3 Lord Bishop of Manchester debates involving the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero

Wed 6th Mar 2024
Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Thu 23rd Mar 2023

Heat Pumps

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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There are a number of aspects to the noble Baroness’s question. With regard to the consultation, I do not want to speak for the noble Baroness, Lady Scott—I do not know if she is in the Chamber—but I believe it will be issued imminently. With regard to the first part of the question, I say that we need to expand energy efficiency, irrespective of whether your home is powered by a heat pump or by a gas boiler. Using less gas and less electricity are both a good thing.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, the Minister kindly referred to the social housing decarbonisation fund, but there are something like 2.7 million homes owned by the social housing sector, with a projected cost of £36 billion to decarbonise them. Does he recognise that the fund is far too small to deliver that, and if so, what extra support will be made available to housing associations for them to achieve this for their poorer tenants?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am sorry, but I do not agree with the right reverend Prelate. The social housing decarbonisation fund has been a massive success. Just last week, we announced its next phase: £1.1 billion-worth of government funding, matched by another £1 billion-worth of funding from housing associations and local authorities. I have had a number of meetings with them all, and they all agree that the fund is an excellent process and going well. The social housing sector is actually the best performing of all the different tenures.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, we should be indebted to my noble friend Lord Allan for introducing the concept of necessity and proportionality. It is a shame because, in an ideal world, the Minister would have stood up at Second Reading and set out at the outset the necessity and proportionality of the Bill. That did not happen, with due respect to the Minister, so we are having to have that debate now in Committee.

We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, that the Government’s preference is to negotiate, rather than compel these MSLs. I believe that she is sincere when she says that, but we must look at what has been happening with the disputes. We have had several real-world examples going on around us. To take the rail dispute, for example, it is absolutely clear that the Secretary of State, operating behind the scenes, prevented decisions being made that would have shortened that dispute. Had this legislation been in existence, how would the Secretary of State’s hand have been strengthened even further? Would we be any closer to a resolution now? I suggest that we would have been a lot further away.

When it comes to the health disputes, it took months before the Government got around the table with nurses and doctors to negotiate and do what was needed to end those disputes. It is not clear to me that the idea that “We would rather negotiate” is absolutely on the table. We know very well that “We would rather stand back” has actually been the Government’s approach. We have to take the Government on the evidence that we have seen, rather than what we have heard in your Lordships’ House.

I turn to the short, but excellent and pithy, debate that we have been having. With the fear of damning the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, yet further, I say that she is completely correct to focus us on the users of the services. However, I would say that the impact of days that make up a year of service disruption through strikes, regrettable though these are, is far smaller—thank goodness—than that of the day-to-day service that people experience. Perhaps the noble Baroness could focus her not inconsiderable energies on improving the day-to-day services that her Government are delivering for consumers across this country. That is the real world that most of them experience: the everyday service, not the strike day service. So perhaps she could use her energies in that direction—I am sure that everything would get better if she did.

I will say a few words about Amendment 40 in my name and a little bit about the friction that the Bill is creating within industrial relations or, indeed, in the case of my amendment, with recruitment. It is really a probing amendment to ascertain from the Minister whether he thinks that the Bill will impact the morale of existing workers and, more specifically, the ability to recruit new people. The existence of the Bill, whether or not it is used, will have a communicating effect both on the current and future employees of these services. The Government need to take that into consideration.

In an earlier group, noble Lords talked about the chronic shortage of people in many of the sectors that we are dealing with here—health, education and others. I realise that job security is not something that many Ministers experience—although the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, is perhaps an exception to that, having been a Minister for many years—but I ask him to empathise on the subject of job security, and indeed task security. As I say, that may not be something that he has experienced widely. We have to remember that the employment market is a seller’s market; there is a shortage of people to go into these services. Therefore, it is absolutely not helpful if the Government make the prospect, or the sense, of working in these services less good and less favourable.

I am not necessarily suggesting that this legislation does that. I am asking the Government what work they have done to assess what effect this legislation would have on employee morale and future recruitment. Can the Minister set out the response and the nature of that work, statistically and qualitatively? If the work has not been done, why not?

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I am sorry to come into the debate quite late; I had not realised we were getting so close to the end. I support Amendment 20 from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and Amendment 40 from the noble Lord, Lord Fox. I regret that I have been unable to be in my seat at earlier stages, but I am grateful that my right reverend friends the Bishops of London and St Edmundsbury and Ipswich have passed on my concerns. Amendments 20 and 40 are absolutely invaluable. If this Bill is—regrettably, in my view—to become law, it must have all necessary consultation and evidence gathering before it.

Amendment 20 would require that an assessment of health and safety performance in the affected sector is made prior to minimum service regulations, and that is critical. As other noble Lords have said, if we look at this past winter, it is valid to ask whether what might be considered a minimum service level is reached on a daily basis even when there is not a strike going on. Assessing the level of service provided in periods when the service is not affected by strike action, and requiring that to cover the most recent 12 months, creates an important benchmark.

Amendment 40 would introduce a necessary review of the impact on recruitment and retention of staff. Research by the TUC suggests that the recruitment and retention crisis is ongoing. Something like two-fifths of public servants say that the implications of this Bill have made them more likely to consider leaving their job in the next three years. We have a crisis of vacancies in many sectors. This is not going to help.

Earlier today the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, asked a pertinent Question about the performance on the west coast rail line, and I was glad to be able to ask a supplementary to that. If nothing else, that exchange should have made clear to every one of us in this House that there is no point in setting minimum service levels for strike days when current performance is so depleted. Such poor provision of services, often exacerbated by the low morale consequent upon poor or aggressive management practices, means that acceptable minimum levels of service are just not available to customers or the public even on normal working days.

There is a duty on all of us who govern our nations to go beyond the most basic economic calculations when we are legislating to do so for the common good and human flourishing—something set out in the teaching of many religious denominations. This Bill, as drafted, fails that duty.

Lord Cashman Portrait Lord Cashman (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak in favour of the amendments listed. I look to the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and assure her that I will not, at this point, offer my support to her amendment; I am sure that will give her great comfort. I will not repeat the points I made at Second Reading, but I believe this Bill undermines basic democratic and fundamental rights. I believe it is dangerous. It is barely drafted and badly drafted. I thank my friend the executive dean of Leeds, Professor Johnson, for the advice he has given me on the Bill.

I equally thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission and will refer to its recommendations now. I hasten to add that the commission, in my opinion, has been much muffled and muted during the last 18 months. Let me quote:

“Having carefully considered the issues, we believe the Bill raises several human rights considerations, specifically in relation to Article 4 (Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour), Article 11 (Freedom of Assembly and Association) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that require careful scrutiny.”

I believe that these amendments provide for that.

To pick at random out of the commission’s substantial documents, paragraph 4 says:

“In the human rights memorandum that accompanied the earlier Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill”—

to which my noble friend Lord Collins referred earlier—

“now superseded by this Bill, the case for the lawfulness of similar provisions was made partly by distinguishing the Bill’s transport-focused clauses from measures affecting other sectors, including health and education. In that document, the Government recognised the importance of existing measures to mitigate the impacts of industrial action in health, education and fire and rescue services. For example, some healthcare sector trade unions already provide life and limb cover during strikes, and the Secretary of State has legal powers to give directions to fire and rescue authorities, which could be used in the event of industrial action.”

Paragraph 5 says:

“It is not clear what consideration has been given to these existing measures in the current Bill. We advise that more detail may be needed to articulate a legitimate aim for imposing Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) on each sector impacted by the Bill.”

I now turn to paragraph 11, to which I referred at Second Reading:

“Finally, we are concerned that an employee would lose automatic unfair dismissal protection not only if they fail to comply with a work notice, but also if their trade union has failed to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance: an employee will not know before participating in a strike whether that is the case or not.”

I could go on. For those reasons and many more, I urge noble Lords, if not now then when these amendments come back, to give their full support.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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He was slightly less successful than the current one.

Each amendment in this group seeks to add additional evidence-gathering or reporting requirements or scrutiny to the regulation-making powers in the Schedule to the Bill. Before addressing them, perhaps the Committee will permit me a moment to reply to the rather general points made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I am afraid that I fundamentally disagree with him. Recent strike action has demonstrated the disproportionate impacts strikes can have on the public, presumably including his parishioners. They have been unable to access work and healthcare or attend education classes and are worrying whether an ambulance will be there when they need it. Businesses are also crucially affected by industrial action; 23% of them could not operate fully due to industrial action in the UK in December and 2.4 million strike days were lost between June and December. I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate does not believe his parishioners need protecting from these actions, but this Government certainly do.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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I have every concern for my parishioners and the members of the various parishes, schools and chaplaincies—everyone in my diocese, whether they are Anglican or otherwise. However, I do not believe that this legislation is taking us in the right direction or that passing it will create better ambulance, train or hospital services for the people in my diocese. We may disagree, but I assure the Minister that I speak on behalf of everyone in my diocese.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Lord Bishop of Manchester Excerpts
Baroness O'Grady of Upper Holloway Portrait Baroness O'Grady of Upper Holloway (Lab)
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My Lords, it is worth reminding ourselves why it is necessary to scrutinise this Bill in such detail. The RPC’s latest Independent Verification Body Report confirms that, since 2021, there has been an alarming increase in the number of impact assessments that have been red rated—not fit for purpose—and, of course, this Bill is one of them. There were no red ratings between 2016 and 2021; since 2021, there have been eight.

Turning to the amendments, which I am very pleased to support, one of the other fundamental flaws of the Bill is that it takes a provocative, one-sided position on industrial relations. Its partisan approach fundamentally offends people’s sense of fair play. The public are all too aware how real-terms cuts in pay and underfunding of public services have led to a crisis in staffing levels and service backlogs. Strikes are merely a symptom of worker discontent and, as all the polls show, that discontent is often supported and shared by service users.

As many noble Lords have observed, workers never take the decision to vote for strike action lightly and unions always want a negotiated settlement, but sometimes it seems that the only way some employers understand the true value of labour is when that labour is withdrawn. The task of government should be to help prevent disputes, or at least to help resolve them when they happen, not to throw fuel on the fire, but this Bill is based on the premise that strikes are the fault of workers and unions, as if they were never caused by the failure of employers to listen, compromise or negotiate, by years of government underfunding and cuts, or by the frustration that arises when the Government take so long to put more money on the table when, had they acted earlier, the dispute could have been settled months before without any need for a strike.

The Bill imposes yet more draconian requirements on unions, but no commensurate obligations on employers or government. Ultimately, it gives the Secretary of State the whip hand to weaken workers’ bargaining power and attempt to render a strike meaningless.

The partisan stance of the Bill is a fundamental flaw, but the naming of individual workers in work notices is the provision that many find most shocking. Why is it necessary for the Secretary of State to require that work notices list the names of individual workers who will be required to work, rather than just numbers—as I am aware that a number of employers have suggested? In response to a Written Question I asked, the noble Lord, Lord Johnson, said that the Bill provides:

“enforcement mechanisms to maximise the assurance that Minimum Service Levels (MSLs) will be achieved on strike days”—

in other words, naming of individual workers is necessary in order that they can be threatened with the sack.

How will the Secretary of State ascertain whether that list of individual names has been chosen without bias, discrimination or a vindictive attempt to target trade union activists? What will be the process and additional Civil Service resources needed to do that effectively? I genuinely do not know. Can the Secretary of State add or remove individual names, should a legitimate complaint be made? In the 2019 Queen’s Speech, when minimum service legislation for transport only was first planned, the Government pledged to ensure that

“sanctions are not directed at individual workers.”

What changed?

At Second Reading, the Minister asserted:

“This legislation is not about sacking workers”—[Official Report, 21/2/23; col. 1563.]

but of course it is precisely about sacking workers. The legislation expressly provides for the power that workers—nurses, firefighters or teachers—who disobey a notice to work during a strike for minimum service levels, perhaps unilaterally imposed by an employer and sanctioned by the Secretary of State, can be sacked. Crossing fingers and hoping that it will never happen is no comfort to those workers whose jobs are on the line. Key workers who kept Britain running during the pandemic and who were lauded as heroes now look set to become martyrs. Why is that, when emergency cover, where genuinely needed, is already arranged through mature agreement rather than diktat?

It has been so difficult to secure answers to many of the questions raised in this Committee, but nevertheless I will repeat another one. If a named worker calls in sick on the strike day that they have been notified to work, can they be sacked too—yes or no?

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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Amendment 21 seems to be just common sense. Surely it is appropriate that if a work notice is to be issued, it is issued only when all the options to avert a strike have been exhausted. As we keep hearing today, work notices bring serious consequences with them. As the Bill stands, it could lead to an individual employee losing their job. Beyond that, if trade unions do not take “reasonable steps” to comply with the work notices, they could face significant financial damages and the strike could be classified as illegal. If that happens, all the workers taking part in that strike risk losing their livelihoods.

Therefore, it is not clear what these “reasonable steps” are. The Joint Committee on Human Rights is not clear either, saying that

“the provision requiring trade unions to take ‘reasonable steps’ may fall foul of the requirements of Article 11”.

What assurances can the Minister give us that whole swathes of workers will not lose their livelihoods through this? Work notices should never be used lightly, especially in their current form. Amendment 21 provides some safeguards to ensure that this does not happen.

We can see from recent weeks and months, as other noble Lords have said, that trade unions want dialogue. They want to discuss matters of concern. They want to find mutually agreed solutions, which are the only solutions that actually work in practice. But if the Government adopt a more heavy-handed approach to strike action in those sectors where they have what elsewhere might be called coercive control, or if employees feel pressed to do so under fear of civil action, as we have heard today, this risks further division and delays agreement. If we allow work notices to be issued when other avenues to settle a dispute have not been fully explored, perhaps for political reasons of the day, that will, in my view and in the view of many others, extend and escalate disruption.

In its present form, the Bill will not reduce the short-term destruction caused by strikes; rather, it will lead to longer and more damaging strikes. That is not in what the Minister referred to earlier today as my parishioners’ best interests. It is not in anybody’s best interests.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Allan referred earlier, in relation to Amendment 15, to the key issue of human rights. The amendments in this group look at other aspects of this concept. Amendment 23 in my name seeks to examine the practicalities of an employer specifying a minimum service level. Other speakers have referred to the problems associated with this. It is going to be an invidious process. Let us look at how this will work.

The Secretary of State grandly specifies a minimum service level, then washes his or her hands of the practicalities and the personnel implications of it, because employers will have the job of implementing it. The Government will say that it is voluntary, as the Minister said earlier today, but at the same time, she made it clear that employers will be under some level of pressure from the Government to implement minimum service levels. This simple Amendment 23 makes it clear that employers need to specify only the number of employees in each role rather than by name in their work notice.

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I can see no legal avenue whatever for a worker who refused to comply with a requisition order and has been sacked instantaneously by their employer. Therefore, with the greatest respect, perhaps the Minister might reconsider his earlier answer when he said that there were some remedies or avenues available.
Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 41 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of London has added her name, and the other amendments in this group. My right reverend friend regrets that she is unable to be in her place today. In fact, given that she is at this very moment leading a debate among fellow bishops on the subject of sexuality, I think she would much rather be here in your Lordships’ House alongside me. Therefore, in supporting these amendments, I wish to include a number of points which she would undoubtedly have made had she been here.

As we have heard earlier today, including from the noble Lord, Lord Allan of Hallam, proportionality is a central principle of law. I hope that noble Lords will allow me to draw attention from these Benches to an important biblical perspective on that topic. I suggest we should respect the limitations set by Moses over 3,000 years ago in the Hebrew scriptures. When Moses laid down a simple rule,

“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”,

he was not advocating mutilation as the proper means of punishment. He was making the crucial point that the punishment must never exceed the gravity of the offence.

Dismissal for failing to comply with an instruction to work on a strike day is, in my view, the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and, I suspect, the view of many others, grossly out of all proportion. I also wonder how enforceable it would be. Were I a worker issued with such an instruction, the stress I would suffer in consequence could quite likely render me unfit to turn up to work on the day—and, as I trust your Lordships have begun to recognise, I am a fairly tough nut. Will the Minister therefore agree to explore, before we reach Report, whether some lesser maximum penalty would be more appropriate?

Moreover, as the Royal College of Nursing has said, sacking workers for failing to accede to such an instruction to work

“would exacerbate severe nursing workforce shortages”

that we already face. Nursing vacancies are already high—is it more than 43,000? That is a 10% increase over the last 12 months. There are similar shortages elsewhere in the public sector.

The first day in Committee highlighted major unresolved questions about the application of the Bill. The breadth of the roles under the titles of “health services” and “transport services” is huge. Providing minimum service levels that are of the same urgency, and providing for penalties of the same severity, for those who drive blue-light emergency vehicles and the driver of my local 98 bus is absurd.

The amendments in this group would continue protection of employees’ rights and would protect our workforces from further exacerbation of already severe shortages. I urge the Minister to accept them.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. We have already discussed at length the proportionality concerns about the minimum service level agreements being imposed per se, but now we get into the sanctions and consequences for trade unions in what will follow, but also for individuals. We must now talk not just about the vital human rights principle of proportionality that we discussed before but about the vital principle of non-discrimination.

This gives me the opportunity to reflect on an earlier exchange between the Minister and my noble friend Lady O’Grady of Upper Holloway. There was a dissonance about this concept of victimisation. As I understand it, the Minister was saying, “For goodness’ sake. It’s not victimisation to say that there needs to be a minimum service level agreement to protect the public, and therefore there have to be work notices”. However, what perhaps the Minister did not hear or understand is that when you give employers the power to pick and choose between individual employees, we are opening up the Pandora’s box of abuse of power. When we legislate in your Lordships’ House, we have to guard against potential abuses of power.

If employers, scrupulous or otherwise, are allowed to pick and choose between individuals, some people will never be on the list but other people will be, and sometimes the people will be selected for that list on grounds that include their race, sex, sexuality and possibly even their role within trade union activity. I think that is the point my noble friend was trying to make to the Minister, and this is the power that is being handed to individual employers, in contrast with years of struggle for protection against discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of trade union activity as well as membership.

If, as I fear, the Minister will not pause the Bill or introduce greater parliamentary protection before the powers can be triggered in the first place, please will he look at the powers given to individual employers over groups and particular employees in the workplace, because it is invidious and, I think, very dangerous?

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Lord Prentis of Leeds Portrait Lord Prentis of Leeds (Lab)
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My Lords, I speak in support of this group of amendments, particularly Amendments 42 and 44, which, if agreed, would remove the unfettered power of the Secretary of State to amend, repeal or revoke primary legislation.

The strikes Bill is not a slight tinkering of existing legislation. What the Committee has before it is a far-reaching Bill. It is a draconian Bill which curtails the fundamental right to strike, weakens protections against unfair dismissal, violates ILO standards, and introduces the possibility of front-line workers facing dismissal for taking part in lawful industrial action. What we also have before us is a skeleton Bill, which until now has had little or no scrutiny—a Bill which has been rushed. It has been described as having Henry VIII clauses on supercharge and, as we have just heard, as a skeleton Bill lacking bones.

It is only 10 weeks since I had the privilege of making my maiden speech in support of two House of Lords committee reports which go to the core of our democracy: Democracy Denied? and Government by Diktat. In that debate, I spoke of the public’s growing distrust of our Parliament, not just in the devolved nations but throughout the UK. I acknowledged that the reasons for this were complex and that concern about the increasing use of statutory instruments was not something you would hear discussed in the pub or the supermarket, or even around the breakfast table. So why does it matter?

It matters because the processes of Parliament through which we govern are so important. They instil trust and confidence in our democracy. Secretaries of State who avoid parliamentary scrutiny call into question that very trust and confidence in our whole institution. It matters because global confidence in our economy is intrinsically bound up with confidence in our democratic traditions, and it matters because skeleton legislation could lead to the very government by diktat that noble Lords of all persuasions have set their stall against.

That is why the Bill we have before us today is so fundamentally flawed. It flies in the face of both those reports and, unless amended, it will give unfettered powers to the Secretary of State to revoke or amend primary legislation through regulation. That is why Amendments 42 and 44 are so important.

The Bill is deficient in so many respects. It is vindictive and divisive, and it does nothing to deal with the serious crises our public services are facing. The report of the Regulatory Policy Committee, which we have heard about, states that the Bill is not fit for purpose—a damning indictment by any standards. NHS Providers states that it will undermine partnership working in the NHS. The Joint Committee on Human Rights criticises the:

“Heavy-handed sanctions … compounded by vague rules”.

Comparisons made with other European countries simply do not stack up and have been roundly dismissed by those countries themselves. If the Bill becomes law, there is a real risk of contravening our international obligations. For me, it is simply unnecessary and harmful.

In the last few weeks we have seen public service workers, their unions and employers coming together to reach agreements, trying to help so many workers and their families who are suffering. Yes, it may have taken far too long, but both sides are now at the table, doing what they do best: talking, negotiating, reaching accommodations, finding ways forward and, most of all, working to restore relationships for the future. This Bill will damage all that good work. It is vindictive and malicious and it will set the scene for conflict and retaliation for the next decade, just at a time when there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I ask the Minister to accept Amendments 42 and 44. Failing that, I ask him to explain why he will not. More than that, I ask him to think again. Surely it is time for the Government to reconsider their position on the Bill and put it on the back burner, where it deserves to be.

Lord Bishop of Manchester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Manchester
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My Lords, I support Amendments 37 and 43 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Many noble Lords have already commented on the Bill’s skeletal nature—I will not repeat their comments here. Amendment 43 would insert an invaluable safeguard, removing overreaching Secretary of State powers to amend, repeal or revoke primary legislation through secondary legislation. Liberty writes that, as it stands, Clause 3 is a “broad Henry VIII power”—we have heard that monarch referred to several times today; I fear I may refer to him again in a moment. It is also a prospective power that allows the Government to amend and revoke legislation not yet passed.

The delegated powers memorandum seeks to justify this power as a prudent provision to deal with any necessary consequential amendments identified in the Bill’s preparation. As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, reminded us, this means that the Government are taking this exceptional power either because they are not sure what they want to achieve or because they do not know how to get there. I do not believe either of those to be an adequate justification, and I am delighted to hear that Jacob Rees-Mogg may be of a similar opinion.

I enjoyed the remark of a noble and learned Lord earlier today that this is “Henry VIII on stilts”. It left me wondering whether I should be imagining the young Henry, fit and active, or the monarch in his latter—shall we say rather less athletic?—years. The older Henry would have crashed off his stilts to huge personal injury and embarrassment. I fear that the Bill, if enacted in its present form, without adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the exercise of these Henrician powers, will be an equally damaging and embarrassing moment in our nation’s governance.

Will the Minister please reflect on these probing amendments and come back to this House on Report with something more fit for the role and responsibilities of this kingdom’s Parliament in the reign of Charles III?

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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I will talk to our Amendments 42, 44 and 45; I also support Amendments 37 and 43. My noble friend Lord Prentis mentioned the debate we had on the reports from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee, Democracy Denied? and Government by Diktat. The two chairs of the committees at the time led the debate and reflected opinion across the House. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said that this is a trend: these are not just technical statutory instruments but impinge on people’s fundamental freedoms. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, reminded us, and it has been repeated many times, that these are fundamental policy positions that can be debated and considered but not amended or revised. They cannot reflect all the things we have been talking about, particularly consultation.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate on this group. I am particularly grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for painting a picture of King Henry VIII strutting across the Field of the Cloth of Gold on a pair of stilts.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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What an awful mistake to have made—I am very sorry and correct the right reverend Prelate’s territory. This is a serious group of amendments. The fact that it comes at the end of a day, and a long week, should not detract from that seriousness.

Listening to the Minister’s response, I was struck by the tone, which is: “This is a perfectly reasonable process. We are having a consultation and doing this and that. These people can contribute, and Parliament can contribute through the consultation”. It is for Parliament to make these decisions—not for the Government to do so, allowing Parliament to feed a little into the process.

The Minister has proposed the particular frame that we see in Clause 3 too many times. He went through a short list of Bills. I am aware of two of those, having participated in them, and I spoke against that power on both occasions. None of those is seven pages long and devoid of the detail required, but that is what the Bill is.