Monday, 7 September 2015.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, welcome to the Grand Committee. As usual, if there is a Division in the House, the Grand Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Temporary Class Drug) (No. 2) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, the order was laid before Parliament on 25 June. As noble Lords will be aware, temporary control legislation is a vehicle which enables us to act relatively swiftly to protect the public. It also provides time for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to gather evidence and prepare full advice on the permanent control of such drugs.
The order specifies seven methylphenidate-based new psychoactive substances, including their simple derivatives, as drugs subject to temporary control under Section 2A(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Government are grateful for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’s continued support in informing the Government’s response to emerging new psychoactive substances sold as so-called legal highs. The advisory council’s advice informed the order that we are considering today.
On 31 March, the then Minister for Crime Prevention received a recommendation from the advisory council under the temporary control provisions of the 1971 Act. The ACMD advised that five new psychoactive substances, related to the Class B drug methylphenidate, were being misused and that their misuse was having sufficiently harmful effects to warrant temporary control. This advice was accepted and a temporary order for the five substances came into force on 10 April 2015.
Following the coming into force of that order, the Government are aware that online retailers immediately withdrew those substances from sale and replaced them with a further two closely related substances. This came to light through the advisory council’s considerations in preparation of advice for permanent control. On 16 June, the advisory council provided further advice on the two related substances and recommended that they should be included in this new temporary order. The ACMD continues to gather evidence to support a full report on these compounds.
The previous temporary order made on 10 April lapsed on 27 June, as there was insufficient time for both Houses to approve the order. The new temporary order that we are considering today came into force on 27 June to replace that order. This order specifies all seven methylphenidate-based new psychoactive substances, including their simple derivatives, as drugs subject to temporary control.
The methylphenidate-based substances are highly potent stimulants. One of these substances, ethylphenidate, was marketed online as an alternative to cocaine. Their harms are reported to include anxiety, paranoia, visual disturbance, chest pain and a strong urge to re-dose. Other reported harms include bizarre and violent behaviour, loss of fine motor control and high risk of bacterial infection and local tissue damage from injecting.
One branded formulation, Burst, was reported as causing particular problems in the Edinburgh area, including among injecting drug users, who report reinjecting repeatedly. There has also recently been a report of an outbreak of infections in that area associated with the injecting of new psychoactive substances, believed to involve ethylphenidate.
The National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths reported five cases in 2013-14 where ethylphenidate was found in post-mortem toxicology, and another two cases where ethylphenidate was implicated in the cause of death during 2013-14. The advisory council recommended that urgent action should be taken due to the extremely potent nature of these compounds. For these reasons, the Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims accepted the advisory council’s advice. The order, which is already in force, applies UK-wide to protect the public. It enables enforcement action against suppliers and traffickers while the advisory council prepares full advice on these compounds.
Under the order, front-line officers have additional powers to disrupt the sale of the substances online and in local head shops by targeting retailers who they suspect of selling temporary class drugs—if not other controlled drugs—including seizing their stock for analysis.
The activity is supported by the Home Office forensic early-warning system, which continues to provide added forensic capability to police forces. The order also sends out a clear message to the public, especially to young and vulnerable people, that these compounds are harmful drugs. The Government and the advisory council continue to monitor, through UK and EU drugs early-warning systems, these and other emerging compounds marketed as legal alternatives to controlled drugs.
Of course, until the Government receive the full report on these drugs they will continue to update public health messages to inform the public on drug harms, using the latest evidence gathered from early-warning systems. We know that the law change, on its own, cannot deter all those inclined to use or experiment with these drugs. However, we expect the order to have a notable impact on the availability and, in turn, demand for these drugs, as we saw with other substances.
Noble Lords will remember that methoxetamine was subject to temporary control and subsequently controlled permanently under the 1971 Act. We are aware that, on introduction of the temporary order, online sellers of these compounds immediately removed them from sale. Anecdotal reports from Edinburgh, where these compounds were first reported as being injected, also suggest a reduction in the number of people seeking treatment as a result of harms suffered from injecting them.
In conclusion, Parliament’s approval of the order will ensure that it remains in force to reduce the threat to the public posed by these temporary class drugs for up to 12 months, while the advisory council prepares full advice on harms in relation to permanent control. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and reasons for this order, which we support. As he said, the order is a temporary class drug order that can be made if the substance or, in this case, substances are not class A, B or C drugs, and if the Secretary of State has either consulted the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs or received a recommendation from the ACMD that a temporary class drug order should be made. The drug also has to be one that is being, or is likely to be, misused, and that misuse is having or is capable of having harmful effects.
The Explanatory Memorandum sets out the evidence in support of the necessary requirements that have to be met to make this order—which, as the Minister said, came into force towards the end of June and can remain in force for a maximum of 12 months. Having been made, the order requires a resolution of both Houses within 40 sitting days if it is to remain in force.
It would be helpful if the Minister could say why it was not possible for the Government to find time for this order to be discussed in this House between 25 June, when it was laid before Parliament, and 22 July, nearly a month later, when the House rose for the Summer Recess, particularly bearing in mind that the order came into force on 27 June. It is now nearly some two and a half months after it came into force that we are able to consider the order. It would be helpful to hear the Minister’s response on that point.
One of the purposes of such a temporary order is that it enables a new psychoactive substance or substances to be brought under the temporary control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, while, as the Minister said, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs can make a full assessment of its harms for consideration for permanent control as a drug under that Act. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the provisions of this order and its consequences will be communicated to key stakeholders and the wider public, especially young people. Presumably this has now been done.
Who are deemed to be the key stakeholders and do they differ from those listed as being consulted in paragraph 8 of the Explanatory Memorandum, headed “Consultation Outcome”? Are, for example, the businesses selling these substances in the legal-highs market, referred to in paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Memorandum, regarded as key stakeholders and thus advised of the terms of this order?
Although the Minister addressed the point in his opening comments, since the order has been in force for nearly two and a half months, is there any information on the impact that it has had on the level of use and availability of the two further related substances now subject to this order that were not included in the previous order? Might implementation and enforcement of the order be resulting, in respect of those two further substances, in the risks set out in paragraph 6.1 of the impact assessment materialising? Those risks are of course in respect of chemical derivatives or alternative new psychoactive substances imitating their effects being introduced in an attempt to circumvent the temporary drug control.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support on this matter. This issue impacts society as a whole and when we are considering such matters it is important not only to discuss them but, where possible, that agreement is reached. We are looking at this particular issue and the challenges that psychoactive substances pose generally as a major challenge for society as a whole.
The noble Lord raised the issue of scheduling and timetabling. While I do not have a detailed assessment, based on my own previous roles in government, including as a government Whip, I can say that this is scheduled according to other parliamentary business and is discussed through the usual channels. The important point to bear in mind is that we proceed with this order now, as the noble Lord acknowledged, and do so in a timely fashion.
Turning to the noble Lord’s question about communication—again, a very important point—included within “key stakeholders” are the ACMD, the Department of Health, BIS, industry and the MHRA. It is important that all key stakeholders that were part of the initial consultation are included in the communications that have taken place. The noble Lord also asked about the additional two substances or derivative products that were subsequently included. I will write to him about specific issues or evidence that have been raised.
I also stress that tackling the legal high market continues to be an important priority for this Government and the advisory council’s work programme. Noble Lords will be aware of the Government’s action to ban the supply of psychoactive substances for human consumption for their psychoactive effect through the Psychoactive Substances Bill. As noble Lords are aware, the Bill completed its passage through this House before the Summer Recess and has now been introduced in the House of Commons. When in force, the Bill will give powers to the police and other enforcement agencies to enable them to disrupt the supply of these dangerous and harmful compounds, including tackling their availability on the internet.
The legislative action is supportive of the long-term strategic objectives—many of which I know noble Lords share—set out in the Government’s action plan: to reduce demand by raising awareness of the harms of psychoactive substances; to make it difficult to obtain and supply those that pose risks to health; and to ensure that statutory services are able to effectively provide treatment and support recovery. Our balanced approach to tackling psychoactive substance misuse includes the development of toolkits on prevention, and programmes on treatment such as NEPTUNE. We have also taken action in response to the New Psychoactive Substances Review Expert Panel’s recommendations to help local areas prevent and respond to the use of new psychoactive substances, including guidance on taking action against the head shops I mentioned earlier. We have acted swiftly on the advisory council’s advice to make the temporary class drug order presented today to protect the public from the potential harms of these substances.
We are committed to a drugs policy that is informed by evidence of harm and the advisory council’s expert advice. Our duty as a Government is to consider this advice in light of all the information made available by drugs early warning systems to ensure that our response is proportionate to the threat posed by emerging drugs. As I am sure noble Lords will acknowledge, the UK continues to lead international action to tackle the emergence of new psychoactive substances. Our efforts, supported by key partners, led to the international control of mephedrone by the UN in March this year. We continue to share best practice on a balanced approach, including recently sharing our world-leading treatment guidance with our international partners. We also continue to work with our key partners on a list of new compounds that are causing concern, with a view to the UN subjecting these compounds to international control in due course. I hope that noble Lords will find that this legislative measure is conducive to ensuring that ultimately the public are protected from the harms of these new psychoactive substances, and I therefore again commend the order to noble Lords.
Before the noble Lord sits down, may I come back to my question about who the key stakeholders are? Paragraph 8 refers to who is consulted. Paragraph 9 states:
“The provisions of this Order and its consequences will be communicated to key stakeholders and the wider public, especially young people”.
Paragraph 10 makes reference to,
“those businesses selling these substances in the ‘legal highs’ market”.
Does the reference to the key stakeholders—that is, those who will be advised of the provisions of this order and its consequences—include, for example, those businesses selling these substances in the legal highs market, referred to in paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Memorandum?
Merchant Shipping (Alcohol) (Prescribed Limits Amendment) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, these regulations will bring in new alcohol limits for professional mariners in UK waters or serving on board UK-flagged ships wherever they are in the world. These limits, more restrictive than those in place today, are aligned with those agreed at the International Maritime Organization to apply to all shipping around the globe, with the intention of improving maritime safety.
Noble Lords will be aware of the vital contribution made by the maritime industry to the well-being of this country. In this London International Shipping Week we are celebrating the fact that 95% of our imports and exports are carried by ship, and that the maritime sector contributes up to £13.8 billion of direct gross value added to the UK economy each year. It is therefore crucial that we seek to ensure the safe operation of this industry, working with shipping and port operators and with other maritime nations around the world. One source of risk that we can tackle together is that posed by alcohol consumption, which can impair the ability of mariners to fulfil safety-critical duties.
On the roads, a driver with 100 milligrams or more of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood is seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash than is a driver who has not consumed alcohol. If the amount of alcohol is 150 milligrams or more, it is roundly 25 times more likely. The same underlying principle applies on a ship; excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of error and accident. The current alcohol limits for professional mariners were introduced by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 and are the same as those applied to motorists in England and Wales—in the case of breath, 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres; in the case of blood, 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres; and, in the case of urine, 107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres.
At that time, there was no internationally agreed alcohol limit for mariners. This situation changed in 2010, when the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention of the International Maritime Organization was amended. For the first time, mandatory alcohol limits for mariners globally were agreed—in the case of breath, 25 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres, and, in the case of blood, 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres. These regulations will bring UK legislation into line with the alcohol limits agreed internationally, with the addition of a limit in the case of urine of 67 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres. In doing so, we will reinforce the importance of these limits in securing the safety of ships, and all those who travel on them.
Furthermore, having common international limits helps to ensure that mariners know what is expected of them wherever they are, and enforcement when people are found to have exceeded those limits, national borders not being visibly marked at sea. The regulations also require the Secretary of State to review the impact of the amendments they make and publish a report of the review’s conclusions. This provision seeks to ensure the continued effectiveness of the alcohol limits set for professional mariners for the long term. Her Majesty’s Government are committed to maintaining safe navigation around these shores and, indeed, wherever ships registered in the UK may sail. These new limits on mariners’ consumption of alcohol are an example of how we are doing this in co-operation with our international partners. I commend these regulations to the Committee.
Once again, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and objectives of this order, which again we support. Before the introduction of the International Convention for the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers in 1978, the training standards for seafarers were established by individual Governments, which almost inevitably meant widely differing standards between different countries. Since it came into force in 1984, the STCW convention has been subject to a number of revisions and this country has supported and implemented all of the previous amendments. The amendments agreed at the STCW Manila conference in 2010 further updated the convention and the code, and included, for the first time, putting mandatory limits on alcohol consumption, instead of an advisory one, for those on watch-keeping duty. These amendments came into force on 1 January 2012, with a five-year transitional period ending on 1 January 2017.
The STCW convention is incorporated into European law, and the new alcohol limits which are the subject of the order we are discussing are covered by a 2012 EU directive. This order changes the UK’s existing alcohol limits for professional mariners to match those now set by the STCW’s watch-keeping standards for fitness for duty by amending Section 81 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003. As the Minister said, the levels are being changed to 25 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath and 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood as required by the STCW and EU directive, and to the commensurate figure of 67 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine for consistency.
The Explanatory Memorandum refers to the consultation exercise on the Manila amendments, including the ones covered by this order, and indicates that all the bodies consulted agreed that the alcohol limits for professional mariners should be amended to match those set by the Manila amendments. Why does it appear to have taken over 10 months to seek the approval of this House to an order with which, apparently, all those consulted agreed? The transposition note in respect of this order also states, in respect of Article 2 on transposition, that compliance with the EU directive was required by 4 July 2014. I am assuming that was not the deadline date for approving this order, but perhaps the Minister could say what it was we were required to do by 4 July 2014, and whether we met that date.
The Explanatory Memorandum states in paragraph 4.2 that the limits for alcohol prescribed in Section 81 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 apply to professional mariners only,
“as the provisions relating to non-professional mariners in Section 80 have not been commenced”.
Would the Minister confirm that the STCW convention and code, and the EU directive, apply only to professional mariners and not to non-professional mariners as well? Assuming that to be the case, why have the provisions relating to UK non-professional mariners in Section 80 of the 2003 Act not been commenced for a lengthy number of years? What are the current alcohol limits for non-professional mariners?
The regulations, which, I repeat, we support, deal with a safety issue. Indeed, some shipping companies take a much firmer view on what is an acceptable alcohol limit than those provided for in current or proposed legislation. I am not personally aware of how serious is the problem of breached alcohol limits by professional mariners in UK waters. If the Minister cannot say so immediately, I hope that he might provide some information on how many instances there have been over an appropriate 12-month period of UK professional mariners in UK waters or on UK-registered ships being in breach of the current statutory limits, and how many instances there have been of non-UK professional mariners being in breach of those limits in UK waters.
My Lords, I once again thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support of the Government’s proposals and the regulations before us. He is right that this was decided upon by the 2010 Manila conference. For the first time it is being looked at from an international basis, which is very much the right way forward in ensuring that standards are maintained.
The noble Lord raised the issue of this taking 10 months. This was part of the wider effort to ensure we transposed all the Manila amendments. That has taken some time, even though this part was agreed to by the consultees, as the noble Lord mentioned.
On the 4 July deadline, all other parts of the Manila amendments were transposed by March 2015 in advance of the 4 July deadline. The passing of the regulations will ensure compliance in that respect.
The noble Lord raised the issue of non-professional mariners. Indeed, I raised that question myself in looking at the regulations. At the moment, it applies specifically to professional mariners. It is my understanding that the question of whether these rules should apply to non-professional mariners has been consulted upon. Part of the challenge posed during the consultation in the 2000s—I believe during the time that the noble Lord’s party were in government—was how this would be monitored and, more importantly, applied effectively. Nevertheless, as he rightly pointed out, it is an issue that has not been commenced. As far as the Government are concerned, it is an issue that we will continue to look at as we move forward with the new regulations on professional mariners. Nevertheless, he is right to raise that issue.
The noble Lord also spoke on the evidence of accidents relating to alcohol consumption. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has identified 19 accidents where alcohol consumption played a significant part since 2009. One led to a fatality and two led to the complete loss of a ship. Many of the others presented a significant risk to human life and the marine environment, where it was fortunate that a worse outcome was avoided.
With those responses, and once again thanking the noble Lord for his support, I commend the regulations to the Committee.
I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the discussion, but the Minister and my noble friend Lord Rosser mentioned non-professional seafarers. I remember debating this issue about 10 years ago. I recall the legislation saying that the limit was the same as the alcohol limit on drink-driving. We had a big discussion at that time on how it was to be enforced. Whether you are a professional or an amateur seafarer, and whether you are in a rubber dinghy or running a cruise ship, you can cause just as much damage. I never got a satisfactory answer—I think that one of my colleagues was the Minister at that time—to how you enforce somebody who is going back to a boat late at night in a rubber dinghy. I think that a policeman is the only person who can make an arrest, but how many policemen are hanging around a small port at closing time?
It is a bit distressing that it is taking so long to become accepted wisdom that you should not be in charge of a boat, whether you are paid to be so or not, if you are under the influence of alcohol. I hope that the noble Lord will take that into account and try to push things forward a bit more.
As I said in my remarks to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, this is an area which I myself raised, and I shall certainly take back his comments. As the noble Lord acknowledged, the challenge posed was that of enforcement. However, he is also right to point out that, whether one is a professional mariner or not, the damage that can be caused by alcohol consumption is very much the same as the impact that alcohol consumption can have on our roads. I note the noble Lord’s concerns in that respect.
My Lords, I welcome these regulations, which are a move in the right direction, but I point out, as the Minister has done, that there are still quite a number of instances where alcohol results in either the loss of a ship or the loss of life. Over the years, alcohol has traditionally been the scourge of the seaman. I am glad that we have moved on from the bad old days when even captains were drunk for days on end. However, I must point out the pressures of working at sea today. Working under great stress and with a minimal crew, often you do not have anybody to talk to, so the temptation to drink is still very much there. It is something that I fear is not going to disappear overnight but I think that this is a move in the right direction.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
That the Grand Committee do consider the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.
Relevant documents: 1st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 2nd Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (Special attention drawn to the instrument)
These regulations were laid before this House on 16 March 2015. The Energy Act 2013 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations requiring landlords of residential premises to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. These draft regulations were laid under Section 150 of that Act and Section 250 of the Housing Act 2004.
The draft regulations will require private sector landlords, from 1 October 2015, to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental property which is used as living accommodation, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used. After that, the landlord must make sure that the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the regulations. An authority will be required to issue a remedial notice to a landlord if it has reasonable grounds to believe that the landlord is in breach. If the landlord fails to comply with the notice, the local housing authority must, if the occupier consents, arrange the necessary action to ensure that the property is compliant. The local housing authority can also levy a civil penalty charge on the landlord of up to £5,000.
The regulations have been brought before this House because the Government want to increase the safety of private sector tenants. Setting a minimum standard for the testing and installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms will reduce the risks that tenants face from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
Working alarms save lives—in the event of a fire in your home you are at least four times more likely to die if there is no working smoke alarm. Successive Governments and local fire and rescue authorities have made extensive use of non-regulatory approaches to increase the uptake of smoke alarms, including a series of highly effective public campaigns such as Fire Kills and the home fire safety checks. However, private rented sector tenants remain less likely to be protected by a working smoke alarm than any other tenant.
The department has also piloted alternatives to regulative approaches to increase the installation of carbon monoxide alarms. However, there are still high-risk properties without these alarms installed. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious and preventable form of poisoning. Each year there are around 40 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales and in excess of 200 non-fatal cases that require hospitalisation. We estimate that the new regulations will save 26 lives and nearly 700 injuries per year. The majority of landlords act responsibly and protect their tenants with working alarms. However, a minority of private sector landlords have proved resistant to safety advice and recommended best practice. That is why the Government decided that it was necessary to introduce the draft regulations, to protect the tenants of these landlords.
A regulatory approach to the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms was discussed as part of the Government’s discussion paper, Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector, and the majority of responses were in favour. The regulations aim to increase the safety of tenants by ensuring that they are not subject to death, poisoning or injury by a lack of smoke or carbon monoxide warning alarms.
The Government have funded local fire and rescue authorities to purchase a number of alarms for free distribution to landlords, encouraging all landlords to act responsibly towards their tenants as well as helping them comply with the regulations. Alongside these regulations, the department intends to continue to pursue its non-regulatory solutions in order to boost regular testing and uptake of alarms further across all sectors.
I turn now to the concerns of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. The draft regulations were laid in March, before the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 received Royal Assent. The department, however, acknowledges that, as of 1 July, Ministers are required to include a review provision in secondary legislation that regulates business, or publish a statement of why it is not appropriate to do so. Following this, if the draft regulations are approved by Parliament and made, the department has committed to amending the regulations by adding a review clause at the earliest suitable opportunity.
These regulations prove the Government’s commitment to continue improvement and create a private rented sector that works for us all. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
My Lords, I welcome these regulations, and in speaking to them I do not want to sound too harshly critical, but I fear that the carbon monoxide provisions do not go far enough. As the Minister said, there are on average 40 deaths a year from carbon monoxide poisoning in the home. The figures that I have—and I speak as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group—are that more than 4,000 hospitalisations a year are related to carbon monoxide poisoning in one form or another. The problem is that the available figures may seriously underestimate the size of the problem. University College London recently assessed that 6% of the London households it surveyed had a high or very high risk of exposure to carbon monoxide. Public Health England commented in March that,
“the burden of non-fatal accidental CO poisoning in England is higher than the burden from mortality”,
“the numbers of people admitted to hospital with CO poisoning in England are larger than previously estimated and do not appear to be reducing”.
The cumulative effects of low-level poisoning over time can indeed be lethal and can present as things such as strokes. The All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group, which I co-chair, recommended that,
“the Government should ensure that all coroners’ post mortems routinely test for carboxyhemoglobin … levels”,
to see how many cases are missed. I am grateful to the chief coroner who has had a very useful discussion with myself and others and the Gas Safety Trust, which is now piloting with Public Health England a study to develop a protocol for coroners to test for carbon monoxide at post-mortems so that we get an idea of the size of the problem.
The difficulty with the proposed regulations is that they relate to just over 330,000 private rented homes with solid-fuel-burning appliances, but this would protect only a small number of people—roughly 8.2% of those in private rented accommodation—because there is an equally high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from other fossil-fuel-burning appliances, not just those that burn solid fuel. The regulations particularly name gas. The data collected from coroners’ reports in the past 19 years show that over 35% of deaths were related to mains gas. The requirement that landlords should install and maintain an audible carbon monoxide alarm in all properties with fuel-burning appliances is laudable; the problem is that it will not protect the remaining 92% of those living in private rented accommodation. Some 4.6 million homes will have other fossil-fuel-burning but not solid-fuel appliances, and are at risk not only from the appliances being badly maintained but from neighbours’ appliances being badly maintained with carbon monoxide leaking through brickwork, through cracks in the walls and cracked flues—and also at risk from some of the cooking practices from some of the families who have come here from abroad, who use tinfoil as a way in which to distribute heat over the top of the gas stove, when therefore the gas does not burn properly but burns to carbon monoxide. In that way, you get very high levels of carbon monoxide at about waist height, which is of course the level of the children’s heads and faces when they are in the kitchen with their mother.
The problem with testing alarms is, of course, that in asking that the alarm is tested every six to 12 months, I and others would like to see the onus on the landlords to test the alarms, and that they be required to do so annually. Can the Minister clarify what “proper working order” means? Does it mean that the sensor is checked and not just the battery? Only last week, a couple in Devon had a narrow escape from death after their alarm failed to register a leak, which was because of a faulty sensor. The problem is that alarms cannot be a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of fossil-fuel-burning appliances across the board.
I also have a concern that social housing is exempt. A Hackney Homes study of over 22,000 local authority homes found almost 5% carbon monoxide instance per thousand households. The study also found 35% of these instances resulted from a defective gas appliance. Therefore, while these regulations are step one, can step two include social landlords and then, after that, include that every home where there is a fossil-fuel-burning appliance, at the time when that appliance is installed, renewed or serviced, must be fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm? It should also be the case that those providing the service are proper registered Gas Safe services, and those selling the appliances should sell the carbon monoxide alarm at cost price, not at the huge mark-up that there is at the moment.
My Lords, first, I declare an interest in that I have residential properties, which are let, in the village that I live in in Suffolk and these regulations will apply to them. That is in the register of interests.
I support the intention behind, and the method employed in, these regulations. I am sure that, with her scientific knowledge, the noble Baroness who has just spoken has made many valid points about carbon monoxide. However, I am rising to protest about the way in which these regulations have been introduced so far. They are very complicated, as I shall show.
I should like to refer to the report, published in June this year, of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which has already been mentioned by my noble friend. The report draws attention to this statutory instrument as being very important and in the public interest, and it states:
“It will be important that the Department secures effective publicity for the new requirements in good time for the date of October 2015 when the Regulations come into force”.
I suggest that that has simply not been the case. The draft regulations were laid in March but that does not mean that the right sort of consultation on them took place; nor was there any real indication of what was likely to be involved. In fact, the scrutiny committee said that in its Explanatory Memorandum,
“the Department states that … it does not intend to publish new guidance on the policy”.
It is interesting that it has now produced guidance but we should keep bearing in mind the date—1 October 2015, which I think is three weeks away. That is pretty relevant because the guidance was produced last Friday, 4 September, and I have a copy of it in my hand. I obtained it only today but that is quite good with publication having been on Friday, and I doubt whether many other people have it. The guidance contains various questions. One is:
“Is there a ‘grace’ period for landlords?”.
The point made by the department—it is published by the Government and is the official view of Whitehall—is:
“If the regulations are approved, landlords are expected to be compliant from 1 October 2015 when the regulations will come into force. There will be no grace period after this date to install the required alarms”.
That is one of the most astonishing things that I have heard from Whitehall on something which is going to be a major undertaking for many people. In my view, it is an absurd idea. I think that there should be a much better explanation. Until last Friday, the CLA, of which I am a member, found the regulations so complicated to read that its official advice was that they were being brought into effect only for new tenancies—in other words, they were to be brought into effect gradually. It was only last Friday, when this new guidance was published, that the CLA changed its advice, saying that the regulations apply to all tenancies as from 1 October, and that advice was issued today. The CLA has a major role advising people with such tenancies of the obligations upon them. I doubt very much whether there are in the country sufficient pieces of kit to be fitted by 1 October, let alone whether they could physically be purchased and installed by that date—and yet, there is no period of grace.
I shall give noble Lords an example of the sort of complication. What is meant by a “solid fuel burning combustion appliance”? Some would be obvious to many of us. A wood-burning stove is an example. However, open fireplaces are included but they would not normally be regarded as a combustion appliance. I suspect the drafting and do not think that the courts would say that an open fireplace was a combustion appliance. The word “appliance” has a different connotation. There should be much more precision in the drafting of such regulation.
There is also a little note in the advice which states:
“In the Department’s view, a non-functioning purely decorative fireplace would not constitute a solid fuel burning combustion appliance”.
I asked the CLA today about this and it said that this was extremely unclear. For example, let us suppose—as is the case in many old properties—that fireplaces have been left for perhaps decorative or listed-building reasons in a room that has now become a bathroom. They would normally come under this rule. What is the requirement? Is it necessary, as with the energy certificate, to put a board over the fireplace so that it could not be used? Much more precision is needed in these matters.
I am asking for a much longer period. There is no way in which it is practical to bring these regulations into effect on 1 October with no period of grace. The Government have to think again about this. It is an example of extraordinarily bad Whitehall administration.
My Lords, I have a few preliminary remarks. First, as I usually do, I find myself in almost total agreement with everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, had to say. I re-emphasise the importance of the whole issue of carbon monoxide poisoning. My second confession is that I returned to this country from abroad only this morning and I had not seen these regulations until my noble friend Lord Marlesford drew my attention to them. Thirdly, I think that I have to declare an interest in that I am a tenant of premises that fall within the definitions here. The new regulations may or may not apply to me. There are certainly carbon monoxide and fire alarms in the building and on the upper floor. I do not think that there is an installation on the ground floor that may come under the definition—although it is virtually never used. However, the regulations may not apply in my case because they will apply only to tenancies that come into effect after 1 October. I think that I will be renewing my lease within the next day or two because my landlord and I have already agreed the terms. However, I will hasten to tell my landlord that we may have such an appliance.
My anxieties are like those of my noble friend and I begin, as he did, with the recommendation of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. I began to wonder exactly how far the consultation had advanced. The Minister referred to some initial consultations, which I think took place in general a year or so ago. We are informed in the Explanatory Memorandum that during those consultations, which took place between February and March 2014, there were 299 responses to the question on smoke alarms. “A regulatory approach”, we are told,
“was supported by Fire and Rescue Authorities, industry representatives and over 96% of landlords, agents and fire officials who responded to the paper”.
I am glad that they did respond to the paper, but quite clearly if only 299 responded, it does not necessarily indicate that there was—or even now is—a widespread awareness of what has happened in terms of consultation. I do not think that my noble friend the Minister gave us any real information about that.
The scrutiny committee did give us some quite useful information in an appendix. We were told in appendix 1 that the Department for Communities and Local Government,
“intend to update a core set of guidance documents”.
The guidance documents are listed: the How to Rent guide, the industry code of practice, the model tenancy agreement, and the Renting a Safe Home guide. We are entitled to know whether those have all been updated, when and in what way. I would certainly be grateful for that information.
The appendix goes on to say:
“In addition to updating current guidance, we plan to use our partners and the media to communicate the regulatory changes. We have already communicated the key message through press notices”.
I wonder how many people in the business world actually read the press notices on matters such as this, issued even by so great a department as the one in charge of these regulations. It says that we,
“are working with our partners: lettings agents, landlord representative bodies, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities and alarm manufacturers to publicise the requirements over the next 6 months”.
What we really are entitled to know—this is what the scrutiny committee really demanded—is exactly how far that consultation and dissemination of well-publicised advice has gone. I do not think we heard very much about that, with great respect to my noble friend the Minister, in her introduction.
Before we approve these very important regulations—even if it is only a first step, as the noble Baroness suggested—we should know exactly what has been done to ensure that they are widely understood. I am quite certain that my very nice landlord, who is currently renewing the lease of my property, has no idea about it. I am not criticising him for that because I had no idea at all about it until my noble friend Lord Marlesford spoke to me less than an hour ago. I suspect that that situation would be found up and down the country. If we are to approve regulations that are to come into effect in three weeks’ time or something, we should have rather better information than we have been given so far.
My Lords, I too am indebted to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for alerting me to this. I am absolutely horrified—particularly in light of the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff—about the real problems behind carbon monoxide poisoning. I take it that this regulation relates to smoke alarms and to alarms that will identify carbon monoxide. They are two separate things.
My mind then begins to race ahead and I think, “Wait a minute—does anybody know that we should have these alarms?”. Surely every house and flat in the country should have them. If the situation is as serious as we are led to believe, and I am sure that it is, this is important. I live in a purchased flat in a block of flats and last year there was a fire in one of the flats. The whole flat was burned out. There was no alarm—or rather there was a smoke alarm in the flat, but it did not matter. I have a smoke alarm in my flat that goes off when I burn the toast, which happens quite frequently. I go down to say that I am terribly sorry for the alarm, but actually it does not ring outside my flat. I could be burned to a cinder along with the toast. Only when it is eventually noticed from outside that there is a fire, or smoke coming out, will an alarm be sounded throughout the whole building. It is so haphazard. The fact that this is being looked at today will benefit somebody—all of us could benefit from it—if people begin to think about the issue in depth.
I also found the report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee upsetting, even where in the first paragraph it says that these regulations could not be scrutinised until our first meetings in the new session were convened in May, when we came back. This is really unacceptable, particularly when I go round saying how wonderful for scrutiny the House of Lords is. We all agree that we are the ones who scrutinise the legislation. Nobody else does it as well as we do. No other Parliament in the world does it as well as we do. Yet we do not do it. This is crazy.
My other point is about press notices. I draw the Grand Committee’s attention to paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which states:
“Given the diminishing returns from public information campaigns, it is therefore necessary to supplement them with regulations”.
I really think that the regulations should make it absolutely imperative that smoke alarms and anti-carbon monoxide alarms are installed and regularly checked. There are tenancies that last for five years or 10 years. Some last for 12 months. What is being said here is that the alarm has to be sure to be working only at the beginning of the tenancy. That is stupid. There must surely be some form of measure to ensure that alarms are investigated or assessed annually, or maybe even triennially.
If you have a car that is more than three years old, it has an MOT every year. This kind of check is just as important. Dangers do not stem just from these wonderful combustion systems. The fire in our block of flats was actually caused by the overheating of a computer charger. The whole thing more or less blew up. The benefit now is that we have been alerted to the danger. I was certainly never alerted to it. Instead of taking pride in the fact that we scrutinise everything, we can say that with the diminishing returns from public information campaigns we are alerting people to the need for checks and assessments. Surely people need them anyway.
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate so far. I declare my interest as patron of CO-Gas Safety and adviser to Consumer Safety International. I welcome the regulations as far as they go. I will mainly focus on the issue of carbon monoxide but, in the light of our debate so far, I should like to put a couple of other questions to the Minister. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and other colleagues for asking about the guidance. Will the Minister confirm that the guidance was issued only on Friday? That being so, why has it not been made available to Members of your Lordships’ House? It does not appear to be in the Public Bills Office, nor is it laid on the Table. It is rather an abuse of parliamentary process that when we are debating the regulations the guidance has not been made available. If it has and I have missed it, I will certainly apologise to the Minister, but I should like to know.
Secondly, the department said that it had done its best to use a variety of methods to publicise the regulations. Is the Minister seriously saying that all that has happened is that various stakeholders have been told about it and a press notice issued? I acknowledge that her department’s press notices are renowned for the elegance of their language and the persuasiveness of their argument, but simply issuing a press notice is clearly insufficient.
My third point is that I thought that the Minister said in her opening remarks that the Government are now going to amend the regulations. Can she confirm that? She referred to advice from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. I may have misheard what she said, but can she confirm it and the timetable for those amendments?
My fourth point relates to a briefing that I have just received from Electrical Safety First, a charity. It does not concern the specific terms of the order, but the charity makes the point that electricity causes more than 20,000 house fires a year, with many people injured and killed. I understand that Electrical Safety First’s policy is that people in the private rented sector are protected by mandatory five-year checks on electrical installations. Will her department respond to that point?
I turn to the subject of carbon monoxide. I welcome the regulations—they are a small step forward—but, like the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, I very much doubt that the figure that she cited of 40 deaths per year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning is accurate. As CO-Gas Safety has pointed out, for carbon monoxide poisoning to be suspected, there has to be a test. At the moment, even in the event of unexplained deaths, there is no test. The noble Baroness has already referred to her work recommending that the Government should ensure routine post-mortem testing under the auspices of coroners. If the research now being carried out by the Gas Safety Trust proves that it is practical and effective to do so, will the Government accept the noble Baroness’s recommendation? She is both co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group and a past president of the British Medical Association, so she speaks with great authority on the issue, which is why I tend to agree that the estimate of 40 deaths is a gross underestimate.
Secondly, the impact assessment states that the department intends to pursue non-regulatory solutions in order to encourage uptake in all households which do not yet have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. How is that to be done? I assume that it will not just be through another departmental press notice. I know that some campaigners believe that it should be through prime-time TV warnings.
Does the Minister accept that although CO alarms are a useful back-up precaution, they cannot be a substitute for the proper installation and maintenance of gas safety equipment by a registered gas safety engineer? Is she aware that this regulation covers only a small percentage of households in the UK? Indeed, work by CO-Gas Safety going back to 1995 shows that far more deaths occur in owner-occupied homes than in the private rented sector. What is going to happen in relation to owner-occupied homes? Is the Minister aware that respected experts, including Mr Harry Rogers and Mr Stephen Hadley, through Consumer Safety International, have raised concerns about the accuracy of these CO alarms? Is she satisfied that the alarms are constructed to a reliable and accurate standard, wherein the sensor’s function and accuracy levels can be tested?
I want to ask the Minister about government policy in relation to these issues when it comes to Europe as a whole. She will know of the tragic deaths of Christianne and Robert Shepherd from Horbury near Wakefield, who were just seven and six years old when they died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in October 2006. My honourable friend Mary Creagh MP raised this on 14 July in an Adjournment debate in the Commons and described how the family were forced to wait years, until 2010, before a criminal trial was held in Greece, at considerable emotional and financial stress to the family. The court in Corfu found three hotel workers, including the hotel’s general manager, guilty of manslaughter by negligence. In February 2014, eight years after Christi and Bobby’s deaths, the inquest into their deaths reopened in Wakefield. In May the inquest jury concluded that the children had been unlawfully killed and that Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care.
In paying tribute to the brave and determined efforts of the family, I would like to put a couple of points to the Minister. First, research by Mary Creagh’s office revealed that at least 40 holidaymakers have died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Europe in the years since Christi and Bobby died. Does the Minister agree with that assessment? Secondly, in November last year the European Commission launched a Green Paper on the safety of tourism accommodation services. Work commissioned by ABTA from John Gregory, a CORGI gas safety expert, showed why European action was so necessary. He found a lack of legislative consistency throughout Europe and that there is no Europe-wide statistical database of serious incidents caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, meaning that in essence the extent of the problem is as unknown on mainland Europe as it is in the UK. He also raised concerns that the competence, training and knowledge of the operatives undertaking servicing and maintenance of gas appliances across the EU are of a lesser standard than that required in the United Kingdom.
I raise this because, in contrast to ABTA’s responsible approach, the Government have opposed the introduction of a European safety regulation which would have dealt with these problems. My understanding is that opposition from the UK and some other member states has meant that the European Commission is not now taking its Green Paper forward. I ask the Government to think again and to encourage the Commission to continue work to assess how EU regulations could be put in place. If not, we are left with no specific EU-level regulation which sets out minimum safety standards for tourist accommodation safety.
Just as concerning is another brief I have received from ABTA about the prospects of an adequate revision to the EU directive on the safety of appliances burning gaseous fuels. Amendments have been proposed in the European Parliament which would extend the safety regime across the whole of Europe by implementing rules on installation, maintenance and servicing. Again, I understand that the UK Government are opposed to this and because of this opposition it is likely that these measures will not receive agreement within the EU. Again, I hope that the Minister will reconsider the Government’s opposition to this.
Overall, the regulations, as far as they go, are welcome, but I accept that it is right that landlords should be given appropriate time and proper publicity to ensure that they understand the duty that falls on them. In that regard, I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to all these issues, particularly to consider whether, even at this late stage, the Government need to reflect on what publicity is to be given on these regulations.
My Lords, I shall raise a couple of questions on paragraphs 7.8 and 7.9 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which deal with the tenures covered by the regulations. Paragraph 7.8 defines a specified tenancy as,
“a tenancy … lease, sub-lease … of residential premises which grants one or more persons the right to occupy the premises as their only or main residence in return for the payment of rent”.
I find it difficult to understand why that restriction should be imposed. If Members of your Lordships’ House were renting premises in London but lived elsewhere, as many of us do, those premises would apparently be excluded from the provisions of these regulations. I am sure that the noble Baroness will be sensitive to the life expectancy of Members of this House—at least on the government Benches. However, it does strike me as odd that that restriction is imposed.
Furthermore, the schedule excludes other categories of letting arrangements,
“where the accommodation is shared with the landlord or falls outside of the traditional private rented sector”.
Again, I do not see why someone paying rent in a property the rest of which is owner-occupied should be exposed to a risk that would not be the case if he were renting the whole property. Then there is the question of what is meant by a tenancy or letting arrangement falling outside the “traditional private rented sector”. We now have Airbnb and similar organisations providing facilities by which occupiers or owners of property can let, usually for short holiday periods and matters of that kind, with probably quite a significant turnover of people. Again, why should those people be exposed to risk, unless the noble Baroness can confirm that such properties are included? It seems to me that they are not part of what the Explanatory Memorandum describes as “traditional private rented sector” properties.
Paragraph 7.9 says that the Schedule excludes agreements where there is shared accommodation with the landlord or landlord’s family. I briefly referred to that in speaking to paragraph 7.8, but paragraph 7.9 has the explanation:
“This is likely to arise where an owner occupier rents out a room in their own home”.
The justification for that is:
“The Regulations are not targeted at owner occupied accommodation”.
Of course, by definition this is a property that is no longer exclusively owner-occupied accommodation. Given that a profit is presumably being made out of the letting, the regulations should at least be extended to properties of that kind.
I appreciate that we are not in a position to amend these regulations, but a number of points have been made by noble Lords opposite, and at some length and with great force by my noble friend, that require attention. I suggest that the matters I have raised also need to be looked at. Otherwise, we are potentially exposing people—it will be a fair number of people if we take the different categories into account—to continuing risk. That is not in the least desirable.
In so far as owner-occupied properties, shared in the way set out in paragraph 7.9 of the Explanatory Memorandum, might be brought within the provisions of the regulations if subsequently amended or revised, the result is that nobody loses. The owner-occupiers gain and their safety is enhanced. Therefore, it certainly seems worth the Government taking another look at the regulations and coming back with new ones that meet many, if not all, of the points that have been raised in the Committee today.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has been quite wide-ranging and informative, certainly to me. I also declare a former interest as the landlord of an HMO property. I say right at the outset that it is good practice for anybody, whether in their own home or in private rented accommodation, or indeed for local authorities, to have carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors fitted. As a landlord, I certainly did, and most landlords do so. Here, we are trying to target the small number of landlords in the private sector who do not feel responsible for their tenants.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made some very interesting points. One was that the regulations do not go far enough, and she wondered whether there are far more deaths than the 40 that we think there are. She asked whether post-mortem testing for it would be the answer. In the context of these regulations, there are probably many things that we could do but this is a very good start in tackling the small number of private landlords who have little regard for their tenants, whether in terms of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or the general standard of the accommodation. This is what the regulations seek to tackle.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked me about an amendment. The amendment is a “to review” clause. The regulations will be reviewed in two years’ time, acknowledging that they may need to be looked at again.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about social landlords. They are exempt but generally in the social sector they tend to be far more diligent in providing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. As I said, it is a small number in the private sector who seem to be the culprits.
The noble Baroness asked me about the regulations for installing carbon monoxide alarms applying only to rooms containing a solid fuel-burning appliance. I acknowledge that other things may lead to carbon monoxide leaks but these appliances are the main culprits in terms of creating carbon monoxide poisoning. Going way back to my O-level days, I remember learning that you could tell when someone had carbon monoxide poisoning because they would go pink. I do not know whether people stay pink at the post-mortem stage but that was a sign that someone had carbon monoxide poisoning. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also asked about gas appliances. Again, she may well be right but I understand that the incidence is extremely low compared with that relating to solid fuel-burning appliances.
As I said earlier, there is a review clause in the regulations and there will be a review in 2017, but it is probably fair to make the point that these regulations have to strike the right balance by protecting tenants but not causing unnecessary burdens for landlords, the vast majority of whom, as I said, are diligent towards their tenants.
The noble Baroness also asked why the regulations require landlords to check the alarms only on the first day of the tenancy. We want to ensure that tenants entering a house or property are protected on day one, but we expect it to be both the landlord and the tenant’s responsibility. I have experience of a smoke alarm going off when the battery was getting low. Unless you deal with the problem, your life will be a misery.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford said that October 2015 was too soon and that there was not to be a grace period. First, any self-respecting landlord will already have installed a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm. They are available free. They are not complicated devices. The draft regulations were laid back in March. He is absolutely right that the explanatory booklets for landlords and local authorities were published only on 4 September, but they were emailed to key stakeholders.
I am sorry, but I do not know what a key stakeholder is. I do not want to be difficult, but I hope that when she clarifies that matter, she will tell me what detailed consultation has been taking place and about the amendments that I specifically asked about to the various documents.
Before my noble friend leaves that point, I was certainly not regarded as a key stakeholder—there is no reason why I should be—but I received from the CLA only this morning a link for me to be able to download the advisory note issued last Friday. It produced its new view when it received that advisory note last Friday, which makes the idea of bringing it into force with no period of grace obvious nonsense.
I take my noble friend’s point: he is not a key stakeholder and he got it from someone who would be regarded as a key stakeholder. That includes local authorities, groups of landlords and managing agents. It is not long until 1 October, but the draft regulations were laid back in March, so people who have an interest in this—that is, stakeholders—knew that it was coming.
When the noble Baroness opened her remarks, she made the point that most responsible landlords do this in any case. Clearly the focus here is essentially on poor landlords who probably have no connection with any of the stakeholder groups—I mean, it is extremely unlikely that they are members of the CLA. Given that we are probably dealing with the kind of landlords who do not have much to do with any such groups, we need a publicity campaign to get it across to them. The criticism here is that guidance three weeks before the start—which poor landlords will never see—plus a press notice which presumably was not covered by the media will simply not do the business. That is the point that the noble Lord is making.
I take the noble Lord’s point that rogue landlords, just like rogue employers or anybody else, are the hardest to reach and the least likely to listen to legislation on their obligations. Certainly the Fire Kills campaign was very effective—I hope—in raising awareness of carbon monoxide, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, says, is a silent killer.
How to Rent may well be updated in terms of giving tenants more advice. More than ever, tenants have better information on how to rent and on their rights under their rental agreements. My tenants were certainly very well informed and I can assure noble Lords that they were well looked after.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford asked about new guidance. We have decided to issue new guidance in the form of explanatory booklets, one for local authorities and one for landlords. We also want to update How to Rent, as I have just said to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, in time for 1 October 2015. My noble friend Lord Marlesford also asked about decorative fireplaces. A decorative fireplace would be one that was clearly not used for burning; in other words, closed off for the purposes of being able to light a fire.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked about electrical safety in the private rented sector. I can inform noble Lords that landlords are already under a general duty to ensure that electrical installations are safe and kept in good working order.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked why tenancies for main homes are included and not for people such as your Lordships, who might spend some of their time in London. That is a fair point. Again, it is a start in terms of addressing problems with landlords. I hope that none of your Lordships have rogue landlords looking after them. The noble Lord also talked about tenancies that have been excluded. Student halls, hostels, refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices are excluded because they all have their own requirements regarding standards, just as Airbnb is not considered a permanent home. Noble Lords are looking slightly puzzled. The premises that I have just mentioned benefit from existing protections under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. I hope that that helps.
I was waiting until the Minister had gone through the list of all the different types of accommodation. Could she undertake to ensure that, in particular, all universities have the information circulated to them? The university population comprises a large number of students, who go into privately rented accommodation around the UK, which is of very variable quality. In previous years, at the beginning of the autumn term, which we are now approaching, there have been deaths. On a cold night students have turned the heat on. There was a carbon monoxide problem and they died. They were not solid fuel appliances; they were usually gas appliances. However, in the wake of this important move—it is an important move; the Government have accepted that something has to be done—it would be very helpful if universities were asked specifically to alert students to the dangers and make them carbon monoxide-aware. Charities are doing this but they cannot cover the whole area.
The noble Baroness makes a very valid point. In fact, I remember the first day that my son moved into a student house with a boiler in his bedroom and I was terrified that he was going to die in the middle of the night. It is a really good point, which I shall take back.
Following the very interesting, important and sensible point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, does the Minister not now realise that the courts or anyone else will not see three weeks as being a reasonable time for these regulations to be put into effect? The guidance states that there is no grace period. If anyone tried to impose a £5,000 penalty on day two, three or four, I would have thought that that would be seen as absurd in judicial review terms. Will she not take away and reconsider the implementation date? I certainly could not agree to the regulations going forward with an implementation date of 1 October. That is obviously nonsense. The Minister herself gave a lot of examples, referring particularly to the very limited number of stakeholders. One would like to know how many stakeholders there are. I very much doubt whether people have had advisory notices. I do not believe that anyone would regard dishing out advice last Friday, three weeks before the regulations come into force, as adequate. It clearly is not. It is bad government and basically bad administration by Whitehall, and I hope that the Minister does not defend it.
My Lords, there are two points here. First, it is imperative to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords who will not meet their obligations. Secondly, in the theoretical situation set out by my noble friend, if on day two—2 October—a landlord was in breach, that landlord would have 28 days to comply, so the date we are talking about is more like six weeks from now.
The Question is that this Motion be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say “Content”; to the contrary, “Not content”.
As far as I understand it, that is the case—I have seen this happen before—although I do not wish to pre-empt the view of the Chairman. The Grand Committee cannot approve a Motion if a noble Lord decides that he is not prepared to say “Content”. It simply reverts to the Chamber and will probably appear on the Order Paper within a short time. My understanding is that it is open for debate on the Floor of the House.
My Lords, perhaps I may suggest that there is other business to consider and it will be up to the Chief Whip to determine the timetable. We have a sitting Friday coming up, when it is possible to consider this matter. That will be up to the Chief Whip and we should now move on.
Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) (Amendment) Regulations 2015
Motion to Consider
The statutory instrument before us today amends the Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013 to set out the merits criteria that an applicant must meet in order to qualify for civil legal aid for a female genital mutilation—FGM—protection order. This statutory instrument also makes amendments to specify the applicable merits criteria for victims of modern slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour for legal representation in relation to immigration matters.
The Government considered it important that these provisions were brought into force without delay so that victims and potential victims of modern slavery or FGM could be protected. In particular, it was a government priority that the FGM protection order provisions should commence before the start of the school summer holidays as a means of protecting girls and women from being taken abroad during this period. For these reasons, and owing to limited parliamentary time, the statutory instrument before us was made and brought into force using an urgency procedure, and I am now seeking the approval of noble Lords.
FGM protection orders were introduced in the Serious Crime Act 2015 and came into effect on 17 July. Courts now have the power to grant FGM protection orders to protect women and girls against genital mutilation offences and to protect women and girls against whom such an offence has already been committed. The making, varying, discharging and appealing of FGM protection orders were brought within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme by the Serious Crime Act 2015. Amendments were also made to legal aid regulations under the negative parliamentary procedure to accommodate their introduction, including the financial means test.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 makes provision for the protection of victims of modern slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, and it came into effect on 31 July. The Act provides tools to tackle modern slavery, makes sure that perpetrators can receive appropriate punishments and enhances the support and protection for victims. Why are the Government taking this action? Why is it necessary?
The amendment to the merits regulations permits the application of less stringent merits criteria for FGM protection orders than those applied more generally in relation to applications for legal representation. The amendment provides for specific merits criteria to apply to applications for legal aid for FGM protection orders by specifying that the relevant merits criteria are the same as those applied to applications for full representation in relation to domestic violence cases. The amendments provide for specific merits criteria to be applied to applications for legal representation in relation to immigration matters—that is, those concerned with modern slavery. I should perhaps explain that the Government wish to replicate the civil legal aid arrangements for the victims of human trafficking for victims of modern slavery, the provisions of legal aid for advice and representation for damages in employment claims in relation to their exploitation, and in relation to immigration matters. The Modern Slavery Act brought these matters within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme by amending Schedule 1 to LASPO.
The effect of the amendments is to provide that the specific forms of civil legal service known as “help at court” and “investigative representation” are not appropriate forms of civil legal service in connection with immigration matters. Additionally, the amendments provide that the existing merits test in Regulation 60 of the 2013 merits regulations applies in relation to representation in immigration matters for victims of modern slavery.
The Government are committed to protecting victims and potential victims of FGM and modern slavery. This statutory instrument makes relatively minor but important changes to the civil legal aid scheme following the implementation of FGM protection orders and enhanced protection for victims of modern slavery. I therefore commend this statutory instrument to the Committee and I beg to move.
My Lords, this is one of the rare occasions on which I can congratulate the Government and the Minister on doing something positive in the arena of legal aid. Later this evening we will revert to the more normal discussions that take place between us across the Chamber in another respect. However, this is an important matter, and I very much welcome the Government’s initiative in ensuring that the change in the law can be adequately enforced.
In that connection, with regard to something that we have just discussed at some length concerning other serious matters relating to safety within the home, there is the publicity that is being given about the issue generally, but more particularly about the availability of legal aid for those suffering from abuse in terms of either of the two categories embodied in the order. It may well be the case that the Government are already directing publicity not only at the potential victims but at organisations and others who might be able to assist in disseminating the information that legal aid is available. It may be too early at this stage for the Minister to give an indication of the number of cases that are thought likely to be brought under each category, or it may be that the information is simply not available this afternoon. However, if and when it becomes available, that information would be helpful—and, of course, it would lend some force to any publicity that the Government will no doubt give about the remedies that will be available.
Having said that, the Opposition certainly support the Government’s steps here. We look forward to assistance being given to people who are being ruthlessly exploited and who hitherto have had insufficient protection from the law.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his support for these regulations, and I look forward to renewing our customary postures later in the day.
As he rightly says, these are early days, and it is difficult to give any figures. I made the very same inquiry of my officials and understandably they were somewhat tentative. I do not suppose that the numbers are going to be very large. What I can say, of course, is that there has been a great deal of publicity generally about both areas that we are concerned with. Therefore, I think that the general public and all those who are likely to encounter these issues will be aware of the situation and will be keen to find out the extent to which there may be legal aid, and I am sure practitioners working in this area will make themselves aware of it.
A guide to the court process was published in July this year, and I understand that it includes the relevant information. I am now being handed a copy, which lays out, in paragraphs 31 to 34, the information which will assist. This is under the female genital mutilation protection orders; it explains their scope and who can apply, and it contains information about the availability of legal aid. Anybody familiarising themselves with these orders—a practitioner or anybody affected by or concerned about them—would find out that legal aid was available. I am not sure whether there is similar information in relation to modern slavery but, if there is, I will undertake to convey it to the noble Lord.
That being, I think, the scope of the inquiry made by the noble Lord, I think we can now proceed to ask noble Lords to approve this amendment. I believe that it is a reasonable one and that it will provide appropriate frameworks for the provision of legal aid for victims of both FGM and modern slavery.
Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedules 4 and 5) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 29 June 2015 now be considered. If it pleases the Committee, I will provide a brief summary of the background to this order and set out what it seeks to achieve.
When the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 was passed, it provided that the next general election for membership of this Parliament would be 7 May 2020. That same Act also provided that the next Scottish parliamentary general election would be 5 May 2016. The Scotland Act 1998 provides for the poll at Scottish parliamentary general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every fourth year. This all combines to mean that, as things currently stand, there are due to be general elections to both the UK and Scottish Parliaments on 7 May 2020. Clearly, such a clash of elections is undesirable and this Government have always been committed to ensuring that it should be avoided.
The Government are also committed to implementing the recommendations of the Smith commission agreement. One of those recommendations is that the Scottish Parliament should have all powers in relation to Scottish parliamentary and local government elections in Scotland. As noble Lords will be aware, the current Scotland Bill makes provision to implement that recommendation. However, as both the UK and Scottish Governments agree that Scottish parliamentary electors should be aware of the term of the Scottish Parliament to which they are electing Members when they vote in May 2016, we are faced with an issue of timing. If the Scottish Parliament is to legislate in advance of the May 2016 election to determine a date for the first Scottish parliamentary ordinary general election after that one, the power to do so needs to be devolved now. Devolving that power is exactly what this order does.
The order is made under Section 30 of the 1998 Act, which provides a mechanism whereby Schedules 4 and 5 to that Act can be modified by an Order in Council, subject to the agreement of both the UK and Scottish Parliaments. This order will amend both Schedules 4 and 5 to the 1998 Act, with the agreement of both Parliaments. Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act lists enactments which are protected from modification by the Scottish Parliament. Much of the 1998 Act is included in that list. As I have previously mentioned, the 1998 Act provides for the poll at Scottish parliamentary general elections to be held on the first Thursday in May every fourth year. Section 2(2) of the 1998 Act makes that provision. Therefore, this order will amend Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act to allow the Act of the Scottish Parliament to modify Section 2(2) in relation to the first Scottish parliamentary ordinary general election after 2016. Secondly, Schedule 5 to the 1998 Act lists the matters that are reserved to this Parliament. Among other things, elections for membership of the Scottish Parliament are reserved. In order that the Scottish Parliament can determine the day of the poll at the first Scottish parliamentary ordinary general election after 2016, this order will amend Schedule 5 to provide that that matter will no longer be a reserved matter.
The amendments to both schedules will combine to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has the power to determine the date of the first Scottish parliamentary ordinary general election after that to be held next May. The order also amends Section 2 of the 1998 Act in connection with the amendments to the schedules. However, the order places certain limitations on the day which can be chosen by the Scottish Parliament. Specifically, the order will prevent the day of the poll determined by the Scottish Parliament being the same as the day of the poll at a UK parliamentary general election, a European parliamentary election or ordinary local government elections in Scotland. I note that these limitations were as recommended in the Smith commission agreement.
I also take time to anticipate two matters in relation to the order. First, devolving this power to the Scottish Parliament will mean that the Scottish Parliament can, in respect of that election, legislate for the term of the relevant Parliament. Some have asked whether that could result in there being a term of 50 years determined by the Scottish Parliament. To that the Government have two responses. First, the Scottish Parliament is a responsible, democratic body; there is no realistic prospect of such a thing happening. But even if it was contemplated in the wilder imaginings of any parliamentarian, let me also point out that pursuant to Article 3 of the first protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, there is a requirement for free elections at reasonable intervals. The Scottish Parliament, pursuant to Section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998 can bring forward only legislation that complies with the convention—and, in particular, Article 3 of the first protocol.
The second matter I want to mention is why, in the context of this provision, there is no requirement for the decision made in the Scottish Parliament to be supported by a two-thirds majority. In accordance with the Smith commission agreement, this order provides that it will be for the Scottish Parliament to determine the date of the parliamentary term that I have referred to. Paragraph 27 of the Smith commission agreement states:
“To provide an adequate check on Scottish Parliament legislation changing the franchise, the electoral system or the number of constituency and regional members for the Scottish Parliament, UK legislation will require such legislation to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the Scottish Parliament”.
However, the provisions in this order do not change the franchise, the electoral system or the number of constituency and regional Members for the Scottish Parliament. Accordingly, to require a two-thirds majority in respect of this matter would be to innovate upon the Smith agreement because the provision does not fall within the terms of paragraph 27 of the Smith agreement. It is not the intention of this Government to innovate upon the Smith agreement. It is the intention of this Government to honour the terms of the Smith agreement and to implement them fully and in accordance with their proper terms. In these circumstances, there is no contemplation of a supermajority in respect of this order.
This order demonstrates the Government’s commitment to devolving further powers to the Scottish Parliament and to honouring the Smith commission agreement. It also demonstrates the way in which this Government can work effectively with the Scottish Government to make the devolution settlement work. I commend the order to the Committee. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and his staff for keeping me fully informed at an early date, allowing me to consider what is proposed in more detail. I hope that this mini-debate will be far less interesting and contentious than the one two debates ago. There is agreement here. The Opposition are fully behind what the Government are doing. I suppose that some comments could be made about the 50-year proposal, although I think the possibility of that lessens with the change of First Minister. I say that jokingly, of course, in case anybody in the Scottish press gets excited about any perceived attack on Mr Salmond—God forbid.
Certainly, the proposal is firmly within the Smith commission agreement, which the Official Opposition fully support. There are exceptions, which have been outlined by the Minister, and we go along with those as well. The two-thirds majority safeguard is absolutely right. As the Scottish Parliament goes on and gains more experience, it would be entirely ludicrous for anyone to suggest that there is a possibility of it behaving in a manner that, quite rightly, was posited by the Minister as being something that none of us want. Certainly, the Scottish Parliament is growing in experience. The people of Scotland and the United Kingdom should remember that the concept of a Scottish parliament was bitterly opposed by the Conservative Party at the time. We are absolutely delighted at the major conversion of the Government to the principle of a Scottish Parliament. In fairness to the Government, we believe that they are sticking by the terms of the Smith commission to deliver as much as possible to the Scottish Parliament in these devolved matters.
I reiterate that we are fully behind what the Government are doing. In serious terms, the maturity of the Scottish Parliament is growing. That can only be good for relations in Scotland itself and for the very important matter of relations between any Scottish Government out of Holyrood and the United Kingdom Parliament. I repeat again, we are fully behind the measure.
My Lords, I, too, support the order. I welcome the Advocate-General’s introduction of it. My mind goes back to the passage of the 1998 Bill through this House. At that time, I tried to move amendments that would have covered exactly the issues we are debating today. I am sorry to say that I did not get any support from the Labour Government, or indeed from the Conservative Opposition at that time. It struck me as odd that we were establishing a new Parliament in Scotland, yet this Parliament was going to continue to control that Parliament’s internal affairs. That seemed to me to be wrong. I was reinforced in that view when I took office as the first Presiding Officer at the Scottish Parliament and found that silly things such as the number of Deputy Presiding Officers we were allowed to have was laid down by this Parliament—that we could do nothing to make any internal changes. I therefore welcome the order. The Smith commission was very clear in stating that the Scottish Parliament should have all powers in relation to its own elections and,
“powers to make decisions about all matters relating to the arrangements and operations of the Scottish Parliament”.
That seems to me to be common sense. I very much welcome it.
If we leave this order as it is, it is open to the Scottish Parliament to change the predicted date of a Scottish Parliament election. I have tried to work it out. I hope that my arithmetic is correct, but if we leave things as they are and the Westminster Parliament is on a fixed basis of elections every five years and the Scottish Parliament is on a fixed basis of every four years, every 20 years there will be a clash. The Scottish Parliament would therefore have to use the powers in the order to make the changes. In the light of that, it would be sensible if the Scottish Parliament were to reflect on the fact that we have a fixed-term Parliament here and in Scotland, and that it would make more sense for the fixed term to be the same so that the dates do not clash at any time. That is a matter for the Scottish Parliament to decide in the future. In the mean time, I thank the Advocate-General for the introduction of this change to Schedules 4 and 5 to the original Act and I give it a full welcome.
I first acknowledge the perspicacity of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, at the time of the passage of the 1998 Act. However, I was not here. I thank the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for the position that he has expressed. Of course, there has been more than one Pauline conversion on the road to final devolved settlement. We all hope that there will be more, even among the nationalists.
Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, the purpose of the order that we are considering today is to continue in force legislation governing the Armed Forces—the Armed Forces Act 2006—for a further period of one year, until November 2016. This reflects the constitutional requirement under the Bill of Rights that the Armed Forces may not be maintained without the consent of Parliament.
The legislation which makes the provision necessary for the Armed Forces to exist as disciplined forces is renewed every year. There is five-yearly renewal by Act of Parliament. That is the primary purpose of Armed Forces Acts. Between Acts, there must be an annual Order in Council. That is the purpose of the draft order that we are considering today.
If the Order in Council is not made by the end of 2 November 2015, the Armed Forces Act 2006 will automatically expire. The effect of this would be to end the powers and provisions necessary to maintain the Armed Forces as disciplined bodies.
The order will continue in force the 2006 Act until the end of 2 November 2016, when a new Act of Parliament will be required to provide for the legislation to continue for the next five years. We expect the next Armed Forces Bill to be introduced into Parliament soon, and I look forward to our debates on the Bill and on matters of great importance to our Armed Forces during its passage in your Lordships’ House. Indeed, before then, I look forward to enjoying a full and interesting debate next week on the role and capabilities of the UK Armed Forces in the light of global and domestic threats to stability and security.
Turning back to the business in hand today, I should say something about why we need to keep the 2006 Act in force. The Armed Forces Act 2006 applies to all service personnel wherever in the world they are operating. It provides nearly all the provisions for the existence of a system of command, discipline and justice for the Armed Forces, covering such matters as offences, the powers of the service police and the jurisdiction and powers of commanding officers and of service courts, in particular the courts martial. It is the basis of the service justice system that underpins the maintenance of discipline through the chain of command which is so fundamental to the operational effectiveness of our Armed Forces.
The 2006 Act also provides for a number of other important matters for the Armed Forces, such as for their enlistment, pay and redress of complaints. Members of the Armed Forces have no contracts of employment and so no duties as employees. Although members of the Armed Forces owe a duty of allegiance to Her Majesty, their obligation is essentially a duty to obey lawful orders, but without the 2006 Act, commanding officers and the courts martial would have no powers of punishment for either disciplinary or criminal misconduct. That is why the Armed Forces Act 2006 is so important and why we need to continue it in force. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the purpose and need for the order. We have this debate on the Armed Forces continuation order each year, and I must say that I am no clearer at present than I was when I was first involved in these debates what would be the implications if the order was not carried.
I do not intend to speak at any length. We support the order and, as the Minister said, we have a separate defence debate in the Chamber next week. However, bearing in mind the wide-ranging nature of the order and the apparent consequences if it was not agreed, it has always seemed to me—if, apparently, to no one else—that consideration of the order each year could be used as the basis for an annual general defence debate in the Chamber. There is, after all, very little, if anything defence and Armed Forces-wise that it could be argued would not be relevant in a debate on an order which if not agreed calls into question the continuation of our Armed Forces as a disciplined fighting force.
As paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum states, the Armed Forces Act 2006, which the order extends for a further year from 2 November 2015,
“provides nearly all the provisions for the existence of a system for the armed forces of command, discipline and justice … It also contains a large number of other important provisions as to the armed forces, such as provision for enlistment, pay and redress of complaints”.
Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum states:
“The central effect of expiry of the 2006 Act would be to end the powers and provisions to maintain the armed forces as disciplined bodies”.
I take this opportunity to ask the Minister: what precisely are the implications of paragraph 7.4 of the Explanatory Memorandum? Paragraph 7.4 says:
“The requirement for renewal (under Section 382 of the 2006 Act) is based on the assertion in the Bill of Rights 1688 that the Army (and by extension now the RAF and the Royal Navy) may not be maintained within the Kingdom without the consent of Parliament”.
Does that mean that if this order is not agreed by Parliament before the end of 2 November 2015, there is either no statutory authority or only limited statutory authority for the continued maintenance of our Armed Forces? If that is the case, does that mean that any or some actions within or by our Armed Forces would be outside the law? For example, could our Armed Forces still take lawful military action or lawfully incur current levels of expenditure if this order extending the 2006 Act is not agreed by Parliament within the required timescale? Further, what in practical and legal terms does the statement mean at the end of paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum that:
“If the 2006 Act were to expire, members of the Armed Forces would still owe a duty of allegiance to Her Majesty”,
in the light of the statement in paragraph 7.4 to which I have already referred? Would the consent of Parliament have been withdrawn if this order was not agreed by Parliament and the 2006 Act expired as a consequence, and what in practical terms would the reference in paragraph 7.3 to our Armed Forces owing,
“a duty of allegiance to Her Majesty”,
actually mean in those circumstances?
I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order and note that his speech is somewhat familiar, as I delivered it myself last year. These things do not change an awful lot so I shall not take long.
The order reflects the constitutional requirement under the Bill of Rights that the Armed Forces may not be maintained except with the consent of Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has repeated some of the points and questions that I probably failed to answer last year around this whole issue of what happens should we not agree. But I would like to highlight an area that had its own legislation passed earlier this year—the Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Act 2015—in particular, complaints, which are covered in this order.
The 2014 continuation order covered the old complaints system. The 2015 legislation to set up the new Service Complaints Ombudsman amended the Armed Forces Act 2006. Will the Minister confirm that this continuation order incorporates the service complaints paragraphs of that Act? The ombudsman set up in the Act will have stronger powers than the current commissioner to investigate any maladministration in the handling of a service complaint. Will the Minister also confirm that as the Act goes live in 2016, the system set up is on track to meet the change in legislation?
I note, too, my responses last year with regard to the letter from noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to the department, and Mr Morrison’s response on the 2014 order. Can the Minister confirm whether he believes that the Explanatory Memorandum of this year reflects the contents of Mr Morrison’s letter? Will the noble Earl also confirm that next year we will be debating a 2016 Armed Forces Act, which we expect to, as it is done every five years, and does the Minister have any inkling of that timetable?
As the Minister has highlighted, we have the opportunity in next week’s debate on role and capabilities of the UK Armed Forces to explore in more detail issues of a more specific nature, and I hope that the Minister will accept the point made in last year’s debate, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, repeated today, that a general debate is useful. The issue could helpfully be swept up in the debate next week and the Minister could respond to areas that are defence related but are only tangentially connected with role and capability. In the mean time, I am happy to agree to the continuation order.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, for their comments and questions. I shall address them in turn.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, devoted his remarks to questions around the hypothesis that were this order not to be approved, the effect on the Armed Forces would be to render them, in practice, completely ineffective. I can confirm that. The practical effect of not renewing the Act would be that the Armed Forces as we know them would cease to exist because, among the many important provisions in the Act, the key provisions are perhaps the duty to obey lawful commands and the mechanism for enforcing that duty. Without these, the Armed Forces would be unable to continue as disciplined forces. They would continue to owe allegiance to Her Majesty but to deploy the Armed Forces in practice or in theatre would be rendered almost impossible because the system of obeying duties would fall away.
Perhaps I should clarify. I understand fully the point that the noble Earl has made. Is the Minister saying that it would be impractical to undertake military action because there would be no duty to obey commands, or is it also the case that if this order was not passed it would be illegal for our Armed Forces to undertake any action? Is it an issue about practicality or is it an issue about whether it is legal?
It is both, as I understand it, in that the requirement for annual renewal can be traced back, as noble Lords have pointed out, to the Bill of Rights 1688. It declared that the raising or keeping of a standing Army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is against law. That means, essentially, that it would be illegal to have a standing Army or, indeed, a standing Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. It has not been a matter for any Government in living memory to contemplate a scenario whereby Parliament might not approve the continuation of the Armed Forces.
I shall naturally take advice from those who are expert in this field. If anything that I have said is wrong or requires expansion I will of course write to the noble Lord. I agree that this is a subject of theoretical interest. I am glad to hear that there is no proposal to take the questions to their logical conclusion, but I recognise the importance of the questions that the noble Lord poses and will be happy to clarify, perhaps at greater length in writing, what the legal position amounts to.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, also referred to the Bill of Rights, but focused her remarks on the system of complaints and asked whether the changes that are being introduced are on track. They are. As she knows, the Ministry of Defence worked closely with Dr Susan Atkins, the first Service Complaints Commissioner, to make the service complaints process more efficient and to strengthen the commissioner role. That was the basis of the Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill that received Royal Assent on 26 March this year. As she is aware, the Act shortens the complaints process and replaces the commissioner with a new Service Complaints Ombudsman. Implementation is expected in January. The ombudsman will have significant new powers, while maintaining the right balance between the authority of the military chain of command, which must be responsible for looking after its own people, and strong independent oversight through the ombudsman.
Nicola Williams, the former ombudsman in the Cayman Islands, with whom I had a useful conversation the other day, took over as the commissioner in January and will become the first ombudsman, subject to approval by Her Majesty the Queen. Nicola Williams’s first annual report on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints process was published on 24 March. The Government’s response was published on 16 July 2015.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, asked me whether the Explanatory Memorandum reflects the content of Mr Morrison’s letter. I will have to get back to her on the answer to that.
As for the timetable for the Armed Forces Bill, I anticipate that it will be introduced into Parliament shortly. I cannot comment on its content before that happens, but my understanding is that the Bill should be under way in October.
Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
My Lords, I shall speak also to the Enterprise Act 2002 (Part 8 Domestic Infringements) Order 2015. These orders form part of the implementation of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and, with the leave of the Committee, I will take them together. Most of the Act comes into force on 1 October.
Before turning to the orders, I thank noble Lords for their valuable contributions to our debates and to ensuring that the Act is in good shape. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, who has just left us, for her help in steering the Act through the House, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and, if I may say so, to the newly fashionably bearded noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for their well-informed contributions to our lively debates.
The Act is part of a wider package of consumer law that will boost the economy by £4 billion over the next 10 years. It may be helpful if I remind your Lordships of what the Act does and if I say a little about what we are doing to ensure that consumers and businesses are aware of their rights and obligations under the Act.
The Consumer Rights Act is a major part of the reform and simplification of UK consumer law. It provides clear consumer remedies for goods, services and digital content so that consumers know what their rights are and what they are entitled to if something goes wrong. This will help increase consumer confidence so that people try new products and services and also shop around. It will also help businesses more readily to understand their responsibilities.
It is crucial that consumers and businesses know about their rights and obligations. We have therefore been working closely with trading standards to help businesses prepare for the changes, including the provision of clear guidance on the Act on its Business Companion website and the development of a consumer rights summary which businesses can voluntarily display in their shops at the point of sale. To help consumers better understand their rights, we have also been working closely with Citizens Advice, MoneySavingExpert and Which?. The consumer rights summary will be published on the TSI website before 1 October.
Alongside the Act, on 1 October, when the business information requirements of the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulations 2015 come into force, we will also complete implementation of the alternative dispute resolution directive. By ensuring that ADR is available in every sector, we will make it easier to resolve disputes between consumers and traders. This will help reduce costs for businesses by reducing the number of these disputes being brought before a court.
I would also like to update your Lordships on our review of product safety. In March this year, because of concerns about the effectiveness of consumer product recalls raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and others during the passage of the Consumer Rights Bill in this House, the Government launched an independent review led by consumer campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood. This is looking at how we can make the product recall system more effective, with a proper understanding of what a good recall system looks like. A small stakeholder focus group met on 4 December to discuss 10 recommendations and we anticipate publishing the review’s findings later this year.
As a result of amendments made in this House, the Consumer Rights Act includes new rules on the regulation of the online secondary ticketing market, which came into force in May. The first order enables the enforcement bodies to share information and work together more effectively to complement the investigatory powers that came in in May. BIS and the DCMS are still committed to reviewing the secondary ticketing market and we anticipate announcing the chair very soon. Given the level of interest in this matter and the presence of my noble friend Lord Moynihan, I thought that I should make that clear. The launch of the review will follow shortly, along with an invitation for interested parties to provide evidence on the market and consumer protection measures.
As part of our productivity plan, the Government are reviewing trading standards to ensure that our consumer enforcement capability effectively supports competition and better regulation goals. We have, however, decided to delay the coming into force only of the services provisions of the Act in relation to mainline rail, aviation and maritime consumer services until 6 April 2016. The DfT is rightly concerned about the interplay between the new Act and specific provisions, such as the arrangements for a refund due to train delays. Therefore, we will be consulting with businesses and consumers shortly to determine whether the detailed sector-specific consumer remedies should be retained and how the new Act might apply. The other chapters of the Act, including provisions on competition, will come into effect for these sectors on 1 October.
I now turn to the two orders themselves. As I mentioned, these orders form part of the implementation of the Consumer Rights Act. They simply make consequential amendments to the existing legal framework. First, the draft Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Consequential Amendments) Order adds the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 to the list of legislation in Schedule 5 to the Act. This will mean that public enforcers of those regulations have access to the investigatory powers that they need.
The order also amends the Uniform Laws on International Sales Act 1967. That Act implemented the convention on international sale of goods, which enables parties from different countries to decide that the standard terms set out in the convention apply to their contract. This means that, where the contract is for the sale of goods to a consumer, provisions of the Consumer Rights Act, such as the right that goods must be fit for purpose, will be treated as mandatory elements of the contract.
The order also amends Schedules 14 and 15 to the Enterprise Act 2002 so that public bodies have the power to disclose and share information obtained through, or for the purposes of, enforcing the unfair terms and secondary ticketing provisions contained in the Consumer Rights Act, as I mentioned. Lastly, the order amends Schedule 3 to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 to enable a local authority to be a “primary authority” and take a role in co-ordinating enforcement of provisions of the Act.
The second order, the draft Enterprise Act 2002 (Part 8 Domestic Infringements) Order, amends the Enterprise Act 2002. This enables enforcers, such as trading standards, to use civil enforcement powers for certain breaches of the Consumer Rights Act where such breaches affect the collective interests of consumers. For example, trading standards could seek an enforcement order when a business refuses to give refunds to a number of customers where faulty goods are supplied.
I commend the draft orders to the Committee.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for referring specifically to Chapter 5 of Part 3 of the Act and for the interest shown, both in Committee and in the House, in the subject of the secondary market for tickets. As I understand it, the powers that are proposed should be seen as complementary and, indeed, supplementary, because there will be greater information sharing as a result of the order, which is narrow in scope.
I would like to ask my noble friend whether the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 apply to the secondary ticketing market as well. If they do, they stand well alongside the proposals before the Committee and, indeed, the powers in the CRA 2015.
Before I may appear a little concerned about and critical of the pace at which a number of commitments that were given to the House seem to be progressing, I say straightaway that I could not be more grateful to the Minister personally for her commitment and the level of interest, time and diligence that she showed on this subject. However, as I hope she will be the first to agree, while investigative powers are clear, a prerequisite for those investigative powers to be effective is enforcement. If there is a lack of clarity over exactly what needs to be enforced, we have a problem. One reason why the review was due to be set up was to provide clarity over enforcement and how it would be implemented. As long ago as May, the Minister was hopeful that we would have that review. Many of us who are interested in the subject have waited with bated breath during the Summer Recess, week by week and month by month—May, June, July, August and now into September—and we are still hoping that the review will come very soon.
Under normal circumstances in Parliament, this might not be a major concern. The reason why it is such a concern is because this review was placed in the Act and was time-limited to a year. It concerns me that we are now into September and we do not have a chair for the review or terms of reference for it, nor do we have details of the expert committee that would support that review. All that is absolutely essential. One reason why the measure was pressed so rapidly and given such importance and prominence in Parliament was that having a chair in place to see exactly how the ticket-touting market or secondary ticket market worked during the Rugby World Cup was clearly going to be advantageous. It was going to be able to help that committee to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the legislation that had been passed in Parliament, and it was also going to provide a good deal of detailed information so that recommendations could be made in the light of direct hands-on involvement with those organising the Rugby World Cup, which already, as we have read in the papers only in the last week, is a matter of great concern to the consumers, many of whom feel that they are being fleeced. In addition to that, we were looking for a strategy for monitoring compliance. The Competition and Markets Authority is clearly important in that context, but we have heard nothing. There is no information on how best to provide requirements for sellers, advice to buyers or recourse to consumers. I understand that the police numbers specifically to tackle touting and associated criminality are very low.
Many rugby fans feel that they are currently being fleeced for tickets, which is a result of the lack of enforcement. The position that they face today is bleak, to say the least. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give us a little more clarity on when this review is going to be established. I hope that there will be an announcement very soon of a chair for the review; it is imperative that that is done and that the review is set up as a matter of urgency. At the Rugby World Cup, so many fans have been unable to get tickets because those who have managed to sweep the market have immediately put those tickets back on at a massive multiple of their face value. When that is directly in contravention to the regulations and rules stated by the organisers of the Rugby World Cup, we have a serious problem, compounded when Parliament has spoken about this issue and when the Government came back with amendments to lead on this issue so that we could protect consumers and not see sports fans fleeced.
My Lords, it was very good of the Minister to pay tribute to my hirsute appearance. I like to bask in the idea that I am fashionable at all, let alone fashionably bearded. Of course, it is entirely a summer beard, one of those that grow simply because one is too bored and lazy to take the trouble to shave it off. In my case I had an ulterior motive—I am sorry to bore the Committee in this way—because my son has just reached the age of 20 and fancies himself as a bit of a lad around town, and felt that it would enhance his appearance and approach to the wider world if he was to grow a beard, and we agreed to do it together. I shall not say who has won yet, but it is a fine bonding environment. Also it proves that you do not have to be a former Labour leader or indeed standing to be a Labour leader to wear a beard of some distinction. I hope that does not get too widely circulated by Hansard.
I thank the Minister for giving us a very interesting overview of where things stand with the Bill. For those of us who sweated through the long stages of this issue, it is nice to be refreshed again as to where we have got to on some of these key issues—not least the digital area, which is my particular responsibility, but also in the wider context on which my noble friend Lady Hayter led for us with great skill and expertise. It is her birthday today, and perhaps the Minister might in a spirited moment refer to that.
I have three points. I was intrigued by the announcement that there was to be a review of trading standards. I had not noticed that in earlier statements. When the Minister comes to respond, perhaps she could give us a little more on that. We made a point throughout discussions on the Bill that, while we admired the way in which the Bill set out to draw together and reshape our overall consumer protection, it was heavily dependent on the ability to police and exercise the powers that were being given. There were some doubts expressed by those who spoke in Committee and on Report who had knowledge and expertise in these areas of the difficulties being caused in local government as a result of cuts and changes there. I am interested in the broader approach taken by the review, in particular whether it will deal with the difficulties that have been caused by the reductions in manning levels and resources available, and by changes in local government, which are very complicated. That might take time to get together, but it would repay considerably on the success of the Bill.
My second point echoes those made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on the secondary ticketing market. It is a complicated area. The point was well made that there is a bit of a problem with trying to carry out a review before enough experience has been obtained of the changes made by the Act. Obviously that will push the timing of this towards the end of the rather short period that has been allowed for it. The uncertainty is not helpful. When the Minister comes to respond, could she be a little more forthcoming about the timing and extent?
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned the possibility not only of an individual being responsible but of a group of people being asked to carry this out, led by a particular individual, and of an advisory committee. I would be interested to know to what extent thinking on that has solidified. If it is to be advisory to the review that is one thing; if it is advisory to the Secretary of State—or both Secretaries of State, since this is still meant to be a joint approach between DCMS and BIS—that would be interesting to know. We have come across that with the BBC review. I am anxious to have a little more detail sketched in on that if we can.
My third point was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. Towards the end of discussions in Committee those of us directly involved in this—in particular, those responsible for finally getting a new clause inserted in the Bill—were interested to discover that the CMA had been carrying out quite a considerable amount of work in this area in parallel to the debates going on in Parliament, but which was not shared with Parliament. It meant that those of us who had been lobbied and were in discussions with those involved with secondary ticketing were to some extent blindsided by the fact that elsewhere, and without knowledge available to us—I do not see how it could have been made available to us, but we did not know about it—undertakings were being offered and discussed, and arrangements were being made with secondary ticketing operations. Companies that had come to us with a particular line were clearly speaking from experience of discussions and debate with the then competition authority—it was the OFT; then it was transferred to the CMA.
We were put at quite a considerable disadvantage, but that is past history. Maybe that is how government works, but it would be helpful if the Minister would confirm without reservation what the situation with the CMA and the secondary ticketing market is as we go into this review period. Are any further discussions going on, or can we be assured that the matter will be stayed, at least until such time as the review is carried out? Again, it would be absurd to find that there were parallel, secret negotiations going on. It would be very bad to the public interest if that were to become clear.
I support entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. I share his wish that this had been started earlier so that we could have looked at how the market was operating in relation to the Rugby World Cup, but there are other activities and there will be plenty of evidence around. Indeed, at the end of the previous Session the Minister and I commented on the interesting experience of walking from Wimbledon station to Wimbledon tennis ground, when one was met by a very large number of people who seemed to know an awful lot about whether one wanted tickets.
This process is alive and well. It destroys and upsets lots of consumers every time there is a big event. It is not always the case that the ticket touts make money, but they certainly devalue the feeling of trust that one should have in the organisers of events in terms of what tickets you are getting, whether you will have the right to attend when you have bought a ticket or whether that ticket will be vitiated by some other activity. The whole area needs to be cleaned up. We know there is evidence of money laundering and of criminality, but we will not get this sorted until the Act is given additional support from the review. We can then move forward with ensuring that the understanding, the evidence and the way that the Act could work in terms of penalties is clarified once and for all.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her opening remarks and continuing work on this matter.
I appreciate that the Act to which the orders relate is a consolidation Act designed to simplify, and obviously I support that. There are challenges ahead and I hope that the Government will focus on them, in particular the internet. We know that the online retail market is the fastest-growing sale sector. It is now worth well over £100 billion.
The expansion of click-and-collect services and mobile-phone commerce has played a large role in this. Only last night a lady from America sent an e-mail to my website, wanting to know what my opening hours are, because she wanted to buy some clothes. She confused me with Lord & Taylor, the clothing department store in the USA. She was quite happy, however, that I was not in fact Lord & Taylor. This just goes to show that many consumers now are dealing with companies that are outside the jurisdiction and that in many ways the Government are playing catch-up with the internet. They still have to wage the battle against that.
Paragraph 7 of the guidance notes states that the Government consulted extensively on reforming consumer law, and that this was based on broad support for reforms from business and consumer stakeholders. But for many start-up firms the owner is also the person who makes the tea and puts out the rubbish. Keeping abreast of changes in consumer law is a challenge too far. I still feel that there is too big a gap between small business and government, and indeed between consumer and government.
One must look at what the consumer can do when things go wrong. I appreciate that this was in essence a consolidation Bill, but the Government have to be a champion of the consumer. Some argue for a consumer ombudsman, just one person. I do not share that view, but I feel that companies owe more of a duty of care to consumers to advise them on what to do when things go wrong. Caveat emptor, or buyer beware—there is still consumer law, but it is the new language of the internet, not Latin, that is fast taking over. So the Government must take into account that that changes, almost by the minute, the way in which we buy and sell goods.
Well, we are back again. I thank the Minister for not just introducing the draft orders, but for the update on progress on the product safety review, which is of particular interest to me. We had not formally seen it but I had obviously heard about it. The decision that she or whoever made it to appoint Lynn Faulds Wood to chair the review was a brave one, as she is very much her own lady. I have worked with her before, on bowel cancer, which was rather different, but I know that she will take no prisoners. We look forward to that report and trust that it will be out this year.
The EU directive on alternative dispute resolution in a way touches on the area, just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, about whether there should be a consumer ombudsman. In principle, I am more or less with him on that. If you have an ombudsman it is compulsory for the industry covered to allow a consumer to take its complaint there. The problem that we have with the ADR directive, to which the Government signed up in only the most minimalist way, is that there will be alternative dispute resolution organisations in existence. For example, if you were John and Taylor—a wonderful firm, I am sure—but it was in Warwick and you were selling clothes there, you would in future have to say that the clothes-selling ADR provider is that well-known company, Stevenson and Hayter. However, we will not necessarily accept that a consumer should take their complaint there. So we have a very odd situation now which falls short of what the noble Lord would want: basically, anyone can set up an ADR and, as long as it is approved by the trading standards people, it exists but consumers cannot necessarily take their complaints there.
When she replies, perhaps the Minister will confirm when the full implementation of the ADR directive, although it is very minimalist, will take place. I know that it is later than was originally intended, but I missed the date. How many of those ADR schemes have been approved and what proportion of the consumer market does she now consider is covered by some sort of ADR scheme?
I turn to another issue on which the Minister helpfully updated us, which was the announcement made by the Minister in the other place on 29 July—which was, strangely enough, just when we were all going off on holiday and had packed our buckets and spades—of the six-month delay in the services provision of Chapter 4 of the CRA for the rail, aviation and maritime services. It may be that the Government had foreknowledge of what was going to happen at Calais over the holiday and were absolutely sure that they did not want consumers to be able to use their new rights under the Act. I hope that that was not the case.
What concerned me, not in what the Minister said today, but in the letter of 29 July from the Minister in the other House, was the suggestion that the passenger transport sector might be exempted permanently from the Act in certain respects. We would have very serious questions about any suggestion of completely removing the rail sector from the Act. The existing consumer protections under the national rail conditions of carriage are much narrower than those introduced in the new Consumer Rights Act. They basically cover only delays and cancellations, not quality of service, passenger assistance, on-board wi-fi, which gets more and more important, and cleanliness. In fact, they do not cover what the Minister referred to in the rest of the Act: whether the service could be said to be fit for purpose.
Although there are some improvements under the national rail conditions of carriage regulations, in that there is now provision for cash compensation rather than just a rail voucher—which is no use at all if you do not want to go back to where you have been—that compensation is still essentially limited to delays, not those wider issues. We obviously want the Consumer Rights Act to apply to passengers.
The Government had initially reassured the Committee in the Commons that the national rail conditions would be excluded only when they offer equivalent protection to that in the Bill—which is not currently the case. At that point, we were reassured that there was to be no undercutting of what is now the Act. However, the letter from the Minister in the Commons worries us slightly. We know that even with the present level of protection, which is not as good as the CRA, the Office of the Rail Regulator found that more than three-quarters of rail passengers know not very much or nothing at all about their rights to a refund or compensation when trains are delayed or cancelled.
We believe it is vital that the travelling public get the full rights under the Act. Given that the Conservative manifesto pledged,
“to improve compensation arrangements for passengers”,
will the Minister confirm that there is no intention to provide lesser rights for passengers than those in the Bill to which I think she can quite proudly put her name? Will she also undertake that in that six-month pause Transport Focus and other consumer groups are fully consulted and that it will not be just the industry deciding what rights it will deign to give its customers?
On secondary ticketing, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend Lord Stevenson have put across the main issues. But I ask the Minister—whether wearing her BIS hat or her DCMS hat—to update the Committee on the implementation of Chapter 5 on secondary ticketing. We would like to know whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Business Secretary wants to repeal the 2015 Act reforms regarding the reselling of concert and sports tickets. It was written up in the Guardian and there has been no refutation yet from the Government, which of course makes us a little suspicious. Lack of progress on the review has already been mentioned, and when I hear the words “very soon” I get a little worried. My noble friend Lord Stevenson and I were doing one of the Finance Bills or an enterprise Bill and we kept being told that the review on LIBOR was going to be very soon, it was going to be in the spring, it was going to be in the summer. Certainly if we could know if it was days rather than weeks, that would be helpful.
I would also be very interested to know who is going to publish the review. Will it be a DCMS review or will it be BIS? We would like to know which Secretary of State will get their sticky hands on it because we know about the particular interests, shall we say, of the two Secretaries of State. As has been said, we are interested in what preparation has already been made for guidance for enforcement authorities, event authorisers and traders—the secondary platforms themselves as well as the fans. I am sure some thought has already gone into that.
It has also been reported that the Culture Minister in the other place, Tracey Crouch, has said:
“The Government believes that prices should be set by supply and demand in the secondary ticketing market”,
which is another cause for concern. It sounds as if they will pre-empt the review, but I also hear a certain noise of rapid backtracking. It is very hard to believe it is Tracey Crouch’s own personal view, given her renowned love of sports and her enthusiasm for the fans. So it may be more the sound of broken arms. Certainly the secondary ticketing industry seems to have got wind of a possible government U-turn; for example, StubHub is ending the transparency which showed the full purchase price that you would pay rather than the tempter price to get you in before more is added on. It looks as if the industry may be confident that it is not going to have to make many changes. We await with interest the Minister’s response to these various questions.
I thank my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Taylor, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for their intelligent contributions to today’s debate. On the subject of beards, two of my sons have grown beards this summer. Of course, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, on her birthday. We will not sing “Happy Birthday” to her because I think it would be against the rules of this distinguished place. I also thank her for her kind words about the product safety work that we are doing and about the chair. I will of course pass on her comments.
I shall start with transport. I reassure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that there was no conspiracy in relation to the transport provisions. Our concern is about the interaction between the existing provisions, to which the noble Baroness referred, and the new provisions in the Act. The delay in the order until April next year will allow us to consult widely and we feel that it would be wrong to pre-empt that consultation. The scope of any exemption will be limited and will relate only to the ability to limit liability to less than the ticket price. All other protections under the Act will apply. The consultation will involve both business and consumer groups. Of course I undertake to pass on the points that the noble Baroness has made during this debate to ensure that my colleagues doing this work in the Department for Transport are well aware of noble Lords’ concerns.
As my noble friend Lord Moynihan helpfully said, the provisions are complementary and supplementary to what we did in the Act and to the investigation powers that are already in place. I think that his question was, “Do both orders affect secondary ticketing?”. My answer to that is yes, so, as he says, that is helpful. However, I emphasise that the main provisions have already come in, including those relating to the investigatory powers. We remain committed to these and to the review, whose object is to make sure that the market works properly. The terms of reference have still to be finalised once the chair can confirm that the ideas that have been put forward are in the right place. I hope that that gives some reassurance. On enforcement, in the mean time consumers who have problems should contact Citizens Advice, which will pass information to trading standards for enforcement. Individuals can also challenge in court terms that they believe to be unfair. Therefore, the provisions are fully in force and there is no reason for anyone in the market not to comply with them. Doing so could attract a financial penalty.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that intervention. I think that before the election we sent an outline to some of the noble Lords who have been involved in the debate. If those did not come their way, I will make sure that they do. As I am sure noble Lords agree, it will be important that the chair looks at the terms of reference, but a working document was prepared and I can certainly arrange for your Lordships to receive it. We have been making progress in establishing the terms of reference so that we are ready to roll.
I am sure that noble Lords will agree that it has been important to find an appropriately skilled chair and, obviously, the necessary support, on which I think there is more detail to follow. I can confirm that the review will report to both Secretaries of State. As I said, we expect an announcement soon. The review will take evidence from the Rugby World Cup, as it should do, and we remain confident—this is perhaps the most important point—that it will report on time. As my noble friend explained, there is a time-limited window. We have legislated already and we will be responding to the concerns that have been expressed particularly vociferously in this House and elsewhere.
On the CMA, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said that this was history. However, the CMA, which is an independent organisation, will be contributing to the expert group, will provide evidence for the review, and consider its conclusions alongside the Government and other enforcers when considering action in this sector.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that comment because that is the first time we have heard formally that there will be an expert group supporting the chair of the review. Can she take on board—I do not expect her to respond today—and come back later to confirm that the expert group reflects the key interested parties? That means that the arts promoters and event promoters, who have been particularly concerned for many years about abuse within the secondary market, as well as the leading spectator sports that are keenly interested in this issue, will be represented on the expert group.
To continue that point, it would be helpful to know how this is to be shaped and organised. I agree that there is a lot of expertise out there but it has not always been brought in. It would be useful if we could be reassured that the range of representation on the expert group will be sufficient to make sure that all the points are picked up.
I am grateful to the Minister for what she has said about the CMA. It is perfectly appropriate for it to carry on its work independently. However, it is the lack of transparency about where it is in the game that causes us the most concern. We were completely unaware that negotiations were taking place between the CMA, or its predecessor body—probably the OFT—and the secondary ticket market. That meant that everything we thought we were hearing needed to be refocused because it was untrammelled by other people’s considerations. The point that I was trying to make was, without in any sense trespassing on the independence of the CMA, it would have been helpful to know whether a programme of work was going on at the same time. The fact that the CMA will be an adviser to the expert group, which presumably will report to the Secretary of State, will make matters a lot easier. I suspect that that is where the matter should lie but I should like confirmation from the Minister.
I am grateful for those helpful interventions. We are nearly there. I will reflect on the point about lack of transparency and pass it on to the CMA. I will take away the points that noble Lords have made about the expert group. There is not a lot extra that I can say today but we will make an announcement soon and bear in mind the helpful contributions that have been made.
I shall move on to trading standards. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the review. It was announced as part of the productivity plan published by the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in July. Noble Lords will remember that the plan called for more open and fair markets. Following the Raine review, we have said that we are reviewing trading standards’ ability to deliver the Government’s aims. We aim to make recommendations for a more efficient and effective trading standards service, which will ensure suitable consumer protection in an efficient and financially sustainable way so that business has confidence to invest and grow. That is the link with the productivity envelope and the context in which the review was published. We will not be carrying out a formal consultation but would welcome views from public bodies that rely on trading standards to deliver enforcement, as well as from consumer and business representatives, and local service providers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to inform our review. The review will report in the autumn, working alongside the LGA.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked supplementary questions about the ADR directive, in particular about when it will fully be in force and how much of the consumer market will be covered. The ADR will be fully implemented on 1 October as a result of these various provisions.
I welcome my noble friend Lord Taylor to the debate. I wish we had had the benefit of his intelligent comments while we debated the Bill last year. I thank him very much for coming this evening. He was rightly concerned about the rules governing sales on the internet from overseas. Obviously, seismic changes, as my noble friend described, are taking place in the retail world as more and more sales go online. The answer to his question is relatively simple. If a trader pursues its activities in or directs its activities to the UK, whether the trader is in the UK or not, and the contract covers those activities, the Rome I regulation provides that a contract with a consumer habitually living in the UK will be governed by UK law. So consumers will have access to remedies under UK consumer law.
For completeness, I should add that the European Commission’s proposals on the digital single market include consideration of whether a common set of consumer rights for cross-border purchases across the European Union could be beneficial to business and to consumers. We are trying to be proactive with our paper on the digital single market and not just play catch-up, as was suggested, partly in the light of the expertise that we developed here during the passage of the Bill. I am actively engaged in the discussions in Brussels and look forward to reporting on the outcome in due course.
My noble friend Lord Taylor also asked about ADR and whether there should be a consumer ombudsman, although I do not think he was advocating that.
That is a fair point, which we ought to reflect on. We have been impressed by the way that the private sector has responded to the ADR directive. An increasing number of ADR providers are entering the market, which will be good for business and for consumers. That will increase choice and drive down the costs of ADR.
I thank the noble Baroness for making that point. I will reflect on it and come back to her, and to my noble friend Lord Taylor on the general point on ADR. He made a point about how we can align processes so that it is easier for the consumer, a point that I note.
We have had an interesting and helpful debate. I conclude by commending the two orders to the Committee.
Enterprise Act 2002 (Part 8 Domestic Infringements) Order 2015
Motion to Consider
Committee adjourned at 6.49 pm.