Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord McNicol of West Kilbride during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 16th Mar 2021
Mon 14th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments

National Security and Investment Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have received no request to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. Important issues have been raised. I particularly like the idea behind my noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendments 54 and 66, which would create one period in the initial phase rather than two or more. Taken overall, the various time periods throughout the Bill, including “as soon as reasonably practicable”, “30 working days”, an additional “45 working days” as well as the ability to stop the clock here and there, represent an extraordinary period of uncertainty to which a business transaction could be exposed. At the end of the day, the transaction might not even raise what are adjudged to be national security issues and many of those who go through the process are likely to end up being cleared. I liked the analogy drawn by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, with China, and this seeming a bit like “when the Party decides”: it is when BEIS decides that a transaction can be dealt with and cleared.

Thirty working days is a long period of time. We talked about it as six weeks. Six weeks is actually 42 working days. If you are in the private sector and doing an acquisition, your processes do not respect weekends. You would expect to be working right the way through, and I am not sure that we should expect any less from those in the Civil Service handling the processes. The new unit being set up may need to be completely re-engineered from the normal Civil Service way of doing things, which is clearly driving the assessment of the time limits involved. My noble friend the Minister again gave me the mock scenarios and detailed analysis by civil servants of the time they would like to take handling these things, but he did not answer my specific question as to whether that had been independently challenged, potentially by using red teaming, and whether the processes had been rethought from the perspective of how we give certainty to the business community, which needs to progress investment decisions.

My noble friend the Minister gave us the example of 19 minutes for informal guidance. That is a complete red herring, because it is informal guidance and not a decision made under any of the provisions of the Bill. Nobody will expect 19 minutes to be the answer for any of the mandatory procedures or voluntary notification procedures taken under this Bill.

I said that my amendments were probing, and I do not intend to take them forward today, but we need to step back and reflect on the cumulative impact of the time periods set out in the Bill on the way in which the UK is perceived as a good place to do business and to invest. If we lose that, we will lose the potential for continuing economic growth. Our economic growth has been boosted considerably by the inward investment that we have been able to attract. If we become a bad place to do business, this country will be hurt in many ways that are worse than might be feared in respect of national security implications. We will need to return to this in one way or another on Report, but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, when the Minister introduced the Motion, she explained clearly that the other place had claimed financial privilege and that it was customary for this House to respect that decision made by the Speaker. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said that this was not a financial issue. I respectfully say to the noble and learned Lord that it is not for this House to determine whether or not it is a financial issue. As I understand it, it has been accepted by this House for a very long time that the final arbiter of what is or is not a financial issue for which privilege can be claimed is the other place, through its Speaker. If we continue to disregard the Commons claim of financial privilege in relation to amendments we send to the other place for consideration, we not only show a lack of respect, particularly to the Speaker, but might be starting on a route to a constitutional clash with the other place, which would be most unfortunate.

When I sat where the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, sits, many years ago, we often faced financial privilege being invoked against amendments we were pleased with ourselves for having sent back to the other place for consideration, but we always respected that decision when it came back. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, will continue that tradition in this place. Does the Minister know of any precedence for this place insisting on its amendments not once but twice in the face of a financial privilege claim by the other place, and does she agree with me that this is not a path down which this House should go?

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does anyone else in the Chamber wish to speak?