Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I speak to Amendment 39 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones. It is on something also asserted in Amendment 24 by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and, in the late runner, Amendment 32A, by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. We all seek essentially the same outcome, targeting different parts of the Bill to avoid the avoidance of freedom of information.

It is always good to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and strangely my opening assertion very much follows on from hers. Without our amendments, ARIA would follow in the footsteps of a very small number of institutions that currently do not have Freedom of Information Act obligations: the Royal Family; security and intelligence bodies such as MI5, MI6 and GCHQ; Special Forces; and the National Crime Agency. I think that is the list. There may be others, but I am pretty sure that is it. It gives noble Lords an idea of the sort of organisations. They do not seem to be natural paradigms to ARIA.

The noble Lord, Lord Willetts, will correct me, but the obstacles to innovation for funding bodies are many and various. Nowhere have I seen obligations to freedom of information as one of the things listed by those bodies as a barrier to innovation, or indeed invention. Indeed, as far as I can see, most if not all of ARIA’s client organisations—those it will fund—will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so where is the point in excluding ARIA itself?

In refuting me and others on this at Second Reading, the Minister said that

“robust arrangements are in place that will provide a clear picture to Parliament and taxpayers about how ARIA’s activities are funded and where it spends its money.”—[Official Report, 2/11/21; col. 1202.]

That is indeed the point, because ARIA will be holding the brush painting that picture. We will get to see what ARIA chooses to tell and show us about what it is doing. FoIs look at things from the opposite direction.

The Minister also points to the need for ARIA to be lean, and I absolutely agree with him on that, but I remind him and those who speak against these amendments why we are seeing growing evidence of huge levels of very worrying financial mismanagement across government contracting. It is because of the crony-type issues which the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, raised in her speech, which have a corrosive effect on institutions that need to be protected from any stain of impropriety. Transparency is very much that protection. By maintaining proper scrutiny, everybody can see that there are no problems and there is no favouritism going on. This will absolutely protect ARIA’s reputation.

ARIA will be substantially larger that many bodies already subject to freedom of information legislation. ARIA has no greater claim to avoiding complying with FoI legislation than any other public authority. Indeed, given its budget, there are compelling grounds for its inclusion. It is clear, through these three amendments, that we on this side find the current plan to exclude ARIA from the Freedom of Information Act’s provisions unacceptable. I feel sure that, between us, we can coalesce around a single amendment for Report. In the meantime, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I will make two points. The first is in response to a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the other is in anticipation of a point that I think the Minister will make in his response to the debate.

The noble Baroness argued that the unique nature of this organisation should make it free from this burden. It will be unique here in the United Kingdom, but it is not a unique organisation. In fact, it is modelled on an organisation that has a history, and that is ARPA, which is now DARPA.

I will come shortly to the Minister’s rejection of that comparison at Second Reading, but I am moved to intervene because of data I have been given by the Campaign for Freedom of Information about the burden that freedom of information has been on ARPA and DARPA in the United States. Granted, the United States is a much more open society than ours, but ARPA and DARPA have been subject to the US Freedom of Information Act. It is incontrovertible that the need to answer FoI requests has not prevented them achieving successes that the Government here now wish to emulate. In fact, in the 11 years from 2009 to 2019, an average of 47 requests a year referring to DARPA were made to the US Department of Defense. It lived with that burden and has been the success that we all know and are seeking to emulate.

The Minister rejected this comparison, saying that there is a different freedom of information system in the United States of America. He referred to fees, and suggested that somehow the experience we have had of freedom of information thus far made it probable that ARIA would be prevented from being the lean machine focused on innovation that we all want to see if it was subjected to the burden of freedom of information.

Interestingly, 47 FoI requests per year is almost exactly the number of requests received by individual UK research councils before they were incorporated into UKRI. In 2017-18, the six research councils for which data was available to those who provided it to me received an average of 48 requests each. By comparison, in 2019 the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice each received nearly 5,000 requests. Maybe that is why the Government have this impression that everything they do is overburdened by FoI. It is not. Some things are, and there is a different politics about them than there will be about this.

I think that it is perfectly legitimate to make the comparison with the success of DARPA and ARPA, which have lived in an environment of openness and freedom of information. That is much more likely, on the data, to be the experience of ARIA, were it to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, than the perception of any burden that a Minister may have from their own experience of FoI in another department.

Lord Broers Portrait Lord Broers (CB)
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I would like to respond to that, which I find very interesting. I would like to know whether ARPA and DARPA have restraints on certain types of information. Having operated in industry in an R&D environment, I am familiar with the problems of what you have to keep secret and what you do not. In the American economy, by far the largest fraction of the vast amount of progress that is made is made in industry with private funds—and industry invests those private funds in R&D only if it can be assured that the products of that R&D will remain exclusive to it. I have been in situations where there has been industrial espionage and design manuals have been stolen for products that took billions to develop. Those thefts in the United States were of course prosecuted and those who obtained the information were fined large sums of money.

ARPA is going to be in that situation. It has to work with industry, using the results of its most advanced R&D, perhaps in new ways, to come up with new systems. It must be able to sign some memorandum of understanding, or in some way say to industry that it will protect from public knowledge that information. In an industry where you are relying primarily on novel processes, you do not tend to patent things, because patenting them puts them in the public domain. You rely on trade secrets and, to have a trade secret validated as a trade secret, you have to show that you have done enough due diligence to make sure that the information is not generally available to your competitors.

It has been a problem internationally for the past several decades that there has been international espionage on a large scale to obtain information from inside industries in the West. I ask the Minister whether that is being taken into account. Clearly, what the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and others have been saying is incontrovertible: we do not want the agency at risk because people are wasting vast sums of public money. On the other hand, you have to take into account that, if ARIA is to be successful and produce new capabilities that can be commercially exploited for the benefit of the UK, there must be adequate protection of what in industry is normally commercially sensitive and secret.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Because it is a fairly new and exciting agency doing new things. I suppose we will have to disagree on that. There is no point and nothing to be gained by doing otherwise. In designing ARIA, we are envisaging a lean agency that will employ people in the tens. I do not know how many people across government are currently employed to respond to the hundreds if not thousands of FoI requests that we get, but given the bundles of documentation that sometimes pass my desk, there must be many hundreds of civil servants engaged in doing nothing other than responding to these fishing expeditions. As I said, ARIA will be an agency employing people in the tens, with around 1% of the R&D budget.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I invite him to reread what he said at Second Reading. He virtually invited people who are being refused the opportunity to ask ARIA questions to ask them of his department. Then it will be a true comparison. I invited him to compare an organisation of the nature of a research council with one such as DARPA, not to compare DARPA with a government department. At Second Reading, he himself listed a whole number of organisations, including government departments, that are subject to FoI. It is an invitation to people who are refused the discipline of talking to a smaller organisation in a proportionate way to flood a department with requests and take up even more time. With respect to the Minister, I think this is verging on an irresponsible attitude towards this argument, even in his own interests.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I can assure the noble Lord that people need no invitation from me to table FoI requests to my department. They are well capable of doing it. I think some people already have forms set up on their word processors to submit some of these things with gay abandon.

Anyway, in designing ARIA we are envisaging an agency that will be lean and streamlined. It will employ people in the tens, and we strongly believe that it needs to be agile and efficient. “Lean”, “streamlined” and “efficient” are not always words that are used to describe nominal usual public bodies. However, as my noble friend Lady Noakes has attested to, this context has always been at the forefront of our minds in bringing forward this Bill.

We have carefully considered which procedures are conducive to ARIA’s success. I recognise here that part of ARIA’s success depends on it gaining public trust and being transparent and accountable for its activities, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, called for. I believe that we have found the right balance in freeing this small agency to fund high-risk, critical research but to do it differently, with appropriate visibility to Parliament and taxpayers.

The noble Lord, Lord Broers, raised some concerns about the protection of technological gains in sensitive projects. I note at this point that there are, of course, existing commercial confidentiality exemptions to the FoI Act, as referenced by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. All requests still require processing and we are conscious of this in making the decisions to exclude ARIA.

Much has also been said on transparency today in the contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. I maintain that the right provisions to hold ARIA to account are the ones that I outlined at Second Reading. They are the publishing of an annual report and statement of accounts, which will be laid before Parliament, as set out in the Bill; being subject to annual audits by the National Audit Office; and being accountable to Parliament through the CEO, who will be the agency’s accounting officer.

In addition, as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, has pointed out, ARIA will remain a BEIS arm’s-length body, and my department will work with ARIA’s leadership to agree the appropriate arrangements for its scrutiny and oversight in the interests of good governance.

We expect ARIA, as far as possible, to have a culture of transparency, and we hope that will be championed by its incoming leadership. Working across the R&D community, and indeed with Parliament and the public, to communicate ARIA’s activities will be critical to ARIA’s commercial and research success. Given that, I hope the Committee will understand that I cannot accept or agree with this amendment. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has a different opinion.

I turn now to the exemption the Bill affords ARIA from the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, and to Amendments 24 and 42 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. I think she omitted to speak in favour of her amendment, but I will respond to it anyway.

Our decision to exempt ARIA from the contracting authority obligations in the Public Contracts Regulations hinges on two critical expectations: first, that ARIA will be commissioning and contracting others to do research for it; and, secondly, that ARIA’s programme managers should be acting and investing with agility and speed. When ARIA is commissioning and contracting others to do research for it, it will be operating in a fundamentally different way from traditional R&D grant-making where procurement rules do not apply.

In my view, it is therefore appropriate for ARIA to be given freedom from procurement rules to ensure that the agency has greater flexibility in its contractual arrangements. However, to counterbalance that and to provide the assurance that this freedom will be used properly, we have provided a non-legislative commitment for an independent auditor to report annually on ARIA’s procurement activity. This measure, alongside ARIA’s robust conflict of interest procedures, the wider accountability I just talked about, and governance provisions, are an appropriate set of arrangements. I hope that reassures the Committee that we have taken all these matters into consideration and that this exemption is both essential to ARIA’s effective function and proportionate to the tasks it faces. Therefore, I invite noble Lords not to press their amendments.

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Moved by
30: Clause 4, page 2, line 26, at end insert—
“(4) If ARIA gives a grant, or part of grant, made to it under this section to another entity, the giving of the grant must be subject to the condition that a person or entity may not gain control of that entity for 5 years after the date on which the grant is given.(5) If ARIA gives a grant, or part of grant, made to it under this section for the purposes of supporting a specific asset, the giving of the grant must be subject to the condition that a person or entity may not gain control of that asset for 5 years after the date on which the grant is given.(6) In this section, “entity” means any entity, whether or not a legal person, that is not an individual, and includes a company, a limited liability partnership, any other body corporate, a partnership, an unincorporated association and a trust.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure that any grant made by ARIA is subject to the condition that the entity or asset supported may not be subject to a takeover for 5 years.
Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendment 30 seeks to ensure that any grant made by ARIA is subject to the condition that the entity or asset supported may not be subject to a takeover for five years. I confess that, on reflection, this may more felicitously have been an amendment to Clause 2, which deals with the conditions of grants made by ARIA. As its tabling is for exploratory purposes, at least today, I do not think that matters, but if it comes back it will probably come back in a different form and as an amendment to a different clause.

On the first day of Grand Committee, the debate on the group of amendments led by Amendment 18 in the name of and moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, took about 20 minutes, and the phrase “intellectual property” was used 37 times. Introducing the debate, the noble Lord described the group as being

“about the way in which ARIA acquires, creates, disposes of, retains and shares intellectual property”,—[Official Report, 17/11/21; col. GC 127.]

so it is not really a surprise that the phrase was picked up.

In some senses, it is a pity that this amendment was not grouped with the noble Lord’s amendments, because the concerns that have given rise to the need for this amendment were to some extent aired in that debate. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, shared with us the extent to which there was concern in the United States that

“some of the public funding which has led to”


“research has led to private as opposed to public gain.”—[Official Report, 17/11/21; col. GC 128.]

I share his concern about the extent to which we are creating such an opportunity, but more so about the extent to which such publicly funded research may lead to foreign, mainly US, private as opposed to British private or public gain.

Refinitiv data shows that, in the first half of 2021, buyout groups spent $45 billion snapping up companies in Britain—more than double the next-best first six months on record and almost 10% of the total $547 billion spent across the world. Am I to understand that British stocks’ discount to global peers is the deepest in more than three decades and that Brexit is one reason? I do not want to divert us into another debate, but Brexit is for good, not just for Christmas, so that situation may persist for a period.

On 17 November, reporting the Culture Secretary’s decision to announce a competition and national security investigation into the planned takeover of the British chip business Arm Holdings by the American multinational tech giant Nvidia, and coupling this with the recent news that Kwasi Kwarteng is investigating the proposed sales of defence suppliers Ultra Electronics and Meggitt to American suppliers on similar grounds, Ben Marlow, the chief City commentator of the Telegraph, wrote:

“For too long Britain has adopted a naive and unquestioning ‘help yourself’ approach to foreign takeovers. For a while it looked as though the … government would take an even more extreme laissez-faire approach as it sought to live up to its ‘Global Britain’ credentials but perhaps the penny has dropped in Westminster … It is a welcome shift in tone. Ministers routinely greet the sale of British companies to overseas buyers as a vote of confidence in this country’s prospects when it is nothing of the sort. It simply means foreign firms see the UK as easy pickings and an opportunity to make a quick buck. Hoisting a giant ‘for sale’ sign over your best and brightest companies is not sound industrial policy, it is an act of … self-harm.”

It will not be a surprise to anybody in your Lordships’ Committee that I am not used to quoting the Telegraph in debates or in support of my arguments. I do so because, in a sense, it may be a bit of an instruction to the Minister as to the attitude he ought to adopt to this issue. I do it because it may have more impact on the Minister.

I have tried twice now, in supplementaries to Questions in your Lordships’ House on these issues, to engage the Minister on what is actually happening in the United Kingdom to some of our best and brightest businesses and the effect it is having. I even quoted on one occasion the concerns of the Bank of England about the way these businesses are funded and the damage that this leveraged debt potentially poses to the economy of the United Kingdom in the long term, but he did not respond.

On another occasion, in relation to both the companies referred to in addition to Arm—Ultra Electronics and Meggitt—I pointed out that 85% of R&D in the defence industries in the United Kingdom is public money, and that the intellectual property of these businesses was in danger of leaving the United Kingdom, having been paid for by public money. That is exactly the issue that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, raised, although he did so in a slightly different context, and exactly the concern I have.

On none of these previous occasions did the Minister bite. With respect to him, he deployed a slightly less complacent version of the words the Telegraph’s city correspondent pointed out, but he deployed them nevertheless.

I close my remarks in support of this amendment by thanking the Minister for his gracious invitation to me over the last few days to indicate to him what lay behind it so that he could, if possible, give me the reassurance I sought. I responded with an even shorter version of what I have said to your Lordships’ Committee today. I hope he has the reassurance that I and others seek about how we will protect the product of this new initiative from being raided by the predators of venture capital funds in particular. I conclude with the words the Telegraph uses, that

“the Americans wouldn’t allow it to happen so why should we?”

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I am not as opposed to foreign takeovers as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, but I accept that there are some instances where this country is not well served by the ability of organisations outside the UK to cherry pick some of our best assets. The broad thrust is that foreign investment in the UK has been good for our economy—indeed, large amounts of our productive economy are owned by foreign businesses and they are an important part of the success of the UK economy—but I concede that there is a potential issue, especially when we deal with the kind of things we expect ARIA to fund.

However, I do not think the amendment works. It says that if ARIA gives a grant to an entity, it has to be subject to the condition that that entity cannot be taken over. That entity cannot give an undertaking that it cannot be taken over, because the people who will control who takes over an entity are the people who own the entity, which is not the same as the entity itself. While in some cases it might be a private company with two or three shareholders, which would probably be quite easy to deal with, if the shareholdings were much more dispersed it would probably be impossible to operationalise that sort of requirement. If there is a case, it needs another solution.

I also note that this is a bit of a sledgehammer. There could be very good reasons for an entity having the control over it changed. It could need greater access to capital to scale up whatever it has been looking at; it could have liquidity issues in taking its research and development to the next stage, before it even gets to scale up, and need the involvement of other partners; or it could just be that it makes sense to continue with whatever it has been looking at only if it is part of a larger organisation and subject to a merger or joint venture, where control would be ceded. If there is a problem, I do not think it can be met by this amendment.

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Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response and particularly for engaging with the reasons behind the amendment more than its technical perfection, which I accept it lacks. However, I will have to read carefully what she has actually said to see whether it is the reassurance that a number of noble Lords are seeking—from listening carefully to their contributions—about protecting the jewel in the crown, as it were, which is at the heart of what the Government and everybody are trying to achieve in the current environment. I will come back to that in a moment.

I also correct the omission of not thanking the noble Lord, Lord Morse—who is a good supporter to have in these sorts of issues—for adding his name to my amendment. I also tender on his behalf his apologies that because of timing he could not be here to speak to the amendment. He may get another opportunity to speak to the issues that lie behind it at some other point in the consideration of this legislation.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. They all added something to my knowledge and understanding of the issues I am trying to raise before the Committee in the context of this Bill. I hope there will be a collective, maybe holistic, solution to the different elements of this problem that have been identified.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, for pointing out to me the complexity of the area that I am in because of the different forms of organisations that will be involved. I am familiar with some of this, but clearly not as familiar as she is. However, I encourage her not just to assume that every takeover is a foreign investment. It appears to me that the more I go into this, the more that I discover that it is a not a foreign investment. I go back to the article in the Telegraph, which I quoted liberally. Ben Marlow, the chief City commentator of the Telegraphto whom I am deeply indebtedsays:

“Moreover, ministers repeatedly conflate real investment with opportunistic takeovers when they couldn’t be more different.”

He then goes on to give examples of what he thinks are real investment, and Nissan is right up there, as you would imagine.

I am impressed by that and think I understand it. However, I understand it even better when I read the Financial Stability Report of the Bank of England in October 2021, when it points out that there is a developing danger to our economy in the leveraged loan markets with:

“the trend of increased prevalence of looser underwriting standards has continued, which increases risks to end-investors.”

It goes on to say:

“Recent UK leveraged lending flows have in part been driven by a surge in private equity investment in UK businesses: 2021 private equity investment is on track to exceed its 2019 level, which itself was a strong year.”

In a broader discussion of the indebtedness of this country, it highlights this in particular, which suggests to me that these takeovers have been funded by leveraged loans.

Because I have an interest in sport, I have followed carefully certain takeovers that got a lot of coverage in the sporting media, and I can see how that could work. I am not totally convinced that these are all properly foreign investment. I agree that they have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, but if the Bank of England is worried, I am worried.

I thank the noble Lords, Lord Fox, Lord Lansley and Lord Broers, for their helpful and supportive contributions, and my noble friends Lord Stansgate and Lady Chapman for their support. All speakers came at this issue from a different perspective, as did the Minister. This issue is worth taking away to see whether there is a holistic way to deal with it in this complex context.

Before I withdraw my amendment, I conclude by apologising to the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for anticipating that her male colleague would answer. That is not because I am inclined to look for men before I look for women in any context; it was simply because he was the Minister who wrote to me about this and the one to whom I responded. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.
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Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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It was slightly surprising to get this agreement so late in the day. Although I have seen that it exists, I cannot pretend that I have properly digested it or discussed it with colleagues in, for example, the Welsh Assembly. I would have been very keen to do that. It is very clear that a legislative consent Motion was not going to be forthcoming as things stood and that if the Government wanted ARIA to embark with support from the devolved Administrations they had to do something. There is now this agreement.

I would accept the Minister’s assurance, but can he clearly confirm that this agreement is not just his but has been reached with the devolved Administrations and that they are all fully signed up to it, before we allow this to go through? My life will not be worth living if I go back to my office and find that we have agreed to something that has not secured the full support of—to pick one at random—the Welsh Assembly. I would really appreciate it if the Minister could confirm that. Can he also speak to this issue of Barnett consequentials, which I had not considered would be part of the debate? How do the Government think this would or would not have any consequentials for funding for the devolved Administrations?

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to be genuinely helpful to the Minister. It appears that I am the most privileged Member of this Committee; everyone’s correspondence seems to be copied to me, although I am not sure if in this case it was a privilege, as I got it exactly one hour and five minutes before the Committee was due to sit. It has a draft agreement of 19 clauses, one of which refers to other agreements—too many for me to count in the small print I have on my phone—so I have not given it any serious consideration.

I think it was copied to me because I raised a question in an intervention to seek assurance that all aspects of this legislation that engaged with devolution issues had been agreed with the devolved Administrations. It turns out that there were at least aspects still under discussion. I understand that that can happen. I suggest that, because of the complexity of this, the Government arrange a meeting, between now and the next time most of us meet again at the next stage of this Bill, with interested parties to explain the situation with devolution. If the Government agree that there are Barnett consequentials—even if they do not, but can be persuaded that, in not agreeing, they are wrong—they can then say how they will deal with that significant complexity.

We must thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for raising in some detail last time we met where we stand on all these issues. None of us was comfortable with any of this and none of us was as sited as the Government were of everything that is going on. At the very least, there should be the offer of some engagement with Members of this Committee who are interested in these issues and would raise them in some context on Report. This should happen in sufficient time before Report for it to be meaningful, so that some of these matters, which may lend themselves to simple enough explanations, can be put to bed.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, this has obviously been an unsatisfactory semi-debate. That dissatisfaction has rung out in various corners of the Room. The advice of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, seems good; if we continue on our current trajectory, Wednesday afternoon will have some time in it. I will not repeat the questions which have been raised, but I add another which we would like to address on Wednesday afternoon when the Minister calls us together to explain. Is this outwith the framework agreement process? Is there a separate process going on? I add that to the list of unanswered questions.

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Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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Committees go in cycles: they can get very serious, but we are now getting towards the end, where consideration can descend into banter, if we are not careful. That is not something that I thought I would experience at this end of the building, but it is quite welcome.

I understand exactly where the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, are coming from with this, taking into account what the noble Baroness said. The framework document has been referred to so many times during our consideration; it has done a lot of heavy lifting, yet we have not been able to see a draft of it. That is something that I regret, because it would have been useful to know about it. We got lots of assurances about what it will and will not do, but we have not seen a draft that will enable us to test that or tease it out. That is a shame, and I think that is what is behind the amendment.

It is not great when the Government do this and ask a Committee to take these things on trust, or to take the intention. It is not how it is best for us to work. We take these things and our role in this process seriously, and we want to know how ARIA will operate in relation to the departments and bodies outlined in the amendment.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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I remind the Minister that, not so long ago, he secured Amendments 37 and 40 on the basis of the sight, by a limited number of us, of a draft agreement. It is not unreasonable to ask him to at least consider reciprocating.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank Members who have contributed to this brief debate. I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, did not exercise us again with his Daily Telegraph subscription, which I was very impressed by. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fox, on saving the best to last with his bravura amendment. He has obviously been searching his thesaurus over the weekend for appropriate analogies. It was well moved and I do understand the seriousness of the issue and the noble Lord’s intention, which relates to the desire, as we have heard, to understand more details of how ARIA will work in practice.

As I mentioned at Second Reading, ARIA’s framework document is a governance document. It is a standard requirement for public bodies—which, of course, ARIA will be. As suggested in the noble Lord’s amendment, it will set the parameters for ARIA’s relationship with BEIS, as its sponsoring department. That is indeed its very purpose.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, referred to the guidance published by Her Majesty’s Treasury, and I reassure him that, by drawing on the Treasury’s guidance, ARIA’s framework document will ensure that the agency and BEIS work effectively together. It will outline ARIA’s accountability, its decision-making and its financial management structures, along with some broader reporting requirements. However, it is not the appropriate place to codify ARIA’s relationship with other government departments. Other departments have no accountability relationship with ARIA, so its terms of engagement with them are a question of strategy rather than governance. The framework document will not contain any information relating to ARIA’s strategy in terms of collaboration, its project portfolio or indeed, its areas of research interest, all of which, I know, are of great interest to noble Lords.

On the sequencing of publication and commencement, given that both ARIA and the department need to be in agreement on the framework document, I reiterate, as I said at Second Reading, that it is therefore not possible to finalise it before ARIA’s senior leadership is in place, as my noble friend Lady Noakes, pointed out. It is not possible for the framework document to be published in advance of ARIA coming into legal existence. Similarly, the framework document for UKRI, for example, was finalised and published after that body came into legal existence.

Finally, it is worth noting that framework documents are live publications and are amended regularly to reflect any changes in the sponsor department or indeed the arm’s-length body itself, and they are all thoroughly reviewed every three years.

On the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, on whether the framework document will outline the role of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser on ARIA, it is likely to. I will be happy to write to the noble Viscount with any more detail that I can on that.

I hope therefore that noble Lords understand that, in our view, there is a logical process to follow in the establishment of a public body and therefore that they will accept my assurance that we will publish the finalised framework document as soon as practicably possible.