Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord Haskel during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 11th Jul 2022
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Dormant Assets Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Tue 29th Sep 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Procurement Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Haskel
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 207 in my name. My noble friend Lord Lansley has Amendment 35 in this group but is unable to be with us in Committee this week. At his request, with the leave of the Committee, I shall be speaking to his amendments on both Committee days this week.

At Second Reading, I noted that the definition of light-touch contracts is extremely wide since it concerns the supply of services of any kind, provided that they have been specified by regulations under Clause 8(2). It is my understanding that light-touch contracts are currently for health and social care services—indeed, that is implied by the reference to those services in Clause 8(4)(b). The wide scope given by the lack of restriction in Clause 8(2) means that, notwithstanding the “have regards” in Clause 8(4), it would be possible, for example, for the Government to specify legal services, accountancy services or any other kind of services. The “have regards” are simply not an effective curtailment of the very wide power in Clause 8(2).

My Amendment 30 seeks to confine light-touch contracts to health or social care services provided to individuals, on the basis that, it is my understanding, that is how they are used at the moment. However, if the Government believe that there should be a wider concept than that, they should put that in the Bill. Open-ended regulation-making powers should not be necessary and are not desirable.

My noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendment 35 would add another “have regard” to Clause 8(4): whether suppliers of light-touch services consist of small and medium-sized enterprises and few larger enterprises. The other three “have regards” seem to be designed to reflect the current scope of light-touch contracts: they do not generally involve overseas suppliers, they are generally for the benefit of individuals and they involve suppliers that are close to service recipients. Another feature of current service provision is the presence of small and medium-sized service providers in both the private sector and the voluntary sector.

If the supplier market features large suppliers, including overseas ones, there really is no good policy reason for the light-touch regime to be applied; the full-fat version of the procurement rules should be in place for them. A light-touch contract should not become a convenient escape from the procurement regime for contracting authorities. They should be focused on the supplier end of the market, where a lighter regime would be appropriate.

Amendment 207 is rather different. It tries to tease out the Government’s intentions for contracts under Clause 33, which covers the reservation of certain light-touch contracts to public sector mutuals. A qualifying public sector mutual is one that has not been awarded a contract in the previous three years, under Clause 33(5). So if I am a public sector mutual and I am awarded a contract on 1 January 2022, that means that I may be excluded from tenders under subsection (2) for the three years until 31 December 2024, and under subsection (3) a contracting authority must exclude me from tenders assessed under Clause 18 until the same date—that is, the end of 2024.

If my earlier contract is for five years, which is the maximum allowed under Clause 33(1), I think that I would not be excludable from retendering when the contract came up for renewal, because the retendering process would almost certainly have started after the end of December 2024. If, however, my initial contract was for three years, I would almost inevitably be excluded from bidding for its renewal because the retendering process would by definition have to start before the end of December 2024.

My amendment proposes changing the period in subsection (5) from three years to five, but that is for probing purposes. I do not understand whether the Government are trying to allow or prohibit public sector mutuals from carrying out consecutive contracts, if indeed they were awarded them under a competition. It seems bizarre that a shorter contract could prohibit the public sector mutual from retendering while a long one would not.

In addition, I am less than clear on how contract award and commencement dates are supposed to interact, given that a contract could be awarded some considerable time before it is intended to commence. I know that my noble friend the Minister has Amendment 206 to Clause 33, which is not in this group and would slightly alter its wording, but I do not think that that will answer the basic question that I have posed. I beg to move.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, is taking part remotely. I invite the noble Baroness to speak.

Dormant Assets Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Haskel
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, has asked to speak after the Minister.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I hear what my noble friend the Minister has said—that she was speaking to my amendment and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, which both rely on the loans to reduce the amount of reserving. That is not what my amendment said at all. Mine was based on more explicitly recognising that the Treasury de facto now stands behind the company and that anything else is a complete fiction.

My noble friend talked about industry needing confidence in the scheme being independent of government. Frankly, the whole world has changed: the Treasury now owns 100% of the capital and it has been reclassified as public sector. The fact of life is that this is a public body and its “separate legal entity” nature is just a fiction.

If the Treasury wanted to release more for good causes, it could. That is at the heart of the issue; anything else is some form of dissembling. So I personally am not satisfied with the Minister’s response today. I do not think meeting the chief executive of the Reclaim Fund Ltd will get us any closer to the heart of the matter. The issue is: why will the Treasury not step up to the plate and recognise that it now carries responsibility for the amounts released, and that in public sector terms there is no good reason to withhold significant sums for tail risk?

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Haskel
Tuesday 6th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Lamont said and I shall list as many of my concerns with the regulations as I can in the two minutes that we are allowed.

First, the rule of six is not based on science. Indeed, the Minister revealed its basis when he said on 14 September that the Government had relied on

“marketing advice from our communications department”.—[Official Report, 14/9/20; col. 1000.]

He also referred to focus groups. The Minister might think that that is science-based but most would disagree with him.

Secondly, Ministers would double down by encouraging snitching. That is not the kind of society I want to live in. Thirdly, the rule lacks logic. It is illegal for seven children to gather together to feed ducks, but it is perfectly okay for 30 adults to go out shooting them—the ducks, that is.

Fourthly, the order lacks precision. It makes mingling yet another way to break the law, but does not define it. On 14 September, the Minister said that it was

“a concept which, frankly, I do not think needs much description”.—[Official Report, 14/9/20; col. 999.]

Frankly, I think that that is an unacceptable way to legislate. Fifthly, as usual, there is no analysis of impact or alternatives and no attempt to explain the balance between the competing interests of our economic future, non-Covid mental and physical health matters and the narrow Covid impact.

I could go on, but sadly I have run out of time. I regret that my noble friend Lord Lamont is no longer pursuing his earlier fatal Motion. That would have had my vote.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Hutton of Furness.

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Haskel
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Grand Committee - (29 Sep 2020)
Lord Haskel Portrait Lord Haskel (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, apart from any rollover deals which we entered into when we were part of the European Union, these amendments deal with the ratification of future trade deals. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, I support these amendments, for many reasons. First, as my noble friend Lord Stevenson explained, they give Parliament on opportunity, a chance, to improve treaties by flagging up ambiguities, loopholes or unintended consequences which may have been missed.

When we were members of the EU, these trade agreements were scrutinised for this purpose, on our behalf, by the European Parliament. It had considerable say in these negotiations and actually voted on the final text. This scrutiny is particularly important because international treaties are binding on future Governments. Indeed, full parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals was a commitment in Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto. Now that we have left the EU, we find that instead of Parliament having a say in these agreements, it is largely an executive power, and ratification becomes a formality.

When we debated the previous Trade Bill, Amendment 12 on Report proposed a similar process for ratification. It was approved by a strong majority in this House. Indeed, the House’s concern is demonstrated by the setting up of our International Agreements Committee to look at progress on trade negotiations—the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, referred to this.

These amendments also bring the management of our trade agreements into the 21st century, as my noble friend explained. This is because trade deals have become much more than simple matters of business. They are strategic; they are geopolitical; they affect our standard of living. This is why ratification has to be so much more than a simple executive process. Amendment 10 acknowledges this by setting a framework for future trade policy. This is so Parliament can ensure that our social and environmental values and standards are maintained. Amendment 10 assumes that these matters were taken into consideration when the EU negotiated a trade agreement, so this arrangement does not apply to rollover trade agreements, which I think is reasonable.

In supporting these amendments, I was influenced by a paper published by the Global Economic Governance Programme. It compared our ratification process with that of other countries in the EU. They involve their Parliaments extensively with the ratification process. Here, the extent of our Parliament’s power is to delay ratification by 21 days, which is the only way it can hold the Government to account. This is clearly inadequate, and these amendments set about putting it right. That is why I support them.

Another reason why I support these very timely amendments is that, in recent weeks, public trust in the Government’s executive powers has declined because of the way they are using their emergency powers to control the Covid-19 epidemic. This decline in trust is likely to be demonstrated in the other place tomorrow. If we are not careful, the same lack of trust will happen with the Government’s power to ratify trade deals with little parliamentary input. Again, this is why these amendments are timely and important, and they have my support.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, this Bill is supposed to be about continuity agreements. I accept that Amendments 10 and 103 are within the Long Title, but I do not understand why whoever drafted the Bill gave it a Long Title which allowed amendments dealing with non-continuity agreements, non-free trade agreements, to come within its scope. However, we are where we are.

I put my name down to speak on this group of amendments mainly because of Amendments 10 and 103, which seem to be another back-door attempt to override the CRaG process, which is based on the much more long-standing process of the Ponsonby rule. It is part of a long-standing tradition that that is how we handle treaties in our Parliament. I accept that we will have a longer debate on that when we get to the group including Amendment 35. We ought to recognise that this is not simply a question of Parliament not being involved. In February 2019, the Government announced their approach to involving Parliament in international treaties, which supplements the formal CRaG processes. The current Administration have confirmed that they broadly stand by that earlier announcement of policy. It would be helpful if my noble friend the Minister could reaffirm that today.