18 Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Leader of the House

Defending the UK and Allies

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 15th January 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it has come on to the monitor fairly late, so I thought it might be helpful for the House to know that the Back-Bench speaking time will be 30 minutes, if required.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the action that we took on Thursday night against Houthi military targets in Yemen.

Since 19 November, Iran-backed Houthis have launched more than 25 illegal and unacceptable attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, and on 9 January they mounted a direct attack against British and American warships. They fired on our ships and our sailors—it was the biggest attack on the Royal Navy for decades—and so we acted. We did so in self-defence, consistent with the UN charter, and to uphold freedom of navigation, as Britain has always done.

Alongside the United States, with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands, we ordered the RAF to strike two Houthi military facilities in Yemen. I want to be clear that these were limited strikes. They were carefully targeted at launch sites for drones and ballistic missiles to degrade the Houthis’ capacity to make further attacks on international shipping. I can tell the House today that we assess that all 13 planned targets were destroyed. At the drone and cruise missile base in Bani, nine buildings were successfully hit. A further three buildings were hit at Abbs airfield, along with a cruise missile launcher caught in the open. We have seen no evidence thus far of civilian casualties, which we took great care to avoid. I know the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the incredible bravery and professionalism of all our service men and women.

The need to maximise the security and effectiveness of the operation meant that it was not possible to bring this matter to the House in advance, but we took care to brief Members—including you, of course, Mr Speaker, and the leader of the Opposition—before the strikes took place, and I have come to the House at the earliest opportunity. I do not take decisions on the use of force lightly. That is why I stress that this action was taken in self-defence. It was limited, not escalatory. It was a necessary and proportionate response to a direct threat to UK vessels, and therefore to the UK itself.

Let me be absolutely clear why the Royal Navy is in the Red Sea. It is there as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian, protecting freedom of navigation as a fundamental tenet of international law. The Houthis’ attacks on international shipping have put innocent lives at risk. They have held one crew hostage for almost two months, and they are causing growing economic disruption. Global commerce cannot operate under such conditions. Containers and tankers are having to take a 5,000-mile detour around the Cape of Good Hope. That pushes up prices and imperils the passage of goods, foods and medicines that the British people and others rely on.

We have attempted to resolve this through diplomacy. After numerous international calls for the attacks to stop, a coalition of countries gave the Houthis a clear and unambiguous warning two weeks ago. Last week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the attacks and highlighting the right of nations to defend their vessels and preserve freedom of navigation, yet the Houthis continued on their reckless path.

We should not fall for the Houthis’ malign narrative that this is about Israel-Gaza—they target ships from around the world. We continue to work towards a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and to get more aid to civilians. We also continue to support a negotiated settlement in Yemen’s civil war, but I want to be very clear that this action is completely unrelated to those issues. It is a direct response to the Houthis’ attacks on international shipping. We should also recognise the risks of inaction. It would weaken international security and the rule of law, further damage freedom of navigation and the global economy, and send a dangerous message that British vessels and British interests are fair game.

There is another point here, which is often overlooked. The Houthis’ attacks risk worsening the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen itself. The United Kingdom helps to feed around 100,000 Yemenis every month, with aid arriving via the very sea routes that the Houthis have in their sights.

The threats to shipping must cease. Illegally detained vessels and crews must be released, and we remain prepared to back our words with actions. But dealing with that threat does not detract from our other international commitments; rather, it strengthens our determination to uphold fundamental UN principles. If our adversaries think they can distract us from helping Ukraine by threatening international security elsewhere, they could not be more wrong.

On Friday, I travelled to Kyiv to meet President Zelensky and address the Ukrainian Parliament. I took a message from this House to the Rada that we will stand with Ukraine today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes. If Putin wins in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and other malign actors will be emboldened. That is why Ukraine’s security is our security. That is why the UK will stay the course, and it is why I am confident that our partners share our resolve.

Far from our resolve faltering, our military support to Ukraine will increase this year. We will provide the biggest single package of defence aid to Ukraine since the war began, worth £2.5 billion. That will include more air defence equipment, more anti-tank weapons, more long-range missiles, thousands more rounds of ammunition and artillery shells, training for thousands more Ukrainian service men and women, and the single largest package of advanced drones given to Ukraine by any nation. All this is on top of what we have already provided to support Ukraine.

In total, since the war began, the United Kingdom will have provided almost £12 billion of aid to Ukraine. We were the first to train Ukrainian troops, the first in Europe to provide lethal weapons, the first to commit main battle tanks, the first to provide long-range missiles, and now we are the first to keep the promise made at last year’s NATO summit, alongside 30 other countries, to provide new bilateral security commitments. Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO, and NATO will be stronger with Ukraine in it, but these commitments will help bridge the gap until that day comes.

Under the new agreement that we signed with President Zelensky, we are building Ukraine’s military capacities; and, if Russia ever invades Ukraine again, we will provide swift and sustained assistance, including modern equipment across land, air and sea. Together with our allies, the UK will be there from the first moment until the last. For all of this, I bring a message of thanks from President Zelensky to the British people. Today, I hope that this House will join me in sending a message back to the Ukrainian people: that we stand together as one in support of these firm commitments.

We are building a new partnership with Ukraine, designed to last 100 years or more. Yes, it is about defence and security, but it is also about trade, investment, culture and more. There could be no more powerful sign of our unique bond than Ukraine’s decision to adopt English as the language of business and diplomacy. So, through the British Council, we are going to fund English language training for the Ukrainian people.

In dangerous times, we are investing in defence, hardening our critical infrastructure and building our alliances. We are resolute in our principles: international security; the rule of law; and the freedom to determine your own future. An attack on those principles is an attack on everything that we believe in and on which our lives and livelihoods depend. As the home of parliamentary democracy and a leader in collective security, it is our responsibility to defend those principles and to defend our people. This is who we are. This is what Britain does and will always do. I commend this Statement to the House”.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, let us hear from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and then my noble friend.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB)
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My Lords, the Statement mentioned that the performance of the Royal Air Force was supported by Australia and three other countries. That sort of support is very important to the crews, and I thoroughly encourage that as much of that sort of international support is obtained as is possible. Media reports suggested that France may have been approached but did not wish to support the RAF attack. Is there any truth in that?

Death of a Member: Lord Judge

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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My Lords, the former Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, died on 7 November. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble and learned Lord’s family and friends.

Lord Judge was one of the wisest and kindest men I have ever met. He was never one to use two words where one would suffice, and was always keen to hear all sides before forming an opinion. Igor had a marvellous ability to listen intently, reflect quietly and then interject, usually with a brief few words that brought clarity to a discussion. I valued greatly his advice and support to me as Lord Speaker. His lifelong history of service as a Queen’s Counsel, a judge, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and an active Member of this House—including, most recently, the Convenor of the Cross Benches until earlier this year—speaks for itself. How fortunate we were to serve alongside him. He will be much missed by noble Lords and, I know, by the staff of the House.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I know that noble Lords from across the House were deeply shocked and saddened to learn yesterday of the passing of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I add my sadness and deepest condolences to his family.

I enjoyed nearly a year with him as Convenor of the Cross Benches. Whatever the great matters of state that we should have been discussing, we usually ended up just talking about our families. My oh my, he loved his family so much—that is probably the one takeaway I had from him.

As is normal, we will now hear tributes from the usual channels. I know that many noble Lords have passed their heartfelt remarks on to the leaders and convenor, who will, I am sure, do their best to reflect the outpourings of admiration and sadness that they have received. I am also aware that some other noble Lords may feel that they want to pay tribute today. It is customary for the focus of tributes to come from the leaders and usual channels but, if other noble Lords would like to contribute, I respectfully ask that their contributions be as brief as possible. I expect any Back-Bench remarks to be no more than a minute long, as we have seen with other similar tributes.

Noble Lords may also find it helpful to know that the Office of the Convenor of the Cross Benches is co-ordinating written tributes and regards for Lord Judge’s family, should noble Lords wish to pass those on. I have no doubt that, in the fullness of time, they will be very warmly received.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, on happier mornings than this one, after I became the Leader of your Lordships’ House, there would from time to time come a knock on my door and a smiling, spectacled face would somewhat hesitantly edge round it. “May I have a word?”, that gentle, quiet-spoken voice would ask. How readily I always welcomed in the late Lord Judge, mildly puzzled that I would be so deferred to by someone so much more gifted than me.

Of course, infinite courtesy was a mark of his, as was that genial humility that belied his remarkable career. He was born in Malta in 1941 and, as a baby, was almost killed during the fascist siege; thank goodness for the errant hand of that Axis bomb aimer. He became a brilliant scholar. He was called to the Bar in 1963, took Silk in 1979 and, as we know, went on to become a great judge, first in the High Court in 1988, and then as a Justice of Appeal in 1996. He became the President of the Queen’s Bench Division in 2005 and was the Lord Chief Justice from 2008 to 2013.

Beyond the bare bones, I am not qualified to speak of that very great legal career but, when he retired as Lord Chief Justice, he became, I would submit, a very great parliamentarian. Noble Lords know how it is in this place: no one ever reads a speech. You sometimes struggle to calculate, as yet another page of typed script is turned, how long it is going to go on. But with Igor it was so different. He would appear with a few notes on a couple of sheets of letter paper, often written down not much before, and would speak for four minutes or so in the simplest and most beautiful English, forged into arguments of steel and illumined by humour, quote or anecdote. He would seize the whole House by the scruff of the neck and compel its attention.

He became Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers in 2019 and, as Cabinet Office Minister responsible for the constitution and later as Leader of your Lordships’ House, I regularly met him. My predecessor, my noble friend Lady Evans of Bowes Park, and my noble friend Lord Ashton of Hyde, who both much regret not being able to be here, have asked me to express their fondest appreciation of their own exchanges with Lord Judge in the usual channels and how they ever valued his charm and sound sense—as they saw it, a mentor, counsellor and friend. Once, my noble friend Lord Ashton remembers that, in a very British manner, they conducted a whole negotiation with a House of Lords mouse which neither of them mentioned sitting motionless on the chair behind Lord Judge’s right ear. Igor, it seems, like Orpheus, could even charm the animals.

Certainly, to discuss an issue with him was a joy, whether you agreed or disagreed. His keen intelligence, good humour and firmness of principle were always there, but with that open mind. He was a man of utter integrity; he had a profound passion for the common law, the ancient liberties of our land, parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law—on which, of course, we agreed. Where we differed, which I hated, the most usual point of difference was over the prerogative or the role of the Executive. Igor was an admirer of the great jurist and parliamentarian Sir Edward Coke and, being a bookish man and fathoming another such in me, he generously gave me Coke’s biography, which he thought might persuade me during his differences with the Government over the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. One thing I could agree with Coke on was his dictum “Lex est tutissima cassis”—the law is our safest shield. Igor took that as a title for a book and a watchword for life; and, in his sure, safe judgment in court and in this place, he was the living embodiment of it.

His deeply rooted constitutionalism rested in a lifelong interest in history, which it so happened we had both read at the same university. When the business was done, he would enjoy a talk of history or cricket—or music, a love he inherited from a gifted mother, who we can deduce admired Stravinsky. Your Lordships may allow me one anecdote. When, as Leader, within a matter of days, I was plunged into having to do one of the most difficult things I have ever had to—pronounce the eulogy for our late Queen—I was struggling alone an hour before in my office wondering if I would be able to say what I thought the House would want to hear without actually breaking down. Then came that gentle knock on the door and the smiling face came round. It was Igor. “How are you getting on?”, he asked kindly. I told him my problem. “Just read the difficult bits aloud four or five times,” he said, “and then you will know them by heart or be familiar. That will get you through.” Of course, as ever, Igor’s advice was right.

House Of Lords: Appointments System

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 19th July 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we have lots of time. Let us hear from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, then we very much look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
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My Lords, when the last reform of the House took place between 1997 and 1999, the then Government stated clearly that, ad interim, it was the Government’s policy, agreed with the Conservative Opposition and the Leader of the Conservative Opposition in the Lords, that no party should have a disproportionate number of Peers in the Lords.

Business of the House

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord True Portrait Baroness of Williams of Trafford
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That Standing Order 38(1) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Wednesday 14 June 2023 to enable Committee stage of the Illegal Migration Bill to begin before oral questions that day.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, I beg leave to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, when we had a similar Motion to this some weeks ago, calling us in on a Wednesday morning at short notice, I raised some objections, particularly on behalf of people who do not live round the corner in London and who are expected to change all their plans to get here without proper advance notice. On that occasion, I got virtually a promise from the Government Front Bench that we would not have it again. But here we are, having it again, because the Government’s legislative programme is in total disarray. We sat until 4 am last week and 2 am this morning; they cannot organise their legislative programme. It is really ridiculous that Members should be treated in this way.

I wonder if Boris’s friends who are going to be joining us have been told what to expect. How is Ben Houchen going to manage to get down from Teesside suddenly on a Wednesday morning? What about Charlotte Owen? It is going to interfere with her social life, that is one thing for sure. Indeed, Nadine Dorries does not realise what she is gaining by not being nominated to this place.

This is ridiculous. This place is being treated disgracefully and Members are being treated disgracefully. We are human beings. We need to sleep at night, we need to be treated properly, and we need to be consulted on the programme. This is not happening, because this Government are in total disarray.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord was sleeping soundly in his bed when the Committee stages were being heard last night and on Wednesday of last week. Sitting early was the suggestion of one of the usual channels and was agreed to by all the usual channels.

I also want to say, if I may, that I find it utterly condescending that the noble Lord would speak about a young lady and her social life in such a way.

Motion agreed.

Northern Ireland Protocol

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 28th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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None Portrait Noble Lords
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Hain!

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am trying to be as fair as possible and get as many people as possible in. Can we hear from my noble friend Lord Cormack, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Hain?

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Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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My Lords, I think that concludes the time for questions, unless the House decides otherwise.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, can I just appeal to the House to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey?

Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
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Thank you, my Lords. This is a hugely optimistic Statement from the Prime Minister and understandably, because it makes things so much better than the protocol did. But sometimes optimism can be taken back when the detail is examined. I have a specific question for the Leader of the House. Yesterday in Parliament, and in an article today for the Belfast News Letter, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of the Acts of Union. That is welcome, but the agreement is lacking a legal text and the Command Paper is lacking further explanation on how the Government plan to lift the subjugation of the Acts of Union in domestic law. Could the Minister tell me what actual steps will be taken in domestic law to release the Acts of the Union from their present subjugation, as said by the Supreme Court? In the absence of legal provisions to remedy the effect of Section 7(1)(a) of the 2018 Act on the Acts of Union, all references in the world to our foundation and constitutional situation will mean nothing.

Business of the House

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd February 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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That, in the event of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill having arrived from the House of Commons, Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 27 February to allow the Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day and that, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (Amendments on Third Reading), amendments shall not be moved on Third Reading.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we are expecting the introduction of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill later today. My noble friend the Lord Privy Seal will shortly move a motion seeking to enable us to consider all stages next Monday, but, before he does, I want to set out how the process will work. It will be the same as for consideration of the previous Northern Ireland Bill on the same topic. The speakers’ list for Second Reading is already open, and noble Lords can sign up to it in the usual way. Noble Lords will be able to table amendments for Committee after the Bill is introduced and until one hour after the conclusion of Second Reading. As the Bill is expected late this evening, in practice amendments can be tabled at the Public Bill Office from tomorrow morning. A Marshalled List with any amendments will be published on Friday evening to assist the House, and noble Lords will be kept abreast of further arrangements on the day, with further announcements in the House and on the annunciator as necessary.

Lord True Portrait The Lord Privy Seal (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, following the remarks of my noble friend, I beg to move.

The Importance of the Relationship Between the United Kingdom and India

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 19th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for securing this debate and congratulate her on her powerful and persuasive opening speech. She speaks truth to power very well.

It is a particular honour to follow my noble friend Lord Soley, who has sadly delivered his valedictory speech after over 43 years in Parliament—26 years in the other place and 17 years in this House. I say sadly because the whole House will miss his warmth, wisdom and judgment, so I invite the whole House to join me in thanking him for his service.

A probation officer, he was first elected for Hammersmith in 1979. He quickly became a significant figure in the parliamentary party, particularly on Northern Irish affairs, and consequently someone I came to admire well before I even met him. In 1997, the year I was first elected, beyond being re-elected, he was elected by his fellow Labour colleagues as chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party—an indication of the esteem in which he was held. Since then, it has been a real pleasure and an education to get to know him during our times together in both the other place and, subsequently, your Lordships’ House, which he joined in 2005 and I joined five years later.

I thank him for an informed and entertaining but characteristically modest speech. He has much to be proud of. I know he must be looking forward to his retirement, but he still has much to offer. He is still a crusader for more and better housing and education, civil liberties—although we now call them human rights—prison reform, Northern Ireland solutions, a responsible press and almost any other deserving cause. He is also an author, photographer and supporter of charity. Born in England, as he told us, he has chosen in his later life to live in Scotland, the wise man. There is a phrase in the Scottish cultural lexicon that perfectly fits Clive Soley and his experience of life: “a lad o’ pairts”, meaning

“a youth, particularly one from a humble background, who is considered talented or promising”.

Scotland prides itself on giving the lad o’ pairts opportunities for advancement. I am sure that he will seize them in his retirement.

In the time I have remaining, I turn to the subject of the debate. A UK-India FTA is currently under negotiation. We should remember that, in 2013, negotiations for the EU-India FTA collapsed due to concerns about the impact on India’s generic supply of and access to affordable medicines. The current negotiations appear to be in danger of foundering on the same rock. A recent leak from them revealed that the UK’s strategic position is to strengthen the position of multinational pharmaceutical corporations—many of which are based in the UK—at the expense of India’s public health safeguards, thus enabling companies to prolong their monopolies on medical products and charge higher prices for longer periods.

Presently, the UK, along with other countries around the world and providers such as Médecins Sans Frontières, relies heavily on access to affordable, quality-assured generic medicines, a large proportion of which are supplied by companies in India. Some 25% of the quality, affordable, generic medicines available on the NHS and a large proportion of medical products used by many low and middle-income countries are from Indian generics, including no less than 90% of generic medicines for HIV.

It seems rather counterintuitive that someone from these Benches needs to remind a Conservative Government of the basic principle of free trade: that having multiple independent generic suppliers for each medical product is important because the competition among them, and with the originator company, can bring prices down, enabling us better to serve public health needs and save more lives. However, this can happen only if generic companies are able to produce and supply more affordable medical products once the IP protection, including patents, on these products has expired or been removed.

The consequences of undermining India’s generic industry on supply and prices could be devastating for many countries with already stretched health budgets. This is of particular concern to LMICs, but it could also impact all countries that procure medicines from India, including the UK’s NHS. While the proposals in the leaked IP chapter of the UK-India FTA do not amount to a final negotiated chapter, they none the less point to the UK’s negotiating strategy—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I remind the noble Lord that this is a time-limited debate. The only person we set that aside for was Lord Soley, because we had adjourned the House.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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I have insufficient time to go into the detail of this issue, though I would love to, but I am fully briefed on it. I will happily meet and discuss this with other noble Lords, Ministers and officials if that is on offer.

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Lord Anderson of Swansea Portrait Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab)
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My Lords, I intervene in the debate moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, as a long-standing member of the Indo-British All-Party Parliamentary Group and a great admirer of the dynamism of India, which will shortly be the most populous country in the world. I believe that our relationship is strong enough to bear the sort of criticism that the noble Lord, Lord Swire, mentioned.

India is very much a part of our past—we think of the East India Company and the British Empire—and of our present, with 3.1% of UK residents, or 1.6 million people, now of Indian background. It plays a positive role across the spectrum of activity in the UK, in business, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said, education, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Parekh, hospitality, sport—we think of cricket—and health. Where would our NHS be without our Indians? I just had an operation and I think the consultant and virtually all his team were of Indian origin. In politics, it is surely remarkable that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland should be meeting to discuss the future of the union of this country. It is some indication of the changes which have taken place.

Of course, India is very much part of our future if we proceed realistically and with mutual respect, although there is a certain backlash to the so-called Indo-Pacific tilt of our defence policy. Nowadays, particularly post the invasion of Ukraine, people are thinking that the emphasis should be even more on the European role that we should play.

I recall a conference at which I looked across at the Indian delegation, saw the remarkable diversity—from the Tamils from the south to those from Nagaland in the north—and wondered how any federal government could keep together people of such diversity. It is done by a system of checks and balances, by respect and, of course, by the mutual working together of the Indian population.

That is why I, like the noble Lord, Lord Swire, am saddened by the response of the Indian Government to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, against all international norms. India abstained on key UN resolutions, refused to condemn the Russian invasion—what Russia calls a special military operation—and took refuge in generalisations on the protection of civilians and calls for a ceasefire. India has benefited from the breaking of sanctions, certainly in oil imports.

The key current basis for a bilateral relationship is the 2030 road map, formed in 2021. That is welcome but must be systematically and realistically given substance. I have one last reflection; perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, will shoot me down speedily on it. It is triggered by George Osborne’s remark:

“There is a whole string of British governments who think there is a special relationship with India. My experience is that the Indians do not have that view of Britain.”


That is certainly my impression from my relationship with the Commonwealth. In my judgment, India does not have that same attachment, certainly at the ground level. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister whether the Government agree with that and equally—again, to follow a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swire—what expectation the Government have for a speedy resolution of the FTA negotiations.

The road map, with all its problems, gives us the opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship—[Interruption.]

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Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, at the beginning of this month, India took over the chair of the G20. In a few months’ time, it will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation—perhaps not an unmixed blessing but still one with geopolitical consequences. So what better moment to review our own country’s relationship with India? All credit and thanks are due to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for making that possible. The two excellent maiden speeches that we have had, as well as the unique valedictory speech, show the width of interest in our relationship with India.

The histories of Britain and India have been deeply intertwined for the past several hundred years, but as we look now to the future, we need to remember that the different views of our mutual experience are part of a complex picture, and not invariably a positive one. For many Indians, Britain stands for damage to their economy, for the use of force to overthrow their rulers, and for terrible human rights abuses—the Amritsar massacre prominent among them. For Britons, there may still be traces of imperial nostalgia, and there is justifiable pride at promoting a free press, freedom of speech, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law—my own grandfather was a High Court judge in Madras—and one of India’s accepted languages, our own tongue. These histories contain many contradictions which need to be borne in mind but not to be predominant.

Currently, one has to begin with trade relations, since negotiations for an India-UK free trade agreement are ongoing. That is a worthwhile objective. But we really should cease setting artificial deadlines for their completion—“all done and dusted by Diwali” last October was the most recent one—and we should remember that those who show excessive neediness for a deal are likely to pay a price for it. India has a history of trade protectionism—after all, it scuppered the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations—so a free trade deal on the basis of effective reciprocity, a characteristic not always evident in some recent trade deals that the Government have struck, will be a challenge not best achieved by excessive haste.

The Indo-Pacific tilt proclaimed in the Johnson Government’s security review is currently the object of further reflection following Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. That war has upended every previous analysis and cannot be ignored. Britain’s security requires not only continuing support for Ukraine but the strengthening of our contribution to NATO. That does not mean that we have lost an interest in seeing peaceful stability restored to India’s Himalayan border with China, in securing freedom of passage through the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the East China Sea, and in avoiding any attack on Taiwan. However, we cannot be everywhere and do everything, and we should not pretend that we can, if only because our claim would not be credible. I suggest that we need to look for ways of co-operating with India in sophisticated areas of military, technology and training to enhance the deterrence of an overassertive China.

We really must not neglect our soft power assets, which have a particular significance in our relationship with India, given our common use of the English language, the BBC’s overseas services, the British Council and our universities. But we are cutting back spending on the first two, and the Home Secretary seems to believe that making it easier for Indian students, particularly post-graduate students, to come to UK universities is something that should be discouraged, even when India clearly wants to make access easier. Does it make any sense to thus damage one of our most valuable invisible exports and, at the same time, to make conclusion of our trade negotiations more difficult?

I have said enough already to illustrate why the eminently desirable objective of strengthening Britain’s relations with India will not be entirely straightforward—and that is without even mentioning legitimate concerns about the effect of the Indian Government’s tendencies towards majoritarian treatment of their minorities and of their effect on their obligations under the UN and other international conventions. These cannot simply be overlooked, nor can the opportunistically limp Indian reaction to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord’s time is up.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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I am coming to a conclusion.

Let us hope that India’s chairing of the G20 will be marked, as it was in the case of Indonesia, by a better response to flagrant breaches of international law. I look forward to the Minister’s responses to some of these points when he replies to the debate.

Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Saturday 10th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I join my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal in thanking all the staff of this House for the tireless efforts that they have made almost round the clock for the last nearly 48 hours; I have almost lost track of time.

We will be taking oaths shortly, and I urge as many noble Lords as possible to take the oath this evening. To assist the House, I suggest that we start with the government Front Bench and file round in an anti-clockwise direction. My noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott will lead the way so we all know what we are doing—she is the first volunteer so I thought I would let her do it—and then the flow should be very easy. It will be a lot easier than usual because there will not be any signing to do; we simply swear the oath, and around we file. I will now adjourn the House for 10 minutes to allow the Table to be prepared for the taking of oaths.

Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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Friday 9th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Portrait The Archbishop of Canterbury
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My Lords, one of the greatest privileges of sitting on these Benches is that, within a year or so of becoming a diocesan bishop, you are invited to spend a weekend at Sandringham. While there, often in January, you go for a barbeque—fortitude. You have the enormous gift given to you of being able to spend time with Her late Majesty, with her family, with the jigsaw puzzle and all the other things that are there. Thus, on behalf of these Benches—I know from the conversations we have among ourselves—there is a profound sense of personal sorrow and an even more profound sense of the significance of the virtues of the characteristics of the late Queen.

What has been said already today has been extraordinarily eloquent. I do not intend to repeat it but to say something about the Queen’s links to faith and to the Church of England. First is her assurance, her confidence, in the God who called her. At her coronation, so long ago, conducted by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher—the first of seven Archbishops of Canterbury who had the privilege of serving her—the service began with her walking by herself past the Throne, where she would very shortly be seated, and kneeling by the high altar of Westminster Abbey. The order of service said, “She will kneel in private prayer”—and so she did, for some time. The next thing to happen was that homage was paid to her, starting with the Duke of Edinburgh. What that said about her understanding of her role was that she pledged her allegiance to God before others pledged their allegiance to her. She had this profound sense of who she was and by whom she was called.

Then there was her profound, deep and extraordinary theological vision. Many years ago now—seven or eight years ago—I was travelling abroad, and someone who had no knowledge of these things said, “Well, of course, she’s not really got that much intellect, has she? I mean, private tutors and all this—what can she know?” Well, what ignorance. In 2012, she spoke at Lambeth Palace on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, and the speech she made there is one we return to very frequently, because she set out a vision for what an established Church should be. It was not a vision of comfort and privilege; it was to say, put very politely, “You are here as an umbrella for the whole people of this land”. The subtext was, “If you are not that, you are nothing”. That is a deep vision of what it is to be the Church—of what it is to be not an established Church but a Christian Church. That came from her deep understanding of faith. Every five years, at the inauguration of the Church of England’s General Synod, she came with messages of encouragement and assurance of her prayers. In 2021, her message was,

“my hope is that you will be strengthened with the certainty of the love of God, as you work together and draw on the Church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.”

Publicly, Her late Majesty worshipped regularly and spoke of her faith in God, particularly in her Christmas broadcasts, with quiet, gentle confidence. Privately, she was an inspiring and helpful guide and questioner to me and to my predecessors. She had a dry sense of humour, as we have heard already, and the ability to spot the absurd—the Church of England was very capable of giving her material—but she never exercised that at the expense of others. When I last saw her in June, her memory was as sharp as it could ever have been. She remembered meetings from 40 or 50 years ago and drew on the lessons from those times to speak of today and what we needed to learn: assurance of the love of God in her call, and then humility. It would be easy as a monarch to be proud, but she was everything but that. It was her faith that gave her strength. She knew that, but she knew also her call to be a servant, the one whom she served, and the nation she served, the Commonwealth and the world. Over the last 24 hours, I have had so many messages from archbishops, bishops and other people around the world, within the Commonwealth and way beyond it—from China, Latin America and many other places—in a deep sense of loss.

It has been the privilege of those on these Benches to be intimately involved with momentous occasions so often throughout Her late Majesty’s life. As has been said, she has been a presence for as long as we can remember. Jesus says in the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.


May God comfort all those who grieve Her late Majesty’s loss, and may God sustain His Majesty King Charles III in the enormous weight and challenges that he takes on immediately, at the same as he bears the burden of grief, and those around him in his family. May God hold Her late Majesty in His presence, firmly secured in the peace that passes far beyond our understanding.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if we adjourn until 1.15 pm so that noble Lords who have to do things and be various places can find the time to do so.

Business and Planning Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 20th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Moved by
29: Clause 11, page 8, line 33, after “a” insert “pre-cut off”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, and the Minister’s other amendments the explanatory statements for which refer to this amendment, provide for certain new permissions regarding off-sales to end at 11pm.
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 29, I will also speak to the other government amendments grouped with it and to which it relates. I thank noble Lords who have scrutinised the alcohol licensing measures in this Bill and, in particular, those who have made points regarding late opening hours. The Government have listened to and understood the concerns around the possibility of associated noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour occurring when a late licence is in existence.

Taken together, Amendments 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38 and 44 introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm to operators trading under the new off-sales permissions. They also limit the ability of those premises which are licensed after midnight to resume off-sales at that time, restricting their ability to do so until they open for business the following day. With these amendments, new permissions will apply only until 11 pm or until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier.

We have also tabled Amendment 45, which addresses those premises that may have restrictions on their licences that do not permit the use of a beer garden or other outdoor space beyond a certain hour. Amendment 45 will limit the ability of a premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. This amendment is a further safeguard to help to ensure that this measure works for local communities and not against them.

I thank again the noble Lords with whom I have engaged inside and outside of this Chamber, who have helped to bring forward these constructive amendments that the Government have tabled today. I look forward to further debate. I beg to move Amendment 29 and look forward to responding to the other amendments in this group.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 40, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Pinnock, and to the other amendments in this group. For the benefit of those who may have just joined us, let me summarise. The Government have got themselves into a right two and eight. Amendments 29 to 41 deal with bars, pubs and restaurants that have licences to sell alcohol on their premises and which will temporarily be allowed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises as result of this Bill.

The Bill does not redefine the area covered by pavement licences as being part of the licensed premises. As a consequence, drinks served within the area covered by pavement licences will be off-sales. To enable alcohol, such as glasses of wine and beer, to be served at tables within pavement-licensed areas, the Government have had to lift the current restriction on alcohol off-sales being only in sealed containers. The unintended consequence of lifting this restriction is to allow the unrestricted sale of alcohol from these premises in wine and beer glasses, for example, to people who can then walk down the street, drinking where and when they want.

Local residents do not want people drinking outside their homes, away from licensed premises, with the potential for disorder, violence and urinating in the street, particularly late at night. In addition, broken straight beer glasses can cause horrifying injuries, whether when deliberately broken and used as a weapon or when people fall on to broken glass.

This brings me to the amendments. The Liberal Democrats’ Committee amendment, which sought to restrict off-sales to no later than 11 pm, has been given effect by government Amendments 29, 31 to 34 and 36 in this group, which obviously we support. I thank the Minister for securing this—albeit limited—concession. However, these amendments do not prevent street drinking away from pavement-licensed areas and neither does Labour’s Amendment 39 in this group, albeit that it restricts it to street drinking from plastic cups.

Our Amendment 40 restricts off-sales in open containers to pavement-licensed areas, beer gardens and the like, but also supports businesses by allowing alcohol to be taken away from restaurants, pubs and bars in sealed containers. If the restaurant or pub is too full when you get there—because of social distancing, for example—it allows you to take alcohol home from those premises in an unopened bottle, can or other sealed container, as currently applies to existing off- licences, supporting hard-pressed businesses as a result. Amendment 41, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, does not allow alcohol to be taken away from the premises under any circumstances, which would hinder trade.

In a meeting with Ministers last week, the Government agreed to discuss Amendment 40 with us before Report but they have failed to do so. I explained in Committee why existing provisions and the provisions in the Bill are inadequate to deal with street drinking and disorder. As a consequence, I give notice that I intend to divide the House on Amendment 40.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken on this group of amendments and to those who have welcomed the government amendments. I take the opportunity to reiterate to the House that the government amendments in this group will introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions or—I reiterate to my noble friend Lord Balfe —until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier. If that is 10 pm in Cambridge, that is the time it will be. As has always been the case with this measure, the new provisions will not affect premises’ underlying licences. They provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of on-sales-only licences, and more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales under more restrictive conditions than are provided for under the new permission.

Amendment 45 will further help to ensure that the new permissions work for and not against local communities, as I said. It will do this by limiting the ability of premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. Where such restrictions apply, it is likely that a licensing authority has imposed the conditions to reduce the risk of noise nuisance or anti-social behaviour to local residents. These conditions should therefore remain in place. I hope that noble Lords will welcome these amendments, and again I thank those who led to their tabling today.

Amendments 30, 35 and 37 from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seek similarly to restrict the hours when the new off-sales permissions apply. I thank the noble Lord for his constructive engagement as the Bill has moved through the House and hope that, given my explanation of our amendments, he will feel that he does not need to move his amendments when they are called.

Briefly, I know that my noble friend Lady Stowell did not move her amendment, but I will relay some of the points that we have discussed. For the sale of alcohol for consumption in outside areas already part of the licensed premises, such as a beer garden, those sales are defined as on-sales and premises will therefore not require a new permission to carry out this function. However, if premises wish to sell alcohol for consumption in bordering outside areas that are not on the premises plan as part of the existing licensed premises, they will still require an off-sales permission in order to do so. That might include an area they seek to occupy following the successful application of a pavement licence.

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Moved by
31: Clause 11, page 9, line 8, after “a” insert “pre-cut off”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Moved by
36: Clause 11, page 9, line 26, after “off-sales” insert “at a pre-cut off time”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Moved by
38: Clause 11, page 9, line 31, after “off-sales” insert “at a pre-cut off time”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Addington, relating to small breweries and sporting clubs. I am a bit disappointed that the Government have not found a way to do something here. We hear lots of talk about supporting small business, but we seem to be in a rigid situation, where we cannot move out of where we are. I do not see why we could not do something and it is regrettable that we could not find a way. I accept that breweries do not have licences now, but they could be given something temporarily. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made the point that sports clubs are often open only a couple of nights a week. Why have we not sorted them out? In this emergency Bill to deal with Covid-19, we have chosen to ignore them, and that is regrettable. I do not see why the Government have done that. They could have moved a bit more on that. I support the amendments, and it is regrettable that there will be no progress on them.

A convincing case has been laid out for Amendment 52, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and other noble Lords. I supported the idea in Committee. Equally, I see some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and I accept that this is a temporary Bill; perhaps doing something permanent in a temporary Bill may be a problem, but the least we should get tonight is a commitment. Technically, this can be done and the Government should get on and make sure that it happens.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly for the interest in Amendment 52, tabled by my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Bourne and the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Clement-Jones, on digital age verification. I could agree with virtually everything said in the debate on this amendment. I am very keen to progress this agenda, and it was in discussing this that my noble friend and I realised that we had a mutual interest in moving this agenda forward—she as a former Digital Minister and me dealing with data and identity in the Home Office.

The Government have carefully considered the concerns raised by this amendment. We support its aims, and we believe that a more holistic approach is needed to enable the use of digital identity in compliance with age-verification requirements in the Licensing Act for the sale of alcohol. As I explained in Committee, the protection of children from harm is an objective that all licensed premises should promote. Age verification plays a critical role in this and it is essential that we have confidence in the forms of identification presented as proof of age to promote this licensing objective. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said, the PASS accredits a number of national and local suppliers of ID cards, offering retailers flexibility to choose an appropriate card to fit their needs and fulfil their licence condition.

At present it is not possible to use a digital ID as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol in the UK due to the lack of an agreed industry standard for digital ID. Without trusted digital identity standards in place, licence holders cannot know that market solutions are fit for purpose. This would make it very difficult for them to meet the reasonable precautions and due diligence requirements described in Amendment 52. The lack of an equivalent national standard for digital ID would lead to uncertainty.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was correct in saying that movement on this is slow. I share his frustration and I know that my noble friend, a former Digital Minister, does too, but we do not think it is right to place licence holders in a position in which they are being asked to accept proof of ID without a set of agreed standards, even on temporarily. To do so may place them at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Although the Government are resisting this amendment, we do not disagree with—in fact we are very supportive of—the principle of digital ID. I set out in Committee some of the steps we are taking to progress work in this area. A call for evidence was launched last summer and the responses overwhelmingly agreed that the Government have a role in developing a framework for digital ID use in the UK. Respondents stressed the need for legal certainty on how to use digital identity. The Government will consult on developing legislation to set provisions for consumer protection relating to digital ID, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong and where responsibility for oversight should lie. The Government will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for secure digital identity. Sufficient oversight of these standards needs to be established to build trust and to facilitate innovation, which will provide organisations with a handrail to develop new, future-facing products, which I know is exactly what my noble friend seeks.

The Government plan to update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital ID to be used in the greatest number of circumstances. However, it is only when the framework and, most importantly, the standards are in place that we can expect industry and citizens to trust and have confidence in using and accepting digital IDs. Now, knowing our mutual interest in this subject, I hope that the Government and I will be able to draw on my noble friend’s considerable experience in this area as plans develop. I invite her to engage with Ministers and officials on this work as it develops. I am happy to give a commitment, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Barran, that we will work together with my noble friend towards our shared aspiration. To be honest, after four years in the Home Office I am glad that I have found someone interested in my policy area of digital ID and data. I hope that, with that commitment, my noble friend will support me in my longer-term vision for digital identities and will not move her amendment when it is reached.

I now turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Holmes. As noble Lords will be aware, the provisions in the Bill add permission for off-sales to most premises with an existing on-sales premises licence. It is not a mechanism to amend the process by which premises licences are granted.

I shall deal with Amendments 42, 43 and 50, tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes, first. My noble friend has spoken passionately in support of small breweries. He is right to say that they have thrived over the past few years and we do not want to lose that. They are important. I note his point that his amendments could help breweries to sell alcohol to the public. However, as I said in Committee, we feel that any proposal that a business should be given a full premises licence without proper scrutiny by the local licensing authority, the police or the public is a step too far.

Similarly, with regard to Amendment 51, we are not currently seeking to make changes to the number of temporary event notices available for application in one year. Temporary licences granted for a limited period should not be used as a route to a permanent licence. As I have set out, there are crucial scrutiny mechanisms in place for granting them to ensure that all premises are selling alcohol responsibly.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe [V]
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My Lords, I was a little disappointed by my noble friend the Minister’s response, especially given our shared aspiration to get digital ID to come in. Will she agree to either a meeting or a letter to talk in a little more detail about the timing of digital ID—recognising that there are some difficulties but that she has made some good progress with her call for evidence? We could also discuss whether there is anything to be done on the enforcement of age verification for alcohol during the Covid-19 period, perhaps using an easement of the kind that I mentioned to her has been used by some other departments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I would be delighted to meet my noble friend to discuss making progress on this. As I say, I am very glad to have a friend in digital identity.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this group of amendments. I am very attracted to Amendment 52, along with many noble Lords who both spoke and signed up to the amendment. My only reason for not signing was that it already had the support that it needed. It illustrates the need across Government to up the activity of all potential digital applications. We have world-leading businesses in digital. We need to look at every possible opportunity and means of enabling them to flourish and solve problems which have dogged our society for decades. We have the tools to do so, and Amendment 52 is but one clear and effective example of that.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for, as she said, her fulsome response. As always, she addressed all the issues which were raised with her. I am slightly disappointed that we could not go further to assist innovative businesses in our country. I understand the points that she raised, and I accept them, but would she be prepared to join me on a visit to a small independent brewery to hear at first hand the issues such businesses are facing? Through that discussion, perhaps we could consider whether there is anything else we could do to help this vibrant, innovative sector of our economy and society moving forward. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I can tell my noble friend that I would love to come with him to a brewery.

Amendment 42 withdrawn.