Wednesday, 29 October 2008.
The Committee met at quarter to four.
[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) in the Chair.]
Before the Committee begins its proceedings, I remind Members that, in the event of a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes from the sound of the Division Bell. Before the Minister moves that the first statutory instrument be considered, I remind noble Lords that in the case of each statutory instrument the Motion before the Committee will be that the Committee do consider the instrument in question. The Motion to approve the instrument will be moved in the Chamber in the usual way.
Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2008.
The noble Lord said: The Police Act 1996, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, contains power for the Secretary of State to make regulations as to the government, administration and conditions of service of police forces. Today, in an effort to further improve the arrangements for dealing with issues of unsatisfactory performance or misconduct relating to police officers, we are introducing these three statutory instruments.
The statutory instruments establish a new set of procedures governing police disciplinary matters, in response to the recommendations of the Taylor review. The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 establish procedures for taking action in respect of misconduct by police officers and special constables. The Police (Performance) Regulations 2008 establish procedures for dealing with issues of unsatisfactory performance and attendance on the part of police officers—apart from senior officers—and special constables. The Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2008 provide for appeals to a police appeals tribunal against the findings and specific outcomes from both the conduct and performance regulations.
These instruments have been prepared following the passing of primary legislation in the recent Criminal Justice and Immigration Act and enjoy the full support of the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
It may be helpful to the Committee if I set out the background to the making of these instruments. The Taylor review of police disciplinary arrangements was the review conducted by William Taylor CBE QPM, a former commissioner of the City of London Police and former HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, into the effectiveness of disciplinary arrangements for police officers. The programme board that guided and informed the review consisted of all the main police stakeholders and other invited organisations: the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Police Federation of England and Wales, the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, the Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, the National Black Police Association, representatives of Special Constabulary, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, UNISON, Liberty and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
The key recommendations of the Taylor report—there were 19 in total—include the ones that I will highlight today. They are that the police officer disciplinary arrangements are most appropriately determined by Parliament, after extensive consultation; that a new single code should be produced to be a touchstone for individual behaviour and a clear indication of organisational and peer expectations; and that, although regulated, the new procedures should be based on the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. The report also recommended that conduct issues should be separated into two distinct groups—misconduct and gross misconduct—in order to promote proportionate handling, to clarify the available outcomes and to provide a better public understanding of the policing environment; that the police service must manage the disciplinary arrangements dynamically in order to drive through changes to the internal culture of the organisation and to promote acceptance of responsibility at all levels of management; and, importantly, that the procedures for dealing with the unsatisfactory performance of a police officer should be reviewed. The recommendations contained in the report were accepted by the programme board and Ministers and led to the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales being asked to take forward the process of implementing the recommendations.
There are five points that I should like to emphasise about the new regulations. First, the Taylor review found that the current system of dealing with police misconduct can be both slow and disproportionate and gives little or no encouragement to managers to deal swiftly and proportionately with low-level misconduct matters. Disciplinary hearings were seen as being more akin to criminal court hearings and even low-level misconduct matters were decided by a three-person panel of senior police officers. The new system ensures that police managers are given the responsibility and ability to deal with misconduct in a fair and proportionate manner at the local level. Also, timescales are built into the process to ensure timeliness in all misconduct and gross misconduct cases. An independent member, appointed by the police authority, will also sit on gross misconduct panels to bring a public perspective in holding police officers to account.
Secondly, as I said, the Taylor report proposed that there should be a new single code, which should be the touchstone for individual behaviour and a clear indication of organisational and peer expectations. We, together with all stakeholders, have produced the new standards of professional behaviour for police officers, which form part of the conduct regulations. The standards set out clear expectations of the behaviour that the public and colleagues expect of all police officers.
The Taylor review also proposed that the new misconduct procedures should be based on the ACAS principles, which would modernise the system and make it easier for individual officers and the police service generally to learn lessons and improve their service to the public. One of the key points to emerge was the need to shift the emphasis and culture in police misconduct and unsatisfactory performance matters from blame and punishment towards a focus on development and improvement.
Fourthly, the report stressed the importance of carrying out a full assessment of the alleged conduct at an early stage with a view to implementing a proportionate response. The new procedures have incorporated the requirement for this objective assessment to take place at an early stage.
Finally, the report recommended a review of the existing unsatisfactory performance procedures that deal with individual poor performance and attendance of police officers. This recommendation has been implemented through the new performance regulations, which set out the procedures for dealing with the individual poor performance or attendance of police officers.
The Police Appeals Tribunals Rules provide for appeals against the findings and specific outcomes relating to cases considered under the new conduct or performance regulations. Appeals should be dealt with in a timely and proportionate manner; timescales are built into the new rules to ensure that this is the case. The police appeals tribunal chair will have the power to dismiss appeals at an early stage, where there is no real prospect of success and no other compelling reason why the appeal should proceed. The tribunal will have the power to overturn the finding of the original panel that considered the conduct or performance case and to amend the sanction imposed.
In addition to our statutory duty to consult the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales, the new procedures have undergone extensive consultation with all chief constables in England and Wales, police authorities, police staff associations and non-police bodies such as the Commission for Racial Equality, which is of course now the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Equal Opportunities Commission. In addition, in accordance with our statutory duty, we have consulted the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council on the draft Police Appeals Tribunals Rules.
The response to the consultation has been broadly supportive of both the policy behind the changes to the misconduct and performance procedures and the detail of the regulations and rules themselves. Stakeholders and other organisations are keen to move to a system that deals with misconduct and poor performance in a more timely and proportionate manner. The Home Office and the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales have considered each of the responses received and made appropriate changes to the policy and the instruments. These changes have been made with the approval of all those organisations represented on the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales.
The Police Advisory Board working party has met 29 times over 33 months to take forward the implementation of the Taylor recommendations. The working party has overseen the various consultation exercises that I have set out. It has fully approved the policy underlying the new procedures. That is what these instruments seek to achieve and I therefore commend them to the Committee. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Police Appeals Tribunals Rules 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Brett.)
I thank the Minister for that comprehensive introduction of the rules and regulations. They were debated independently and separately in the other place, but I am happy that they should be considered together today. They form a composite part of the reform of the disciplinary and performance proceedings for police officers, so there seems no reason to separate them out.
As the Minister said, the regulations arise out of the important Taylor report of 2004, which was undertaken against a background of concern over the overly ponderous proceedings—they were slow, as the Minister said—for dealing with complaints about police officers, either from the public or internally, and/or the poor performance of officers.
We support these regulations. They are sensible, in our view, and sensible ways have been found to turn what were completely adversarial proceedings in front of a panel into a much more measured response, particularly for the less serious matters. Those can be dealt with by an immediate line manager in the first instance, following, as the Minister has said, an assessment of the alleged conduct.
The changes to both the misconduct and the performance procedures are seen as a means of identifying lessons to be learnt from what has happened, both for the individual and for the service, and to provide guidance for the officer’s development and future behavioural performance. I see how guidance can be given on the latter—that is, the future behavioural performance of an individual—but how are the lessons learnt from an individual case to be promoted into one for the service? As I understand it, under Regulation 58 of the conduct regulations, the records of either the misdemeanour or the poor performance will have to be kept by the senior officers of an individual force and, consequently, will presumably be monitored. Will those then be collated by the Home Office or by some other body for further action? Since Parliament has been quite specifically made the keeper of the procedures, is it intended that a report will be brought from time to time to both Houses on the nature of the complaints and their outcomes? Perhaps the Minister could give us a response to that.
My second main question arises from one raised by my honourable friend David Ruffley in the other place, which bears consideration again today. It concerns the training that will be available to the managers who will now have the responsibility for handling discipline or performance issues. In essence, those managers may be only marginally more senior than the person about whom the complaint has been made. In most organisations where this form of handling matters is the norm—by and large it is the norm across the public service—the department of human resources first ensures that the procedures are well understood by all staff and then makes certain that anyone who has to implement them has been formally trained in how to do so, to ensure that they are impartial and that they carry out the procedures in a proper manner. What guidance will be issued to that effect? I appreciate that the code is going to be brought forward, but this is a specific implementation of that code.
I know that since 2004, when the Taylor report was finalised, considerable discussion has taken place within the service to ensure that the final legislation before us today is largely accepted and agreed, allowing for the fact that amendments had to be made to it. We are fortunate in this country to have a police force that is made up of officers who are wholly committed to providing a service of integrity and discipline, who are on duty day in and day out—they are never wholly off duty—and who largely deal with what comes about in a professional manner. We are therefore talking today about a relatively small number who do not live up to those standards. Some may infringe or breach the codes of discipline and some may behave unacceptably. It is to managing these that the regulations relate and we therefore welcome them.
I have not touched on the appeals tribunals so far and I do not intend to do any more than ask the Minister about the appointment of the chair. The chair can make a decision that has a fundamental effect on an appeal from a person whose ways have been found to be in error. Where will the chair be appointed from? Will it be a public appointment? Will they have to have a legal qualification? Presumably, and I hope that the answer to this is yes, they will already have had tribunal experience. When you put into the hands of one person either the decision or the right to turn down the appeal, even when it is glaringly obvious that that is the right thing to do, there is a huge responsibility on that person.
Finally, it has taken nearly four years for these regulations to come before us. I have no complaint about that because clearly they have been the subject of a great deal of consultation, but can the Minister give us the timetable for ensuring that the codes and procedures are introduced into the force so that it is not another four years before they are under way?
I, too, thank the Minister for introducing the instruments and I welcome him to what is probably his first question and answer session on police matters. I begin by declaring an interest as a former chair for eight years of a police authority, whose complaints committee I also chaired. I am also vice-chair of the Association of Police Authorities. About 12 years ago, when I was in the middle of a serious and difficult complaint procedure in my county, I asked for precisely what we have before us today, so I am grateful to all those who have taken part in working through these complex problems and who have come up with what I think is a good way forward.
Police officers want and need a better system; they deserve it. These matters affect them and their families tremendously. When police officers are subject to disciplinary procedure, it is not just the officer who has to go through the terrible difficulties surrounding it. Whether in the end they are found guilty or declared innocent, the process itself affects them. I have seen the dreadful effect that it has had on a number of police officers. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, fortunately this will apply only to a few police officers; indeed, the gross misconduct procedures will, thankfully, apply to a tiny minority in the totality of policing. A single code for disciplinary arrangements is therefore long overdue.
The degrees of misconduct have been well highlighted and should be recognised, but what is important is, as the noble Baroness said, how those procedures will be implemented. The time limits on the process are crucial. Months can go by. That is one of the most difficult challenges for everyone concerned. Anything that can bring down the time limits, certainly for simple and straightforward matters, is valuable. These issues should be dealt with at the lowest possible level. I think that a basic command unit commander would be absolutely ideal. However, I am happy to note that an independent member will sit on the gross misconduct panel, so we go from one extreme to the other. The presence of an independent person would have been helpful in the difficult case in which I was involved.
Moving from blame and punishment to development and improvement certainly is the way forward and I commend it. The cost of prolonged inquiries is enormous, as I found out to our cost, because the money comes out of the finite police authority budget. I welcome the fact that all the organisations that have a stake—although I hate that word—in policing have done an excellent job in bringing forward these proposals. It cannot have been easy. Having been a member of the PNB and the PAB and knowing how these things operate, I am well aware of the difficulties in trying to sort out the problems.
I have one or two fairly straightforward questions for the Minister. How will the time limits be adhered to? We know that they are down, but how will the regulations be implemented in the same way across all forces? How will that be monitored? Will Parliament be told how the regulations are being used and how often they are used? I echo the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, about training. I was concerned about this. How will training in these new methods be delivered? It will be significant. We must understand how difficult the culture shift will be for the service. All police officers know their disciplinary regulations. Apparently we are moving to a softer touch, but it will not be a soft touch; it will still be a severe test. It will be interesting to see how it will be delivered.
We very much support the Police Appeals Tribunals Rules. They are very sensible; we perfectly accept that. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, suggested, the police are subject to personal restrictions of a type not known certainly to Members of your Lordships’ House or to general members of the public. Police officers are on duty all the time. My late former father-in-law was a chief inspector of police and one of the first things that he told me 30 or 40 years ago was that he was always on duty. He felt that he had a responsibility to the community all the time. Indeed, most police officers feel that. You do not have to have a senior role in the police to feel that you have a responsibility to the community off duty as well as on duty.
Finally, PCSOs were discussed in the other place. They are not subject to the same disciplinary procedures and arrangements but, as we move towards including them more formally in the policing structure, we will have to think about those procedures and arrangements. I do not think that there is an answer today, but although PCSOs are classed as civilians when difficulties arise, they are under the direction and control of the chief constable. They appear to the public as police officers, so perhaps the disciplinary arrangements should be looked at to see how they can apply to PCSOs.
Thankfully, we are not talking about large numbers. The police do an absolutely magnificent job in the main. Those who spoil what the police do by not behaving properly need to be weeded out. All the arrangements that are now being put into place will do that and I commend the instruments.
I am most grateful for the noble Baronesses’ support, for the prescient points that they make and for their correct appreciation of our police service and its probity, efficiency and loyalty. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, says, there are a few bad apples in every barrel, but fortunately there are far fewer in this country than in some others.
A number of points were made, which I shall try to deal with in the order in which I took them down. Both noble Baronesses talked about training. When you change the culture of an organisation, it is important that people understand not only why you are changing it but how they are supposed to behave in the new situation. There will be a new national training package, which will be delivered by approved external providers.
Training will be run for trainee managers, panel members and PCSOs. Police authorities are already training independent members. Home Office guidance will be issued and the IPCC is also training staff, so there is clearly a training package that ensures that everyone affected—no doubt, including the organisations representing police officers, PCSOs and others who will have an interest—will have the consultation that they will rightly demand on how their members will be dealt with and how their members as managers will deal with other people.
The question of the chair was raised. As I said, the police appeals tribunals consist of a three-person panel for senior officers and a four-person panel for non-senior officers. The chair is selected through the Judicial Appointments Commission and must have five years’ legal standing—currently, nine or 10 are QCs. The second member is a Chief Inspector of Constabulary or another inspector nominated by him. The third member is the Home Office Permanent Secretary or another Home Office director appointed by him.
For non-senior officers, the chair must be selected through the Judicial Appointments Commission and must have five years’ legal standing, as before. The second member is a member of the force’s police authority. The third member must be a chief officer from the officer’s force or another force, especially if greater independence is thought necessary. The fourth member would be a retired staff association representative. The chair has the casting vote; he would decide on papers and dismiss the case, if he thought that appropriate, without convening the panel. However, one can have some confidence in the quality, experience and qualifications of the chairs. I hope that that answer satisfies the noble Baroness.
The other issue raised was how lessons will be learnt and how best practice will be spread across the service. The professional standards directorate will gather the learning experience and ensure that it is shared through formal guidance where appropriate, but all will learn together—managers, managed and the HR function.
This is revolutionary only in relation to the police force, which is, as I said, a disciplined force. I hope that it will be benign, in the sense of not using the old, much more adversarial system, and more akin to the things that we have already in modern industry, in modern large companies—multinationals and nationals. They understand how to deal with human failing, how to take remedial action and how to assist people to improve performance; only if that fails do they look to other action.
The final question to which I think I can give a supportive answer concerned the operative date, which is 1 December 2008. The final question, on which I will not be able to give the same satisfaction to the noble Baronesses as I hope my other answers have given, is about reporting to Parliament. This is a procedural matter that needs to be managed as a line management issue. It is clearly something that the Home Office will take a keen interest in, so we would clearly want to ensure that the Home Office was up to date on it, but it would be overkill, unless something surprising came out of the cultural change, to require reporting to Parliament.
PCSOs’ discipline arrangements are covered in their contracts of employment. There will no doubt be consultation with associations representing civilian staff within the police service.
Parliament will be kept informed via the Home Office. We intend to keep the operation of the regulations under review and any changes needed will be subject to further regulations being laid before your Lordships’ House and Parliament in general.
I hope that those answers are sufficient to assuage those who asked the questions and I have delight in commending the instruments to the House.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Police (Performance) Regulations 2008
I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Police (Performance) Regulations 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Brett.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008
I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Brett.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2008.
The noble Lord said: In moving this Motion, I will repeat things said recently in the other place and in this House. The Government are determined to continue to drive through the real improvements in the immigration system that we have said that we will deliver. In April 2008, we created a new force, the UK Border Agency, which brings together UKvisas, the Border and Immigration Agency and Customs at the border. We are seeing the results. I realise that I am in danger of repeating what was said to most noble Lords here just a few moments ago but, since April, we have seen the prevention of some 10,000 individuals crossing the channel; we have searched more than 500,000 freight vehicles; and we have confiscated and detected more than 1,000 forged documents. In addition, anyone applying for a visa now has their fingerprints checked against UK databases. So far, we have enrolled some 3 million sets of fingerprints.
We have started rolling out the tough new Australian points-based system. Analysis has shown that, if the points-based system had been in place last year, around 10 per cent fewer skilled and temporary migrants from outside Europe would have been allowed into the United Kingdom. Since we introduced new penalties for employers to combat illegal working in February 2008, fines worth about £8 million have been issued. We have also unveiled foreign national ID cards, which will go live later this month.
The problem with all this is the cost to the Exchequer and the taxpayer. This year, we will spend over £2 billion on securing our borders and managing the immigration system, of which £670 million will have come from fees paid by those using the system. It is right and fair to the users of the immigration system and to the general public in the UK that those who benefit most from the immigration system should contribute proportionately more to the true end costs.
For the £600 multi-tier sponsor licence fee, the sponsor is a medium or large sponsor and already holds a tier 4 or 5 sponsor licence. In respect of the first fee, the facility to apply in person is highly valued by customers as an alternative to a postal application. Tier 1, post study, will be the first applicants under the points-based system able to make a premium application under the phased implementation of the points-based system. Implementing this route will generate income estimated at £2.6 million until March 2009.
In respect of the reduced entry clearance fees, we propose that a 10 per cent fee reduction be offered to workers who are nationals of states that have ratified the Council of Europe Social Charter—namely, Turkey, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—applying for entry clearance. Setting these fees at reasonable levels will minimise lost income and limit the impact of a fee exemption at posts overseas. It is within UK treaty obligations to reduce or abolish fees for workers under the Council of Europe Social Charter.
We have also removed the fee exemption for workers under the 1996 Council of Europe revised Social Charter. Workers from Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will now pay the standard entry clearance fee. We do not feel that it is appropriate to maintain a fee exemption in respect of nationals of states that are party to a treaty that the UK has not ratified and to which it is therefore not bound. Making these changes generates income estimated at £340,000 until March 2009.
The sponsor licence fee is for medium or large sponsors who have previously applied to bring in students or temporary workers for a fee of £400 and who subsequently apply to bring in skilled workers. We want to charge £600 for the second application, which would mean that they pay a total of £1,000, taking them up to the cost of a stand-alone tier 2 licence fee. That is an unusual category of application, for which we expect volumes to be negligible.
The fees proposed here are all fair and proportionate. They would recover the costs of considering the application and contribute to the true end costs of the system. These changes are a vital step as we deliver a fairer and more effective immigration system. I commend this instrument to the Committee. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Brett.)
The noble Lord says that they are almost monthly. We understand the reasoning behind what I call the Robin Hood system of charging more for those who can afford the cost and less for those who cannot. However, I am a little surprised at the rapid change as regards exemptions for workers who are nationals of states covered either by the Council of Europe Social Charter or the Council of Europe revised Social Charter. These exemptions were introduced barely a year ago. I should be grateful if the Minister would explain why they are suddenly being changed. Has the number of applications in that time been so great that a charge is seen as a deterrent? The Minister said that exemptions should not apply as regards a treaty that we have not ratified. However, that situation applied last year, so why introduce a change this year? It is quite bouleversé.
Will any more categories be introduced before the total number of fee categories is completed? These regulations come through fairly regularly and there are all sorts of tiers and parts of tiers. It would be helpful to be told when they will be fully completed. The Explanatory Notes suggest that consolidation of the current regulations and fee charges will take place as part of the annual review in 2009 and 2010. However, the current fee charges may not be the end of the story. It would be helpful to be told whether we are nearly at the end of this process or whether we are still in the middle of it, as well as whether the consolidation will lay out the full fee regime or whether we will still be messing around with one or two categories every few months. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in an aside that this was likely to occur monthly rather than annually, so we shall take it as likely to occur monthly.
I have nothing more to offer on these regulations. They are clearly part and parcel of the new way of limiting immigration into this country and rationalising the charges that we make, but we need answers to the three questions that I asked.
The Minister began his remarks by repeating some of the comments that he made in answering the Oral Question asked this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Greaves. I repeat what I said then: I hope that the Government will not claim that the credit for the fall in immigration, particularly of those coming here to seek work, belongs to the points-based system when we are already seeing a huge fall in the number of employment vacancies and a rise in unemployment, which we can be absolutely certain will get progressively worse over the next 12 months. Regardless of whether there was a points-based system, there would not be as many people coming here to work, or, indeed, in any other category of immigration. I fervently hope that the Government will not try to claim that the credit for limiting immigration belongs to the points-based system when that has nothing to do with it; falling immigration is a product of the world economic downturn.
I am fascinated by this. I do not know whether the noble Lord or the Minister saw the report and the comments of the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which were reported today, that more than 1 million immigrants will be leaving just because, as the noble Lord said, this country is in a deep recession.
Yes. The noble Baroness reinforces my point. Most of the people who came here, such as the huge number who entered from Poland after accession, have gone back, leading to a net reduction in immigration from the east-EU accession countries, which people were so terrified of when those immigrants first came in. The regulations and the points-based system have nothing to do with those numbers, which we talked about at Question Time.
The regulations come under the regime set by Section 51 of the 2006 Act, which gives the Secretary of State power to specify fees for services provided in connection with immigration and nationality, and by Section 42, as amended, of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, which allows the fees to be set at levels higher than the cost of providing the service, as well as to cross-subsidise other services without any clear upper limit.
I intervened in the noble Baroness’s speech to say that this event was not annual but almost monthly. To summarise, your Lordships discussed the original fees order on 8 March 2007 and the original regulations three weeks later. Since then, we had amendments to the order on 13 December 2007 and two sets of amendments to the regulations on 25 February 2008 and 17 June 2008. Although it may have been a bit of an exaggeration to say that this happens monthly, this is the sixth time that we have looked at the procedures under the current legislation. This makes it ever more difficult for practitioners and the users of the system to find their way through all the paperwork.
The Immigration Law Handbook consolidates legislation up to the point at which it is published, but the current version, from early 2007, has none of these instruments. What Parliament and users need, if we are to understand this avalanche of secondary legislation and comment on it usefully, is a draft consolidation of the original order. I think that this was the noble Baroness’s point. We need consolidation as we go along, including all the amending instruments up to the one under consideration. If the Home Office wanted to be helpful, it could publish the fee regulations, as they would be amended by this instrument, as an appendix to the Explanatory Memorandum each time a new instrument is tabled. There will be many more instruments; we have dealt with only a fraction of the six tiers that are involved in the points-based system.
The Library helpfully provided me with the Butterworth consolidation of all the regulations up to the regulation preceding this one. I laboriously inserted into it the amendments provided by this set of regulations, although that should be done by the Home Office. I have handed to the Minister’s officials work that I did over the weekend to consolidate this amendment into the previous ones. If the Minister looks through it, he will find that it is easy to follow because anything that has been removed from the previous regulations has been struck out in red. You can easily look through it and see exactly what these regulations have done. You cannot tell that simply by looking at this set of regulations unless you have the previous five instruments to refer to.
The fee for a particular service may reflect the benefit that the Secretary of State thinks will accrue to a successful applicant. However, if that calculation is made, the Secretary of State is not obliged to tell us on what assumptions it was based or to explain how the arithmetic was done. In the case of a tier 1 post-study migrant, we are told that, in the target consultation on the fees and charges to support the points-based system that was undertaken a year ago, one employer respondent agreed that tier 1 and tier 2 applicants should pay slightly higher fees, which presumably means slightly higher than the cost, because they could earn more.
Unfortunately, this consultation is not available on the UK Border Agency website or in the Printed Paper Office. I was under the impression that, if any document was referred to in a Motion before the House, it should be made available to Members; if that does not extend to the Explanatory Memorandum where this consultation is referred to, it jolly well ought to. I suggest that where any consultation is mentioned the document should be put on the relevant website and made available in hard copy for noble Lords to refer to either in the House or in Grand Committee.
The UKBA internal summary of the consultation, which the agency kindly sent to me when I asked for it, asked for comments on the proposal to set fees for applications under each of the tier 1 categories at levels that would continue to recover more than the normal administrative costs of considering the application. The respondents to the consultation largely agreed, subject to the costs being “reasonable”. UKBA says that it took on board the suggestion by some respondents that the post-study work migrants should pay less because they start as low earners. This has already been taken into account in setting their fee at £400 compared with £750 for normal tier 1 applicants. What would the amount have to be to recover the pure costs so that users can see whether the actual amounts being charged are slightly higher, which respondents said would be acceptable, or much higher? Why is it not possible in these consultations to give respondents a rough indication of the costs for bare recovery, the additional amount needed to recover the expenditure associated with appeals against refused applications, and the elements of cross-subsidisation?
The object of the exercise is to make the successful applicants in tiers 1 and 2 not only pay for the cost of processing their own applications but also cover the additional overheads incurred by unsuccessful applicants, including the cost of the appeal system and the cross-subsidisation of other elements of the points-based system. As I have said before, this makes it more expensive for a non-EU national to come to the UK under the points-based system than any other country in the world, including Australia, about which we had an argument with the Minister’s predecessor over the actual figures. I have proved to my own satisfaction that our costs are higher than those of the Australians.
In the previous regulations there was an exemption from tier 1 general and tier 2 entry clearance applications for citizens of both CESC and CERSC states, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham. However, as I understand it, that was a mistake. Citizens of the CESC states will now pay 10 per cent less than the tier 1 standard entry clearance fee of £600 with a similar concession on tier 2. We have not ratified the revised Social Charter and perhaps the Minister will confirm that we have no foreseeable intention of doing so. We are therefore not obliged and never were obliged to make any concession to non-EU signatories to the CERSC. On the other hand, the exemption from charge in respect of all tier 1 and tier 2 leave to remain applications made either by CESC or CERSC nationals is maintained because these exemptions were in place before. It is confusing to have what looks like a permanent distinction in the entry clearance and leave to remain treatment from CESC and CERSC nationals respectively. When the points-based system was first announced, it was billed as a simplification of the immigration system, but with every development it becomes more and more complex. Would the Minister explain the distinction between the CESC and the CERSC states? I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that we have not had a proper explanation of that treatment.
As regards the application for sponsor licences, the Explanatory Memorandum states that there was agreement among respondents that large businesses should pay higher fees so that small businesses and charities could be cross-subsidised. Again, no figures were given and the unpublished consultation shows that there was a,
“general request from all the sectors to provide actual figures”.
The universities, in particular, said that the Home Office lacks understanding of the enrolment process, which involves setting out fees in their prospectuses well in advance. The fee for a sponsorship licence for tier 4 migrants—students—is £1,000, which I suppose is not a significant cost when spread across the number of foreign students attending most universities with a unified system of admission, but is it fair in the case of universities such as Oxford, where admission is determined by the colleges? The universities make the point that they are charities but, although there was a promise by the Government that charities would pay a reduced sponsorship licence fee, that has not been honoured. Universities pay the same as any other large sponsor.
I do not see the amount of the fee for individual certificates of sponsorship, which are required from institutions of higher education. In its written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry, Managing Migration: The Points-Based System, Universities UK said that it would like a more considered and staged implementation and a more flexible approach to the certificate process for tier 4. In 2006-07, there were more than 239,000 non-EU international students at UK higher education institutions and almost 20 per cent of the staff were non-UK, to say nothing of the large number of visiting academics who come here on short visits. Those international students and staff make a vital contribution to the sector academically, culturally and financially, and there needs to be far more advance notice of the introduction of the PBS as it affects them.
The chairman of ILPA, giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 8 July, said that when tier 1 went live on 29 January, and again when the next phase of tier 1 implementation happened on 30 June, the guidance notes for the sponsors were published on the same day, making it impossible for employers to check their practices for compliance in advance. If the same thing happens on 25 November, HEIs will be in serious difficulties. We want an assurance from the Government that they will discuss the timing with the HEIs and agree with them on a suitable interval between the publication of the guidance and the rollout of further tiers, especially tier 4, going live.
The universities also protest that they are being given no chance to test the sponsorship management system, which is the IT system into which they are required to input details of their tier 2 and tier 5 employees on 25 November, yet that system is required to operate from that day onwards not only here in the UK but at every visa post in the world. I have, with the noble Lord’s assistance, a paper that I received from Universities UK, setting out those and further points of concern about the regulations—I will not go into further detail on that, because he will have that in writing.
Finally, unemployment was already increasing at the fastest rate since the early 1990s before the world financial crash; redundancies were increasing and job vacancies were falling. UKBA figures in August showed that the number of eastern European EU migrants applying to the worker registration scheme in the second quarter of 2008 had fallen to the lowest level since accession. Presumably, as redundancies soar and vacancies plummet, the number of foreign workers in tiers 1 and 2 needed by the economy has already shrunk. It would be useful to know what the Government estimate the numbers in those categories will be over the next 12 months.
I want to deal with the practical application of rules in posts overseas and make a few suggestions to my noble friend, of which I have given him notice. What I have to say is part of a transparency agenda. In my view, transparency serves the public interest, whether for the consumer or public administration.
I understand that the regulations deal primarily with fees payable in the United Kingdom and that other statutory instruments deal with fees payable outside the United Kingdom. However, the regulations cover arrangements for some countries abroad, in particular those countries that ratified the 1961 European Social Charter. I am using the SI as a peg to deal with the practical administration of the fees regime as it exists overseas. With that in mind, I suggest an amendment to the wider regime of fees payments. I understand that the UK Border Agency publishes an annual report, the problem with which is that statistical data are general and do not cover the operations of individual UK Border Agency posts overseas where visas are granted. Parliament is entitled to have far more detailed information on the work of individual offices overseas, and therefore I make the following suggestions which are based on my experience of how the system works.
An amended regime should be created to include the submission by UK Border Agency outposts overseas of an annual return to be included in the agency’s annual report. The return should show the number of visa applications where fees are payable in each outpost overseas; the categories under which each application is made; the number of applications approved; the number of applications refused; the number of applications where fees have been refunded; the number of applications refused where the decision has been overturned at an immigration appeal tribunal and the number of persons employed at each outpost overseas, separating British nationals stationed overseas from locally engaged staff, with the actual length of each appointment. I would guess that this information is available at stations overseas; or it should be. I think also that the National Audit Office would have done some work in this area already as part of its economy, efficiency and effectiveness remit.
May I interrupt? I am struggling to equate what the noble Lord is saying with the regulations. I do not know whether there is any advice as to how far we can stray outside the terms of the regulations before we go quite beyond the pale, but this seems to be pretty far.
In so far as the order deals with fees, this is pretty well on the margins of the regulations but essentially within them. Why do I believe that the information should be made available? I have tabled a number of Questions for Written Answer on a particular case, that of an application made by a person who applied for entry into the United Kingdom in Tbilisi in Georgia. There have been a large number of questions going back nine months, some of which have taken a long time to answer. In one case I think it took five months to get a holding answer which arrived at the end of July, just before the Recess. In that case, realising that something was wrong, I went to the tribunal with prepared documentation because I knew that the decision which had been taken overseas was wrong. Indeed, the tribunal chairman ruled that the decision should be overturned and the person was given access to the United Kingdom. That case threw up deficiencies in the way the system operates abroad.
This is basically about the practical application of the regimes that we establish in the United Kingdom. When I rang the ambassador, he told me that he could not intervene in these kinds of decisions. It begs the question: at what stage and to whom are officers overseas accountable for the decisions they take? I cannot see where the accountability lies. My suggestions for amending the regime are about securing a greater level of accountability, because Parliament is entitled to know what is happening in each office. They would not greatly increase the workload of stations overseas in so far as they already submit some of that information centrally to the United Kingdom. That information should be made public in an annual report.
We have previously discussed unsolicited mail and unsolicited questions. I am sure that all questions are truly solicited, but they go far beyond my brief or my knowledge. I will attempt to answer the many detailed questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and I will send written responses to my noble friend.
A phased implementation plan for tier 4 will be published tomorrow. It has been developed with Universities UK and the sector. It has already been agreed that universities with registered charitable status will be charged £400. We will respond in writing on the broader university framework.
As I have said, I can confirm that CESC states will receive the 10 per cent reduction. We have not ratified the revised Social Charter, and if that is not immediately on the horizon, it should be. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also asked about costs. I will let him have that information in due course. The fees are set within a fairly strict financial limit set by the Treasury. Within that overall limit, we set fees bearing in mind the value of the successful applicant or migrant while maintaining that the UK is an attractive destination for work and study, or to visit. As he rightly said, there is a considerable advantage to the United Kingdom’s Exchequer from the £2.6 billion of fees paid by overseas students per year; it is not something we take lightly.
The overall cost for tier 1 and tier 2 is £100 million. As to any costs over that, as the noble Lord said, the subsidy rates are intended to allow the subsidy of small sponsors at the expense of larger sponsors. Whether they are monthly, annual or bi-annual, we appear to have new regulations at frequent intervals. That is in part because of the introduction of the new phased five-tier system. When the introduction of fees takes place for the tax year starting in April 2009, it is intended to consolidate the charges for this year. There have been inevitable changes to the regulations this year due to the phased roll-out of the points-based system. Criticism about the ability of employers and others to see and understand the information is taken. In its response, the department will seek to provide assurances that it will deal with this point expeditiously.
On the two points made by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, I am not qualified to judge the tangent one must reach before escaping the regulations. Although perhaps it is not a question I should answer, as I have been given notice, it seems sensible to seek a detailed response for my noble friend in due course.
I was so brief in comparison to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that one of my questions has been overlooked. Why have the exemptions under the Council of Europe Social Charter and the Council of Europe revised Social Charter been dismissed after such a short time? They were introduced only a year ago. I asked whether it was because there had been so many applications or for another reason.
I confess that that was due to my lack of legible writing. I also omitted another charge to which I shall respond first because it is easier; namely, whether the Government would seek to take any credit for the fact that the new system comes in at a time when there is a falling roll of people seeking to join. It is beyond belief that the Government would ever take credit for anything for which they are not fully responsible, but I am assured that if they ever seek to do so, the noble Lord and his colleagues on other Benches will be the first to remind the Government that the credit is not necessarily due to them.
When the PBS fees regulations were drafted in April, a decision was taken to include a fee exemption for entry clearance applicants for workers who were nationals of countries that had ratified the 1961 Council of Europe Social Charter. The fee exemption was included to ensure compliance with our obligations under international law and a consistent approach towards in-country and out-of-country applicants, as similar exemptions already apply to leave-to-remain applicants. However, the 1961 Social Charter requires us to abolish or reduce fees for workers. We are therefore offering a 10 per cent reduction in fees for workers in compliance with our international obligations, while ensuring that those who benefit from the immigration system contribute to the cost. We also wish to discourage spurious applications. Applications from workers from countries that have ratified the 1996 revised Social Charter will pay the standard fee, because, as I said, the UK has not ratified that charter and is not bound by it.
International Criminal Court (Remand Time) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the International Criminal Court (Remand Time) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: The International Criminal Court Act 2001 ensures that the United Kingdom complies with the requirements of the statute of Rome, which created the International Criminal Court, and can play a full part in the life of that court. Today, in an effort further to ensure that the UK plays a key role in the life of the court and continues to comply with all the court’s procedural rules, we seek to specify the total upper limit of time for which an individual arrested under Section 3 of the Act can be held on remand, along with the upper limit of time for which an individual can be held on remand on any single occasion following a Section 3 provisional arrest.
The order intends to set those limits at 60 days and 18 days respectively. The UK believes it to be of fundamental importance to bring to justice perpetrators of international crime, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. We are rightly a signatory to the Rome statute, which, as I said, established the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over the crimes that I mentioned, and we were among the court’s founding members. We have also supported the International Criminal Tribunal, which was established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
The UK has legislated through the International Criminal Court Act 2001 to ensure that we comply fully with our obligations as set out in the Rome statute. It is now necessary to update the existing legislation in order to continue to fulfil our obligations to the court and to meet its procedural rules, specifically in the length of time an accused person can be held on remand following a request from the International Criminal Court for a provisional arrest. Under Section 2 of the Act, the UK can successfully execute non-urgent requests received from the court for the arrest and surrender of accused persons. In urgent cases, however, the court may request that the UK provisionally arrest a person alleged to have committed a crime over which it has jurisdiction. This arrest does not lead to surrender until a Section 2 request is received and is properly considered by a competent UK court. This is legislated for in Section 3 of the Act.
When the International Criminal Court Act 2001 was adopted, the court had not yet decided the total length of time for which a person may be remanded in custody following his provisional arrest. This is because such rules were not to be adopted until the first meeting of the Assembly of States Parties, which itself took place only after 60 states had ratified the Rome statute.
Such rules have now been adopted by the court and can be found in Rule 188 of the International Criminal Court Rules of Procedure and Evidence. This sets the upper limit for the total number of days a person can be held on remand as 60. Consequently, and as required by Section 4(4)(b) of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, an Order in Council is needed to update our existing legislation and ensure that the UK continues to meet its obligations to the court.
At the same time it is advisable to update the International Criminal Court Act 2001 to reflect the maximum length of time a person can be held on remand on any single occasion following a provisional arrest under Section 3 of the International Criminal Court Act. This is again done through an Order in Council process as set out in Section 4(4)(b) of the Act.
In relation to the equivalent provisions for the two other United Nations established courts I referred to earlier, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a limit of 18 days was adopted. This was done through the United Nations (International Tribunal) (Former Yugoslavia) Order 1996 and the United Nations (International Tribunal) (Rwanda) Order 1996. I see no reason to deviate from this precedent and 18 days is again the proposed limit that a person may be held on remand on any single occasion. Both these limits will ensure that a person arrested following a provisional arrest request from the ICC will not be held indefinitely and ensure that justice is administered in an expedient fashion. This is what the order seeks to achieve. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the International Criminal Court (Remand Time) Order 2008. 27th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Brett.)
As I am sure that in 2001 the International Criminal Court Act received the closest scrutiny in this House—I was not here and therefore was not part and parcel of that process—I want to ask a couple of questions, and I hope this does not sound as though I should know the answer.
This order relates to a provisional warrant, which by definition is not a full warrant. What is being proposed is that under a provisional warrant, the maximum period of remand on the first occasion should be 18 days and the total amount of time should be 60 days. That is clear. What I am not clear about is what happens when the full warrant is issued. Presumably under the full warrant, the process starts all over again. It would be interesting to know what the absolute maximum amount of time under any International Criminal Court warrant is; that is, under both the provisional and the full warrant. It may be that they are one and the same thing—and this is where I apologise because my ignorance of the previous legislation is now going to show—but there is a possibility that 60 days is not the limit on the time that someone might be held on remand in custody under this international warrant. That is my first question.
The second concerns the appeal procedure under the warrant, and to whom an appeal against the warrant is made. Under an international warrant, presumably the offence does not have to be one that would be an offence in this country; it could be something which is an offence in another country, but not applicable here. There has been a recent case under the European arrest warrant where the offence was not related to one that we would recognise. To whom is an appeal made against arrest under the warrant? Is it to a judge in this country, is it to the High Court, or are there no appeal proceedings?
Those are the two main questions and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to answer them.
We fully support every action taken by the Government to comply with the needs of the International Criminal Court, as we did with the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the rules for which this order follows.
We approve of the steps that are being taken to bring to justice those who commit crimes specified in the Rome statute: crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. Not only do we have no objection to the order, but we warmly approve of it and take this opportunity only to ask for some clarification of how criminals who spill into our jurisdiction will be apprehended and handed over to the International Criminal Court. What action is being taken to establish a tracking unit in the office of the International Criminal Court to check on the movement of people who are wanted by the court and who may travel clandestinely from one country to another to avoid arrest? That may be particularly important in the case of sealed indictments, where the accused person might conceivably get through our immigration controls as an ordinary tourist without the immigration authorities being aware that he was wanted by the court.
In the case of previous sealed indictments, the ICC notified certain countries to which it was considered likely that a person might flee. Jean-Pierre Bemba was wanted for offences in the Central African Republic and arrested in Belgium the day after the pre-trial chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that he bore individual criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic. In that case, it was known that he was in Belgium—I believe that he had property there—but the whereabouts of a wanted person may not always be as clear as it was in that case.
Tracking units were established for both the ICTY and the ICTR, and it would be logical to extend the concept of the ICC as it has been advocated by Human Rights Watch and others. What would the mechanism be for implementing the proposal, and does it have the Government's support? I understand that there are no sealed indictments at the moment in respect of any of the states where offences have been committed under the Rome statute—the DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic and Sudan—but what would happen where an alleged criminal wanted by the ICC comes here as an ordinary tourist, say, without it being suspected by the immigration authorities that he is wanted? By what procedures might such a person be apprehended if we did not know that the ICC was after him?
The first question was: what is the maximum time limit when a formal request is received? There is no maximum under the statute. It would depend on how long the proceedings would take, but it is intended that the procedure would be fairly brief, as issues to be considered by the court are time-limited to the order and the warrant issued by the court.
On the route to appeal, once a Section 2 warrant has been received it is for the magistrate’s court to decide whether to make a delivery order. If the court makes a delivery order, it can be challenged by the person concerned by applying to the High Court for a writ of habeas corpus.
On tracking units, there is a mechanism for the ICC to inform the UK of the likelihood of persons coming, but I am not fully aware of the detail that would apply or of the procedures, so I will get back to the noble Lord in due course, if that is acceptable.
I hope that I have not missed any questions on the order. I appreciate the views expressed by colleagues and many of the wider concerns of those affected by the order. We are grateful for the ongoing support of colleagues in the House.
It is the view that the order is necessary to allow the UK to continue to fulfil its obligations to the International Criminal Court, particularly those found in its rules and procedures. In this way, the UK can continue to support the court fully in its important work. With the caveat that I will respond to some questions in writing, I commend the order to the Committee.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Revocation) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Revocation) Order 2008.
The noble Baroness said: The order has been laid before Parliament under Section 9(9) of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act 1947. Since its introduction at the request of the woollen industry in 1950, the wool textile industry export promotion levy has provided funds to the National Wool Textile Export Corporation—NWTEC—to promote the export of wool textiles. The statutory levy is collected twice a year from about 100 wool processors and suppliers of fibre. The levy currently raises approximately £186,000 per year, which accounts for just over half of NWTEC’s annual income. The average levy payment per company is about £1,868 per annum.
In view of the Government’s aim to reduce bureaucracy by removing outdated and unnecessary legislation, and following representations by some companies in the wool industry that wished to see the levy ended, the Government undertook a consultation in 2007 to determine the future of the levy. We consulted NWTEC, trade associations and other stakeholders, including the trade unions, but most importantly the companies that pay the levy. The overwhelming majority of those who responded to the consultation wished to see the levy ended. Having taken full account of the outcome of the consultation, Ministers have decided to end the levy. Closure of the levy will allow businesses in the wool industry to determine for themselves how they spend their money on overseas marketing. That will bring them in line with other textile and manufacturing sectors.
NWTEC and the Confederation of British Wool Textiles have been encouraged to work together and with other related bodies to develop an alternative voluntary funding arrangement to promote the wool textile sector overseas, if that is what the industry wants. Although the majority of those who responded wanted an immediate end to the levy, my colleagues decided that a reasonable period of time should be allowed for NWTEC and CBWT to put an alternative arrangement in place. Over the past few months, NWTEC has been making progress on this front on a voluntary scheme to start in 2009, timed to coincide with the end of the payments that they will receive from the levy collected for the period up to 30 September 2008.
It is intended that the revocation order will come into force the day after it is made, but it will have the effect that the Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) Order 1970 shall not impose on any person any charge in respect of any period after 30 September 2008. All money due up to that date will be collected and disbursed to NWTEC as normal. Therefore in the current financial year, NWTEC will still receive its traditional payments derived from the levy. I commend the order to the Committee. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Revocation) Order 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Baroness Vadera.)
I thank the Minister for introducing the order, which is relatively uncontroversial. Given that it seeks to cut regulation, primarily regulation of small businesses, I have no difficulty in supporting it.
To put it into perspective, the levy currently raises about £190,000 a year, which accounts for just over half of the National Wool Textile Export Corporation’s annual income. The average levy payment is just under £1,900 a year. Under the order, the corporation will see its budget cut by half. The department has stated that UKTI will work closely with the corporation to continue the promotion of wool exports.
I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Will that funding shortfall need to be made up from the budget of UKTI? If so, will her department be providing UKTI with an increase in its budget? Does she believe that voluntary arrangements in the industry will cover the shortfall? Is it proposed simply to cease to make the expenditure at all? Removing unnecessary regulation from business and allowing firms to target their export promotion funding themselves could well be sensible steps. However, what measures, if any, has the Minister thought necessary to make to ensure that overseas promotion of the British wool industry remains focused and coherent?
Only 44 per cent of the 91 current levy payers responded to the department’s consultation. Does the Minister believe that any steps could or should have been taken to encourage greater participation? As a matter of interest, can we expect similar revocation orders for export corporations for other industries in future? Having raised those relatively minor questions, as I said, we shall not stand in the way of this measure. However, I look forward to hearing the noble Baroness’s comments.
I join in the thanks to the noble Baroness for producing the order. The presentation, justification and consultation process were extremely clearly set out. I congratulate the civil servants who were responsible for conducting this exercise. I shall be interested to hear the noble Baroness’s response to the questions asked from the Tory Benches. However, this is a sad commentary on the decline of our wool textile industry. Whether the drop in the exchange rate will result in an increase in wool textiles, only time will tell, but it looks as though we are coming close to the end of what used to be a major industry in our country. If you wanted a commentary on what has happened to our manufacturing sector, it is reflected in this order.
I thank noble Lords. As regards the shortfall, my understanding is that we do not yet have a clear view but there is expected to be a shortfall. It is up to the industry to decide how it will market the product. As regards the demise of the industry, it has changed a lot and is very much a niche industry with its own ways of marketing. Therefore, perhaps it is not so necessary to have a common marketing strategy because it targets a certain type of high value-added market overseas and I guess that companies are reasonably well aware of where their markets are. Therefore, we did not see the need to make up the sum through UKTI funding, although it will be available to assist them if it is needed.
I am afraid that I do not know whether there are expected to be revocation orders for other export promotion entities. In fact, I am not entirely sure that many still exist. However, I shall endeavour to find the answer to that and write to the noble Lord. I have a breakdown of who was consulted and who responded, which I would be happy to read out, although I think that 44 per cent is not a bad response rate for consultations overall. The main people who were consulted were obviously the companies themselves, who are the users of the entity. One hundred and sixty-three questionnaires were issued, 91 to companies which currently pay the levy, 42 to companies which are liable to pay but fall below the threshold, which might account for some of the non-responses, and 30 to representative bodies. Three trade unions were involved. About 61 responses were received by the closing date. These are available on the website. We believe that represents a reasonably full view of the sector and the responses formed the basis on which the decision was taken. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, for his compliment to BERR officials, which I am sure they will take kindly. I should perhaps convey my other responses to noble Lords in writing. I commend the order to your Lordships.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Rail Vehicle Accessibility Exemption Orders (Parliamentary Procedures) Regulations 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Exemption Orders (Parliamentary Procedures) Regulations 2008.
The noble Lord said: Without accessible transport, disabled people are limited in their ability to lead a full and fulfilling life. Noble Lords have always demonstrated a keen interest in the accessibility of rail vehicles and that is why we are now debating these orders. At the express wish of the House, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 secured greater scrutiny of applications for exemptions from parts of the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations. Under the 2005 Act, exemption orders became subject to the draft affirmative resolution procedure. However, it was acknowledged that this would not be appropriate in every circumstance, and therefore the Act provided for the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations that set out the basis for making a decision on which parliamentary procedure to use when making exemption orders.
Such regulations form the first instrument before us today, the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Exemption Orders (Parliamentary Procedures) Regulations 2008. These set the criteria that the Secretary of State will use when deciding which parliamentary procedure should be followed and include, for example, the age of the vehicles and the length of time for which an exemption is requested. Parliament agreed that the Secretary of State should retain discretion to adopt a different procedure for a particular order having regard to representations from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, the Government’s statutory advisers on the public passenger transport needs of disabled people.
The second order, the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (London Underground Victoria Line 09TS Vehicles) Exemption Order 2008 is fully supported by the DPTAC, Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate and London TravelWatch, which is the official organisation representing the interests of transport users in London. The order will allow LU to introduce new trains on the Victoria line that have features not currently permitted by RVAR but which provide benefits for disabled people. The order also allows LU to resolve some of the challenges that the regulations present in the short term to a deep level metro service with high frequencies, inaccessible stations and a mix of old and new vehicles. These new vehicles will be the first for London Underground to be subject to accessibility regulations.
The order contains four distinct provisions. First, it allows LU to use an audible door warning which is shorter than required under RVAR while the older vehicles are being phased out. This allows a consistent warning to be given on both the new vehicles and the older, unregulated fleet, to avoid confusion. Secondly, the order allows LU to vary, on a trial basis, the announcements made on the train while it is at a station. That allows them to determine whether other information, such as details about connections, would be more useful on a metro-style service than those mandated by RVAR.
Thirdly, the order allows LU to use a smaller text size on public information screens inside the new vehicles. The current requirement was based on larger vehicles. On the Victoria line no one will be more than three metres from a screen, and the reduced size will allow the screens to display appropriate pictures that are particularly useful for people with learning disabilities, while still following best practice on text height relative to reading distance from the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Finally, the order will allow exemptions from the requirement for step-free access between the train and the platform at specific stations. The exemptions reduce as stations gain step-free access to the platforms, ensuring seamless travel. This allows London Underground to integrate the work required with its wider step-free access programme at stations. Not only will this reduce the disruption caused by the work, it will also reduce the risk of a wheelchair user being stranded on the platform at an inaccessible station.
These orders are supported by stakeholders and seem to us to be sensible in the circumstances. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Exemption Orders (Parliamentary Procedures) Regulations 2008. 28th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and 31st Report from the Merits Committee.—(Lord Adonis.)
I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the purpose of his orders. This is the first debate I have had with him, but I have had a good report from my noble friend Lady Morris of Bolton who says that he is very good to do business with, so I look forward to doing business with him over many years.
I debated a similar order with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, before the Summer Recess. At the time I said it was right that we have a relatively high hurdle of parliamentary procedures if it is desired to exempt or deviate certain vehicles from the requirements of the DDA, and I maintain that position. The parliamentary procedures regulations appear to have appropriate safeguards. They are not too widely drafted but the hurdle still remains, and in the unlikely event of disabled groups becoming aggrieved with any further orders, your Lordships still have a well-equipped parliamentary toolbox—and some of the tools are still quite sharp.
Fortunately, no person has found it necessary to brief me about these regulations and consequently I am happy to support them.
I, too, support the regulations. Perhaps, unlike the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I feel that they are very tightly drawn already, so it is inevitable that there will be continuous requests for exemption.
In addressing the issue of access for the disabled, we should first be concerned that disabled people travelling at present meet a lot of obstacles when using the railway. Even when travelling between well-staffed stations, messages about the means of getting on or off trains are often not transmitted by train operating companies or their staff, and disabled people find themselves marooned on trains. No matter what devices we have to tell them that they should get off the train, unless a ramp that enables them to do so is made available to them, the information that is displayed on the train is probably of little use.
I turn to the issue of the large number of obsolete vehicles now running on our railway. Some of them are not only unsuitable for disabled people, they are unsuitable for anyone. I look forward to the Minister being able to tell us when we are going to get new vehicles to replace our dreadful old ones. I was talking to someone today who had made the journey from Gloucester to Swindon in a Class 143 train that he described as “deplorable”. He also explained to me how difficult it is to maintain such stock.
My last point, which is covered not by these regulations but by very similar ones, concerns the design of stations. When a disabled person gets off a train, there is often a footbridge which can be difficult, or there is a tunnel. I was in Switzerland this year, where it is common practice for people, whether they are disabled, with pushchairs or just ordinary people, to walk across the track. There are lights to tell them that it is safe to do so, and it is a common practice. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the huge footbridges that have appeared in, for example, Moreton-in-Marsh and Llandrindod Wells are extremely expensive and probably militate against their provision at all. They may also explain the resentment that the people who have to provide them feel about the system.
The Minister should look again at the prospect of substantially simplifying the footbridge arrangements so that people can cross the track as they used to, except on very high speed lines. They could be protected easily by signalling, which is simple. It is not complicated stuff: when the light does not show, you do not cross, so if the light fails you do not cross. We want something much simpler.
Lastly, I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that I recently had a case of someone trying to open a railway line, but the cost of providing disabled facilities to the standards specified was so high that it was decided not to build the intermediate stations between the starting and finishing points. Therefore, not only do the disabled not get access to the railway, neither does anyone else. That seems to be a rather perverse decision. The department needs to look very closely at the present arrangements for accessibility at stations, so that people may enjoy the vehicles for which the regulations are designed, which I support.
The noble Lord referred to my speech and quoted me as saying “they are not too widely drafted”. Does he accept that I was referring to the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Exemption Orders (Parliamentary Procedures) Regulations rather than the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (London Underground Victoria Line 09TS Vehicles) Exemption Order?
I thank the noble Earl for his very kind opening remarks. I much look forward to working with him over the coming months, as I do to working with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. I have already had the pleasure of responding to one of his debates. Hardly a day passes without my signing off many Written Answers to him, which are immensely informative to me and to knowing what is going on in the industry that he has spent so much of his working life engaged with.
I shall deal with the general opening remark made by noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about the quality of the rail fleet and its accessibility to people with disabilities. Of course, I entirely share his objective, which is that we should see as much of the fleet as possible made available and open to disabled people as soon as possible. We entirely share that objective and I am sure that the noble Earl is also in agreement with that objective. We have led the way among our European partners by introducing regulations requiring all new rail vehicles, buses and coaches to be accessible to disabled people. There are already around 4,700 accessible rail vehicles in service, which have been introduced since the RVAR came into force in 1998. That is already more than one-third of the fleet.
We have set an end date of 1 January 2020, by which time all rail vehicles must be accessible. Many thousands of older rail vehicles have already been made more accessible through the process of refurbishment. While I accept that there is more to do, we have a good track record so far. As the noble Lord knows, we have the procurement process for the 1,300 new rail vehicles to be made available over the next six years, which will also significantly boost the accessibility of the railway to disabled people.
I shall simply have to note the remarks about footbridges. He was talking about the overground, which would not help in terms of the order about the Victoria line. Underground accessibility is often linked to lift access and to the ability to access platforms directly from ground level by means of lifts. A comprehensive programme of work is taking place on the Victoria line over the next five years to see that there is universal access to platforms from street level. At the moment on the Victoria line, Brixton and Tottenham Hale have lift access from street level directly down to the platforms. King’s Cross/St Pancras will have lift access from the end of 2009; Stockwell and Vauxhall from the end of 2011; Finsbury Park, Green Park and Highbury and Islington from the end of 2012 and Blackhorse Road, Euston, Oxford Circus, Seven Sisters, Victoria, Walthamstow Central and Warren Street from the end of 2013. That is a very expensive process of refurbishment of stations so that they can be fully accessible to disabled people. The work will be welcomed by those noble Lords here and more widely.
The noble Lord mentioned access to platforms on the overground. As he will be only too well aware, the safety authorities have to strike a balance between accessibility and safety. I understand that Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate is discussing with Network Rail and Passenger Focus whether we can make any changes, along the lines that he suggested, to increase accessibility for disabled people.
I hope that these deliberations will take account of the fact that Swiss railways have an enviable safety record and that there is very little evidence that the practice to which I drew the Minister’s attention has led to casualties. I therefore hope that his officials and those from Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate, or whoever will do this, will apprise themselves of the practice of good railways to assure themselves that what I propose is safe.
It will cost a great deal of money, but I do not have the precise figures to hand because it is part of the wider refurbishment of the Victoria line. Actually, miraculously I do have the figures to hand. It will cost £800 million. As I said, it is part of a wider programme of Victoria line refurbishment, which will include the provision of these new lifts. It is an expensive business, but I think we would all agree that it is immensely worthwhile as it promotes access to the Underground for disabled people.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Rail Vehicle Accessibility (London Underground Victoria Line 09TS Vehicles) Exemption Order 2008
I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Rail Vehicle Accessibility (London Underground Victoria Line 09TS Vehicles) Exemption Order 2008. 28th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Adonis).
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Air Navigation (Environmental Standards for Non-EASA Aircraft) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Air Navigation (Environmental Standards for Non-EASA Aircraft) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: The Government have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation to tighten noise standards with which new aircraft must comply. The latest standard, called the chapter 4 noise standard, became a legal standard on 1 January 2006 and will mean that new aircraft have to meet stricter noise standards than before.
Work is also under way to tighten emissions standards. Aircraft engines must meet ICAO emissions standards covering smoke, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen. The oxides of nitrogen standard was recently tightened by 15 per cent from 1 January 2008 for new engine designs. The UK continues to press for further tightening to be agreed by the ICAO in 2010. Although principally targeted at reducing oxides of nitrogen emissions in the vicinity of airports, such measures will also have beneficial effects on climate change.
Until March 2007, the noise and emissions certification of all aircraft was undertaken by the Civil Aviation Authority. The European Aviation Safety Agency—the EASA—was then established, and it took on responsibility for the first type of aircraft, jets and large aircraft. These are called EASA aircraft. For simplicity, we call the second category of aircraft non-EASA aircraft. These include microlight aeroplanes and aircraft in the service of customs and the police, and they continue to be regulated by the CAA.
The order sets out the noise and emissions standards with which these non-EASA aircraft must comply. Beyond that, there are no new requirements, and no new impacts or costs. This is, in essence, a tidying-up order. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Air Navigation (Environmental Standards for Non-EASA Aircraft) Order 2008. 27th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Adonis.)
I am tempted to refer the Committee to the formulae on page 14. My only problem is that I cannot read or pronounce them. In view of the fact that the Minister has told us, and it is my understanding, that it creates no new obligations on anyone, I am content with the order.