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General Committees

Debated on Tuesday 14 July 2020

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 (Remedial) Order 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Peter Dowd

† Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)

† Allan, Lucy (Telford) (Con)

† Antoniazzi, Tonia (Gower) (Lab)

† Clarke, Theo (Stafford) (Con)

† Clarke-Smith, Brendan (Bassetlaw) (Con)

† Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab)

Cryer, John (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)

† Davies, Gareth (Grantham and Stamford) (Con)

† Davies, Mims (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)

† Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)

† Eshalomi, Florence (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)

† Garnier, Mark (Wyre Forest) (Con)

† Malhotra, Seema (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)

† Moore, Robbie (Keighley) (Con)

† Richardson, Angela (Guildford) (Con)

Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)

Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP)

Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 14 July 2020

[Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Draft Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 (Remedial) Order 2019

Good morning. Before we begin, I remind Members of the social distancing regulations. Spaces available to Members are clearly marked. Our Hansard colleagues would also be grateful if you could send any speaking notes to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 (Remedial) Order 2019.

The draft order was laid before the House on 5 September 2019, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to move it. In 2013, my Department passed the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013. The Act validated sanctions and notifications that were issued to claimants who failed to take part in employment programmes designed to help them into work. The Court of Appeal found the Act to be an effective and valid way to achieve this end but recognised that, in a small number of very specific circumstances, some individuals had lost their right to a fair hearing under the Act. The draft remedial order amends the Act to resolve that issue, and it allows the tribunals to find in favour of claimants whose appeals were affected, where it is right to do so.

The order also gives my Department the ability to reconsider relevant sanction decisions in such cases and to pay any affected individuals anything that they are then due. It is of fundamental importance to me that people who appealed a sanction decision, but were prevented from having a fair hearing because of the Act, should have their right restored. Only a small group of people—around 5,000 individuals—have been affected by the Act in that way. As the remedial order applies only in very specific circumstances, not all cases will lead to a payment. The 2013 Act is valid for all other groups of claimants.

My Department aims to resolve such cases and make any necessary payments to those individuals as soon as it can. We anticipate that it might take up to 12 months for us to identify and pay any affected individuals. We aim to commence work on such claims in the autumn and to begin reconsidering decisions and payments. Unfortunately, I cannot say at this time how the current circumstances, or any subsequent wave of the pandemic, might affect the process. The order is not just about resolving this matter for the small number of claimants affected; we must also ensure that we learn important lessons around communicating with claimants and do not create similar instances in the future.

Members will be acutely aware that on Wednesday the Chancellor announced an unprecedented package of measures to not only protect jobs but ensure that we get back into work those individuals who may have lost their jobs as a result of the covid-19 emergency. I have real confidence that the digital nature of universal credit, and its improved means of communication with our claimants via the online journal, mean that a future Minister for Employment will not find herself in a similar situation in another eight years’ time. Instead, we will be discussing how our digital systems ensured that people were supported back into work through this difficult period.

The draft remedial order was laid for 60 sitting days on 28 June 2018, and then again for another 60 days last year. This was done to enable representations to be made by Members of both Houses and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Through the use of a non-urgent remedial order, Parliament has been given time and the opportunity to scrutinise and consult on the contents of the order.

I have considered the views of the tribunals and have amended the draft remedial order accordingly. The Joint Committee on Human Rights approved it in March and has recommended it to Parliament. There are currently no other Bills planned that could accommodate this specific legal objective and resolve the incompatibility. The order is a way of achieving that end without repealing the Act itself, which still holds for the majority of claimants.

Although the process has been long and complex, we have comprehensively assessed the issue and carefully considered any representations that we have received. I am keen to resolve these appeal cases for the individuals involved as soon as we can and to take the learnings forward as we look to support people back into work. I hope the Committee will support the order during its final passage through Parliament. I am satisfied that it is compatible with the European convention on human rights.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd.

I thank the Minister for her opening remarks. It is a pleasure to be working as her opposite number. As she outlined, the remedial order amends the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013, which retrospectively validated sanction decisions and notifications issued under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011 and the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Mandatory Work Activity Scheme) Regulations 2011.

In 2016 the Court of Appeal found that the 2013 Act was incompatible with article 6 of the European convention on human rights, which concerns the right to a fair hearing. The court issued a declaration of incompatibility, which related to claimants with an undetermined appeal in the tribunal system on 26 March 2013, the date when the Act came into force.

We welcome the remedial order, which will restore the right to a fair hearing for the relevant group of claimants. It gives the courts the power to find in a claimant’s favour and provides the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with the power to revise sanction decisions in those cases, or to make decisions that supersede them, and to pay the affected individuals the amount to which they would then become legally entitled.

Section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 allows a remedial order of this kind to be used to amend an Act of Parliament where there is incompatibility between domestic law and a right under the European convention on human rights, but it is extraordinary that we are here at all. I am pleased that the Government say they take a breach of the convention seriously, but there are two important points to be made.

First, the case and the experience of claimants—it must have been a traumatic experience to take the Government to court at a quite difficult time in their lives—show a strong contrast in conduct, culture and approach between the Department for Work and Pensions workfare scheme at the time, and, for example, the future jobs fund, which was cancelled by the Cameron Government. The future jobs fund worked closely and in a personalised way with young people to get them into good jobs.

Caitlin Reilly, an unemployed geology graduate, and Jamieson Wilson, an unemployed driver, brought their legal challenge to the Department in 2012, on the basis that the DWP forced claimants to take on unpaid work for private companies, at the risk of having their benefits cut through the sanction. As the Minister said, the outcome of the case affected about 5,000 claimants.

Ms Reilly was told by her jobcentre adviser that if she did not attend an unpaid work placement in a Poundland store, she would be sanctioned and her jobseeker’s allowance would be cut. Yet, at the time, Ms Reilly had just completed a paid work experience placement at a museum, where she continued to volunteer, with the ambition of pursuing a career in that field. The Court of Appeal later ruled that the instructions she had been given were unlawful, as the description of the schemes and the notices given to her were both insufficiently clear.

This happened a long time before the Minister was in her post or I was in mine, but there is a point to be made here. The Minister has talked about communications needing to be improved, but there may also be a lesson to be learned about the schemes themselves and how they operated. There were also the consequences of the Department’s instructions in the case of Ms Reilly, which were contrary to the purpose of a system and a programme that existed to help her get back into the employment she sought, in which she could have an ongoing career and sustainable employment. Those methods were in contrast to Labour’s approach through the future jobs fund, where engaging with employers to achieve sustainable and fulfilling work opportunities was a priority, not only at a local level, in how local authorities were involved in delivering employment outcomes, but in the culture that was enabled and created from the centre.

Unfortunately, in this case, Ms Reilly was forced to give up her voluntary work in the museum. The case raises real questions about the quality of work support and the sanctions culture that was in operation—a punitive, rather than an enabling, culture at the heart of the DWP—and there are important lessons for today.

The second issue I want to raise in relation to that case is the culture of a national politics that opts to fight citizens and seek to win in the courts—including, in this case, by taking away the rights of others to appeal—rather than to learn from rulings what systemic change might be needed to improve the system and its goal of supporting people back into employment.

While this remedial order is welcome, it should never have been necessary. I put on record my dismay at the length of time it has taken to get here—it has been eight years since the original appeal. Families have had their appeals and their lives on hold, with all the stress and strain that that will have caused. Claimants affected by the declaration of incompatibility have been waiting for their appeal or their hearing to be decided since that time. Some may no longer be claiming benefit. Some may have moved away or even passed away.

I thank the Minister for laying out a timetable for resolving this issue—I appreciate some of the difficulties with covid—for her commitment to ensuring that the process starts as soon as possible in the autumn, and for her hope that the issue will be resolved within 12 months. Will she lay out precisely how the Government intend to identify those affected who have entitlements? Do Ministers already have those records? Will she also lay out the approach they intend to take in calculating the entitlement to refunds of sanctioned benefits?

I reiterate that these are real human stories. These people could be her constituents or mine, or any of us on this Committee today. Using this order to insert new provisions into the 2013 Act will achieve the necessary change in the law to restore the right to a fair hearing to those affected, and ensuring fairness must now be a priority.

The delay in bringing forward this order has been quite extraordinary. That was not all due to the Minister, and I appreciate her point that the process has allowed for scrutiny, but it has been a considerably long time. It has been eight years since the original claim went through the courts. The Joint Committee on Human Rights said:

“The Committee does, however, regret the delay between the declaration of incompatibility and the laying of the proposed draft Remedial Order.”

I hope the Minister will understand the concerns about the delay, but it is important that, if there were reasons for the delay that could have been addressed, those should be taken on board and we should not see this situation arise in the future.

To conclude, I hope the Minister acknowledges that mistakes were made by the Department under her predecessors, regarding the treatment of jobseekers between 2011 and 2013; that the law was interpreted wrongly, sanctioned by her Department; that lessons will continue to be learned in terms of the culture and the way in which work support should be designed; and that resources should be in place to deliver that work support to the quality that our citizens need and deserve.

While we welcome and support the remedial order, at this time of national crisis we have approximately nine jobseekers seeking work for every vacancy. I hope the Minister will reflect on the use of sanctions in her Department and on the mixed messages that are coming out and, perhaps, finally agree that applying sanctions at this time is incomprehensible when we look at the situation. Organisations such as Disability Rights UK have this week highlighted the great anxiety that this causes people and their families.

More broadly, I hope the lessons that her Department has learned from this case, and that it learns in the future, mean it spends less time in the courtroom and more time, when things go wrong, better supporting people and getting them quickly back into meaningful, sustainable and fulfilling employment.

I thank the hon. Lady for her constructive views, and I particularly welcome her closing thoughts. We fully agree that getting people back to work and giving them wide support is important.

We will look at this matter on a case-by-case basis and look closely at what happens on the ground and at its impact. That is what this Department does; we are a learning and understanding Department. In this role, I am determined that we will listen and engage with stakeholders, as the hon. Lady mentioned, and learn from the experience of claimants.

I accept that it has taken some time to address this issue. The draft legislation is a successful outcome of what has, frankly, been a long and complex court process. As a result of that, it was important that we considered how to address the issue carefully. I am extremely keen to resolve the appeal cases for claimants as soon as we can. I hope we can all support this order through its final passage, so that we can do that.

We use sanctions as a consequence of people not meeting the agreed commitments that a claimant accepts in order to be entitled to benefits. Sanctions are a last resort. We always apply reasonable judgment before any actions and take into account current circumstances. Our work coaches support us with their judgment of what are reasonable steps. Claimant commitments must be reasonable and, in this unprecedented time, they will be. I understand the points that the hon. Lady raises, but I am clear that we are in a good place as we move forward from the changes at the beginning of July.

The exercise of looking through the 5,000 people, potentially, who we need to understand will be important in terms of how we check all those who have been affected by the new remedial order. If it is determined that a person is affected and a payment is due, it is key that we have gone through their legal entitlements with the administrative practice that we have, and therefore that we can go back to claimants and make the payment appropriately.

I thank my hon. Friends and all hon. Members for joining today’s important debate. This remedial order will amend the 2013 Act so that, for all relevant appeals, where it is right to do so, the court and tribunals can find in an individual’s favour. It also allows my Department to revise or supersede the relevant sanction decisions so that the individual does not need to pursue their appeal.

I am keen to resolve the appeal cases for those individuals as soon as we can. It is of fundamental importance to me that those who appealed a sanction decision but were prevented from having a fair hearing because of the Act should have that right restored.

We aim, as I say, to begin revising all affected cases in the autumn of this year. I recognise the importance of resolving this incompatibility as swiftly as possible. It has taken time to consult and to develop the appropriate best course of action.

I thank the Minister for taking this intervention in her closing remarks. Should the Department decide not to agree to a claimant’s claim retrospectively, what will happen in that circumstance, where the Department is, in a sense, marking its own homework?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that point. That is exactly why we are going to do it carefully and considerately through each individual circumstance. I am not going to comment on individual cases that I do not understand at this point, but I am happy to take that away and write to her to explain where that will land as an issue. As I say, I think a very small proportion of people will be impacted and, hopefully, there will not be a large number of such situations.

As we have heard this morning, there is no argument to justify delaying this process. I hope we will all be able to support this remedial order so that it can complete its final passage and be reported to Parliament. I commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Community Infrastructure Levy (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Yvonne Fovargue

† Aiken, Nickie (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)

† Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Byrne, Ian (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab)

Clark, Feryal (Enfield North) (Lab)

† Daly, James (Bury North) (Con)

† Dines, Miss Sarah (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)

Dowd, Peter (Bootle) (Lab)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

Johnson, Dame Diana (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

† Mayhew, Jerome (Broadland) (Con)

† Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Pincher, Christopher (Minister for Housing)

† Ribeiro-Addy, Bell (Streatham) (Lab)

† Robinson, Mary (Cheadle) (Con)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

† Wild, James (North West Norfolk) (Con)

Ian Bradshaw, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 14 July 2020

[Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

Draft Community Infrastructure Levy (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Community Infrastructure Levy (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. The regulations were laid before the House on 30 June and, if approved and made, will give local authorities the discretion to help small and medium-sized developers experiencing financial difficulties because of the effects of the coronavirus epidemic. They will enable local authorities to defer community infrastructure levy payments without having to impose additional costs on developers. Although we have already put in place a range of measures to help businesses affected by the effects of coronavirus, we recognise that small and medium-sized enterprise developers require additional assistance.

SME builders have been declining in the long term and were hit hard by the last recession. There were 16% more builder and developer insolvencies in 2019 than in 2018. The vast majority of those were SMEs. SME developers are now under further pressure because of the epidemic, so giving local authorities the discretion to grant a deferral of CIL payment liabilities for SMEs is another important step in supporting the sector.

Both developers and local authorities have requested that we introduce a deferral mechanism. However, we recognise that local authorities will be best placed to understand the needs and pressures in their area, so these regulations do not mandate that local authorities defer CIL payments, but instead give them the discretion to do so where they think that appropriate. The regulations make the same provision for the Mayor of London should the Mayor consider it appropriate to defer mayoral CIL payments.

CIL regulations first came into force in April 2010. They enable local planning authorities and the Mayor of London to raise a levy on new development in their local area to fund a wide range of infrastructure to support development. The CIL becomes payable within 60 days of building works commencing unless the charging authority has published an instalment policy. However, the payment schedule set out in an instalment policy can apply only to development that commences after the policy is published. Therefore, although an authority can help developers that have not started building work with their CIL payments by publishing an instalment policy, it does not have the power to defer payments for development that has already commenced.

Where the developer fails to pay on time, the current regulations require the local authority to administer late payment interest on the CIL amount owed, and allow for the imposition of late payment surcharges. The local authority has further powers to enforce, as set out in part 9 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010. The regulations being debated today introduce amendments to that statutory instrument to address the financial effects that coronavirus has brought upon SME developers, including development sites that have stalled because of financial instability. These provisions have been developed following close engagement with the industry and local authorities.

As to the detail of the amendments, we are, first, making changes to allow local authorities the discretion to defer temporarily CIL payments for SMEs in certain circumstances—namely, where the SME is experiencing financial difficulty for reasons connected to the effects of coronavirus and is required to pay a CIL amount during the specified time. SMEs may apply in writing to the local authority no more than 14 days before or as soon as practicable after the date the CIL payment is due, requesting a deferment of the payment. The collecting authority can request whatever information from the developer it reasonably needs to consider the deferral request. It must consider a deferral request as soon as is practicable after it is received and grant or refuse the request in writing. Payments can be deferred for up to six months. Where the deferment payment falls due on or before 31 July 2021, the developer could submit a further deferral request.

Under the current regulations, where a developer has not paid their CIL liability by the date set on the demand notice, late payment interest automatically accrues. That late payment interest accrues at 2.5% above the base rate. Charging authorities may also apply late payment surcharges. We recognise that it would be unfair to continue to apply those charges where a developer has applied to defer a CIL payment. We have therefore paused the application of late payment interest and surcharges while a deferral request is being considered.

The regulations also allow, where a deferral request has been agreed, for the developer to request that any late payment interest that has accrued in the period between lockdown and the deferral request being agreed be credited and taken off the total of the CIL amount owed. That is termed an interest request and ensures that SMEs will not be penalised because of the effects of coronavirus. The regulations make the same provisions for the CIL collected by London boroughs on behalf of the Mayor of London.

Contributions from developers play an important role in delivering the infrastructure that new homes and local economies require. The measures set out in the regulations enable the collecting authority to exercise their discretion to defer payment of CIL on a case-by-case basis. That will give local authorities the discretion to help SME developers who are struggling with cash flow, and ensure that CIL payments are made, albeit over a longer period, rather than being lost because a small builder goes out of business.

I commend the regulations to the Committee.

I apologise for being slightly late—I had 9.30 in my diary; clearly, that was wrong.

The Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010, which have been part of the taxation landscape for more than a decade, allow planning authorities and the Mayor of London to raise a levy on new developments in their areas, as the Minister said. The CIL can be used to fund a wide range of infrastructure to support the development of the area where it is collected. The amount of money it raises nationally is significant. A study that the Department commissioned in 2016-17 put developer contributions through the CIL at nearly £1 billion. The CIL is a good and necessary vehicle to help provide the infrastructure that all Members want to see in our communities and, importantly, the facilities and amenities that our constituents desire. Money from the CIL has contributed to, for example, the building of Crossrail, flood defences, transport, GP surgeries, schools, local highways and green spaces.

In recent weeks, the CIL has been in the media for the wrong reasons. The Government’s moral authority has been damaged by the Westferry saga, in which the Secretary of State and the developer attempted to forgo CIL obligations to Tower Hamlets. Trust, Minister, must be rebuilt.

Covid-19 has had tragic consequences for many families. Loved ones have been lost across our communities and our constituencies. Our normal way of life has been curtailed and the economy has contracted on an alarming scale. Council budgets are under huge strain. Despite the Government’s promise to do whatever it takes to support councils, the cross-party Local Government Association highlights a funding gap of nearly £10 billion. Local authorities need every element of funding to support residents and provide the stimulus needed for economic recovery.

Labour Members recognise that some small and medium-sized developers are also under strain, and practical measures are required to help. If approved, as the Minister has said, this statutory instrument will give CIL collecting authorities or the Mayor time-limited discretion to defer certain payments by smaller developers who experience financial difficulties for reasons connected to the coronavirus crisis without incurring charges for late payments. Importantly and reassuringly, this will be done at the discretion of the charging authority, although they are obliged to consider the request. It is clear that some small and medium-sized businesses need urgent support, and that undoubtedly includes the construction sector.

Developers that do not make it through this tough period will not be able to pay obligations, will not be able to protect and create jobs, and will not be able to contribute to our economic recovery. Given that fact and the time-limited period that the changes cover, we will not oppose this statutory instrument. That does not mean that I do not have questions about it. The assessment criteria that charging authorities will be required to apply to small and medium-sized developers do not seem clear in the statutory instrument. What impact assessment has been done on councils’ ability to fund infrastructure projects and thus the potential impact on local authorities? Will the Minister review the take-up of these discretionary measures within, say, three months of the application?

In conclusion, we recognise that the SI gives short-term flexibility and discretion to both charging authorities and small and medium-sized developers. Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on our broken housing market. Although the mantra of “build, build, build” might capture some headlines, it must be qualified with an emphasis on building the right mix of tenure that will be sustainable for generations to come.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his generous approach to the Committee’s deliberations of this statutory instrument. I am happy to answer his questions. He first asked what criteria are applied by a local authority to determine whether an applicant is an SME. The criteria are very clear. The applicant must have a turnover of not more than £45 million a year, which is the normal criterion applied to whether a firm is or is not an SME. That will be the key criterion applied by local authorities in their determination of an application.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether there will be a gap issue in funding for local authorities. We have talked to local authorities. We have talked to Croydon, Ealing, East Suffolk, Havering, Hillingdon, Richmond, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets—he mentioned that particular authority in passing. Labour and Conservative, and, in the case of Richmond, Liberal Democrat, local authorities all agree that our approach is right and sensible. They all agree that it is better to defer payments than risk SMEs going out of business and having no payments at all—and indeed no construction at all.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether we would be prepared to review the regulations after three or so months. I think adding further burdens on local authorities in that way is possibly not the most sensible approach, but we are always mindful of our liaison with the LGA. We always look closely at the effects of our policies and will keep it in mind.

In conclusion, I am grateful to the Committee for its consideration and to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale and the Opposition for their support. I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that we have given £3.2 billion to local authorities—a further £450 million last week. We have deferred business rates. We have given them £63 million for the non-shielded food vulnerable. I think that is a relatively good record of support for local authorities. In the spirit of generosity, I hope he will reach out to the shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Croydon North (Steve Reed) and remind him that it is not sensible to attack homeowners for receiving a “bung” in the reduction of stamp duty. That is designed to help homebuyers and the housing sector. I hope the Committee will support the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Channel Islands Measure

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Graham Stringer

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

† Campbell, Sir Alan (Tynemouth) (Lab)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

Cummins, Judith (Bradford South) (Lab)

Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey) (Lab)

Elliott, Julie (Sunderland Central) (Lab)

† Everitt, Ben (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

† Fell, Simon (Barrow and Furness) (Con)

† Henry, Darren (Broxtowe) (Con)

† Huq, Dr Rupa (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)

† Johnston, David (Wantage) (Con)

† Jupp, Simon (East Devon) (Con)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Selous, Andrew (Second Church Estates Commissioner)

† Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)

† Webb, Suzanne (Stourbridge) (Con)

† Webbe, Claudia (Leicester East) (Lab)

Stuart Ramsay, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 14 July 2020

[Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Channel Islands Measure

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Channel Islands Measure (HC 548).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I am grateful to colleagues for turning up this morning; I hope that the Measure will not detain us for long. The Measure is very simple: it will transfer the Channel Islands from the diocese of Winchester to the diocese of Salisbury. The transfer will be achieved by an Order in Council. The reason for it is that back in 2008 there was a safeguarding incident on Jersey, and the handling of the matter led to a dispute between the Dean of Jersey and the Bishop of Winchester. In 2018 the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed a commission, chaired by the former Bishop of London, Lord Chartres, to consider and report on the relationship between the Channel Islands and the wider Church of England.

It is perhaps worth reflecting a little on the history of the Channel Islands’ relationship with the Church of England. Until the 16th century, they were part of the Church of France and of the diocese of Coutances. In 1496, before the Reformation, Henry VII obtained a papal bull transferring the islands to the English diocese of Salisbury, but it seems that it was never put into effect—it is not new that we pass legislation in this place but do not always consider its enforcement. The islands finally became part of the Church of England in 1569, when they were transferred to the diocese of Winchester by an Order in Council of Elizabeth I. Since then, the Church of England has been the established Church in the Channel Islands.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s commission reported in September 2019. It concluded that although there remained

“residual affection for the historic attachment to the Diocese of Winchester”,

the difficulties in the relationship between the islands and the diocese were such that the breakdown was

“too great for it to be retrieved in the foreseeable future.”

Having considered the various options, the commission recommended that the islands be transferred to the diocese of Salisbury. There is relatively easy access via Southampton airport or by ferry to Poole, and the diocese of Salisbury has the necessary capacity to oversee the islands, having two suffragan bishops in addition to its diocesan bishop. As I mentioned, there is a historical connection, which goes back to the failed papal bull of 1496. In fact, the first bishop since the Reformation to visit the islands and carry out confirmations was the Bishop of Salisbury, in 1818. Thank you for bearing with me for a little of the history, Mr Springer; I think it is interesting and it sets the scene.

The Measure, which is very straightforward, gives effect to the recommendation of the Archbishop’s commission that the Channel Islands be transferred to the diocese of Salisbury. It also tidies up some other matters relating to Church of England governance on the islands.

Section 1, the key provision, provides:

“Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide for…the attachment of the Bailiwicks”—

the Channel Islands are referred to as the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey—

“to the diocese of Salisbury instead of to the diocese of Winchester, and…the transfer to the Bishop of Salisbury of such jurisdiction as the Bishop of Winchester has in relation to the Bailiwicks.”

A Measure is needed to authorise the making of an Order in Council because the royal prerogative alone does not extend to altering the jurisdiction of bishops or the extent of their dioceses. Statutory authority, in the form of this Measure, is needed to confer the necessary legal authority on the Crown to make the transfer of jurisdiction and alter the extent of the two dioceses.

Section 2 sets out consequential amendments to existing Church legislation so that references to “Winchester” become references to “Salisbury”.

Section 3 deals with the procedure for extending Church Measures to the Channel Islands, which was first established in 1931 and has been somewhat elaborate and time-consuming, with the result that there is a backlog of Church legislation that ought to be extended to the Channel Islands. Section 3 will enable Church legislation to be extended to the islands much more simply and straightforwardly, which should mean that the backlog of legislation, which deals with important matters such as safeguarding and clergy discipline, can now be cleared and that future delays in extending appropriate Church legislation to the islands can be avoided.

Section 4 deals with Church representation from the Channel Islands to the General Synod of the Church of England, which met in virtual session on Saturday. It extends the scope of the franchise on the Channel Islands—for instance, the minimum age for enrolment on a parish roll is reduced from 17 to 16—and enables members of other Christian Churches in communion with the Church of England to be on an electoral roll for the General Synod if they so wish.

I can tell hon. Members that the Measure was received with favour when it came before the General Synod of the Church of England in February; all the bishops present supported it, including the Bishops of Winchester and Salisbury, and it had overwhelming support in the Houses of Clergy and Laity. The Ecclesiastical Committee, which is composed of Members of the House of Lords and of the Commons, also considered the matter in an extensive Zoom session on 19 June, and we found the Measure expedient. I hope that it will find favour with the Committee this morning.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. The Committee will no doubt be shocked to hear that I do not intend to detain it for long. I thank the Second Church Estates Commissioner for his history lesson—we darted around from the 16th century to 1931 and finally hit Zoom time, which is something that I am sure we are all used to. I have only one question. He has already touched on this, but can he confirm that all the clergy who will be affected by the Measure, not just the bishops, are in favour and are happy with it?

I can indeed give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. The former Bishop of London, Lord Chartres, and his commission took extensive soundings from all the clergy on Jersey and Guernsey when they went there last year. This is the settled view of the whole Church, including all the clergy on the islands.

I can also tell the hon. Gentleman that when the Measure came before the General Synod of the Church of England in February, 94 clergy were in favour and one was against; I am afraid that I do not know why one was against, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that that is pretty overwhelming. Every Bishop was in favour, as were a huge majority of the House of Laity—117 were in favour and only two were against. The Measure has overwhelming support.

We all hope that the Measure will herald a new era for the islands in their relationship with the Church of England, that that relationship will be harmonious in future and that it will lead to the flourishing of the Church on the islands.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.