18 Lord German debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Wed 9th Feb 2022
Wed 2nd Feb 2022
Mon 31st Jan 2022
Subsidy Control Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Thu 11th Mar 2021
Wed 25th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 23rd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 2nd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 28th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Between now and Report, the Government should look again at ways in which the Bill can achieve the co-operation with the devolved regimes that will give them the confidence they need, and the CMA the reassurance it needs in undertaking its responsibilities. These are not just debating points. It is not necessarily in my political interest to make these points, but my goodness, I would rather see good government undertaken without problems, and the economies of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and indeed England benefiting from a coherent structure, than the problems that will arise from the current wording of the Bill. Therefore, I am delighted to support both these amendments.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I have attached my name to Amendment 65 and want to examine the cash and resources which the Government intend to put into the CMA.

Talking of cash and resources, I was very disappointed to read the Minister’s letter to my noble friend Lord Purvis today, in which he says of a previous debate about money:

“I regret that I am not in a position to confirm the per capita allocation of the UK shared prosperity fund in each nation at this stage. However, I emphasise that the Government is meeting its manifesto commitments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fund will match previous EU funding in real terms for all these places.”

The letter says that the fund will match previous funding, but it also emphasises that they are meeting their manifesto commitments. How on earth can you say that you are meeting your manifesto commitments when you cannot tell us whether you are giving £780 per head to Wales in the way that it was described, as a per capita allocation? Clearly, having a per capita allocation is how you judge whether you are meeting your manifesto commitments. I am very disappointed that the Government say that they are meeting their commitment but are unable to provide the figures to show that they are doing so. I hope they will rectify this swiftly.

Turning to the CMA and its resources, we were very fortunate some years ago to receive evidence from the CMA on its readiness to take part in the new world we were entering. However, it is very important to separate out the CMA’s need for resource to carry on its traditional functions of mergers, acquisitions and so on. The chair of the CMA said then, regarding the non-subsidy side:

“We will be involved in much bigger and arguably more complex cases than we typically deal with. We will have to deal with mergers. We will also be involved in the enforcement cases. The extra workload, the complexity and the likely litigation that follows such cases ... implies significant expansion in our activities.”

The chief executive then said:

“We expect a 30-50% increase in mergers coming our way. However, these will tend to be bigger and more complex mergers. On the antitrust side we think we will do between five and seven large extra antitrust cases a year. That will mean an increase of at least 50% on our current workload in that area.”

Between the two of its own size, it is clear that the CMA found that cash was very important.

The chair went on:

“The key point on resources … is that we need approval for the extra cash that we need … We need the cash, but then we need the time to attract and recruit the talent and get them up to speed in terms of the work. We need to start having action relatively soon, given the timescales that we are talking about.”

Given that this was a few years ago, the timescales are now upon us because this Bill is where it all happens. On state aid, he said:

“We have no experience in this area … It would add, I would emphasise, to the expansion that we have to undertake anyway”—

that is, on the other side of the CMA’s work—

“and we would have to find the skills … given the lack of experienced people in the UK itself. It would be a challenge”.

The key challenge identified was the recruitment of lawyers. How is that going? As far as I can tell, lawyers do not come cheap and, with respect to my colleagues behind me, good lawyers come even less cheaply. It is a matter for the CMA to have the appropriate lawyers. At one point, the chief executive said that they are difficult to find and that

“we are now thinking about expanding our office in Scotland, to tap into talent there.”

So it will have talent from Scotland but no representation regarding the decision-making powers of the board—but there we are. He went on:

“We want to see where talent is and what we can do to attract people and keep them in the CMA.”

The price of the challenge was that of finding appropriate salary levels.

In replying, can the Minister tell us how much money, in raw terms, has been put into both sides of this equation: into the traditional work of the CMA, which has now fallen upon it because we have left the European Union; and into the subsidies side? How many new lawyers has the CMA been able to attract? At the time, the chair said that there are lawyers working in private practice

“who are well experienced … in dealing with state aid applications”

on the side of the role now needed by the CMA. How many lawyers with this sort of experience have now been recruited, and at what level? Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, talked about the need to have experience on the side of the regulator that is greater than the experience of the people operating the subsidies. We will need lawyers who are even more skilled and who have the greatest skill in managing this sort of operation. I repeat: I suspect that they do not come cheap.

In replying, can the Minister outline specifically where and when the recruitment will take place, how much money is on either side of the equation and whether the Government have a deadline for making sure that all the resources are in place? Also, I will continue to pursue my claim: can the Minister tell me when the Government will match the £780 per head that was promised and is now in the letter?

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I want to add to that list of questions. Does the Minister have any information on where the CMA is to be based? It is one thing if it is in London, and quite different if it is in Cardiff, Glasgow, Birmingham or Manchester, for example. One of the concerns is the constant pressure that the devolved Administrations have against the south-east and London-based administrations. If there were some way in which the CMA could locate itself further away from the south-east and closer to other areas, that would at least be to some advantage.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Can I ask that in future, all impact assessments be given a time lapse, so we know how many weeks they last for, until such time as they cease to be? Seriously, if one year on the impact assessment for this means that the number of people triples, then it was not necessarily a very accurate impact assessment.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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I wonder if, in concluding, the Minister could indicate the deadline for when the 50 extra advertised posts have to be filled? She may have to do so in writing, I understand that. Also, what is the difference between those who will be allocated to the traditional work of the CMA—competition, mergers and anti-trust—and those on the subsidy side of this split? They are distinct areas of work and quite distinct skills are needed. At some stage, could the Minister also tell me how many lawyers have been recruited so far, and how many they are short of. That would be very helpful.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think the noble Lord might have to declare an interest on that front, but we will let that lie. I will have to write to him with the specifics on this. Obviously, recruitment is an ongoing process that will continue throughout the next year.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I will be equally brief. The omission of Ministers of the devolved Governments at this stage of the Bill is stark and astonishing. It immediately begs the question why, because the devolved Governments are specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Bill, although they are not given equality of treatment. Here, they are simply omitted. As indicated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, we need clarity here.

We particularly need clarity because there is equality of treatment on issues such as common frameworks. There could well be a conflict between what has been agreed by the UK Government in that context and what is in the Bill. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendment 79, which neatly follows the questions of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about standing.

On 13 January, the following fanfare was announced from Downing Street:

“Prime Minister to chair new council with devolved governments”.

The No. 10 press release described this as a

“Landmark agreement on how UK government and devolved governments will continue to work together”,

and how an agreement on this “has been reached”. It promised “new ways of working”, “Reaffirmed principles” of

“mutual respect, maintaining trust and positive working”

and formalised a “council”, led by the Prime Minister, “overseeing strengthened working”.

I am going to come to the document that lies behind the press release in a moment. Of the five things the Government say this is going to achieve, they end with the principle about conflict resolution:

“Resolving disputes according to a clear and agreed process”.

I am trying to seek consistency in this Bill, which has been severely criticised for the relationships it is trying to and has to build with the devolved Administrations. At the same time, we have another document, setting up more machinery of government, which will look at resolving disputes. I understand that resolution of disputes is in the common frameworks procedure, but there is very little in the Bill about how the devolved Administrations can resolve disputes. I suspect—I am pretty certain—that there will be a lot of criticism over the coming months and years from the devolved Administrations.

In the document which lies behind the Prime Minister’s announcement, about the review of intergovernmental relations, there is a two-page section in which the first paragraph states:

“No Secretariat”—

it is an independent secretariat managing the council—

“or government”—

and that is all Governments in the United Kingdom—

“can reject the decision of a government”—

again, that is any Government—

“to raise a dispute.”

So this is a dispute mechanism which has clearly been put in place by the Government to provide an opportunity for the Administrations to raise their disputes. I do understand that if it is enshrined in law, if the legislation is there, it makes it trickier, but as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, asked, what happens when somebody wants or objects to an interpretation, particularly that of the Secretary of State, and this process escalates?

The Bill contains a lot of procedures which could well lead to a dialogue between the devolved Administrations and the Secretary of State. There is also a huge amount of what is called “guidance”—which we shall come to later—and a number of documents are going to emerge which will perhaps put flesh on the bones of some of the things we have been talking about in the Bill.

My question is this: will this arrangement announced by the council and by the Prime Minister, no matter what this Bill comes to and no matter what the processes described in it are, allow, as the intergovernmental relations document states, any Government to bring a dispute before all the other Governments? There are 30 or 40 lines and another page about how that dispute has to be resolved and the use of an independent secretariat.

If the right relationships as described in the document from the Prime Minister were built into this Bill, I would rather hope that it would minimise the necessity for such a dispute mechanism to arise. My test of this is to ask the Minister the following question. Given the announcement, and given the availability of this procedure, is there anything that he can see apart from the legislation before us that a devolved Administration could not refer to this council? If that is so, there is a strong case for making it easier for the devolved Administrations to engage through the mechanisms of this Bill without having to go through all the processes which would lead to the dispute mechanism outlined by the Prime Minister. I am asking for consistency, and I hope that the Minister can provide it.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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My Lords, I am delighted to support the amendment put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and agree strongly with the points that he made in opening this short debate. The devolved regimes must surely be in a position in which they can be regarded as interested parties. It stands to reason that that must be the case in certain circumstances, and there must be provision within legislation for those certain circumstances to be looked after in the context of this Bill.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to add my name to Amendment 79 put forward by my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord German. I support the points he made in regard to it. The need for some indication to the devolved regimes that they are partners has surely come out of the debates we have had in the last three or four sittings of this Committee. It is time that the Government found some way of indicating that they are prepared to work on a partnership basis. These two amendments pave the way for that, and I hope the Government can respond positively.

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Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to two amendments that have a relationship I shall endeavour to explain as rapidly as possible, bearing in mind the hour. Amendment 73A relates to Schedule 3 and deals with the very extraordinary powers in this Bill, giving the High Court the power to overrule primary legislation of the devolved legislatures. This is a very real problem. I shall speak largely from the point of view of the judiciary and what we are intending to do.

Before I turn to that, I would say that, if we look at agriculture or anything else where there is an attempt by the four Governments of the UK to agree something that deals with the support of subsidies, it is extraordinary that anything that is legislated for in England is exempt, but what is legislated for elsewhere is not. There is a constitutional reason for that, and I know what the Minister will say, but it is not a matter of practical reality or public perception. It is important that we consider this.

The first extraordinary part of this is that power is given not to the Competition Appeal Tribunal but to the High Court or the Court of Session in Scotland. To my mind, it is worrying that you give to a first-instance court the power to overrule a decision and an Act of a democratically elected primary legislature. Normally, these matters would go to the Supreme Court. Secondly, and much more importantly, is it right that we should put our judges in a position to make decisions about what are effectively the principles in the Bill? People may remember something called the Human Rights Act and the very broad powers it is said to give judges to make decisions. That has had a degree of criticism. Why do we want to do this in a piece of legislation where the phrases are so ill defined? I shall come to that in the second amendment I intend to speak to. We should exercise the greatest degree of care in giving judges the right to overrule the legislature. I am not certain about the extent to which there has been widespread consultation with the judiciary about this, or with others, but this is the first and very significant step.

There is an extraordinary constitutional provision that has to deal with whose rationale is looked at. I do not want to go into the details of that, because that is more a subsidiary point, and I bear in mind the time—but there is an extraordinary constitutional innovation in the clauses in this part of the schedule.

Of course, it might be said of these principles—and I think this is possibly the Minister’s line—that all of this is very vague and there are not going to be many challenges, so do not worry. However, I am afraid people have left provisions in legislation on that basis and it has come back to bite them. What would worry me about this is if something enshrined in the decisions of the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish Parliaments or Assemblies, is challenged by someone. What about it happening in the field of agriculture? Someone who is importing goods would have the right to initiate this sort of action, with its very serious constitutional consequences, whereby a judge would have to make a decision, quite often, I imagine, in relation to the principles that are so ill defined.

That takes me neatly to my second series of amendments, which deal with the definitions and status of guidance. I will leave the noble Lord, Lord German, to deal with the question of whether the guidance is binding. It seems unarguable to me that it is not binding.

What I am much more interested in—this highlights the difficulties caused by Schedule 3 and the construction of the Bill as a whole—is the Minister’s power to give guidance as to the meaning. Ordinarily, it is Parliament that decides what something means and, if it does not, it leaves it to the judges. Sometimes, it is put in secondary legislation. However—this is extraordinary—here we are putting the meaning of the wording into guidance.

There are two fundamental problems with that. First, we have visited the word “equity” on a number of occasions—I might call it a word for all seasons—but, even at this late hour, I feel that I ought to refer to John Selden’s famous note about equity. He said:

“Equity is a roguish thing: for law we have a measure, know what to trust to; equity is according to the conscience of him that is Chancellor, and as that is larger or narrower, so is equity. ‘Tis all one as if they should make the standard for the measure we call a foot, a Chancellor’s foot; what an uncertain measure would this be? One Chancellor has a long foot, another a short foot, a third an indifferent foot: ‘tis the same thing in a Chancellor’s conscience.”

I refer to that because it is the essence of the problem with the word “equity”. With the utmost respect, I believe that this Committee ought not to shirk its responsibilities in defining what is meant by this and how it applies in certain circumstances. It might be said, “Well, we are constrained by the fact that these are taken directly from the TCA”, but is that in fact a constraint—or do we hanker for the way in which these vague principles were left to the judges in Luxembourg? Do we want to give our judges that pleasure as well? I doubt it, but I am not sure that it has been fully thought through.

It therefore seems to me that we ought to look at this very carefully. There is the constitutional principle in relation to the Minister being able to give guidance on meaning; it plainly is not binding but he should not be giving such guidance because that is a matter for the courts or Parliament. Parliament should not shirk its responsibility to define what some of these things mean. We should not leave it to judges—unless, of course, there is a hankering for, as they do in Europe, leaving things to the judiciary in Luxembourg. This time, however, it would be the judiciary in Westminster, Edinburgh or possibly Belfast—but not possibly in Cardiff.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to talk after the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who manages to enlighten us all with observations that might have passed us by if we had not had the wonder of his words.

In Amendment 74 in my name, which would amend Clause 79, I treat “non-binding” as a sine qua non. The reason I put it in was to allow us to have a discussion and debate about the whole extraordinary clause on guidance. All I seek, of course, is for the Minister to agree that it is non-binding. I am sure that he will do so because all the facts speak for themselves, but there is a high head of steam building up in this Committee about the way in which guidance is being used. I will come back to the spearheading on that and how it has moved on but, basically, this Bill has what we call—Parliament also uses this phrase—“have regard to” guidance. This is a problem because it places an expectation that the guidance will be followed unless there are cogent reasons for not doing so.

Subsections (5) and (6) of Clause 79 give the game away a bit. Clause 79(5) says

“the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”

before making the guidance. What is appropriate is not specified. Clause 79(6) says:

“A public authority must have regard to guidance issued under this section.”

“Must” is very important in this respect.

Subsidy Control Bill

Lord German Excerpts
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, I oppose the question that Clause 18 stands part of the Bill. We have had an excellent debate so far on how the Bill fits with assisting disadvantaged areas. It feels quite appropriate to have these discussions on the day the levelling-up White Paper is being discussed in another place.

What runs through all these discussions on disadvantaged areas is that the UK is one of the most geographically unequal major economies. As the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, stated in Committee on Monday, that has only worsened over the last three decades. We need to throw everything at this problem, which is why noble Lords are keen to see more definition on how the Bill will help disadvantaged areas, given that subsidies provide a key part of the mechanism to enable levelling up.

Clause 18 relates to the relocation of activities and states:

“A subsidy is prohibited by this section—

I repeat, prohibited—

“if … it is given to an enterprise subject to a condition that the enterprise relocates all or part of its existing economic activities”.

Of course, we need measures to prevent gaming the system and internal competition. However, this clause appears to be rather a blunt instrument to achieve this end and goes against the flexible nature of the Bill. There are many productive relocation projects that could contribute well to levelling up, and that need not be unduly distortive of competition in so doing, but which would be made much more difficult by the presence of this clause in the legislation. We already see government departments moving out of London into the regions. Inevitably, we need the same to happen for some business investments, too, if the Government are serious about levelling up.

I do not see why the Bill would want to prevent subsidies for productive relocation projects moving into disadvantaged areas, which could be a boost in many instances to the levelling-up agenda. This has already given rise to concerns that it will adversely affect the ability of LEPs and local authorities to use grants and other forms of subsidy to relocate. The question then becomes: how do we prevent issues with internal competition if we do not want this to become a free-for-all?

The answer is that the Bill already covers these aspects. I turn to the subsidy control principles in Schedule 1, where principle F states:

“Subsidies should be designed to achieve their specific policy objective while minimising any negative effects on competition or investment within the United Kingdom”,

while principle G states:

“Subsidies’ beneficial effects … should outweigh any negative effects, including in particular negative effects on … competition or investment within the United Kingdom.”

These two principles already cover, in my mind, the issues of negative effects on competition or investment within the UK. I therefore believe there is a case that Clause 18 is not required, because if a relocation subsidy was distortive of competition, it would be caught by those two principles in Schedule 1.

In addition, I want to pick up on Amendments 27 and 28, as spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, on the meaning of area in Clause 18. For example, are moves within the same local authority permitted or not? We may need some more definition of what comprises an area in Clause 18.

I can see the intent behind Clause 18, but there are existing protections to achieve these ends in the Bill. If implemented, it could present a risk to the levelling-up agenda through a blanket prohibition on productive relocation projects. So far in Committee, the Minister has made the point that this is a framework Bill and will support levelling up through the subsidies that it will enable, but surely we do not want it to have a clause within it that could directly work against levelling up. I look forward to the Minister’s response on this and would welcome further discussions with him on this aspect of the Bill to ensure that it is coherent with the Government’s wider strategy.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I appear to have come into this argument about consistency between the noble Lord behind me and my noble friend Lord Purvis. It strikes me that, if this Government are intent on getting a coherent policy, they must have one fitting with the other.

My noble friend just talked about the figure of £780 per head. I will not argue in greater detail what I said during a previous day of debate in Committee, but I also want, in answer to a Written Question and Oral Questions, a statement from this Government that Wales will receive, pound for pound, what it received from the European fund. My target is £780. If the Minister could indicate in his reply whether the Government are still intent on reaching that target—and if so, when —that would be helpful.

It seems to me that consistency is also about the way in which the subsidy regime might work. How subsidies have been applied in the past is important. I quote by way of example the case of both sides of the Severn Bridge. One is in Wales, the other is in England. A major UK company relocated from the Welsh side to England. Having reflected on it, the Welsh Government spent a considerable amount of money preparing the site which the company had vacated and turning it into something that became a possible, and certainly large-scale, logistic hub into which a major British company relocated, again moving from one side of the Severn Bridge to the other. That was allowed, because basically what we were seeing was economic development potential and the available subsidy regime being used to the full.

However, I do not understand how this subsidy Bill will mean that companies can relocate or move, except by indices that, we are told, are now not consistent with the subsidy regime. It is therefore difficult for a member of the public or a public body trying to think how they will sort out their subsidy regimes from now on to make certain decisions about the future. Perhaps the Minister can provide us with some certainty on what relocation means, because without a map, a plan or boundaries, where does it stop? Where does it start? Does it mean that both sides of the Severn Bridge are in the same government economic plan and can be at both ends at the same time?

I want to say a few words about the SPEI schemes and ask the Minister some questions about them. In principle, such schemes are helpful and permissive because they follow on from the EU’s SGEI scheme, but there are two differences between the European scheme and the scheme proposed in this Bill. The first is that the SPEI must reflect the principles in Schedule 1, of which principle F is a new one. This amplifies the question I asked just now about whether, without access to a methodology for location, it will be possible to determine the issues raised by principle F. The second difference concerns the need for public interest objectives to be placed as an obligation for the companies concerned—that is, the companies that provided the delivery of goods and services or actually delivered them—in future.

To understand that need, how are we to measure what public good or public service obligation is? That is not yet reflected in the content of the Bill, and I wonder whether the Government will make it clearer, especially as we are probably not talking about the exempt ones but of that lower limit up to £700,000 and then further to £14.5 million. These are important features of any economic development plan for any area. The schemes currently captured by the SPEI rules include housing, rural transport services and some aspects of health. My question to the Minister is: how much broader could SPEI schemes go? The public good could span a wide regime of operations. In the light of two examples, I will ask the Minister how a scheme could be tested and whether he could treat these examples as a means of achieving an understanding of the intention behind this proposal in the Bill.

The amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, are trying to establish a level of detail that we do not yet have. It is essential to have that detail, either in the Bill or in further explanation from the Government, of what schemes could be involved and use these services. Those services could be provided under current expenditure or from capital expenditure for projects that are needed.

I want to work on leisure centres, and arts centres or concert halls. Leisure centres used to be very much a local authority activity, but they are critical to providing a social good in ensuring the good health of communities. Therefore, many local authorities have now turned to the private sector to build, and sometimes to run, these centres. Would an SPEI scheme be available for that sort of operation?

It is similar for arts centres, which are frequently multipurpose halls now. As well as concert halls, they are perhaps homes for orchestras and community centres. Not only concerts but a whole lot of activities occur in them. Having a regime that provides a subsidy means that ticket charging can be affordable across the community. In places such as London, it is possible not to have a subsidy, because the audience will clearly pay far more for their tickets than they would in other parts of the country.

Given the disparities in the regions and nations of our United Kingdom, it is important to understand how these things will work in practice. A number of these multipurpose halls may well have a resident artist, an orchestra, a teaching capability or an education facility. In fact, it would be easy to demonstrate a public good, but they will need support or a subsidy. Will an SPEI scheme apply equally to them, provided that the public good stands up? It could be said that the availability of affordable tickets for the general population is important, no matter where it comes from.

In conclusion, this section of the Bill needs further explanation, simply because it could be used to great effect by local authorities and the devolved Administrations. Unfortunately, it does not mean that they will have a subsidy to offer, certainly not in Wales, unless the Government can match the £780 a head that we had until last year.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD)
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My Lords, the Government are anxious to reduce regional inequality and to promote greater equality, but it is difficult to understand how that it is going to happen without the economy seeing some relocation. The Government’s plans today involve taking money away from the home counties and transferring it to the north of England. That puts them in a political quandary, because if they do not deliver material results in the red wall seats and they have also alienated their blue wall seats, they may find themselves losing on both fronts. That is a problem for them, but from the country’s point of view we want to see those inequalities being reduced. My question to the Government is how they think this can be achieved if any suggestion of relocation is prevented.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is dragging me into hypotheticals, but obviously the purpose of the Bill applies to the whole of the United Kingdom, so the principles would apply across the whole country, yes.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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The Minister has mentioned the question of guidance twice. Guidance is not law, of course, unless it is. It exactly what it is meant to be: guidance. Given the importance of guidance to the question of what an area is, would it be possible for this guidance to be issued, even in draft form, before we conclude this Bill, so that we can at least know what is in the Government’s mind?

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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Just to take both earlier points, if the Secretary of State defined an area as the whole of the United Kingdom, and that covers it, part of the subsidies could be used to move businesses inside the whole of that area. If that is the case, it defeats the whole purpose of it, does it not?

Subsidy Control Bill

Lord German Excerpts
I emphasised at Second Reading that I support selective, targeted and rigorously analysed public sector investments in companies, particularly those that are highly innovative, but it is essential that this is done transparently and fairly, which means that public authorities must disclose on a timely basis any equity investment made containing an implicit subsidy. The very complexity of equity investing means that, for clarity, it should be included as an example in the Bill. The choice of examples is symbolic, as well as bringing emphasis and clarity. It should reduce the likelihood of transactions being overlooked and unreported, and there would be no conceivable downside of including it as an example in the Bill rather than relying solely on the guidance note.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I want to speak to these amendments because we have reached the point in the Bill when we are looking at the architecture for the future. Clause 2 sets out very clearly the fundamentals that we need to understand. I seek to ask the Government whether the subsidy regime proposed here is more or less permissive, and whether it is more or less bureaucratic, than what we have had before.

I am grateful to the Minister for letting us have more information and some draft regulations and draft guidance, but the problem that the devolved Administrations have is summed up in the statement in paragraph 5 of Streamlined Routes: Objectives, Operation and Next Steps:

“The Devolved Administrations have also had the opportunity to share their views on Streamlined Routes to support their development.”

I am often asked to share my views and very often I am told that the Government do not agree with them. I am sure that that is very common. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether there has been any accommodation of these views when they have been shared and whether any changes have been made. It would be interesting to see that happen.

My fundamental point is whether the scheme’s architecture is more or less permissive than what we had before. The situation is very different for Wales, of course, because we received the largest amount of European money of anywhere in the United Kingdom over a sustained period. Only two things mattered in terms of the regime itself, as opposed to how it was dealt with: there were subsidies—money and cash—and there were rules on which the subsidies operated. The Government’s own words to us in the Chamber, if they are to believed, were that Wales would not suffer, pound for pound, any less in the money it received than from the European schemes. Clearly, that is not true yet.

My first question to the Minister is: when will the money be received? It clearly has not been yet. Can he repeat the commitment that, pound for pound, Wales will not suffer? We could get that side of the subsidy regime out of the way. However, I suspect that some of us might have been misled in our thinking over the promise that money would be available. I hope that the Minister, on a day when we have been told that we may have been misled about promises put to us, can set the record straight for us right now.

Leaving aside the subsidies themselves—we have heard a little bit but we do not yet know whether there will be cash on the table—we now turn to the rules for them. I had the opportunity to be deeply involved in setting up one six-year period of the European funding for Wales. The way in which it was brought about was interesting. We had to secure an operational programme with the European Union; that programme was broad but very detailed and extensive. When that happened, it gave us, for six years, the rules by which we could operate and understand how to deal with the problems in our country.

The direct comparison now is between the operational programmes, where the EU determined after extensive negotiation, and the other, streamlined schemes, several of which we have in front of us. That comparison includes how these might work and which is more permissive. The former was for six years. It was very broad. You knew where you were. The latter is a tighter constraint around a specific topic. One of the obvious criticisms from the documentation we have received is that there is going to be a whole lot of narrow, siloed regimes. It will be extremely difficult for public authorities and anybody else to find their way not only through those regimes but to the interconnecting places.

An obvious example of that concerns the general conditions in the innovation scheme. I do not think anybody would disagree that a UK subsidy regime should not compensate for costs that the beneficiary would have funded in the absence of any subsidy—that is a fundamental. So why is it in this document? It may also be slightly different in another one; we do not know because we do not have the extent of it before us. Essentially, what we needed was an overarching set of rules that were clear enough to be in the Bill or, alternatively, in any regulation that we see in advance. Perhaps the Minister could tell us, in saying what a regime should look like, where we can get the specifics of these overarching things and the subsidy regimes that will take place.

The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, would return the decision-making clearly to the Welsh Government; it is quite clear that, under these powers, they will lose that. One of the suggestions that has been made—it will come up later in our debate, of course—is that we should have an agreed framework of activity within which there would be an ability to do things in a much more free-flowing way. It is absolutely essential that authorities intervene in areas of deprivation. If you do not do that, you certainly do not use the words that begin with an L and a U, which the Government are so keen on. We certainly cannot bring lifestyles to a better place if we do not target where public money should go.

Overlaid with the broad set of rules that I have just talked about, including on such things as displacement and the fact that people cannot be compensated where they would have done it for themselves, we need to understand whether these rules will provide a level playing field. The understanding I get from my reading of them is that we will continue to have an uneven playing field and one on which politics will play a far bigger role than the clear set of understandings that there were in the past between, for example, the Welsh Government and the European Commission, about what one could do. Can the Minister explain why this scheme is an improvement and why it is proportionate between the Governments of this country? The suspicion is that one Government are using their powers to disadvantage another.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak even more briefly than did the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, in expressing a modicum of support for him. It is up to the Minister to explain why equity is not included rather than for the noble Viscount to prove the case for including equity; it seems a bit of an omission. We read today about the failure of the British Business Bank to do well on some of its investments. We have also had the publicity about the Covid loans that have not been recovered. Why do I mention the British Business Bank? Because we have seen a whole series of equity injections by this Government that have not always had an overall rationale.

The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, referred to the spread of returns from equity investment and how different investors would take a different view of the future, but the reason often advanced by government for direct investment is what is termed “market failure”, and I see that the phrase “market failure” is referred to in the Bill. Unfortunately, market failure is a convenient get-out for Governments wishing to subsidise a particular entity. The very fact that Governments provide direct investment, which I know the noble Viscount favours in a way that I would not, often disguises the fact that there is a subsidy. They say that it is because of market failure and they want it to be on market terms, but, too often, it turns out just to be an implicit subsidy. I agree with the noble Viscount that equity, particularly from a public sector grant-making organisation, can often conceal a degree of subsidy. I hope that careful consideration will be given to the point that he has rightly raised.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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My Lords, I am grateful to everybody who has participated in this short debate. I am not sure whether the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, is happy with the response he got, but no doubt there will be opportunities to pursue that further. I also noted the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lamont. There is clearly an issue here that needs some further consideration.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord German, for his contribution. He was Minister for Economic Development in the Welsh Government. Was it 20 years ago?

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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It was a long time ago but clearly the noble Lord learned many lessons, not least the one he repeated: to stress that we in Wales received considerable benefit from the European Union and that there is a need for a guarantee that, pound for pound, we will not miss out from the changes taking place. That is a bit on a tangent from the issues we are debating; none the less, it is a well-made point and needs to be well received. Hopefully that will be the case. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord German, on his point about the Government spelling out in greater detail the rules coming through that will provide a level playing field. Those are very much needed.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his interesting contribution, as always. He asked what a subsidy is. That really goes to the heart of the Bill, does it not? It is clear from the detailed response we had from the Minister that it will require quite a lot of exercising.

The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, again emphasised the need for greater clarity and transparency. That is what is coming out of this. I thought that the Minister’s responses recognised in many ways that the issues exist, but she believes that they are already covered in the Bill. We are going to need to press those aspects further as we go through the Bill. It is essential that the Bill is understood not only by those of us who work in the world of politics but, even more so, by those at the sharp end of business and industry who have to live with the consequences of it. They need transparency, and they need to be sure that they are not being enticed down a road where there may not be any hope of a satisfactory outcome. As the Bill progresses and we probe more aspects of it, I hope that that light will start shining through and that, if necessary, there will be appropriate briefings outside Committee on any further thinking or clarity that the Government can give to these issues.

I believe that the matters raised in my two amendments are relevant. The Minister confirmed that, to all intents and purposes, what is covered in Amendment 3 is covered by the Bill. That is fine; I said that I might be knocking on an open door. I am grateful for that, but I have no doubt that we will need to return to some aspects of the more general debate we have had. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Newport Wafer Fab

Lord German Excerpts
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not have that information to hand. It would depend on what firms the noble Lord refers to and what form of suppliers they were. There are many hundreds of companies that serve some of these large manufacturing plants. As I said in response to an earlier question, we understand the importance of semiconductor manufacturers. We support this by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and we support the commercialisation of projects under the Compound Catapult, and we will continue to do so.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, the suspicion locally is that the security part of the review is over, and the hunt is on to buy up shares for Nexperia to create a Chinese-UK company. Given the importance of this to electric vehicle manufacturing, of which there is a massive need at present, and to jobs to be created locally, does the Minister agree that this should be the Government’s prime initiative, and that we need a speedy solution so that investment can take place?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I know the concerns locally about the investment. I have spoken to Newport’s MP about this, and she expressed her views on the takeover. As I have said, we have taken all those factors into consideration, particularly that of national security, which the National Security Adviser is currently considering this takeover on, and we will reach a decision on that shortly.

Offshore Gas Rigs

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Thursday 11th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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There are significant practical and operational difficulties, which the noble Lord alludes to. However, I am happy to tell him that flaring intensity decreased by 22% in 2020 from 2019 levels, as production facilities cut the overall volume to 33 billion cubic feet.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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Despite what the noble Lord just said, the portion of flaring due to what I would loosely call economic reasons has been rising over the last three years—that portion is economic. Given that Norway has now found ways of reinjecting this waste back in, and that there are other solutions as well, what are the Government fearful of in trying to tackle this rising problem?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The data that I have just quoted shows that it actually fell last year. However, the noble Lord makes a good point; we should try to reuse these gases as much as possible. A number of companies are working on solutions, such as generating electricity on platforms et cetera. However, there are significant practical difficulties.

Construction Industry: Retention Payments

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Thursday 14th January 2021

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I join with the noble Lord in paying tribute to the work of the late Lord O’Neill: as the president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group, he was active on this issue for many years and instigated an inquiry on it in 2002. As I have said, given the complexity of the policy issues, there remains no consensus on the way forward, but we will continue to examine the issues, to work with industry and to seek a solution to this problem.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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The last two paragraphs of the Government’s responses paper lay out only two policy options: the retention deposit scheme or phasing out retentions completely. May I follow the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in pressing the Minister? He already has the responses and knows the two options before him. Can he tell us when the legislation will come forward to make this happen? It is much needed and will avoid late payments, non-payments and insolvencies.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Those are two of the alternatives that have been suggested as a policy response. Changes in this area would require primary legislation, and there is always pressure on the Government’s legislative timetable. We think that working with the industry to seek a consensus is a good way forward, but there is not yet a consensus: some notable companies are against a deposit retention scheme or the other policy option the noble Lord mentioned.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

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Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for putting forward so much detail behind this amendment, which clearly lays out the course of action that could be dealt with and also talks about the way the Government propose to take these matters forward. I think that my job is to amplify some of his points and perhaps to extend them as well. I refer to the offer from the Welsh Government, which I presume has also been made by the Scottish Government at the same time: that was the indication I received last night, and perhaps the Minister could confirm that this letter from Scotland has been received as well.

This clause proposes a major recentralisation of power. It is a far cry, for those of us who live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, from the cry of bringing back our laws, because state aid is currently not a reserved power, despite the Government’s protestation that it is and always has been. Annexe 1 of the Explanatory Notes for the Bill clearly lays out that it is not a reserved matter, but the Bill, of course, makes it say so. I reiterate at the start that we on these Benches want to see a single state aid regime for the whole United Kingdom, but that regime has to be to a design on which all four parts of the United Kingdom have collaborated. If they are not prepared to do this, as this clause lays out, they will not get a legislative consent Motion from either of the devolved Parliaments or from the Northern Ireland Assembly. In fact, in his letter to the Secretary of State for BEIS yesterday, the Counsel General for Wales said:

“Even if we resolve all the other issues, this alone”—

that is, this clause—

“would make it impossible for me to recommend legislative consent to the Bill as it now stands.”

That is crucial, because it says something about the relationship that this clause makes between the four nations of this United Kingdom. It is not a way to respect our devolution settlement and, importantly, not a way to respect the union we have within the United Kingdom.

EU state aid policy is established through the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and directly applicable regulations following on from that treaty. That was in place of having directives that would have required us to transpose these matters into UK law. In response to the House of Lords report on state aid, the Government said:

“We note that in practice the existing EU rules have always been sufficiently flexible to allow the UK to make innovative aid interventions when necessary.”

So the Government do not believe that there has been a problem in the way that this operated with the EU, and now they are intent on eating their own words, bringing back the rules, converting them into a straitjacket regime and not providing the flexibility that the countries in our union previously enjoyed. They also add that it would be “harmful” if this were dealt with in any other way.

A more co-operative and consensual approach is needed. The clause we are seeking to remove assumes that divergence will happen, and decrees that there shall be no divergence. Blunting and reducing the power of the devolved authorities is deemed to be a price worth paying so that the UK Government alone can determine the route they wish to follow in directing the new regime. Yet we do not know what this regime will look like. There is no sign of the detail or the choices the Government propose to take.

What this clause does, no matter what consultation the Government may eventually engage in, is drive their own agenda—an agenda that primarily has to support England. That, by the way, is no way to provide business with the certainty it is seeking. In fact, the lack of clarity at this stage prolongs the uncertainty; but it need not be like this.

We need to make progress on a UK framework for subsidy control. Again, this is another framework agreement which needs to be put in place. At the moment, without such a framework, it could easily be said that the Government are making it up as they go along. What is needed is a dialogue, not the “take it or leave it” policy that this clause entails—a policy which may well end up in the courts and will certainly amplify the feeling that the union of the United Kingdom is not respected.

Yesterday’s letter from the Welsh Government’s Counsel General, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, referred to, provides the UK Government with a route to a sensible solution. It recognises the ability in the EU to have variance in subsidies where there is an identified need. I must point out to noble Lords that many of us will remember that this was the case before we became members of the EU. I remember the arguments and debates on UK regional aid and regional assistance, and dividing the areas of the country up where aid could be given in greater amounts. That historical message was that there would be differences and distortions; of course, subsidies provide distortions, but they were provided for very good reasons. They were proposing to make a difference where the needs were greatest—where poverty and economic need were greatest—and so it was provided it in that way.

I can say, as somebody who had to operate within that framework as an economic development Minister, having to talk about these matters with Brussels simply to identify the boundaries, the flexibility, as the UK Government themselves say, was great indeed to manage that work. I believe we are seeing this clause put the cart before the horse—devising the policy before putting the legislation in place is what we are looking for, and that is what this amendment does.

All the devolved Governments have made it clear that they are prepared to work at pace with the UK Government to design a new subsidy regime. I would be grateful if the Minister in replying could tell us how the Government will respond to the offer from the devolved Governments. I also note that there must be unease on the Government’s side about this clause, since I have noticed that no other speaker, apart from the Minister, has come forward to support it.

Removing this clause from the Bill provides the opportunity for dialogue and the drawing up of a new subsidy regime for the UK. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said, we already have a replacement in place temporarily until that is put back and the regime determined. I do hope that the Government will accept the offer from the devolved Governments as the right way forward and, as a gesture of good will, I would be grateful if they would therefore consider withdrawing this clause, supporting this amendment and, in so doing, strengthening the relationships between the various parts of our union.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I speak in support of this amendment, elegantly explained by my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord German, who amplified his points.

Yesterday, as already referred to, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General wrote to the Secretary of State at BEIS about Clause 44. That letter demonstrates clearly that the Welsh Government are seriously committed to trying to save the union of the United Kingdom and recognise the need to secure the internal market. Their offer to work intensively with the Government is clear and unequivocal.

The Welsh Government have consistently put forward imaginative and thoughtful proposals about how to move the constitutional debate forward. Indeed, in Brexit and Devolution in June 2017, the Welsh Government championed the idea of common frameworks, subsequently taken up by Whitehall. If I may quote, they said:

“From the outset of the debate about our collective future outside the EU, the Welsh Government has recognised a need to develop UK frameworks. It is clearly important that no new barriers to the effective free movement of goods and services within the UK are created as a result of EU withdrawal. The development of UK frameworks should be taken forward immediately on the basis of negotiation and agreement among the four UK administrations.”

This paper suggests a qualified majority voting system within a reformed intergovernmental system, where a decision endorsed by the UK Government plus one of the devolved Governments would be sufficient to break any logjam, thus addressing head on the issue of one nation wielding a veto. Last year, the Welsh Government’s comprehensive analysis in Reforming our Union championed shared governance, describing taking responsibility for codesigning legislation and policy where devolved and reserved competences intersect. It asserted that

“devolution is concerned with how the UK as a whole should be governed, with proper account taken of the interests of all of its parts. It is a joint project between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, based on a recognition of our mutual inter-dependence, which therefore requires a degree of shared governance.”

It foregrounded common frameworks, seeking a common approach, shared delivery systems and joint governance arrangements that should be developed on a collaborative and consensual basis. So, the intervention from the Counsel General is not an opportunistic response to this Bill but the continuation of a patient, crystal clear commitment to common frameworks at the heart of intergovernmental relations.

Over these three days of debates, Members across the House have recognised the importance of these frameworks. The Welsh Government and, I believe, the Scottish Government are not arguing to be left alone to design and implement their own rulebooks for government subsidies. They would be mad to do so. In a free-for-all between Governments of these islands to attract and hold on to investment, the UK Government would be bound to win, because they have much more significant financial resources and can set their own budget. Rather than arguing to have an equal role in designing a fair system all can work within, they are committing to do this on a timetable compatible with the one the Government have set themselves and to take no legislative action in this space until at least autumn 2021.

This is surely beyond reasonable doubt. If the efforts to reach agreement fail, the Government will have to introduce primary legislation to define the new subsidy regime, subject to the same constraints there are now, in order to achieve a coherent regime. We have repeatedly been told that this Bill does not diminish the powers of the devolved institutions, yet all we see and hear defies that. This clause explicitly and openly alters the devolution settlement by adding to the list of reserved matters in the Government of Wales Act and the other devolution statutes. I therefore urge your Lordships to support its removal from the Bill.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

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Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 23rd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment 50 in my name, which is also signed by the noble Lord, Lord German, to whom I am grateful for his support. Also in this group is Amendment 51, tabled by the Government, for which I thank the Minister. It is clear that the Government were listening during the debate in Committee, and I note that in the letter that the noble Lord circulated this afternoon to interested Peers he acknowledges the representations made by stakeholders on this issue. I can only express my appreciation that we have seen movement from the Government on this. This is also a demonstration of the usefulness of having a House of review.

I wish to thank the General Teaching Council for Scotland, as I did in Committee, for assisting me in the analysis particularly of the differences between the government amendment and those I had tabled. I also note and thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, with whom I consulted about this matter, as a former chair of the education committee and a member of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. He empowered me to say that he supports the push to see that the full powers of the General Teaching Council for Scotland are retained. I wish, however, at the moment to retain the possibility of taking Amendments 37 and 50 to a vote, depending on the answers to two questions that I wish to put to the Minister, of which I have given him prior notice.

The first, and perhaps the most crucial one of all, is about the word “school” in the Government’s amendment. I remind noble Lords that government Amendment 51A says that the mutual recognition provisions do not apply to “school teaching”. Could the Government confirm that they intend that this will be interpreted in a broad sense, so that it encapsulates any educational institution in which teaching is delivered? The original amendments, Amendments 37 and 50, refer to the “teaching profession”, which obviously has a potentially broader scope.

I note also that the Minister’s letter circulated to Peers says that the Government have tabled an amendment to remove the teaching profession from the recognition provisions. Clearly, “the teaching profession” and “school teaching” are not necessarily the same thing, and I think it is crucial that we make this very clear. I am not a lawyer, but I doubt that a letter from the Minister to Members of your Lordships’ House has a huge amount of legal standing. I think we need to get on the record precisely what the government amendment means.

The second question is perhaps more technical, and that is a remaining question about the application of the mutual recognition principle and the scope of the exclusions in Schedule 2 Part 1. I seek confirmation from the Minister that the above exemption would not be restricted by the provision in Schedule 2 covering:

“Services provided by a person exercising functions of a public nature or by a person acting on behalf of such a person in connection with the exercise of functions of a public nature”.

Teaching in local authority schools, which would constitute a service provided by a person exercising a public function, would appear to be covered by that. But, obviously, education and teaching extend far beyond that. In particular, what about teaching in independent schools? Teaching is not solely carried out in a public service context, which casts doubt on how the exclusion applies in the context of teaching services as a whole.

Given that the General Teaching Council for Scotland register is not employment based and that the GTCS has no role whatsoever in where a registered teacher ultimately becomes employed—indeed, this often changes over the course of registration—it is important to know that the Government’s intention, and the effect of the law, is to cover all of these elements.

I have focused here particularly on the Scottish case, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord German, will address Welsh issues in particular, but I hope that the Government have also taken full account of the particular situation of Northern Ireland and the teaching profession there.

Finally, I would like to ask a somewhat broader question of the Minister. In Committee, I noted that it would appear that there are also issues potentially with other professions, particularly social work—but there may well be others. I ask the Minister to confirm that the Government have fully consulted with all the professions which may have different arrangements—sometimes long-term, continuing arrangements—in the devolved nations regarding registration or qualification requirements. If the Minister is not able to answer now, perhaps he could write to me about that question.

I note the comments made in the last group by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. We are, at this stage of the Bill, still left with very considerable uncertainties and concerns and a real lack of clarity, which has to be a worry given the importance of the Bill and these issues and the pressing nature of the deadline approaching us. I beg to move.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to support Amendments 37 and 50 and slightly to push the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, just mentioned, that the words “teaching profession” appear in a letter which was circulated to colleagues in the House of Lords today but the words “school teaching” are used in the amendment. People who teach in further education colleges are called teachers or lecturers, but teaching is what they do. In fact, sometimes they are called teachers in universities as well. That clarification is needed, but at the moment we clearly have two separate terms. I recognise that the Government have moved in this direction and are thinking about this issue following representations made to them, and I welcome that.

However, there is a problem with the words “school teaching” only. I consulted the Education Workforce Council, which has responsibility for the registration of teachers in Wales. It registers petitioners in seven workforce categories across four settings: schools, further education, work-based learning, and youth work. While there are no minimum qualifications for further education staff in Wales as part of EWC registration at present, that might change. In England, there is no registration system for further education staff or any minimum qualifications. It might therefore be that this is not future-proofed in this legislation, where further education might well become a regulated profession as in other forms of education.

The other issue that comes out of this is the four settings that the Welsh council regulates. I would like to ask the Minister about youth work. If you are a registered professional working in youth and it is requirement for you to be registered if you are to be in this area, is that included in the government amendment which refers to “school teaching”? The definition of “teaching” and “school” is quite wide.

I would like the Minister to have a look at the common framework in this area because there is already a mutual recognition of professional qualifications common framework. I would be grateful if she could update the House on how that common framework is progressing. If it is progressing and it is part of the common framework procedure on which we have already passed an amendment, clearly it will make a substantial change to this section of the Bill as well. The principle of automatic recognition imposed under the Bill may well prevent Welsh Ministers, for example, regulating in future on professionals qualified elsewhere in the UK who have lower qualifications or standards than those which would be required in Wales.

Finally, I turn to an issue which has come out of this discussion. Social care is also an area where there are professions. Social care regulation in Wales is also undertaken by a separate regulator. It is one of its primary functions. Under the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, from 2022 a range of social care professions will be mandated by the Welsh Government. In other words, you will not be able to operate as, for example, an adoption service manager, a fostering service manager, a residential family centre manager or an adult care home worker unless you have had your registration approved by Social Care Wales.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

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Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, and to echo many of the points he has just made, caution being one of them and care for the union another. I want to illustrate some of his points in what I have to say. I must declare my interest: I am Welsh and I live in a recipient area of huge amounts of European funding.

This part of the Bill is definitely a bolt-on: it has nothing to do with the operation of the internal market or with the four countries being able to trade freely together. This is about the replacement money for the EU funds—how it will be spent and by whom. Fortunately, I asked a question of the Minister in this very Chamber a few months ago about the European money that came to Wales. I was given a guarantee, which I am hopeful the Minister will repeat today, that the people of Wales will get, pound for pound, what the European funds gave them. That was the guarantee given in this Chamber by the Minister. If he wants to check, I can refer him to the relevant Hansard. The point I am making is this. It was not a question of the receipt of the money: I am pleased to bank the £2.2 billion that the European funds have given to the people of Mid and West Wales—that is two million people—over the last six years, but I am worried about how that money will be spent and what effects it will have. Effectively, this part of the Bill puts the cart before the horse. We have to agree a whole set of rules which cross devolved boundaries in ways we can only guess at, and nowhere are we given clear answers to fundamental questions about upholding and respecting the devolution settlements in the UK.

The implication in this part of the Bill is that it will have no impact on the functioning of the Barnett formula or on additionality, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop. However, that is only an implication. Will the Minister give us today the answer to that fundamental question: will it have no impact on the normal functioning of the Barnett formula?

There has been no problem thus far with the UK Government seeking to spend money in Wales, in collaboration with the Welsh Government. Long may it continue, and I will encourage the Government. However, the key word is collaboration. Now, we are being asked to approve a law so broadly drawn that it will have a coach-and-horses effect on the powers of devolved Governments. I have to say to the Government that if it is not done collaboratively, spend does not necessarily mean approval. Approval will not automatically be given when the legal framework is in the hands of the devolved Governments. Factors such as planning approval, environmental impact assessments and curriculum development legislation all have a bearing here.

The Explanatory Memorandum implies that the UK Government will determine what moneys are available and how they are spent. The Welsh Government have had major control over the design and implementation of EU structural funds spent in Wales. For a few years, I had that responsibility in the Welsh Government. It is different, of course, for the smaller cross-EU programmes such as Erasmus and Lifelong Learning, which includes Comenius for school exchanges. These programmes were centrally designed but nevertheless locally administered.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord German Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 28th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 View all United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-III Third Marshalled list for Committee - (28 Oct 2020)
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 21 to which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has spoken. It seems to me that the clarification that the amendment is seeking is to understand whether, where a statutory regulation, rule or law is passed in a devolved Administration, that would exist until such time as the UK Government decided something different. Whether or not that is the intention of the Government, I do not understand.

The difficulty that I face in trying to work out the logical progression and the sequencing of what is happening in this Bill is correlated with the issue that we had on the common frameworks. It seems to me that the Government are moving down a dual carriageway in which one road is the internal market Bill and the other is the common frameworks progression, and between them is a brick wall. I do not understand how you can cross over between one and the other. That is the understanding that I got from the discussion we had in the earlier days in Committee.

The problem is that by the end of this year—I will use this as an example, which I would like the Minister to respond to at the end, if he would—the framework on emissions trading, which is a legislative framework, will be completed. I understand that it is with Ministers for final sign-off, but it has been agreed. If that emissions trading legislative framework is agreed, presumably there will then be legislation. I would like to understand where that legislation fits within the context of this Bill. Clearly, that has been reached by agreement—it has been agreed by all parts, including the United Kingdom Government, that there will be a legislative approach to this particular area of work. Then, of course, there will be a piece of legislation that sits either within this Bill or without it. I would like to know where that legislation will occur: will it be stand-alone legislation or will it be an amendment to the Bill we are discussing today?

There are two other frameworks—one on nutrition and one on hazardous substances—that are also virtually complete. They are non-legislative, and I understand that they will be agreed by Christmas. Take those three areas: on one side we have a legislative proposal and on the other we have a non-legislative proposal that the Government have agreed will be a non-legislative proposal and will therefore not require other legislation. And it will not require this legislation, because that is what the Government have agreed. Perhaps the Government could explain how the two are interconnected.

I understand that the reason for turning down a frameworks-only approach is because there are gaps, but we are yet to find out what the Government have established is a gap. We have asked for a current example that we can use, and I hope that, over the past few days, the Minister has found a current example that he can give us.

It seems to me that the fundamental principle that Amendment 21 is trying to establish absolutely is that, where there has been a legislative agreement or legislation that has been passed by either Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, when the Government introduce new legislation or regulations on the back of this legislation, such legislation will look only at the future and not the past and will have no retrospective effect.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I would like to remind the Committee of two things about this Bill. First, the Bill is to facilitate trade between all parts of the United Kingdom, not make it harder. Secondly, businesses favour barrier-free trade. That was the very clear message that came from the consultation on the White Paper during the summer. We should be trying to minimise the possibility of barriers being put up to trade within the United Kingdom.

If we allow exclusions of goods from mutual recognition, that will inevitably lead to higher costs. This is analysed in quite considerable detail in the internal market White Paper. Costs generally end up being borne by consumers. Excluding goods can also result in businesses deciding to withdraw from certain markets, which can in turn restrict consumer choice. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, is keen on consumer protection; she reminded us of that on the first day of Committee. Restricting trade tends to operate against consumer interests, so we should be very careful in trying to put amendments to the Bill that make trade more difficult. I also remind noble Lords that restricting trade is more likely to hit the devolved Administrations’ economies because of their greater dependence on exporting to the rest of the United Kingdom.

I want to comment on a couple of the amendments in this group, Amendments 7 and 8. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, said that Amendment 7 was a probing amendment, but by seeking to exclude imports into any part of the United Kingdom we are reducing the internal market rules to a very parochial interpretation. It seems to ignore the plain fact of commercial life, which is that there are complex supply chains and complex distribution logistics. It is of course the way we have been living in the EU; at the moment, we are quite accustomed to importing in one place and those imports being accepted throughout the rest of the community.

It also seems to me that the noble Baroness’s amendment would, in effect, impact exports between different parts of the United Kingdom. For example, if something was exported to Wales and imported to England, it would stop it then being imported into Scotland with the protection of the internal market Bill. That does not seem to make any kind of sense. It is pretty clear from the impact assessment that Wales and Scotland in particular are reliant on intermediate goods coming from other parts of the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, spoke to Amendment 8. I did not follow what he said about pig semen because I do not think that, by any definition, pig semen is an animal feedstuff. I did have a chance to check the definition of “animal feedstuff” while he was speaking, and it is not. Perhaps we can put that to one side. We have to understand that if we try to exclude food and animal feedstuffs from the UK internal market mutual recognition rules, this will again potentially impact the devolved Administrations the most, given their import and export profiles. For example, if you look at Wales’s agri-food chain, you will see that 48% of agricultural inputs to Welsh food manufacturers come from the rest of the UK and 31% of food and drink sold in Wales comes from the rest of the UK. We should be thinking really hard about who we are likely to hurt when we put amendments such as this in the Bill, which restrict barrier-free trade.

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Moved by
15: Clause 3, page 3, line 30, leave out “consult” and insert “obtain the consent of”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of the devolved administrations before making regulations amending Clause 3(3), which specifies the types of statutory requirement that are within the scope of the mutual recognition principle.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is detained in another part of your Lordships’ House. I will move Amendment 15 and speak to Amendments 30 and 64 in this group, which attempt to place one limitation on the extraordinary and extensive Henry VIII powers that we were talking about in the last group: namely, they require the consent of the devolved Administrations to using those powers. Amendments 15 and 30 would impose this requirement in relation to Ministers’ power to remove or, more worryingly, add to the statutory requirements that are

“within the scope of the mutual recognition principle”

and “the non-discrimination principle”, respectively. Amendment 64 would require devolved consent for any guidance issued in respect of Part 1.

I must say that I am very attracted to the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Fox, which would simply strike out the Henry VIII powers in Clauses 3 and 6. As your Lordships will know, these have been strongly condemned by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee—a matter to which I will return later.

Without amendments such as these, it would be possible for the Government to strip back still further the very limited exemptions that these clauses provide for, which are far more limited than is currently the case with EU law, where the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality apply alongside far broader public policy exemptions. I remind your Lordships and the Government that they are working on the basis of principles that they repeated last month and established in October 2017—that they would move forward under

“established conventions and practices, including that the competence of the devolved institutions will not normally be adjusted without their consent”.

Those words, “without their consent”, represent a principle to which the Government have signed up. That is why the amendments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady McIntosh, seek to engage with the devolved Administrations but do not require the Government to achieve their consent.

Obviously, either amendment would be preferable to the current problem, but the issue is that it would be easy for the Government to demonstrate that they had sought the consent of the devolved Administrations on a wholly unreasonable proposal, and the fact that it had not been forthcoming would have no relevance at all. Therefore, the Government could report that they had consulted the devolved Administrations and tick the box required without even attempting to address their concerns.

I return to the issue of secondary legislation; that is the source of these amendments because the powers are so sweeping and there is no restriction on, or knowledge of, what they will deal with. As noble Lords may be aware, three committees of your Lordships’ House have expressed concern about these matters. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Constitution Committee all wrote to the Lord President of the Council, the Leader of the House of Commons, who has government responsibility for the way in which delegated powers are used.

In Jacob Rees-Mogg’s reply of 19 October, he said:

“I agree that Bills with substantial powers, though sometimes essential, should not be a tool to cover imperfect policy development. As a Government, we must have a clear direction and be able to explain to both Parliament and our constituents how we are fulfilling the promises of our manifesto. I can see that extensive use of delegated powers can hinder rather than help us in that. Therefore, I am happy to consider issuing communications to Secretaries of State on this matter, encouraging them to minimise the use of delegated powers where possible”.

I ask the Minister: has the Lord President of the Council, the Leader of the House of Commons, consulted him on the matters that he is putting before us today? If so, will he heed that warning from Jacob Rees-Mogg?

The other matter that concerns me, which my noble friend Lord Purvis talked about, is the extent to which the powers can be used in a variety of ways. I reflect on the environmental aspects, which the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, just talked about, in relation to the recycling of materials, which is one of the issues on which the Government may wish to introduce regulations. The reason for that might well be that they have a concern about the environment, such as the nature of plastic film or single-use plastics; they might want to introduce those requirements.

However, it could go the other way and make the problem worse. For example, you might stop a devolved authority banning the use of plastic spoons or using plastic film on fresh food. The Government have admitted that they want to carry through all those health and environmental considerations by saying that they are looking at the recycling of materials as something that it might touch in the future.

Therefore, it seems to me that we have grave concerns about the way changes in these areas will be implemented. If we follow the advice of Jacob Rees-Mogg, then, certainly, we would not seek these powers in this Bill at this time because they do not include the policy intent that is to be provided. In these amendments, we can ensure that the consent of the devolved Administrations is given and that we can address and seek their approval, but it would be far better if we did not have these delegated powers at all.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord German, just said, it would be far better if we did not have these provisions in the Bill at all, but one must assume that they may remain. That is why these amendments, particularly Amendments 15 and 30, to which I have added my name, address the provision which talks about consultation but does not mention the word “consent”.

I have two requests for the Minister; I will not elaborate further on what the noble Lord, Lord German, said in his very helpful introduction to this group. First, would he be good enough to repeat, in the context to which these amendments refer, the assurance he has already given that the Sewel convention principles will be applied without any hesitation in regard to consultation?

Secondly, will the Minister consider whether it would not be wise, in view of the importance of the clauses in which these provisions appear, to adopt the system used, he will recall, in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 when considering the system of seeking the consent of the devolved Administrations—Assemblies, Senates and Parliaments—to the modification of EU law? He may recall that Ministers were given power to restrict the powers of the devolved Administrations to modify EU law in certain respects by delegated legislation. Provided for in Part 1 of Schedule 3 was a system whereby the Parliaments, Senate and Assembly were given an opportunity to provide consent. The wording in the Scotland provision was:

“A Minister of the Crown must not lay for approval before each House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom a draft of a statutory instrument containing”

the relevant

“regulations … unless … the Scottish Parliament has made a consent decision in relation to the laying of the draft, or … the 40 day period has ended without the Parliament having made such a decision.”

If it came to the point of there being no consent, when the Minister of the Crown laid this draft, as mentioned, before either House, he would be required to explain his decision to lay it without the consent of the Parliament.

That system was arrived at after a great deal of discussion in the 2018 Act; it is quite a useful one that might well be thought appropriate in this case to reduce the element of dismay which the devolved Administrations are feeling about how they are being treated by these provisions—all that has been provided for is consultation. They would at least have an opportunity in their legislatures to consider whether consent should be given. Of course, if they fail to give it within 40 days, ultimately the Minister can go ahead, provided he explains why he is doing so. There is no amendment to this effect, but this is an opportunity for the noble Lord to consider whether it would not be wise to soften the blow that has been felt by the devolved Administrations by adopting that system, which was so carefully worked out and eventually accepted in the 2018 Act.

Beyond that, I support everything the noble Lord, Lord German, has said in support of the amendments to which he has spoken.

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In reiterating the Government’s intent to engage in the most positive manner with the devolved Administrations going forward—as well as their sense of duty to maintain the smoothly operating status quo in our internal market—I hope that I have addressed the concerns expressed through these amendments. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment 15.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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This has been a very thoughtful debate. I think that it has got to the heart of the problem, which is how the UK Government regard the whole devolution settlement and the way that the United Kingdom currently operates.

I think the mood of the Committee is that we want to get a sense of moving together to sustain and develop our union. In that sense, we require consent, because consent is what eventually drives these matters forward. I pray in aid of the view of the CBI. It is often said in this Chamber, “Business needs to have this. Business needs to have that”. The CBI has said that it wants a collaborative approach, rather like the frameworks that are being used. That is the style that we need to ensure the Government provide.

We have had some very powerful commentary about the way our union should work. If you want to work together for consent, you need, as many noble Lords have said, a method for dealing with any disputes that may come at the end. There have been many suggestions, including from the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Mackay of Clashfern. They talked about how to resolve these matters to move forward together. My sense is that, at the moment, the Government have not got the mood right. They have not felt that there is a need to move together in a way that people feel is the right way forward for the whole of our country.

In passing, one of the effects of what we have been discussing in this group of amendments is of course that it will lead to the end of EVEL in the House of Commons. Basically, everything will have a commentary on everywhere, and therefore it will not be possible to ban Scottish MPs from debating and voting on particular issues. So it will need a change of the way in which Parliament operates as well. But clearly what this whole debate has been about is the collaborative approach and the way in which we can work together in the thoughtful way that people have talked about. What the Minister needs to consider is how you can rectify the deficiencies of that mood inside the Bill.

The right honourable Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the regulations that you produce should clearly express the policy intent. I do not think the policy intent is closely laid out in what these regulations are going to be there for, whereas the collaborative approach would be to say very clearly, “Let’s work together as we go through to the future, and we’ll have some mechanism by which we can resolve disputes between us”. Because I think we are all looking for—and accept that we have to have—a fully functioning internal market. We have to have a sense of divergence, which we already have within our United Kingdom, where already we have a functioning internal market. But we also have to know that there are systems in place in this place and in the Government that will make it all happen.

I thank all noble Lords for their very thoughtful contributions and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 15 withdrawn.
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, as noble Lords who have attended this Committee to date know, my role is occasionally to get up and give a minority perspective on the amendments before us. There are 20 amendments in this group and, one way or another, each of them would allow barriers to trade to be erected by one or more of the devolved nations. The effect of the amendments is to restrict the amount of trade to which the market access principles will apply and thereby reduce the extent to which barrier-free trade can take place throughout the UK’s internal market. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that that is not an argument against devolution; it is an argument for trade and economic success, which I hope that we all want to achieve for the United Kingdom.

I will not repeat all of what I said on the earlier group, but the more that laws relating to trade in goods and services diverge between the component parts of the UK, the more likely it is that costs will rise and choice will diminish for consumers. Barriers to trade are also likely to result in lower GDP, as the impact assessment analysed, and we need all the GDP that we can get at the moment, given the impact of lockdown and similar anti-Covid measures. I am sure all those noble Lords who support and voted for devolution did not vote to become poorer through devolution.

The amendments give very considerable cover to the devolved Administrations to erect trade barriers under the guise of higher standards but, actually, on grounds of protectionism. At the very least, I predict that there will be massive scope for lawyers to argue for a very long period and to mount legal challenges. That may well be good for the fees of the legal profession—and for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton—but the important thing I want to stress is that it will result in uncertainty for business. If there is one thing that is bad for business, it is an uncertain business trading environment.

Therefore, while I understand the desire for higher standards—and many noble Lords have spoken to this in respect of the particular varieties of relaxation that they are seeking in the Bill—at the end of the day, they can result in trade barriers. We really should be very careful not to wreck the UK’s internal market before it has even started.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I shall address Amendment 54 in my name. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said in moving her amendment, it harks back to debates we have had on the mysterious absence of common frameworks from the Bill. As your Lordships will know, common frameworks are a way of doing business that is supported by the CBI. The amendment would insert a new schedule into the Bill. It may look arcane, or like an obscure pub quiz question, so perhaps noble Lords would like to answer the question: what unites ozone-depleting substances and Caerphilly cheese? The answer is that the list in the schedule is the list of subjects where all four Governments in this country have agreed that legislative common frameworks are necessary. However, this is not intended as an exhaustive list. It would be possible to add to this by secondary legislation if new areas emerge that require a common framework.

I concede that it would not have been necessary to have such a schedule if the dual carriageway with the brick wall in between the two approaches that the Government are taking—this Bill and the common frameworks—were guaranteed to coincide and meet. Both approaches are progressing and have the enthusiasm of the Government behind them. This amendment would be a way of ensuring that those approaches coincided and met. The amendment would help, since it identifies common frameworks without using the name.

One of the more striking aspects of the Bill, as noble Lords and Ministers keep telling us, is that common frameworks on their own cannot guarantee the integrity of the entire UK internal market. They are sector-specific and not intended to address the totality of economic regulation. In answer to every question asked, there has been a real silence from the Government, who have failed to identify any areas where the integrity of the internal market might be threatened that are not covered by common frameworks. We had reference to the threat to the sale of barley from English farmers to Scotland, which has proved an issue already resolved by the common framework. There is also the wholly hypothetical example of a devolved Government wishing to legislate for additives to flour, which is already in one of the common frameworks on nutrition.

We therefore have to manage this problem of having two-track approaches to the internal market. The amendment proposes a way of creating that gateway between the two and ensuring that there is a link between them, so that we know that we are on the same course for a functioning internal market.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 174 in this group. I wish to speak to that and other amendments that I support.

Possibly the greatest asset that we gained from our decades of EU membership was the development of and assistance on the highest standards. In consumer and environmental protection, employment practices, public health standards, animal health and in the development of social policies, we have all benefited enormously and our quality of life has been greatly enhanced. Often, we as a nation were at the forefront of the development of those EU policies. On occasion, in our own legislation, we chose to adopt even higher standards, as my noble friend Lord Teverson said earlier. Those were the days when we really were world-beating. It is therefore very disappointing that the Bill contains nothing to guarantee high standards; there is no process set out to agree even minimum standards. The amendments in this group seek to rectify this, hence it is a legitimate aim to seek higher standards or to maintain existing standards.

Across the world, the experience of capitalism reveals that unfettered markets—capitalism in the raw—without a sound framework of standards often drive down standards to the lowest common denominator. For example, in the USA, hardly a country struggling for development, market access provisions unaccompanied by agreed minimum standards have led to deregulation as a way to attract business. It is well known as a ploy.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has withdrawn from this group, so I call the noble Lord, Lord German.

Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for raising this issue. It is of significance, and the Government will need to make some clear statements in order to avoid a very large flaring up of problems as a result of this matter.

Professional teacher registration is a devolved matter. The General Teaching Council for Scotland was established in 1965 and has ownership of the standards for teachers seeking registration and employment as a teacher in Scotland. The Education Workforce Council for Wales, Cyngor y Gweithlu Addysg, was established by the Education (Wales) Act 2014 to register schoolteachers who wish to work in schools in Wales. Teachers in Wales have to have qualified teacher status and be registered with the body in order to work in the profession. In England, since the introduction of the Teaching Regulation Agency, there is no longer a register of teachers.

Access to the teaching profession differs greatly between England, Wales and Scotland—and there are different qualification entry levels. The General Teaching Council for Scotland has an auto-recognition process for UK teachers who possess adequate qualifications for registration in Scotland. However, that does not mean that all teachers who teach in England or Wales can teach in Scotland. As such, teachers in Scotland should hold a qualification that is the equivalent of Scottish qualifications to enter the teaching profession in Scotland.

Teachers moving to Wales have to have equivalent standards. FE teachers, who are recognised by the National College for Teaching and Leadership in England and who are qualified to teach in England, are not recognised in Wales, and that means that they cannot be registered. Both Wales and Scotland have set different qualification levels to be able to work in the teaching profession.

There is an additional factor in Wales because of the bilingual nature of our education system. I know that noble Lords are aware that the Welsh language has equality status, and teachers have to be able to manage aspects of the school curriculum where they intersect with that language requirement. That does not mean that they have to speak Welsh, but they have to be able to manage aspects of the curriculum in English-medium schools.

Any flattening of qualification requirements would have a detrimental impact on the education provided in schools in Wales and Scotland and would dilute the standards that each country has set. I cannot think of any pressure to change these structures that has an impact on the internal market. The teaching profession should be excluded from this Bill as a result.

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I am sure that the Minister will try to assure me that these examples would not be “caught”. That seems to be the standard response to real-world examples of how the Bill, if enacted, might be applied. I hope that I have demonstrated my point and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, I happen to have spent 10 years of my life working on the mutual recognition of qualifications in Europe. I left that role and, 20 years after that, it was applied to about only four or five professions across Europe. Trying to understand where people are able to employ the appropriate skills, knowledge, understanding and practice in another surrounding is an amazingly complex area. That surrounding might have a different framework of regulation and perhaps a different framework of operation.

The intention to have mutual recognition of qualifications is fine, but the timing for putting it in place is not fine, because the Government want it to happen very rapidly. It seems to me that the most sensible way of doing this would be to try to work through the professions in relation to their activities, trying to make sure that, where there are barriers, those are reduced, or where there are barriers that are appropriate, they are not legislated for by accident in advance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has already talked about the Welsh language. There is a very interesting debate to be had about professions that can or cannot operate through the medium of Welsh. It depends on the services being provided and on the context of where those services are provided. A profession operating in a context that is different in different parts of the United Kingdom will have different requirements because of the geography, culture or operation of the services that are to be provided. Therefore, my request to the Government is that they step back a little, take some time, concentrate on trying to fix the things that they can fix and, for goodness’ sake, allow this thing to mature properly before going in with legislation that will be doomed to failure in the end.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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My Lords, on the next group I will explain that the drafting of some clauses of Part 3 is complex and not as straightforward as it could be. One way or another, it would be useful to have a statement clarifying whether the end result is the status quo, either as a general objective or for certain circumstances.

However, as the hour is late, and as I will elaborate a specific instance on Monday, I do not need to say any more, other than to support what has been said by my noble friends Lord Fox and Lord German. This appears to be a rather complex topic. Maybe taking time to sort it out and make sure that the drafting is as clear as possible would be a good exercise.