Meg Hillier contributions to the Business and Planning Act 2020


Tue 21st July 2020 Business and Planning Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
3 interactions (471 words)
Mon 29th June 2020 Business and Planning Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
18 interactions (1,724 words)
Mon 29th June 2020 Business and Planning Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
11 interactions (1,367 words)

Business and Planning Bill

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Meg Hillier Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I can only echo what the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan) said about anti-social behaviour, which has been an absolute plague on communities across London and, I am sure, elsewhere. In my community in Richmond Park, we have had behaviour the like of which we have not seen before. It has been an enormous burden for local people.

I welcome the Lords amendments. I am slightly disappointed that the amendment that my colleague Lord Paddick put forward about serving alcohol in open glass containers was not adopted, because that would have had a significant positive impact on the situation that many people are experiencing.

To add to what I said on Second Reading, I urge the Government to think again about the number of police officers in London. We in Richmond are certainly finding that, because police officers are always focused on violence reduction and that is a particular issue for some of the inner London boroughs, we are missing out on the increase that we need for neighbourhood policing in places such as Richmond, which would do much more to keep a lid on some of the antisocial behaviour we are seeing. We have heard about the extra officers that are coming, and I really hope that they are coming very soon, because we would like to see them in Richmond.

I echo what the Minister said about the passage of this Bill, its speed and the constructive nature in which everyone has engaged with it. This is going to be a great piece of legislation, and I support the amendments.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I want to put on record how proud I am of the entrepreneurs in Hackney who have contributed so much to developing our night-time economy—often quite young people who have come up with interesting ideas about how to develop their premises and contribute to our economy. However, it does cost Hackney Council £1.5 million a year in extra cleaning to manage the night-time economy that we have fostered. In its original form, the Bill would have contributed to some of the behaviour we have seen in recent weeks and months in my borough. I never like to stand up here and say bad things about the constituency I represent, but we have seen some appalling behaviour—I will not repeat what I said last time.

The Minister talked about the thoughtfulness and involvement of hon. Members that has greatly improved the Bill. I say to the Government that, even in a pandemic, a little more time could create even better legislation. Given that we were in the pandemic and businesses were thinking about this much earlier, a little more time—a week, even—would have been better than the three days we originally had to consider the Bill. We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble, because there was agreement that we needed to support the hospitality industry, but there is also agreement across the House today—happily, we have seen some important changes—that we should support the residents, who will suffer if we do not get the balance right. In fact, the businesses in my area that have been there for a long time, living in most cases pretty harmoniously with residents, want to have that long-term relationship, so they were not all in favour of the original proposals. That could have been ameliorated if hon. Members had been involved at an earlier stage.

I particularly welcome and pay tribute to my colleagues in the other place on the limit on off-sales to 11 pm—I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan), who was the first to raise that issue in this House—and the limits on extensions to that. Off-sales cannot be a permanent free-for-all. Of course, if a local area decides that it works, it is at liberty to grant a licence in a particular area or a particular part of that area, but this freedom in licensing must not continue just because we have had it during a pandemic—it has to be down to local authorities that know their area, know their residents and know and support their businesses. The decision should never be taken away and made subject to a blanket permission from central Government. I welcome the intervention from their Lordships and I thank the Minister for accepting the amendments, so that we can move quickly on to support our businesses while ameliorating the impact on our residents.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I do not propose to detain the House any longer than simply to say thank you to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to right hon. and hon. Members across the House for their commitment to the Bill and their contributions to it. I wish it safe and swift passage to Royal Assent.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 42 agreed to.

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motions in the name of Secretary Matt Hancock relating to Public Health; the Motion in the name of Secretary Dominic Raab relating to Sanctions; and the Motion in the name of Christopher Pincher relating to Town and Country Planning.—(David Duguid.)

Business and Planning Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Meg Hillier Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

Of course my hon. Friend makes an important point, but I think local authorities will understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that businesses can open and that high streets flourish. I certainly encourage businesses to look at the guidance and adhere to it.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

In my borough, licensed premises are a very important part of the local economy, and we work with local residents to support them. This measure, with seven days’ notice, allows an enormous amount of off-sales, which are already causing havoc in my constituency with people defecating, urinating and leaving problems in parks. People are talking about fake Glastonbury. This is going to cost my borough a lot of money to police. We are not party poopers, but we do not want the other sort of pooping, either. Will the Secretary of State make provision to allow councils some discretion where there is a particular problem with a licensed premises causing antisocial behaviour?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 5:39 p.m.

Ultimately, it is possible to revoke these permissions, and expedited processes have been put in place. Nobody wants to see bad behaviour, but this is a 10-day process, and there is an opportunity in the first five working days for anyone to put in their views to the local authority. Ultimately, the local authority decides. There is also a clear requirement that a legible notice is put up at the premises, so anyone who is in the locality will be able to see it when they pass by, and they can make representations if they wish. These new measures will cut the time to receive approval for this licence from an average of 42 working days to just 10 working days, and the application fee is capped at £100.

Public safety and access for disabled people using pavements is of course absolutely vital, so I can confirm that local authorities will be able to refuse or revoke licences where appropriate. The Government will be publishing minimum requirements and guidance for footway widths and distances required for access by disabled people.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 5:35 p.m.

I can confirm that we have engaged with disability groups in the preparation of the clauses in this Bill.

We will also be making changes to alcohol licensing. Currently, any licensee wishing to add off-the-premises sales permission has to apply for a licence variation. This takes time, with a 28-day notice period, adverts placed, and sometimes a hearing. Ordinarily, of course, that is necessary. However, hospitality businesses are not operating in ordinary economic times, as we all acknowledge, so the Government are temporarily changing the process. Under the measures in this Bill, most licences will automatically and temporarily be extended to include off-the-premises sales. However, there are safeguards in place. The extension will not include premises that have been denied off-sales permission or had it removed within the past three years. Taken together, these measures will help our hospitality industry to get back to business over the busy summer months.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 5:36 p.m.

Has the right hon. Gentleman given any thought to allowing a review of this Bill, because—I am particularly talking about the hospitality industry—it will be coming into operation over a busy summer period, and we will see the effects of that? If he were to agree to a three-month review period where we, as a House, can see the evidence and then, if necessary, amend legislation, that would be a welcome step.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 5:37 p.m.

First, these are of course temporary measures. A 90-day rolling review, which I think the hon. Lady is proposing, would undermine the certainty that we are giving businesses in terms of these particular measures. She will know, however, that should the Government wish to extend any of the measures, they will be subject to made affirmative or draft affirmative procedures, so they will come before the House before there is any opportunity to extend them further.

I now return to the issue of trying to get the construction sector moving. In 2018, this sector represented almost 9% of our GDP. Lockdown has had a profound impact on construction sites across the country. We estimate that almost 1,200 unimplemented major residential planning permissions, with capacity to deliver over 60,000 homes, have lapsed or will lapse between the start of lockdown on 23 March and 31 December this year. Therefore, the Bill introduces powers to extend these planning permissions and listed building consents to 1 April 2021. This will be automatic for permissions that have not lapsed at the point that these measures come into force. Lapsed permissions can be reinstated and can benefit from the same extension, but subject to necessary environmental approvals.

We will also make it quicker for developers to apply for longer construction site working hours. This will help to facilitate safe working—for example, by staggering workers’ hours—and to make up for lost progress. Applications will be concluded within 14 days. This measure does not apply to applications from individual householders. Local authorities retain discretion and can refuse applications where there would be an unacceptable impact. Again, this is a temporary measure. Extended hours can only last up until 1 April 2021, unless extended by secondary legislation.

Break in Debate

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab) - Hansard

May I start by thanking the Business Secretary for the constructive conversations that he and I have had on the Bill? As he knows, we support the measures contained in it.

The wider context to this Bill is the economic crisis that we face, the scale of which we have not seen for a very long time. As an Opposition, we have tried to work constructively with Government. Indeed, we have welcomed a number of steps that the Government have taken. We called for the furlough scheme and indeed have welcomed it, though we believe that too many people remain excluded from support. We called for the 100% underwriting of Government-backed loans, and we have welcomed the bounce back loans, too. We have also supported the Government on the difficult decision to move from 2 metres to 1 metre-plus where 2 metres cannot be observed, although we do have concerns about the test, track and trace system.

I hope that we can agree that the past few months have shown the power of Government to step in and protect jobs and businesses at a time of crisis. My case today is that that power has not gone away, and neither has the need for it to be exercised. The Government must not shrink from that, because, let us be clear, we are not at the end of this economic crisis, but just at the beginning of it.

Let me deal first with the provisions in the Bill. It is a short Bill and there is a large degree of agreement on it. The headline provisions, as the Secretary of State has said, will enable the hospitality industry to reopen quickly and serve a greater number of customers in a safe environment. We welcome the temporary loosening of planning regulations to enable bars, restaurants and cafés to serve customers outside their premises. I take the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) has made about the need for some caution here. It is important that local authorities continue to have discretion in these matters because they are best placed to make the judgments about the local impacts. It is also right to put on record the concerns of the shop workers’ union, USDAW, which has worried about the safety of staff. The guidance is very clear about the mitigation and reduction of risk that is needed if 1 metre-plus is in place, and I am sure the Secretary of State agrees that that is really important, and that it is also very important that the Health & Safety Executive takes a tough line in enforcing safety as well.

We also welcome the measures in enabling construction sites to get back to work more easily through extended working hours. Again, and I am sure that Members across the House will agree with me, it is in the interests of local residents that local authorities have discretion in these matters.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard

I think we agree about the need for local authorities to have discretion, but they also need resources. In my borough, we have more than 1,300 licensed premises in a very small area of London, and a lot of licensing officers are needed just to deal with the flow of applications. Does my right hon. Friend not think that the Government need to address that?

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Hansard

My hon. Friend in her customary eloquent way anticipates my next point. We have seen—and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed), the shadow Secretary of State for local government, for giving me the exact figures—£10 billion of costs loaded on to local authorities during this crisis, and only £3.2 billion provided by Government, despite the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government saying that the Government would stand behind councils and give them the funding they need. We have another Bill that puts yet more pressure on local authorities, but with no clear plan about how they will be reimbursed, and our new clause 5 speaks to that issue.

We also welcome the changes to transport licensing and the removal of the unfair relationship provision in the Consumer Credit Act to ensure that bounce-back loans are more easily accessed.  I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the detailed discussions that we had about that particular provision.

Those are the main provisions of the Bill and, as I said, there is cross-party agreement on them. Obviously, there will be detailed discussions in Committee. However, I have to say to the Secretary of State and the House that we are under an illusion if we think that the measures in this Bill will go much of the way towards addressing the crisis that we face: 4 July represents a reopening of pubs and restaurants, but it does not represent recovery.

It is important to note that many sections of our economy employing hundreds of thousands of people, including gyms, leisure centres, live entertainment venues, beauty salons, conference facilities, night clubs and swimming pools, will still not be able to open for public health reasons. We support those public health decisions. Other parts of our economy will open only with severe restrictions, including large parts of our hospitality industry, which employs 3 million people or one in 10 of the whole workforce. The British Beer and Pub Association says that 25% of pubs will not be able to reopen even at 1 metre. The Government themselves acknowledge, in the scientific assessment of the change to 1 metre, that the hospitality industry will lose 25% to 40% of its revenue even at 1 metre distancing. That revenue translates into a risk to hundreds of thousands of jobs. Live performance remains prohibited, which affects the theatre sector, employing 290,000 people. Manufacturers, too, are reeling from the fall in domestic and worldwide demand.

I say all that not to cast doubt on the public health measures being taken or to speak against the Bill, but to point to the wider context, which is that the Government are taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the furlough, for example, demanding an employer contribution from August and a cliff edge at the end of October. The shadow business Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), received this letter from a venue in Manchester in the past week: 

“As the Government furlough scheme draws to a close, I will be making very difficult decisions this week so that I can give notice during the period of 80% furlough contribution to commence a redundancy consultation with the majority of my venue staff. With zero income and no appropriate financial Government support, I have no choice but to make these decisions.”

We are not asking the impossible of Government; we are saying, “Look at what other countries are doing”, whether that is Spain, Italy, New Zealand, France or Germany. They are taking a sectoral approach to the furlough. They are saying that specific sectors are more affected by the public health measures and that, therefore, the economic measures have to match that.

Break in Debate

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

They tell us all that it is a challenge to make a maiden speech—I knew that I should not follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher). I am one of the last of my intake to deliver my maiden speech, but I am probably one of the last who was expected to be here anyway, so that fits.

This Bill is a critical step in the recovery, but before contributing to this debate, I would like to talk a little bit about Sedgefield and give you a context for my comments. Sedgefield as a constituency has a significant rurality, with many farms, including the outstanding Archer’s ice cream, and around 40 different settlements. We have the William Beveridge-designed Newton Aycliffe as the biggest town. We have businesses ranging from the well-known, like Hitachi and 3M, through to the iconic Cleveland Bridge, to Crafter’s Companion, founded by our local Dragon, and some of the most innovative companies in the UK, like Kromek and the Centre for Process Innovation, and so many SMEs.

I was born in one of the mining villages, Ferryhill, before going to school in Newton Aycliffe and spending close to 40 years as an accountant in the manufacturing industry. I have also had the opportunity to sit as a councillor in both my local authorities, Durham and Darlington. I have an insight into the rural communities because I have been married to a farmer’s daughter for around 35 years. We have Charlie, born in 1993, whom we are both immensely proud of, being the first in our family to go to university—somewhere called Cambridge.

My dad was originally a miner but mainly a fireman, who, along with my mother, provided my brother and I with an upbringing that was loving, stable and showed us the value of hard work as he rose to be a divisional officer. I have to thank my agent, Charles Johnson, and his sadly recently departed wife, Carol—Carol did not know where a fence was to sit on it; she had views—who were particularly instrumental in me becoming involved in local politics in the first place. I, of course, thank my campaign team—this is all of them: Keith, Catherine, Oliver, Giles and, of course, my wife Lillian. There was a little bit of a target around me—some target seats. Their support in the campaign was invaluable, and I certainly would not be here without them.

Some notable politicians have held Sedgefield over the years. [Laughter.] I, of course, think first of Roland Jennings, who held the seat from 1931 to 1935 and served in the Durham Light Infantry in the first world war. He was the last Conservative Member of Parliament for Sedgefield. He had an entry in Hansard with him asking the Minister of Transport for help—nothing is changing there.

My immediate predecessor is Phil Wilson. I thank Phil for his magnanimous speech at the count. He was Labour, not Corbyn, and with that conflict, he found it a very difficult campaign. I have heard good comments from Members on both sides of the House about Phil—in particular, the work he did on the all-party parliamentary group for the armed forces—and I wish him all the best.

I said in my campaign that I would listen to the people of Sedgefield, and that is what I will do. So far, I have been lobbied on everything, from the price of pipe tobacco to HS2. One of the early pleasures in my role has been to meet the young ambassadors from Ferryhill and Chilton, whose latest campaign is “#dontthrowitallaway”, and it is about the rubbish that comes out of McDonald’s and places like that. I will give them all the support I possibly can.

I have started in this place with two primary areas of focus for Sedgefield: to work for the communities left behind as our economy became too London and financial services dependent, and to support local business. To that end, I am now joint chair of an APPG for left-behind communities, and I have been elected to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

It is, hopefully, from this informed base that I would like to contribute a little to the debate. I would first like to say that I support the measures in the Bill as necessary first steps that will undoubtedly help pubs and restaurants, and I encourage as many of you as possible to join them—of course, in a socially distant way. While I am strongly in favour of developing pavement café space and so on to help with the recovery, we must remember to be as inclusive as possible and not forget that some of our visually challenged people might find these changes difficult.

In deciding what our next actions should be, we need to ensure that we do not look to recover to where we were—we need to go to where we want to be. Remember that before coronavirus, we had committed to the communities that had been left behind that we would level up this United Kingdom. With Sedgefield being equidistant from the north coast of Scotland and the south coast of England, we are a great place to start.

We must be aware that, even with these measures, some great businesses will need to reposition themselves for a new future that requires fewer people. One example would be the outstanding Rockliffe Hall hotel, whose staff have been writing to me, praising the way they have been treated during the lockdown, but the hotel is still having to make redundancies because of forecast lower occupancy rates. We need to take every opportunity to find ways to support job retention and creation and to minimise as far as possible the impact on our people and their economic opportunities. There are businesses, particularly many new start-ups and the self-employed, that have fallen through the gaps of the incredible efforts delivered by the Chancellor, and I would ask, if at all possible, for the Government to take another look at how we can help them to survive and grow.

There are many options we can take to move forward. As is typical of the north-east, we have some suggestions about what and how. A local business fellowship forum that I have listened to has written to the Chancellor providing some suggestions. It says that infrastructure needs accelerating and should not be frustrated by overly protracted planning processes. Tax breaks are needed to support construction and in particular green construction. The forum also argues for some 100% capital allowances, bonds for local authorities to support local investment and supply chains that maximise local content for integrity and the socioeconomic benefits that come. We need to consider mass contingent equity investments to drive investment.

The forum also asks us to lift some of the restrictions on the enterprise investment scheme and venture capital trust funding to improve access. In the end, cash is king, so it also asks the Government to push the importance of prompt payment and to broaden the Government-backed insurance scheme. Those suggestions show that businesses are looking at how to deliver growth, and I encourage the Chancellor to listen and to be as expansive as possible in his consideration of such suggestions.

I suggest that we can combine economic delivery with our levelling up agenda, for example, by delivering promises on infrastructure. In Sedgefield, several of our villages are named after railway stations. We have Ferryhill Station, Trimdon Station and Station Town. They have one thing in common: none of them has a railway station anymore. Ferryhill is an obvious place to rectify that. It is something that had been campaigned for since it was closed in the Beeching era, and not even Tony Blair, who was Labour Prime Minister for 10 of his 24 years as the Sedgefield MP, managed to deliver that. Maybe its time has come.

Broadband is key infrastructure and it needs to be for all. In Sedgefield, we have a number of rural blackspots, such as Killerby, which has close to zero broadband, never mind gigabyte broadband, and that needs to change. The delivery of local management for local need could be further developed. I would like to see people such as the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, given the opportunity to drive more agendas and for devolution gaps such as Durham, which fall between combined authorities, to have their situation sorted and for them all to have the latitude to crack on and deliver.

I would like to see a mechanism for getting some funding support direct to community groups, such as Deaf Hill Regeneration Group and Ferryhill Ladder, which are so embedded in their communities and can ensure that all the money hits the target for maximum benefit.

The opportunity to relocate some Government Departments, such as possibly the Treasury and others to the north-east—and preferably to Sedgefield—could both improve local economies and Government understanding, but also reduce pressure on the housing and travel densities in London.

It has been noticeable during the crisis how much people have stood up and helped their neighbours, and that is something we need to encourage. I will therefore look to my immediate neighbour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to pop over the bridges on the Tees and give me a hand.

Those are the key strands that should be part of our approach to starting the process of levelling up, while at the same time invigorating our economy. People will no doubt question whether it can be done. Well, we got Brexit done, and this is a Government who can get things done. I remind the House of a poem by Edgar Albert Guest, which starts:

“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That ‘maybe it couldn’t,’ but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it!”

For us, it is now all about getting it done.

My message to the Government is that we have the ideas and talent to deliver the economy and welfare of the UK from these challenges, and my message to the people of Sedgefield is that we can get it done. I will do everything in my power to listen to you, represent you and shout for investment in our amazing constituency to deliver the connections and visions that create the aspiration and opportunity for you to get it done, too.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell). He may be surprised to discover that between Sedgefield and Shoreditch there is a bigger connection than he might imagine and that we might be on the same side on tackling the issue of broadband, because my constituency, like his, has notspots, even in the heart of what some people call Tech City. So we can perhaps work together on that. I am also a supporter of relocating Government departments outside London, championing it when I was in government, so we have two points in common. In other ways we may be hammer and tongs against each other, but we can find the points of agreement, and if we disagree, let us disagree well. He was right to pay tribute to Phil Wilson and to describe him as magnanimous. Phil is a good, kind, thoughtful and wise men, and it was a real mark of the man that despite losing Sedgefield to the other party, he did not take defeat badly. It is noble of the hon. Gentleman to acknowledge that.

I want to focus on the Bill’s clauses relating to hospitality. Before doing so, I wish to stress that my borough of Hackney is very pro-enterprise. We support it to such an extent that we have more than 1,300 licensed premises in a 19 square mile borough; we are the third most densely populated borough in London, and there has been a 66% growth in the number of premises since 2006. So this is something we have been pushing, and I pay tribute to the many exciting and interesting entrepreneurs who have set up businesses. In one ward alone, Hackney Central, we have five microbreweries. So this is a great place to come to drink, party and have fun, but we have always tried to balance that, for the most part, with the needs of residents. I worry that with this Bill the balance is shifting so far one way that we will rue the day, in a few months’ time, when we see what residents have had to put up with.

I need to describe what our local residents are already putting up with. We may have had lockdown, but businesses have been able to sell off the premises in open containers, and some of my local parks, notably those without boundaries—London Fields, Well Street Common and others—have become party places. They have not just become party places for people having a responsible, quiet drink in a gathering with friends, within the social distancing rules. I am afraid to say that we are talking about people who have no regard for other people, and who have defecated and urinated in the parks, and in people’s doorways and stairwells. People are having to scrub down their front doors and remove human excrement to get out of their house cleanly. That is not acceptable, and it is not down to the shortcomings of the local authority or the police.

The volume has been so great that this has been very difficult to keep on top of. The police are receiving complaints about antisocial behaviour, with about 70 to 90 on a sunny weekend, depending on the day. The local authority noise patrols and wardens are out in force doing what they can, but they are simply outnumbered. Fines have been issued, and more than 100 of the 193 issued were to people from outside the borough, be they from south London or as far away as Bishop’s Stortford or St Albans. We welcome people to Hackney— we want people to come to support our vibrant businesses —but they need to have some personal responsibility. My fear about this Bill is that it rushes through one of the most radical changes in licensing laws in a matter of a couple of hours this evening, with a handful of Members engaged. The Bill was unveiled only on Thursday and we had until Wednesday, or until today, to make amendments—this is going very fast.

I wish to refer to a couple of clauses. Clause 3 deals with the determination of applications, with subsection (3) setting out what happens at

“the end of the public consultation period.”

The business has to put in an application to the council, and the day after that it is deemed as received. This is deemed as being the start of the public consultation. Ten days later, at the end of that period,

“the local authority may—

(a) grant a pavement licence to the applicant, or

(b) reject the application.”

Of course if there is a public concern, the application can be looked at again, but subsection (8) states:

“If the local authority does not make a determination under subsection (3) by the end of the determination period, the licence for which the application was made is deemed to be granted by the authority to the applicant.”

We are quite willing to support businesses with looking at extended licences and so on—that happens all the time in my borough. But with some 1,330 licensed premises, the pace at which this is going means that there will not be enough resources in Hackney Council, or in any council in the country unless there are few licensed premises in the area, to deal with the onslaught of licence applications.

The clause is very much in favour of business, and of course I am in favour of businesses getting support, but we need to ensure that we get a balance. The Secretary of State talked about limits—for example, a premises that has had problems or an application for an off licence refused in the past three years is not eligible, but that has not happened to many businesses. A lot of businesses will be applying for the first time because of the peculiar and difficult circumstances of covid-19.

An obligation on the business to deliver a restrained service is missing. Such a service is difficult to control because once people are spilling out of a premises on to the pavements and into car parks, it does not take much to spill further into our parks and create more of the nuisance that we have seen recently, to the real detriment of residents.

For some, this may be a dilemma, but for me it is about getting the balance between what is right for residents and what is right for business. The Bill goes far over the line to support business. Yes, it is a difficult time, but there are not enough safeguards for local councils and not enough resources. The Government need to provide the resources to councils such as mine and that of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), whose constituency must have even more licensed premises than Hackney South and Shoreditch and the borough of Hackney, so that they can cope. That is difficult to do. They cannot rustle up licensing officers with the right experience in the time available. The Government also need to give powers to councils where there has been antisocial behaviour so that there is a quicker way of withdrawing a licence.

We have to get the balance right. Of course we want things to return to normal as soon and as safely as possible, but the Bill will create other problems. I am sure that the Minister does not need me to remind him that one of the challenges of becoming a Minister is the unintended consequences element of the work. A Minister makes a decision and officials say that they have checked everything, it is all great, everyone has looked at it, but there is one little bit that perhaps they have not thought through fully. That usually connects the decision to life out there in the real world. The Minister is very welcome to visit my constituency—we might even go for a socially distant drink in a responsible establishment—but the reality in my part of the world right now is not pleasant. It has become a party place and it has been very difficult, almost impossible, for the council to keep on top of.

I urge the Government to reconsider the matter and think about any safeguards, support and succour they can give local authorities. I am not a party pooper. I support enterprise and the licensed premises in Hackney, but there must be a balance. Any measure must not be to the detriment of residents who have had to put up with the fouling and bad behaviour of recent weeks and months.

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con) - Hansard

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) for their maiden speeches. They truly demonstrated the depth of talent in the party and why I believe that this side of the House will be a formidable force for many years to come. I congratulate them.

Covid-19 has posed not only one of the most significant public health crises that many of us will ever experience, but significant challenges to our economy, the way we do business and our life as we knew it. Social distancing, self-isolating and the new normal are all terms that I would never have guessed I would use regularly when I first entered the House in December ’19. Indeed, we do not yet know what the new normal will look like, but we can all agree that it will be different from the old one. It has been a long, hard slog and as we find that new normal, it is vital that we pass legislation such as the Bill that allows us, our businesses and our economy to emerge from this economic slumber.

I was pleased that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor took decisive steps to protect the livelihoods of as many people as he could. The decision to put our economy on life support was supported by Members of all parties and hopefully means that we have been able to soften the blow of covid-19, as I hope the Bill will also do. When I spoke to business owners in my constituency, everyone relayed to me their relief at having the business support packages, including the bounce back loan scheme, the job retention scheme—the original and the revamped flexible one—the rates reliefs and the grants. In Meriden, 14,900 people have been furloughed, representing 22% of our resident population. Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has distributed more than £25.4 million of grants to almost 94% of the eligible businesses. I thank Solihull MBC, the leader, Councillor Ian Courts, and the chief executive, Nick Page, for their hard work in ensuring the money got to where it needed to be, and the Chancellor for taking the decisive steps that needed to be taken at the time.

I welcome this Bill, particularly the opening up of outdoor spaces, which could mean the difference between a business surviving and failing completely. I wholeheartedly welcome the reduction of the fees to permit the opening up of new spaces and the reduction of red tape. Of course, I encourage everyone to behave responsibly as they enjoy this new al fresco Britain, as these are new hard-earned rights, earned by the whole nation.

Finally, the bounce-back loans scheme is a timely intervention and, once again, the Chancellor’s proactive approach has provided businesses with a lifeline. Banks were struggling to lend as they had to do so in accordance with the Consumer Credit Act 2006, so it is right that we agree to clause 12 to stop the BBLs being subject to the unfair relationship provisions. We needed our banks to step up and they needed this to do so. Not to have done this would have had the result of delaying vital funds for businesses and would have posed onerous requirements for checks, which would have inhibited the very purpose of the BBLs and irreparably damaged our economy.

This virus has meant that we continue to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, and this Bill is part of the responsive and responsible way that we have dealt with one of the most testing periods of our time.

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 6:44 p.m.

May I add my congratulations to the two new Members have made their maiden speeches, the hon. Members for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Sedgefield (Paul Howell)? I recall that when I made mine, I harked back to the wars of the roses, so I feel somewhat outdone by the hon. Lady’s references to the ice age.

From my conversations with local businesses over the last few weeks, it is clear that the coronavirus has affected different businesses in different ways. Many have been able to continue their services across digital channels, and to expand or diversify their offering to new and existing customers. Food and drink stores have been able to continue trading, and some have even seen sales increases, as people have had more time for shopping and cooking. Other forms of retail, such as books, music and clothing, have been able to maintain some level of sales via online shopping and delivery. I have been really impressed by the ingenuity of our business community and the way they have responded to this crisis. I have a great deal of confidence that, in this nation of shopkeepers, we will continue to respond to the challenges of the post-lockdown world.

There is one sector, however, that has been badly hit by the lockdown and continues to face enormous challenges in its ability to revive—our hospitality sector. Encompassing cafés, restaurants, pubs, events, tourism and accommodation, it exists to bring people together, to encourage contact and to promote social gathering. They are facing an existential threat from a new world that needs people to keep their distance from each other.

I cautiously welcome the Government’s moves to lift restrictions on people visiting pubs, cafés and restaurants, although, like many of my constituents, I remain anxious about how this can be achieved while maintaining social distancing guidelines. This virus remains far from beaten, and I am dismayed at the mixed messages from the Government about how people should conduct themselves in the face of what is still a major threat both to our health and to the economy. We would face the future with more confidence if we had an effective system for tracking, tracing and isolating future diagnosed infections, and the lack of such a system constitutes a major risk to the effective functioning of our whole economy.

In that context, the Liberal Democrats welcome the provisions in today’s Bill. In particular, the provisions to ease the process for cafés and restaurants to apply for permission to provide pavement seating are very much to be welcomed. It will give many businesses the flexibility they need to open back up, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

I particularly welcome the fact that councils are to continue to play a major part in the granting of such licences. In many parts of the country and in many town centres, our hospitality businesses play a major role in the local economy. To encourage that economy, councils can play a major part in reconfiguring our town centres to enable more pavement seating—closing roads to motor traffic and introducing pedestrianised areas, for example—which can support businesses in meeting the conditions of their licences.

Can the Government confirm that they intend to include mobile catering units in their plans? Many of these micro-businesses are missing out on their regular trade at festivals this year, and would benefit from the boost to business that being able to set up in a town centre could give them. We also support the powers given to councils to vary the terms of licences.

While we are all keen to see our hospitality sector given this essential support, it does not come without costs. I really want to echo the point made by the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), because we have seen many of the same problems in Richmond and Kingston, and it is really appalling and a huge burden on local residents. Local residents may experience additional nuisance, for example, from strong lighting and noise later in the evening, and also an increase in antisocial behaviour after closing time. Additional pavement furniture may cause accessibility issues for those in wheelchairs or those who are partially sighted. It is to be welcomed that councils will have the power to judge each application on its own merits and to apply its own acceptability criteria. It is also welcome that these changes are temporary. Short-term changes to support local business owners during this difficult time are more likely to be welcomed by our local communities than permanent changes that threaten to cause a long-term nuisance.

In the same vein, we support the changes to allow businesses with an on-site licence to convert to an off-site licence, but we have some concerns about the overall provision for off-site licences. Like many areas of the country, Richmond and Kingston have needed police interventions to disperse large crowds who have gathered on our open spaces to drink and play loud music. This has led to considerable antisocial behaviour, including drunkenness, public urination and drug taking. Local residents and police report that they have not seen antisocial behaviour on this scale before, and it is causing considerable distress to residents affected.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 6:45 p.m.

The hon. Lady is describing very delicately, I have to say, the reality of what this is like when you are living through it. Does she not think that the Government need to recognise that we want businesses to be supported, but the cost to councils, and to the police, of enforcing this and managing antisocial behaviour will be huge?

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 6:46 p.m.

I am really glad that the hon. Lady has made that point. I have had lots of conversations with both the local council and the local police. It is clear that for suburban boroughs such as mine in London, where the Met police have, quite rightly, violence reduction as their priority when it comes to targeting their resources, the resources are simply not there to pay for the neighbourhood policing that we need to be able to keep on top of this kind of menace to our local residents. It is a really important point. I take this opportunity to press once more for further funding for neighbourhood officers in the outer boroughs in London, because that is a really urgent priority.

From my conversations locally, it appears that, by and large, our licensed premises are behaving responsibly in their provision of off sales and that a lot of the problem is coming from supermarkets promoting the purchase of alcohol in large quantities. There is a debate to be had about whether this is ever a good idea, but during a pandemic when people are being instructed not to gather in large groups, it is completely irresponsible. Supermarkets were quick to introduce limits on a number of toilet rolls or bags of pasta that customers could buy at the beginning of the lockdown, and they ought to do the same for alcohol now. If they do not act reasonably in this regard, councils ought to be able to take action, in the face of threats of large gatherings and antisocial behaviour, to require shops to restrict their alcohol sales. These increased powers to councils, while welcome, will come at a cost, as the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch pointed out, and there should be greater financial assistance to councils to enable them to administer, review and enforce the new licensing regime.

We cautiously welcome the extension to hours that can be worked on a construction site, but support the discretion granted to local councils to restrict those hours in residential areas. Building work is one of the chief sources of nuisance in residential areas, and that nuisance is compounded when people are spending many more hours at home. We also welcome the extension of planning consents already granted. It will save local authorities a great deal of time and money not to have to review planning consents already granted that may have expired during the lockdown. However, in acknowledging that construction has been delayed for many developments, the Government also need to consider that local authority housing targets will also have been put at risk, and they should look again at any proposed sanctions against local authorities in this regard.

In summary, we support this Bill principally because it recognises the important role of local authorities in supporting our local businesses and safeguarding our local communities. This Government place too much faith in technological solutions, whether for their doomed contact-tracing app or as a way to make the Irish border magically disappear, so it is reassuring to see that they still recognise the value of local leadership and decision making in meeting the health and economic challenges of this pandemic.

Business and Planning Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Meg Hillier Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

I would like to move on briefly to address the issue of small, independent breweries. I would welcome similar support being made for these organisations. We know that a quarter of all small breweries currently have no way to sell directly to the public, and in this respect I agree with the points made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on Second Reading. I appreciate the point the Minister made in response to the hon. Member for Strangford’s intervention that as the hospitality sector—and the pub sector in particular—reopens, some of those breweries will find that they have customers again, but this is worth keeping under consideration, because if the pub trade has to go al fresco, it will be quite dependent on the weather, and some of those small breweries might find that their customers do not require quite as much towards the end of the summer or in the early autumn, and they might therefore want to sell directly again. It is a point well made that small breweries have seen their sales reduced by between 65% and 82% due to covid-19, and they have not received the same level of financial support as other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:18 p.m.

As the MP for a constituency that has a lot of small breweries, I have some sympathy with this. I would not want to see more off sales in my constituency, but does the hon. Member not think the root of the problem is that these small breweries did not get support through the existing Government mechanisms, which went quite a long way but did not cover this sector?

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 8:19 p.m.

The hon. Lady makes a good point. A lot of these issues would have been circumnavigated if small breweries had been entitled to some of the support measures that were made available to other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Break in Debate

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. It is particularly the smaller independent breweries, where storage is perhaps even more of an issue, that will have had to dispose of a lot of their stock at considerable cost. Then there is the relative uncertainty as to when they might reopen and, indeed, how much beer to brew again. That is another problem that small breweries in my constituency have tried to tackle. I still think that might be a discussion to have. It is at least worth keeping the matter under review. I would welcome the Government being willing to do that.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned temporary events notices and licences. Another proposal would be to consider extending the authorisation of off sales to small breweries that do not hold a premises licence, but that are registered under the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme. That would be temporary and quite exceptional, but in these exceptional times there might be a case for it.

New clause 1 was tabled by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), and he may well speak to that at greater length in a moment, but I put on record my support for it. The Government need to recognise the need for sectoral flexibility as they review how to withdraw some of the support schemes and take stock of whether these measures, exceptional as they are, are working. Given the nature of the crisis we face, our focus must continue to be on protecting otherwise viable businesses and supporting employment, so I welcome new clause 1.

Finally, I turn to the provisions in the first part of the Bill relating to the consumption of food and drink outdoors. A few Members have referred to those provisions as ushering in an al fresco age, which I am sure we are all excited to see, weather permitting. That part of the Bill extends to Wales as well as England, but the wording of clause 1 has caused some confusion as to whether it will apply directly to Wales. In concluding my remarks, I ask the Minister to clarify in his summing up whether the provisions will apply to Wales directly. If not, is he content that the Welsh Senedd is empowered to introduce similar provisions to support bars and restaurants in Wales, so that we may also see an al fresco culture in Wales over the summer?

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, midnight

I rise to discuss new clause 6, which stands in my name. The Bill has been very rushed. It was announced on Thursday in the business of the House. We had to lay amendments by Friday, and I thank you, Dame Eleanor, for allowing a manuscript amendment today in order to get the new clause put forward.

As the Government rush into this legislation—I think there are questions about why that is—it is important that we make sure there are points of review and reflection about how well it is working. To put it more charitably, I am trying to save the Government from themselves. I think there is a lot of support across the House for the new clause, but in the very short time between Thursday and now, it has been hard to marshal all that and enable people to come and express their views.

The Minister may be able to answer this, but why has the Bill been quite so rushed, given that we have been in lockdown since 23 March and we knew that was coming for some time before then and given that we knew these sectors would be among the hardest hit? One would have thought that somebody in the Government would have been working up a Bill and stress-testing it before now, so that it was not such a surprise to Members of this House and sectors out there.

Local government has been caught rather by surprise. Of course it has been involved. I am not saying to the Minister that the Government have not spoken to local government. It would be extraordinary if he had come to the House from his Department and not done that. But there has not been enough detailed discussion about the impacts. We have heard, and I will not go into the detail again, about some of the impacts in constituencies such as mine and other urban constituencies with a high density of licensed premises, where antisocial behaviour has already been happening as a result.

We are already seeing problems, so there is a warning sign for the Government. The reality is that once off sales are allowed, as the hon. Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan said, at the same hours as on licensed premises—almost with a sweep of a pen, with a very short period for councils to object—we will see an awful lot more sales off the premises at all hours of the day and night. We also have the big issue about the resources involved from the police and local councils to police it.

It is easy to say, as the Minister did, that the police have certain powers and there are powers for local authorities, but the issue is the resourcing. We cannot just do all of that in one go. A lot of licences are being applied for. There are more than 1,300 licensed premises across my borough as a whole. How many licensing officers are needed to do that work? The police have other things to do with their time—certainly that is the case in my constituency, where they are dealing with serious crime issues, as well as antisocial behaviour and managing and policing social distancing and covid-19 regulations. There is a lot on everyone’s plate. We want to support businesses, but a three-month review after this has been in place would give the Government the chance to come back and either reassure us that it is all fine everywhere, or, if there are problems, look at ways of addressing that. The Minister has heard today from the Labour Front Benchers that there is strong support to get the economy going, and backing to make sure that businesses can survive the next period, as we still live in the pandemic. That is really important, certainly in a constituency such as mine with so many licensed premises, but we have to get that balance so that residents do not lose out.

This is a very mild amendment. Earlier, the Secretary of State rejected it because I had discussed a rolling amendment—I just say to the Minister that I had very little time to draft it and get advice about how to make it fit. I did not have time to discuss it in detail with the Government, otherwise I would have, and I know that other Members around the House agree with it.

I will not push the amendment to a vote today, but I am hoping that in the other place, they will have more time to think about, listen and reflect upon it, and that, in the meantime, the Government will also have time to reflect on it. Perhaps the Minister can give me some indication of whether this is something that the Government are willing to reflect on—to build in, simply, a three-month review point, so that three months after the Bill becomes an Act, the issue would come to the House again. A Minister would come to explain what is happening and we would have a debate about how this is working in our constituencies up and down the country, in the four nations of the UK, and we can make sure that we are getting it right. If there are problems then, the Government would have my backing to bring in certain powers to ensure that the antisocial behaviour that I fear this may herald is tackled, and I am sure that the Government would have the backing of other Members.

It would be helpful to hear from the Government about their thinking on this very mild amendment. We pushed for a review of the covid-19 legislation, which was pretty draconian. That was accepted by the Government and I propose this review in a similar spirit. I do not think that this will provide uncertainty for businesses. A review, when there has been such cross-party support in general for a proposal that supports businesses, is unlikely to completely reverse it, but it may allow for amelioration of some of the worst impacts if they materialise, as I fear they may in my constituency, or it may allow for different approaches to how the measures are applied in different nations of the UK, different regions or different cities.

They key thing is that if we have the review, it would give the Government and the House an option to look at this again. I think that something as draconian as this—the biggest change in licensing rules for decades—warrants a review. Some of these licences will be granted for a year if they pass through on the nod. A lot of them will go through very fast because of a lack of resources in local authorities. I urge the Minister to take my suggestion for this amendment constructively. I will not push it to a vote today because I recognise that, although the Bill is rushed, the amendment is also rushed. I hope, however, that the other place will consider it, that the Government will approach it thoughtfully and that when the Bill returns to this place, we can consider having a three-month review.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD) - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 6:59 p.m.

I shall speak to new clause 1, which I will not push to a Division because, for reasons mentioned by others—not least the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier)—I accept the premise of the Bill. It is about boosting the economy and creating flexibility so that people can begin to make a living again within the confines of the important safety restrictions that there are. However, I am very much looking to the Minister and the Government to be very clear that they will accept the terms and the general approach of my amendment, which seeks Government support for the hospitality and tourism industry beyond the current date set, which is the end of October, when the Government’s financial support schemes currently run out.

We welcome this Bill, rushed though it is, and understanding the necessity of that. We also welcome the support that the Government have given to the sector and the economy more widely. Undoubtedly the furlough scheme, the grant schemes and, more recently, after a lot of lobbying by myself and plenty of others, the discretionary schemes delivered through local authorities have helped to save thousands of companies from bankruptcy and protected millions of jobs. I am grateful to the Government for that.

Break in Debate

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard
29 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point. I will address it, if I may, when I come to new clause 6, which the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) mentioned. To speak partly to his point, and in conclusion on this, the powers are subject to the affirmative procedure for draft regulations, which will enable Parliament to scrutinise thoroughly any relevant use of the powers, because the approval of both Houses will be needed. I therefore do not think that there is a need for new clause 4, and I would invite the Opposition to withdraw it.

With respect to new clause 5, again I thank the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for its tabling, because it provides an opportunity to give reassurance that local authorities will not be overburdened by the proposals in the Bill. This new clause would require the Secretary of State, following consultation with local planning authorities, to publish a report to provide an assessment of the costs to be incurred by local authorities as part of our proposed planning measures in the context of the covid-19 epidemic.

The applications relate to both the provision allowing for applications to extend construction working hours under clause 16 and the additional environmental approval process under clauses 17 and 18. Both the new forms of application will be free of charge to the applicant, which is to encourage developers to take advantage of the provisions in order to start or resume development as quickly as possible.

For three reasons, we do not consider the cost burden of either route to be particularly onerous on local planning authorities. First, each route deals with a single issue, and the onus is on the applicant to provide sufficient information. If insufficient information is provided by the developer, in the case of an additional environmental approval application or of an application for an extension to construction site working hours, the application will not count as having been made at all.

Secondly, as I said, the measures are temporary. This will therefore only be a short-term administrative burden over the course of this financial year. Thirdly, we do not expect individual authorities to face a deluge of applications under each route. For example, our analysis shows that by 1 August 546 planning permissions for major residential developments across the country would have lapsed since 23 March, an average of 1.5 permissions per authority. Cumulatively, it is important to the economy to see those progress, but for individual local planning authorities we do not believe that the effect will be particularly onerous. Again, I invite the Opposition to withdraw the clause.

I will speak briefly to new clause 6, as many Members are watching. I appreciate that some Members are concerned about the need to ensure that any changes made under the fast-track legislation are restricted to what is proportionate and necessary. Ensuring that measures are time-limited can be an effective way to do that, but a rolling review provision across the whole of Act is not the best approach in this case.

The first reason is that two provisions in the Bill are permanent; they would be jeopardised by a rolling review of the entire Bill. The second is that part of the reason for these measures is to give the business community, local authorities and Government agencies certainty about what they need to do with certain planning activities. A cliff edge 90-day end to the processes that they are undertaking would remove any chance of the certainty that they are looking for.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch has many ways in which she can advance her concerns. She can use Standing Orders, in which she is a seasoned expert, to look at SO 24 debates; she can encourage her Front Benchers to undertake Opposition debates, and she can use the Public Accounts Committee to undertake inquiries. There are many ways in which she can progress her concerns other than through new clause 6.

Meg Hillier Portrait Meg Hillier - Hansard

My drafting may not have been perfect; the Bill has been very rushed, so it was difficult to get it right. Can the Minister give me any comfort that, in his mind or the Government’s, there is scope to allow a three-month review point on the licensing element so that there is simply a review? Given the Government’s majority, they would have to agree to any change anyway, but a review point seems a sensible, proportionate measure so that we can all reflect on how this is working and pick up any issues. If he could give me an indication of whether that is something the Government might consider as the Bill goes through the other place, that would be very helpful.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher - Hansard

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s concern and I understand why she raises those points. However, I simply reiterate that introducing a rolling review would kill certain aspects of the Bill and reduce the certainty and clarity that businesses and planners are looking for. It may also jeopardise the conclusion of the Bill before the summer recess, and we need to get it on the statute book so that businesses around our country can benefit from its provisions over the summer months.

Let me reiterate the importance of this Bill for our economy in these extraordinary times. As we emerge from this pandemic, we need to do all we can to support our economic recovery and help businesses adjust to a new and safe way of working. I therefore encourage the House to support amendment 3 tabled by the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury), and I encourage the proponents of all other amendments to withdraw them.