should work together, not pull apart.”


One can say only ditto to that, and deplore how far short of fulfilling those worthy objectives the actual conduct of the relationship has fallen in the intervening period.

16:34
Lord Inglewood Portrait Lord Inglewood (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am very glad that we are debating these three important reports this afternoon, because it seems to me that their subject matter is still as topical as it was when they were written.

I joined the goods committee during its deliberations. I believe I was asked to do so because I chair the Cumbria local enterprise partnership, an organisation close to the front line. I drew on my experiences and connections in whatever I may have been able to contribute to the committee’s work. In a previous incarnation as a Member of the European Parliament, I was also a spear-carrier during the reigns of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Kerr, in charge of UKRep during the establishment of the single market, and perhaps had something to bring to the process of reverse-engineering what we put in place then.

From my perspective, the Brexit referendum and the 2019 general election were exercises in democracy that led to political outcomes, which in turn led to changes in economic and commercial life here in this country that may or may not turn out to be economically or commercially optimum or sensible. Such considerations were of a second order to the political ones.

I see Brexit as a political process propelled by a national wish to change our constitutional relationship with the European Union. It seems to be common ground between all involved that this would bring about real short-term damage to business, commerce and the economy. The longer-term disagreements relate to whether there will be consequential benefits. The detail depended on whether we had a hard or soft Brexit and whether there would be a deal. In my view, it seems we have a hard Brexit with a deal—and these reports are about that. This is the bed we have made, and we are now all lying on it.

As has already been said, the impact of Brexit is intimately tied up with the impact of Covid. I believe it is impossible fully to disentangle them now. However, work commissioned by the Cumbria local enterprise partnership and carried out by Nicol Economics, applying Treasury metrics, and the Cumbria Intelligence Observatory suggests that, bearing in mind regional variations, our experience is very similar to that elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and that the economic impact of Brexit appears to be roughly double that of Covid, if such a simple way of looking at it has any validity.

Some 4% of the Cumbrian economy relied on direct exports to the EU, supporting 7,000 jobs—with all the implications that the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, talked about. The Cumbrian labour market, especially because of the county’s economy’s reliance on the visitor economy, has been badly hit—in particular, obviously, the tourism and leisure sector. For example, earlier this year it was possible to take a self-catering holiday but impossible to get an evening meal if you wished to eat out, because they could not find staff for the restaurants and pubs.

The logistics industry has been very hard hit by both the availability of drivers and the associated rules and regulations, as has already been pointed out. As has also been mentioned, supply chain issues make obtaining inputs to manufacturing and dispatching products extremely problematic. This is true not least in the construction sector, where there is significant double-digit inflation, up to and beyond 20% or 30%. Small businesses are simply giving up on exporting to the EU.

Interestingly, when I was in Germany in the autumn, staying with an old MEP friend, I discovered from talking to him and his wife over the dining room table that it is exactly the same for small businesses on the continent. It is not worth their while bothering to try to export to this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, touched on, there are all kinds of concerns in the agricultural industry, many of which are outside the remit of this debate.

Two things stand out in particular. First, young people appear to have been disproportionately affected, first in respect of jobs themselves and secondly by the long-term impact of problems relating to training and skills. Secondly—this has been exacerbated by Covid—large amounts of working capital have been destroyed. This is likely to make trading out of the problems and navigating the way to a future commercial environment more difficult.

The third of these reports relates to the mechanisms for future relationships between us and the EU, and, while no doubt recognising that much might be done to recalibrate the detail as far as Great Britain is concerned—I have no expertise or wish to comment in detail on Northern Ireland—I doubt there is much political appetite on either side to drill down into it. As far as domestic policy is concerned, I very much hope that the levelling-up agenda—which seems to take as long to gestate as this afternoon’s debate—can take positive steps to deal with the immediate collateral damage to the economy that has been brought about.

The north of England expects the Government will do their duty, and we are watching. For me, however, the big imponderable is the rest of the world, where it seems that substantive change has yet to emerge—although, of course, whatever the particular trading arrangements, there are always commercial opportunities. Setting aside wider political considerations, which may well play quite a big part in this, it seems that the fly in the ointment is that, in the words of a friend of mine, “regulation is the new tariff”. Increasingly, access to a market is not synonymous with being able to put goods for sale on to that market. This concept appears to be anathema to many traditionalists, but one has only to look at the debate around fair trade, COP 26 and the environment to see how this approach is gaining traction in all kinds of places. Of course, that was the basis of the EU single market, which we have rejected.

It will be interesting to see how this will evolve, but in the meantime, we have no idea whether we are waiting for the boat to come home or whether we are “Waiting for Godot”.

16:41
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
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The pleasure of debating these excellent reports has been perhaps too long deferred, but every cloud has a silver lining, and the accident of timing means that our views will be responded to by the noble Lord, Lord True—a genial, subtle debater, and not at all frosty.

I intend to talk only about the institutional framework report and its description of the array of committees set up to manage the relationship. They have been described by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull; I will not repeat that. To me, the most striking thing about this huge construct is that nowhere in any of these committees is anyone from the 27 EU member states. We are on one side of the table, the Commission is on the other side, the members states are nowhere. That is because it is a framework for managing separation and divergence in areas of Commission competence. It is a framework for managing inevitable problems arising from separation.

It seems that the UK side did not want any similar structure for co-operating on common problems—problems that we and the 27 face in common and where we might share a common interest, such as Covid, global warming, refugees, or an ever more assertive China. The EU side did want a structure for regular meetings to handle such issues; all its association agreements with other third countries contain one. It particularly wanted one with us on foreign and security issues, but we said no. The noble Lord, Lord Frost, giving evidence to the Select Committee, is quoted at paragraph 57 of the report as explaining that there was “no need” for the treaties to provide for regular high-level meetings because

“they will happen naturally and organically”.

Really? How many have there been? I cannot recall any. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether we have proposed any. Should we not?

I do not want to criticise the framework; I think I understand the role of the various committees and I hope that in due course they will all get around to meeting, but the structure needs to be supplemented. Quite seriously, I think we need to overcome the temptation to celebrate difference and to recognise that splendid isolation is not always all that splendid. In tackling global problems, our closest neighbours will often be our natural allies and co-operation can make sense, but it needs a framework—ad hoc arrangements can be difficult with 28 diaries—and most countries find the discipline of an ordered schedule, agreed agendas and prepared meetings rather helpful. Regular contacts also diminish distrust, whereas meetings missed mean more misunderstandings, and mutual trust seems to be in rather short supply right now. My point is quite a big one, and I do not expect the Minister to buy it today—but I ask him seriously not to reject it and to agree to think about an additional framework for handling issues common to us all but not problematical between us.

I want to make three smaller points. First, the TCA records agreement to set up a civil society forum to meet at least once a year. Mr Gove told the committee that he welcomed the idea. I like the idea—dialogue diminishes distrust—but we do not seem to be rushing to set up the forum. Can the Minister say why? Are the Government now consulting civil society on how our contingent will be constituted? If not, when will they?

Secondly—and closer to home, because it directly concerns your Lordships—whatever happened to the parliamentary partnership assembly set out in the treaty, to consist of Members of this Parliament and of the European Parliament? Mr Gove welcomed that too, and so do I. I am not party to whatever discussions there may have been between the two Houses, but it seems that the hold-up in setting up the assembly lies on this side of the channel. The European Parliament’s team is out on the pitch warming up, but we still seem to be having a selectors’ meeting. I presume that the discussions between the two Houses are ongoing. Can the Minister tell us what Mr Rees-Mogg’s position is? Is it recumbent? Is it laid back? Is it supine? Is our Leader actively seeking to rouse Mr Rees-Mogg? Does she accept the recommendation of the Select Committee in this report that the Government table the necessary constituting Motions in both Houses?

I think the partnership assembly could be rather useful in a number of practical ways, not least—and here I touch on the area of the noble Lord, Lord Jay—in allowing Northern Irish voices to convey, directly to European Union legislators, Northern Irish views on single market laws that would apply in Northern Ireland. More generally, the assembly could help to bridge the trust gap. We should talk to the 27 quite a lot, and talking to MEPs would not be a bad way to start as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, proper intergovernmental contacts.

Finally, can the Minister tell us who is now responsible for bilateral relations with our 27 neighbours? Is it the Foreign Secretary or is it the noble Lord, Lord Frost—as I think I recall we were told when he was appointed? If it is the noble Lord, can he and does he draw directly on FCO expertise? I ask because the episode of the unfortunate letter to President Macron worries me. It could have been better drafted had an expert eye looked at it. Releasing it in a tweet before the Élysée had seen it could have been avoided had experts been involved. It is easy to say that we have had enough of experts, but these things matter, and it is a fool who mocks the custom and practice of diplomacy. That is why I am delighted that my queries will be answered by the Minister, a true diplomat.

16:49
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, and to reassure him, or perhaps apologise to him, that this time I am not intending to tweet a video of his speech. That does not reflect a lack of importance in today’s debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, said, this is crucial to the well-being of all Britons, and perhaps particularly to those in some of the poorer areas of the country often subjected to the Government’s “levelling-up” rhetoric.

It is worth while going back a year to the ratification of the TCA by Parliament. The Institute for Government criticised the measly one day allocated to scrutinising the agreement. It also noted how the short time between ratification and implementation made it difficult for firms, particularly small firms. The Institute of Directors said:

“On the guidance … there were reams of it coming quite late in the day”.


A year on, it is worth asking: how much better off are we? We are now in this rather small Room, with an extremely distinguished panel participating. It is perhaps not the centre of the House’s attention, let alone the country’s, yet scrutinising what is happening is absolutely crucial.

There is an enormous amount of detail here. I will just pick out some points from each of these three reports. The Government’s responses to them all, which I will focus on, often stray towards the perfunctory, with phrases such as “world leading”, which sadly we are all too familiar with. I pick out the same point as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in the response to the report on the institutional framework, which was so formidably introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. The Government say:

“We are confident there will be the necessary regular political level engagement both with the EU institutions and bilaterally with the Member States at all levels.”


I have a direct question for the Minister: is he pleased? What adjective would he use to describe the contents, volume and results of contact with EU institutions and, bilaterally, with Ministers and officials in EU states?

I move on to the trade in services report. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, talked about minor acts of mitigation on many of the issues that it covers. I will pick up on just two such areas of particular interest, which I have pursued very much over the past year, one about creative industries and the other about the loss of Erasmus+ and the inadequacy of the replacement, the Turing scheme. In the Government’s response on the crucial issues around haulage, cabotage and carnets, they say that

“the Department for Transport is looking at possible steps to support UK specialist hauliers”.

As many noble Lords have noted, Covid has been an additional, massive barrier, and has somewhat frozen the whole situation. We hope, at least, that we are coming to the point of this being unfrozen. What steps are the Government planning to support hauliers and the creative industries generally? I note again that the government response says:

“It is important that businesses and individuals confirm the processes in advance of their journey.”


That sentence stresses the difficulties faced by the creative sector, both artists and businesses that work to support them.

On the Turing scheme, the Government’s response talks about how Turing is only for outward mobility, and about relationships with individual institutions. Heidelberg University in Germany, the Sorbonne in France and many institutions across the Commonwealth are mentioned. Does the Minister acknowledge that the universities, which have also had so many pressures in the age of Covid, are facing enormous pressures if they have to build up one-to-one relationships? Are the Government working to make that easier?

Finally, I come on to the trade in goods. Here, the Government response again talked about the difficulties, as the committee did, for small and medium-sized enterprises. I want to point the Minister to the report from the Federation of Small Businesses, which came out just a few days ago and noted that only a quarter of small companies believe that they are ready for the new border checks that will come in in January. These include import customs declarations for EU goods; the companies will have to make those declarations and pay those relevant tariffs at the point of import. As a number of noble Lords have pointed out, when it comes to food, drinks and products of animal origin, they will have to give notice in advance. Can the Minister tell me whether he is confident that we will be ready for this yet further change?

I want to conclude with some brief reflections on the position of trade in general. I come to this debate with a different position from that of most other noble Lords, because I do not go “Yay—trade! More trade!” What I am interested in is the well-being of the people of the UK and of the planet, and the well-being of the planet. The Government often seem to be trying to push trade with other parts of the world while supporting free trade agreements—which are of great concern, particularly to our farmers—at great cost to the environment and to existing businesses. New Zealand is looking to operate through the living standards framework in all the decisions made by its Treasury and its other bodies. In the other place last week, the Green MP Caroline Lucas had a debate in which she talked about a well-being economy. I wonder if the Minister has given thought to the idea of well-being trade: trade that is not a win for us at the cost of someone else, but a benefit to people operating within the physical limits of this one fragile planet.

16:57
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for securing this debate. I also want to say a word on the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, who managed to steer so many disparate views together to produce a report which is so comprehensive on the subject. Others have spoken today about SMEs, the Erasmus programme and, equally importantly, the creative industries, which have suffered so greatly from what has happened. However, I want to take a very narrow perspective.

In most respects, it is too early to tell whether the TCA works but there is one area where we can see a problem ahead. It is illustrative of a major problem with which we have to deal, and it is the Lugano Convention. I am not interested in its details but why there is the refusal to allow us to accede. It is really for one reason alone: competition. How are we going to deal with that and make our services competitive? I regret to say that I want to do this through the microcosm of the law. I hope the Committee will forgive me, as it is not that technical a subject in this respect.

The key to the success of our system has been English law, and I say that as a Welshman. It is important to appreciate that we have huge advantages in this country. We have good leadership and our judiciary is outstanding; we have huge support from the City of London and the professions; and to be fair to it, the Ministry of Justice has done a bit, particularly since the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, was appointed a Minister. However, the real issue is: how do we deal with competition? First, we must not be complacent. I am sure we are not, but what is the key to this? The law is developing at an immense pace at the moment. I had thought of saying something about climate change, but thought that it might be a little tricky.

I think it is safer for me to stick to an area where the change has been accelerated massively by the pandemic: the importance of digital infrastructure and the trade in data. This is a very fast-moving area. Certainly in Europe at the moment, much less attention is given to the GDPR, which seems to have been our focus, than to the industrial value of data. Therefore, we have to look to the future of English law, which is the basis of the success of our legal profession, and ensure that it is taken cognizance of and fitted into the fast-developing changes.

We ought to reflect on the fact that our system is flexible, innovative and has a long tradition of leadership, but rhetoric sometimes forgets that we share a common European legal heritage. To pick up what the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, said, should we look at competition in this area by subtle co-operation, or do we indulge in a stand-off or rhetoric that does not help? I have no doubt that if we are effectively to deal with competition in this area in law—it applies equally to regulation—our job is to participate on a co-operative basis to show that we have the skills to lead, which we do. However, we will not get anywhere in deploying those skills unless we act with an openness that enables us to put forward ideas and solutions that allow the basis of our law to be recognised as the way forward.

Therefore, I want to ask the Minister whether we can stop using a rhetoric that discourages co-operation. My whole experience in Europe, particularly over the last couple of years—I mean not just the European Union but Europe as a whole, working closely on the development of European Union law and transnationally—is that the only way we will succeed in competition is by friendly co-operation, with a keen eye on our long-term goals. This is a long game, and we must not lose it by rhetoric that does not foster co-operation and the subtlety with which we have managed our legal system. The common law has always been a magpie: it takes good ideas from everywhere. It is not nasty to other people or disrespectful of them, but acknowledges everything with gratitude. I hope we can go forward on that basis.

17:03
Lord Desai Portrait Lord Desai (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am deservedly the last Back-Bench speaker in this debate. I am not on any of the committees, but I have engaged with Europe for practically all the 31 years I have been in your Lordships’ House.

This is a car crash that is causing enormous damage. The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, said that this is bad, masculine behaviour. It is much worse than that: it is like the man who is trying to get a divorce and who does not care about the children who will have to be taken care of. He has just walked out and, having promised himself that he will be free, he really does think he is free. But he is not: he has to stay and talk about detailed arrangements—what they are going to do with the children, the property and so on.

In a sense, I do not think the Minister can do much about any of the things the committee raised, because the political attitude in which Brexit was conducted—especially by the winning section of the Conservative Party—and all the things that went before it were so hostile to Europe and so committed to getting out without any thought of what would take its place. There were Ministers saying, “We will conduct free trade agreements with 100 countries in no time whatsoever, because that is the new logic”. It was as if they had not held a responsible job in their lives.

All that said, the real question these reports raise is: what can be done to save the situation, especially for people who, without having had any political role in the matter, are suffering extremely? That is partly because negotiations to sort out these problems were not conducted properly and partly because there is still a hostile atmosphere, especially around Northern Ireland, which is very damaging.

The creative industries have been mentioned. The poor musicians and people who do plays, who need to go and reach audiences on the continent, are flummoxed by the fact that simple travel arrangements have become very difficult. An incredible number of new regulations have arisen. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that regulations are the new tariffs. They are the non-tariff barrier to exceed all other non-tariff barriers.

I say this to the Minister: whatever happened in the past, let the past be gone. Yes, we got Brexit done, but Brexit has not been done yet. Doing Brexit was a matter not just of getting something passed through the House of Commons—I say the House of Commons because it was the more reluctant Chamber—but of looking after the people affected by this major decision to just go out without having thought about it, ignoring all the complaints and difficulties that have been mentioned. People are seen as remoaners or effete—it is nonsense. Get realistic and look after the people suffering from the consequences of the decision. The decision has been made and cannot be reversed—we know all that—but can we please have some sense in which people know what they face in the new situation? They may be heavy vehicle drivers, artists or people in financial or legal services. Is there a single place they can go to find out the situation? Can we have some map, for the next six to nine months or for the future as it develops, of how the situation will be resolved to some kind of post-Brexit normality? It is badly needed by people.

These reports are very helpful and competent. I used to be on one of the European committees in the Boswell era, not the Kinnoull era. We looked at the financial services problem. We knew how much the competitiveness of the City would depend on how clearly we defined the relationship between us and the EU. It is no good saying, “The City is so powerful, it doesn’t need any other people”. That is not the situation any more.

I am making a plea on behalf of all the people suffering from this great dash to so-called freedom. Yes, we won, but can we please now have some nurses to heal and patch up the wounds that people are suffering from? There is a great wreckage. We need to clear the wreckage and clear the road for the future.

It is not a matter of our pride against Europe. Yes, agreed, we won against Europe outright, but can we now please have some sense and helpfulness from the Government, not this constant warlike atmosphere about what we will not do at any cost to make life easier for our citizens as far as trade with Europe is concerned? Europe will take care of itself; we have to take care of our citizens, trade and economy, which are suffering. If noble Lords do not believe me, they could read the report from the Office for Budget Responsibility which talks about “scarring” due to Brexit. It is costing us 4% to 5% of GDP. This is a serious matter, and the Government ought to let go of their pride and get some business done.

17:10
Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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My Lords, having listened to the excellent speeches this afternoon, I am aware that I am a complete newcomer to this House and to this debate, but I am not a complete newcomer to having arguments about Brexit.

I would like to make noble Lords aware, if they were not already, of how grateful Members in the other place have been, particularly since the referendum but before that too I am sure, to the European Union Committee and its sub-committees for their work. They were invaluable in supporting work while I was an MP. It has also been very refreshing to take part in a debate on our relationship with the EU that has been relatively easy to follow. We have not talked about humble Addresses or taking control of Order Papers or any of that. By and large, the discussion has been forward facing and not backward looking, which I very much welcome.

I pay tribute to all the noble Lords involved over what I now understand is five decades-worth of work. It is older than me, so I have the utmost respect for the work that has taken place. I find it strange, as a newcomer, that we debate these reports on quite fast-moving issues so long after they are published. I wonder whether that is normal here, or whether the Government might try to assist in enabling us to do this in a more timely way.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord True, although it is interesting that he has been assigned to this debate, given the ministerial responsibilities of the noble Lord, Lord Frost, his evidence during the course of the inquiries we are debating and the many references to him in the Government’s response. I hope the Minister passes on our best wishes to him; it would have been good to see him here as well. I do not know whether this decision is part of a wider pattern, but I note that he has taken to making Statements on the last day of term, or when the Commons is not sitting, and issuing Written Statements rather than Oral Statements. I hope that will not become a habit.

The noble Lord, Lord Frost, has been meeting regularly with Mr Šefčovič, and I hope that Members’ comments and concerns can be relayed to him. They are real and immediate problems that urgently need to be resolved, such as that of ensuring the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland. Triggering Article 16 would be a failure of negotiation and lead us nowhere. Can the Minister please share the Government’s latest thinking on this issue?

Many of the trade issues raised in the reports are just as important today as they were when the documents were published in the early part of the year. Although figures have stabilised for some sectors, disruptions or other barriers to trade remain for others, and deals are still lacking in areas such as financial services. The Government need to think much more about the practicalities for businesses—red tape, bureaucracy and fragility of supply chains. The Government cannot pretend that these are not problems; it is their responsibility to solve them. This has to work. As my noble friend Lady Armstrong said so well, failure to address these issues will hold back regions such as the north-east.

We are all familiar with issues around the supply of labour, whether it is HGV drivers, fruit pickers or abattoir workers. They have left UK businesses urgently making contingency plans. In the case of the agri-food sector, some farmers are exporting animal carcasses for processing before re-importing them, which adds to delays and costs. As we have heard, an SPS agreement of some sort is urgently needed on some basis—through equivalence or some other mechanism—to smooth trade, especially with Northern Ireland. These issues are not going to go away. Our food and drink industry, which is our biggest manufacturing sector, is something we are all proud of; it needs an active, engaged Government working alongside, not against, it.

On trade flows, last week, we saw figures that highlighted the volume of goods that used to flow through the UK while transiting between the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU but which now bypass our ports and businesses entirely. Brexit has happened, but I do not agree with everyone who argues that our economy can never thrive again; we have to make our new status work and the Government do not need to relitigate the arguments of 2016 and 2019. We have, sadly, heard that happening, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Frost, I have to say, in recent months. Even though the Government are possibly addicted to, or just habitually used to, those debates, we have to move on; this means working together to tackle shared problems such as climate change and refugees with our nearest international neighbours.

On the institutional side, some of the various joint bodies have only recently been established and have been slow to meet. Despite controlling parliamentary business prior to the summer, the Government insisted that it was not their responsibility to bring forward the necessary Motions in both Houses to enable the appointment of UK representatives to the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly. Having glanced at the Order Paper in the other place this morning, I gather that this may have moved on, but can the Minister confirm what is happening with that? Many of the specialist committees have met for the first time only in the past month or two, with the specialised committee on customs co-operation and rules of origin meeting on 7 October and the equivalent body covering road transport on 24 November. If we are going to have these committees, we should treat them seriously, so can the Minister explain what Her Majesty’s Government are going to do to ensure that these structures work effectively and that the UK gets the best from them?

We have heard concerns about lack of parliamentary scrutiny, particularly when such issues as cabotage, the creative industries and financial services are not resolved. The Government, as well as assuring us that these issues are in hand, need to resolve them fully; scrutiny and challenge will be part of that process for the long term. We have seen too many short-term commitments and statements. What have been lacking are behaviours that indicate to the country that the Government have long-term stability for business at the forefront of their mind. We desperately need stability and predictability. Although the final text of the TCA has been published and ratified since the reports were published, side agreements are still lacking. The Treasury has seemingly abandoned financial services equivalence, it seems to me, while the long-term status of Gibraltar still has not been confirmed in a legal text. Can the Minister update us on that?

We need normality. My worry is that constant wrangling becomes the new normality. The Government really must ensure that that is not the case. Dispute resolution seems to be a necessary part of the landscape at the moment. It is inevitable, I suppose, that there will be disputes; it is vital that the Government and the EU together show that they are able to navigate issues in a timely and effective way. This has not been the case so far, and both sides need to do better on fish and—tragically, I think—on Northern Ireland. There must be a calm, mature approach. It is in nobody’s interest to fail to get on with its neighbours. The approach we have seen harms our international reputation. This matters if we are to secure first-class trade deals; it also matters that we are reliable partners, especially given our role in peace and security around the world. Even allowing for Covid, the Government’s handling of Brexit and our future relationship with the EU is not being managed well. If the Government do not change their approach, I am afraid that our regions, our communities and the people of this country will be worse off.

17:20
Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, perhaps I may say in preamble that it is never, and certainly is not, the intention of this Government to be triumphalist, aggressive or divisive on these questions. That has always been the position of Her Majesty’s Government. We see the European Union as a close friend and partner, as the Prime Minister repeatedly states, and we wish for nothing other than good relations with our partners. I hope that I can disabuse the noble Lord, Lord Desai, of his fears on that count.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for the contributions made today. As noble Lords will know, parliamentary scrutiny is invaluable and essential in my judgment. The Government remain fully committed to ensuring that this House can play a full role in making this new relationship with our European partners a success.

These reports were published in March and have all been responded to in writing by the Government, but it is welcome that the Committee has had this opportunity to debate them. I have found it a fascinating debate. Progress has been made since the reports were published, even in the face of a global pandemic and the resulting international economic downturn that has affected our partners and ourselves in different ways.

First and foremost, the trade and co-operation agreement has been fully ratified, both in the EU institutions and in the UK by this House and the other place. This landmark moment fulfilled our promise to take back control of our laws, borders, money, trade and fisheries. The importance of this crucial first step was rightly highlighted in the reports debated today. I therefore thank noble Lords on all sides of the argument for their efforts, which ensured that ratification occurred as swiftly as possible in what were challenging and unprecedented conditions.

I also place on record my thanks to the then European Union Committee of this House, along with its sub-committees, which duly scrutinised the trade and co-operation agreement in its series of Beyond Brexit reports. I am grateful to the committee for its valuable work on each of these. Equally, I thank the successor committees—the European Affairs Committee and the Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland—for continuing the work of scrutinising our new relationship with the European Union. I hope that it will not be invidious or embarrassing if I express what I think is the sense of all noble Lords who have spoken: that is, the affection, respect and gratitude that we all feel for the noble Earl who initiated this debate for his leading role in all these fora.

On trade in goods, the trade and co-operation agreement was the first free trade agreement that the EU has ever reached based on zero tariffs and zero quotas. This is in line with our aim to provide liberalised market access for goods. I remind noble Lords that the intention on our side was not to seek fully frictionless trade, as the EU was clear that this would require regulatory alignment with its rules. Instead, a balance was struck that safeguarded the UK’s regulatory autonomy and sovereignty as an independent trading nation.

The report notes the importance of establishing the governance—I will return to this—that underpins the TCA as a route to improving UK-EU trade. I am therefore pleased to confirm that, immediately following ratification of the TCA, the Government have established the committees that support the agreement. With one exception, all those committees have already met, including the Partnership Council chaired by my noble friend Lord Frost. As I say, I will return to this point, but the UK and EU have already begun to discuss shared objectives and address the agreed commitments made in the TCA that will help to promote trade in goods between us.

The report also reflects on how important support and good communication between government and industry is; I agree with what many noble Lords said on that. The Government have committed significant funds and resources to supporting and listening to industry and others, and will continue to do so. We are also ensuring that they have a formal voice in the implementation of the TCA, through the civil society forum and the domestic advisory group. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked about them; I will return to them later.

On trade in services, the Government welcome the report’s recognition of the unprecedented and highly liberalised provisions in the TCA for digital services and professional and business services, which will help to ensure that these important UK sectors continue to thrive. The Government also agree that UK businesses need our support to maximise the opportunities of our new relationship with the EU as they recover from the impacts of this pandemic. That is why we have provided extensive guidance for those exporting services to the EU and introduced the new Professional Qualifications Bill, which will provide certainty to business and help to maintain the incoming flow of professionals by giving more autonomy to UK regulators to tailor recognition according to the needs of their profession.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, made important points about the law. The Government recognise the importance of the legal services industry in the UK and the role that it plays in facilitating professional services generally. That is why we fought hard for this sector in last year’s negotiations to secure unprecedented provisions regarding the right of UK solicitors, barristers and advocates to practise in the EU using their UK title in both UK and international law. This will be key in ensuring that the UK remains an attractive and competitive trading partner in professional services with the EU, and that, as the noble and learned Lord hopes, UK law remains popular as the governing law of choice for commercial contracts worldwide.

The Government recognise the major contribution that the financial services sector makes to the UK economy. We took swift action to ensure a smooth end to the transition period and have since set out the forward path for the UK’s regulatory landscape in financial services. The UK remains committed to world-leading regulatory standards and has been clear that it stands ready to work with the EU to promote important emerging sectors such as green finance and fintech.

I turn to the report on institutional frameworks. As it helpfully sets out, there is a wide range of supporting governance that underpins the agreement. The breadth of this institutional structure and the mechanisms that it contains are designed to reflect the significant breadth of the agreement, the wide range of areas of co-operation that it covers and the unique nature of the agreement itself. This is only right. As I set out a few moments ago, the UK and the EU are now using these channels to implement the agreement and improve the trade between us. I assure noble Lords that the reports being debated today have contributed significantly to the helpful discussions being had in these fora.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong of Hill Top, made an interesting and penetrating speech about UK-EU trade in goods. She referred to a number of factors, most notably Covid lockdowns across Europe and businesses adjusting to our new trading relationship, which made it inevitable that exports to the EU would be lower at the start of this year than they were at the start of last year. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics cautions that it is difficult to disaggregate the various factors and identify the underlying causes at this point, so we cannot yet draw any clear conclusions. Despite this, overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU were back to their normal levels by February 2021, and we are seeing food and drink exports grow. Exports increased in seven out of 10 of the UK’s leading export markets during the first half of 2021.

As I said, the deal maintains zero tariffs and zero quotas on trade in goods between the UK and the EU. This is the first time that the EU has ever agreed to complete tariff-free, quota-free access in an FTA. It provides for streamlined customs arrangements, including recognising our respective trusted trader schemes, to support the smooth flow of goods at the border and reduce administrative costs for traders. I agree with the noble Baroness on the need to improve, for example, conditions for road hauliers.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and others said that sanitary and phytosanitary checks were creating difficulties for some sectors exporting to the EU. We proposed equivalence commitments in line with the WTO SPS agreement and the EU’s past FTA practice during the TCA negotiations. Given this, the EU’s refusal to include equivalence mechanisms was, to us, surprising. Nevertheless, the TCA contains provisions to co-operate with each other to review our respective SPS measures to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade.

The EU is applying a number of trade restrictions on UK exports. Some of these are due to blanket bans in EU legislation, such as the prohibition on the import of live bivalve molluscs from class B waters from third countries. Others are due to the EU not granting the UK full listed status, such as the ban on the import of seed potatoes and the granting of Part 2 rather than Part 1 listing for the movement of pets. I put in a plea for Dilyn the dog.

We remain unconvinced of the risk basis for these restrictions given our high biosecurity standards, and have consistently raised these trade barriers with the European Commission, including through the specialised committees. Any solution will need to safeguard UK sovereignty and autonomy and cannot involve aligning with EU law. However, I assure noble Lords that we stand ready to discuss such an equivalence-based agreement with the EU, and have raised it through the partnership council and the specialised committees that noble Lords referred to. In general terms, EU member states can, and do, attend specialised committees.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, the noble Earl and others raised financial services. In his Mansion House speech in July, the Chancellor set out the Government’s vision for an open, green and technologically advanced financial services sector that is globally competitive and acts in the interests of communities and citizens across the United Kingdom.

The UK and the EU’s financial markets are closely linked, and the EU remains a key international partner for us. We hope that the EU will continue to be a champion for international trade and openness. I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle: international free trade has been one of the greatest boons to poor people and raising people out of poverty across the world in the history of mankind. We look forward to collaborating with the EU on a range of issues, such as green finance, in the next year.

The Chancellor was clear in his Mansion House speech that the EU will never have cause to deny the UK access because of poor regulatory standards. We welcome the European Commission’s recent announcement regarding the extension of an equivalence decision for the UK’s central counterparty clearing houses. The Government have made sure that the EU has all the information it requires to make a positive decision for the UK for all equivalence regimes, and we remain open to answering any further questions that the Commission may have. On the MoU, raised by the noble Earl in his opening speech, technical discussions have been concluded; the MoU can be signed once the EU has completed its formal processes that are required under its rules.

Many noble Lords referred to the UK’s participation in Union programmes. The Government are committed to the UK being a science and research superpower, and we value the strong collaborative partnerships that we have globally in the areas of science, research and innovation. Through the TCA, the EU and the UK agreed terms for participation in Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom research and training. As the underpinning EU regulations were in draft at the time, a joint declaration was agreed, setting out the parties’ intentions to formalise the UK’s participation at the earliest opportunity and with the view that the UK would participate from the beginning of the programmes.

Although the UK stands ready to uphold the agreement reached last year, we continue to see delays from the EU in formalising UK participation. That is disappointing. The EU is obligated to finalise our participation under the TCA; it would in fact be a breach of the treaty if this were not delivered in a timely manner. Our priority is supporting the UK’s scientists and researchers. That is why the Government announced on 29 November a financial safety net, in the form of guaranteed funding for the first wave of eligible and successful applicants to Horizon Europe who have been unable to sign grant agreements with the EU as a result of these delays. We will support our science and research community, no matter the scenario. We had a set of alternative plans developed in 2020 and are revisiting these. We will certainly keep the House informed.

As to Erasmus, I know that is a matter of regret to some noble Lords. We considered carefully which programmes were in our interests to join. The UK would have made a large net contribution to the Erasmus+ programme. We have chosen instead to pursue a global exchange programme under the new Turing Scheme, providing opportunities in Europe as well as around the world for young people to experience international education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, raised the important question of touring musicians. She was echoed by a number of noble Lords in their rightful concern about creative industries. The UK has a creative heritage of which we are rightly proud. It was perhaps inevitable that, following the UK’s departure from the EU, there would be changes in how creative professionals toured. I know that this, exacerbated by the pandemic, has led to uncertainty in the sector, since working and touring in Europe is such an important part of their professional lives. In the negotiations for the TCA, we sought to ensure that touring artists and their support staff would not need work permits to perform in the EU. Our proposals were rejected by the EU, although we have been able to agree similar measures with other like-minded partners, for example Norway and Iceland.

I am aware that there have been calls for the Government to negotiate a visa waiver. It is not government policy to seek such agreements and neither did the EU propose a visa waiver for paid activities during the TCA negotiations. What was proposed by the EU was a reciprocal visa waiver for short stays, for example as a tourist. However, nothing in this proposal would have compelled member states to change their visa regimes for paid engagements such as performing at a concert.

Our focus now is on working directly with member states, which are principally responsible for deciding the rules governing what work UK visitors can undertake. Having engaged with EU member states, we have established that UK musicians and performers do not need visas or work permits for some short-term tours in at least 21 EU countries. This includes Spain, a key touring market for the UK, which changed its rules on visas last month. This change is testament to the efforts of the sector as well as the Government.

I was asked about the governance framework. The first partnership council meeting took place on 9 June 2021. The meeting marked an important milestone in the relationship between the UK and the EU as friendly trading partners and sovereign equals.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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The Minister unfortunately did exactly as I predicted, which is to describe in great detail why nothing was done for the performing artists in the negotiations pre Brexit. He explained carefully why our proposal was rejected by the EU and its was rejected by us, but he has not said anything about what we propose to do to remedy the damage being done, other than to refer to the bilateral contacts that we have had with member states. I am sure that the Minister knows perfectly well that many aspects in that sector cannot be dealt with successfully bilaterally. There is a need for both bilateral and collective discussion as things such as cabotage, carnets and so on cannot be dealt with bilaterally. Can the Minister not simply say that the Government will pursue, bilaterally and through the TCA, all avenues possible to get a better deal than we have at the moment, and not go back to Tweedledee and Tweedledum saying, “They said this and you said that in the negotiations”, but to see whether we cannot move forward on this bilaterally and collectively?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord repeats the points that he made earlier. I have repeated and set on record the efforts made by the United Kingdom Government on behalf of these important industries and drawn your Lordships’ attention to progress that has been made. Without going over this ground again, I reassert the Government’s concern for the well-being of these industries. It is time to move on. I have already pursued, without an intervention, a good deal of time.

I was asked about the number of meetings of the specialised committees that have taken place. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, that the Government take these seriously. As of Monday 6 December, almost all the TCA specialised committees have met. Nine of the 10 trade specialised committees have met. The SC on VAT is due to meet on 15 December. The delay is due to internal EU processes to prepare for decisions to be taken jointly by the UK and EU at the initial meeting. The Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes is the only outstanding SC yet to convene. I understand that it will convene later this month. If I am incorrect, I will come back to noble Lords.

On the civil society forum, about which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, asked, the Government sought public views on how to engage with business and civil society groups on TCA implementation. We published the official response on 19 October. An expression of interest campaign was launched to determine membership. We received 83 expressions of interest. Individual businesses are not included in the scope of the domestic advisory group and the civil society forum, but they can engage departments through existing channels outside these fora. After careful consideration of possible dates, the first meeting of the domestic advisory group is planned for early 2022. The Government are in discussions with the European Commission to finalise the exact date for the first civil society forum, which is also planned for early 2022.

As for the parliamentary partnership assembly, noble Lords will be aware—I know I invite another intervention, but it is the reality—that this is a matter for Parliament rather than the Government. I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and to the Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire in the other place for their continued work on this important matter. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked whether my noble friend Lord Frost was responsible for relations with individual member states. That is true, but he works hand in glove with the Foreign Office, with the active involvement of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.

I was asked about parliamentary scrutiny of the TCA. My noble friend Lord Frost of Allenton has been discussing these matters with the chairs of committees tasked with scrutinising the Government. These discussions are approaching their final phase and will, I trust, be agreed shortly. While I listened carefully to the noble Earl’s requests and will pass them on, I do not wish to cut across these discussions. The scrutiny of individual departments on matters relating to their individual policy remits, through EU committees and the normal committee processes, is included. In the interim, the Government are working diligently to ensure that committees can properly scrutinise government policy.

In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, my noble friend Lord Frost has reminded colleagues of the importance of scrutiny and of Explanatory Memoranda being timely and of the highest quality. It is an important point, and I assure him that it has been taken on board.

The noble Lord also asked about the Northern Ireland protocol. In referring to this, I apologise—I know that he would wish me to do so—that my noble friend Lord Frost is unable to be here. Noble Lords will understand the current activity on this front. The Government are in intensive discussions with the EU with the aim of delivering significant changes to the Northern Ireland protocol. Most recently, my noble friend Lord Frost spoke with the European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, last Friday via a videoconference. They covered the full range of outstanding issues; my noble friend welcomed the Commission’s professed readiness to make progress on them. The UK Government still want to find a negotiated solution if possible; we are ready to keep working constructively and intensively to that end. I must tell noble Lords that the gap between our positions is still significant, and progress on many issues has been limited. The UK Government’s position remains as before: the threshold has been met to use the Article 16 safeguards to protect the Belfast/Good Friday agreement if solutions cannot be found. However, my noble friend Lord Frost will speak to Vice-President Šefčovič again this week, and the UK and EU teams will have intensified talks in the coming days.

There has been some potential convergence on the medicines issue, which the noble Lord, Lord Jay, asked me about, but agreement has not yet been reached. So far, we have been unable to consider all the details of the EU’s proposals in the way we need to in this sensitive, critical and highly technical area, where solutions must work in practice and genuinely solve the problems. We continue to believe that more progress is needed on customs and SPS arrangements if we are to deal with the fundamental issue of improving the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There have been some constructive talks on subsidy control, but the issue remains unresolved, as does the wider issue of governance.

I have a detailed response on Gibraltar that I should give to the noble Baroness, but I am looking at the clock. I can give it to your Lordships now; perhaps I should. In 2020, the EU insisted on a two-phase process for negotiations which required a separate UK-Spain agreement—the framework—prior to formal UK-EU negotiations on a legally binding treaty. On 31 December 2020, the UK Government, the Government of Gibraltar and the Spanish Government reached agreement on a political framework to form the basis of a separate treaty between the UK and the EU regarding Gibraltar. The negotiations between the UK and the EU on that treaty began in October, and three rounds have taken place so far; the FCDO is leading on these negotiations. In the discussions to date, the UK has made clear the need for an agreement that reflects the delicate balance in the political framework and Gibraltar’s unique circumstances and is proportionate to Gibraltar’s size and the small volume of trade at stake. The UK remains steadfast in its support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy in any scenario and will not compromise UK sovereignty.

I have spoken at great length—I apologise to your Lordships for that—but the reports were of fundamental interest and importance. I have sought to answer many of the questions asked in the debate, though perhaps not to everyone’s satisfaction. I conclude by thanking noble Lords not only for their valuable contributions this evening but for their extraordinary hard work, intelligence and thought that have gone into producing these reports. I have no doubt that they will help us going forward as we seek to cement our new relationship with the EU alongside other international partners. That is our wish, and I hope it is a wish that all of us, whatever our past feuds and differences, now share.

17:48
Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Earl of Kinnoull (CB)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in this utterly absorbing debate on three reports that remain very current despite being quite old. I thank the Minister for being on his feet for half an hour and batting back many of the balls in his typically agreeable way.

One of the most notable comments, to me, was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. She said how pleasant it was that this was a forward-looking debate. From here, as we look at European Union things, it will be important to be forward-looking. It is for historians to deal with the past; it is for us, I am afraid, to deal with the future. There are many issues to be addressed.

That takes me to something that I had forgotten today but that I think we should note: the centenary of the Anglo-Irish treaty. It is an incredibly important document and my relatives had something to do with it; I feel it is worth marking. In his excellent speech, the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, listed the many issues that his committee is dealing with in Northern Ireland, in what is a very complicated and difficult environment all round. I am glad that his committee is able to shine its light on things and explain to people what is going on in a way that I feel is very clear. He gave a wonderful speech, which I am looking forward to reading. It showed just how many hard yards there are to go on that.

Outwith Northern Ireland, I felt that four themes came through this afternoon. The first was scrutiny. I am the person dealing with the noble Lord, Lord Frost, on scrutiny. We have not as yet been able to get to a satisfactory position on that. It is heartening to hear that so many others worry about it. I hope that message will be taken back by the noble Lord, Lord True, to say how much we care about finishing this off and getting to a settlement on it.

The other three issues have a common theme. The first was SPS and the wisdom of reaching some sort of agreement on it. I declare my interest as a small-scale farmer. We do not export anything, but the idea of being in the export business with the current SPS things is very frightening indeed. It stretches through to many other bits of our industry.

The second issue was performing artists. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was the first person to talk about this. I will back up a bit of what he said. Three different types of action need to take place. There is a certain amount of unilateral action that the Government can take to at least ease some of the issues. The Government have started to deal with the bilateral actions, although the bilateral deals done with the various European countries are wildly different and not done on a common basis, so it is very complicated for ordinary mortals to understand the situation in a given country. Then there are the things that need to be dealt with by the trade and co-operation agreement machinery. That is a very complicated task, and it needs a lot of co-ordination to get it right. We have started what I think will be a long line of correspondence on this, but I hope the Government will feel it well worth putting in the effort for this vast industry of more than £100 billion of turnover per year.

The last thing was the machinery of the trade and co-operation agreement, and it is not heartening to hear that one of the specialised committees has not met yet and many of the others have met only to agree their rules of procedure. I am afraid that is an indication of the common theme among those last three issues: the state of the relationship between the UK and the EU. I very much regret it. In culture, history and blood, these are our neighbours and friends—and we have fallen out with them.

We need to rebuild that trust and respect. A little bit of that will be in the parliamentary partnership assembly; a little bit will be everywhere. I know that people in this Room who have taken time to speak in this debate will all feel that very strongly. I do not think there is anything to ask the Government because I think they agree, but in the rebuilding of those it is important to realise that everything communicates—every newspaper article in the Daily Mail; everything. We need to rebuild them because, as I observed in the last bit of my speech, the real issue in life is the authoritarian regimes and the nasty way in which they deal with their populations. We are very lucky to live where we do.

Motion agreed.

Beyond Brexit: Trade in Services (EUC Report)

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Motion to Take Note
17:54
Moved by
Baroness Donaghy Portrait Baroness Donaghy
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Beyond Brexit: trade in services (23rd Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 248).

Motion agreed.

Beyond Brexit: Trade in Goods (EUC Report)

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Motion to Take Note
17:54
Moved by
Baroness Verma Portrait Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Beyond Brexit: trade in goods (24th Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 249).

Motion agreed.
Committee adjourned at 5.55 pm.

House of Lords

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Monday 6 December 2021
14:30
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

Arrangement of Business

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Announcement
14:37
Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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My Lords, as agreed by the House last week, from today Oral Questions will no longer have speakers’ lists. As it is over 18 months since we conducted Questions without a list, the arrangements may be unfamiliar to newer Members of your Lordships’ House. There are also new arrangements for the calling of those Members who are eligible to participate remotely in the work of the House. The Leader of the House will now outline briefly how Question Time will operate.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) (Con)
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I thank the Lord Speaker. As he rightly said, from today Oral Questions will no longer have a speakers’ list. I will briefly set out on behalf of the usual channels how Question Time will work.

With no lists there will be no agreed speaking order, so supplementary questions will rotate around the parties and groups in the Chamber. Those noble Lords who are permitted to take part virtually may do so in Questions provided that they give notice. Like Members in the Chamber, they are not guaranteed a chance to speak; whether they are invited to do so will be agreed in advance with their parties and groups. During Questions, at an appropriate point I will indicate that the House will hear virtually from a Peer belonging to the party or group whose turn it is.

As noble Lords observed in last week’s debate, the spontaneity of Question Time plays an important part in the House holding Ministers to account. However, some Peers have said that they did not feel as comfortable joining in with Questions. Therefore, as the Senior Deputy Speaker observed, it will be incumbent on all Members to respect the House’s tradition of self-regulation, mutual respect and courtesy. As part of that tradition, it is important that during Question Time the House hears a range of views and from as many Members as possible in the time allowed. Rather than return to the previous seven minutes for each Question, we are now allowing 10 minutes. That should mean that at least 10 supplementary questions can be asked and answered, which I hope will ensure that the House can hear from Members on all sides of any issue.

As noble Lords are aware, the Companion sets out that Ministers’ initial replies should be brief and no more than 75 words and that subsequent replies should also be concise. The Companion also states:

“Supplementary questions should be short and confined to not more than two points.”


It goes on to say that supplementaries should be

“confined to the subject of the original question, and ministers should not answer irrelevant questions. The essential purpose of supplementaries is to elicit information, and they should not incorporate statements of opinion. They should not be read.”

In brief, that means that all supplementaries should take about 30 seconds and ministerial replies should be correspondingly short. I hope that noble Lords will observe these courtesies to ensure that Question Time works for the whole House.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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I wonder whether we can ask a question. Why can we not ask a question?

Hate Crimes: Misogyny

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:40
Asked by
Baroness Donaghy Portrait Baroness Donaghy
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to make misogyny a hate crime.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are committed to tackling violence against women and girls. We have asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of hate crime legislation, including whether additional protective characteristics such as sex and gender should be included. The Law Commission is due to publish its recommendations imminently and it is important that we hear what the commission proposes before deciding on a position on this matter.

Baroness Donaghy Portrait Baroness Donaghy (Lab)
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I am still haunted by the thought of the last few hours of Sarah Everard—how her life changed in an instant and how terrified she must have been. It could have been any young woman, because the murdering misogynist who is now serving time had prepared to pick any young woman. There are online groups that objectify and dehumanise women and girls and they radicalise young men, who go on to commit acts of aggression designed to intimidate, humiliate and control women. When will the Minister act on making misogyny a hate crime to counteract the widespread misogynist culture in the police and elsewhere and the shameful drop in rape convictions?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, what the noble Baroness has outlined goes far beyond misogyny, although I totally appreciate her question, in that quite often it starts with misogyny. On rape convictions, which I heard her mention right at the end, she will know that a rape review has been carried out, the intention of which is to improve the response right through the criminal justice system.

Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD)
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My Lords, we were all terribly shocked as we heard about the appalling murder of Sarah Everard and there has been a greater emphasis and scrutiny on the embedded epidemic of violence against women and girls and the misogyny that goes alongside it. Does the Minister agree with Mark Hamilton, the Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, along with growing numbers of other senior police officers, who said:

“I think this is a welcome addition to how we respond to crime … in this area … it’s a good way of understanding offender behaviour and preventing things escalating from the more minor offences”—


as we saw with Wayne Couzens—

“up to sexually motivated crime and murder”?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I would not describe Sarah Everard’s killer’s misdemeanours as minor, but I know exactly where the noble Baroness is coming from, which is the trajectory from which these things start, and I do not disagree with her on that. I am very happy with what the Government have done for the past few years: £100 million towards tackling violence against women and girls; stalking protection orders; allowing new offences to tackle forced marriage and revenge porn; and, of course, passing the landmark Domestic Abuse Act.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, is it not wise to await the outcome of the review, because there is a danger in having a proliferation of crimes on the statute book?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It certainly is and I think that I have articulated to the House that that is what we intend to do.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (CB)
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My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that, although we welcome the Law Commission’s review, in any consultation prior to a Bill, it is profoundly important that the terminology used is defined as part of the consultation? We are seeing too many consultations coming forward without clear definitions, which is entirely confusing for the public to respond to.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness that terminology is important—and terminology changes, so it is important to keep up to date with it.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, on 15 November, the Minister said, in response to an amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, that she would ask police forces to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person where the victim perceives it to be motivated by hostility based on their sex. If she has not already done this, when will she do it? Does she accept that, whatever policy is adopted following the Law Commission’s report, women should be able to expect the same approach across all police forces?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness that we need consistency across police forces. I know that we are working with police forces across the country to assist in the endeavour that I outlined to my noble friend Lady Newlove.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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My Lords, in some recent terrorist crimes in America, the perpetrators have been found to be members of incels—involuntary celibate—groups. Do the Government monitor membership of these groups in the UK or does that wait until the time of the review?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Without going into the details, monitoring of some of the threats that we face goes on in the UK. Noble Lords will have seen in the press some examples of where that has led to more violent crime.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, we saw with the killer of Sarah Everard that he was part of the police and was protected by a quite toxic culture within the police. Does the Minister agree that if we had misogyny as a crime, the police themselves might improve on their behaviour?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It was clear from the murder of Sarah Everard and the ensuing inquiry that we need to look into an awful lot of areas: the culture, vetting and other elements of what might have led to what happened. It probably goes beyond misogyny.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, when the Minister responded to my noble friend, she said that she was waiting for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review and its recommendations. Does she agree that the Government need to do more than just respond? They need to proactively act. She mentioned the various other measures that the Government have taken, but here is a golden opportunity to act. What legislation are the Government looking at to move the agenda forward to recognise the recommendations of the Law Commission and the rape review?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord that it is not just about looking at the recommendations, but about seeing how we can put them into legislation and how they become part of our efforts to fight hate crime in whatever form it exists.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, first, even before we decide whether we should bring in hate crime for misogyny—hatred of women—could the Government clarify that they understand what women are and untangle the definition of women from the confusion around gender? Secondly, is there a danger that, in talking about an epidemic of misogyny, we might frighten young women into thinking that all young men hate them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We need to strike a balance. On defining what women are, I do not think that the time that I am allotted today is long enough—the noble Baroness is tempting me, but I shall not be drawn into that. However, I think that the language that we use should be very clear so that everyone knows what we are talking about. Balance is incredibly important here as well, because we do not want a generation of terrified women.

Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that what the National Education Union calls everyday sexism should never go unchallenged in any education setting? It is quite clear that sexism at any level can lead to misogyny among men and boys later.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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It is incumbent on us all, whether we are parents, teachers or somebody else with influence on children’s lives, to teach them the value of respect towards each other and towards the opposite sex.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB)
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My Lords, I suggest to the Minister that, before making misogyny a hate crime, it would be wise to look more widely at the various offences that already exist and to add this if it is appropriate, or possibly to widen some other offence to include it. There is a grave danger, as has been said, of making too many offences.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble and learned Baroness is absolutely right, and we look forward to the Law Commission’s recommendations in this area.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, building on the response that the Minister gave to my noble friend Lady Blower, could she say what actions her colleagues in the Department for Education have taken following the Everyone’s Invited website and the emergence of very powerful evidence of the kind of thing that my noble friend was talking about?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am not particularly equipped to talk about Everyone’s Invited, but I will go back to the point that was made, which the noble Baroness is following up on, which is that respect for other people, whether of the same or opposite sex, is incredibly important in a civilised society, and we all need to lead by example.

Gambling: Children and Young People

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:50
Asked by
Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the research by Dr Raffaello Rossi and Professor Agnes Nairn What are the odds? The appeal of gambling adverts to children and young persons on Twitter, published in October.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I draw attention to my interest as chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, this research is a useful contribution to the evidence base and will be considered carefully in our ongoing review of the Gambling Act, which is taking a close look at the impacts of advertising wherever it appears. Gambling adverts must already not be targeted at children or appeal particularly to them. The committees for advertising practice will soon publish more on their plans to tighten the rules in this area.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but he will know that the research indicates how easily children can be influenced by gambling advertisements even when they are not targeted at children; indeed, under-age gambling is illegal, yet a third do it and over 60,000 are now classed as problem gamblers. Does the Minister agree that, in developing new gambling legislation, we should do what we already do for alcohol, drugs and smoking, and adopt a public health approach, prioritising prevention of harm in the first place?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right that a public health approach involves prevention as well as treatment. There is a wide range of provisions in the advertising codes designed to protect children, as well as vulnerable adults, from harm. The Committee of Advertising Practice has consulted on further strengthening the rules on appealing to children. We expect an announcement by the end of the year.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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This is a very important issue. Does the Minister agree that the Lords committee that looked at the reform of gambling struck the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and allowing people to gamble if they wish to do so?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Certainly, I had the pleasure of serving on that committee before I joined Her Majesty’s Government. I thank noble Lords who also served on that committee. That work and much else, including the research that we are discussing today, will be taken into account as part of our review of the Gambling Act.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of Peers for Gambling Reform. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, has already mentioned, 60,000-plus young people are diagnosed as suffering from gambling-related harm in this country. What consideration have Her Majesty’s Government given to ensuring, perhaps under the online harms Bill, that social media companies will provide an opt-in age-verification tool so that we can provide additional protections for our young people to protect them from these adverts?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I assure the right reverend Prelate that the Gambling Act review is taking a close look at the rules regarding advertising on social media. We want full use to be made of all the scope that technology offers when it comes to targeting adverts appropriately.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, as chairman of the Proof of Age Standards Scheme board, I ask my noble friend: will he look carefully at our proposals for an online verification proof of age scheme to ensure that underage children are not accessing gambling on the internet?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As I have said, there are already strict rules on the targeting of adverts relating to children but, as part of the Gambling Act review, we will certainly look at the evidence that my noble friend cites.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, it is of course right to shield children from adverts promoting gambling but, as we have heard in this House on a number of occasions, that requires the age stated by the individual for access to be accurate in the first place. As social media companies themselves acknowledge that the systems and safeguards may not work as well as they should, can the Minister confirm that the minimum standards required will be incorporated into the upcoming online harms Bill? Will Ofcom be responsible for ensuring that these standards will protect children?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am conscious that the online safety Bill is in pre-legislative scrutiny in your Lordships’ House, and a Joint Committee of both Houses will be looking at this important area, as will the Gambling Act review.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, wishes to speak virtually. I think this is a convenient point for me to call him.

Lord Jones of Cheltenham Portrait Lord Jones of Cheltenham (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the University of Bristol research shows that gambling adverts are much more attractive to the 16-to-24 age group than to adults, so will the Government expand the definition of “young persons” in the advertising codes from 16 to 17 to 16 to 24?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising requires paid-for social media adverts to be targeted only at people aged 25 and above and YouTube content produced by an operator’s own YouTube channels must be restricted to accounts verified as being 18 and above. However, all this will be looked at as part of the Gambling Act review.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, Twitter says it would never knowingly market to minors, yet our experience and the report make it clear that that just does not work. Some people want to see these adverts, but I come back to the question of opt-ins and ask the Minister if he will commit to an opt-in protocol for advertising for gambling.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My noble friend tempts me to pre-empt the work of the Gambling Act review, which is ongoing. It is certainly looking at issues such as that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, would the Minister consider advising football clubs not to have betting companies on their shirts but instead to follow the good example of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, which for six years had Save the Children on its shirts and now has the motor neurone disease charity MND Scotland, funded by Dell Technologies? Is that not the way forward?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We are looking broadly at the issues of advertising and marketing, including in relation to sports clubs, and have called for evidence on these as part of the review.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Portrait Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Con)
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My Lords, as a former Minister for Gambling I have always been very concerned about not only the effects on children of the advertising that we see now on social media but the whole effect of the incredible rise in advertising on our normal media—that is, on television and radio. Can we please have a comment from the Government as to whether we think this has gone too far, as I do, and whether they have any ideas for the future as to how we might restrain those advertisers?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Operators must advertise responsibly, and we are committed to tackling aggressive practices. We have called for evidence on advertising and sponsorship as part of our review. The Public Health England evidence review, which we discussed some weeks ago, did not find evidence that exposure to advertising and marketing was a risk factor for harmful gambling, but we continue to keep this issue under review as we review the Gambling Act.

Newport Wafer Fab

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:58
Asked by
Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the strategic importance to the United Kingdom of Newport Wafer Fab prior to its takeover by a Chinese-owned company.

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, we welcome trade and investment where it supports UK growth and jobs and meets our legal and regulatory requirements while not compromising national security. Where we believe there are concerns, we raise them, and where we need to intervene, we will. As the Prime Minister said at the Liaison Committee in July 2021, the National Security Adviser is reviewing this takeover and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment until his review has concluded.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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I thank the Minister for that reply, and I understand that he cannot say a great deal more about the review. Nevertheless, can he say something about the clarity of the Chinese Communist Party’s position in comparison with that of the UK, in that it has a clear strategy of undermining resilience and security; promoting dependency; acquiring intellectual property and data; and destroying competitiveness through slave labour in everything from green energy through to surveillance equipment made in places like Xinjiang, which the Foreign Secretary has called a slave state practising genocide? In letting it acquire the UK’s largest-selling silicon chip factory, what account has been taken of these things; the National Security and Investment Act, which will come into effect in January; the integrated review; and the Competition and Mergers Authority’s position?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I totally share the noble Lord’s concerns about the actions of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, Tibet and various other areas where they commit appalling human rights abuses. However, as he will be aware, I cannot comment further on this particular takeover. The National Security Adviser is reviewing it and he will do so on national security grounds.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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On Chinese takeovers, does my noble friend share the concerns of a great many of us regarding the way that the Chinese are extending their influence—buying their influence—and taking over the Commonwealth, be it in Barbados, Sri Lanka or sub-Saharan Africa? There have been newspaper reports about this. It is a deliberate thing. They are trying to supplant British or western influence and plant their influence in the Commonwealth and elsewhere.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I share the concerns of my noble friend. This Question is getting more into foreign affairs than it is into business affairs, but I understand what he is saying. I have seen the reports and I share his concern.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, I am disappointed by the response from the Minister. The Chinese have made a huge effort to gain intellectual property over a number of years. I had to go and warn them about this way back at the end of the 90s—they paid no attention then and they are doing it now, more and more. Here is a company with a large chunk of intellectual property, working in the area of chips—something the Chinese are not good at because the Americans have now stopped giving them to them, as they were in the past—and it seems as though we are not really focusing on this. Do we have a real strategy for constraining China’s aims in this area? It is extremely worrying.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Nexperia is not new to this particular company; it already owned 15% of it before the latest takeover. As I said, I cannot comment any further on that particular transaction, but we will look carefully at all the facts of the case. Our powers are being strengthened with the National Security and Investment Act coming into force on 4 January next year. We have retrospective powers under that Act and we will not hesitate to act if we need to.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, hardly a week goes by without the semiconductor shortage impacting some of our businesses in this country. It is not just about security; it is about manufacturing. Meanwhile, there is an investigation into Newport Wafer Fab and a separate one going on into Arm. Would it not make more sense if there was a holistic view of the semiconductor business in this country and a task force put together, so that we can secure indigenous supplies of these absolutely vital components?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is of course aware that we have announced action in both of those cases: both the instances he mentioned are currently being reviewed. As I said, if we need to take action, we will. On his broader question about semiconductors, we already offer a lot of support to industry through the research councils and the catapults and will continue to do so. It is an area that the Government are acutely aware of.

Lord Stirrup Portrait Lord Stirrup (CB)
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My Lords, this is part of much wider picture, of course. Can the Minister assure the House that, in their forthcoming national resilience strategy, the Government will deal with such industrial issues in a sufficiently agile way that will be able to cope with a rapidly evolving corporate and technological landscape?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble and gallant Lord makes a good point, which is why we have strengthened our powers under the National Security and Investment Act, recently passed in this House. We look forward to implementing that legislation on 4 January. It will require notifications in 17 key areas of the economy. On top of that, the Secretary of State has additional call-in powers.

Lord Flight Portrait Lord Flight (Con)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would be a disaster if the last remaining large semi-fab business fell permanently into the hands of the Chinese?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said in response to an earlier question, Nexperia, the company concerned, already had 15% of this company anyway, and already owns other semiconductor manufacturing plants in the UK. The noble Lord can read its statement as to what it intends to pursue for this business, if he wishes to do so.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, wishes to speak virtually. I think this is a convenient point for me to call him.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) [V]
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Is not the real issue whether Newport Wafer Fab, now employing around 450, would have survived without positive Chinese intervention offering long-term viability? If there is real concern over the survival of UK strategic hi-tech, why not revisit lessons learned in the 1970s from Labour’s NEB, the Conservatives’ NEDC and BTG, and the role that Inmos played in the early development of chips? Without a national initiative, we are conceding all to Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China, and a whinging United States of America, and losing markets.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course, I cannot comment further on these transactions, as the noble Lord knows, but semiconductors are an important aspect of our industrial future. We have some excellent manufacturing companies in the UK, and we want that to continue.

Lord Sarfraz Portrait Lord Sarfraz (Con)
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My Lords, one of the stated objectives of a project awarded by Innovate UK to Newport Wafer Fab is to provide the UK with a novel sovereign gallium nitride capability. Can my noble friend tell the House how that capability can possibly remain novel, or indeed sovereign, following acquisition by a foreign state-backed entity?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord tempts me but I cannot go any further than I have already stated. This takeover is being reviewed by the National Security Adviser, and we hope to reach a decision shortly.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, while there can be no doubting the strategic importance to our national security of the part played by Newport Wafer Fab, can the Minister explain why the Government did not intervene in a takeover earlier this year? Could he tell the House what tools the National Security Adviser will have at his disposal that could be applied when the ongoing review is completed?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am not sure to which takeover the noble Lord refers that we did not intervene in—perhaps we should have a separate conversation about that. But it is clear that the Government as a whole have substantial power. As I said, the new NSI Act comes in on 4 January, when it will be commenced, but we have retrospective powers that can go back to November 2020 under that Act.

Lord Crisp Portrait Lord Crisp (CB)
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My Lords, I go back to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, about a strategic overview. How many other firms in the semiconductor supply chain are foreign owned?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not have that information to hand. It would depend on what firms the noble Lord refers to and what form of suppliers they were. There are many hundreds of companies that serve some of these large manufacturing plants. As I said in response to an earlier question, we understand the importance of semiconductor manufacturers. We support this by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and we support the commercialisation of projects under the Compound Catapult, and we will continue to do so.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, the suspicion locally is that the security part of the review is over, and the hunt is on to buy up shares for Nexperia to create a Chinese-UK company. Given the importance of this to electric vehicle manufacturing, of which there is a massive need at present, and to jobs to be created locally, does the Minister agree that this should be the Government’s prime initiative, and that we need a speedy solution so that investment can take place?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I know the concerns locally about the investment. I have spoken to Newport’s MP about this, and she expressed her views on the takeover. As I have said, we have taken all those factors into consideration, particularly that of national security, which the National Security Adviser is currently considering this takeover on, and we will reach a decision on that shortly.

Ministerial Code

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:08
Asked by
Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish an updated version of the Ministerial Code.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, the Ministerial Code is the responsibility of the Prime Minister of the day. It is customarily updated and issued on their assuming or returning to office, and any amendments to the code are a decision for the Prime Minister.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, I recognise that the Prime Minister issued the latest version on almost the same day when he advised Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament so that he could avoid parliamentary scrutiny of his actions for another couple of months. Is not it time now, given the widespread concern about behaviour in public life and the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, for a more measured review, which might well include asking for comments and contributions from the relevant committees of both Houses?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, high standards in public life are of fundamental importance. I respectfully submit, regularly from this Dispatch Box, that we are fortunate in this country in the high standards we have in public life. Of course this Government look carefully at reports and advice given on various aspects. As the noble Lord will know, we are carefully considering a number of recently published reports and will respond in due course.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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Would it be a good idea if Ministers obeyed the law, rather than seeking to overturn it either in judicial review or by a court should they be found to have flaunted it?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am not certain what specifically the noble Baroness is referring to. This Government respect the judgment of the courts and that is a principle of our polity, but any Government are entitled to review the existing law and submit to Parliament proposals for changing it.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, has my noble friend read paragraph 9.1 of the Ministerial Code? It says:

“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.”


Does he agree that in the last 20 years that paragraph has been widely overlooked? Would he agree that it should either be abolished or enforced—with Ministers who breach it losing their passports?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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That would be a novel sanction for Ministers; obviously I welcome the proposals made this morning on another matter. I have read that, and I personally take it very seriously. As a Minister in your Lordships’ House, I believe that the first duty is to your Lordships’ House. Like my noble friend, I am advancing in years and I remember the days when news was news and not spin disseminated aforehand. We should all aspire to respect for Parliament.

Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)
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My Lords, if the Prime Minister respects Parliament, he surely has to respect the Ministerial Code. It seems that he has a rather arm’s-length relationship with it at times. Perhaps, instead of having a review, we should see the code adhered to, which I think would please your Lordships’ House more than seeing it change. When the code is reviewed, we should also look at the foreword from the Prime Minister, because I think perhaps his priorities were wrong when he drafted that, as Brexit is mentioned three times yet integrity is mentioned only once.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that events evolve and that what must remain constant is high standards of behaviour. Personally, I am proud to be a Member of my right honourable friend’s Government, and I do not share the view held of him by some on Benches opposite.

Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
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My Lords, the first paragraph of the Ministerial Code requires Ministers to follow the principles of public life, which include integrity, openness, honesty and leadership. Did the Prime Minister exhibit these qualities when he allowed No. 10 to be used for an illegal Christmas party on 18 December last year?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I can only repeat what I have said: standards in public life are important. I believe that the Prime Minister respects those fully. As far as the alleged events the noble Lord refers to, I point him to the statement made by Downing Street: that No. 10 has always followed, and continues to follow, Covid regulations at all times.

Baroness Drake Portrait Baroness Drake (Lab)
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My Lords, the Prime Minister sets the Ministerial Code and is the ultimate judge of standards of behaviour, but now highly reputable bodies are increasingly calling for reforms. It is the age-old question: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Does the Minister agree that, to restore public confidence, the code needs to set stronger standards on how Ministers should use social media and respond to lobbying?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, obviously the use of social media and lobbying are important and relevant matters. As the noble Baroness will know, there are recommendations before the Government and the country on lobbying, for example. My right honourable friend recently wrote to the Speaker supporting action on lobbying in the other place.

Baroness Fookes Portrait Baroness Fookes (Con)
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My Lords, as it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to update the manual, has he been asked whether he will do this? If not, will my noble friend undertake to ask him?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the answer to the first question is that I think your Lordships have frequently suggested it. I will draw my right honourable friend’s attention to the remarks of my noble friend.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I recently wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, asking him to investigate a breach of the Ministerial Code by Ministers misquoting the cost of HS2. He said that, under section 1.4, he would have to ask the Prime Minister first. Is there not a conflict between the Prime Minister’s personal and possible political role and that of making a judicial decision on such issues?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, a case was determined this morning relating to the operation of the Ministerial Code, which I am sure your Lordships will wish to study. The independent adviser has confirmed that he is content that the Transport Secretary followed the process required under the Ministerial Code for the declaration of his private interests.

Lord McLoughlin Portrait Lord McLoughlin (Con)
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My Lords, is it not the simple fact that the only person accountable to the British public is actually the Prime Minister, through elections, and all these people who call for some other person to be in charge of the Ministerial Code forget that any such person would be non-electable?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, that seems to be causing some surprise on the other side—perhaps some of them have never actually faced the electorate, as many of us have.

None Portrait Noble Lords
- Hansard -

Oh!

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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Others can investigate who has stood for election here and who has not. I agree with what my noble friend said. Ultimately, any Prime Minister is accountable in the conduct of his duty to the British people and is always conscious of that high responsibility.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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Will the Minister think again? The Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, and Members of the House of Commons individually are elected by the British people. The Prime Minister should be accountable to Parliament, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, by making Statements and by answering Questions—which the Prime Minister never does; he tries to make it leader of the Opposition’s Questions and challenges my right honourable friend Keir Starmer. Will the Minister, however, confirm that a number of organisations, including the Institute for Government, have recommended that the Ministerial Code should be incorporated in statute and that the independent adviser should be given more powers, including to start investigations? Why is this taking so long? Why is something not done about it, so that we have real democracy in this country?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I have repeatedly answered this question in the House. I know that the noble Lord does not agree with the answer, but the answer is that the Prime Minister’s constitutional role as the sovereign’s principal adviser means that the management of the Executive is wholly separate from the legislature. It is for the Prime Minister to advise the sovereign on the appointment, dismissal and acceptance of the resignation of other Ministers. That is why it is right that the Prime Minister has responsibility for the Ministerial Code, which was underlined in the judgment this morning.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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Does the Ministerial Code regulate the private and public use of social media, which is a relatively new phenomenon and was not in place when it was first drafted? Is it not better to have strict rules so that diplomacy and tweeting do not become confused?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I have never tweeted and I am not an assiduous reader of tweets.

Football: Casey Review

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Private Notice Question
15:19
Asked by
Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to The Baroness Casey Review: An independent Review of events surrounding the UEFA Euro 2020 Final Euro Sunday at Wembley, published on 3 December 2021.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, and I declare an interest as a vice-president of the charity Level Playing Field.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her thorough and important review. Her report rightly highlights that responsibility for the reckless and criminal behaviour at the Euro 2020 final lies with a small minority of individuals who sought to undermine the day for the overwhelming majority of fans. The UK has a long and successful record of hosting major international sporting events. The Government will now work with the police and football authorities to consider the report’s recommendations in full.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he not agree with me that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, has produced a truly devastating report, which everyone—the Football Association, the police and the Government—have to take seriously? She makes it clear in her report that we shall never know for sure how close we came to a huge disaster involving major loss of life, caused by 6,000 ticketless fans outside the stadium who were ready to storm inside had England won the penalty shootout. Will the Government pay particular attention to recommendation 6.a:

“Particular attention should be made to ensuring those entering through gates provided for wheelchair users and other more vulnerable members of society are not endangered by the reckless actions of others”?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness’s report is thorough and very significant, and it includes a number of very important recommendations for the football authorities, the police, the Government and many others. We will be looking at them all and making sure that lessons are learned so that the sorts of scenes we saw at the Euro final are not seen again.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, would the Minister take on the fact that it was actually a total breakdown of communication and intelligence that allowed this to happen? Will the Government undertake to ensure that all those groups—the FA, the football authorities, the Metropolitan Police, wherever they are in the country—when we have a game of this magnitude are required to talk to each other, and not at the last minute but before the event takes place?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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There were meetings between the Metropolitan Police, the Government and others in the days running up to the final, but the noble Lord makes an important point about sharing intelligence during incidents such as these. I know that that was something that the noble Baroness looked into and it is one of the things that must be followed up.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Casey of Blackstock, for her excellent report. We would expect nothing else from her but a high standard of product. The Euro 2020 final should have been a cause for pride and celebration, not life-threatening danger and shame. Of course, due to the nature of the disturbances at Wembley, it was not possible for the majority of the ticketless fans to be identified, ejected and, where appropriate, punished. During the recent Committee stage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we discussed whether those engaging in online racist abuse of sportspeople should be subject to banning orders, and we are hopeful that the Government will finally take action on this. Will the Minister now look more widely at what lessons must be learned from Wembley and whether the current banning-order system is enough to stop reckless behaviour at games? Does he agree that the Government should work more closely with the authorities and with clubs to improve the culture surrounding our national game? Without that change in culture, I fear that these instances will occur on other occasions.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right that what should have been a happy and important day was marred, both by the racist abuse that we saw of some of the England players afterwards and by the disorder that the noble Baroness’s report addresses. In both of those instances, action has been taken to follow up. As noble Lords alluded to, the Government have set out that we will amend legislation to extend the use of football banning orders. However, legislation on its own is not the answer to disorder. That is why we will keep the legislation under review, but we will also be working with the football authorities and others to ensure that the minority of people who spoil days such as 11 July for the majority cannot do so.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, the Minister rightly referred to criminal behaviour. There is a mass of photographic evidence showing unmasked individuals behaving criminally. Can the Minister tell the House how many people have been charged with criminal offences, how many people have been convicted and what sentences have been imposed?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I do not have those figures. However, as the noble Lord points out, where there is CCTV footage and with the further evidence gathered by the noble Baroness in her report, it is obviously for the prosecuting authorities—rightly separate from Government—to look at that and take the decisions they feel are appropriate.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Portrait Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that the most damaging outcome of the events at Wembley—notwithstanding the success of the Olympic Games in London and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the undoubted soon-to-be success of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham—is that international sporting bodies will be reluctant to send prestigious events to be held in the United Kingdom?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am pleased to say that the UK has a very strong track record in staging international sporting events, the vast majority of which go exceedingly well. We thank the noble Baroness for her report, to make sure that we have learned the lessons from this incident and will continue to do so in future.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the football authorities have a long record of mismanagement, both domestically and internationally. Does the Minister believe that we need a regulator in the UK to start to get some control over our football and the way it is run?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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That recommendation was taken up by my honourable friend Tracey Crouch in the fan-led review. The Government have accepted it in principle, but we will come back with our full response to the report and all its recommendations.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I support the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, because that is something that would reassure the House and the public about how good the investigation has been. There is clear evidence, which we have all seen, and it should be available to the investigation. The problem with this type of event is that the crowd trying to get in often gets too close to the gates, by which time it is very difficult for anyone to intervene. One of the big things for Wembley is to see what can be done to prevent those without tickets getting anywhere near the gates. At that ground—though not at all grounds—it would be physically relatively straightforward. In time, it would be helpful for us to hear more about how architecture and engineering can make sure that this does not happen again.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord of course speaks with great authority. The Football Association asked the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to undertake this review so that matters such as that can be looked into and, in due course, responded to properly. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to thank all the police and stewards who worked very bravely on the day to ensure that the situation did not escalate further and cause further injury or indeed loss of life.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
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My Lords, I am not accusing the Minister, but he seems to be conveying the impression that nothing is known about the circumstances of this. I am sure that is wrong; not least, how do several thousand people without tickets turn up at a match of such significance not just to the United Kingdom but internationally? It shamed our country and our football. Unless there is a thorough investigation into who organised this—I am quite sure it did not happen by accident—and what their purposes were in doing so, we shall never be able to say in future that it will not happen again.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope I am not conveying that impression. The report of the noble Baroness is very thorough and detailed; it was published on Friday and all those who will respond to it—the FA, the police and everybody else—need time to look at it with the detail and attention it deserves. However, the noble Lord is right to point to some of the things the noble Baroness found in her report: a lot of the people gathered there were not there to see the match—they were not even watching it on their mobile phones—but had the intention of causing disorder. It was a small minority of people who were intent on spoiling the day for the vast majority of people around the country and at Wembley who were enjoying it, and it is on them that we must focus our principal attentions.

Lord Laming Portrait Lord Laming (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness produced her remarkably good report very speedily. We should acknowledge that; she did a splendid job. The Football Association has aspirations to host other international competitions very soon. Can the Minister assure the House that everything will be done at the speed set by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, to make sure that lessons are learned before we get into the next international competition?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As ever, we need both speed and thoroughness. The noble Baroness achieved both in her report and it is incumbent on everyone responding to it to do the same. I am pleased to say that the heads of FIFA and UEFA have reassured us that the incident in July should not have an impact on the outcome of any current bidding processes. As I said, the UK has a strong track record of staging international sporting events, and it is a record of which we are rightly proud.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, if that is the case, what reassurance can my noble friend give the House this afternoon that families who take their young children to what should be a joyful sporting event will be safe and will not be exposed to the same dangers as happened on that day?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes an important point. It was families with young children, or people who were there with friends or family with disabilities, who were targeted by some of the people trying to get into the stadium. The noble Baroness’s report looked into some of those instances and came forward with recommendations on how to ensure that minorities intent on doing harm do not mar such important days for others.

Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:31
Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the draft Order and Regulations laid before the House on 28 October and 1 November be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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Is the noble Lord objecting to agreeing them en bloc?

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister’s Motion to move these Motions en bloc has been objected to.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I exercised the right that all noble Lords have to object to Motions being taken en bloc, not because I object to these two particular Motions being taken en bloc but because I object to the fact that, when the Leader of the House made a business statement earlier today, no other Member of the House was able to ask questions or make any comments. Yet it was a very substantial statement, and some of us wanted to point out that we object to decisions about who should speak virtually and who should speak in the Chamber being taken by a party-political representative—the Leader of the House—rather than by the Speaker. I was not able to make that comment; others wanted to make similar comments. I would like the Deputy Speaker, and anyone else who can, to raise the matter with the Lord Speaker, and I will do so myself. Perhaps the Minister will too. The issue is why there was no opportunity to question the Leader of the House when she made that business statement.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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My Lords, I strongly agree with my noble friend. This is not directly the subject of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, and I do not expect a comprehensive and detailed reply. But I urge him to talk to his ministerial colleagues, particularly to the Leader of the House, and make the point that—as my noble friend has said—a substantial statement was made that nobody could have known about: there is nothing whatever on today’s House of Lords Order of Business to tell us that the Leader of the House would be making a substantial statement. The essence of a sensibly functioning Houses of Parliament is proceedings that are intelligible. How on earth can someone in the Gallery know what is going on when someone gets up from the Bench, and they have not got the faintest idea who she is—I mean no disrespect to the Leader of the House—and makes an important statement, and the House continues as if nothing has happened? That is an unacceptable state of affairs.

I have, over the years, made a very small advance in this respect, if I may bring it up: there never used to be an announcement of the results of a hereditary Peers by-election. After much consideration of this revolutionary proposal, eventually it went up on the monitor and it appeared on the Order Paper that such an announcement would be made. This is probably the easiest question in the Minister’s long experience on the Front Bench, but will he talk to the Leader, so that, perhaps through the usual channels, we can get some intelligibility introduced into these important matters? That is all I have to say.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their esteemed interest in the Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2021. I must have missed their references to this important statutory instrument during their speeches, but I entirely understand the point they are making and, of course, I will convey their views to my noble friend the Leader of the House.

Motion agreed.

Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (Amendment to Schedule 3) (England) Order 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:35
Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the draft Order and Regulations laid before the House on 28 October and 1 November be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Motion agreed.

Network and Information Systems (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:36
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 26 October be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Motion agreed.

Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 (Continuation) Order 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:36
Moved by
Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown
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That the draft Order laid before the House on 2 November be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Minister, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.

Coronavirus Act 2020 (Early Expiry) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:37
Moved by
Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 27 October be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 18th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Motion agreed.

Financial Services Act 2021 (Prudential Regulation of Credit Institutions and Investment Firms) (Consequential Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:38
Moved by
Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 28 October be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Minister, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Motion agreed.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:38
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the draft Order laid before the House on 8 November be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 21st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Motion agreed.

Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:40
Moved by
Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 28 October be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 November.

Relevant document: 18th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

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, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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At end insert, “but that this House regrets that the draft Regulations fail to include a requirement for all charging points to be fully interoperable”.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly to my amendment to the Motion. I apologise that it was not put down when the regulations were debated in Grand Committee, so I will be as brief as I can. First, I welcome these regulations. My view is that they do not go far enough, but they are a very good start.

The key in my amendment to the Motion is that there needs to be more said and done to promote interoperability. Paragraph 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum states:

“This instrument makes clear that a charge point should not introduce a new barrier to switching by being designed to lose its smart functionality when its owner changes supplier.”


That is very good, but it does not go far enough. In the debate in Grand Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Rosser made some excellent points about interoperability and the Minister gave some good answers, but my concern is that electric vehicle use will not take off until there is full interoperability of the system, which I shall come to, and full confidence among users that they will be able to use the electric power supply rather like people use petrol stations now—in other words, they can guarantee that when they go to a supply, they will be able to connect up and get some power.

I have a very small, but I think critical, example of my little village in Cornwall where the parish council has put in two charging points in the car park. This is very important when the nearest petrol station is about 15 miles away. A friend who has an electric car tried to use them but they have been out of order all summer, when everybody goes there. He wrote to the supplier to say that its machines did not work, and the answer was that there was a technical fault. He then discovered from the car park owner—the parish council—that the reason they did not work was that the supplier had not paid the parish council the very small amount of money that it was due to allow the charging points to be placed there. This could be all over the country.

It is a minor detail, but we need to have some comprehensive regulations which cover charging at home, and what is in these excellent regulations, rapid charging, minimum waiting times, sockets on lampposts, facilities for long and short journeys, from wherever you pick them up. The most important thing of all is that one plug and one socket fits all, not like mobile phones at the moment. Will the Minister be able to give some idea about when there will be a comprehensive plan to make electric power for vehicles fully interoperable and fully comprehensive? I am sure she will agree that when that happens it will all take off. I look forward to her comments.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My noble friend will be aware that there are very few charging points across the north of England. There is also still a catastrophic power outage in parts of the north-east of England. Will she reassure the House this afternoon that there are absolutely no plans in the foreseeable future that any public service vehicles, such as buses, ambulances or fire engines, will switch to electric engines any time soon in the north-east of England?

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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I add to the excellent comments already made that there is an overriding concern among EV owners about whether you are safely going to get to the end of your long journey. You have none of those concerns if you are in a petrol or diesel car; you know that you will be able to refill your car. If you are in an EV, not only do you have the uncertainty as to whether the charge point will fit or will work, you also have to stand out in the rain in the corner of a motorway services feeling insecure.

15:45
Until the Government take the leadership that we need on this issue, we will not solve these problems. The legislation before us today is fine as far as it goes, but it is about squeezing a little bit more out of the grid, which is already overstretched. We need greater leadership from the Government.
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords—My Lords, I agree with previous speakers. I took a short journey last week in my electric car to a hotel where there were six charging points. Three of them were for Tesla only—that is not me—and of the other three, one was occupied, one did not work and the other I could not make work. I will not detain your Lordships’ too long by saying that I nearly had a heart attack trying to get home worrying what was going to happen.

I should also add that in a new multi-storey car park in Botley, west Oxford, where I live, there are 14 charging points. Every single one is out of order—every single one. The building is operated by Savills, but I have had no response from it other than saying that it does not have a legal obligation to turn on these points. Not only that, but if you were able to make them work, you would have to be a member of a particular company that supplies the electricity and would need to have working wi-fi. This will not do. We do not want competition—we want uniformity and contactless payment.

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

We had a discussion on interoperability when we debated these regulations last Tuesday in Grand Committee. There were questions asked; the Government were asked to say in their response whether the wording in the Explanatory Memorandum—to which my noble friend Lord Berkeley has referred—in paragraph 7.6 constitutes in reality a requirement for all charging points to be interoperable. I expressed the personal view that it did not, but I asked for clarification on that point.

Later in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government say that they have

“chosen not to mandate device-level requirements”

relating to demand-side response interoperability

“at this time … because the smart charging market remains nascent, and because delivering interoperability would require broader powers than those set out in”

the Automated and Electric Vehicle Act 2018. That comment was despite the fact that the Explanatory Memorandum states:

“The ability of consumers to freely switch energy supplier is a fundamental principle in the energy market”,


which makes it rather surprising that we seem to have this delay over interoperability.

The Government, in the Explanatory Memorandum, also went to say that they

“intend instead to consider how best to deliver interoperability as part of a second phase of legislation, by looking at placing wider requirements on the entities … which could deliver DSR through charge points. Government aims to consult on this second phase of policy measures in 2022.”

I suggested that that was a somewhat vague timescale that contained no target date for actually legislating. I asked the Government whether they could be more specific in their response. The noble Baroness the Minister was good enough to say—which I appreciated—that she could not give specific answers to these questions when we were debating this last Tuesday and that she would write to answer all questions that had been asked. Irrespective of what the Minister intends to say in response now, I hope that we shall still be getting that written reply to questions that were not responded to last Tuesday.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for the opportunity to outline the Government’s position on interoperability. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that the letter is coming his way; it will pick up all the points raised in in that debate and any raised from today’s debate—of course, today, I am focusing on interoperability, but I note comments made by other noble Lords on wider EV infrastructure. They will be aware that the EV infrastructure strategy will be published soon, which will set out the vision and action plan for charging infrastructure rollout, but I am aware that some more specific comments have been made.

There are many different types and forms of EV charge point interoperability, relating to both public and private charge points. Some forms of interoperability are already delivered by the market. For example, most private charge points sold in Great Britain are compatible with all EVs. Work is also under way within government to consider whether further action on interoperability is needed to deliver the best outcomes for consumers.

I turn first to private charge points. These regulations will embed further interoperability by mandating electricity supplier interoperability in law for the first time. This new requirement will ensure that consumers will retain the smart functionality of their charge point. The Government also considered including requirements for charge point operator interoperability in the regulations. This would have required all charge points to be compatible with any operator, but the Government’s view is that this type of interoperability would not be appropriate for such a nascent market. It would not materially affect the consumer experience and would be an unnecessary burden on the industry. Therefore, we are not bringing forward such requirements.

Further work is under way to consider other types of interoperability in the smart energy system, including for private EV charge points. This could include requirements to allow consumers to switch the provider of specific smart charging services. That is another type of interoperability, very similar to that enjoyed, for example, by smartphone users, who can change their mobile network provider without needing to purchase a new device. Crucially, consumers would be able to seek out new deals or better services, but that would not detriment the industry’s ability to innovate and develop new products and services. These are the sorts of things that the Secretary of State for Business aims to consult on in 2022. I have no more specific date today, but, as I said, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser.

Turning to public charge points, in 2017 we mandated that rapid charge points must have CCS connectors to ensure interoperable charging. There are now only two EV models available to buy in the UK with CHAdeMO sockets, and one of those providers has indicated that future models will provide CCS—96% of rapid chargers come with both connectors.

In addition, in February 2021 we consulted on proposals to ensure that UK charging networks offer seamless consumer experience, and considered a range of different types of interoperability. This includes proposals on payment interoperability, which would mandate a minimum payment method, such as contactless, and explores whether we should intervene to ensure interoperable payment apps. The government response to that consultation on public charge points will be published shortly, with regulations being laid next year.

EV charge point interoperability is a critical policy area for this Government. As I hope to have portrayed today, there is not just one type of interoperability; there are several, some of which the Government are very willing to get involved in; others we will leave to the market. We are committed in our smart charging government response to explore those forms of interoperability, and then we will lay regulations.

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

I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer and for the comments of other noble Lords: the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Rosser. Of course, I am aware that there are many different types of interoperability, but I recall, about 20 years ago, when I—probably like other noble Lords—was travelling around Europe on business, you had to have a bag of about 20 different plugs to plug in your phone, charge it and make the phone work. This will not work unless there is some reaction and force from consumers to have something that is simple and easy-to-use. I wish it well, and I look forward to what the Minister will send to us in the next few months but, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.
Motion agreed.

Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill [HL]

Third Reading
15:55
Moved by
Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a third time.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, before we progress with Third Reading of this Bill, I will make a short statement about our engagement with the devolved Administrations. Officials have worked closely and collaboratively with the devolved Administrations throughout the passage of this Bill. The Northern Ireland Executive have passed a legislative consent Motion on this Bill. The Welsh Senedd is in the process of considering a Motion, and the Scottish Government are considering bringing a Motion forward. I am grateful for their continued engagement on this issue.

Motion agreed.

15:56
Motion
Moved by
Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill do now pass.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to lead the Bill through this House. Before the Bill moves for consideration in the other place, I want to take a brief moment to reflect on the Bill and its passage through this House.

This is important legislation that consolidates and strengthens the legal framework for pensions across all the main public services: that is, the NHS, the judiciary, the police, firefighters, the Armed Forces, teachers, local government and the Civil Service. This Bill ensures that those who deliver our valued public services continue to receive guaranteed benefits in retirement that are among the best available on a fair and equal basis. It is also vital in addressing the resourcing challenges facing the judiciary, recognising the unique constitutional role of judges.

It has been clear from the informed and considered contributions made throughout the Bill’s passage that we are agreed on the principles of fairness and equal treatment for public servants. I convey my gratitude to all noble Lords for their contributions to our well-informed debates, which have helped to ensure that we achieve this aim. The Government listened carefully to your Lordships’ arguments and concerns as the Bill progressed and made a significant number of technical amendments on Report—123 in total—which I think noble Lords will agree have strengthened the Bill.

In particular, we listened to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Brixton, during Grand Committee, regarding the importance of ensuring pension scheme members were provided with remedial voluntary contribution arrangements. I thank the noble Lord in supporting the Government to identify and address this important issue.

I would like to extend my thanks to all those who have engaged on the Floor of the House and in the meetings that we have had outside. In particular, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and Lord Davies of Brixton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, for their close engagement on the complex area that is public service pensions. I hope that the note sent to the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, earlier today provides some reassurance on her important points raised on Report regarding eligibility criteria for voluntary contributions.

In addition, I thank a number of your Lordships who made impassioned contributions to our consideration of the judicial mandatory retirement age, including the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Etherton, Lord Woolf, Lord Thomas, Lord Hope and Lord Brown, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay.

I also thank the Bill team, ably lead by Fraser Johnston, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, officials across Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, all government departments with responsibilities for public service pension schemes, and the devolved Administrations for their extensive support throughout passage of the Bill.

Finally, I thank my noble friend Lady Scott for her help as the Bill went through the House. There is a lot of technical detail in the Bill, with complex legal consequences, and the team’s guidance and expertise has been exemplary. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in expressing thanks for the support that the whole team has provided, including the updates, letters and briefings that noble Lords have received. On that note, I beg to move.

16:00
Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his courtesy and helpfulness during the passage of the Bill. It was very much a learning process for me as the first Bill to which I had given such a close and involved consideration. I learned lessons, one of which is to check which group a particular amendment is in and get it right. I thank the Minister, as well as the officials. We seem to be saying farewell, but I suspect that it is au revoir and that, in one way or another, we will be returning to these issues.

Baroness Janke Portrait Baroness Janke (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister; I thank him for the letter I received today, which answered the question that he referred to, as well as for his leadership and his open and engaging approach. He has ensured that we have had opportunities to be fully briefed on the Bill. As others have said, it is a very complex Bill, wide-ranging in scope, and has implications for millions of citizens, particularly public sector workers.

I also thank all noble Lords for their contributions. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, I am sure that we have all learned a great deal from the Bill. I certainly know a lot more about public sector pensions than I did when we started out. I express my appreciation to the Bill team, for its expert help and support and, not least, its patience in explaining some of these complexities.

Noble Lords across the House have made valuable contributions; certainly, the judicial offices part of the Bill saw a very high-quality debate, with issues arising that apply not just to judicial offices but across the board, to public services and the holding of high office. Again, I thank colleagues for their co-operation. I believe that we have worked hard and well on this Bill.

Lastly, I put on record my thanks to Sarah Pughe in the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office, for her work on the Bill, and for the professional support that she has given me throughout its passage.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, has said. I thank the Minister and his team for their comprehensive support to my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton and myself. It was a very complicated Bill and I know that, like the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, I needed some guidance through it. This is important legislation for public service pensions. It will guarantee pensions for public servants—something which, of course, we all agree with. We are aware that there may well be further amendments in the other place as well as further legislation given that there are ongoing cases currently in court. My noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton is relatively new to the House and, I have to say, he has started extremely well. It is not often, when taking part in your first Bill, that you manage to influence government policy in the way that he has; my noble friend deserves congratulations.

I was present throughout all the debates and, when we debated the mandatory retirement age, I felt there was a sense of relief because it was an easily understood issue. Many noble and noble and learned Lords took part in that debate with a level of passion not forthcoming in the other more technical parts of the debate. Nevertheless, I thank the Minister for his support as the Bill transitioned through the House.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have just spoken for their kind remarks; I am pleased that we have got to this stage.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Report
16:05
Clause 1: Animal Sentience Committee
Amendment 1
Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—
“(1A) The function of the Committee is to determine whether, in relation to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy subsequent to the Committee’s establishment, it is satisfied the Government is having all due regard to the ways in which the policy might have an adverse effect on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.”Member’s explanatory statement
This makes clear that the Committee’s remit relates to the process of the formulation and implementation of policy but only that which has been formulated and implemented after the Committee's formation.
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare and a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, so it will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I broadly support the Bill. Moreover, in 2018 I tabled an amendment to the withdrawal Bill to bring Article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK statute. That was rejected by the Government at the time, but I suspect that if Her Majesty’s Government look in the mirror of history, they may feel that they should have accepted that amendment then; it would have addressed the issue of sentience at that time and given us a foundation to build on and make changes if so wished.

Article 13 had considerable scope for unintended consequences, and this Bill, which is Article 13 with bells on, has considerably more—hence the number of amendments, particularly from the Government Benches. The Bill goes considerably further than Article 13: for example, it sets up an animal sentience committee; it covers all government policy; it has no exceptions for cultural, historical or religious practices; it includes certain invertebrates; and it specifically allows for the retrospective consideration of government policy formulation. The considerable widening of the scope of Article 13, yet at the same time the lack of detail in many places, has led to the large number of amendments that we see today.

Amendment 1 in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to whom I am grateful for their support, makes two key points. Clause 1(1) of the Bill establishes an animal sentience committee. Our amendment seeks to define, at the start of the Bill, two key aspects of that committee’s remit. The first aspect, which seeks to make explicit what I understand is Her Majesty’s Government’s intention, would introduce the word “process” with regard to the committee’s function in scrutinising the formulation and implementation of policy. It would make it very clear that the ASC did not have a function with regard to commenting on policy per se but, rather, on the degree to which the Government had taken animal welfare into account in developing that policy.

I suggest that that is a critical aspect of the Bill. For example, one of the briefings that we received says that the Bill entrusts responsibility to the animal sentience committee for considering the impact of its policies on animals as sentient beings. But it does not; it requires the ASC to consider whether the Government have considered the impact on animal welfare of the policies that they are developing. I submit that this is not mere semantics but a substantive difference, which introducing the word “process” in respect of the function of the committee makes clear. I note that other recent amendments—for example, Amendment 2 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Marland, and Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, have also included the word “process” with regard to the function of the committee and its scrutiny of the formulation and implementation of policy.

The other key point in Amendment 1, which is a feature of other amendments in this group—I think that is largely why it has been put there—is to exclude retrospective examination of policy formulation and implementation. It is exceptional that any legislation allows retrospective evaluation of actions, and I find it difficult to understand the justification of that. The ASC will exist alongside the current Animal Welfare Committee, which is advisory, and, if some historic legislation appears no longer fit for purpose or inadequate in any way, the AWC is perfectly placed to point this out and to make suggestions for either new legislation or the revision of existing legislation. That is totally within its remit. However, I would be interested to hear from the Minister of the justification for these retrospective powers, which—to judge from the number of amendments on this issue—a number of noble Lords find problematic. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 12, 14 and 16 in this group are in my name. However, I will first support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which seems to be both sensible and necessary to be made to the Bill if we are to have a committee in this form at all. I also support the amendments in this group in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising.

I have one query about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which I will come to in relation to my Amendment 16. The first two, Amendments 12 and 14, underline the requirement in those amendments for the committee to deal with only future policy and when it is being formulated. Surely the value of this committee if it is to have any real effect is to perform a role not already covered by other committees, to draw attention to failures of consideration if it finds them when policy is being formulated or has just been formulated and before implementation, so that the defects can if necessary and possible be remedied before the policy is enacted.

In the Bill at present there is no limit as to how far back the committee can go. The draft terms of reference, which the Minister kindly sent us, express a hope—no more—that it will concentrate on more recent policies, but there is nothing to stop the committee going back as far as it chooses. Ministers come and go—so do civil servants. An examination of whether a past Secretary of State gave all due regard to the effect of a policy on animal welfare, possibly long enacted, will be difficult if not impossible in many cases. The additional cost of this committee, according to the terms of reference, is to be no more than half a million pounds from Defra’s budget. However, there is no calculation of how much time will be needed to be spent by other departments trying to answer the inevitable investigation into how decisions were made. It must take time from the work of those departments in each case, and of course be at public expense too. This committee surely cannot be intended to be a quasi post-legislative scrutiny committee, yet the Bill is without any limit as to its remit.

My Amendment 16 removes implementation from the committee’s remit. After Committee I looked forward to seeing the draft terms of reference because, as it stands, the purpose, remit, scope and any limits on the powers of the committee are not clear in the Bill. I hoped they would be remedied, at the very least, in guidance. Sadly, they are not. Instead, in a number of respects, the Bill and the terms of the reference are in direct conflict.

16:15
Amendment 16 removes policy that has been implemented from the committee’s remit. In this, it differs from the way in which Amendment 1 from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, is drafted. In giving all due regard to the ways in which a policy might adversely affect animal welfare, a Minister will have to balance those considerations against the effect of the policy on many other considerations. These may be transport needs, housing needs or public health needs, perhaps. In other words, is the rail link necessary despite the bats that are on the route?
Those other considerations cannot sensibly be part of this committee’s remit. It would be unlikely to have the material unless it is to rerun the Minister’s policy-making role in all its aspects, and it would almost inevitably lack the expertise to do so. The terms of reference support my view that implementation should not concern this committee, unlike Clause 2(1). The terms of reference say that the committee is not expected to consider individual operational decisions nor to consider matters of fiscal policy. Individual operational decisions are then defined as decisions for which no bespoke ministerial direction is sought or required. For example, a policy that sets up a licensing scheme would constitute policy which the committee could consider, but the granting of an individual licence under the scheme and the effects of doing so would not fall within that remit.
In Clause 2(2), the question that the committee has to answer in its report speaks of having regard to the ways in which the policy
“might have an adverse effect”
on animal welfare—not, I note, “has had” an adverse effect. Policy which has been put into effect—in other words, implemented—needs to be outside the remit. As it stands, there is confusion both within Clause 2 and between the Bill and the terms of reference.
I am sorry to say it, but the Bill is a dog’s breakfast and that has not been improved by these terms of reference. I am sorry that the Opposition, on whose Benches I sit, have not seen fit to raise the objections to what are, one would have thought, fundamental defects in legislation. If the Bill is not clarified and amended to indicate its limits and its purpose, then a great deal of public money and public time is going to be wasted on it. I still marvel at how a Government who were elected in part on a promise to reduce bureaucracy, especially that emanating from Europe, have taken the wholly uncontroversial issue of animal sentience, which no one would have argued with, and are trying to turn it into a textbook bureaucratic nightmare.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, in Committee a lot of us argued very strongly for several amendments, and one of course was to strengthen the terms of reference and ensure that the committee was free and independent from government interference. I was very happy to spend today arguing over various amendments and we have here a whole hotchpotch of them, some of which are fine. However, we also have a naked attempt to filibuster and scupper the Bill by the right wing of the Tory party. I say: “Shame on you”. This Bill is far from perfect, but it is better than it was. Noble Lords must know that the public care very much about this issue and want to see something on the books.

It was also, of course, a manifesto commitment by the Government. I should have thought that noble Lords opposite would have supported it and been loyal Conservative Party members. I shall not speak again in this debate, because I think that it is a complete waste of my time. I shall simply vote against all the spoiling amendments that noble Lords opposite have put forward.

Viscount Ridley Portrait Viscount Ridley (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness and see her so loyally supporting my Government—and in the Lobbies as well, no doubt.

I shall add a point to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and, in reference to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, emphasise the question of the terms of reference and what they do to complicate the work of the committee. By the way, the chairman of this committee is supposed to spend 20 days a year on this, yet he has to look at all past policies, all future policies and all present policies in all aspects of government. That will be quite hard work for him.

The terms of reference note that the committee may seek outside input, including from “stakeholders amongst others”. If the committee is looking at process—a point that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, made—rather than policy, why consult stakeholders? Similarly, the terms of reference suggest that the committee

“may wish to prioritise policies … which are more significant in terms of Parliamentary, Departmental, Stakeholder or public interest”.

Is this about ensuring that all due regard is had to animal welfare in the process of reaching policy decisions or about the issues and decisions themselves? Will the committee focus on animal welfare issues that are of high profile as a result of campaigning by interest groups, which does not seem to have been the original intention?

The terms of reference refer to it being

“beneficial for UK Government Departments to seek advice from the Committee to assist them in understanding the effects of particular policies on the welfare of animals”.

It seems from wording like this that the committee will look not simply at process but at the policy itself that is under consideration. I hope that my noble friend will address this point, as it seems to be an issue of mission creep that we need to understand.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I have two amendments in this group but, before I turn to them, I congratulate my noble friend on his announcement last week with regard to soil. It was a significant step forward by Her Majesty’s Government, and one that is wholly welcomed by those concerned about our farming in this country and our ability to grow crops. I thank my noble friend very much for what he did last week and for his letter on it.

I turn to the Bill in front of us, to which I have tabled two amendments. Amendment 15 basically copies that of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, who has just spoken, but it also has a second part to it, which is trying to be helpful to my noble friend to get him out of this particular problem. The problem is the retrospective nature of the legislation. In the terms of reference and accompanying letter, we are told that Defra expects the committee to produce between six and eight reports a year. I asked what the likely policy issues of Defra were that the committee would look at—to which the answer inevitably came back that it was up to the committee and not to Defra. However, I cannot believe that the committee will be kept busy looking at future policy of Defra; it is supposed to look across government, but the rest of the departments have to take absolutely no notice of the committee, because the Government merely “hope” that the rest of departments will pay attention to the committee. That is a positive step.

My Amendment 18 would allow the Bill to go through as it is worded but with the condition that, if there is going to be a retrospective report on policy that has already been implemented, the committee merely needs the written consent of the Secretary of State. That, surely, is a sensible way forward. It encourages the committee to look forward and not back and stops it from going on wild fishing trips into past, established policy to try to meet its target of six to eight reports a year. So the amendment is formulated in the hope that it will allow my noble friend to make a tweak to the Bill that will achieve the same result but with a little bit more sense to it.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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My Lords, following Committee, in which I took part, this Bill has not really changed at all. As one who cares deeply about animal welfare and cruelty to animals, I would like to make a general comment before I turn to the specific amendments. The Secretary of State said recently, at a meeting that I attended, that he did not want to create a “hostage to fortune” in the future, but that is exactly what this Bill does. It is enabling legislation with no real detail; it has got such broad scope that it allows almost any interpretation. Frankly, it is the most terrible piece of legislation. It is a shocking piece of legislation and the Government should be embarrassed by it. I say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that this is yet another very un-Conservative measure for the right wing of the Conservative party, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, pointed out. It will be passed with the cheers of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. As taxes get raised to their highest for 70 years, do Ministers think people will continue to vote for a party that is not recognisably Conservative, or will voters desert us as they did indeed in Chesham?

Turning to the group of amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Trees, made an extremely good speech, pointing out so many things, and I cannot better it. But I will turn to other amendments later. I say to the Minister—and we have known each for some time and are friends, I hope—that this is a terrible piece of legislation and he needs to go back to the Ministry and tell them that.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I echo my noble friend Lord Robathan’s remarks. I think this a perfectly terrible Bill, and I would like to speak to Amendment 1. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, made the point that this Bill was Article 13 of the EU with bells on. He knows a lot more about this sort of legislation than I do. I hope that the Minister, when he comes to speak to this amendment, will explain why this Bill has to have bells on. Why could it not be just Article 13 of the withdrawal agreement? Why did we have to add things on to it? Many of us are disturbed at the propensity of our government machine—Whitehall departments—to always add things on to Bills and make them even more elaborate than they were originally intended to be.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, also made the point that his amendment was about process. Process, as I see it, and certainly in the days when I was in government, was all to do with legislation. When a department produced legislation, if that legislation affected other departments, it was circulated through those departments for their comments on it before it was ever submitted to Parliament. I do not quite understand what this new committee is going to do in looking at legislation before it is actually submitted to Parliament, compared with what happened before. Presumably, if the question of animal welfare came up, it went to the Department of Agriculture and it went to the Animal Welfare Committee who looked at it and said whether it was within its remit and whether it approved of it. So what is this committee doing that the Animal Welfare Committee did not do before? Perhaps my noble friend could elucidate that when he comes to speak.

Generally, what we are doing is expanding the whole mass of quangos and we have to think about the Climate Change Committee. It always advertises itself as a committee that advises the Government but seems to have a complete mind of its own when it comes to climate change. It seems to be obsessed with CO2 emissions. It never seems to champion or recognise what has actually been done in this country to reduce CO2 emissions, and it does not seem to take any account of the collateral damage. I hope this committee is not going to be another one like that.

Baroness Fookes Portrait Baroness Fookes (Con)
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My Lords, I profoundly disagree with the two previous speakers, and I have no wish to be associated with the views that they expressed.

To look at one particular detail, my understanding of the committee is that it will produce reports which will then come to Parliament, where we can all see them. That publicity seems to me an excellent way of dealing with things. Of course, the committee would not be instigating legislation; it would be an advisory body. It will be up to the government departments concerned whether they choose to accept its advice, but at least we will know what this committee is thinking.

16:30
Lord Moylan Portrait Lord Moylan (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, although I do not entirely agree with her uncritical support of the Bill. I want particularly to support Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, to which I have lent my name, but also generally to support the other amendments in this group. The characteristic they have in common is that they deal with the retrospective powers of the committee—its powers to look back at existing policy and past practice—which clearly cause a degree of concern. My comments are intended to be largely helpful to the Government.

I have heard it said that the Government cannot support this amendment or the general thrust of these amendments because farming practice and husbandry practice go back decades—indeed, hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Therefore, they would say that it is impossible to look at the current situation or a change in the current situation without looking back at what it is changing or at the past. I would have a great deal of sympathy, as I think many people in the House would, with the Government if they advanced that argument. My suggestion, which I hope the Government will be able to take account of, is that an amendment could be crafted, perhaps by the Government, in response to this debate which ensured that the new animal sentience committee could look at existing and past policy only where the Government were coming forward with a specific proposal to change it—that unless there was a proposal to change it, the committee would not be able to look at current and existing policy.

I realise that is not quite the same as the amendment I have put my name to in support of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, but I do not think any of us here are trying to pin the Government down to a particular outcome—indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that she was generally supportive of this. We are coming together around a sort of principle, which is that the ability of this committee to roam into existing policy at will should be limited, and it should be limited in ways that keep it focused on the present and the future, rather than going into the past. If my noble friend could find a way of agreeing something along those lines, I think the force of many of the amendments in this group would fall away.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend. I thank my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb for boosting my right-wing credentials. I think one thing the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and I have in common is that we find ourselves a little out of kilter with our respective parties in relation to the Bill before us this evening.

I have amendments in the third group, so I would just like to put two general queries to my noble friend the Minister. I would hazard a guess that, had we had this Bill in front of us when we were both serving as shadow Ministers in the Defra team some years ago, we would have been minded not to accept what is in the Bill before us today.

I would like to associate myself with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, in moving his Amendment 1. I am proud to be an associate fellow of the British Veterinary Association, and I commend him for his work in flying the flag for vets—I think he is the sole flyer of that flag in this House. He adequately addressed not just the process but the retrospectivity aspect of this amendment. Could my noble friend the Minister give us a reassurance this evening that it is not intended that the work of the committee will have any retrospective effect—that is, going back over old laws in its work—should the Bill be carried in its present form?

I would also like to associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and ask for what particular reason—for some reason the manifesto did not reach me this time, possibly because we are not allowed to be candidates—

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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You have never read it anyway.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I did—my noble friend teases me, but I did. I did not always agree with every single item in every single manifesto, but my understanding was that we made a manifesto pledge to roll into national law what was effectively, as has been rehearsed here this evening, set out in Article 13 of the EU treaty—which I do not think I have read either. My understanding is that that was our commitment. So I would like my noble friend the Minister, in summing up this debate, to set out for what reason it was not acceptable simple to rehearse in UK law what we had already committed to in EU law,