Water Companies: Customer Bills

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Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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First, the noble Baroness suggests that there was no sewage going into rivers before water companies came along. Underinvestment when they were nationalised businesses was at historic levels, and our bathing waters were much worse than they are today. I am not saying for a moment that there are not serious problems. This Government are—if I can steal a soundbite—tough on sewage in rivers and tough on the causes of sewage in rivers. We want to be absolutely clear that everything that happens comes at a price. We want companies to be able to pay out dividends, because that is what encourages investment in our water sector. It is about getting that balance right.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Would it not be appropriate for executive bonuses to be linked to challenging reductions in pollution?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very good point. Water is the only utility business where the regulator does link reward for company executives and dividend payments to performance. It is the only sector of privatised utilities where that link is made.

Environmental Improvement Plan 2023

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Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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Will my noble friend reassure this House that the UK production of foodstuffs—preferably an expansion in the UK production of foodstuffs—remains a priority for this Government?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I can assure my noble friend that it does remain a priority for this Government. If he looks at the very first few lines of the Agriculture Act, he will see that it is beholden on the Secretary of State of the day to make sure that farmers are able to produce food sustainably. That remains an absolutely determined view right across government, but we also want to make sure that we are accepting that, if you deplete your natural capital, you are destroying the life chances of farmers of the future and you are not allowing the industry to produce the kind of food that the public want to eat. So we want to assist farmers, where they need it, to go on that journey to produce food sustainably; it is absolutely at the heart of our agricultural policy.

Growth Plan 2022

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Tuesday 25th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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On food protection, members of the National Farmers’ Union will be pleased that the Government are looking to make farming more productive. Members of the National Trust can also support this because it will be done sustainably. National Trust members are members because they want to support our natural and built heritage, and hardwired into our environmental land management schemes and other environmental benefits is the need to manage our land for future generations.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I say to my noble friend the Minister that, while it is obviously very important that we should promote policies to protect the environment, it is also very important that we should do nothing to prejudice domestic food production. Of the two, I suggest that the latter is more important.

Food Security: Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness has long experience in this area, and I assure her that the Government take this area of our responsibilities really seriously, not just domestically but internationally, where I believe we are a leader in trying to get the world community to come together to address global food security risks. The Pentagon, in a paper it published, called climate change the “risk escalator”, and it is. It will lead to further pressures on populations right across the world, and it is an absolute priority for this Government to help resolve it.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, given the escalation in food prices and the difficulty in world food supplies, does my noble friend agree that we should be very careful not to allow policies of rewilding or other environment-related schemes to diminish our ability to produce foodstuffs domestically?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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It is our intention that farmers across these islands will continue to be incentivised to produce good-quality food. We have remained remarkably consistent in our food security over the last two decades, and we want to see that continue and improve. Through our farming reforms, we are incentivising farmers to continue to produce good-quality food.

Fishing: France

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Monday 1st November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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As I said, this matter could involve a judicial process and I do not want to prejudice that. It is being dealt through very close working between my department, the Marine Management Organisation and Marine Scotland. Discussions are ongoing—indeed, they are happening today—with the commission to try to resolve this issue.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure my noble friend would agree that it is essential to have harmonious relations with the French Government. Given that criteria are available for judging whether licences should be issued, is it not sensible to contemplate appointing an arbitrator to consider individual cases where there is a dispute and determine whether the criteria are met?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend. Licences for UK waters are issued on the basis of five reference years, and a French vessel has to prove that it has fished at least one day a year in four of those five years. On the basis of that, I think I am right in saying that we have issued 98% of all licences applied for by French vessels to fish in our territorial waters. So, I am clear that we are doing our bit to stand by the terms of what has been agreed with the EU. It is for them to resolve the allegations they have made and the circumstances of this particular dispute.

Farming: Carbon Emissions

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, while I welcome what the Minister has said, does he agree that it is very important not to impose on British farmers obligations that are not met in competitor countries? Life is going to be hard enough post Brexit for the British farmer. I declare my interest as in the register.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, clearly we believe that the production of high-quality food and enhancing the environment are eminently compatible. I absolutely understand what my noble friend has said. It is essential that, in all that we want to do, we work with farmers because they look after 70% of the land and we want them to help us produce food and enhance the environment.

Ivory Bill

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 24th October 2018

(5 years, 8 months ago)

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Read Full debate Ivory Act 2018 View all Ivory Act 2018 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 119-R-I Marshalled list for Report (PDF) - (22 Oct 2018)
In this context, the definition of “high” depends on the value of the item in question, regardless of the personal circumstances of its owner at the time. As I have said, we are not talking about very expensive things. Secondly, in addition to the fee there is the cost of completing the form, which may involve someone else doing it, thereby incurring an additional charge. How might this work? Somebody gave me this example. If you live in London and your surviving parent, at the other end of England, dies, you may take from their house the odd piece of furniture or whatnot. Most people, however, live in quite small houses and would ask the local auctioneer to clear out their parent’s house. The auctioneer would no doubt do it but would say, “We cannot sell anything that has a bit of ivory in it unless we register it, and we will charge you for that”. By the time you have concluded that you will not get much for the contents, and that you will have to pay the auctioneer’s commission, the registration fee and the cost of the person carrying it out for you a couple of hundred miles away, you will ask yourself whether much is left over. Given that things do not always sell at auction, before you know it this whole process will cost more than the value of the item in question. That is a pretty strange state of affairs.
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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If that happens, there is a real risk that the artefact in question will be destroyed.

Lord Inglewood Portrait Lord Inglewood
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It is as the noble Viscount rightly says. But some will then say, as mentioned in Committee, that it is not necessary: “Selling it doesn’t matter—give it away to a charity shop”. What is a charity shop to do with it? It will want to sell it to somebody else, so it will be caught by the requirements for prior legislation. The only way that I can see this chain of argument evolving is that we may end up with refugees from other parts of the world surrounded by battered Georgian furniture, which seems a pretty surreal destination.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said, the likely result of all this is that a significant quantity of all the items—which, let us not forget, have real cultural and historical significance for this country—will end up on the tip. In addition, let us not forget that going to the tip along with the ivory will be a lot of tropical hardwoods such as mahogany, rosewood and so on. For a country that cares about these things and tells the world how much they matter, as we do, to legislate and consign them to the tip in Britain seems ludicrous, and a sad end to the ivory and mahogany involved. If I might misquote John Betjeman:

“Goodbye to old things. We who loved you are sorry

They’ve carted you off by refuseman’s lorry”.

By no stretch of the imagination could these things harm anyone or anything. In a free country one should, as a matter of principle, be able to sell freely items of that character. You should not need a state commissar’s authorisation to do so. From what I have heard, the Government’s case for this registration is illogical, not based on the evidence, completely disproportionate, philistine and a gratuitously destructive proposal. As a consequence, I am strongly opposed to it.

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I have made inquiries of the government machine to see whether the measured representations already made by some noble Lords in Committee might have produced some amelioration in the technical provisions of this Bill on Report. However, I was not encouraged, hence my support today for Amendments 23, 24, 32 and 36 in this group and Amendments 3 and 4 in the next group. They would all to some extent mitigate the adverse effects to which I have referred. They would represent a welcome move towards common sense, which I always like to apply to legislation that comes before this House. I urge the Minister to accept them.
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my noble friend Lord Cormack’s Amendment 2, but what I have to say is in support of all the amendments in this group, including that tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, on Northumbrian pipes. Sharp-eyed noble Lords will have noticed that I put my name to a number of these amendments and then withdrew it. That was not because of lack of support but because I thought I was not going to be here performing professional duties, and I thought it discourteous to your Lordships’ House to sign amendments and not be here. That depends on noble Lords’ point of view.

I think everyone who has spoken in this debate and all the other debates about the Ivory Bill endorses the principle of trying to prevent elephant poaching—it is a dreadful thing—and thinks that we need to do all we can to stop it. As a matter of fact, robust action against poaching is probably the most effective way, but an effective, proportionate and reasonable way of disrupting the trade is also appropriate. That is the purpose of this Bill, but we have to apply the test of proportionality to identify whether the actions contemplated by the Bill are proportionate in their consequences both ways. There are two very serious disadvantages associated with what this Bill is about—I shall come to the amendment specifically.

The first, which my noble friend Lord Cormack dealt with quite correctly and at some length, is the interference with private property. This Bill is flagrant interference with private property, and my noble friend Lord Inglewood takes the same view. At the same time, there will inevitably be a consequential loss and destruction of the artefacts. The description of trying to sell a low-cost bit of brown furniture—although of quite interesting historical value—and it proving impossible will inevitably lead to the skip.

There is therefore a cost in all of this: a cost to principle and a cost to artefacts. That takes me on to the question: what will this Bill achieve in stopping the elephant poaching or trade? I share the view of my noble friend Lord De Mauley: I suspect very little. What this is actually about is sending a message, but messages go unheeded and unheard, and I am sure that this one will. It is about making gestures, but often these gestures should not be made. I remember the Dangerous Dogs Bill. I remember unit fines in the magistrates’ court. These were gestures that should never have been made and messages that should never have been sent.

Against that background, I turn to the way of addressing what has been identified. This Bill is going to pass, and I agree with my noble friend the Duke of Wellington that it should pass. However, there are defects within it, and the defects are being addressed by looking at the exemptions. This House should be trying to enlarge the exemptions and seeking to put in further provisos. It is in that spirit that I propose to support probably all the amendments in respect of which your Lordships’ opinion is sought, and I hope there will be quite a few Divisions. I think, too, however—and this will be to the great relief of your Lordships’ House—that the views I have expressed, which are general to the amendments in this group, actually apply to all the other amendments and will not require any repetition from me.

Lord Carrington of Fulham Portrait Lord Carrington of Fulham
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My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendment 25, which is a very specific amendment and rather esoteric, but I will come on to that in a moment because I really just wanted to register my agreement with the previous speakers that this Bill is far too restrictive. We are banning ivory items and ivory inlays and items containing ivory that have no possibility of being recarved in the Far East for sale on to that market and no prospect of having any value in themselves. An ivory carver sitting in Vietnam, for instance, would have no interest in carving a sliver of ivory to go into a false 18th century box. It would just make no sense at all and it would be nonsense. We ought to have a sense of proportion about what we are trying to do in this Bill.

What we are trying to do is to stop large lumps of ivory being exported to countries where they will be recarved and converted into the items that their populations think are attractive and for which they will pay good money. This is not an emotional business; it is purely a financial business. If we ban the export of large items of ivory, or their sale in this country—because they will be smuggled out of this country eventually, just as rhino horns are smuggled out of here, which is a similar problem—we will achieve what we can achieve in respect of saving the African elephant using the antique ivory trade.

As has been said, the protection of the African elephant is not down to what is sold at Christie’s in King Street in London. It is down to whether we can finance the actions against the poachers, whether we can train the police and protection officers in those countries, whether we can arm them properly, and whether we can ensure that the supply routes where the ivory is taken out of the country are shut down. That is what it is really all about. It is not about this gesture politics Bill. That is what it is about, and that is what we should be concentrating on.

I add something that has not been mentioned because it is not politically correct to do so. A lot of ivory is not obtained by rogue poachers; it is done with the connivance of people who are very powerful in the countries where the elephants are, and they make a lot of money out of it.

My noble friend the Minister assures me that several of the countries which have large numbers of elephants are in favour of us banning the sale of ivory. I am perhaps too cynical. Perhaps I have lived too long a life dealing with rogues and rascals both in politics and in business, but if I were trying to make money out of selling ivory, I would try to shut down part of the market which I thought conceivably—however misguidedly—could be competition. In other words, I would of course say, “Ban the ivory market. Ban, ban, ban”, so that I can kill the elephants in the savannah and make money by selling those tusks to Hong Kong.

I should apologise, because perhaps I should have made that speech during Committee but, as some noble Lords will know, I was under the depredations of various surgeons then, so I apologise for not making it then.

My Amendment 25 is rather esoteric. It is even more esoteric than the Northumbrian pipes of the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. Under the Bill, an item which is detachable and can stand alone is an individual item and is therefore treated as such. This is not usually important, but it is very important if you are dealing with scientific instruments. The way that 18th-century or early 19th-century mercury barometers are regulated is by a little knob that pulls out. It is detachable and independent of the barometer itself. You would use it to adjust the vernier on the scale to measure the height of the mercury and to put pressure on the mercury reservoir at the bottom of the barometer, when you regulated the barometer to show the correct barometric pressure, to make sure that the mercury was at the right level. So it has two functions.

My amendment is specifically designed to say that this knob should be treated as part of the barometer, not as a separate item, because these knobs were almost always an ivory disc—not dissimilar, I have to say, to the discs used in so many other things, such as portrait miniatures, tickets for theatres, and so on, which have no commercial value for recarving. They have commercial value because there are artistic elements to them, but the knob has no commercial value. If I tell your Lordships that they are 2.54 centimetres in diameter, those of you with a scientific bent will know that that is an inch. They are of a maximum of an inch in diameter, very thin and on a metal shank. All I am trying to do by the amendment is to ensure that antique dealers do not have to throw away the integral knob when they sell the barometer.

Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Wednesday 4th July 2018

(6 years ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, clearly we wish to have positive and productive negotiations with the EU 27, and under international law “the reasonable approach” needs to be taken. However, I think that all would conclude that what has happened to UK fishing vessels has not been fair, and that cannot be right. The sorts of arrangements that we have now are absolutely against the interests of the UK fishing industry. That is why we need to address this matter and why I think that the White Paper is the beginning of a much more positive situation for coastal communities.

I do not want to pre-empt what may come up but, as the noble Lord mentioned enforcement, I am of course very pleased about the support of the Royal Navy and the replacement of vessels by five more-capable Batch 2 offshore patrol vessels. We are working very closely with the MMO, the Royal Navy and others, because other independent coastal countries undertake enforcement very well indeed.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the outcome of the British fishing policy will depend on some very tricky negotiations which will involve very many vested interests both here and overseas? Given that, does he agree that at this stage we should not draw any red lines or give overfirm commitments? In that context, I congratulate my noble friend on the flexibility of the Statement.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Negotiations require two parties to come together successfully. However, I stress again that one of the principles that we seek is fairness. When one understands the proportion of fish being taken by UK vessels and non-UK vessels and what UK vessels are taking from EU 27 waters, something is not right. There is no fairness, and that is what we need to address. I would be very surprised if EU fishing interests did not understand that this needs to be part of the negotiation. However, clearly it needs to be done in a spirit of collaboration, and part of that concerns sustainability. Whoever fishes them, if there are not enough fish, we—whether the EU 27 or the UK—will not have a dynamic fishing industry. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that that is at the root of everything.

Abattoirs: Non-stun Slaughter

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Wednesday 7th February 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, my understanding is that there are different requirements in different parts of the Muslim community. The noble Lord, with all his experience, is absolutely right, but certain parts of the Muslim community are prepared to have stunned halal meat and other parts are not. I return to the fact that we have this long-standing reasoning behind permitting the communities to eat meat in that way. We certainly want to enhance animal welfare, and that is why the official veterinarians must be in every part of the slaughterhouse.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, may I support the position adopted by my noble friend? It is very important to carry the Muslim and Jewish communities with us and I hope they will be tightly involved in any consultations that may take place.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, as I say, we do not intend to move away from this long-standing right, but we want, with the other measures that we are considering, to ensure that all slaughtermen hold a certificate of competence, which is clearly essential, and that the official veterinarians can see from the video footage that everything done in all slaughterhouses is carried out in a proper manner. We certainly want to advance animal welfare in all slaughterhouses.

Brexit: Food Prices

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, although inflation has stayed unchanged at 3%, the noble Baroness is right that the annual rate of food price inflation is 4.1% as of today. That is on the basis that fuel prices rose by nearly 40% last year. The noble Baroness is right to raise trade deals. We are absolutely clear that trade deals will need to reflect our food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare standards. They need to be right for consumers and industry, too.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, is it right that the best estimate within my noble friend’s department is that, after Brexit, food prices for the consumer will rise as a result of changes in the exchange rate—and, furthermore, that the income of the farming industry will fall due to an overall reduction in subsidies?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, it is clear that food prices have throughout history had a lot to do with the exchange rate, so my noble friend is right that exchange rates are a component of food prices. We believe that there is a vibrant future for agriculture. Having been at Harper Adams last week to see its work in agritech science and heard Professor Blackmore talk about robotic arrangements for agriculture, I think that there is a very strong future for agriculture. All the students whom I met were very enthusiastic about the future of our agricultural sector.