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Grand Committee

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Wednesday 23 November 2022

Arrangement of Business

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
16:15
Baroness Bull Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Bull) (CB)
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My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.

Battery Strategy (Science and Technology Committee Report)

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Motion to Take Note
16:15
Moved by
Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the Science and Technology Committee Battery strategy goes flat: Net-zero target at risk (1st Report, Session 2021-22, HL Paper 53).

Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to open this important debate on the Science and Technology Committee’s report, entitled Battery Strategy Goes Flat. Before I do so, I thank all those who gave evidence to the committee: our committee staff; the committee clerk, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin; our analyst, Dr Amy Creese; Ellie Hassan, a POST fellow and the committee constant, without whom chaos would prevail; and Cerise Burnett-Stuart, the committee operations officer. I most sincerely thank them all.

My particular thanks go to our specialist adviser, Professor Clare Grey FRS—who has recently become Dame Clare Grey DBE FRS, and who I am pleased to say is listening to us—and Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson, professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge. Their advice, knowledge and expertise guided the committee. Last but not least, I thank all the committee members for their help and hard work; they were never controversial, and they never challenged me, at least.

I regret that, due to previous commitments, our current chair, my noble friend Lady Brown, is unable to take part today. I am grateful to the Minister for taking time to reply to the debate today; I have no doubt that he will do so in his much-appreciated customary manner of answering the questions raised by those speaking and not just sticking to the brief provided. I most sincerely thank all noble Lords, not just the members of the committee, for making time to take part in today’s debate.

The title of our report is Battery Strategy Goes Flat: Net-Zero Target at Risk, and it was published on 27 July 2021. At the time, it seemed a provocative title, but subsequent events and the recent news seem to have confirmed our scepticism. The report—which has four key chapters covering the applications of batteries and fuel cells, technological developments and, importantly, strategic issues facing the UK for decarbonising the transport system—makes several conclusions and suggests government action to make the UK a leader in batteries and fuel cells. The Government’s response, while not disagreeing with the conclusions or details in the report, was not convincing as a clear delivery plan. Most of the responses to our ask for government action used the phrase, “The Government are committed to”, but provided few details as to implementation. I hope that the Minister, in responding, can put that right today.

At the time of the report’s publication, the committee felt that the UK policy of battery manufacture was insufficient to meet the future needs of the automotive industry as it transits to the government policy of full electrification of cars and smaller commercial vehicles by 2030. The requirement of seven to eight gigafactories by 2030, as suggested by our witnesses, is not likely to be met; in turn, our net-zero commitments will not be met either. The committee felt that the pace and scale of the building of gigafactories in the UK will not meet the demands for batteries by the automotive industry, and the UK would risk losing much of its automotive industry to overseas. In our evidence sessions, many witnesses felt that the UK faced serious challenges from our competitors, and that we were behind them not only in the manufacture of batteries but in innovations, supply chains and skills.

I recognise that the UK now has a critical minerals strategy to fill the gap in supply chains—a positive step—but no clear implementation plan, without which the UK will again miss out to competition for securing much sought-after minerals.

We were astonished by the stark disconnect between the optimism of Ministers and officials and the evidence from our many witnesses that the UK will be unable to maintain its automotive industry. The two immediate deadlines, of 2027, when the rules of origin agreement will require batteries and 55% of components to be manufactured in the UK or the EU, and 2030, when production of all petrol and diesel cars and vans will cease, are unlikely to be met. Without scaling up the domestic manufacture of batteries and urgently focusing on improving the supply chain of materials, the UK will end up importing batteries and vehicles.

A recent report in the media summarised well the current state of battery manufacturing in the UK and the future of the automotive industry. Recent events have put an end to the UK’s ambition to be a global hub of the electrified automotive industry. BMW has announced the end of production of its electric Mini in Cowley, which it is moving to China. Johnson Matthey, a leader in the development of battery technology in Britain, has quit the sector, citing competition from China and South Korea as a reason. Arrival, once a promising enterprise for the manufacture of electric vans and buses in the UK, is rumoured to be moving to the USA.

When it comes to battery manufacture, Britishvolt, once highly trumpeted as the UK’s big gigafactory, is now reported to be in serious difficulty and is possibly facing insolvency. Another such enterprise at Coventry airport has hardly got off the ground. This leaves the UK with one gigafactory, so it seems we have lost out on the international race to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.

The UK still needs the capacity to supply its domestic market, so I ask the Minister: what plans do the Government have to attract investment in building gigafactories for the production of batteries in the UK? How many will there be, and what is the timescale for when such facilities will be up and running? Does he think the UK can still meet its commitment to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030?

Although we may have lost the race to be the global hub of lithium-ion batteries, the UK could be a leader in the development of the next generation of batteries, such as solid-state, lithium-sulphur and sodium-ion technologies. To exploit the competitive advantage that we currently hold, the Government need to show strong support for both research and manufacturing. As yet, there is no sign of the Government doing so. I ask the Minister: do the Government intend to provide a UK strategy for the manufacture of the next generation of electric batteries in the UK, and to increase support for the research and development of such technologies?

We need to grow our innovators, yet this is also threatened. For example, the Faraday Institution, which received flat funding until 2025, will not be able to recruit PhD students in 2023, as funding cannot be guaranteed beyond 2025. How are we to grow the next generation of innovators if we cannot recruit them because of lack of funding?

The Government can still meet their ambition to be a global hub of battery production by demonstrating a strong commitment to the research and manufacture of the next generation of batteries, and not risk losing our automotive industry.

I shall now move on. Our report also reported on the production of hydrogen. Soon after the publication of our report, which asked for a clear policy on hydrogen and fuel cells, the Government published their hydrogen strategy in August 2021. It stated the Government’s ambition to deliver blue hydrogen generation capacity of 5 gigawatts by 2030 and the first 1 gigawatt by 2024. More recently, the Government have increased this by committing to increase the capacity of hydrogen generation to 10 gigawatts by 2030. Will the Minister say how and where this is to be achieved, and in what timescale?

The UK’s current capacity for hydrogen production is way short of the Government’s ambition. None of the strategy refers to the development and production of fuel cells, a technology where UK excels, with several UK companies operating overseas but not in the UK.

There is a lack of clarity about the Government’s plans for the use of hydrogen for light and heavy goods vehicles, the development of infrastructure for the supply of hydrogen, and the use of hydrogen and fuel cells for domestic heating, and in the not too distant future there will be a need for a joined-up strategy on the use of hydrogen, ammonia and aviation fuels. When will the Government make these decisions and will there be a paper describing them?

The Government also need to address public concerns about the safety of batteries and hydrogen fuel cells and the regulatory changes needed to address this. What plans do the Government have to address these issues?

I have no doubt that other noble Lords will speak to many other issues that our report identified, including the need to expand vehicle charging points, address the skills gap and increase research funding for batteries and fuel cells.

If the Government are to deliver on their net-zero commitments, these issues need urgent attention. I will be surprised if someone does not ask about the implications of net-zero policies, given the current energy crisis and rising costs. The view of the committee was clear about the role that batteries and hydrogen fuel cells can play in delivering net-zero policies. The evidence presented to us was also clear that the Government need to do much more. All the evidence suggests that the Government have big ambitions and are doing something, but not enough. We need more action and commitment from government to give confidence to industry, investors and our research community. The Government’s ambition needs to be matched by their action. I beg to move.

16:27
Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and his committee on producing a powerful report, which I hope will send an electric shock through the Government and the industry about the need for urgency if we are to move in the direction that they wish and have a sustainable automotive industry in this country with the necessary battery production.

I want to focus on a precondition of that, which is that we have access to sufficient reserves and resources of minerals to produce the batteries if we have the capacity to do so. I draw attention to two documents which highlight this very powerfully. The first is The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, produced by the International Energy Authority about a year ago, which paints a fairly disturbing picture of potential shortages of these minerals. It states:

“EVs and battery storage have already displaced consumer electronics to become the largest consumer of lithium and are set to take over from stainless steel as the largest end user of nickel by 2040.”


It predicts that lithium demand will grow 40-fold by 2040, even in the IEA’s more moderate sustainable development scenario. That is followed by graphite, where demand will go up 25-fold, cobalt which will go up 21-fold, nickel which will go up 19-fold and rare earths which will go up sevenfold. In less than two years since January 2021, the price of lithium carbonate has risen more than 13-fold, so the shortage is already demonstrating itself.

The IEA states that the expected supply from existing mines and projects under construction is estimated to meet only half of projected world demand for lithium and cobalt by 2030, and its analysis suggests that on average it takes 16 years from the start of a mining project through to first production, so the scope for ramping up production is much less than one might hope—or so it would appear.

The other source I refer to is a report produced for the Finnish geology institute by Professor Michaux. Those of your Lordships who got up at 6.30 am on Friday to listen to his presentation—750 people did, I am told, although I was too late and had to see it on playback—would have been struck by the analysis that he has produced: to make one battery for each vehicle in the global transport fleet, once we transition to electric vehicles, will require 48% of total global nickel reserves and 44% of total global lithium reserves. He concludes, to cut a long story short, that the whole EV battery solution may need to be rethought and a new solution developed that is not so mineral-intensive.

I hope that he is too pessimistic; I am an optimist where resources are concerned. I recall that famous wager between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich, in the wake of the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb, in which he forecast that there would be shortages of everything. Julian Simon took him on and said, “Choose a portfolio of minerals or other resources and a period of your own choosing, and I bet you that the price will come down and not go up”. Ehrlich chose five minerals and a period of 10 years. Ten years later, the average of those prices had fallen: three had fallen in absolute terms and all had fallen in real terms.

So the market is quite good at responding to shortages and can develop things, but doing so will be a huge problem if the world is going to move as fast as it is planning—and hoping—to move in the development of electric vehicles in particular and other uses of batteries that are associated with the move to net zero by 2050. I hope that the committee’s recommendations will be followed with greater urgency than the Government and industry seem to have shown so far. I hope too that we will pay attention to the need to develop the sources of minerals and raw materials that will be necessary to make it a reality.

16:32
Viscount Hanworth Portrait Viscount Hanworth (Lab)
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In one sense, there is very little that needs to be said about the conclusions of the report of the Science and Technology Committee regarding the future of the industries in the UK that are pursuing the technologies of batteries and fuel cells. The report declares in its title that the strategy to support these industries has gone flat. The effort to support the emerging technologies has barely got off the ground, and the forewarning contained in the report has since been realised.

During the writing of the report, it was learned that Johnson Matthey has abandoned its project to supply materials to the emerging UK industry aimed at providing the lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of UK manufactured vehicles. The firm was well established by middle of the 19th century as a dealer in bullion and rare metals. More recently, it has wished to be in the forefront as a provider of the special metals, including lithium, nickel and cobalt, that are essential to the industry. The chief executive of Johnson Matthey stated that the decision to exit the battery materials business was due to

“insufficient returns, increased commoditisation of battery materials”

and

“the need for very high capital investments to remain competitive.”

In fact, the company was short of the funds that needed to be invested in what is liable to become a highly profitable enterprise.

The sale of the assets of Johnson Matthey was mainly to EVM, which is a large European consortium. The sale included the battery technology centre in Oxford and the battery technology centre and pilot plant in Billingham. The assets relinquished also included a research centre in Moosburg, Germany, and a partly constructed site in Konin, Poland. The company’s lithium-ion phosphate battery facility in Canada was acquired by Nano One, which is a large North American consortium and technology innovator in battery materials.

Recently, we have learned that BMW, which owns the production facilities of the UK Mini, has decided to relocate the production of the electric Mini to China. We have also heard that one of the much-vaunted UK gigafactories intended to produce the car batteries—Britishvolt—has gone into receivership. The combination of these announcements is devastating. As regards the decision of BMW to relocate to China, we can assume that the firm has made its decision in view of a clear-sighted negative appraisal of the prospect of there being an adequate supply of automotive lithium-ion batteries sufficiently close at hand to justify its continued presence in the UK as a manufacturer of electric vehicles.

It has become evident that car manufacturers require their supply chain for batteries to be close at hand. One obvious reason for this is the cost of moving such heavy items from a remote manufacturer to the assembly lines of the cars. A more cogent reason is the likelihood that a heightened demand for batteries in future will be met with a dearth of supply. In such circumstances, a car manufacturer needs to be in a position to pre-empt the necessary supply. To do so, it must be located close to the source.

What would have convinced the departing car manufacturer that it should remain in the UK? Surely it is none other than confidence that support for the developing manufacturing infrastructure will be forth- coming from the Government. This is where the attitude of the UK Government has been most discouraging. The Conservative Government are wedded to the idea that free enterprise flourishes best when there is minimal intervention from the Government. Under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the Government divested the state of its nationalised industries. These had been a legacy of the Second World War and the immediate post-war years, when the Labour Government had begun to take control of the commanding heights of the economy.

An assurance that private industry could be relied on to invest sufficiently in the basic infrastructure of the economy seems to have been provided by the experience of the privatisation of the electricity supply industry. Cheap combined-cycle gas turbine plants, powered by plentiful North Sea gas, began rapidly to replace the ageing coal-fired power stations of the erstwhile nationalised industry. The illusion was created that it is sufficient for the Government to undertake to supplement marginally the capital funds that private industry can raise from the financial markets. This is how the Government have proposed to support the building of factories to manufacture automotive batteries.

The support that the Government have offered Britishvolt is paltry. In January, they pledged a mere £100 million in support as a means of attracting investors. This is a small sum in comparison with the £1.7 billion that is reported to have been raised from private investors. The future of the enterprise was thrown into doubt over fears that it could run out of money, when the Government rejected a request for £30 million in advance funding. The matter is still unresolved, and the episode will serve as a future deterrent to investors in projects that require the support of the Government.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy continues to say that the Government are

“determined to ensure the UK remains one of the best locations in the world for automotive manufacturing as we transition to electric vehicles, while ensuring taxpayer money is used responsibly and provides best-value”.

This kind of boosterism is seen to be pure fantasy when one looks at the commitments of other countries to the future of battery technology. China has 20 battery gigafactories that are either operating or under construction, which have been sponsored by the state. Britain currently has only one sizeable factory that manufactures automotive batteries, which is a plant in Sunderland that is tied to the Nissan car factory. Nissan had planned to leave the UK in consequence of Brexit but, presumably, the tie to its battery producer was too strong to allow this to happen. Pathologies such as those affecting the automotive industry are pervading the British economy, and the fault lies largely with the incumbent Government.

Modern battery technology is closely allied to fuel cell technology. Fuel cells are proposed as a means of propulsion for the freight vehicles that are to replace the large diesel-powered juggernauts that pound our roads. They are also proposed for powering trains and ships. Fuel cells have received even less support from the Government than batteries.

Fuel cells are powered by hydrogen fuel, which is created, nowadays, mainly via the steam reformation of methane. This is an energy-intensive process that releases carbon dioxide. It needs to be replaced by a process of high-temperature electrolysis that splits the hydrogen molecules from the oxygen atoms with which they are combined in water.

The appropriate means of supplying the electricity and the heat for the process of high-temperature electrolysis is a small nuclear plant, dedicated to the task. However, Britain’s project to build small modular reactors, which has been undertaken by Rolls-Royce, has been subject to endless hesitation and delay as a consequence of the failure of the Government to provide adequate funding for the period of development, and the project remains in peril.

Our economic prospects are already dire, at least for the short and the medium term. Unless we can effect an industrial recovery, which would need to be sponsored by the Government, our long-term prospect is of an impoverished country that will be largely dependent on imported foreign technology. The majority of our capital assets, whether industrial or otherwise, will have fallen into the hands of foreign owners, through a process mediated by the financial sector, which will be the only remaining profitable enterprise.

16:41
Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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My Lords, I start by commending the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for his skill in chairing the committee that put together this report. I am proud to say that I am a member of that committee. I also congratulate him on the way in which he introduced the debate, which leaves me with very little to say except that I agree with the remarks that he has already made.

It is a shame that it has taken over a year since the report was published for it to come before your Lordships’ House for debate. Batteries powered by zero-emission energy sources are on the front line of our battle against climate catastrophe, and this report concludes that the Government need to do much more to secure Britain’s place in the forefront of the battery revolution.

The bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, hybrids by 2035 and heavy goods vehicles by 2040 were welcome announcements, given that emissions from the transport sector make up about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and had shown themselves to be resistant to efforts to bring them down. However, ambition without action is pure hubris and doomed to failure. The committee’s conclusion that it could not identify a government plan for the rapid action needed to achieve the Government’s stated aims has not been disproven with the passage of time.

Since the report was published, there has been a revolution in the car industry. Changes have been hastened by the unpredictable events of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing chaos in the production and cost of fuel. The sales of new EVs in the UK have increased enormously. In the half-year to June 2022, pure-battery electric vehicles enjoyed the biggest growth in any fuel type, with 56% more registrations—and that was in the context of an overall market that shrank by nearly 12%. Furthermore, despite the worldwide semi- conductor shortage and Covid lockdowns in China, global sales of EVs rose 61% in quarter 2 of this year.

Our car manufacturers are first class, but the sharp increase in sales of EVs is steeper than predicted. Can they meet the numerous challenges? For example, we will need a secure supply of critical resource materials— the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, spoke at length about those—chief among them lithium and cobalt. So the Government’s publication, finally, of the 2022 critical minerals strategy is welcome. Some might say it is too little, too late, but it is here now. However, it lacks any statement of where we might find some resilience in the supply of these critical minerals. These supply chains are always risky and fragile and are currently disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, Brexit, Covid-19, and other conflicts in producer regions. So the Government miss a trick when they fail, yet again, to address demand reduction to increase resilience.

According to research by Greener UK—and I thank it for its briefing—reducing demand for electricity in our homes by heat pumps, and on our roads by improving public transport infrastructure, are two examples that could halve the UK’s total future use of critical resources by 2030, compared with the current trajectory. This is a no-brainer, so why are the Government still resistant to action on reducing demand for electricity?

Secondly, I urge the Government, through the Minister, to address recommendation 30 in the report that the Government should set out clear plans for developing industrial-scale recycling of batteries in the UK, including ecodesign rules to make them easier to disassemble. It is another oversight of the critical materials strategy in that it fails to expedite a circular economy and create a market for safer, cheaper and more secure supply chains of recycled materials for battery manufacture. The EU has already introduced rules, and it is time that we tried at least to match them.

We have an excellent car manufacturing industry, but the report concludes that we risk losing it to our European competitors if we cannot meet the deadline of 2027, by when the rules of origin conditions for sale of vehicles to the EU will kick in. This will require the battery in EVs to be wholly made in the UK or EU, and 55% of the rest of the car to be made in the UK or EU, for tariff-free access to the EU. At our current trajectory of battery manufacturing capacity, we will lose production to the EU or other competitors abroad. In October, BMW announced that its hatchback and small SUV electric Minis will start being built in China. Its electric Countryman model will be built in Leipzig, Germany. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, has cited several other examples. This, I fear, is a sign of things to come.

Can the Minister say what urgent steps the Government are taking to meet the 2027 deadline agreed in the TCA? It might be too late for some of our car manufacturers, but it might protect others. In his response, can he reference the situation at Britishvolt and bring us up to date with the Government’s views on its future viability?

In 2017, the then Business Secretary, Greg Clark, announced the launch of the £246 million Faraday Challenge to establish the UK as world leader in battery technology. It was a start, but since then there has been little follow-through. Investor and industry confidence has been further damaged by the abolition of the Industrial Strategy Council.

In conclusion, I refer to recommendation 31 of the report, that the

“Government should explain to industry what will replace the industrial strategy”—

something that is sorely needed if we are to stay at the forefront of next-generation batteries and realise a successful future for our fuel cell manufacturers.

16:48
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I wholeheartedly welcome this report from the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and his committee. It is absolutely timely. While it focuses primarily on vehicles, I would like to look at the broader scene a little bit. However, before doing so, I declare an interest in that I have a modest equity holding in a couple of stocks that are quoted on the London Stock Exchange. They are hydrogen companies.

I start with the report from Goldman Sachs, which appeared in the Financial Times either last Saturday or the one before, in which it highlighted the fact that the US and Europe can cut their dependence on China for electric vehicle batteries through more than $160 billion in new capital expenditure by 2030. It pointed out that China today produces three-quarters of the world’s batteries and dominates production of their materials and components, citing the fact that in the USA

“South Korean conglomerates LG and SK, who have been attracted by massive subsidies from US taxpayers”,

are forecast to achieve from 11% to 55% of that market in a three-year period. The question arises, if the US can do it, why on earth are we not parallel with the US? Clearly, we are not—we are clearly behind the curve.

Rather than repeating what the committee has said, I thought that it would be more helpful to look at a case history with which I was involved, to some degree, when I was on the Select Committee on energy in the other place: the change from coal gas to North Sea gas. That was a massive change, with 40 million households converting to North Sea gas, involving at least 30,000 men and women to do all the work over a period of time. That was a huge achievement, and it was done well—partially because there was a workforce there to do it. It seems that one of the key elements that is not quoted in this report is the involvement of our unions today. Two unions stood out at that time: the GMB and UNISON. If you talk to them today, as I did a few days ago, you will find that they worried stiff about the necessary labour force. Only 12% of the relevant labour force is under 30, yet we should look at the situation with BT, which is laying off its older workforce. So one of the challenges that His Majesty’s Government need to look at is the workforce. That means looking at every level in that area, including our universities, technical colleges and apprenticeships. It may be happening—I do not know—but I would welcome hearing from my noble friend the Minister that the Government are aware of that challenge.

Of course, that particular challenge is not just domestic because, in terms of hydrogen being inserted into existing natural gas, probably at a 20% level, gas is firing our factories up and down the country—so that, again, is another massive challenge. So I ask my noble friend on the Front Bench for reassurance that he recognises that, while the vehicle market is absolutely vital, there are industries alongside that which will produce the goods and facilitate the conversion of our boilers up and down the country from the existing pure natural gas to some combination of natural gas and hydrogen.

16:52
Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, I am no technical or scientific expert in this field, but I did read the report of this committee as soon as it came out, and I found it a very good exposition of the failure of government to work effectively with the research sector and business to develop in Britain the native industries of the future. That is one of my main political concerns.

The second paragraph of the report points out the problem we have here; it says that

“we were astonished by the stark disconnect between the optimism of Ministers and officials that the UK could retain its position in the automotive sector, and the concerns of our other witnesses that the UK is far behind its competitors and faces significant challenges”.

I wonder whether the Minister agrees with that conclusion and, if not, whether he will explain to us why he does not agree with it. This was said 17 months ago, when the report was published, but the situation has become even more desperate in that time. I did a bit of newspaper research with the help of the Library on how things are going. I note, for instance, that this year the

“UK production of cars has tumbled from 1.7 million per year to just 866,000”.

This is in what used to be one of our most successful industries.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, referred to the same newspaper article that I read in the Times about a week ago. I want to emphasise it again because I would like an answer from the Minister as to whether he agrees that this represents the situation:

“Recent months have been a slow-motion car crash for the nation’s pretensions to become what successive prime ministers have promised would become a ‘global hub’ of the electrified automotive industry.”


We have the examples of BMW and Johnson Matthey, and the fact that Britishvolt is near bankruptcy. Where is there any positive news, other than, incidentally, news of the Chinese-owned battery company that is getting ready to manufacture alongside Nissan in Sunderland, which I welcome and do not see any particular problem with?

When you look at what is happening in Britain by comparison with overseas, it is a worrying situation. The Faraday Institution, which noble Lords have referred to, counts 41 projects in western Europe that are under way. Only three of them are in the UK and the only one that is going well is the one that I referred to: the Chinese company operating beside Nissan. We are in a weak position. Germany has 12 gigafactories opened or planned, while Hungary, France and Italy are making strong preparations. We are losing the Mini from Oxford.

Something has to be done and I would like to know what the Government are planning to do about this crisis. Do they recognise that there is a crisis, because there is? When Greg Clark was Secretary of State, we had a certain consistency and coherence in our approach to industry for the years of Mrs May’s premiership. In the last three years, we have had five different Secretaries of State for Business: Andrea Leadsom, Alok Sharma, Kwasi Kwarteng, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Grant Shapps.

What sort of chaos have these changes produced? What grip do Ministers have on what is going on in the department? What leadership are they offering in this field to try to rescue us from impending disaster? That is the question that I want the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, to answer at the end of the debate. I do not think that they have done very much, because they do not have an ideological approach that is about working closely with businesses to develop new growth opportunities and new businesses of the future.

This was not the approach that Mrs Thatcher adopted in the 1980s when she led the renaissance of the British car industry. She saw the opportunities of the single market and the opportunity to bring overseas companies into Britain to re-establish this great industry. We are in danger of losing all that now. It is not that the Government have not had some successes—I would give them high marks for the Vaccine Taskforce and how it worked—but what is the barrier to Ministers rolling up their sleeves, getting on the telephone and trying to sort out the mess that this report has detailed? If the Minister can answer that question, I will be very happy.

16:59
Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I first declare my interest as a director of and shareholder in Aldustria Ltd, a battery storage company, and a trustee of Regen, a renewable energy trade association—I think that that is the best way to describe it. Like many other noble Lords here, I very much welcome the report and congratulate the committee and its chair on it.

One thing that always seems to be forgotten outside this area is the timebomb in the trade and co-operation agreement that is around the 2007 rules of origin and when the percentages come into force. There are different ones for cars, cells and assembled batteries and they are a real challenge to that industry.

Soon after the EU referendum, one substantial vehicle manufacturer in the west of England, Honda, at Swindon, was straight on to me, and I am sure to other Members who were interested in the west of England economy, and said, “If something isn’t sorted out on rules of origin, the automotive industry in this country is going to be dead”. And, of course, Honda has gone; it is no longer there, which is a huge blow to the economy of Swindon. It decided to get out while the going was good.

I am not going to go on hugely about vehicles, because that is what other Members have already done, but the point has come over strongly, in the report and in the Faraday Institution’s work, that at the end of the day it is not just around tariffs—we export around 80% of our car manufacturing and 50% of that goes to the EU—but location. In electric vehicles, batteries are the most substantial accessory or part of the vehicle—quite obviously. There is a huge benefit in terms of colocation between the rest of the manufacture and assembly of automobiles and the gigafactory being close by. If we do not have those gigafactories, almost whatever the tariffs are, those manufacturing centres will disappear out of our area.

I want to move on to something that my noble friend Lady Sheehan has mentioned. It comes also from what the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, referred to. It is around resources and the circular economy. If there is one challenge in this area that is being overlooked, although the committee did look at this area, it is the reuse of scarce resources and rare earths that are used in a lot of electronic goods, in automobiles and in batteries. The stranglehold is largely in China and some other economies as well. We need to make sure that we have a circular economy ability to recycle batteries. On the whole they can be refurbished fairly easily. Often when they are at the end of their life, only one or two cells have gone, which can be replaced. Also, they can then be used for other purposes and have a second life. That industry, I believe, is one area where we could get well ahead. Europe is already on its way, but I believe that it is important for both our resource security and for having a viable industry in this area that we are good on the circular economy as well.

In my last comments, I will come to a completely different sector, which is stationary batteries and those that are to be used in grid balancing. It is chaotic at the moment. One of the big things that it is almost impossible to do if you are a developer is to get access to the grid. It is not just around battery storage but around housing developments—even in west London—and around renewables, solar and offshore wind coming into the UK grid system. To quote a current example, a connection in the south-west given by the local transmission network, Western Power Distribution, is for 2038: that is where the queue has got to. There is no way under Ofgem rules at the moment of undoing that queueing mechanism and getting the right priorities for the right place.

If we want to get to a net-zero electricity and energy system, we need batteries to be a part of that. In fact, if energy storage is seen as a solution to the grid and not a problem—not an extra load—we can in fact move a lot quicker towards net zero and a resilient grid system. This is a serious problem at the moment. The figures I looked up say that 25 gigawatts of battery storage is needed to get to net zero—if they are four-hour batteries, that is roughly about 100 gigawatt hours, obviously. As I say, the connection wait times are now out to something like 2038.

Now this is a sector that does not require any public money at all; it is completely mercantile. But it is unable to bring forward that balancing, and through balancing bring down the cost of energy into the future. So I would be very interested to hear from the Minister what the likelihood is of us solving that. There are various studies going on at the moment, but they are slow and there is not really much light at the end of the tunnel. Frankly, what we need in terms of the national grid is anticipatory investment, not the reactive investment that we have at the moment.

I have a last question for the Minister. In terms of battery storage, there were amendments to change battery storage from being defined as an energy generator in the Energy Bill. I know that he will not say when the Energy Bill will come back to this House, but can he say when there might be a decision as to when the Bill might come back to this House?

17:06
Lord Mitchell Portrait Lord Mitchell (Lab)
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My Lords, despite the ravages of Covid and the requirement for much of this report to be compiled remotely, the noble Lord, Lord Patel, has done a masterly job in leading us to produce this crucial study. We must thank him for it. We must also thank the team who helped us in crafting this high-quality document, again under the difficult conditions of lock- down. Together we present to your Lordships’ House a report of great depth, which contains strong recommendations. Such a pity, therefore, that the Government have given us such short shrift.

This report was presented to your Lordships’ House in July 2021. In September of that year, we received the Government’s response—a document I can best describe as “thin”. If noble Lords can believe it, the narrative of our report talks about our hopes for COP 26 in Glasgow. Since then, COP 26 has been and gone—and so too has COP 27 in Egypt. Can somebody please explain to me why, as we approach 2023, we are only now debating this report for the very first time? Procrastination does not make for good policy.

Certain themes come from the report that are screaming for government focus. The first is the plea for long-term commitment. Scientists and industry need strong direction. Industry, contemplating massive long-term investments, needs to know the ground rules, and to know that the rules will not change. Individuals looking to their careers, whether as academics or scientists, need to know that the rug is not going to be pulled from under their feet. Sadly, this is not the case. It all feels uncertain and unpredictable.

Another feature that we saw when we were taking evidence, and which has been mentioned today, was the contrast in attitude between Ministers and officials compared with those at the coal face. Ministers were gung-ho about our country’s advances in battery technology; scientists and industrialists were much more cautious. My money is with the experts. Even now, I kick myself for not asking every witness just one question. I should have asked: “Do you believe that net zero by 2050 is going to happen?” Sadly, I asked it only twice. Ministers agreed, of course; those who knew lowered their eyes.

Electric vehicles are not pie in the sky; we see them all around us. Tesla’s market cap exceeds that of every other automobile producer. The Government have set a directive that no petrol or diesel cars will be sold beyond 2029. I think that that is a very positive goal, but the Government need to do their part to ensure that it happens.

All of us know of the panic that we get into when our mobile phones are just about to run out of battery. Electric vehicles evoke an enhanced panic of being stranded. Charging points are key to dispelling vehicle panic. It is forecast that we will need 325,000 charging points by 2032. Can the Minister say whether we are on track to hit that target? I would also like to know what the Government’s plans are for encouraging hydrogen charging points. Few charging points lead to reduced take-up—it is as simple as that.

I turn to the geostrategic challenges posed by battery and fuel cell technology and development. This year we have seen all too clearly our vulnerability to energy blackmail. We simply cannot allow any hostile country to hold us to ransom again. China produces 75% of the world’s batteries. It plans to have 149 gigafactories by 2030. The EU has 19, the US 11 and we have two. It makes us very exposed, and it is a clear demonstration of how China plans to dominate automotive production and electricity storage. As the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, mentioned, according to an upbeat report by Goldman Sachs featured in the FT this week, the US and Europe have the opportunity to become independent of China by 2030. It will require a capital expenditure of $160 billion. That may sound a lot but, it is less than the cost of HS2.

The recent US Inflation Reduction Act is showering vast amounts of money in the US by way of subsidies and tax credits on renewable energy and electric vehicles. As has been mentioned, a South Korean firm has invested $3 billion in a cathode factory in Tennessee. I agree that we need our own equivalent of the IRA in terms of long-term financial commitment, otherwise we will just shuffle along.

As has been mentioned, Britishvolt is a prime example of a tepid government response. Launched with such fanfare only three years ago, it is now on life support in the battery ICU ward. Can the Minister say whether the Government are committed to support Britishvolt at this crucial moment? If they are not, they should be.

Success in modern technologies comes not from slogans and bluster but from hard-nosed, long-term commitment. The successful quest for the Covid-19 vaccine showed that in sharp relief. The title of our report begs two questions. Has our battery strategy gone flat? Is the net-zero target at risk? I think the answers are yes and no. Will the Minister please tell me that I am wrong?

17:13
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I start by congratulating the committee on its report, which is brutally clear in its conclusions. I have been fascinated by this debate. I have sat in many Grand Committee debates here but I have never come across one that has aroused such strong views across the Room.

The first sentence of this report says it all:

“The UK’s current trajectory of battery manufacture is insufficient to support the automotive industry’s transition to electric vehicles or to meet our net-zero commitment.”


The committee goes on to say—the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has already quoted this—that it was astonished at the stark contrast between the optimism of Ministers and the concerns of the experts who came to give evidence.

These conclusions stand even more clearly a year on from the writing of the report. This Government—we are of course three Prime Ministers on from when it was produced, but they are still the same Government—never cease to disappoint. Their ambitions sound good, if rather vague, their rhetoric is florid and fanciful and their practical support for business and industry fails at every step. Only last week, the Chancellor’s answer to perceived misuse of some R&D tax credits was to cut them in half, rather than deal with the problem of fraud and tighten up procedures.

For seven years, I have been arguing for a more proactive approach from the Government to battery technology and the availability of EV charging to ensure what this report calls “charging for all”. I have been very frustrated by the lack of progress. We do not even yet have the simplicity of a proper, straightforward payment system. The Government’s response to this report is disturbingly vague and avoids many of the precise questions the report posed. They continue to fall into the trap of being unrealistically upbeat.

The SMMT—the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders—is clear that the UK must expand its domestic battery production to retain domestic auto manufacturing in the long term. It estimates that the UK needs at least eight gigafactories by 2040, with approximately 120-gigawatt capacity. Currently there is a capacity of only 2 to 2.5 gigawatts, and only two companies: Envision and the proposed Britishvolt factory. Together, if they fulfil their ambitions, those two might produce 40 gigawatts by 2030—but 120 are needed.

If that were to be achieved, the prizes would be great. EV transition alone will be worth £12 billion to the economy in terms of batteries for the UK supply chain. The EV market is developing rapidly; there were 53,000 UK-manufactured vehicles this year, almost 80% of which were exported. One-quarter of all our vehicle exports are EVs. However, we face huge challenges. Rules of origin under the TCA will apply from 2027, but some related issues apply from 2024 and will make life very difficult for the industry.

We also need a major reskilling of the workforce and training of new workers. The recent Budget produced nothing for further education. We need a national skills strategy; for example, we need about 10,000 qualified workers to manufacture battery cells, but we have almost no such qualified workers at the moment. The report points out that government support, for example via the Faraday battery challenge, has been lower and of shorter duration than that of our competitors. The Faraday Institution receives £30 million per annum, compared with the European Commission’s €3.2 billion aimed at seven member states up to 2031. That is £270 million per annum for 10 years. In France, there is an investment of €960 million and in Germany an investment of €1.25 billion. They dwarf the UK in their ambition and commitment.

The truth is that, by leaving the EU, we have cut ourselves off from the benefits of scale in research and development. The Government now face a stark choice. They need either to massively up the scale of their commitment to R&D to greatly outspend our competitors or to tone down their rhetoric and modify their ambitions. They might even consider a Swiss-style trade agreement.

17:20
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, one advantage of coming near the end of the list is that many of the things one was going to say have already been said by others, and I can summarise by saying “I agree”. However, I start by thanking our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for his excellent chairmanship of the committee and reiterate the thanks to our specialist adviser Professor Clare Grey for her advice and guidance.

We were told in our inquiry that the availability of raw materials is one of the main limiting factors for battery manufacture, and the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, has given such an articulate and comprehensive summary of the situation that I do not need to say anything more about it, other than to take just one example from the FT on Monday, an article about graphite, a crystalline form of carbon. Every EV contains 25 kilos of graphite —so quite a lot of it. Demand is predicted to rise threefold in the next four years. The price of graphite has gone up by one-third in the past year, 65% of the world’s graphite is currently mined in China and 85% of the graphite is processed in China, which speaks to the point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, about dependence on certain countries for supplies.

I want to focus on another aspect of the supply chain, which is the fact that the raw materials often come from countries with poor human rights records and poor environmental standards, so when you step into your EV and drive off, do you think about the fact that the cobalt in the battery may have been mined using child labour in the DRC? Do you think that most of the raw materials in your battery might have contributed to serious pollution of the environment as well as damage to human health? For instance, we were told that in South America the extraction of lithium from brine uses large volumes of water and can lead to contamination of both the aquatic and terrestrial environments.

As has already been mentioned, against this background, we made two recommendations. We asked the Government to produce a critical raw materials strategy in order to plan for future supply issues, and we also asked the Government to set out plans for industrial-scale recycling and to require manufacturers to conduct a full life cycle analysis of the environmental and social impacts of batteries.

As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and other noble Lords have mentioned, we now have a critical raw materials strategy, but I am told that it is a high-level document without a detailed road map for implementation. Equally, the critical minerals intelligence centre established under the strategy at the British Geological Survey has, I am told by scientists from the BGS, no clear remit, so will the Minister tell us when the road map will be published and when the purpose of the intelligence centre will be defined?

I now turn to recycling, which has already been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Northvolt, the Swedish battery maker, has said that by 2030 it will have developed three gigafactories with a combined annual output to power more than 2 million electric vehicles and that these factories will obtain half their raw materials from recycling. Will the Minister update us on the UK’s level of ambition for recycling? Does it match that of Northvolt? The Government’s response on this was extremely vague, with reference to an inter- disciplinary circular economy centre funded by UKRI, but no specific targets or dates for recycling.

We also asked the Government to introduce incentives and regulations to speed the transition to more sustainable manufacturing. The European Union proposes to introduce legislation on recycled material in batteries by 2030 and for all batteries sold in EVs in the EU to declare their carbon footprint by 2024. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether the UK intends to use its Brexit freedom to go further and faster than the EU, or use it to lag behind—or are we intending to follow the EU’s requirements?

As many other speakers have said, EVs are undoubtedly crucial for our trajectory towards net zero, but they come with costs as well as benefits—and I have referred to the social and environmental impacts of sourcing the raw materials. I now want to refer briefly to another kind of cost. EVs are typically about 30% heavier than their petrol or diesel equivalents. Furthermore, the most popular models of EV in the UK are nearly all SUVs. The result of this is that our city streets are becoming increasingly populated by large, heavy vehicles. Can the Minister tell us what assessments the Government have made of the consequences of this for, first, damage to road surfaces, especially in urban areas and, secondly, the safety of other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists? Furthermore, as a result of these assessments, are the Government considering following jurisdictions in the US such as Iowa and New York, and countries such as France, all of which have introduced, or are planning to introduce, an extra tariff for vehicles above a certain weight?

In asking these questions, I declare an interest as a daily cyclist in Oxford, where the combination of potholes and tank-like SUVs on the narrow streets presents a serious hazard to those of us who chose a transport method with an even lower environmental footprint than electric vehicles. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

17:26
Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley (LD)
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My Lords, as a member of the committee, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for his excellent chairing of our inquiry and his introduction today. I also thank all the committee staff and advisers, who have done such a good job. We heard from a very wide range of experts, to whom I am also grateful.

The subject that we chose could hardly be more apt for this week, as COP 27 comes to an end, since batteries and fuel cells should play such a crucial role in our ability to mitigate climate change and reach net zero. I am pleased to note that, since the report was published, the Government have met a number of our recommendations, committing to phase out non-zero emitting HGVs by 2040 and publishing the hydrogen and critical minerals strategies, about which more later. However, our witnesses suggested that the Government have a long way to go if they are to realise the potential of the UK’s role in the production and use of batteries and fuel cells.

As the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, pointed out, even the media have noticed that, unfortunately, we have already lost the race to become a global leader in the production of lithium-ion batteries. As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, warned, this provides a serious danger to our UK automotive industry. If we are even to reach our not very ambitious targets for EV cars and vans on our roads, it will have to be done by importing batteries and complete vehicles, and we can be held to ransom by China. The rules of origin laws coming in in 2027 will also mean higher costs and loss of markets, unless we can increase our own production. My noble friend Lord Teverson called it a timebomb, and he was right.

The Government have stated an ambition to build eight gigafactories to manufacture batteries by 2030, but we have only one, and Britishvolt is struggling to obtain its investment in its proposed factory in the north-east. Is that because investors are unsure of the Government’s support and commitment in the long term? I suspect so. Can the Minister reassure us?

As our witnesses told us, there is an opportunity to take a lead on next generation alternative battery technologies, such as solid-state, lithium-sulphur, sodium-ion, et cetera. Focus and funding of research and development of those new technologies is crucial. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, mentioned, the funding of the Faraday Institution is guaranteed for only two years and has no allowance for inflation for that time, meaning a real-terms cut. That means that there will be no PhD cohort starting in October 2023 or 2024. Will the Minister please look at this?

In addition, there is no significant funding in the Faraday Institution project for redox flow batteries needed for static batteries for power storage. As my noble friend Lord Teverson said, this will be essential as the demand for power, for recharging and other things, increases. Will the Minister talk to UKRI about this issue? The Faraday Institution has also brought together a consortium of seven partners to develop a world-leading prototype solid-state battery, but at least two of the partners have either taken themselves abroad, as is the case with Johnson Matthey, or are struggling to fund their battery factory—the case with Britishvolt. So how will this affect the objectives of that consortium? Badly, I suspect.

To encourage uptake of EVs in the domestic market, we need to look at the factors that deter purchasers and fleet owners: cost, range and the charging network. On cost, the Government have just removed the grant that was available to reduce the price premium, and last week they announced that EVs will have to pay vehicle excise duty from 2025. Indeed, some will have to pay a very high rate of VED, because they are expensive. What is the sense of this, if we are going to reach or exceed our targets? The range is gradually increasing as the work progresses on making lithium-ion batteries more efficient. But this will take time, which makes the motorway and major road charging network even more important. Having queued up many times to use the only working charger of two at a service station, I am painfully and personally aware of this, as is my noble friend Lady Randerson. Our committee recommended a vastly increased number of public charging facilities, since many people cannot charge at home. What are the Government doing to speed this up?

Something could be done right away, however, to encourage people without a home charger to get an EV: reducing the VAT on power downloaded from public chargers. This is at 20%, whereas people like me who are charging at home pay only 5%. Can the Minister do this right away? The cost of upgrading the power supply to serve workplace chargers is high, which will deter blocks of flats, workplaces, petrol stations, supermarkets, et cetera; will the Government increase the support for this?

Skilled workers have been mentioned by several speakers. To reach our targets, we need many thousands of skilled workers for the manufacture and maintenance of batteries, fuel cells, vehicles and the chargers and grid needed to service them. The Government have set out a number of industry training schemes, as my noble friend Lady Randerson noted, but there was no new funding announced in the Autumn Statement for the further education colleges that will be key to delivering them. Was that an oversight by the Chancellor?

As the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, pointed out, many of the essential materials needed for current batteries are not found in this country, and the new critical minerals strategy is important here. However, we hear from researchers that there is no pathway and that funding for delivering the strategy is minimal. Can the Minister assure us that there will be more funding coming down the track?

One way to ensure the pipeline of minerals and deliver a sustainable circular economy is through recycling, as my noble friend Lady Sheehan pointed out. The early batteries were difficult to recycle, but this can be made easier through recycling by design. Can this be made mandatory through regulation, at least for those made here? I think that there is one recycling facility for these materials in the UK; batteries are having to be shipped to France for the recovery of vital materials. I understand that the University of Exeter is working on the reuse of cobalt, lithium and rare-earth elements, but we need development and manufacturing facilities too. What are the Government doing about that? My noble friend Lord Teverson also talked about reuse for static batteries for grid balancing.

I make two final points. First, given that some renewal energies are intermittent, there will be a need—in addition to a smart grid, smart meters and so on—for the Government to ensure that energy providers offer variable tariffs to customers to incentivise behaviour change and spread demand across the day. What are Government doing about this?

As my noble friend Lord Teverson said, there is also the need for large-scale battery storage to even out our supply. They also have a role in ensuring that no precious captured energy from wind or solar is wasted. I have always thought it was a terrible waste to have to pay wind turbine operators to stop the blades turning when the wind is blowing, when grid demand does not match supply. Will the Government widen the remit of UKRI, the Faraday Institution and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre to include static batteries?

I have not yet mentioned fuel cells and hydrogen but, to be very brief, they have an important role in heavy transport, marine and rail as well as space heating, such as in Japan. What are the Government doing to encourage more research on this? As regards reaching net zero, however, only green hydrogen produced by electrolysers has a serious role to play. What is really needed is a large-scale demonstration plant onshore, near to a major wind farm, to use the excess energy to produce green hydrogen. Can the Minister say whether there are any plans for this? We will also need hydrogen storage. Let us not make the same mistake as we did with gas, when the Government allowed the removal of the gas storage capacity, which has caused such a serious problem since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Our report calls on the Government to make many changes and to speed up our progress, particularly since transport is such a major contributor to our emissions. I look forward to the Minister’s positive reply.

17:36
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been an absolutely fascinating debate, I must confess. I have enjoyed listening to it. It has been fizzing with ideas and important points, and coming away from it I feel I have learned something. I do not think I have ever participated before in a deliberation on a Science and Technology Committee report, but clearly, I should do so more often.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his brilliance in steering the committee in the way he did, ensuring that the report was as thorough and insightful as it was. As other noble Lords pointed out, the only shame is that the report has taken so long to come before us for debate this afternoon. As somebody pointed out, COP 26 and COP 27 have been and gone, and that time has passed and been lost.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, the opening lines of the summary perfectly pinpoint the problem: if we do not alter the current course of UK manufacture to support the car industry’s transition to electric vehicles, we will not hit our net-zero targets. That is a pretty stark observation. As the report says:

“Despite recent announcements … the pace and scale of building these facilities will not meet demand”,


and, as a number of noble Lords explained, industry will simply uproot itself and move overseas.

The report was clear that the Government needed to establish a strategy for transport, hydrogen and wider decarbonisation. The committee argued that the Government should produce their promised hydrogen strategy as soon as possible. In fairness, they have now done that, but does it match the risks that the committee identified? I do not think so. It is the “stark disconnect” that my noble friend Lord Liddle drew attention to.

The committee also argued that the Government should support the development of UK battery industry supply chains and establish a strategy for securing access to the raw materials needed to make the batteries. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, pointed very carefully and clearly to some of the problems we are encountering in the critical minerals strategy, which is another warning to the Government.

The committee also recommended that the Government should ensure that the automotive industry has access to a sufficiently skilled workforce to support the transition from mechanical to electrical technology. A number of Peers drew attention to that, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. The problem here is that we are already far behind our European rivals. As has been said, we have one gigafactory in operation while Germany has five and a further four in construction. France and Italy are set to have twice the number of jobs in battery manufacturing that we are set to have. This simply is not good enough, and it means that our car industry will rapidly become unsustainable.

The committee recommended new research and innovation institutions for fuel cells. It described fuel cells as the Cinderella of UK energy policy, receiving less attention than they deserve, and surely that is right. In response, the Government mentioned the launch of the hydrogen for transport programme to support the development of fuel cell technology and said that they were providing backing through the fuel cell electric fleet scheme. However, these initiatives date back to 2017 and 2016 respectively, so will the Minister say what real progress has been made since?

The committee also called for work with Ofgem to ensure appropriate regulation and incentives are in place to facilitate the expansion of the electricity network. Specifically, the argument was made for the importance of developing smart systems for managing supply and demand. It also said that the Government and Ofgem need to supply the expansion of other more sophisticated services, such as smart tariffs and battery storage. Most importantly, the committee called for the expansion of the public charging network. The fact is that the vast majority of charging points are still located in London and the south-east. The committee wisely argued for the commitment to delivering 325,000 charge points by 2032, as recommended by the Government’s own independent advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change. In response, the Government said that they would deliver £1.3 billion in funding to support the rollout of charge points for homes and businesses and on-street charge points. In March 2022, Taking Charge, the policy document produced by the Government, stated that we would have 300,000 charge points by 2030, but that was rapidly undermined when in June this year the Government ended the support scheme then in place for supporting the electric vehicle grant that focused on charging. Surely this should be the moment where the Government are pulling out all the stops to transition to electric vehicles to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This is a short-sighted decision that will simply put electric cars out of reach for many. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us today about the number of charging points now in place and what sort of plan there is for each year to hit the latest target.

I compare this with the attitude of places such as Norway, where I went on holiday this summer. I hired an electric car and experienced no problems with recharge facilities. I was actually stuck for choice when recharging. That was on the Lofoten Islands, their equivalent of the Outer Hebrides. We need the Government to embrace the means and the technology.

The committee also urged the Government to decide whether to phase out the sale of new diesel heavy goods vehicles and recommended that the infrastructure is put in place to support this objective. In a far-sighted proposal, it said that the Government should

“provide a clear timeline for research and development of technologies”

necessary to support this transition, including batteries and fuel cells. Thus far, it seems that the Government have got no further than analysing the responses to their 2020 consultation on banning new petrol, diesel and hybrid HGVs. The sector needs clarity, so when will the Government’s response be published? Will the Government also be spelling out the technologies required to ensure this transition is possible? I know the Government confirmed that they are committed to phasing out the sale of non-zero-emission HGVs by 2024, a welcome move, but surely the announcement in May this year of just £200 million to support this transition is barely adequate as a demonstrator programme.

Finally, the report calls for the acceleration of the rail electrification programme to accelerate the transition away from diesel trains. Will the Minister explain where we have got to on this issue? The Government did not respond to that point when replying to the report. Perhaps they can this afternoon.

Thus far the Government’s response to the report has fallen short of where it needs to be. We need the Government to be speedier in their response to the issues the report raises. We also need them to work in partnership with business better to understand the business perspective in tackling the challenges that getting to net zero imply.

It was drawn to our attention earlier in the debate that we have had a change in leadership, with five Secretaries of State in four years, so we have had plenty of leaders, but not much leadership. Surely, there is a big opportunity for the UK in meeting the challenges. By expanding the manufacturing capacity of battery production nationally we create new jobs and opportunities wherever—the West Midlands, the north-east, the north-west and the south-west. We need an industrial strategy that delivers that promise and opportunity as we move to a greener economy.

For our part on the Labour Benches, we think that the Government lack ambition. It is not just Labour that thinks that—senior industrial leaders do too. In the meantime, this report helps to provide the UK with a useful steer in the right direction and should act as a wake-up call to government. For that, we should all be very grateful to the committee and its members for their wisdom and foresight.

17:45
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, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for securing what I agree with other noble Lords has been a fascinating debate and for the excellent way in which he introduced the subject and the brilliant leadership that he provides to his committee, which the number of responses to reports from that committee suggest. I know that he is well respected across the House for the work that he does, so I am grateful to him for that. I also pay tribute to the other members of the committee and to all those who provided the written and verbal contributions that have enabled the preparation of such a thorough and well-thought-out report.

Given the clear priority of the topic, I hope noble Lords will be pleased, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, reminded us, that since the report was issued, the Government have made significant progress on many areas recommended by the committee. We have continued to be clear about our ambitions and expectations —for example, in setting out not only that we will phase out all new diesel HGVs from our roads by 2040 but the intervening milestones that will see us on a trajectory to make that a reality, building on the formal consultation and close engagement that we already have on this topic with industry.

The Government recognise the challenges that such ambitions bring. To address a question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, we do not apologise for setting this bold ambition; rather, we need to continue to focus our efforts, and the considerable efforts of British business, industry and society, on solutions to many of the challenges that we face along the way.

Naturally, many noble Lords focused their contributions today on these challenges. I shall do my best to address as many of these comments and questions as possible. However, it is worth framing the issue briefly on what the Government are already doing. We have published our net-zero, hydrogen, innovation and critical minerals strategies. Just last month, we announced a further £211 million of funding to support battery R&D through yet further investment in the world-leading Faraday battery challenge programme, which was mentioned by many noble Lords in this debate, bringing the overall budget of the challenge to £541 million. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, will want to welcome that as being on a par with her favourite European Commission investment.

Our flagship support programmes have continued to drive real-world successes. Just last month, the Secretary of State attended Green Lithium, supported through our pioneering automotive transformation fund, as it announced Teesport as the site of the UK’s first large-scale merchant lithium refinery, providing battery-grade materials for use in the electric vehicle, renewable energy and consumer technology supply chains. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Lilley will welcome that development.

I move on to some of the other points raised during the debate. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Patel, in his introduction, the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, asked about companies in this space, including Britishvolt, and about the Government’s plans to attract investment in gigafactories for the production of batteries in the UK.

Noble Lords will understand that I cannot comment on the commercial discussions that the Government may or may not have with private companies or their prospects. What I can say in public is limited in that regard, but the Government have ongoing discussions with a number of companies in this field. It is not our approach to comment on speculation or the commercial affairs of private companies, but we will continue to progress an ambitious pipeline of potential investments which will help to grow our electric vehicle supply chain. This is a priority for the Government.

As we do that, a key plank of our approach is to continue to work with the many investors with which we are in contact through the automotive transformation fund. In 2021, the net-zero strategy announced £350 million of funding in the automotive transformation fund, in addition to the £500 million announced in 2020 as part of the 10-point plan. The ATF supported the £1 billion electric vehicle hub in Sunderland—in my own area, the north-east—in partnership with Envision AESC, which the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and others mentioned. It safeguards 6,200 jobs at Nissan, including more than 900 new jobs, and 750 new jobs at the new Envision AESC gigafactory. The fund has already enabled the announcement of Pensana’s £145 million investment in east Yorkshire to process the critical minerals used in magnets and a £60 million investment by Johnson Matthey in Hertfordshire to develop hydrogen technologies. Through it, as I mentioned earlier, we also backed Green Lithium to build a refinery in the north-east. We have also received a number of other expressions of interest in the scheme and will continue to engage closely with investors. As I said, I cannot go into details in public at the moment, but I and other ministerial colleagues will update noble Lords on this important topic as soon as possible. We will continue to progress these investments.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, asked whether the UK can still meet its commitment to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030. I am delighted to repeat my confirmation to him that we will end the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 as planned. To support this, the Government have committed to introduce a zero-emission vehicle mandate to require a minimum percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emission at the exhaust from 2024. We have been working with the whole UK automotive sector to ensure that it can do that and meet the needs of UK business.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for welcoming the publication of the critical minerals strategy. He also raised the important question of how we will achieve its commitments. As my ministerial colleague in the other place, Nus Ghani, confirmed earlier this month, I am pleased to reassure the noble Lord and others that we will publish a refresh of that strategy by the end of the year. This will include a delivery plan for the commitments set out in that strategy.

The noble Lord also asked whether the UK intends to produce a strategy for the next generation of electric vehicle battery manufacturers. Through the strategies we have set out and the concrete mechanisms already at our disposal, such as the ATF, which many noble Lords mentioned, I hope the Committee will recognise that our strategy in this regard is very much one of activity. The strategy is important, but so is activity on the back of it. I also recognise the importance, brought home in this debate, of joined-up work across government. I reassure the Committee that we are looking very seriously at the best way of continuing to work across departments—BEIS, Defra, the Department for Transport, et cetera—and between government, industry and consumers, all of whom will have to be on board to deliver the important changes we will need.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and other Members asked about our commitment to hydrogen. As he noted, we have doubled our ambition to up to 10 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, subject as always to affordability and value for money—I think the Treasury inserts that phrase into every ministerial contribution. At least half of this will come from electrolytic green hydrogen, drawing on the scale-up of UK offshore wind, other renewables and new nuclear. I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that it is criminal that we pay constraint payments to wind farms not to produce electricity because the grid cannot handle it.

We aim to have up to 1 gigawatt of electrolytic hydrogen in construction or operational by 2025, with up to 2 gigawatts of production capacity overall, including CCUS-enabled hydrogen, in operation or under construction by 2025. The UK Hydrogen Strategy, published last August, outlines a comprehensive road map for the development of the wider hydrogen economy over the 2020s to deliver what is a very ambitious commitment for 2030. The British Energy Security Strategy in April 2022 built on that, with further commitments on electrolytic allocation, hydrogen transport and storage, and an attached certification scheme, which is also important. We also set out detail on our hydrogen production strategy in the July 2022 update to the market.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and other noble Lords asked the important question of when the Government will make a choice on the mix of different technologies; I think this point was also raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. Let me use transport as an example to respond to that question. Here, the Government still remain technology neutral. As set out in the UK Hydrogen Strategy and transport decarbonisation plan, we see hydrogen as likely to be important where energy density requirements come into play and where infra- structure constraints or refuelling times make it the most viable option for heavy goods vehicles, locomotives and so on, where battery technology is not necessarily appropriate.

As outlined in that strategy, we expect that the role of hydrogen in transport will continue to evolve over the course of the 2020s and beyond. To date, road transport has been an early market for hydrogen in the UK. Going forward, we expect hydrogen vehicles, particularly depot-based transport, including buses, to constitute the bulk of 2020s hydrogen demand from the mobility sector. Fuel cell hydrogen buses have a range similar to their diesel counterparts.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and others also raised the important issue of battery safety and rightly asked me about plans to address this. The safety of electric vehicles and of their charging is of course of paramount importance to the Government and we keep this under regular review. Multiple safety systems are designed into EVs to protect passengers, emergency services personnel and other users from harm. However, we have to recognise that the risks are different and need to be understood and controlled. To consider EV fires, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has formed a steering group of experts from across government, industry and academia. The steering group identified research questions to further develop BEV fire understanding. The National Fire Chiefs Council has also developed national operational guidance for fire and rescue services across the UK. I finish my remarks on safety on a positive note: current evidence does not suggest that electric vehicle fires are any more likely to occur than in petrol or diesel vehicles.

I move on to the excellent contribution from my noble friend Lord Lilley, who raised a number of important issues about having access to sufficient resources and reserves of minerals to produce batteries. My noble friend is absolutely right to raise these issues; it is a challenge that we recognise. We are very familiar with the International Energy Agency analysis that he cited and indeed, as we set out in the UK’s first critical minerals strategy earlier this year, the UK is working with the IEA to explore ways to improve the security and supply of energy-specific critical minerals.

My noble friend raised a question on lithium and nickel reserves and the need for battery solutions to be found that may be mineral-intensive. I can tell him that the UKRI is already funding a considerable amount of research in next-generation batteries. The Faraday Institution has a £35 million portfolio in battery technologies beyond lithium-ion—as well as developing the next generation of lithium-ion batteries—namely in sodium-ion, solid state and lithium sulphur, with applications in stationary storage, electric vehicles and aerospace as well as other high-value niche markets.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, correctly noted the importance of supply chains being in close proximity to battery manufacturers. The Government are committed to supporting the automotive sector through the transition to zero-emission vehicles and the development of the associated supply chains, including through the ATF to support the automotive sector to meet the very important rules of origin provisions that a number of noble Lords quoted. This will of course recognise the significance of the UK and the EU markets for those manufacturing vehicles in the UK.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, mentioned that the Government need to do more to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of the battery revolution, and I agree with her, particularly on the importance of this issue. The Government are committed to growing the electric vehicle supply chain and, as I said earlier, we continue to work with investors through the automotive transformation fund to progress their plans to build a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK. Indeed, the recent investment of over £200 million in the Faraday battery challenge, which I mentioned earlier, is further evidence of this commitment.

The noble Baroness also raised a question on the resilience of supply and the importance of recognising demand reduction—she and I agree on that. We also agree that the circular economy, design and innovation are all topics of significant attention in our critical minerals strategy, which will be part of the delivery plan that we will publish later this year. She also raised an important point about the market for recycled materials for battery manufacture. I am pleased to report that my colleagues in Defra are working with other government departments and the devolved Administrations and are currently reviewing the existing UK batteries legislation; they are working at pace to publish a consultation in the second half of next year. The intention is to create a regulatory space that supports the appropriate treatment of EV batteries, protects our domestic supply of critical raw materials and contributes to our net-zero ambition.

On the noble Baroness’s question about recommendation 31 in the report on “industrial strategy”, in October last year we published the net zero strategy, setting out our policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to help to meet the net-zero target. This is supplemented by a range of strategies relevant to today’s important debate: the hydrogen strategy, the innovation strategy and the critical minerals strategy. In addition, and of particular relevance to some of the specific points raised today, in July 2021 we published Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Britain, containing 78 commitments setting transport on an ambitious path to net zero by 2050. The Government have an activist and outcome-focused approach to the delivery of the industrial outcomes through which I think those who have spoken today would wish to see the UK succeed, prosper and grow.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised the subject—which he has raised with me many times—of the energy security Bill. I am tempted, but, yet again, I cannot give him a precise commitment on timing. However, I can certainly say that I have heard what he and other noble Lords have had to say, and I am keen to move on this issue as quickly as possible, because I know that it is an important subject to individuals and many businesses across the UK. I hope to have a reply for him in the very near future, if that is appropriate.

In answer to my noble friend Lord Naseby’s points about the roles of other countries in this area, I note that two of the three pillars of our critical minerals strategy are on collaboration and enhancing international markets. Our engagement in the Minerals Security Partnership is just one example of where we are working right alongside allies on this important topic.

The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, the noble Baronesses, Lady Randerson and Lady Walmsley, and other Members raised the important issue of skills and supply chains. That is probably one of the key areas of focus for me in government at the moment. The Government are committed to safeguarding and growing the 155,000 jobs in the automotive sector across the UK. Ensuring that the sector has sufficient skilled workers to enable its transition towards net zero is one of our key priorities, and we are engaging closely with industry to consider further action that may be needed, including through the Automotive Council skills working group.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, accused the Government of failing to work effectively with research centres and businesses to develop the native industries of the future. The noble Lord is wrong, and my colleague Minister Freeman set out in the other place last week exactly what we are doing in this space. In response to his questions regarding resources, the circular economy is a challenge but one that we are embracing. Funding via the Faraday battery challenge through the Faraday Institution’s ReLiB stream has enabled research into the safe and efficient segregation and repurposing of cell components. The Government are also investing in two new interdisciplinary circular economy centres in this area as part of a wider £30 million investment, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

I apologise; I see that I am running out of time. I had a few other responses to noble Lords but I will put those in writing. I thank the Science and Technology Committee once again for its significant efforts in raising awareness and progressing our understanding on this important topic. Your Lordships have my commitment that the Government will continue to pay close attention to the many excellent points that have been raised in this debate, and I thank noble Lords for their attention.

18:06
Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister most sincerely for answering many of the questions raised, or at least for making an attempt to answer them. As he said, many remain unanswered, and I am glad that he has committed to writing to noble Lords.

When I listened to his answers, I came to the conclusion that everything the Government are doing is fantastic, and we should be world leaders in battery technology, battery science and so on. However, in reality it turns out that we are not. The question that I raised in the first place remains. The Government are doing something, but is it enough? I am glad that the Minister said he took note of the points raised and that the Government will think about it and see what action needs to be taken.

Having heard that response from the Minister, I hope the committee might in due course look at this again in a quick report to ask questions about how much is being done. For today, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. It has been a very interesting and committed debate on the part of all noble Lords. I thank the Minister again in particular.

Motion agreed.

Young People: Skills (Youth Unemployment Committee Report)

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Motion to Take Note
18:09
Moved by
Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the Youth Unemployment Committee Skills for every young person (HL Paper 98), Session 2021-22.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to speak to the report of the Youth Unemployment Committee, Skills for Every Young Person. It is some 210 pages long and contains 88 conclusions and recommendations. I thank the staff who supported the committee: Simon Keal, our clerk, Francesca Crossley, our policy analyst, and Abdullah Ahmad, our operations officer. I also thank our specialist advisers, Dr Kathleen Henehan from the Resolution Foundation and Oliver Newton from the Edge Foundation.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for enabling the Youth Unemployment Committee to be created at a time when there were serious worries about the impact of Covid on young people. There are long-term consequences of Covid, which are affecting many young people. I thank the members of the committee for their work over nine months during the Covid lockdown, when we met mostly by Zoom and Teams. I thank those speaking today, who will add their own experiences and insight to our work during this debate.

On behalf of the committee, I thank all the many people who submitted evidence to us or attended as witnesses: all the school, academy and college leaders, employers, charities, academics and, of course, young people themselves. It was of fundamental importance to us to listen directly to young people. Thanks must go to the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, for facilitating our listening engagement with young people in Bolton and south-east Lancashire, to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby for facilitating a similar listening engagement in the east Midlands and to the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford, for facilitating our listening engagement in London with young people from ethnic-minority backgrounds. This approach proved highly rewarding and played a major part in developing the thinking of the committee.

There has been a long delay of a year in holding this debate, but it has the advantage of being held with a new set of Ministers at the helm. The Prime Minister has put education at the centre of unlocking growth, and it is reported that the Government will attempt to boost growth through investment in training and end the long-standing bias towards academic rather than technical qualifications. Skills are the bedrock of a thriving labour market. We heard again and again that there is a serious mismatch between the skills young people develop in school and college today and those that the future economy will need. This is caused by two key issues.

First, the developing economy has new sectors and jobs—in the green sector and the digital sector, where there is growth in cyber and artificial intelligence. At the same time, existing sectors such as social care are struggling to fill posts. To tackle this, we recommended that the Government develop a long-term national plan for anticipating and addressing skills mismatches.

Secondly, we heard from employers that when students leave school, many do not have the skills they need to find work. The school system is characterised by a national curriculum focused on academic subjects and written exams. This is not helping young people develop or showcase other skills that we need, such as teamwork, communication, creativity or problem solving. Equally, although careers guidance has improved, it is still not being taught uniformly and is not being supported by quality work experience provision. This means that too many young people are not aware of the skills they need to get into a new, growing sector.

Therefore, we recommended that the Government must recalibrate the compulsory components of the national curriculum and performance measures, putting skills at their heart. Digital and creative subjects such as design and technology are seen as less important than other subjects in the Government’s EBacc measure, while essential skills such as oracy, teamwork, and problem solving are not being tested because of the focus on the academic. I was very disappointed to read in the press last week of suggestions that design and technology may continue to decline because of the poor funding situation of many schools. This must be avoided.

We were disappointed by the Government’s response to our report, in which they argued that they do not see a need for curriculum reform. I am confident that the committee is right and that what we have said reflects the general view outside Whitehall and Westminster.

As an example, the president of the Royal Society in a letter to the Times on 28 October said:

“While preparing people for the workplace is not the sole aim of education, if it is failing to do this, it is failing young people and the economy. For too long we have allowed academic snobbery to make vocational education the poor relation and laughed off a lack of maths skills.”


This strikes a chord with our recommendations 82 to 87 on the national curriculum.

On a more positive note, we were pleased to hear that the Government will produce better, more accessible information on skills. The publication of data from the Skills and Productivity Board and the creation of a new Unit for Future Skills is welcome. We still believe that more should be done to facilitate careers guidance in primary schools; it is where individual career decisions start to be made.

While youth unemployment has fallen from its pandemic peak, it remains higher than in several comparable global economies. Although we have seen a fall in the number of young people not in employment, education or training since mid-2020, the recent estimate of over 600,000 young people in this category is simply far too high at a time when we have 500,000 job vacancies across the United Kingdom. This problem is exacerbated by past and present Governments under- funding and undervaluing further education in comparison with the university route, as well as there not being enough apprenticeship opportunities for young people who want to do them, and the apprenticeship levy not being focused primarily on young people.

Young people who are disadvantaged are still not receiving the support that they need—we talk in chapter 6 of the issues that the lack of support creates for those groups. We said that to tackle disadvantage as a barrier to work, we must ensure that all young people—especially the most disadvantaged, including those with additional needs, those in care and those in custody—have access to quality careers advice from primary school age onwards and a strong work experience offer. It became clear to us that more disability employment advisers are needed.

We called for a new education and workplace race equality strategy that tackles discrimination and unequal opportunities. I draw particular attention to recommendations 59 and 60 about young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who still face barriers. That strategy would focus on collecting data and proposing targeted support programmes. I know that the Government said that they did not feel such a race equality strategy was necessary at this time; nevertheless, they committed to monitoring our recommendations and addressing any concerns. I strongly hope that they will do so.

We heard a lot of evidence about progression routes needing to be available so that those starting a course know what they should move on to do next. The biggest example of that was Kickstart, where there was no clear progression route following taking part in the course. We were told that we needed better promotion of careers and apprenticeships in schools and that there was a need for rigorous enforcement of the Baker clause to ensure parity of esteem for technical and academic routes. We were told, too, that there was a need for a careers guidance guarantee that would enable every disadvantaged young person to have access to one-to-one careers guidance, as well as a need for a constant review of the real impact of careers hubs and the Careers & Enterprise Company on individual schools and colleges and a continuous review of T-levels to ensure their availability in all parts of the country. We were impressed by the potential for the use of the UCAS system to include apprenticeships using local platforms. We thought that there was a need for a lifetime skills guarantee to apply to qualifications below level 3, and also concluded that we had to strengthen digital skills at all levels.

That takes me on to say that I welcome the appointment of Gillian Keegan MP as Secretary of State for Education. She gave evidence to our committee on 13 July 2021, when she was Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills at the Department for Education. She said that she was the first apprentice who had held that role and that she was passionate about apprenticeships because it was a life-changing experience for her. She also said:

“There has always been a disconnect between the education system and employers. That has possibly accelerated in the last 20 years or so, as we have really entered the digital age … That is why the careers hubs are important, because that is working with real businesses.”


Reading that again, and the transcript of what she said to our committee 18 months ago, it seems that there is now huge potential for a change of government direction towards technical education and apprenticeships.

Finally, I draw attention to recent evidence on apprenticeships from the Learning and Work Institute. What I am about to say came in an email from the institute, so these are its words: “Research on apprenticeship outcomes shows that nearly half—47%—of the 2,500 apprentices surveyed dropped out of the training before completion. A lack of support from apprentice employers—37%—or tutor—26%—was the most common reason for non-completion, but reasons also included poor programme organisation—32%—or teaching quality—24%. Those who did not complete their apprenticeships were much less likely to find a permanent job or promotion. It is particularly important that young people at risk of becoming NEET have access to high quality apprenticeships, and steps are taken to address non-completion.” I guess the Minister will be aware of these figures, but they are important to consider so that we understand what action can be taken to alleviate the concerns that have been raised. The Learning and Work Institute also draws attention to the fact that the number of people starting apprenticeships is declining, mirroring not a decline in interest but rather in opportunities available.

Last but not least, the committee called for a new, independent young people’s commissioner to be the voice of our young people. We noted split responsibilities across several ministerial portfolios for the support of young people. We concluded that this split was unhelpful, that it is essential to avoid silos and silo working and that a young people’s commissioner would focus attention on the interests of young people directly in making representations to the Government. I hope that further thought will be given to that because there are other commissioners for other age groups, and it seems that the focused attention of a commission on young people specifically would help to bridge some of the gaps that we identified between Ministers and departments in Whitehall.

I want to borrow something that my noble friend Lord Storey said in one of our meetings. How will we know when we have succeeded with this task of encouraging apprenticeships and greater technical education? We will know when secondary schools have banners on their railings that do not talk just of their Ofsted rating or the number of GCSEs and A-levels they have secured but will also tell the public how many apprenticeships they have produced for young people. I beg to move.

18:24
Lord Baker of Dorking Portrait Lord Baker of Dorking (Con)
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My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on being the brilliant chair of this committee. We heard a huge volume of evidence, and for him to marshal it and for us to hear and discuss it was quite remarkable.

This is a radical report, and I do not expect the Government to welcome it at all. I cannot anticipate what the Minister is going to say, but the attitude of the Department for Education to all change is now totally negative. In the last year, there have been six major reports, of which this is one. The first was from the High Mistress of St Paul’s School a year ago. It was a huge survey of 800 people, including from the public sector. She came to the conclusion that the curriculum was not fit for purpose, and nor were GCSEs. She was told—not by a Minister but by the Permanent Secretary at the department—“Forget it, we’re not going to change anything”.

A fortnight ago, we had a debate on the report from the Times Education Commission. The Minister made it quite clear that the Government were going to bin that as well. Again, the report recommended substantial changes in our curriculum. So I do not expect that the Minister tonight will accept any of the 88 recommendations that we have made—and certainly not the most important ones.

Some of the most important ones centre on the curriculum. The evidence we heard from industrialists, big and small, was that it is not suited for purpose because too many youngsters at 18 leave with no employability skills at all—none whatever. By “employability skills” they mean an experience of working on teams. That does not happen in the present curriculum. Experience of collaborative problem-solving does not happen in the present curriculum. Having really good communication skills—“oratory”, as it is called—is not taught in our present system, either. This was the absolutely overwhelming weight of evidence and, quite frankly, the Department for Education does not listen at all.

Nissan, one of the largest car manufacturers in our country, said that design technology should be a compulsory subject—but no chance at all. The Government over the last 12 years have presided over a decline in design technology of 80%—it is absolutely unbelievable. What is more, over the past 12 years they have cut technical education by 20%. They are not interested in it at all. The Department for Education is preoccupied solely with academic subjects.

We took a lot of evidence on data skills. The actual curriculum the Government are following is word for word what was published in 1904 in the Edwardian age: exactly the same subjects as 150 years ago. Well, the Minister might recall that 150 years ago, a man with a red flag would have to walk in front of a car. We have moved on from that now and, quite frankly, the Government should recognise that artificial intelligence is the gold rush of this century—and artificial intelligence is embedded in data skills. So will the Minister accept our recommendation that all primary schools should have coding clubs—all, not some? Every student should have the right to a computer—not just some but every single one.

When it comes to secondary education, does the Minister realise that, compared with 2016, 40% less computing is being taught in our schools? It really is extraordinary. We recommended that computing, which means not just coding but virtual reality, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, should be taught from 11, as soon as possible. I do not expect she is going to accept that tonight, but it is in fact what we ought to do. This is the age in which we are living, and the department is digging in again and again.

The actual problem we have had is that, since 2010, we have been subjected to the theory of an American educator called Hirsch, who says that if you just give to those disadvantaged children academic subjects, they will flourish and expand and all the rest of it. Well, that has failed: we have been the test bed. There is no other country that has followed Hirsch and no state in America that has followed Hirsch, but we have been the test bed and the programme has failed. Today, there are as many disadvantaged students—300,000—as there were in 2010. There has been no real improvement whatever. So what is the result? We have job vacancies. Which department is responsible for job vacancies? It is the Department for Education, because it has not provided what industry and commerce need in the youngsters they are going to employ.

Therefore, we are on the edge of a major change, because the volume of opinion is now building up. The membership of our committee was not a group of eccentric amateurs; it included two ex-Secretaries of State, a former Director-General of the BBC, and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, who is the greatest advocate in this country of improving the education of black, Asian and minority interest students.

Again, we had recommendations on this—we had recommendations on work experience, but the Government want to phase out work experience. They passed legislation in 2016 to try to restrict the number of people going on work experience from ages 14 to 16. This is so much against what is needed in our country.

This report is radical, and I was proud to be a member of the committee that produced it, but this is not just a single matter. A volume of opinion is now growing. I am very glad to see that the Labour Party is seriously going to consider fundamental educational reform. I can see noble Lords nodding. I hope that my party will also embrace that, and I will do everything I can to support it. We have to bring skills back into education, where they have not been for a very long time.

Are there grounds for hope? Yes, I think there are. The new Secretary of State for Education is the first since 1870 to have been an apprentice. I therefore think that she will be sympathetic to many of the proposals in this report. The Prime Minister, in a briefing from No. 10 to the Times newspaper, said that education was a silver bullet. I hope we might have some indication of the silver bullet tonight. I doubt that we will, but there we are.

Lord Baker of Dorking Portrait Lord Baker of Dorking (Con)
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I ask the noble Lord please not to worry about the time I am taking. He should just listen to what I am saying—he will learn something.

I hope that in addition, we will tonight have some evidence of what the silver bullet is—or will it just be a defence of the status quo? The status quo has failed on an absolutely massive scale. Youth unemployment is at 9%. By the way, when we, a committee looking into youth unemployment, asked the Minister and the senior civil servant who appeared before us what was the level of youth unemployment, neither of them knew. It is at 9% but in the depressed areas of our country, such as in Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent and Blyth, it is as high as 20%. I therefore hope that we will see a considerable change.

I conclude by saying that I was very interested to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech last week has appointed an assistant, who I know very well, to be his adviser on education. That is clearly an indication that he will not expect very original ideas to emerge from the Department for Education. I wanted to end on a note of optimism, and that is as optimistic as I can be.

18:33
Lord Knight of Weymouth Portrait Lord Knight of Weymouth (Lab)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Baker, because in many ways he always allows me to act as good cop. I remind your Lordships of my educational interests in the register, and I very much endorse the thanks given to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, his committee and to all the staff who worked on this excellent report.

Back in 2009—which these days is prehistory—I was appointed the Minister of State attending Cabinet for Education and Welfare Reform. That was the title, but it was clear that Gordon Brown as Prime Minister basically wanted me to be the Minister for youth unemployment. It was post crash and he, like many of us, was concerned about the scarring effect of long-term unemployment on young people. When I arrived, the Permanent Secretary said to me, “It is inevitable that youth unemployment will continue to rise. You’ve got to face up to the fact that those scarring effects and social problems are just going to happen.” I am happy to say that we managed to get youth unemployment down during the time I was there, from 664,000 to 625,000; it did not do us any good in the election, but there you go. That was thanks to the Future Jobs Fund, which was then imitated in a much paler form by Kickstart when the Covid crisis then hit. However, I will not get bogged down in the detail comparing them and why I think the Future Jobs Fund was a much better scheme.

The reason why I wanted to recall all that is because it was quite a culture shock going into that job, having been Schools Minister for three years. I had been trotting out the rhetoric about how brilliant all our schools were and what a great job we were doing, and then I saw and met the young people who were at the wrong end of the school system and had not been well served by it. As Schools Minister, I was the Minister who made being NEET technically illegal because I conceived of and took through the legislation to raise the participation age to 18. Indeed, that was a success statistically, in that we moved from 15% NEET down to 10% NEET in that time, but the reality for the minority who continue to be failed by our school system is pretty bleak. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, underscored that.

This report goes to the right things: the skills gap and the school curriculum. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, about the curriculum, the need for a much better, all-age careers service, fully staffed by proper professionals who can help people of every age, the need for FE funding and apprenticeships for young people in particular and the problem of Whitehall silos. When I was at DWP I was trying to work with the Skills Minister, who I got on really well with. We both wanted to join up the skills system and the unemployment support system, yet the silos of Whitehall frustrated us.

It is really important that the recommendations in this report are listened to by government, but I will use the remaining time I have to say that I also want to see a mindset change. The reason why we wanted to raise the participation age was to create a mindset change which said that it is intolerable that there are people not in education, employment or training at the ages of 16 to 19. My 11 year-old at home, who has just started year 7 this term, will leave statutory education in 2030. She will then probably have a working life of 50 to 60 years, so she will be in the labour market until something like 2080 or 2090. We have to think about whether, in the remainder of her secondary school experience that she has already started, we are preparing her for the way the world—her world—will change between now and 2090.

We have to think about the need for a greener economy and the sorts of green growth and investment that has just been talked about in the previous debate in this Room. We have to think about STEM skills, but also the craft skills for a retrofit economy, which in many ways is what we need in order to make existing resources go further.

AI machines will be doing much more of the work during the rest of this century, which means we need an education system that helps my daughter compete as a better human, not as a better machine. The danger of our current curriculum is that it is training our children to be machines that will be outcompeted by better machines. We need to be more human, more caring and more curious. We will have an ageing population during our lifetime which simply cannot afford to carry a large number of young people who become long-term unemployed and a drain on the welfare state.

We need to start from there—from a vision of what sort of world this century will create for the people who are currently in school—and work backwards. What will the adult skill system be like? Will it allow people to constantly retrain, change careers and have a proper love of learning and ability to self-direct their learning? What changes do we need in our higher and further education systems so that they work better together in all parts of the country, not just in those where the universities are currently located?

What are the qualification and curriculum needs? I recently went into an E-ACT school in Daventry with a motor vehicle workshop. I asked about the qualifications that are being studied, and none of them include a specification for hybrid cars. Yet, as we just heard in the previous debate, we will not be selling internal combustion engine cars by the time the kids working on those cars enter the labour market. It is shocking that we do not have a skill system that anticipates the future. It looks at what we might need now and the skills gaps now, and tries to fill those with qualifications, but that is inadequate. We need now to be looking to a much more dynamic, future-looking, whole-system change, so that we can urgently achieve the green growth and the much more human-centred society that this country, including my 11 year-old at home, is growing up into.

18:40
Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, when I first decided to look at the report and speak on it, I was struck by the fact that many of us who had been looking at this field and at education had been agreeing with it for quite a long time. We had been agreeing with its general thrust that further education and technical skills have been seen as a second-class option by an education system that is dominated—I forget which noble Lord said this; it might have been the noble Lord, Lord Knight—by an objective to get everybody to Oxford—Cambridge will do. It is a process of acquiring exams, getting them rubber stamped and going through. This is the culture of our education system because it is led by graduates and that is where they want to go. We all know that what is normal is what we did.

We must shift culturally from that, but that it is very difficult to do. The Government inherited a situation where they are trying to do this, but they have discovered not only is that what we do not need for our economy because only a limited number of graduates are needed, especially at higher levels, but that certain people cannot join in with that process culturally or because of special educational needs. The Minister will have been expecting me to say that. When she answers, will she tell us when we will finally get the Government’s response? Last time, she said that it would be December—that is next week. Will it be next week? Will it be before Christmas? That will colour quite a lot of what we are saying because large sections of those who are failing and cannot get into certain universities are in the special educational needs categories or they are factors in their personal cocktail of circumstances which often hold them back from succeeding. If they cannot pass those GCSEs by which we are so keen on defining the success of a school, how are we going to make sure that they carry on? The incentive in the past two years to offload has been absolutely there, and that is why we have such a high number of children who are not in school. If it is not the only reason, it is a factor.

Something else I gathered from this report and by talking to other people is that a key skill is probably not passing that English exam but using a computer efficiently. I remind the Committee of my declared interests in dyslexia and technology. Schools also allow you, bizarrely, to nullify some of those disadvantages—say, if you have dyslexia—of not acquiring those skills that most people have of being able to read and write quite easily. It is actually so commonly available now that there is a shift towards teaching people to use a standard package of technology, rather than putting additional technology on, but you have to use it and you have to get the classroom to use it. It would be a way of allowing more people to acquire a new key set of skills.

Everybody seems to agree on the committee—it is in the committee’s findings—on the fact that that is your new key set of skills. But if you are not going to encourage people to do this by saying that this is what you should be doing now, encouraging them to go and learn other skills, and then insisting that you have to get that 1960s grammar school-type approach to education—that you have to have X number of ticks to get through—you are going to continue to make it difficult to get these groups in, denying the initial stage of entrance to these processes. I have a long history when it comes to apprenticeships. If you are going to allow them in, even if you allow them to take the course, they cannot finish it. I know that there have been changes, some of which I helped to initiate, a long time ago, but I have heard that it is more observed in the breach than in the practice. But that is a battle for another day.

If the Government are not going to accept that radical change needs to take place in our exam system, we will continue to get the same results. We will continue to get an Education Department that is constantly talking about people retaking courses—people who are not achieving and who have not achieved at school—in something that most people do fairly easily. If we are going to carry on doing this, we are not allowing them to go on to further training, and we are effectively writing them off—that is, if they have not already taken themselves away. These factors are accentuated by their background: if they come from a family where everybody has failed exams, they will say, “I’m not going to be different from my folks”, and they will continue to do it.

How do we break this pattern? The only way in which we will start to dent this outside the curriculum is to make sure that there is better careers advice, which gets to the homes of these pupils. If you manage to sell it to the parents, the child may listen. How we do that interaction with the parents will always be difficult, but that is the key structure. It is about making sure that any child says something to the parents and the parents say, “Yes, we’ll buy in”. At the moment, careers advice is that you should work terribly hard, get on with the process and get your degree—but we have excluded hundreds of thousands of people before you have started, because it is not something that they are attuned to. If we make that path more open, which means far more emphasis on further education than we have now, we stand a chance of affecting it.

We need a huge cultural shift, as well as a technical one. Unless we start to embrace that with an aggressive attitude, we will never get there—because the status quo is the status quo because of the fact that people do not like to change.

18:47
Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley (CB)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, called for bringing skills back into education, and I shall attempt to present a bridge to that end. Before doing so, I fully sympathise with the frustration of the noble Lord, Lord Knight, with silos—a culture that needs urgent dismantling. Being holistic is the key word for going forward, generally through everything in life and particularly in relation to the UK’s management of itself.

I have happily slept-walked into a sector of critical importance to the United Kingdom—namely, the future of the UK’s freight and logistics, for which I serve as co-chair to the parliamentary group. This is to be a strategic evaluation by region, then analysed nationally by modal, by non-conflicted persons in an evaluation for decades to come. Skills and training are crucial, so I welcome this opportunity to draw attention to the opportunity that the sector presents as a career path for the youth of today.

As background, logistics is a large and growing industry across the UK, employing 2.56 million people, either directly or indirectly, accounting for 8% of the workforce. Top employers, of which 11 are pure logistics companies, include world-class players such as DHL Express, Wincanton and CEVA Logistics. Employment has nearly doubled since 2012, outpacing the rest of the UK economy and accounting for 8% of the workforce, contributing £139 billion gross value to the UK economy. A helpful independent report by Frontier Economics, supported by Logistics UK, has looked at the economic, social and environmental impact of the logistics industry, with findings based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis.

A recent school career leaders presentation has challenged current perceptions about logistics roles as presenting an open career structure with the least number of managers with degrees. Some 30% of all roles advertised in the south-east Midlands are for logistics roles, of which one-third are above £30,000, well above the national average. A range of growth forecasts shows that we could be looking at creating 25,000 new jobs over the next 15 to 20 years in the warehousing sector alone.

All this brings me full circle to the report before us this afternoon. Logistics provides opportunities for people who may not otherwise be in work. An independent survey indicates that 20% of people currently in logistics were previously unemployed, of whom one in four was long-term unemployed. Almost two-thirds—62%—of logistics managers do not have a university degree.

There is, however, a call for reform of the apprenticeship levy so that funds can be spent on alternative training and qualifications. Issues raised as barriers to using apprenticeships typically include the 12-month minimum duration and the 20% off-the-job training requirement—in other words, one day per week spent training. It is suggested that they do not get as much out of the levy as they put in, which is supported by the fact that, during the financial year 2019-20, only 15% of apprenticeship levy-paying employers fully utilised the funds available to them. A skills levy, as opposed to an apprenticeship levy, would help to bridge the gap between shortages and skill acquisition. The apprenticeship levy—although originally hailed as a mechanism to link young people wanting a solid start to their career with businesses that needed next-generation knowledge, skills, and behaviours—has not reached the desired target audience.

It should be underlined that truck drivers and other vehicle operators currently struggle with the rigidity of the apprenticeship framework and could recruit and train more people more quickly if it were reformed into a skills levy. As an example, there is a heavy goods vehicle apprenticeship standard; it takes 14 months to complete, but the drivers have their licences in six months. Most employers continue to train their own drivers to their specific standards and work practices long after they have passed their tests, meaning that the continued requirement for individuals to attend college once a week is rather redundant.

While advanced and higher-level apprenticeships are important in professional development planning and for retention, with young people having an appetite to learn and businesses having a need for talent, the pipeline that joins them seems at present not to be sufficiently accessible for logistics and transport. Simplifying offerings and making more of portable modules would go some way to rectify those challenges. Thinking creatively, outside of formal qualifications, could lead to accredited modular learning that could then, if desired, lead to a qualification later. This is particularly important when considering the lean margins of the sector. If qualifications are to be company funded outside the levy for smaller organisations, a lack of return on investment could cause setbacks to future investment.

The propensity to put qualifications on a pedestal over on-the-job learning needs to be revisited to prevent the alienation of those looking to progress. Accredited training is a viable option as an alternative to more traditional qualifications for immediate return on investment to support those who want to pursue a career in the transport sector with businesses that desperately need those skills in their workforce. The Assured Skills Academies in Northern Ireland provide an interesting blueprint.

Generation Logistics is initially a 12-month programme of engagement and promotional activities that aims to bring the industry together, shift perceptions and encourage the next generation of logistics workers to engage with available opportunities. Generation Logistics’ campaigns are centred around increasing the diversity of the sector, ensuring that, when people across all demographics view Generation Logistics material, they see themselves reflected.

Addressing the aspiration gap is also key, profiling the managerial jobs that many will be unaware exist in the sector and so dismiss a career in logistics as not being one that matches their ambitions. Promoting the diversity of opportunities should support inclusion, noting the range of opportunities that are available that focus on certain knowledge, skills and behaviours, not on background, race or gender.

There is a danger, when considering the promotion of the profession, that only the more attractive side is shown to target audiences: robotics, driverless technology and more. However, it is critical to strike a balance to ensure that the sector not only recruits, but retains, new talent. Demystifying the sector, in addition to commonly held myth, is perhaps an attraction strategy better rooted in the everyday roles the sector is crying out to fill. Re-education, such as promoting the benefits of shift work as flexible, rather than undesirable, makes for interesting campaigns for both young people and career changers alike.

To change this perception, those working in logistics, transport and supply chain operations must be positioned as practitioners and professionals against benchmarked standards. Young people cannot be what they cannot see, and logistics is the very definition of a hidden industry, operating behind closed doors and yet keeping the United Kingdom moving. A national campaign to promote the logistics profession to underrepresented groups is being spearheaded by Generation Logistics, supported by the Department for Transport, and is aiming to address the negative perceptions of the sector and promote the availability of attractive, fulfilling jobs at all levels.

Lord Harlech Portrait Lord Harlech (Con)
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My Lords, before we continue, I remind your Lordships that the advisory Back-Bench speaking time is seven minutes. It says “advisory” but it is actually mandated.

18:56
Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am someone who often goes over and tests the patience of the House. I thank the noble Lord and the members of the committee for enabling us to participate in this discussion. It is an incredible report and everywhere I touched, I wanted to read more, but I confess that I have not finished it. I want to refrain from detailing statistics as noble Lords are all too conversant about the level of disparities in Newham, Barking and Dagenham, Brent and, indeed, Tower Hamlets, which are the areas I want to concentrate on, as a result of the significant effect of the lack of opportunities for young people to be meaningfully engaged in education, jobs and training,

I wish to raise two points particularly about Tower Hamlets and more generally on the impending explosion of emerging technologies and our unpreparedness to ensure that a generation of young people profit from opportunities and to consider how we mitigate the gaps which are profoundly highlighted in this report. Tower Hamlets’ young people are encircled within Canary Wharf, Broadgate and the City of London, where the majority of employees commute long distances for work. For the citizens of places such as Tower Hamlets, employment prospects remain at the periphery of hospitality or the food and catering sector. Even graduates are stacking shelves in the retail industry. I urge urgent action to address the skills shortage. How can IT and technical education be intensified in schools, colleges and universities to meet the imminent demand? What assessment have the Government made of the number of skilled graduates employed in the retail sector and the evident overrepresentation of graduates employed in basic positions on the floor and at checkouts? Do we know what the barriers are that prevent their progress to management? What action is being taken to ensure that employers are keeping their commitment to create local jobs and that pathways are in place for graduates to retrain and transfer their skills to meet employers’ needs in, for instance, data management, automation, digital technology and related sectors?

In my long-standing community experience, 30, 20 and 10 years ago employers used to claim that our kids could not speak good English or were not educated to high standards. This rationale is no longer valid, so why do so many large employers continue not to reflect the borough’s population? In financial, health and education institutions, visible representation remains unequal. School, university, health and local authority leadership does not reflect the local highly educated, trained and fit population. What policy changes are required to address these unequal balances and disparities?

A dizzying array of government and think tank reports highlights the gaps and action required, so we cannot say we lack awareness or evidence. This report is a prime example. Walking in any part of Tower Hamlets, night or day, indicates that countless young people do not have sufficient options for activities outside the home, school or college, after a decade of government and local systemic dismantling of youth provision, career mentoring and leisure facilities. Not enough of our young people are gainfully engaged, employed, training or undertaking apprenticeships, and they lack access to adequate community facilities, sports and other services, resulting in devastating social and mental health consequences.

Incidentally, I welcome the latest Tower Hamlets initiative to reinstate the education maintenance allowance, which was summarily annulled by the previous administration, despite tangible effects on educational attainment in Tower Hamlets in that 10-year period. This is good news for young people who wish to pursue education and not feel the pressure to work. It is worth pointing out that this borough has a proud tradition and history of pioneering activism and visionary entrepreneurship, which is responsible for the curry industry, the gentrification of Canary Wharf, the hipness of Shoreditch and trendy Spitalfields Market, and a growing band of IT technology geeks setting up offices.

The immense physical changes to the area have not necessarily improved the lives of the majority, who live squashed between the many offices and residential blocks of highly prized buildings which look sideways to continuous deprivation, poverty and, crucially, young people’s inevitable cycle of lacking opportunities and, therefore, aspiration. This is the reality of the vast and significant population of families who can only look into the distance of so-called social mobility aspiration.

My proposition is simple: we know the issues for young people up and down our country. Tower Hamlets is no different from Cumbria or Cardiff, where there are unacceptable pockets of disparities regardless of the glaring fact that we are the sixth-largest economy in an ever-shrinking world where young people are aware and connected to others through emerging technologies. The revolution we see elsewhere may come to our shore if we do not create a pathway for their meaningful participation in our economy and empower their fullest potential.

PwC and McKinsey highlight the profound shift towards automation and its disconnect to the job markets. We need to address these gaps early in education and careers advice, as well as creating community services which provide support and mentor young people into the lucrative career opportunities that exist within the emerging technology and digital sectors.

Lately I have had the privilege of working with colleagues from across the House, considering the effect of emerging technology as the chair of the APPG on the Metaverse and Web 3.0. I have met significant numbers of stakeholders and leaders in this space. Again, we need to assert those opportunities and ensure that this space does not continue to be the purview of the elites. We must be prepared to assist the innovators to develop in this space, which includes the creative industries, fashion, AI, robotics, digital currency and so on.

There are new sectors that are also disenfranchising communities and not integrating, although I wish to highlight the Surrey Academy for Blockchain and Metaverse Applications and Durham University Business School, which both reach into the community. Both institutions are looking to work with local communities and schools in order to improve people’s understanding of the potential benefit of explaining a new career choice.

I come to my final point, with noble Lords’ indulgence. I know some fantastic local schools that are working in this field. I commend Miss Nina Morris-Evans, who brought a fantastic group of young people from Haverstock School in Camden to meet us at the APPG on Women and Work. I hope their experience will be a long-standing one and will profoundly impact their choice of careers.

19:04
Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the Youth Unemployment Committee for their endeavours, which have revealed much detail on the subject and resulted in a most comprehensive report. It is unfortunate that we have had to wait a full year for your Lordships to be able to debate its many positive recommendations.

The headline figures for youth unemployment have improved slightly since the report was published, but they still make grim reading. Some 634,000 young people aged 16 to 24 were economically inactive and not in full-time education in July to September this year. Youth unemployment overall may have gone down, but this has not affected the long-standing issue of disabled young people struggling to move successfully from education into work, with little impact on the disability employment gap.

I will dedicate much of my contribution to a major factor hindering a response to the problem of youth unemployment: too many young people are not receiving appropriate guidance at school on what a career can offer and what path needs to be followed to get there. The Careers and Enterprise Company has done much good work in extending the number of secondary schools delivering the Gatsby benchmarks, but I have long believed that careers education and guidance should begin in primary school. I was pleased to note that the committee reached the same conclusion.

Not nearly enough notice is taken by the DfE of the excellent and pioneering work done by a charitable organisation called Primary Futures. Developed with teachers, it connects primary schools with diverse workplace volunteers to take part in aspiration activities and talk with children about their jobs. Even allowing for the disproportionate number of 10 year-olds who want to be footballers, pop stars or YouTubers, many primary school children develop at least an outline of the career they would like to aim for. Why wait until they reach secondary school to begin that journey?

The Gatsby benchmarks were developed by Sir John Holman, whom I think the noble Lord, Lord Baker, referred to. Last year, the Government appointed him as a strategic adviser on careers guidance to Ministers in the DfE; this was necessary because one in five schools in England does not meet any of the eight Gatsby benchmarks. Only 37% of schools meet at least half of them; on average, schools meet just three. There is a serious lack of careers education, advice and guidance in schools, which disproportionately hits disadvantaged young people and those with disabilities.

The Minister will recall that, during the passage of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, I and other noble Lords sought to increase the Government’s proposal for the number of times schools should grant access to employers, further education colleges and others under the so-called Baker clause. She resisted that, as she did our proposal for Ofsted to withhold an “outstanding” grade from schools which restricted access to the provision of information on technical education routes. The Act has now given legal clout to provide that access. I very much hope that will see action taken against recalcitrant headteachers and MATs that think the law does not apply to them. This is about young people’s futures; they must be allowed as much diversity as possible in the options open to them.

The Minister and her officials will be aware of the report published last month by Labour’s council of skills advisers, led by my noble friend Lord Blunkett. The report called for a complete shake-up of the careers service, from school through to adult careers guidance, which should ensure that a trained careers leader is embedded in every school with responsibility for the career guidance programme, supported by and accountable to the senior leadership team. I heartily endorse that recommendation.

Apprenticeships are also a key aspect of tackling youth unemployment, because they can change lives. They also offer huge returns on investment for individuals and employers; the Centre for Social Justice showed in a 2020 report that for every £1 invested in level 3 apprenticeships, there is a £28 return to the wider economy. If used properly, they could help to plug the skills gaps our country is facing and support young people into work. The demand for apprenticeships from young people is at an all-time high, but the current apprenticeship levy system favours older learners—those over 25—by a ratio of two to one. Polling by the Centre for Social Justice found that one in six levy-paying employers uses levy funds to rebadge existing training or to accredit skills employees already have. That is not the purpose of the levy.

As recommended by the committee in its report, the Government should require employers to use the apprenticeship system to focus on young people. The incentives for employers to take on apprentices over the pandemic proved effective in boosting opportunities for young people because three-quarters of apprentices who started under this scheme were aged between 16 and 24. This scheme should be reintroduced and financed using some of the levy underspend. Since the levy was introduced in 2017, in excess of £2 billion has been returned to the Treasury. What is the point of that? A Labour Government would also use some of the unspent levy to fund other types of training, which would also benefit young people by offering modular courses and the development of functional skills to tackle key skills gaps.

I agree with the Social Market Foundation’s call for all apprenticeship opportunities to be listed on the UCAS system, perhaps by establishing and integrating local platforms. This would meet the often referenced but rarely implemented parity of esteem between the academic and technical routes open to young people. The lifetime skills guarantee is an important step towards restoring a funded entitlement for level 3 study. However, as many noble Lords emphasised during the debates on the skills Bill, there is no recognition of the value of qualifications below level 3 in creating progression pathways for young people, which is another issue highlighted in the committee report. A DfE report published last year revealed the return on investment of these qualifications and concluded that the net present value of qualifications below level 2 is higher than for level 3. Why have the Government ignored their own evidence?

In his Statement last week, the Chancellor said that

“Being pro-education is being pro-growth.”—[Official Report, Commons, 17/11/22; col. 849.]


Yet despite an extra £2.3 billion annually being announced for schools, there was no extra funding for further education. Colleges are vital providers of skills for young people entering work, yet FE funding compares extremely unfavourably with both university and school funding after a decade of funding cuts. The committee report calls for the Government to devise a new method of funding for FE, determined by student demand. I hope that the Minister will have something to say on that in her response.

19:11
Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
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My Lords, this is an excellent and comprehensive report, on which I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and his committee. Coming in at the tail end of the innings, I will just comment on some specific issues that resonate with me within the report’s very broad coverage.

Careers education, information, advice and guidance, which are not all the same thing, have made much progress over recent years, not least thanks to the efforts of the Careers and Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service. However, as the report notes, there is still a long way to go to assure truly national coverage, consistency and quality. The report, like much policy discussion, tends to concentrate on the education aspect more than on information, advice and guidance. Yet IAG, delivered by qualified career development professionals, especially through personal guidance interviews, should be at the heart of high-quality careers provision. Such interviews at present are often too few or too short to be fully effective. They fall well short of the recommendation of 45 minutes. One of my consistent concerns relates to the lack of investment in developing the careers development workforce to meet this need.

Another issue is whether schools have the funds to attract and retain qualified careers staff. I hear increasing examples of schools, colleges and National Careers Service providers struggling to recruit and retain qualified careers advisers. What plans do the Government have to address this, perhaps through bursaries or other support to gain the necessary qualifications? Careers leaders in schools are not necessarily qualified to provide IAG, so there needs to be proper funding for professional careers advisers who are. Performance against the Gatsby benchmarks for good career guidance is currently assessed by schools themselves. What plans do the Government have to introduce more rigorous external assessment of outputs—for example, based on the Careers Development Institute’s career development framework or the careers impact review being piloted by the Careers and Enterprise Company, or maybe through a careers guidance guarantee, as suggested in the report?

The report also highlights the crucial importance of work experience. Young people need multiple workplace experiences covering a variety of different business sectors and activities—whether they be talks by employers or employees, workplace visits, job shadowing or actual placements—and these must be of high quality. Meeting the requirements of the Baker clause in its latest incarnation should be an absolute minimum, and needs to be enforced, including through Ofsted inspections. I think it is extraordinary that government programmes such as Kickstart do not include careers support as an integral part. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, mentioned Sir John Holman. His recommendations were promised for summer this year; can the Minister tell us when those will appear?

The report rightly includes a substantial chapter on apprenticeships, making recommendations which I fully support. However, I am a little uncomfortable with the suggestion that any employer receiving levy funding should spend at least two-thirds of it on young people under 25 starting apprenticeships at level 2 or 3. There is certainly a need to increase such apprenticeships for younger people, but upskilling and reskilling existing older workers is also vital, and in some sectors and businesses may be a higher priority and more realistically achievable than taking on new, younger employees. Having said that, I fully support increasing the flexibility of the levy and providing mechanisms to encourage employers, particularly SMEs, to take on more younger apprentices.

The new flexi-job apprenticeships scheme is a welcome idea to make it easier for SMEs to take on and support apprentices, and I was delighted to host the launch of the Evolve flexi-job apprenticeship agency in the Lords in July. However, I worry about whether this will prove attractive enough to overcome the barriers facing small firms considering offering apprenticeships, not just the costs but the management time and effort required to support and oversee young apprentices and the bureaucracy involved. It would be a pity if this scheme followed previous initiatives, such as apprenticeship training agencies and group training associations, in having only limited impact.

One topic not covered in the committee’s report is the role of independent training providers—ITPs—in addressing youth unemployment. They are mentioned only once, and only in a quotation from a government report. Having run an ITP providing employability skills training—including via the Future Jobs Fund, which the noble Lord, Lord Knight, mentioned—for young Londoners, many of them at risk of becoming NEET, I know how important ITPs can be in providing training for people who might otherwise fall through gaps in the system and in meeting specific employer training needs that are not covered by existing FE and other provision. ITPs provide the training for some 70% of all apprenticeships, yet the views and capabilities of ITPs are often underrepresented in policy relating to youth employment and skills. I welcome the fact that AELP—the Association of Employment and Learning Providers—representing ITPs, has recently joined the Association of Colleges and City and Guilds to set up a future skills coalition to promote investment in skills, including a much-needed national strategy to support local, inclusive growth. I hope the Minister will engage with this new body in developing relevant aspects of policy on skills and youth unemployment.

Once again I congratulate the committee on this important report, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, on his passionate introduction to today’s debate. I also commend the Government, and in particular the Minister, on their and her commitment to tackling youth unemployment. The report, with its 88 recommendations, presents a substantial challenge requiring a change of mindset, as we have heard. Meeting this challenge is vital not just for young people in or facing unemployment but for our overall national growth and well-being.

19:18
Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a patron of Career Connect and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. It was a privilege to serve on this Select Committee, and I thank my noble friend Lord Shipley for his inclusive chairing and the Members and staff who contributed so much. The report is a must-read document, and anybody involved in education should read it.

If you happened to look at the Evening Standard on Monday, the banner headline on the front page said, “Bosses on Warpath over Foreign Staff”. The piece was about the shortage of skilled staff, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors, and it was asking the Government to allow more overseas people to come to fill these vacancies. However, it added that the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick,

“slapped down those demands … and insisted that employers struggling to find staff should look to the ‘domestic workforce’”.

Really? Where are we going to find these people in the domestic market when we have not been skilling them for the last decade or more? You only have to look at Cumbria, where every restaurant and shop has signs for vacancies, and at the vacancies in the construction industry. We have allowed this to happen. Why has it happened?

Let us take our schools. When I was at school—dare I say it?—there was a grammar school system for those who were academic and technical schools for those wanted to learn skills. Now we have a system where we know that half of our pupils need an academic curriculum and half need a skills-based curriculum, but we forget about those on the skills-based curriculum—they are the failures. When we suddenly wake up and realise that we must have a curriculum for all young people, then Jenrick can make those demands. We are strangling creativity in our schools, while we see the independent school sector sail on in great success.

Unemployment rates and inactivity are higher for young people than the wider population. Generally, that is the case for all countries with limited work experience, barriers to some roles by age and qualifications, and limited work readiness. At the moment, youth unemployment is historically low, but not overall: 12 OECD countries have better rates than us. For example, in the latest statistics, the UK rate is 13.4% compared with, for example, the Netherlands at only 4.6%. Of course, we must ask what the impact of Covid has been. We did not see a large growth in youth unemployment, and we must credit the furlough scheme and Kickstart which helped reduce what would have been a large growth in the figures. Young people, though, were still more impacted as they predominate in the sectors worst hit—the retail and hospitality sectors—where they were not able to work from home. There was disruption to their exams and education, a lack of work experience and an impact on confidence and teamwork skills—and let us not forget that there are significantly higher rates of unemployment for young people from ethnic backgrounds, care leavers and those with special educational needs.

Job vacancies in the past 12 to 18 months have increased significantly, so why are there so many young people out of work? Over the last decade, the number of young people not in employment, education, and training and with mental health issues has tripled. There are a third fewer apprenticeship starts for under-19 year-olds than a decade ago, and still a third of young people leave school without five good GCSE passes. Work readiness is a major challenge because education, with its significant focus on academic attainment, is not preparing young people for work; as I said earlier, we need to have a curriculum which is broad-based and which recognises the importance of skills and learning.

Areas with the highest vacancy rates are in sectors that struggle to attract staff, which is due to low pay and challenging working conditions—the care sector is the prime example. The DWP has run a number of major programmes during the last two to three years, including Kickstart and the youth offer. How effective are those schemes and how can we make them better? Kickstart has been very positive in lowering youth unemployment during the pandemic, alongside the furlough scheme, with 162,000 young people starting Kickstart. There is strong evidence of intermediate labour market schemes working where they were implemented quickly and when they worked closely with the sector, but there were more challenges, not least bureaucracy—it took longer to approve vacancies and advertise them. This is no way for young people to search for suitable roles.

The need for technology is vital. The charity of which I am a patron took three months to have vacancies approved. In Written Questions I have constantly raised issues about 16 and 17 year-olds being eligible for Kickstart. Now the figures are available: 80% of this age group were excluded as they were not receiving universal credit, yet they were not in employment, education or training.

There were major regional disparities. There were one-third fewer placements in the north-east compared with London. This is not levelling up. The north-east should have double the number of placements of the south-east. The £1.6 billion that was spent on the scheme and the subsequent underspend on Kickstart should have been avoided.

Let me turn to the so-called work coaches. How effective are DWP work coaches at supporting young people? They are clearly committed, and work coaches provide an important service. The key challenge is their capacity to support young people. Building trust and rapport are key, along with soft skills, CVs and confidence building. Unfortunately, this is not something the majority of work coaches can provide in the time available. The majority have only five to 10 minutes per young person, which is filled largely with administration and conditionality, and they have a case load of 100 to 150 young people. Training tends to focus on administration and bureaucracy, not coaching.

It would be better to have charities and other organisations supporting young people. These organisations have the time, the expertise and the confidence to support young people. Experience in youth work and careers advice is vital. It takes, for example, two years to train a careers adviser. Can the Minister tell me, when it comes to the career coaches who work for the DWP, what is their qualification for the role? What are they required to have?

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, mentioned apprenticeships and the research that showed the huge number of drop-outs. In a study of 2,500 apprentices, there was a 47% drop-out rate. That is quite concerning and worrying. I am also concerned, as I have already mentioned, by the fact that so many young people under the age of 20 are not taking up apprenticeships.

To end, we are told by the Office for Budget Responsibility that there will be a rise in unemployment in the coming year. Of course, that will disproportionately affect young people. It will have an effect on the industry and businesses that will not be able to fill the skills gap they desperately need to, and it will therefore have an effect on the growth of our economy.

I noted that the Minister for Work and Pensions—it seems that I am having a go at the DWP—sent out a letter in which she referred to “supporting the most vulnerable” through economic challenges. There is no mention in that letter of young people and how they will be supported, particularly if they are unemployed. I also noted that in the Chancellor’s so-called Statement there were extra resources for education. Sadly, there were no extra resources for further education or the skills sector.

I want to see a thriving economy, but you have a thriving economy only if you have the skill set and the people who are trained to fill those roles. We are letting our economy, our country and those young people down. I do have a hope for the future—that we have, as we have heard twice now, a Secretary of State who was an apprentice herself. More importantly, she comes from Liverpool.

19:28
Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare that I too am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for leading the production of this report over a year ago and for his introduction, which provided a detailed summary of the report’s findings, together with positive suggestions for improvement. I restate my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for the introduction in 1988 of those five Baker days, which helped to put professional development for teachers on a positive footing. I will try to give him some optimism tonight as I detail throughout my speech what a Labour Government intend to do about righting the wrongs so exposed by this excellent report.

This report makes for stark reading. At the time of publication last November, 12.6% of 16 to 24 year-olds were neither working nor in full-time study, and youth unemployment was at 11.7%. It is not much better today; now that the pandemic is abating, it is just under 10%. The committee’s report notes

“Unequal access to high quality careers guidance and a decline in work experience opportunities”,


and that careers guidance often starts too late to be useful. Noble Lords may remember my Front-Bench colleagues and I attempting to amend the skills Bill to ensure careers education from year 7, but we were unfortunately unable to persuade the Government of the merits of this, as so well detailed again this evening by my noble friend Lord Watson. Perhaps now they will think again.

Under the current system, employers can use the apprenticeship levy money only on apprenticeships. Some businesses have decided not to touch their levy money, while among those who spend it, employers report spending on average 50% to 60%, meaning that around £1 billion a year is going unspent in England. As a result, the CBI, Make UK, the British Retail Consortium and other business groups have highlighted a number of problems with the system and called for additional flexibility for business. The report that we are discussing today deals with this need for additional flexibility and calls for reform of the apprenticeship levy, such that any employer receiving funding from it is required to spend at least two-thirds of it on young people starting apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3 before the age of 25.

To begin to address these reforms that are so badly needed, my party has committed to a new growth and skills levy, which will give businesses the freedom to use currently unspent money, up to 50% of their total levy contributions, on non-apprenticeship training, with at least 50% reserved for apprenticeships. Clearly, stakeholders of all stripes are united: the levy is not working as it should for our young people.

Last month, my noble friend Lord Blunkett launched his report Learning and Skills for Economic Recovery, Social Cohesion and a More Equal Britain, which set out the scale of the transformation that we must deliver to equip Britain to succeed in the 21st century. Skills England, a new national skills taskforce, should be implemented to drive a national mission to ensure that young people and adults can access the training, reskilling and upskilling needed to thrive. We need to see similar focus and ambition from the Government on tackling youth unemployment, which is still above the G7 average.

My noble friend Lord Knight of Weymouth posed some far-reaching questions on the future needs of young people in education today, and how those needs have to be future-proofed. We must make much more use of developing the green economy and technology in developing young people’s skills. My noble friend Lord Watson referred to the careers aspects of this transformational report.

In taking this forward, Labour will be focused on how we deliver growth and enable people to take up good jobs in towns and cities across the UK. That is why Keir Starmer has already said that we will adopt my noble friend Lord Blunkett’s recommendation to introduce flexibility into the apprenticeship levy, flexibility that businesses are telling us they need to access the range of skills relevant to their workplaces. They will be able to spend money on short, modular courses, or pre-apprenticeship training, helping people to get new opportunities.

After more than a decade of failed Conservative policies, it could not be clearer that it is working people who will drive economic growth in this country, and we will focus on enabling people to succeed. As it stands, skills budgets are disparate, incredibly centralised and, more importantly, clearly not working. If we want young people to get on, we must devolve and combine these budgets, so decisions about training and upskilling are made closer to the people, businesses and communities who need them—those with real skin in the game. There is a tangible need for skills policies to be better aligned with regional economic policy and local labour markets, to deliver a more local, tailored approach to skills provision.

Analysis for the LGA by the Learning and Work Institute shows that the number of people improving their skills or finding work could increase by 15% if councils and combined authorities were better able to co-ordinate and bring together employment and skills provision across a place. Labour will merge the various education skills funding for adult streams, such as the shared prosperity fund and Multiply, with the existing adult education budget. This will then be devolved to combined authorities which, in collaboration with central government, will direct skills spending in their region and use their convening power to ensure that skills provision in their area is aligned with the local labour market, bringing together representatives from new local skills improvement partnerships, FE colleges, universities and local businesses. Skills England will co-ordinate the framework within which combined authorities deliver skills funding to make sure that local outcomes and local priorities are aligned with our industrial strategy and help us meet the challenges the country will face over the coming decades.

We will introduce a list of approved qualifications that businesses could spend their flexible levy money on, which will be developed by a new body in collaboration with businesses, unions and wider experts. We will include modular courses in priority areas which lie at the core of our industrial strategy, including digital and green skills, social care and childcare, which will boost training opportunities with a view to supporting national ambitions such as the transition to net zero. Functional skills and pre-apprenticeships training will help to tackle key skills, especially around basic digital skills. SMEs, which do not pay the levy, will be able to reclaim 95% of co-payments on approved courses in the same way.

Furthermore, Labour is committed to a complete review of the school curriculum, which was mentioned by noble Lords in the debate this evening. We would ensure that young people are equipped for the world and workplace of the future, not of the past. Among other things, we will look to reform the citizenship curriculum so it embeds practical life skills—looking at budgeting or understanding employment contracts—and digital competency, so that all young people gain the digital skills that they will need to thrive. We will ensure that this review is carried out by expert opinion because we want to give young people the best start in life and ensure that they leave our schools ready for the future.

I can go through the Government’s record on this issue to date—I am not normally a negative person, but apprenticeships have declined by almost 200,000, 11 million adults lack basic digital skills, and 9 million lack essential literacy or numeracy skills. There were 4 million fewer adults taking part in learning in 2020 compared with 2010.

What are we to do? A headmaster told me once, “Debbie, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” He was right. He had it on a T-shirt which he liked to wear.

I end by quoting from the conclusion of my noble friend Lord Blunkett’s report:

“If there is not a step change which re-balances the economy, lifts the productivity and growth in regions across the nation to the levels seen in London and the South East, then the danger of stagflation will continue, the country will stagger on accepting mediocrity, gradually sliding further behind those countries who are determined to equip their nation for tomorrow’s world.”

21:38
Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government welcome the report Skills for Every Young Person and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for securing this debate and for his skilful and inclusive chairing, as has been referred to several times. I thank all members of the committee who contributed to the report and all noble Lords who have spoken today with such clarity. I was also pleased to see that the Government’s successes were recognised in the report, such as the establishment of careers hubs and the decreased rate of those not in education, employment or training for 16 to 18 year-olds in particular, which is currently one of the lowest on record at 6.4%.

As the report acknowledges, young people were some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but I am pleased to say that through the historic levels of support, which your Lordships have acknowledged tonight, provided through the Government’s plan for jobs package, including programmes focusing on young people, we have seen a strong recovery.

A number of the report’s recommendations and of the comments from your Lordships tonight relate to school curriculums, so I will begin there. Every state-funded school must offer an ambitious curriculum that must be balanced and broadly based, promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and prepare them for wide-ranging experiences of life. I did not recognise some of the descriptions of the curriculum that your Lordships shared tonight. The curriculum currently encompasses both knowledge and skills, and the published programmes of study for national curriculum subjects demonstrate how knowledge and skills are intertwined. A very large body of evidence shows that fluency of knowledge acts as the building block for the development of skills.

Yours Lordships’ report recommends embedding digital skills within the national curriculum, so it might be worth mentioning here that that computing is a statutory subject within the national curriculum across key stages 1 to 4. There was a 16% increase in the number of students taking computer science in 2022. It was the second-fastest growth rate in STEM subjects after design and technology so, with respect, I do not recognise the description by my noble friend that there has been no innovation since the Edwardian curriculum. I am not aware of Edwardians studying computer science or design and technology.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, questioned whether design and technology is seen as important as other subjects on the curriculum. As the noble Lord knows, all state-maintained schools must teach DT to pupils between the ages of five and 14, that is in key stages 1 to 3. There is also a statutory entitlement for every pupil in key stage 4 to take DT if they want to, and the new Ofsted inspection arrangements place renewed focus on that broad, balanced and ambitious curriculum. We are also working very closely with a number of organisations, including the James Dyson Foundation, the Design and Technology Association and the Royal Academy of Engineering, to make sure that the curriculum is up to date and gives the knowledge and skills that employers want.

I turn to careers guidance, which was highlighted by the noble Lords, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Lord Aberdare and Lord Shipley, as well as other noble Lords. We know that there is huge value in good careers guidance in terms of nurturing aspiration and ambition, and your Lordships rightly focused on the Gatsby benchmarks in your report. To give one example of their impact, evidence suggests that the proportion of post-16 students who are not in employment, education or training fell by 20.1% in the most disadvantaged quarter of schools since they adopted the benchmarks, and 90% of schools and colleges are currently part of a careers hub, which is accelerating the quality of careers provision. We are seeing rapid improvements in hubs and disadvantaged areas are among the best performers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Storey, raised the important subject of careers education in primary school. We recognise the value of supporting primary schools to help children explore the world of work, and careers provision is embedded in the key stage 2 citizenship curriculum. Thanks to the Careers and Enterprise Company, we have also provided all primary schools with resources to help pupils explore the world of work and, as the noble Lords who joined me in debating the skills Bill will remember, we have allocated £2.6 million over the current spending review period to bring new programmes to support careers education in primary schools in the 55 education investment areas.

The noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Aberdare, talked about a duty for young people to receive work experience. We absolutely agree about the importance of work experience, as is very visible in the whole approach we have taken to T-levels. A lot of work is going on in this area. There are now 400 cornerstone employers bringing together business effort and engagement with local schools and colleges and increasing the number of employer encounters for young people. We have more than 3,500 business professionals working as enterprise advisers with schools and colleges to develop their career strategies and plans for engaging with employers. If I may, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on the Gatsby benchmarks and go through the numbers. I fear I may be writing a long letter at the end of this debate, as I fear I will not have a chance to do justice to all the points raised.

The noble Lords, Lord Knight and Lord Addington, made a really important point about the need for a culture change. The Government can do their bit but, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, parents and employers also need to play a part. We continue with our ambition to achieve equality of esteem between academic and technical routes. That will depend on the quality of the offer and on breaking down barriers between further and higher education.

The report made a number of references to bringing funding for further education more in line with that for higher education, so I hope noble Lords will be encouraged that from 2023-24 higher technical qualification student finance will be brought on a par with degrees. This is just one step, along with the lifelong loan entitlement and other reforms this Government are bringing in.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, described a top-down, soviet model of policy in this area. I think she referred to local skills improvement partnerships. I hope she will acknowledge that they are an important positive devolution of responsibility in making sure that we get the best possible interface with local areas.

As a Government, we are delighted that T-levels got off to a great start with the first cohort of students completing their courses this year with an impressive 92% pass rate. Your Lordships will be aware that every T-level includes important modules on digital skills. On the T-level transition programme, we are very clear that we need to support young people who might need a bit more help to access the programme and to ensure that that ladder of opportunity leads to higher technical qualifications.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, talked about what Labour would do in terms of a range of short courses and flexible options. I thought it sounded remarkably similar to the short courses and flexible options that we have been providing. The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight, touched on this. We have skills boot camps delivering flexible training for new skills in green construction, renewable energy, protection of natural resources and the transport sector, including, I hope the noble Viscount will be pleased to hear, £34 million so that 11,000 adults have been able to train as HGV drivers to meet some of the gaps there. In terms of green transport skills, I was sorry to hear about the noble Lord’s visit; I went to see a college recently which was very much focused on electric vehicles, so maybe this is just in transition.

Obviously, apprenticeships need no introduction to the House. The report made several recommendations for widening the support for apprentices under the age of 25. Currently, 53% of apprenticeship starts are by young people under this age—I was not sure that I recognised the figures that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, cited. But we want to support even more young people to realise the benefits of apprenticeships; several references were made in the debate to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and her remarkable career starting as an apprentice. Noble Lords will also recognise the voice of my honourable friend the Minister for Skills, who formerly was chair of the Education Select Committee and has been a passionate advocate in this area. So there is no lack of enthusiasm in the department.

One of our measures is a new career starter apprenticeship campaign. We are trying to showcase apprenticeships suitable for those leaving full-time education. We know, too, that there is huge demand for degree-level apprenticeships; we are seeing year-on-year growth of apprenticeships at levels 6 and 7, and we are enabling higher education institutions to grow their delivery through the strategic priorities grant.

The noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Storey, made the valid point about the apprenticeship completion rate, which we are very focused on. We are aiming to reach a 67% achievement rate on apprenticeship standards by the end of the 2024-25 academic year, and we have a programme of actions to make that a reality in terms of investing in a new development programme for the provider workforce, offering targeted support for employees and ensuring that apprentices get the best information, support and advice before and during the programme. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, cited the main reason. How many times can I hit this microphone? It is every time I turn the page. I apologise to your Lordships.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, suggested that levy funds should be ring-fenced for young people and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, made the case for the need to keep upskilling and reskilling our existing workforce. Clearly, our ambition is to offer opportunities in both areas.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for recognising the work that we have done on the Unit for Future Skills. I remember arriving in the department on almost my first day, sitting down with the Skills Minister and asking for the data on how we join this up—so I am personally delighted to see that we have taken this area forward. The unit is very ambitious about improving the quality and availability of data on skills and jobs, and we are making fantastic progress on that already.

I turn to green skills and I hope that the daughter of the noble Lord, Lord Knight, will have an amazing career ahead of her—I am sure she will. I was very lucky to attend the COP 27 summit, really making the case for the importance of education in our sustainability agenda. We are working domestically but also, importantly, internationally, on the whole green skills agenda. Clearly, there will be global competition for green skills. We will deliver the first ever international green skills conference next year, and we are working with the further and higher education sectors, and with young people. We have been fantastically supported by the young people’s panel, industry and policymakers to deliver a conference that will really showcase the best of green skills learning and training opportunities and highlight green career paths and enhanced international partnerships. We have a very ambitious strategy on this in the department and, of course, many of our T-levels and other qualifications will underpin skills in this sector. I genuinely believe—not just for the daughter of the noble Lord, Lord Knight, but for all young people—that the scale of opportunity in an area that young people care so passionately about is really fantastic, so I hope that young people will leave equipped with the skills that they need and also with the hope that they can use them.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, questioned the impact of the Kickstart scheme. Since the launch in September 2020, over 160,000 Kickstart jobs were started by young people. Now that the scheme has closed, we are evaluating and learning from it. We built on Kickstart’s success to influence the Way to Work campaign, where we helped over 500,000 job-ready claimants, including young people, into work between January and June this year. The campaign provides claimants with more time with their work coaches and more nurtured connections with local employers to improve their employability. Through the Youth Offer, we are helping thousands of eligible 16 to 24 year-olds from all backgrounds to overcome the barriers and find work. It offers individually tailored work coach support.

The noble Lord asked about the qualifications of work coaches, who are part of the workforce. They are offered a tailored learning and development programme, so they have skills and knowledge, but also technical knowledge of the benefits to coaching, and they are encouraged to signpost customers who would benefit from expert careers advice to the National Careers Service.

Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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I presume that is not a formal qualification but an in-house requirement.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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That is correct. That is not to say that some of them do not have formal qualifications, but they receive additional support.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, highlighted some powerful examples of children from minority communities, particularly in Tower Hamlets, and the barriers they face. I do not have the detailed data on the boroughs that she referred to, but 24% of those currently engaged in further education and skills education come from diverse backgrounds. We have an apprenticeship diversity champions network, which promotes diversity to employers and encourages people from BAME communities to consider apprenticeships. We have seen a significant rise in apprenticeship starts from those communities, and of course the noble Baroness will be aware that there has been a significant rise since 2010 in the number of 18 year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds going to university, from 32% to 50%.

A number of noble Lords asked about funding for further education and skills in the recent Autumn Statement. I remind your Lordships that the Government have introduced major structural reforms, investing £3.8 billion in skills over the life of this Parliament.

In closing, we are rightly proud of our successes, and we absolutely recognise that some young people continue to face additional barriers to employment, including those from ethnic minority communities and those with special educational needs and disabilities. The reforms and measures I have outlined are about every young person fulfilling their potential, as well as equipping young people for the future workforce. They aim to give young people the opportunity to progress, whatever their choices and wherever they live. They are about better prospects for disadvantaged young people, because we share the commitment in your Lordships’ report that no young person should be left behind.

19:59
Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for what she has said, and I should say that the government response to our report was extremely helpful. It defined what the issues were, which enables us to have a continuing debate on the conclusions and recommendations that the committee reached and on the Government’s actual actions to reflect what is happening outside Whitehall and Westminster.

As I have indicated, this has been a very helpful discussion and it has shown a broad unanimity of view on the issues. We will continue having this debate, because the country needs this debate. Let us look at the broad facts that we have debated tonight: 9% of young people are unemployed and there are 630,000 young people not in employment, education or training, yet there are 500,000 job vacancies in our country. As employers kept telling us, there is a huge skills mismatch, and they have great difficulty in recruiting the people they need at the levels at which they need them. So I conclude by saying that something has to change, and I hope it may be that this debate, our report and the government response will assist us in achieving the change that the country is actually asking for.

Motion agreed.
Committee adjourned at 8.01 pm.

House of Lords

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Wednesday 23 November 2022
15:00
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of London.

Government Contracts: Bain & Company

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:07
Asked by
Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of the United States of America about the suspension of United Kingdom government contracts with Bain & Company.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Baroness Neville- Rolfe) (Con)
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Before I answer the Question, I should say that it was a privilege to hear the South African President addressing Parliament yesterday. I hope I speak for others when I say that I found the Lord Speaker’s vote of thanks very warm and well judged.

His Majesty’s Government have not suspended any contracts with Bain & Company; however, following careful consideration in the light of South Africa’s Zondo commission, Bain & Company and its affiliates have been excluded from bidding for procurements for the award of new Cabinet Office contracts for a period of three years. Other departments were advised that exclusion should also be considered for their procurements. I am not aware of any specific UK government engagement with the Government of the United States of America on this issue.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord True, and Jacob Rees-Mogg—I never thought I would say that—for suspending Bain & Company from obtaining UK government contracts for three years. No company should act illegally abroad—as the South African judicial commission found Bain to have done in deliberately disabling the country’s tax-collecting agency, on the direct instruction of the corrupt former President to protect his cronies and his family—and get government contracts at home. The Government’s action sets an important precedent for other global corporates—that they must act legally and ethically abroad or be barred from taxpayer-funded public contracts at home. Bain is Boston-headquartered and I urge the Prime Minister to press President Biden to follow Britain’s lead.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, our understanding is that Bain & Company currently does no work for the US federal Government or US federal government agencies and has done no such work since early 2013, but the UK Government are confident that our key ally, the United States, will undertake the necessary due diligence to investigate such matters.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, it seems to be the settled policy of the Government to cut the size of the Civil Service and then compensate by spending more money on consultancies. Why is this done? Is it because civil servants provide evidence, whereas consultancies tell the Government what they want to hear? Some £60 million has been paid to Bain in the last six years. I understand that £40 million of that was paid for “advice on Brexit opportunities”. Was that value for money?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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Bain is not being paid anything at the moment, and I think that in the last year the figure was £2 million. I share the noble Lord’s view that we have to look carefully when we employ consultants to do work that can sometimes be done well within the Civil Service. At the same time, extra expertise is sometimes needed, especially on subjects as difficult as Brexit.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on being persistent in raising this issue at every opportunity. Corruption at an international level needs international co-operation. While the Minister may say that there are no contracts with the federal Government of the United States, the company will certainly do contract work with states within the US. While she is not aware of any discussions with the US Government, can she reassure us that there will be such discussions so that we can tackle this cancer on the world, corruption?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I agree that the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has been a great campaigner on this issue and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for repeating that. It is very important that we fight corruption at every level, in every way we can. It erodes trust and undermines public confidence, and it does that internationally. I think we have a good record in recent years, under this Government, in raising corruption internationally. I come back to my point that individual countries have to take their own action on exclusion and debarment.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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Since I have the opportunity to come back, I would like to say that I am very grateful to the Minister for her response. The US is a key ally of ours, as are other countries in the G7 and the G20; all of them do business with Bain. Surely Britain having provided a lead opens the door for the Government to lobby their colleagues and friends to follow the same policy. Companies which act illegally—in disabling a tax agency in this case—should surely pay the penalty.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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On the subject of US relations, I can say that the Prime Minister met US President Biden at the G20 in Indonesia, and they agreed on the national and international importance of the UK-US relationship given the challenging economic times and all the difficulties we face together. The US Government have a suspension and debarment regime to which they devote a lot of resources, and contractors found not to be responsible are suspended or debarred, and the US will no doubt study very seriously the Zondo commission and the steps we have taken in the UK to lead the way on this matter.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not about time that directors were held accountable for such actions, and that some of them went to jail?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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There is corporate law which involves the suspension of directors, but I am not able to speak about it today; it is dealt with by another department. However, our new Procurement Bill improves the arrangements for debarment where exclusion is needed, perhaps because there has been insolvency, dishonesty, impropriety or a serious breach of ethical and professional standards. We will discuss that in this House on Report next week. I think we are moving forward in this area although we have to be fair and balanced, as the UK Government always try to be.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister knows, there is no central enforcer of corporate law in the UK and the whole scene is very disjointed. While the Minister is in the mood to tackle corruption, can I invite her to tell the House whether any of the big four accounting firms, whose tax avoidance schemes have been declared unlawful by the courts, have at any time during the last 12 years been investigated, prosecuted or fined, or have the Government even bothered to recover a penny of the legal costs?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments, but it goes rather beyond today’s Question. However, I can say that the Cabinet Office conducted an in-depth review into KPMG following the finding against the firm of dishonesty in its role in the sale of the Silentnight group of companies. In fact, the review concluded that KPMG should not be excluded because it had carried out self-cleaning measures —that is where a company moves to demonstrate reliability and improve its compliance systems. It is very important that companies can do the right thing, particularly where mistakes have been made.

Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:15
Asked by
Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking (1) to strengthen civil society, and (2) to improve protection for human rights defenders, internationally.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, the FCDO is taking a leading role in countering the increasing trend of closing civic space around the world. We continue to raise restrictions to civic space with Governments and multilaterally, drawing on the range of diplomatic and development levers available, including sanctions where appropriate. We also continue to work closely with the UN and other key partners, as well as at a country level, to understand how we can improve protection for human rights defenders globally.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord for that response. He knows that I have consistently raised this issue, because when nations fail in their most important task of providing safety, security and freedom to their people, it is often—or always—civil society that leaps first to their defence. In the integrated review, the Government committed to promote open societies and work with human rights defenders as a priority, but how is this priority being translated into action? Does the FCDO plan to develop a strategy to resist this global trend of the closure of civil society space? If it does plan such a strategy, will the Minister commit to consult with civil society both here and globally in its development?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, the answer is yes, because you cannot develop a strategy unless you work with practitioners. I am certainly keen to take that forward. As the noble Lord may well be aware, the United Kingdom Government launched a specific document on UK support for human rights defenders back in 2019, and we worked with civil society groups, including Amnesty International, at the time. We are working through our extensive network of diplomats, and indeed through posts, in supporting human rights defenders. At times, we have to be very cautious of our approach in terms of the public profile we give to human rights defenders in other countries through the support we are extending to them, but we stand very much focused on the training of our diplomats as well as working very constructively with civil society organisations around the world.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, on this Red Wednesday, when Mr Speaker has given instructions for the Palace of Westminster to be lit red this evening to commemorate all those who suffer or are persecuted for their belief—hundreds of millions of people around the world—will the Minister say what more we are doing to promote Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which insists that every person has the right to believe, not to believe or to change their belief? In particular, will he take up again the case of Zhang Zhan, the young woman lawyer who went to Wuhan to expose the origins of Covid-19, motivated by her faith, who now languishes in a CCP jail, with British diplomats refused permission to attend the court hearing and no information given about her whereabouts, or indeed about her health?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I will follow up and update the noble Lord on his second point. On his first point, of course, the United Kingdom stands very firm in our defence of freedom of religion or belief around the world. It is important that we remain steadfast in that. As a country, we celebrate the rich diversity of faith or belief. Indeed, our own journey, while it may have been challenging, is testament to this. As we look around the rich tapestry of faith institutions in the United Kingdom today, we have church steeples, cloisters, gurdwaras, synagogues, mosques and temples; that really demonstrates how we celebrate faith. Equally, many are denied their right to faith or belief around the world. That is why we held a conference earlier this year; the noble Lord was directly engaged with that. He also knows of my personal commitment to ensure that this remains a key priority for His Majesty’s Government.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, the work described in the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is undoubtedly needed. Front Line Defenders identified at least 358 people who were killed in 2021 because of their work defending rights. We have heard that in the Government’s integrated review there is a commitment to work with civil society and human rights defenders as a priority. We have an upcoming review of that; can my noble friend the Minister commit that that will remain a priority?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that it remains a priority. Indeed, very recently after the appointment of the new Government my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, the new Minister for Development, Andrew Mitchell, and I met civil society organisations directly to ensure that each of their priorities was fully understood, both in terms of the work we are doing in defending human rights around the world and equally in terms of understanding their development priorities.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, how can the Minister say that it is one of his priorities when government programmes on open societies and human rights have been slashed by 74% between 2019-20 and 2021-22? We know that the most important human rights defenders around the world are women. It is a year and a week since the Government said they had

“decided to restore the women and girls development budget to what it was before the … ODA … cut”.

Why can I not find any evidence of this reversal? Would this not be a horrific, dreadful broken promise if the Government have reneged on that commitment?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the first thing I would say to the noble Lord is that it is not just about money. One of the primary assets we have is our advocacy and diplomacy. The noble Lord himself is an example of diplomacy and advocacy around the world. I am proud of the fact that the United Kingdom leads on this agenda, not just on freedom of religion, standing up for girls’ rights, standing up for development, standing up for human rights defenders through practical initiatives, yes, but support through money as well. We stand by our commitment to ensuring that humanitarian support and the priority given to women and girls remains part and parcel of our development and diplomacy effort.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, at the heart of civil society are the trade unions, the workers’ last line of defence against bad bosses and authoritarian Governments across the world. Yet, unfortunately our own Government have dramatically undermined workers’ rights for the past 12 years and are planning to go further, even against the advice of employers. Can the Minister confirm that he is co-operating with the International TUC and the ILO to stop the abuse of workers such as we have seen in Qatar, with thousands of workers dramatically losing their lives. Is he not embarrassed that the Government claim to be championing human rights while restricting them at home?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, among other things I am the UK Human Rights Minister and, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, would testify, I believe in co-operation and working very closely with the Trades Union Congress and indeed with the CBI. I assure the noble Lord that in our interactions I meet regularly with the ILO and hear the views of the TUC. Indeed, the TUC forms part of the UK delegation in the annual International Labour Conference. I stand by that. Trade unions play an important role in our consultation and, as he said, both in Qatar and elsewhere we take their views very much on board in standing up for the rights of migrant workers. We have a debate later this week on human rights, workers’ rights and migrant rights. It is because of UK support, technical support, diplomatic support and through experience of our CSOs that we are able to help countries, including those in the Gulf, improve migrant rights as we have seen in places such as Bahrain.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, there is an in-principle agreement between the UK and Mexican Governments to hold a human rights dialogue alongside the free trade negotiations. Although the trade talks have already completed two rounds, the human rights dialogue has not even started yet, and there is no sign of a timetable despite the human rights crisis in Mexico. Can the Minister tell the House whether a date has been set for this dialogue to begin and, if not, what the problem is?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I am not sure of the date of commencement, but I will write to the noble Baroness. We work very closely on this agenda with Mexico. I know, for example, on issues of LGBT rights, on the Equal Rights Coalition we handed over in September the co-chairmanship among other countries to Mexico, so we have a comprehensive human rights dialogue with it. As I said, I will write to the noble Baroness about the date.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, as we have seen from the tragic events in an LGBT club in Colorado and the staggering rise in trans hate crime in this country —there were 2,630 such crimes in 2021—hate speech, from wherever it comes, has devastating consequences. I would therefore like to ask the Minister this: what specific action are the Government taking to work with LGBT human rights defenders in countries where LGBT people are criminalised and where the death penalty exists for LGBT people, such as the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right to raise these issues, and I pay tribute to his work on this important agenda. I assure him that, through our network of more than 280 missions around the world, we deliver direct diplomatic engagement and raise LGBT rights directly, even in those parts of the world. Again, there are noble Lords with whom I confer privately sometimes because of the sensitivity of the issue. I do not hold back; we hold those discussions quite candidly to ensure the rights of all citizens, whatever their faith, belief or sexuality, as we enjoy them here in the UK—notwithstanding the domestic challenges that the noble Lord highlighted. We continue to remain focused. Human rights should be universal for everyone everywhere.

Tobacco Control Plan

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:26
Asked by
Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government when they intend to publish their Tobacco Control Plan; and whether it is still their intention that England shall be smoke-free by 2030.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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Following the publication of the Khan review into smoke-free policies, we are taking stock of whether a fresh tobacco control plan is the best way to respond to its independent recommendations. The Government remain fully committed to the ambition of a smoke-free England by 2030, and we will provide an update on our plans to meet that target in due course.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
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My Lords, I think this is the first time the Minister has answered a Question about tobacco control; I welcome him to this debate. He will know that this House has led the way in putting forward and implementing measures that have led to a significant drop in smoking levels, certainly since 2002. There is cross-party consensus that we should go on in this way.

The Minister’s predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Kamall —I am pleased to see him in his place—is on the record in both March and April as saying not only that the Government are committed to a smoke-free 2030, as confirmed by the Minister this afternoon, but that the new tobacco plan will be published this year. Does the Minister accept that, to achieve the smoke-free target and reduce the appalling inequalities in life expectancy caused by smoking, it will be necessary to implement the recommendations in Javed Khan’s independent review, particularly those based on the “polluter pays” principle?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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First, I thank the noble Lord for all his work to reduce smoking; I am grateful for it every time I walk into a smoke-free environment in the evening. As he said, a cross-party approach has achieved many great things. As the noble Lord knows, there are some quite radical things in the Khan review, such as increasing the smoking age every year, which would in effect ban smoking altogether. There are many pros and cons to the prohibition argument, but it is something we take very seriously and we will publish our response. I assure noble Lords that we are going to tackle this issue.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend recall that in the former coalition Government, we made considerable progress in reducing smoking in this country, not least by focusing on the level of initiation of smoking among young people? We banned vending machines, for example. Will the Government consider raising from 18 the age at which young people can buy cigarettes?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend. The key age group to attack, so to speak, is 16 to 18-year-olds, which is often when the smoking habit begins. We must look seriously at every step we can take to reduce smoking in that age group. I am also aware that 18 is the age of consent, of being able to do lots of things, and changing that for smoking would obviously be quite a radical step, but everything is on the table as we review the best way forward.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD)
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My Lords, the Health Foundation recently published figures showing that the budgets for tobacco control and smoking cessation have been cut in real terms by 41%. Is not part of the answer to funding treatment for addiction to tobacco, alcohol and gambling the extension of the “polluter pays” principle? What is the argument against a levy on the very large profits of the tobacco companies, in order to pay towards helping their customers who want to quit?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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There are a number of ways we can tackle this, price, obviously, being one of the main ways, along with taxation. The noble Lord will be aware that we increase the tax by 2% every year, and cigarettes prices here are now the highest in Europe. We are still providing funding of £73 million per year to help 100,000 people stop smoking. But it is not always money that counts. Anti-smoking campaigns, branding restrictions and taxation are all other elements which are proving successful.

Lord Palmer Portrait Lord Palmer (CB)
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My Lords, have His Majesty’s Government estimated the loss to the Treasury if England became smoke-free?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I am not aware of those figures, but the general feeling is that the savings to the health system would far outweigh them. I would always err in favour of doing everything we can to reduce smoking, whatever the impact on the tax we raise, because the savings on the health side are far, far greater.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, despite the Government pledging to explore additional measures to clamp down on the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s, no plan has yet materialised, while vaping among 11 to 18 year-olds has more than doubled. What assessment have the Government made of this alarming trend, and what action is being considered to keep children and young people away from this gateway to a smoking habit?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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This is a difficult area. On the one hand, I think we all agree that vaping is much better than smoking, so we are trying to get the message out to people to stop smoking and use vaping if need be. At the same time, we do not want vaping to be a gateway, as she says. Giving those mixed messages is never an easy thing to do, which is why we must consider as part of the Khan review the best way to get that message out. The recent Cochrane review shows that vaping is as safe as all other methods of stopping smoking, such as patches, so it should be our key way of stopping smoking.

Lord Geddes Portrait Lord Geddes (Con)
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My Lords, as much as I enjoy my non-political friendship with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, I totally disagree with the premise behind his Question. Why should Big Brother tell me what I can and cannot do in respect of something I have been doing for 67 years?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I am not sure whether that question is for me, but I will try my best. As ever on these things, there is a carrot and a stick. Cross-party, we have introduced carrot measures—the anti-smoking campaigns—and stick measures such as pricing and restrictions. That has worked very well to date. We have halved the smoking rate over the last 15 years, and we must continue to work on carrot-and-stick measures to reduce it further.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the tobacco industry is very adept at getting round regulations. In 1986, John Home Robertson’s Bill made illegal the use of tobacco pouches that people put in their mouths as substitutes. I understand that synthetic nicotine pouches are now being used to get round that law, so what are the Government doing to stop this?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I will need to write to the noble Lord on that. I am aware that different methods exist, but I think we are all united on the need to do everything we can to prevent any circumvention.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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Is not any plan meaningless when at least a third of the market is supplied by illegal imports? His Majesty’s Government appear not to have done anything to stop this, and it is the young people in our country who are smoking the cheap, illegally imported cigarettes.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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We are working very hard with HMRC on this. I think we can all agree that one thing that Brexit was good on was restricting the number of cigarettes that people can bring in legally from other parts of Europe.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I will take everything I can. Clearly, we need to stop cigarettes coming in by all illegal means.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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The Government also lose a lot of income through illegal importation. If the Government are working very hard indeed to prevent it, can the noble Lord please spell out what they are doing? As I understand it, the number of staff involved at the ports is being cut.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I do not have the figures on that, so I will need to give the noble Lord a detailed reply.

Counterterrorism: Martyn’s Law

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:36
Asked by
Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the letter from senior police officers to the Prime Minister on 21 November calling for the introduction of “Martyn’s Law”, when they intend to introduce counterterrorism legislation to improve the safety and security of public venues.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
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I refer to my interest in the register and beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are grateful to Figen Murray for her tireless campaigning for Martyn’s law. The protected duty will ensure that public places put safety and security first. We are working hard to bring forward this important piece of legislation as soon as possible.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
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My Lords, it is five years since the Manchester Arena bombing and Figen Murray has campaigned tirelessly following the death of her son. Had there been a Protect duty in place at that time, 22 people might not have died. The Home Office has moved with extraordinary sloth since the principle was accepted. It has consulted at length and responded to the consultation. We were promised this in the Queen’s Speech. When is this going to happen, or do we have to wait for another atrocity?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Bringing forward this legislation was a 2019 manifesto commitment. As the noble Lord noted, there was supposed to be a consultation in early 2020, but that was delayed due to Covid. It was eventually undertaken between 26 February and 2 July 2021. It was a very comprehensive consultation process with more than 2,500 responses, and the duty has received strong support from businesses and others. As I say, the Government are committed to bringing forward this important legislation, as per the Queen’s Speech, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that one of the best ways to tackle terrorism is to prevent people becoming terrorists in the first place? What is his department is doing to work with the many local civil society organisations that are working with young people in many communities across the country, to prevent them being recruited by terrorists?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his question. The Contest strategy is the Government’s counterterrorism strategy and has the four Ps at its core, one of which is Prevent. Many sections of the community are engaged with that and the Government expect to publish an updated and enhanced version of Contest early next year.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB)
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My Lords, notwithstanding the horrific slaughter of young people in the Manchester Arena, a clear majority of the 100 or so deaths from terrorism in Great Britain this century have been on public transport or on the streets of London. Knowing the risks, we still prize the ability to run for a train or hop on a bus without submitting to checks or scrutiny of any kind. Does the Minister agree that we need to reflect long and hard before requiring precautions at public venues that are not required on public transport? I think particularly of the hundreds of thousands of small venues, such as cafes or parish churches, where there may be no money to spare and no specific threat.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very sound point. He is, in effect, asking me about the scope of the proposed legislation and that work is ongoing. It would not be appropriate for me to comment at this point.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, and to Martyn’s family for their work on these issues. What else can the Government do to encourage small venues to improve security, while we await this long-overdue legislation? What about a public information campaign or a security rating scheme for venues? Lives may be unnecessarily at risk because of government inaction.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an interesting point. ProtectUK was launched in March 2022 as a digital tool. Its work includes offering guidance, advice and engagement with counterterrorism experts via an online platform. As it develops, it will establish itself as a central digital location for counterterrorism support. There are a number of other aspects to that, which I could go on about at some length, but considerable work is being done in that space.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, seven former Home Secretaries have written to the Prime Minister today, asking for this matter to be expedited, given that it is almost 18 months since the end of the consultation. I am being only slightly facetious when I ask the noble Lord if he will make sure that the Prime Minister gets the letter because, when Tony Blair’s dad wrote a letter to Downing Street and signed it “love, Pop”, he got a letter back saying “Dear Mr Pop”. Perhaps we could make sure that this letter reaches Rishi Sunak.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I will make sure the Prime Minister is aware of the letter.

Baroness Newlove Portrait Baroness Newlove (Con)
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My Lords, as the former Victims’ Commissioner, I have met Figen and other campaigners. For the Government not to have any legislation in place after five years is inhumane to the families who are grieving and fighting to make other venues safe. After all, at the end of the day, the Manchester inquiry has a huge profile and it is up to the Government to put legislation in place for the sake of the lost family members and for those fighting to protect others—as Figen has and will continue to, in a dignified manner.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend that the campaign has been conducted in a very dignified manner. Of course, I express my sympathies with all the victims and their families. As I say—I cannot improve on this answer—the legislation will come forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, we are not going to let the Minister off the hook with that. My noble friend Lord Harris has been campaigning with Martyn’s family on this issue for years. It has been five years since the Manchester Arena bombing. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that this will be done as soon as possible, “We are trying to do it expeditiously”, et cetera. When will we see this legislation put into practice to honour the memory of those who died at Manchester and elsewhere?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord again, but I will have to stay on the hook. The fact is that it will be as soon as parliamentary time allows. I cannot improve on that answer.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, in 2009, I signed off a mass of work to do with security in crowded places. My right honourable friend was in a nearby office at the time and we increased the number of NaCTSOs, as well. Can the Minister confirm that that work—a great deal of work—on exactly this stuff is being looked at and used in the context of this legislation? If not, as with so many things, we will be going round and round in circles.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As I say, the Government are still working on this and all aspects of it will be included in the legislation and in the other things I have referenced, such as the Contest and Protect strategies.

Lord Flight Portrait Lord Flight (Con)
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My Lords, do the Government consider counterterrorist measures the most suitable measures to deal with the security of public venues?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As outlined in the Queen’s Speech, yes.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, can the Minister explain why the legislation programme seems much slower with this Government than it was with the previous ones?

Baroness Foster of Oxton Portrait Baroness Foster of Oxton (Con)
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My Lords, while we wait for this proposed legislation to pass through this House and the other place, can we be assured that one of the main failures that was a contributory factor to the Manchester bombing was the lack of joined-up thinking and joined-up work by the emergency services? Can we at least have the assurance that that is in hand and that all venues, small or large, now have proper contingency planning while we await the legislation?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend makes a good point. I am, of course, happy to try to give that assurance from the Dispatch Box but, as we know, all police forces and emergency services remain operationally independent to some extent. The fact is that they have access to the various services I have outlined, through Contest.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
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My Lords, I am sorry to come back to the Minister, but the question just asked by his noble friend highlights that there is a lot of guidance there. The whole point of this proposed legislation was that it would place a duty to act proportionately on those responsible for public venues. I cannot understand why there is this continued delay. Is it simply that there is no parliamentary time, given that both Houses seem to have a very light load at the moment?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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From my personal point of view, I am not sure that it is a particularly light load. As the noble Lord says, the duty will enhance public security by introducing new requirements for certain public places to ensure preparedness. It is necessary: there is no disagreement about that. It will come forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022
Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022
Motions to Approve
15:46
Moved by
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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That the Regulations laid before the House on 31 October be approved. Special attention drawn to the first and second instruments by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 18th Report. Considered in Grand Committee on 22 November.

Motions agreed.

Biocidal Products (Health and Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Cessation of EU Law Relating to Prohibitions on Grounds of Nationality and Free Movement of Persons Regulations 2022
Motions to Approve
15:47
Moved by
Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 18 and 20 October be approved. Relevant document: 16th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 21 November.

Motions agreed.

Subsidy Control (Subsidies and Schemes of Interest or Particular Interest) Regulations 2022

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion to Approve
15:47
Moved by
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 20 October be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 21 November.

Motion agreed.

Ballot Secrecy Bill [HL]

Report
15:48
Report received.

Solihull Murders

Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Tuesday 22 November.
“Let me begin by saying that my thoughts are with the loved ones of Raneem Oudeh and Khaola Saleem. For a mother and daughter to lose their lives in this way is truly heartbreaking. It is of course the perpetrator who bears the ultimate responsibility for this sickening act. Equally, when something like this occurs, it is right that all the circumstances are thoroughly examined. That has taken place in this case, including through an inquest and an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The failings and missed opportunities that have been identified are, clearly, unacceptable. I note that West Midlands Police has apologised to the family of the victims. The force has said that a number of changes have been made since then, including increasing the number of staff specifically investigating domestic abuse offences and the creation of a new team to review investigations. None of this can undo what has happened; nor can it take away the grief and devastation that this horrific crime has caused. What can and must happen is for every possible step to be taken to prevent further tragedies. We expect all necessary improvements to be made in full and at pace.
As a former practising barrister, I want to see massive change in this space. We need action, and we need to continue the action we have started. Cracking down on crime is a key priority for me, the Home Secretary and the Government as a whole. That includes the wide-ranging action we are taking to address violence against women and girls and domestic abuse through the tackling domestic abuse plan and the tackling violence against women and girls strategy. The police are central to this mission, and we will continue to recruit further police officers. We have committed to 20,000 new officers, of whom we now have more than 15,000, but there is more to do.
I will finish where I started, by saying that my thoughts are with the loved ones of Ms Oudeh and Ms Saleem. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to prevent others having to suffer what they had to suffer.”
15:49
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, this terrible tragedy highlights the fact that although domestic abuse crimes recorded by the police have been increasing annually by between 5% and 6%, prosecutions have slumped for the fifth year in a row. What are the Government going to do about the endemic misogynistic culture among the police and prosecutors which means that they do not tackle these dangerous crimes against women, which can, as here, with unanswered and unresponded to calls, prove fatal?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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I begin by saying that my thoughts are with the loved ones of Khaola Saleem and Raneem Oudeh. For a mother and daughter to lose their lives in this way is truly heartbreaking. We should bear in mind the perpetrator, who bears the ultimate responsibility for this sickening act.

The noble Baroness asked about misogyny in the police. The Government remain determined to tackle misogyny in the police. That is why the independent policing inspectorate was tasked with reviewing vetting and countercorruption arrangements in policing across England and Wales, looking in particular at what forces are doing to identify and deal with misogynistic behaviour. We welcome the report’s conclusion that the culture is improving. The findings about adverse attitudes towards women are unacceptable and I expect all forces to take action in response as a matter of urgency.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con)
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My Lords, tragically, these deaths were preventable. Does my noble friend the Minister believe that the police are appropriately trained in cultural sensitivities in relation to domestic violence?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that question. Training includes those issues. I will quote the Minister in the other place yesterday, because she summed it up perfectly. She said:

“It is about time that people who work in this field do not look towards colour as being an excuse for non-activity. This Government take the matter very seriously. It does not matter what colour, creed or sex a person is; if they need the police’s help, they need the police’s help. I expect those themes to be included in proper police training.”—[Official Report, Commons, 22/11/22; col. 158.]


So do I.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD)
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My Lords, in her remarks yesterday, the Minister also said:

“We need thorough risk assessments, and they need to be followed with proper training.”—[Official Report, Commons, 22/11/22; col. 156.]


I am sure all noble Lords would agree. Can this Minister tell the House why some police forces have failed to carry out assessments and training of their officers? Can he give me any good reason why this training should not now become compulsory?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that question. We agree: it is incredibly important that the training reflects the gravity of these sorts of situations. We are taking action to improve this. I am sure she will be aware that we are supporting and funding the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth in her role as full-time national policing lead on this sort of subject. We are committed to funding the continuing rollout of the College of Policing’s Domestic Abuse Matters programme for front-line responders, and to adding VAWG to the strategic policing requirement.

On the training that has been developed by Maggie Blyth, which I think was released last December, so far only two-thirds of police forces have adopted it. That is not good enough. The Minister in the other place said the same and I am happy to repeat it.

Baroness Crawley Portrait Baroness Crawley (Lab)
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My Lords, will the Minister say why it took until these last 12 months for the Government to recognise that violence against women and girls should be included in the definition of “serious violence”?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am not sure that is strictly true. I do not wish to comment on the precise timings, but I repeat the statement I just made. The Government are taking violence against women and girls incredibly seriously and will continue to do so.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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My Lords, the five officers in question have been served with management action by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the missed opportunities. Can the Minister explain exactly what this means? Furthermore, the Home Secretary has instructed police authorities to make sure that they do all they can to investigate every single burglary. Can the same principles not be applied to domestic violence as well?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend is completely right. In fact, nine officers from West Midlands Police were served with misconduct notices, and the IOPC found a case to answer for five of them at level. They received management action; I am afraid I am unable to define what “management action” actually means. I apologise for that. I will try to find out more on the subject and, if I can, I will write to my noble friend.

Baroness Newlove Portrait Baroness Newlove (Con)
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My Lords, this case is horrendous. It makes me feel very sad that people are still dying unnecessarily under the laws we put in place in this Chamber. I inform my noble friend that, while I appreciate his answers to these questions, on the ground it simply is not happening. I am receiving lots of emails from women who have been asked by police officers to do their own investigations into domestic abuse, acid attacks and stalking; I guide them to go back to the police and ask the questions. The inspectorate says it will attend every burglary; I agree with my noble friend that it should do so for every crime. No victim should be asked to investigate the horrific crimes that they are going through.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend. It may help if I go through the list of recommendations made by the IOPC to West Midlands Police in this case. The learning recommendations concerned domestic abuse risk assessments being completed without intelligence checks and misunderstanding by officers around when such risk assessments would be reviewed by their public protection unit. Other recommendations were that the force should consider PPU oversight of all domestic abuse cases with repeat victims, and further training around the use of domestic violence protection orders—DVPOs—and domestic violence protection notices.

My noble friend is quite right that no woman should be asked to undertake her own investigation; that is absolutely absurd. It is for the police to do it. The police have recognised it, the IOPC has published recommendations and West Midlands Police in particular is acting on it. I hope all other forces do too.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister says that every force should carry out this training, yet we know that a lot are not. Between the Home Office, the inspectorate and the police forces, where is the accountability in the system to make sure that this crucial training takes place?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As the noble Lord is well aware—I have said it many times from the Dispatch Box—police forces in this country remain operationally independent. That is right, but of course the PCC is also the interface here between the public and the police. The statement on this case by the West Midlands PCC, Simon Foster, was very robust and made some solid points. With the noble Lord’s permission, I will quote a bit of it:

“My Police and Crime Plan makes it clear that West Midlands Police must impose bail conditions on perpetrators rather than releasing under investigation, make full use of civil protection orders and restraining orders and make arrests for breach of non-molestation orders.”


He goes on at some length and I will not repeat it all, but I think that is the appropriate response. I commend him on his actions and urge other PCCs to follow suit.

Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD)
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My Lords, police failed repeatedly to come to the rescue of Raneem Oudeh and her mother, despite 10 complaints and six 999 calls, including on the night of their death. We have heard the police pledge to attend every single home burglary, but I just wonder what the priorities are here. Surely, saving the lives of women in these situations should be of equal importance as attending burglaries, if not more important. Why are women just not listened to by the police?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I think it is of rather more importance than investigating burglaries; we should all think that. I do not necessarily agree that it is not a priority for the police forces. The police forces are certainly saying the right things but, as I have already said from this Dispatch Box, I, the Minister in the other place, the Home Secretary and the Government think they have more to do.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, is not the problem here—the difference between burglary and domestic violence—the attitude of police officers towards women? What are the Government doing about that?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I went through some detail on that, as regards the strategy on tackling misogyny in the police. I agree that there are some clear failings on this, certainly in regard to this case. The way the police failed to investigate some very clear signals was clearly unacceptable, but the Government are determined to tackle the misogynistic culture that has been identified.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, police attendance on a crime-by-crime basis is a difficult thing to sustain. The police should attend all reports of crime if the victim wants them to or if it is a very serious event, which is something I have always pursued, but should the Government not also work with the College of Policing to share the best evidence about what highlights those most at risk? For example, Professor Larry Sherman, recently at Cambridge, highlighted a high correlation between suspects who had threatened suicide and people who eventually became murderers of victims they had previously threatened. We had previously been told that threatening the victim prior to their murder was also an indicator. Both matter, but the police’s response needs to be based on good evidence. I am not convinced that the college has yet got that connection between the evidence base and passing that on to the police to share, so that their training improves.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that, and commend him for investigating all the crimes when he was still actively policing. I will take back his suggestions on the College of Policing because they make sense. Obviously one of the college’s primary duties is to ensure that best practice is shared and disseminated.

Committee
16:00
Clause 1: Additional Counsellors of State
Amendment 1
Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert—
“(c) on the death of a person named in paragraph (a) or (b), any person named by His Majesty the King by Order in Council.(1A) A statutory instrument containing an Order under subsection (1)(c) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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My Lords, I will not unduly take up the time of the Committee in introducing this amendment because my sense is that there are many Members who would not necessarily want to waste scarce parliamentary time unnecessarily.

My amendment is simple and straightforward: it proposes that, once the Bill has reached the statute book, if a Counsellor of State dies then the King may provide a replacement. It does not say the King has to do so; it simply says that he may if he wants to, and proposed new Section (1A) in the amendment provides the mechanism for doing so with the suitable involvement of Parliament. That is it.

The amendment is designed to be helpful. After all, the Bill is before us because the King has suggested that changing the Regency Act 1937 would be helpful to him in the discharge of his duties, and has asked us that two new names be added for life to the list of Counsellors of State. The Committee will know that both Princess Anne and the Earl of Wessex have already served in this role in years gone by.

As the Leader of the House said at Second Reading, it is the custom and practice for Counsellors of State to act in pairs, and he gave several examples in his speech. We saw that with our own eyes at the State Opening of Parliament when the Prince of Wales, as he then was, and Prince William, as he then was, acted as Counsellors of State and made it possible for this Session of Parliament to be opened. I believe that is the only time that Her late Majesty the Queen ever delegated these functions to Counsellors of State because of illness.

The Bill before us will solve the immediate problem and my amendment seeks only to avoid another, and to save some time. If one of the new Counsellors of State proposed in the Bill were to predecease the King, action would have to be taken again. We might even have to have a new Bill. Why? Because, as the Committee well knows, underlying the Bill is the fact that at least two of the existing Counsellors of State would not be publicly acceptable in the role that they would then have. That is why the King has recognised that there is a problem and why he has suggested the solution outlined in the Bill. My amendment is designed merely to help the King in future, and I commend it to the Committee.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee reported on the Bill in terms that are regrettably rare nowadays. It said:

“This Bill contains no delegated powers.”


The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has not had the opportunity here to complain about delegated powers, and I am very pleased about that. I should be very sorry to see a delegated power introduced at this stage, particularly a delegated power conferred on His Majesty. In 1867, Walter Bagehot wrote that the monarch has three rights—the right to consult, the right to encourage and the right to warn. The monarch has no right and no power to produce delegated legislation. I can think of no precedent for the Crown having a delegated power—certainly not since 1689.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, presses his amendment with good intent. He has expressed his views at every stage of this process with the utmost civility and courtesy. I thank him for that.

I understand that, from his perspective, he seeks to add a certain flexibility or, as he would see it, some insurance to the system. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, implied in his important intervention, it would add further rigidity, novelty and potentially delay to the procedure. The steps in the amendment are not required and they are unwelcome. The amendment goes considerably further than the limited modification proposed in the Bill. As I submitted to your Lordships at Second Reading, the nature of this Bill flows from a message from His Majesty. I think it was the feeling of the House at Second Reading that the Bill is appropriate and proportionate to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

The noble Viscount is proposing a wider change to the underlying architecture of the legislation. As indicated in the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, it would grant the sovereign a new authority—one which was not referenced in the King’s message—but does not indicate on what basis any such decision would be made. It would also introduce a novel parliamentary process into these matters. In this respect, it is a departure from the current framework and the proposition before us, and the Government do not believe that it is necessary or desirable.

I repeat that the Government believe that the approach suggested in the Bill is a reasonable and practical solution in the current context. The Bill as currently drafted will create a sufficient pool of counsellors who will hold this role for their lifetimes. As the noble Viscount will understand, with the effluxion of time, the order of succession will evolve and so will the situation once this Bill becomes an Act.

Although I acknowledge the spirit in which this amendment is tabled, the history of the Regency Acts demonstrates that it is a challenging task for Parliament or any legislator to predict the future. I suggest that we do not seek to do so here but seek rather to respond to the task at hand and proceed in the light of the message that the sovereign has sent us. It indicates his wishes and, I feel, the wishes of the House, that this practical, limited and moderate approach should be taken at the present time. I urge the noble Viscount to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I would say only that it has almost been worth it to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I of course beg leave to withdraw my amendment. I hope that this Bill will succeed in its intention. Time will tell how events will turn out in the future.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Amendment 2
Moved by
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert—
“and as if they excluded—(c) His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex,(d) His Royal Highness the Duke of York, and(e) any other person who in the opinion of the Lord Chancellor has not in the immediately preceding 2 years undertaken Royal duties on a regular basis.”
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, in speaking briefly to Amendment 2 I can also say that I will not be moving Amendment 3 because, in his reply at Second Reading, the Minister gave an excellent and wide response. Amendment 2 is designed to formalise the Counsellors of State after the accession of King Charles, adding the Earl of Wessex and the Princess Royal to the list.

It is constitutionally very important that when the monarch is not there, this will allow the Government to continue, because we have a constitutional monarchy. That means that some of the counsellors—all of them, probably—come from the family. It is a large family and I know that King Charles has previously said that he thought it should be smaller. I do not think he has said that since he inherited the Throne, but there we are. The interesting thing to me is, what is the concept of a working royal? The counsellors obviously support the monarch in his constitutional role, so, as I think the Lord Privy Seal said at Second Reading, they clearly should be both in the UK and working, if for no other reason than that they know what is going on.

Parliamentary approval of counsellors is necessary, too, which is what we are talking about today, because there has been a history—if not recently—of monarchs going a little mad or otherwise breaking the law, as Parliament saw it. It is right that we prepare ourselves for the future. While it is also right that Parliament agree to the monarch’s proposal to add two Counsellors of State, I do not see why we cannot at the same time remove those who are no longer apparently thought suitable.

The Lord Privy Seal said at Second Reading that

“the legislation already contains provisions whereby Counsellors of State are excepted from duties if they are overseas”

and that

“in practice, working members of the Royal Family will be called on”.—[Official Report, 21/11/22; col. 1194.]

My Amendment 2 just tries to clarify that. Why not name the people concerned, rather than having to interpret what a working royal is?

I do not know whether this is from embarrassment or fear of a media frenzy. I hope it is not, but it is an important constitutional issue. It has nothing to do with who has what title or what clothes they wear for television appearances, or anything else like that. If the members of the family are not working royals, there is a fear, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, mentioned in his excellent speech on Monday, that the Duke of Sussex would jet in and claim that he was working because he thought that would be a good idea. A definition would be a good thing, and I see no reason why they should not be named in the Bill.

I am not going to press this amendment because I support the Bill, on the whole. However, a little clarification from the Minister, if he is able, would be very helpful. I beg to move.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, it seems unnecessary to exclude the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York who, for reasons we all know and understand, are not going to be performing royal duties in the immediate future in any event. As to the drafting of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in proposed new paragraph (e), that there should be excluded

“any other person who in the opinion of the Lord Chancellor has not in the … preceding 2 years undertaken Royal duties on a regular basis”,

this leaves rather open for analysis what “regular” means. Does it mean once a month, once a week or once a year? What if they are ill for a period of time? The idea that the Lord Chancellor should determine this question without any criteria seems rather unsatisfactory. Mr Dominic Raab has more than enough to do at the moment.

Lord Balfe Portrait Lord Balfe (Con)
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I will make one small point. We will have five Counsellors of State, two of whom are not going to be used, namely the Dukes of Sussex and of York. That means that, since you have to have two Counsellors of State acting if the monarch is away, if either the Princess Royal or the Duke of Wessex were unavailable, we would have only Princess Beatrice left. We do not have anyone else on the reserves bench, so to speak.

I doubt whether we have heard anything, but noble Lords will recall that I suggested that the Princess of Wales should added to the list. I still think that would be a sensible idea because she will of course become a Counsellor of State when her husband succeeds to the Crown. Again, I will not support any votes, but the palace should look at this because you only need one person to be ill, and you have Princess Beatrice as a Counsellor of State. Although she is probably acceptable, she is virtually unknown.

16:15
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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I apologise for not being able to be here on Monday for Second Reading; I was in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, chairing a conference on press freedom organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

However, I will make one point. At an earlier stage, I was slightly concerned that there seemed to be a sharp intake of breath in some quarters in relation to whether we ought to discuss this. That concerned me. We need to reaffirm the sovereignty of this Parliament. This is a constitutional monarchy: Parliament is responsible for considering all these kinds of Bills, and it is right that we do so. It is right that my noble friends Lord Stansgate and Lord Berkeley—I note that both are hereditary, which is interesting, but that is another story—should be able to move amendments, and that we have a debate on this.

This is especially so when the whole role, function and composition of this second Chamber is being reviewed. We ought to recognise that a number of constitutional questions are being considered at the moment, and Parliament should have oversight of any such Bills in a constitutional monarchy. It is right that we hear from my noble friends Lord Stansgate and Lord Berkeley, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and anyone else who wants to comment on this.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, it is of course right, and what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said is entirely justified: Parliament has a role. But, in this particular case, we can rely upon the good judgment and discretion of the King, and we can recognise that he is a father and a brother as well as a king.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I will make a more lawyerly point. I heard the wise intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on what is regular and the powers of the Lord Chancellor. I will not comment on either of those points. But I heard the noble Lord say, in moving the amendment, that his wish was to provide some clarity. I respectfully suggest that its wording actually does the precise opposite, because he has used the verb “excluded”—although, when he moved it, he used the word “removed”. In the context of this legislation, verbs are important. A Counsellor of State can be excepted if they are overseas, for example, which means that they cannot act but they do not lose their place in the pecking order. If they are disqualified, they lose their place in the pecking order, and the next person in line takes that place. It is not immediately clear to me whether “excluded” is “excepted” or “disqualified”. With the greatest respect, I suggest that it is this amendment that ought to be excluded.

Lord Sentamu Portrait Lord Sentamu (CB)
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My Lords, I also apologise for not being here on Monday; I had to handle some serious matters in Berwick. Yes, the constitutional monarch has consulted, and this House considered this at Second Reading and agreed the terms as in the legislation. So there is no question of the supremacy of Parliament not being recognised. The suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is almost like rubbing it in—it is just one of those words we would not want to use. We should restrict the Bill to what was asked of us. This was considered, and therefore the wording is there.

Another thing is that we can never predict anyone’s future. I could be ill tomorrow, or I could be dead, and that would be the end of me. Anticipating what may or may not happen in legislation is always pretty difficult, so leave it well alone.

Lord Newby Portrait Lord Newby (LD)
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My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with the thoughts behind this amendment, because the debate has shown that there is a certain amount of confusion about which members of the body of Counsellors of State will undertake royal duties, do undertake royal duties or might be asked to do so. In addition to the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice—although I might be wrong about this—is also not a working royal. That means that three members of this extraordinarily small body will never be asked to perform the function, which just seems strange.

An amendment of this sort would enable matters to be clarified. There are a number of deficiencies in its drafting, some of which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. It also raises in my mind the question of what would happen if we were to exclude two or three Counsellors of State. Who would replace them? Would they be replaced and, if so, on what basis? There is ambiguity. In an ideal world, this ambiguity would be dealt with by consideration of these matters.

For example, it is up to the King to decide which members of his family he considers working members of it. He decides who acts as a working member of the Royal Family, so I think we could get round all that. However, as we debated on Monday, once you start down this route, it takes quite a lot of time and effort to deal satisfactorily with all the wrinkles. Given everything else that lies before us, I am not sure it is a priority. However, one idea is that the work could be done on this to the extent that, at some point in the future, there may need to be another Counsellors of State Bill to include an additional person. It would be a good thing if this could be cleared up at the same time.

Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)
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My Lords, listening to noble Lords talking about the definition of working royals, I sometimes think we ought to look at the definition of working Peers, over which similar anomalies arise. Monday’s significant debate made it clear that very few of us have considered this issue before. It is not something that we deal with every day. We debated the Bill at length but it is wrong to chastise those who want further debate. I would have thought, however, that His Royal Highness, the palace authorities and Parliament would have given considerable thought to whether the Bill would deal with the problems that may occur if there were not adequate members to fulfil the responsibilities of Counsellors of State.

I appreciate that my noble friend is not pressing his amendment to a vote; I think the House is quite anxious to see this legislation go to the other place and get on to the statute book. We quite like the idea of Bills that start in your Lordships’ House and then go to the other place, rather than the other way round. Therefore, we should send the Bill to the House of Commons, as it is now, unamended, as the noble Lords who proposed these amendments have suggested.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for putting this matter before us. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate at the start to thank the Official Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Newby, for their support on behalf of their parties, which I am sure will be noted and much appreciated.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who always likes to bowl a different ball, as it were, that if he had been here at Second Reading he would have known that no one has ever sought to say that this matter should not be discussed. In fact, His Majesty’s Government have presented a Bill before Parliament for the single purpose of enabling Parliament to consider the matter. His Majesty the King himself has invited us to discuss the matter, so it is 180 degrees away from the position that the noble Lord sought to represent. I cannot go into the point about the future of your Lordships’ House, but it was not my party that recently put that matter before the newspapers.

We believe that this amendment is a disproportionate step. What the Government are doing, as referenced in the King’s message, is a practical and limited modification that allows royal functions to be delegated to a wider pool of Counsellors of State. It is a practical and proportionate response. The Bill follows established precedents. There is no precedent for a measure to exclude individuals from acting as Counsellors of State. Any further changes to the pool of Counsellors of State by, for example, removing certain individuals, would require more fundamental amendment to the Regency Act 1937. These arrangements have been in place for 85 years and have, in my submission, served us well.

The Bill follows the precedent, as I said at Second Reading, of 1953, when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was added, and adds the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex to the pool of Counsellors of State. I must remind my noble friend Lord Balfe, who suggested that this was a very narrow pool, that he did not mention the fact that Her Majesty the Queen Consort and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales are Counsellors of State, so the pool is slightly wider than he suggested. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to exclude individuals would be a substantial change that departs both from precedent and the approach set out in the King’s message to both Houses. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, the approach set out in His Majesty’s message is appropriate and effective. I follow the noble Baroness opposite in saying that your Lordships should respect it, having considered it and reflected on it as we have.

I intend no disservice to my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, for whom I have the very highest regard, but I have noted criticisms in your Lordships’ House of the fact that the office of Lord Chancellor is now held by a Member of the House of Commons. I have heard that often at this Dispatch Box. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to allow the Lord Chancellor to exclude those individuals who have not undertaken royal duties in the preceding two years is, in our submission, an unnecessary addition, introducing complexity into the scheme where it is not required.

The amendment proposes a significant change to the underlying Act and shifts the decision-making to a member of the Government. It would now be for the Lord Chancellor to make a judgment on what counts—and what does not—as regularly undertaking royal duties. The word “regular” is subjective, and that is a lot to load on one individual. It might be asked “What is regular?” I remind the House that there are working members of the Royal Family, some very senior, who undertake public duties but have never been Counsellors of State and are not intended to be. As was wisely put to us by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lord Wolfson, this approach would add complexity where previously there was none and impose an unnecessary duty on the Lord Chancellor.

The amendment must be regarded as practically unnecessary if the Bill is to pass. The Regency Act already includes provisions—the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was kind enough to allude to our debate at Second Reading—whereby Counsellors of State are excepted from duties if they are overseas. I repeat what I set out at Second Reading: the Royal Household has confirmed that, in practice, working members of the Royal Family will be called on to act as Counsellors of State and diaries will be arranged to make this practicable. I think it is well known and understood who those persons are. The Bill as it is drafted and the flexible constitutional arrangements in place ensure that the effect of the amendment is already achieved. In my submission, and I believe this is the view of most noble Lords who spoke at Second Reading and today, that is sufficient and nothing more is required.

The underlying structure provided by the legislation has proved effective and it would be a mistake to seek to modify its effect in response to short-term contexts which are, of course, subject to evolution and change. To conclude, for the reasons I have set out and those set out by other noble Lords who have spoken helpfully in this debate, I hope I can convince the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that his amendment is redundant and disproportionate. In fact, it would add complexity and subjectivity to the system and is not suitable to the intent of this practical and precise Bill. I urge him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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I am grateful to so many noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. Clearly, the amendment as it stands had many defects in it and I apologise for that. I spent a lot of time talking to people about what the right solution was, but I think the key thing is we have had a good debate. Many different noble Lords have expressed their views, and from my point of view I think the Bill is fine for the moment—of course I support it. I think it is an issue which we will have to look at in not the short term but in the longer term, as it may be useful to come back and review it again in a more structured way. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendment 3 not moved.
Clause 1 agreed.
Clause 2 agreed.
House resumed.
Bill reported without amendment.
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, this may be a convenient point to remind noble Lords that the deadline for any Report amendments will be in 30 minutes’ time—that is at 5.02 pm. Amendments can be tabled at the Public Bill Office in the usual way.

Second Reading
16:32
Moved by
Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Caine Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Caine) (Con)
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My Lords, as I rise to speak in this Second Reading, before I move to the Bill itself, I would like to put on record my thanks and gratitude to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and partners who, at this time and around the clock, are working to keep Northern Ireland safe and secure. I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning the recent attacks in Northern Ireland on the rule of law, and condemn terror in all its ugly guises.

The period of what are sometimes euphemistically referred to as the Troubles in Northern Ireland has left a terrible legacy and an indelible mark on society. More than 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles, with an estimated 40,000 more maimed or injured. Families were shattered, businesses destroyed along with livelihoods, and society was torn apart by atrocities that for many of those who suffered are as vivid, raw and painful today as they were at the time they occurred. Widespread disruption, either as a result of terrorist activity or the security presence needed to counter it, was a daily fact of life. In this Government’s view, the main responsibility for this appalling legacy rests firmly with the terrorist organisations, both republican and loyalist, which between them caused some 90% of those deaths—or, more specifically, the 60% that were down to republicans and the 30% down to loyalists.

Of those groups, the Provisional IRA was the terrorist organisation responsible for more deaths than any other: approximately 1,700 people, including some 300 Catholics. That is more than the police and the Army combined—something, I suggest, that those who today think it cool to chant “Up the Ra” might wish to reflect on.

This Government are equally clear that none of the terrorist campaigns that took place in the Troubles could in any way be warranted. Terrorism was always wholly wrong. No injustice in Northern Ireland, either perceived or real, justified the taking of a single life and the violence of paramilitary groups. There was always an alternative to terrorism in the past, just as there is today. The terrorist campaigns caused untold misery and suffering, and this Government will never agree with a version of history that seeks to legitimise them, just as we will always reject any suggestion of moral equivalence between the security forces and those who carried out acts of terrorism.

Ultimately, of course, terrorism in Northern Ireland did not succeed. In our view, there are three main reasons for that: first, the sheer resilience of the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland who rejected violence and would never bend the knee to terrorism; secondly, the determination of successive UK Governments of all parties that the future of Northern Ireland would only ever be determined by democracy and consent, which is enshrined in the 1993 Downing Street declaration and is such a key pillar of the 1998 Belfast agreement; and, thirdly, the extraordinary dedication of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and our Armed Forces.

More than 1,000 members of the security forces lost their lives during Operation Banner, the longest continuous deployment in British military history, while over 7,000 awards for bravery were made. Of course, I fully acknowledge that, at times, some might have wrongly acted outside the law and that mistakes were made, sometimes with deeply tragic consequences. We should always be prepared to admit that—I speak as one of the authors of David Cameron’s statement in June 2010 in response to the report of the Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday—yet of the more than 250,000 who served, the overwhelming majority did so with exemplary professionalism, bravery and restraint, and without their efforts there would have been no peace process. So, this Government will always salute their service and their sacrifice, and we will always remember the debt of gratitude we owe them. As I said in this House in July, we will always resist a pernicious counternarrative of the Troubles that seeks to put the state at the heart of every atrocity, denigrate the record of the security forces and, as I said earlier, legitimise terrorism.

Terrorism did not succeed but the legacy of the Troubles, as I indicated at the outset, continues to cast a dark and long shadow over Northern Ireland. As we have seen all so vividly in recent years, legacy issues retain the capacity to poison and paralyse politics, divide society and, in certain circumstances, create the potential for public disorder. For all the progress we have seen over the past quarter of a century, education and public housing remain highly segregated in many areas, while so-called peace walls still loom large in a number of areas. Far too many still live with the physical suffering and mental scars of what happened, and the costs of division continue to place additional burdens on an already highly overstretched public purse.

Against this background, therefore, the Government have a responsibility to do what they can to attempt to tackle the legacy of the past. While I am the first to acknowledge that we will never agree a common narrative as to what happened, the question is whether we can find structures that will enable society as a whole in Northern Ireland to move forward.

Of course, there have been a number of attempts to do this since 1998. The last Labour Government established the commission chaired by Denis Bradley and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames—who is in his place, I am pleased to say—which reported in 2009. In 2013, the Northern Ireland Executive invited the former US special envoy to Northern Ireland, Ambassador Richard Haass, and Meghan O’Sullivan to examine the issues of flags, parading and the past. In 2014 the Government reached the Stormont House agreement which, although motivated primarily by the need to address problems at the time around the Executive’s finances, contained far-reaching proposals to tackle legacy issues based on earlier initiatives.

Yet despite the best and very genuine efforts of many, over a number of years, none of these initiatives has succeeded in delivering for those directly affected by the legacy of the Troubles. I speak as someone who from 2010 to 2019 served four Secretaries of State and was intimately involved in trying to find ways forward on these issues. I participated in all 11 weeks of the talks leading to the Stormont House agreement, and then spent the subsequent four-and-a-half years in extensive and painstaking efforts to implement it—without success.

I know that some, including members of your Lordships’ House, still regard the Stormont House agreement as the best way forward. Yet as somebody who was there, it is clear to me that any broad consensus once held no longer exists, and it is easy with the benefit of hindsight to overplay the extent to which it ever did. Even in December 2014 it was not supported by all the parties, and in the months and years that followed what high-level support that had existed began to diminish as the Government and political parties sought to convert the paragraphs of that agreement into legislation.

Indeed, I recall in early 2015 Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness asking the then Secretary of State to take all the Stormont House agreement through Westminster, due to the difficulties of doing any of it via the Northern Ireland Assembly, even though most of it was technically devolved. I remember clearly in November 2015 Martin McGuinness vetoing any reference to the Stormont House legacy proposals in the fresh start agreement, such were the difficulties Sinn Féin had with them at the time.

Stormont House was eight years ago next month, and, in the absence of an agreed way forward, those affected by the Troubles continue to be left with processes that have largely evolved piecemeal and which for the vast majority will never deliver justice, information, accountability or any form of acknowledgement. That is why the Government have introduced the Bill before your Lordships’ House today.

Taking into account previous attempts to tackle legacy, the Bill seeks to deliver an approach that focuses on what can practically be achieved when dealing with events that in some cases occurred half a century ago. It provides victims and survivors with information in a way that can provide some acknowledgement and some accountability. It has the potential to provide better outcomes both for those who suffered and those who served, and is able to help society look forward together to a more shared future, which I hope is the objective of all of us in your Lordships’ House.

The Bill seeks to do these things in the following ways. Part 1 of the Bill sets out for the purposes of this legislation the meaning of “the Troubles” and establishes its period as beginning on 1 January 1966 and finishing on 10 April 1998, the date on which the Belfast agreement was reached. Part 2 of the Bill provides for the establishment of a new independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery—the ICRIR. I think the first prize in Committee will be for anybody who can come up with a snappier name. This will carry out reviews, mainly at the request of families and surviving victims, into deaths and incidents resulting in serious injuries that occurred during the Troubles.

More than two thirds of Troubles-related cases are now over 40 years old, and it is commonly accepted that the likelihood of prosecutions, regardless of resources, is extremely remote. The Government have therefore taken the view that better outcomes for families are more likely to be achieved by a process of information recovery, acknowledgement and accountability, and that is what the ICRIR will seek to provide.

The commission will be chaired by a former or serving senior judge and will be equipped with the same investigative powers as the police to carry out criminal investigations, as well as, like coroners in inquests, the power to compel witness testimony and documentary evidence from individuals. It will be able to use these powers in relation to any case to fulfil outstanding procedural obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Although the term “review” in the Bill is deliberately broad, the commission will be under a duty to look into all the circumstances of a death or incident, including criminal activity.

The commission will be fully operationally independent, while, for its part, the state will be under a legal requirement to disclose all relevant information to it. Written reports of the commission’s findings to the families and surviving victims who request a review will be publicly available. To encourage those who might have relevant information to share it, the commission will be able to grant immunity from prosecution, on a case-by-case basis, to an individual who acknowledges their role in a Troubles-related incident by providing an account that is true to the best of their knowledge and belief. These accounts will be tested against information that is already in the public domain and information that is not—for example, from previous investigations and intelligence. Where an individual chooses not to engage with the commission, they will remain liable to prosecution in the normal way should the evidential test be met.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with ongoing and future proceedings within the current criminal, civil, inquest and police complaints systems. As the Bill is drafted, once it comes into force, no other body in the UK other than the commission will be able to take forward an investigation into a Troubles-related incident. Where a decision has already been taken to prosecute an existing case, this will continue. Any civil claims filed before the Bill was introduced will continue but no new cases will be allowed. Inquests that have reached an advanced stage by the time the commission becomes operational will continue; however, new inquests and those that have not reached an advanced stage will not continue but may be referred to the commission.

Part 4 of the Bill will build on proposals in the Stormont House agreement and provide for the establishment of an expert panel to devise a memorialisation strategy designed to promote reconciliation and greater understanding, as well as a major new oral history initiative.

I am the first to acknowledge that some of the proposals outlined in the Bill have met with far from universal acclamation in Northern Ireland itself. I fully appreciate that, for many, this legislation, despite some significant changes since the publication of the Command Paper in July 2021, remains deeply challenging. In being completely candid with your Lordships, I count myself among that number. I personally have found this legislation extremely challenging.

I have been involved in the affairs of Northern Ireland for some 35 years, and worked in the Northern Ireland Office while the Troubles were still raging in the 1990s. Only weeks before he was murdered by the Provisional IRA in July 1990, I had lunch with the very great man, Ian Gow, in the Strangers’ Dining Room in the other place, where, with typical generosity, he offered to sponsor me for the Conservative Party candidates’ list. Indeed, one of my first jobs in politics was to take the minutes of the Conservative Back-Bench Northern Ireland Committee, of which Ian was chairman. I have probably spent more hours with victims and survivors than just about anybody outside of Northern Ireland, and have heard countless harrowing and heart-wrenching stories of suffering. So I am hardly immune to the feelings of those affected by the Troubles who find this Bill difficult and challenging.

At the same time, I am as conscious as anyone, based on experience, that we will never solve the past or bring, to use that horrible word, closure in every case. Equally, I am clear that no Government can legislate to reconcile people, though we can strive to promote it. However, we can attempt to provide better and realistic outcomes. It is because of this, and in fulfilment of a commitment I made to the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, in this House on 14 July, that, since late July, I have carried out some 25 legacy-related engagements and meetings, all but a couple in Northern Ireland itself. I have done so on the basis of being open to sensible and constructive proposals to improve the Bill—commitments I have also made individually and collectively to Members of your Lordships’ House.

As a result of my discussions, and of those between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and a number of groups within Northern Ireland, I intend to bring forward a series of proactive government amendments in Committee to address a number of concerns that have been raised. These will include amendments to underpin the Bill’s compliance with the ECHR, by making it clear that the commission will be able to carry out Article 2 and 3-compliant criminal investigations in cases where it judges them to be appropriate. We will strengthen the commission’s independence by making clear that the Secretary of State should consult named individuals before appointing the chief commissioner.

To make the information recovery process and the provisions around immunity more robust, we will create an offence for those who choose willingly to mislead the commission and give the commission the power to revoke immunity where individuals have been found subsequently to do so. We will disapply the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 for individuals who choose not to tell the commission what they know and are subsequently convicted of an offence, so that they face a full rather than a reduced sentence, as well as increasing the fine for non-compliance with the commission.

I wish to work with noble Lords across this House to enable us to fulfil our important constitutional role as a revising Chamber and make further improvements to the Bill where possible as it proceeds. That is my commitment, and that of a Government who are prepared to listen. On that basis, I beg to move.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by
Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon
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At the end to insert “but that this House regrets that the provisions contained in the bill do not command the confidence or support of groups and organisations representing the interests of victims and survivors of the Troubles, of Northern Ireland elected representatives, or of the wider community, including communities across the United Kingdom affected by the bill.”

16:52
Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)
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My Lords, to be helpful, I intend to speak to the Bill and my amendment at the same time rather than have two debates, and I do not intend to move to a Division on my amendment. I apologise to the House; I will have to leave the Chamber; the previous business started slightly later than anticipated and I have another engagement, but I will be back as soon as I can.

I am grateful to the Minister. Like other noble Lords, I am trying to register the late announcement of some possible changes to the Bill by the Government, but in the last Queen’s Speech the Government committed to bringing forward legislation to address the legacy of the past. They said then that that would provide better outcomes for victims, survivors and their families, giving veterans the protection that they deserve and focusing on information recovery and reconciliation. As the Minister indicated in his speech today, we all know that these issues are complex, sensitive and deeply emotional.

Your Lordships’ House is as one in condemning terrorism from whatever quarter, and we concur with the noble Lord on that. As a party we are proud of the role that we played in securing the Good Friday agreement. But in the 30-plus years before that agreement, the euphemistically named Troubles—which I always find an uncomfortable term—saw more than 3,500 people lose their lives, with thousands more injured and maimed. No community was immune. The scars on physical and mental health remain evident throughout Northern Ireland and beyond, as this impacted on communities outside Northern Ireland. It is worth noting that this week is the anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings, when 21 people were killed, 182 were injured, and six men wrongly convicted of those bombings served 16 years in prison before their convictions were quashed —so much suffering.

When I spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate in May, I made specific appeal to the Government about this legislation. It is not possible as Leader of the Opposition when speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate to refer to all proposed Bills, but I declared a particular interest in this one, as a former Northern Ireland Victims Minister, succeeding my noble friend Lord Browne of Ladyton, and appointed by my noble friend Lord Murphy, who was then the Secretary of State.

I said then of the legislation:

“I appeal to the Government: please understand that this needs support from the widest possible coalition.”—[Official Report, 10/5/22; col. 13.]

It is for that reason that I have tabled the amendment in my name today. The Bill as it currently stands does not have the support of the widest possible coalition. In fact, it is opposed by the widest possible coalition. That is quite an achievement; I think this is the only issue on which the Government have been able to unite every single political party in Northern Ireland, but it is deeply unfortunate that they have all been united against the Bill. The Government recognised the need for wider consensus in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, even going so far as to say that any UK Parliament legislation must have the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I would be interested to know whether that commitment still stands.

So many of those affected by this Bill have come together to share with us their reasons for opposition, and how they would be impacted. I am sure they have listened to the noble Lord’s words very carefully. Noble lords may have seen an article in today’s Daily Telegraph, regarding a letter to the Prime Minister from Andy and Martha Seaman and Michael O’Hare. As a bereaved military family, and a victim of the Armed Forces, they have come together to express their concerns about the Bill, and in their letter say that it is not too late to do the right thing and scrap it.

I understand that that must be deeply disappointing to Ministers, but it was clear when this was debated in the other place that the consultation and the engagement with those affected was inadequate. I listened to what the noble Lord said about the additional meetings he has had since that time, and look forward to hearing more about those as the Bill progresses through Committee.

My noble friend Lord Murphy and I are grateful for the meetings we had with the Secretary of State and the Minister, who even though he had to join via Zoom, was nonetheless engaged. At that meeting, we asked that the Bill be withdrawn for further consultation and engagement. They were not willing to do that, but both said they were open to significant amendments, and that the Bill was now paused.

I am grateful for what the Minister said at the end of his speech, but I am disappointed that, since that meeting, we have had no response on what steps Ministers were willing to take. It would have been helpful to have had some response prior to this debate, to get a sense of what the Government intend. We want to work with the Government only on something that is workable. It would have been helpful had there been some engagement with those of us participating today—a briefing, a letter or something—and I regret that has not happened.

The Secretary of State has already said that he is open to significant changes. It would be helpful to know from the Minister whether the changes he has outlined, which we will take time to reflect on, are the limit of what the Government are looking at—he is indicating that that is not the case—or whether they would be prepared to listen to other suggestions as well. We have already been approached about the scheduling of the Bill, and it seems that the Government are going at some pace, with Committee indicated to be during the train strike week, which may not be the best arrangement.

Seeking to pass legislation that has no support from the political parties in Northern Ireland, or any party here apart from the governing party, is not the best way to deal with this issue. I am not going to suggest to the Minister that this is easy, nor that it should be put in the ‘too difficult’ box and only paid lip service to. I commend the Minister; we know of his personal commitment and he indicated, very honestly I thought, how difficult this Bill is for him, and we appreciate that there have been so many attempts to address this over many years. I pay huge tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and to the late, great Denis Bradley, who I thought were both courageous and powerful in the work they undertook. That report still stands the test of time, thanks to the effort, commitment and care that went into it.

In the Stormont House agreement, dealing with legacy issues was a key part of several rounds of talks between the then British government, the Irish Government and the political parties. The Minister seemed to dismiss that at the time, but the overarching principles of that agreement still stand as being some way to look to this issue:

“promoting reconciliation … upholding the rule of law … acknowledging and addressing the suffering of victims and survivors … facilitating the pursuit of justice and information recovery … is human rights compliant; and is balanced, proportionate, transparent, fair and equitable.”

It is hard to see why those principles should not underline anything when looking forward.

The Government said in response to their consultation that

“new ways to address the legacy of the past will only succeed if the institutions can command broad support and trust from the community.”

At that time, they said that they remain

“fully committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and it is essential that our work continues.”

Is the Minister saying that the Government are not now committed to the principles of the Stormont House agreement? I was unclear from his comments. It seemed he was saying that the Government do not now respect those principles and it is hard to see how this legislation fits in with them.

I will underline some specific areas of concern. Some of what the Minister said addresses some of these issues, but I am not 100% certain. First, on Clause 18 —the immunity test—in the Government’s response to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the NIO said:

“Immunity must be granted where certain conditions are met, including that the person has provided a truthful account of their involvement in the death or incident resulting in serious injury.”


Those “certain conditions” are very limited, at present, to just two: one is an offence for which there could be a criminal investigation or prosecution, and the second that immunity is asked for. I listened carefully to the noble Lord’s comments and he seemed to be proposing something to address the issue of someone not telling the truth. He did not seem to be making a change to the conditions or to the fact that immunity had to be granted, but he might be able to respond on that in his wind-up.

I agree with the Minister about the less than snappy title of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.

From my time as Victims Minister, I concur with the noble Lord’s comments: there were times when the emotions really cut through and I have very vivid memories of some discussions and conversations I had. So often, I heard that families and survivors want to know the truth. Truth can be painful and difficult, as noble Lords in the Chamber recognise, but, for many, that process of investigation was essential to fully understand what had happened.

It was not flagged up previously that the Bill has made a fundamental change from investigation to review. Can the Minister say if this implies a far less rigorous process of understanding? That is one of the great concerns that people have. Alongside those measures is a proposal to, in effect, cut off civil cases and inquests, which adds to families’ suspicion that it will be much harder to obtain the information that ensures that the truth is heard.

I am glad the Minister said something about the ECHR, because just saying that the Bill is compliant does not make it compliant. I think he implied that he will bring forward measures to ensure that it is compliant, and I am sure he will work with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to ensure that that is the case, because it said it is “gravely concerned” about the current draft.

As the Bill progresses, we will hear more of the detail, but we may need to look at the depth and breadth of where the opposition comes from and how it can be addressed. From my time in Northern Ireland, I was struck, when talking to those who lived through that period, by how the pain and memories do not just fade away, over time. Many still experience what I might describe as the aftershocks from what happened to them, their loved ones, friends, co-workers, neighbours and the community as a whole. As those of us who attended some briefings for victims in your Lordships’ House were told, so often that damage is passed on to and through future generations. That means that all sides have to acknowledge and be accountable for their actions.

When Brandon Lewis spoke at the Second Reading of the Bill in the other place, he was passionate about the protection of veterans from the RUC, the Armed Forces and the Security Service. So many served with honour, courage and great distinction. Hundreds lost their lives.

A particularly sharp memory I have is from meeting a group of RUC widows. While impressed by their dignity, I was shocked by how little support they felt they had and how difficult their lives and their families’ lives had been. The acts of terrorism, the killings, reached into every corner of Northern Ireland and beyond its shores: from those RUC widows to the families of those killed at Ballymurphy—it was not until the coroner’s report 50 years later that their killings were officially found to be “without justification”—from organised attacks of terrorism to random acts of violence, and from the accounts of great courage to those who lived in fear, and the trauma of the families of the disappeared, it is not hard to understand why a legacy of pain, hurt and mistrust remains.

I fully understand the frustration of Ministers who feel that they have created a way forward, only to find that they have not taken people with them and that few agree. Passing the Bill without significant amendment might create a structure that will establish the new commission, but unless it has the understanding and support of those who have a direct interest, it will not make any difference. The tragedy is then that the legacy of the past will linger on.

We want to play our part in addressing the issue—to reflect and hear more about the proposed amendments the Minister has suggested today and discuss them with him. But until those very real concerns raised are taken on board and addressed in legislation, and until there is real work with those impacted, any legislation will just be words on a page. I beg to move.

17:06
Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD)
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My Lords, I echo the sentiments of the Minister about the recent escalation of tensions and the attempted murder of two police officers in County Tyrone last Thursday. There is never any place for violence or terror in resolving the issues of the past. The current increase in tension, however, does demonstrate the fragility of the peace achieved since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, nearly 25 years ago. It also serves to remind us that this is a process that requires constant care and attention: it is not something that can, or ever should, be taken for granted. The process of reconciliation and dealing with the legacy of the past is not something that can be achieved through legislation alone. It is vital to allow people to feel that the events of the past are recognised and acknowledged. We need to acknowledge that the time available for this to happen is becoming short.

As Ian Jeffers, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, put it so aptly in a letter to the Telegraph earlier this week:

“As a civilised, just society we owe it to victims, survivors and their families to support them and find a shared way that we can address the legacy of our past.”


That brings me to the Bill we are debating this afternoon. I welcome the Minister’s tone and approach in his Second Reading speech. It was a very personal speech—indeed, an emotional speech—and that is to be welcomed. The Minister knows that so many people feel uncomfortable about—indeed, strongly oppose—several of the key elements in the Bill. Some have suggested that its very title is wrong, as it achieves so little in terms of bringing about reconciliation.

In the conversations that I—and I am sure many other noble Lords—have had with victims and their families, it is the removal of the hope of seeing justice that the Bill represents that has been so devastating to so many of them. There are many points I could make about the Bill, but I shall limit myself to five key areas where I believe that substantial amendments should be made.

The first, of course, is compliance with Article 2 of the ECHR. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights states in its summary:

“Our concerns reflect a view that despite the good intent, the operation of the bill as drafted would come into conflict with the government’s legal obligations and as such, risk frustrating the intended objectives.


We have serious doubts that this Bill as drafted is compatible with Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.


I very much share the assessment of the JCHR that the conditional immunity scheme is likely to breach the UK’s obligations under Articles 2 and 3. We urge the Government to remove Clause 18 from the Bill, or at least significantly amend it. I am sure we shall return to these issues in much greater depth in Committee but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, I would be grateful if the Minister could, in his concluding remarks, say a little more about how the Government intend to amend the Bill in Committee to ensure that it is Article 2-compliant.

A second substantial area of concern is that of the clear lack of consent for this Bill, as currently drafted, by key stakeholders. The parties in Northern Ireland, the victims groups, some of the victims, human rights organisations as well as wider society in Northern Ireland have all expressed very grave concerns about the Bill. The Constitution Committee, of which I am a member, has stated that the has stated the “strength of opposition” risks undermining the Bill’s stated aims of dealing with the past and promoting reconciliation.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also said, there has also been a general lack of consultation with key stakeholders prior to the drafting of the Bill. Given the complexities of these issues, this is precisely the kind of legislation that would have benefited from some form of pre-legislative scrutiny, perhaps particularly at a time when, tragically, there remains no functioning Assembly or Executive in Northern Ireland.

I know that the Minister has had many recent meetings with victims and other groups. Again, I am grateful for his reporting on that. He is very aware of their concerns about the Bill, so would he agree that continuing with it unamended because of a Conservative Party manifesto commitment would be unhelpful at this time of heightened tensions in Northern Ireland?

A third area of concern, which has also been highlighted by the Constitution Committee, is the very substantial increase in regulating powers that the Bill grants to the Secretary of State, and the subsequent concerns that this will have regarding the genuine independence of the ICRIR.

A fourth area of concern is something that the Minister touched on, which is the use of language. Throughout the Bill, the terms “review” and “investigation” are used interchangeably. These two terms have a distinctly different impact on the legal process. It is welcome that he has indicated that he will consider bringing forward amendments in this regard but, again, I would like a little more information on that if possible in his concluding remarks.

Finally and most importantly, the fifth area of serious concern is that, although the Bill claims to be victim focused, it is clear that this is very far from the case. In particular, the closing down of civil cases and inquests, as proposed by the Bill, has caused huge concern and upset to the victims. The victims I have spoken to all say that what they want is the truth and justice, through information and acknowledgement. What they do not want is the removal of that hope.

I therefore ask the Minister, who, with all of his experience, understands the complexity of the situation so well—I believe that he is someone who listens and will stick to his word of speaking to us all and moving forward together on amendments—to take on board the strength of feeling that he will hear on behalf of the victims and their families in the debate. They have already waited so long already. Surely the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement is the time to give them back that hope.

17:13
Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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My Lords, I respectfully support the last two speeches from the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. I rise with a certain degree of concern that I have no experience of Northern Ireland; many of my colleagues on the Cross Benches will speak on these issues. I do, though, have some experience of terrorism and terrorism offences in England.

Although I deeply sympathise with the Minister’s personal position—who can avoid being sympathetic with him?—and I share everything he said about the courage, dedication, commitment and the years of service we have received from the security forces, I am just a little worried that we do not fully appreciate what the Bill actually amounts to. We are being asked to legislate that men and women who are guilty of murder should be exempted from prosecution. If the Bill is enacted in its present form, they will literally be getting away, or will have got away, with murder. They will have got away with some of the most deliberate and cold-blooded killings that we have known in this country.

We cannot avoid that that is the consequence of this Bill. Before we enact it, we really need to know whether we are prepared to create an environment in which laws that betray the families of the victims, the victims themselves and society’s desire for peace and abhorrence of killings, among others, should be ignored.

The Title of the Bill is very misleading. I will not identify every word that is misleading, but the Title contains “Northern Ireland Troubles”, the Explanatory Notes say,

“prepared by the Northern Ireland Office”,

and Clause 1 is

“related to Northern Ireland affairs”.

It would be unacceptable anyway if it was so limited, but I have read it and I think this is a correct analysis: it applies to troubles associated with the Troubles in Northern Ireland that manifested themselves in this country.

That means, for instance, the IRA’s attempt to blow up the British Cabinet, in which many received catastrophic injuries and many died. If fresh evidence emerged demonstrating that two people who had not previously been suspected were involved in that dreadful offence, the Bill would apply to them. The Bill, and the exemption from prosecution if they went through the processes, would mean that they would not be prosecuted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised the Birmingham case and the number of casualties there. If further evidence emerged demonstrating that A and B, or Z and Y, were involved in those killings, is it really right that through this Bill we should provide a means by which, although there is a very good case against them, they too should escape prosecution? These are the issues with which we are dealing.

However much we address the issue in general terms about the necessity of eventually achieving a peaceful outcome and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, these offences matter greatly to people here in England. I have one question for the Minister, apart from all the other questions that have been asked. How will this new commission, which is what I shall call it for today’s purposes, investigate offences committed in England or Wales?

Beyond the difficulties of the Bill, there is a certain illogicality that troubles me too. It applies to murder but not rape or a serious sexual offence. Rape is a foul crime—so is murder. Let us take an example. I do not know whether this ever happened, but it might have. A man decides to rape the daughter of a member of Sinn Féin as an act of revenge to counter some murderous Sinn Féin atrocity. The rape is associated with the Troubles. He could be prosecuted for the rape—the exemption provisions would not apply—but the Sinn Féin people responsible for the atrocity would be able to seek the exemption. To take the example a little further, if having raped this unfortunate girl the man then used a knife to kill her, we could have the absurd situation arising in which he could be prosecuted for the rape but seek exemption for the murder. If that is what the Bill means, there is an absurdity about it that has to be recognised. I am not offering a solution to it; I am simply pointing out the logical problem with some parts of the Bill.

I am also concerned that we are allowing ourselves to put overmuch emphasis on the length of time that this all goes back. Not very long ago it was proposed, and enacted by this Parliament, that any of those who served in Nazi concentration camps who could be proved to have been involved in those horrors could be prosecuted here. We saw men in their late 80s and early 90s being tried. There is no limitation position in our criminal justice system. Of course, there are safeguards for those who are charged with offences committed long ago. There is an abuse of process argument that the defendant is too old even to comprehend what is going on, or that there would be witnesses who have died. All that is a well-understood part of our criminal justice system.

To the extent that this legislation is concerned with those who served in Northern Ireland as part of the security forces who are alleged to have committed violent offences of their own, juries perfectly well understand that in the heat of battle, as for some of them it must have seemed, there is no time for detached reflection. Mistakes are made and things are done that are not intended. You can rely on a jury to try to appreciate this—they usually do, and they would be very sympathetic with a young man faced with some of the problems that faced some of our young men in Northern Ireland—and to return a true verdict according to the evidence.

We need to understand what the Bill actually proposes. That may be fine, and Parliament may decide that it will enact the Bill, but it must do so knowing what it will be enacting.

17:21
Lord Dodds of Duncairn Portrait Lord Dodds of Duncairn (DUP)
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My Lords, I start by remembering the thousands of innocent victims of terrorism who died or were injured in the decades of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and elsewhere—ordinary people going about their everyday lives who were cut down by terrible violence—the families and loved ones left behind to grieve and the survivors left with life-changing injuries. We should not forget the heroic efforts and sacrifice, as have been mentioned, of the tens of thousands of people in the security forces without whom many more innocent people would have died at the hands of terrorists. Hundreds of police officers and soldiers laid down their lives in serving the cause of peace and security.

Just recently the Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill, in remarks that have sickened victims and all right-thinking people, stated that there had been no alternative to all this wanton carnage and bloodshed. Terrorism was never justified. There was always an alternative to murder and the destruction of the livelihoods, hopes and dreams of generations of people in Northern Ireland, no matter who they were or what background they came from.

One would think that in speaking of victims today there would be at least a degree of reflection or self-examination on the part of those who spoke for terrorists during the Troubles and who now apologise for them even 25 years later, but no. Virtually every day we are subjected to the glorification of violence and the eulogising of terrorist murderers by leading Sinn Féin figures. This is happening in 2022, 25 years after the Belfast agreement, not in 1972. Fifty years on and still the innocent victims are being traumatised.

There are many valid criticisms that can be made of this deeply flawed Bill. Many of the innocent victims of terrorism whom I have spoken about feel deeply aggrieved, and understandably so, but their anguish is compounded by the sight of these apologists for terrorism pretending to defend victims’ rights in their attacks on the Bill. The victim-makers who slaughtered thousands of people over 30 years are busy whitewashing their own crimes, selectively singling out certain crimes for condemnation while celebrating their own violence. They have actively encouraged the now toxic atmosphere where many nationalists feel it is okay to chant “Up the Ra”, even in the face of IRA victims. These people do not speak for victims.

The criticism of the legislation which we have heard here today and from outside the House is widespread. This is not the first piece of legislation which has done victims a grave injustice. They have already had to endure seeing people who were convicted of some of the most brutal and heinous crimes given early release after serving only two years in jail. That was and remains a terrible injustice for many victims. It was, of course, opposed by some of us at the time but many in the other place and in your Lordships’ House who now vehemently oppose this piece of legislation vigorously backed that injustice. In my view, many of those people who were released after two years literally got away with murder.

A previous Government secretly handed out letters of comfort to IRA terrorists on the run. It is estimated that about 300 such letters were given out. One was famously used by John Downey to escape prosecution. There would be no harm if this Bill included a provision that these letters could not be used to evade future prosecution. We are assured that this is the case, but a specific provision to make it absolutely clear and certain would be helpful to victims. Some 365 royal pardons have been handed out over the years to people convicted of terrorist-related offences. It would be good to know exactly who received these letters of comfort and the royal pardons. In his reply, maybe the Minister can agree to furnish us with all the details. The 2006 definition of a victim is widely felt by innocent victims to be defective in including the perpetrators of violence. A move to bring forward a proper, up-to-date definition would be helpful to victims.

We have heard the concerns of the Irish Government about the Bill. For decades, they allowed their territory to be a safe haven for IRA terrorists who crossed the border. If there had only been the same desire over the years to put victims first and at the centre of our concerns, both here and in the Irish Republic, perhaps we would not find ourselves in this place, facing this piece of legislation. The cause of justice should never be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. No matter how difficult or challenging the situation, people should have the right to expect that, if there is evidence, all possible avenues of investigation will be explored.

I fully accept the argument about the current one-sided nature of the approach to legacy. People are tired of it. Soldiers and police are being harried and harassed into court. It is coupled with an industrial-scale propaganda effort to besmirch and denigrate the Army, the UDR, the RUC and the PSNI. We have had large, costly inquiries into Bloody Sunday and many others against the state. There has been no inquiry into the Enniskillen and Teebane atrocities, La Mon or Narrow Water or into the role of leading republican politicians in terrorist acts.

The approach taken by this Bill is wrong and an affront to justice. It would extinguish the flame of justice for countless families. It would draw a moral equivalence between terrorists intent on bloodshed and those who served our communities with dedication and professionalism. The way to address legitimate concerns about vexatious investigations against veterans who served in Northern Ireland is not simply to impose a wholesale restriction on historical investigations or prosecutions. It is to restore balance, ensure that investigative activity is proportionate and bring an end to the growing culture of politically motivated actions against those who served in uniform. Closing down routes to justice arbitrarily would not be tolerated for hate crimes or gang crimes in Great Britain. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, it has not been tolerated in relation to war criminals. It should not be deemed acceptable in relation to victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the United Kingdom.

As we consider this legislation going forward in your Lordships’ House, changes need to be made to tackle some of the worst excesses of the Bill. It has to be said that even if accepted, those changes will fall short of making its overriding aims justifiable or honourable.

I welcome what the Minister has said today about his willingness to be open to considering some changes, and about there being no incentive in the Bill as drafted for perpetrators to come forward or any material consequences for their failing to engage. In fact, the Bill incentivises not engaging. Under the current arrangements, people can be convicted and serve two years, but under the Bill, if a person stays quiet and does not co-operate, under Schedule 11 there will be no possibility or prospect of any kind of prison, whether they engage in the process, seek immunity, tell the truth or do nothing. I welcome what the Minister said about looking at that again, and I look forward to examining the detail.

We need to look at the issue of people who have evaded prosecution in this jurisdiction and fled elsewhere. For them to be eligible for immunity under the framework of the Bill is perverse. It would encourage offenders to return to Northern Ireland to live out their final days, in close proximity to those they terrorised, because there is no stipulation that anyone previously subject to a warrant, arrest or charge and who subsequently fled Northern Ireland would be prohibited from claiming immunity.

There are a significant number of active PPS files under threat from the sunset clause on criminal enforcement proposed by the Bill. This has undermined previous decisions by the Government to establish far-reaching investigations into Troubles-related activity, including Operation Kenova. Those files need to be processed and should be allowed to take their course.

There needs to be something to deal with the glorification of terrorism. As I mentioned earlier, right across the entire community in Northern Ireland people are tired of and sickened by the continuing glorification of violence by Sinn Féin. I know that the victims’ commissioner has raised this with the Government and pointed out the great hurt felt by many who served in the security forces, and by innocent victims. There needs to be something that deals with this open and public display of glorification, the commemoration of murder, in Northern Ireland in the 21st century. To expect people to continue to put up with this, given that we are now almost 25 years on from the Belfast agreement, is something the Government have to address. I welcome what the Minister said about a mechanism for revoking immunity where individuals are proven later to have lied or not co-operated properly with the commission.

There are many issues here, and I am sure that we will go into many more of them in detail in Committee—the definition of a Troubles-related offence, the investigation review and so on. However, the fundamental point is that innocent victims must continue to have hope and the prospect of justice. That is all they seek, and it would be wrong for this House, and Parliament, to take that away from them.

17:33
Lord Godson Portrait Lord Godson (Con)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dodds of Duncairn. I remember well that I was with him on the night when the IRA attempted to assassinate him. He was visiting his sick son, who is no longer with us, in hospital. I think of that night, and I know that the whole House will join me in appreciating the full force of his analysis and the sentiments he just expressed.

I also express appreciation for the opening remarks of my noble friend Lord Caine, and for the longevity of his commitment to and interest in these matters. How appreciated it is that in these times, the Minister still uses the word “terrorist”, because it is not present throughout all the discourse on this subject in this era, including in the media, including the BBC. That goes to the heart of my remarks today.

In this context, I welcome that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, also used the T-word—terrorists. Again, it seems important that we retain some moral boundaries, because they are not always visible in discussion of these matters, as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

I support the principle of the Bill, not least because of the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment in the last general election. I will particularly focus my remarks on Part 4, the section on “Memorialising the Troubles”. In May this year, when the Bill was introduced in the Commons under the then Secretary