United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

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

(3 years, 8 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)
Clause 15 agreed.
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 68. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 68

Moved by
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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 German, is not taking part in this group, so I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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I will speak briefly to several amendments in this group. Regarding Amendment 70, again I raise the question of substantial change, and whether that means a “significant amendment”. I am seeking clarification on the part of the Bill to which this refers.

Amendment 81 would delete “of no effect”, as would Amendment 84. Can the Minister say what that means when replying? It is very unclear. I am again grateful to the Law Society of Scotland for its help in putting forward and drafting these amendments.

In Amendment 92, what is meant by “less attractive”? In my view, to put a service provider at a disadvantage is a serious matter in a Bill such as this. Using a phrase such as “less attractive” as part of the assessment of disadvantage is subjective and lacks clarity. I would be very grateful if, when summing up, the Minister could just clarify what his understanding of “less attractive” is.

I turn to my Amendments 103 and 103A. Amendment 103, which would take out “mainly” and insert “substantially”, is a probing amendment to understand the meaning of “mainly” in connection with the gathering of experience—for example, in relation to Clause 23(7). In my view, Clause (23)(7)(b) requires further definition. How should “mainly” be measured? Will it be by the time spent as a proportion of the whole qualifying experience or by some other measure? How will this experience be recorded and verified?

The same questions arise in regard to that aspect of the experience obtained elsewhere than in the UK. The purpose of my Amendment 103A is to ask whether we are excluding all other experience than that obtained in the UK. I pray in aid my own experience, where I practised law in Brussels in two different situations. Would that experience, and the experience of others as well, qualify for the purposes of the Bill? I am grateful for the opportunity to move these probing amendments and I look forward to the Minister’s clarification of these points.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I want to speak to this group of amendments for two simple reasons. First, services are incredibly important to the UK and to all four nations within it. As I said on Amendment 4, they are vital to the success of our economy, making up more than 80% of GDP. They range from financial services, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, which I believe now provide more jobs outside London than in the City, to arts and entertainment of every kind. Invisibles, including legal and accountancy services where we have world-leading expertise, represent more export value than goods.

Secondly, I am mystified by the clauses on services, which are the subject of these amendments. The arrangements seem to work well currently. No doubt some protection is provided by the carryover of EU rules under the withdrawal Acts, which are relatively light touch because attempts to align local rules within the EU on services were also light touch.

We are forcing on to the service industries apparently new rules and new exemptions linked to the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination. There could potentially be a whole load of bureaucracy and regulation associated with this activity, which business, the service sector and regulators will need to understand. Lobbyists may try to secure new rules that benefit narrow interests, as they do in Brussels now. Moreover, as someone who takes a morbid and forensic interest in these things, I find the impact assessment—welcome though it is in principle—extremely disappointing. These are usually very helpful to Committee discussions, but the assessment asserts on page 2 that

“the cost savings to businesses, consumers and the wider UK economy would be expected to significantly offset any costs imposed by this legislation, translating into a net benefit to the UK economy.”

The small and micro business assessment on page 37, a section to which I always pay the greatest attention as small business is the lifeblood of this country and key to its dynamism, says:

“Due to a lack of historical need, there is a shortage of data on businesses trading between different parts of the UK. It has therefore not been possible to identify the volume of such businesses who operate across borders, nor the extent to which they benefit because of the hypothetical nature of the future regulatory regimes.”


So we have no evidence to justify the new powers, nor an assessment of their consequences. We almost seem to be creating borders for services where none existed before, which is surely the opposite of what we want.

We need to understand better how this part of the Bill will work, but the material presented so far has stumped me, as a business operator who has worked in various industries across the UK and the world. In that connection, let me ask a simple question on marketing activity, which is not listed in the schedules: would I be permitted to discriminate in favour of a company that was Welsh to help with the marketing of Welsh products or would I have to take time to listen to pitches from English-owned—or, indeed, US or Canadian-owned—companies?

In response to a number of understandable probing amendments in this group, can my noble friend the Minister kindly justify the provisions simply, with some good worked examples relating to significant service sectors, and assuage my fears? I must say, at this point in time, I am confused and therefore concerned.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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Both the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, have withdrawn from this group so I call the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister will no doubt be pleased to hear that I will not ask questions about whisky even though, after nine hours on this Bench, it seems to be at the forefront of my mind right now. I do not know why but a nice glass of whisky would be rather welcome.

I want to follow on directly from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and expand on her very good second point about organisations that are not within the Schedule 2 exclusions but may, for example, seek services that have a specific characteristic of one of our home nations or additional requirements—such as having the capacity to speak the Welsh language, which would be important for the provision of certain services in parts of the United Kingdom, or, in the highlands of Scotland or certain parts of Glasgow, proficiency in the Gaelic language. Given that these were covered in the European Union elements, which the Minister argued previously were restrictive but which are actually broad and allowed this trade to be conducted properly, I hope that the Minister can respond as to why those elements would not be covered in this Bill and whether there would be the ability to have some of the specific requirements with regard to regulatory requirements that have specific characteristics.

Aside from language and other conditions with regard to equality legislation, which would be covered under putting services to contracts, I notice that transport services are excluded but water services are not. As the Minister knows, the provision of water services is distinct in our four nations. There are separate industries and these will not be excluded. I would be interested to know whether the current contractual arrangements are out of scope of this legislation because they are current. On the non-discrimination principles in the services sector, I have a concern about the distinct nature of the legislation for the Scottish water industry, which is a public body with one shareholder—the Scottish Minister—and whether an English service provider would be able to challenge the provision of Scottish water services because they are not excluded from this legislation. I would be most grateful if the Minister could allay my concern about that.

Similarly, the provision of water in Wales is a different legal entity—it is a mutual approach. Many private enterprises in the provision of services, as we know, are of an international nature. There is an even greater concern that if, for example, an American service business, through a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, had a brass plate enterprise in the City of London with American shareholders, that might be the gateway for it to challenge the mutual model in Wales or the approach in Scotland. I hope that the Minister can allay my fear about that.

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Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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I have received one request to speak after the Minister from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I go back to the very interesting answer that the Minister gave on the coal example. Let us assume that the coal example, which he described as being a prohibition on sale but not use, did not come in a pre-existing requirement and that it had been entered into after this Bill became law. I would be right, would I not, in assuming that such a requirement would offend against the non-discrimination principle under Clause 8? It is obviously a disadvantage to be able to sell coal to people who cannot use it. In those circumstances, it is valid only if that was a provision entered into after the Bill became law if such a provision was justified by one of the legitimate aims identified in Clause 8(6). Would I be right in assuming that? Would I be right in assuming that the question of whether the ban on the use of coal survived would depend upon a private law action between the supplier of the coal and the buyer of the coal?

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Clause 17 agreed.
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 79. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything else in this group, to a Division should make that clear in debate.

Schedule 2: Services exclusions

Amendment 79

Moved by
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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.