House of Lords
Monday 20 July 2020
The House met in a Hybrid Sitting.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chichester.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the hybrid sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing, and others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them short and confined to two points and I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that independent pharmacies are able to continue to support the communities in which they are based.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the immense contribution being made by community pharmacies in the epidemic. We are hugely grateful for the unequivocal commitment that the sector has shown and we want to make sure that the sector is treated correctly. We have made available £370 million in advance payments to aid cash flow, providing funding for the medicine delivery service for shielded patients and increased drug reimbursement prices. We are talking to the sector about additional funding for Covid-19 costs.
I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that response but, as I am sure the whole House will agree, independent pharmacies in so many small towns such as Yarmouth and places such as the Isle of Wight are now the heroic first line of defence for GPs and the NHS. The most vulnerable in these communities depend on them for medical advice and deliveries of vital prescriptions, which they offer for free. In my view, it is totally unrealistic for the department to point to some recent funding help as if that has solved the problem. It is nowhere near enough to keep the pharmacies in business, let alone to allow the pharmacists to have a day off or even earn a living. It just demonstrates that the department fails to understand why independent pharmacists are still in such grave peril. May I please urge my noble friend to meet a delegation of these front-line heroes, to hear directly why their businesses continue to hang by a thread? When they fold, they will not be replaced.
My Lords, I agree with every word of the tribute of the noble Lord, Lord Grade, to the role of community pharmacies, particularly during the epidemic. They have played an absolutely pivotal role in communities, with advice, medicines and support, and I pay tribute to their hard work and commitment. I would be very pleased to meet a delegation to discuss the challenges that they face.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Grade, says, throughout recent months during the coronavirus crisis many independent pharmacists have served an important role in supporting their local communities. Does my noble friend agree that their role would be enhanced—indeed, it would be vital—if they offered flu vaccines as the autumn and winter months approach? What can the Government do to ensure that they are able to offer this potentially life-saving facility?
My Lords, the role of pharmacies in the administration of vaccines is critical. Not only will the standard flu vaccine be coming up shortly, but, if today’s news is to be taken on the level, the possibility of a Covid vaccine is at some point on the horizon. That is why we are talking to the sector about the role that community pharmacies can play in the greater administration of vaccines, both of flu and of Covid.
My Lords, will the Minister indicate what further discussions will take place with the National Pharmacy Association to ensure that community pharmacies become the front line for giving out services that would normally have been dealt with by GPs and emergency departments, to ensure that they take the flak and slack off the National Health Service and continue to provide an essential service to the wider community?
As the noble Baroness is probably aware, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care spoke at the annual conference of the National Pharmacy Association, at which he reiterated his commitment to the sector. The noble Baroness puts it well: pharmacies have something very special and valuable because of their trusted role. We very much want to see an enhanced role for pharmacies in the delivery of healthcare.
Does the Minister agree that independent pharmacies are of particular importance in rural areas, where they are often the only source of advice and information, as well as prescriptions and equipment, for people with disabilities and their families? Will the Minister confirm both his support for these rural pharmacies in particular and the Government’s commitment to ensuring that they can continue to provide all these vital services?
The noble Baroness is entirely right. Although the vast majority of people live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, many people face issues with location. That is why we will continue to maintain the good level of access that we have through the pharmacy access scheme, which provides additional financial support to pharmacies in areas where there are fewer pharmacies. Our commitment remains fully in place.
My Lords, clinical commissioning groups can commission local pharmacies to carry out tests on their patients, such as for blood pressure or atrial fibrillation. This would relieve local GP practices. How widespread is the adoption of this way of using pharmacies and what is being done to increase its uptake by clinical commissioning groups?
The noble Baroness is right that pharmacies can play an enhanced role, particularly in providing the kinds of services that mean that people do not have to visit their GP. If we have learned one thing from Covid-19, it is that GP surgeries can be a source of infection and that GPs can sometimes be much more impactful working away from home. That is why we support exactly the kind of initiative that the noble Baroness outlines.
My Lords, we know that the health service faces the herculean challenge of dealing with pent-up demands caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including for postponed elective surgery and delayed preventive interventions. Community pharmacists have proved themselves a key element of assistance during the crisis and should have an important role to play in future in helping to clear the backlog by bringing more care into the community. What plan do the Government have to expand the clinical role of pharmacies and what steps are they taking to ensure that pharmacies are far better integrated into the primary care system?
The noble Baroness is entirely right. We have introduced a new framework—the community pharmacy contractual framework—which has down- played some services that were not offering value for money but has enhanced some services that have made a huge impact, many of which are of a clinical nature. The settlement also includes a transitional payment, which will help to secure the financial resilience of the pharmacy sector. We could not be more committed to the community pharmacy sector. I believe that the future of healthcare in this country will depend much more on the role of pharmacies delivering the kinds of services that the noble Baroness outlines.
My Lords, the essential difference between community pharmacies and dentists and doctors and so on is availability, which is much greater in community pharmacies. Availability, continuity and reliability are things that all patients benefit from. I am therefore very supportive of this. I remember so often as a dentist hearing from patients that they had had dental pain at some incredible time and the pharmacy was the only place where they could get any immediate help. I would like the Minister’s assurance that this will continue.
As the father of four small children, I completely endorse the noble Baroness’s point. Many a night have I been outside a hard-working pharmacist’s shop looking for advice, support and essential medicines. I pay tribute to the hard-working community pharmacy sector, whose pharmacists are often up until midnight helping their local communities and hard-hit fathers like me.
What advice has the department had from local directors of public health about the resources that are necessary to ensure continuity for community pharmacies during local lockdowns?
We are fully engaged with the sector. The National Pharmacy Association and the other stakeholder groups are in close communication with the department to ensure that they have the PPE, medicines and finances to keep going during the epidemic. The voice of the DPHs is involved in that stakeholder engagement.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.
Biodiversity: Aichi Targets
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
My Lords, the UK assessment shows five targets on track and 14 targets progressing. The Government need, and are determined, to do more. We are playing a leading role in developing an ambitious new global biodiversity framework and putting nature at the heart of our COP 26 presidency, paving the way for transformative action to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change holistically. In England, we have announced significant funding and new legislation to transform how we manage and protect nature.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and welcome the progress that has been made, but does he recognise that we are still not making as much progress as we would hope on a number of targets, including targets 5, 10 and 15 on the degradation of natural habitats, the pressure on coral reefs and the contribution of biodiversity to climate change mitigation? Does he agree that local authorities up and down the country—such as South Lakeland District Council, which is working hard to increase biodiversity—have a key role to play? Can he tell the House whether his department intends to strengthen local authorities’ powers in this area?
We have expanded our protected areas at sea, provided new funding for woodland expansion, peatland restoration and nature recovery and increased significantly our funding for international biodiversity conservation. However, we acknowledge that there are ongoing declines in biodiversity in many areas, which is why we are driving an ambitious legislative agenda and backing it up with investment, not least the £640 million nature for climate fund. It is also why we are ramping up our global leadership in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss as two sides of the same coin.
My Lords, in March 2019 the JNCC, which advises on progress towards targets, reported both a short-term fall in government funding for biodiversity in the UK and that, increasingly, it is difficult to assess data due to the tendency for Ministers to address multiple priorities with integrated funding on wide-reaching projects. What assessment is being made of the success or otherwise of this approach and how is it reported to Parliament?
One of the problems with the Aichi targets is that they are so open to misinterpretation or different interpretations. One thing that we are pushing hard for in the next round of discussions is meaningful targets where individuals, countries and businesses are aware of what they are expected to deliver. At the moment, it is possible for a country to sign up to the Aichi targets and to claim success even while very little changes. We are taking as prominent and as active a role as we can in the next round. One thing that the Prime Minister launched and that we are pushing for is the 30x30 campaign, getting as many countries as possible to sign up to a commitment to protect 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030, among other targets.
My Lords, turning to the target on air pollution, will the Government reconsider their approach to fine particulate matter, whereby fuels used in wood-burning stoves are to be phased out in February 2021? Given the impact of Covid, does the Minister agree that the target needs to be brought forward in advance of this coming winter so that people at high risk are less susceptible to fine particulate matter pollution?
Defra is analysing all the available data on air quality, in particular the impact on air quality of the measures taken to protect people against Covid. I am not in a position unilaterally to declare that targets will be strengthened or brought forward, but I assure the noble Baroness that we are looking at the data and will act accordingly.
My noble friend will be aware that the Convention on Biological Diversity, due to take place in China this year, has of course been postponed. Can he comment on the implications of this postponement and commit to briefing the House at an appropriate moment this year about where we are going to go next?
As far as we can see, the postponement has not damaged the agenda, in the same way that our being given a few extra months to deliver the climate clock at the end of next year has given us more time to build up more coalitions to drive greater ambition and to push a much more radical agenda than I think we would have been able to had we been required to deliver to the old agenda. I very much hope that the same dynamic holds true for China’s hosting of the biodiversity COP half way through next year. The UK is working closely with China to ensure that the strongest possible framework is agreed. We are also keen that a bridge should be built between the biodiversity and climate COPs, as we regard a success for one as having a direct impact on the other and vice versa.
My Lords, target 13 is on the genetic diversity of farmed and domesticated animals. Strategies should be implemented for safeguarding their genetic diversity. However, published figures show a decline of some native animal breeds—pig breeds decreased from 170 in 2000 to 152 in 2018 and horse breeds from 178 in 2000 to 117 in 2018. What are the Government doing to ensure that a proper strategy is developed to meet target 13?
There is no doubt that monoculture is the greatest friend of pandemics and disease and that biological diversity is the greatest buffer and hedge against instability and the kind of dangers that we have seen materialise in recent months. Although the details remain to be worked out at the finest level, we are shifting from the common agricultural policy, where payment is based pretty much on the amount of land turned into farmable land, to a new system of environmental land management that rewards farmers on the basis of their delivery of a public good. That includes environmental stewardship, management of land to slow the flow of water and diversity of species. I very much hope that this move to ELM, which is a world first, will deliver the kind of results for which the noble Baroness asks.
I am delighted that my noble friend has put nature at the heart of the Government’s biodiversity targets. Will he go one step further? Can we learn the lessons from Covid and accept that food security should be recognised as a public good in the Agriculture Bill?
The Agriculture Bill is winding its way through Parliament as we speak, being expertly delivered by my noble friend Lord Gardiner. The concern about putting food security as a public good is that we are trying to move away from a subsidy system based on rewarding landowners for converting land into land that can produce food. While on the surface, and when it was developed, the old system may have made perfect sense, it has proven to be disastrous. It is clear that the new system has to be designed to ensure that no public money is handed to landowners without a return of some form of public good. We have to be slightly careful about how we define public good and that work is under way. We certainly recognise the value of food production but, on the whole, that is recognised by the market, unlike the environmental benefits that we know landowners, more than anyone else, provide.
My Lords, with just 14% of UK species having had their conservation status assessed, but 21% listed as threatened, what are we doing to increase the collection of data and to accelerate remedial measures, not least for restoration, of at least 15% of degraded ecosystems, including peatland and woodland, as we are urged to do in Aichi target 15?
Measurement is crucial to understanding and delivering good policy, but it is not as important as the policies themselves. If you look at what the Government are doing as a whole, we have probably the most ambitious environmental agenda of any Government to date. We have the first Environment Bill in over 20 years. We have ambitious measures, including restoring and enhancing nature. We have just announced a £40 million green recovery challenge fund to help charities and environmental organisations to start work on delivering much of that environmental gain across England, restoring nature and tackling climate change. We are going to use the new nature for climate fund to deliver woodland expansion, peatland restoration and more. We have announced a tripling of Darwin Plus to protect our precious Overseas Territories. We are replacing the disastrous CAP system, as I just explained, with the new environmental land management scheme, which will be revolutionary for our countryside, and we now have 25% of the UK’s water in marine protected areas. We are making progress.
My Lords, when on 8 July I asked the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, about progress in establishing the office for environmental protection to help deliver our environmental goals, he replied that
“we have always said that we will ensure that there are alternative arrangements if, given the position we are in, the OEP is not up and running by 1 January.”—[Official Report, 8/7/20; col. 1113.]
Can I ask the Minister what these alternative arrangements are?
The department on whose behalf I am speaking today is making progress in the construction, development and delivery of the OEP. As the noble Baroness knows, we need legislation and that requires the safe passage of the Environment Bill, which we hope to deliver in the coming months.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. We come to the third Oral Question.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to achieve their objective of making England smoke-free by 2030.
The Government are moving fast on several fronts to address the issue of smoking. That is why we have brought forward the prevention Green Paper and the tobacco control plan. Covid has offered an opportunity for more people to give up smoking, which is why we have instituted the Quit for Covid plan.
When will the Government publish their response to the prevention Green Paper consultation? Will today’s proposed guidance for smoke-free areas outside pubs and restaurants be agreed with his department, the DHSC? Will it be published before the House rises and will it be subject to parliamentary scrutiny?
My Lords, the government Green Paper published on 19 July is an extremely complex proposal. That is why we are considering it in great detail. It addresses the urgent need to tackle the disproportionate amount of smoking in deprived areas and among marginal communities. We are engaged with those communities to figure out what will work best. When we have those answers, we will publish our reply.
Does the Minister agree that reducing smoking in pregnancy is essential to achieving a smoke-free generation, yet rates of smoking in pregnancy have not declined significantly since 2015? Financial incentive schemes are being effectively used to support pregnant women in Greater Manchester to give up smoking, including younger and more disadvantaged women. What further steps do the Government intend to take to reduce rates of smoking in pregnancy and will this include the national rollout of an incentive scheme?
The noble Baroness points to the knottiest and most difficult of the challenges of giving up smoking. It is extremely sad that anyone should contemplate smoking during pregnancy, but this is one of the most durable and knottiest problems. I commend the use of creative and innovative schemes such as the one in Manchester to which the noble Baroness alludes, but more needs to be done, because prevention is better than cure.
My Lords, 1 million people have given up smoking to protect their health during lockdown and now 86% of people in the UK do not smoke. Will the Minister therefore support the amendment this afternoon, which would mean that if additional tables and chairs are put outside pubs and restaurants through pavement licences, all the new seating areas created will be smoke free and more attractive to potential customers?
The noble Lord is right to commend those who have given up smoking during Covid. I pay tribute to anyone who has given up smoking. I struggled and found it immensely difficult, but I am glad that I did it. There is a government amendment to the Bill, which the Department for Health and Social Care supports, and we wish it every success.
Is my noble friend aware that I quit smoking many years ago and the credit for that is entirely down to the NHS and my GP? Can he tell me what is the estimate of the current annual cost to the NHS of treating smoking-related medical issues?
My Lords, I believe that the annual cost is £2.3 billion. It is far too much and we must do more to get it down. Huge progress has been made but we are still committed to a smoke-free 2030.
Do the Government recognise the particularly high addictive potential of tobacco among the young and that two-thirds of 100,000 youngsters who took up smoking last year went on to become long-term smokers? Without banning passive smoking in open areas, all the public health gains to date will be lost. There is strong evidence that smoking bans have been most effective in improving health.
My Lords, I completely recognise the power of the smoking bans, as well as the threat of young people taking up smoking and sticking with the habit for a long time. We are on track to meet our national ambition of reducing under-15 smoking from 5.3% in 2018 to 3% or less by 2022. However, even that seems too high and we will continue to work on our efforts.
My Lords, it would be nice if, on his birthday, we could get to my noble friend Lord Simon, so my question is very short—fewer than 75 words. Inequalities in smoking remain the largest cause of life expectancy gap between the rich and the poor and are the main reason for the lives of people with serious mental illness being shortened by up to 20 years. Does the Minister agree that the smoke-free ambition may be achieved only by the most advantaged and will the Government’s further proposals address this inequality?
Health inequalities are one of the most pernicious and difficult aspects of modern life and the Government are focused on them. Smoking is a graphic example of the worst of our inequalities. That is why the prevention Green Paper focuses on these kinds of inequalities and why our response will be muscular and determined.
My Lords, the Government propose that pubs should aim at two metres between smokers and non-smokers when outside. However, the Minister should know that social distancing is already being flouted when alcohol is involved. Is he concerned that this so-called compromise is supported by FOREST, which is funded by the tobacco industry, and will he answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and ensure that the guidance will be issued by the Department of Health and Social Care rather than by MHCLG?
I take a different view from the noble Baroness on the success of pubs’ efforts to introduce social distancing. I spent the weekend in a number of pubs and I was extremely impressed by the measures that publicans have put in place. That is why we support the role of local authorities in judging the right measures for the right pubs and why we will support the government amendment.
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is aware that the rate of smoking among adults in Blackpool is almost double that of Westminster. Given the Government’s levelling-up agenda, plus the fact that we know that smoking is related to illnesses that amplify the impact of Covid-19, and indeed threaten greater rates of death, why have we not seen emergency legislation to bring in a smoke-free 2030 fund, which has already been well explored and set out?
I completely agree with the noble Baroness that there is a massive health dimension to the levelling-up agenda. Health inequalities affect families the hardest and the Government are highly focused on them. However, it is not our style to introduce emergency legislation, because we believe that prevention is better than cure and that people have rights and choices to make for themselves.
My Lords, I welcome the publication of the draft guidance on pavement licences in time for the debate this afternoon. However, I note that, while local authorities are to consider public health when setting local conditions, Section 5.2 fails to reference the smoking reduction targets set out in the tobacco control plan or the ambition for a smoke-free England by 2030. These would be a helpful addition, so will the Minister consider including them as the guidance is finalised?
It is not my role to comment on the drafting of legislation in the manner that my noble friend describes. However, I resolutely repeat the Government’s commitment to a smoke-free 2030 and the tobacco control plan, both of which are absolutely essential to our tobacco policies.
My Lords, no licences are required to sell deadly tobacco products and, while retailers can be prosecuted for underage sales or selling illicit tobacco, penalties are low. Over 70% of small tobacco retailers strongly support introducing a licence that could be removed if retailers break the law. Will the Government commit to consulting on the introduction of such a licence to help progress towards a smoke-free 2030?
My Lords, I completely hear the views of retailers. No one wants to put a retailer in an awkward position and I completely understand why they would support the introduction of licensing. However, that is not currently our plan and we believe that we can get to a smoke-free 2030 without introducing onerous and expensive new regulations of the kind that the noble Viscount describes.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed. We now come to the fourth Question.
Employment: Young People
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the young people due to leave school in the current academic year are prepared for work in a post-COVID-19 environment; and what changes they have made to careers support and guidance provision to achieve this.
My Lords, we are investing around £100 million this year in careers guidance for young people and adults. We are supporting schools during the Covid-19 pandemic to develop virtual careers activities for students, including the successful My Week of Work event. The National Careers Service offers impartial careers guidance and advice through a website, web chat and helpline, and it will operate an exam results helpline this summer. We will keep this support under review and assess its impact.
My Lords, 800,000 young people are currently leaving education and hoping to join an already overcrowded jobs market. Good careers advice, including personal guidance from qualified professionals, will be essential to ensure all that talent does not go to waste. How will the current careers strategy be renewed and expanded to meet this need, and will the Government introduce a careers guidance guarantee, complementary to the opportunity guarantee, to ensure that all young people can access professional, personal careers guidance to help them identify and pursue suitable careers pathways?
My Lords, during the pandemic, the Careers & Enterprise Company, alongside teachers, has had to review its delivery strategy. Much of its training and support has therefore been delivered virtually, so we have seen virtual mock interviews and virtual CV preparation sessions. Of course, the expectation on schools is that they deliver a personal interview to students at 16 and 18, and we have advised that that should take place virtually rather than by telephone. More than 70% of schools are delivering that interview at age 16 to the majority of their students.
My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission recently published an apprenticeships report, which highlighted a 36% reduction in the number of apprenticeship starters who were from disadvantaged backgrounds. As we prioritise developing the skills of young people, can the Minister confirm how the new £1.6 billion funding for scaling up training and apprenticeships will be distributed across the country to ensure that areas such as the north-east with a high proportion of disadvantaged students have access to quality training?
My Lords, in relation to traineeships and apprenticeships, this is the first time that the Government will be funding employers who provide trainees with work experience, at the rate of £1,000 per new trainee, up to 10 per employer. Additional funds are available for apprenticeships of £2,000 for every apprentice under the age of 25, in addition to the original £1,000 for 16 to 18 year-olds’ apprenticeships. We are encouraging all employers, including employers in the north-east, to take advantage of those schemes and provide the work opportunities that young people need.
My Lords, when I come across organisations which believe that they can help with the Government’s efforts to provide careers support and guidance to those affected by Covid, whether they be young people or older people who have lost their jobs, what email address or other contact information should I provide them with so that they get a one-stop-shop access to all that the Government are doing?
My Lords, it is wonderful when employers and other people want to offer their support to the Government. In relation to careers advice, the National Careers Service is the Government’s overarching source of careers information and support, so that would be the first stop. Unfortunately, it is not a one-stop shop. The second stop would be the Careers & Enterprise Company. As my noble friend is probably aware, one of the three prongs of its approach is an enterprise adviser network, and more than 2,000 businesses and other employers are involved in providing that support in schools, so I would also direct those volunteers to that institution so they can assist schools at this time.
My Lords, we know that having foreign language skills makes school leavers more employable. Post Covid and post Brexit, this will be more so, and there is high demand in finance, telecoms, transport and tourism. Will the Minister include languages as a skills shortage in the national retraining scheme for technical education? Will she also promote effective liaison between the careers hubs and MFL hubs, to show exactly how language skills expand career opportunities and life choices?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct about the importance of language skills, and that is why modern foreign languages have been included in the Ebacc. Yes, we encourage all our hubs in this area to work together: the careers hubs, modern foreign languages hubs and English hubs that we have across the country. The national retraining scheme is currently focused on those over the age of 24 who need to increase their skills to increase their income. That is led by a number of LEPs, and I am sure that they would welcome the introduction of modern foreign languages to that work.
My Lords, all the initiatives introduced that the Minister has referred to have to be accessed digitally, but over these last few weeks we have learned that we have digital poverty. Many young people do not have access to a computer, and they fall in the group that most needs support and guidance. What will the Government do to help them? Please do not tell me that it has been solved by the Government’s computer initiative, because we know that is not the case.
My Lords, obviously, digital has become important, but the guidance issued to schools for September talks about their having remote learning from the end of September, so that includes the traditional way of delivering by way of printed packs, which I know many schools have been doing. Although we have been encouraging the use of virtual one-on-one interviews at age 16 over the telephone, of course schools have been encouraged to have some form of one-on-one physical contact with students before the summer holidays.
My Lords, all schools will be returning to full operation in September. How will access to impartial personal careers guidance be funded and promoted in schools, including primary schools, making the best use of careers guidance providers with the skills and resources to help young people make informed choices?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes the important point that it is good to get involved early, so £2 million is being spent on primary school careers guidance and education. There is a specific pilot project involving 70 primary schools up in the north-east, working with Ernst & Young to see how the Gatsby benchmarking can be adapted for primary schools. As I have outlined, the expectation is that all schools will provide a personal interview with 16 and 18 year-olds before they enter the job market, and there is the local government guarantee for 16 and 17 year-olds of a place in education or suitable training, which will be particularly important this September.
I declare my interest as chairman of the Baker Dearing trust, which promotes university technical colleges. Is the Minister aware that on Friday of next week, about 300,000 18 year-olds will leave their colleges and schools for the last time and will be joined by tens of thousands of 16 year-olds? Our job as a Government and as a Parliament is to ensure that as few as possible of those join the ranks of the unemployed. The Government have a very good and potentially successful scheme to allow those students to apply for an extra year’s training to get a technical qualification, which will give them a chance of a better job next year. However, it is a great secret. It is not talked about generally or being promoted actively, except in the educational press, but 16 and 18 year-olds do not read the educational press. Can the Minister therefore ensure that by Friday of next week, every 16 and 18 year-old in the country will get clear information about the scheme, what it consists of and how they can apply?
My Lords, the Government are using digital and traditional ways to promote the opportunities out there for young people. Many of the opportunities outlined in the skills recovery package are being promoted through jobcentres, and there is a £100 million fund for 18 and 19 year-old school and college leavers to study a high-value level 2 or level 3 if an employment apprenticeship or training opportunity is not available to them.
My Lords, the Resolution Foundation recently pointed out that the corona class of 2020, as it referred to it, could face years of reduced pay and limited job prospects, long after the current economic storm has passed, unless additional support is provided—and fast. Since March, entire year groups have missed out on university visits, work experience opportunities and, despite what the Minister said, much advice from careers leaders in schools. In preparation for a full return of pupils in September, school staff must have the funding and resources that they need to deliver that one-to-one support that enables young people to take advantage of the opportunities available to them after GCSEs. What additional support will the Government provide to schools to enable that to happen?
My Lords, the Government recently announced a £1 billion catch-up package, £650 million of which will go directly to schools. The formula for that funding was announced today. The noble Lord will also be aware of the £350 million for the national tutoring programme. It is of course essential that there are skilled professionals in schools. One of the three prongs of the Careers & Enterprise Company strategy is to train up career leaders—1,300 training bursaries have been given, with a further 650 bursaries, as we recognise that this is a particular area of expertise. We expect that some of the £32 million that was announced for the National Careers Service will also go on training and upskilling careers advisers.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has elapsed.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. Some Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing, while others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House. I ask that questions and answers are brief.
British Overseas Troops: Civil Liability Claims
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given on Thursday 16 July in the House of Commons.
“We have introduced the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill to lance the boil of lawfare and to protect our people from the relentless cycle of reinvestigations against our Armed Forces. Let me be absolutely clear: none of the measures will prevent the Ministry of Defence from being held to account for any wrongdoing.
To allay any further misunderstanding, let me provide some context. The Bill takes account of the uniquely challenging circumstances of overseas operations. It reassures our personnel that they will not be called on endlessly to defend against historic claims. It does that by introducing what we are calling a longstop. This restricts to an absolute maximum of six years the time limit for bringing civil claims or Human Rights Act claims for personal injury or death in connection with overseas operations.
It is simply wrong to assert that the Bill prevents service personnel, veterans or their relatives from bringing claims, because it does not change how the time limit is calculated. That will continue to be determined from either the date of the incident or date of knowledge. Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder may not be diagnosed until much later, so the six years would start from the date of diagnosis.
The spirit of the Armed Forces covenant runs right through the legislation. Fairness is at its heart. We want to ensure that all claims are assessed fairly to achieve a fair outcome, yes, for veterans, but also for victims, service personnel and the taxpayer.
Yes, service personnel and veterans will still be able to bring claims against the MoD for such conditions, even if they are more than six years from the date of the incident. But also yes, this Government are going to war against lawfare. The days of veterans living in a persistent state of worry simply for having served this nation are coming to an end. Under this Prime Minister and under this Government, we will restore fairness to the process.”
My Lords, the Armed Forces covenant states that our forces community
“should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens”,
yet this Bill does precisely that. It disadvantages veterans, service men and women and their families. It does so by putting a six-year time limit on them bringing claims against the MoD for personal injury or death. Why do this?
I thank the noble Lord for his question. The Government are committed to introducing these protections to provide greater certainty for our service personnel and veterans. The other side of the coin to which the noble Lord refers is that, for too long, many of our service personnel and veterans have lived under the shadow of endless investigations and vexatious claims for increasingly historical events that occurred in the uniquely complex environment of armed conflict. We regard that as unfair and we regard the Bill as a proportionate response to that challenge.
My Lords, building on the question from the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, I want to press the Minister a little further. This is not about vexatious claims; it is about claims that service personnel, veterans and their families may be able to bring. What assessment have the Government made of the changes to cap it at a six-year long-stop?
I reassure the noble Baroness that this Bill will not abolish the right of people to make claims. It puts into context that a time limit will now surround when those claims can be brought. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, that is fair and proportionate. It is fair to our service men and women, to victims and to potential claimants.
My Lords, when does the Minister believe that Her Majesty’s Government will extend legislation in the overseas operations Bill to cover operations in Northern Ireland? I seem to recall that my first deployment in Northern Ireland in 1971 was by sea from Liverpool, so I regard this as a legitimate question. On a pertinent point, can the Minister confirm that should Major Bob Campbell, having been questioned and investigated eight times about the drowning of Said Shabram in Iraq in 2003, be exonerated by the Iraq Fatality Investigations inquiry, he will be within his rights to sue the Ministry of Defence should he be so inclined? Seventeen years of investigation have broken this decorated soldier, ruined his career and wrecked his mental health.
I will answer the latter part of the noble Lord’s question first. I cannot comment on a specific case but, clearly, every individual is entitled to seek legal advice and consider what is appropriate action for them. On his first point, I assure him that, yes, a Northern Ireland Bill is coming forth to deal with similar issues; the Northern Ireland Office is currently in the process of preparing it. We expect more information in early course.
My Lords, if the factors set out in Clause 3 of the Bill that support a decision not to prosecute five years after an offence are so powerful, why do they not apply before five years have elapsed?
Clause 3, to which my noble and learned friend refers, requires that a prosecutor must take into account the “exceptional demands and stresses” of overseas operations and the adverse impact that they can have on service personnel. While this requirement applies only after five years have elapsed, prosecutors may already take account of these circumstances in their decision-making at any stage. It is precisely to provide some form of protection for our service personnel and veterans and give them greater certainty that we believe it is important that the Bill makes consideration of these matters a statutory requirement once five years or more have elapsed.
My Lords, there are pressing reasons for this Bill, as military personnel have felt let down by successive Governments and the nation they serve. Historically, there was an understanding when one went into action that if any sense of doubt about actions arose, as long as one had acted with good intent, any balance of doubt would be in the service man or woman’s interest. That seems to have ceased to be the case. Even if that is not so, the perception was that our people are vulnerable to repeated litigation; perceptions are important. However, I am concerned about some of the wording in the Bill. Does it open up service men and women to greater risk of investigation and prosecution by international courts?
First, I thank the noble Lord for his helpful comments; he speaks from singular experience in the field. The risk that he alludes to is not likely to materialise. As I said earlier, the whole point is that the Bill is framed not as abolishing rights but as placing these rights for exercise within the context of time limits. It is not a statute of limitations; it is not a pardon; and it is not an amnesty. I hope that, with a strong framework in our domestic legislation, such a manifestation will be unlikely.
My Lords, following on from that, I suggest that current policy is an affront to the sacrifice, service and spirit of the military covenant, which should be enshrined in law. Will this Government do that? If so, when?
I thank the noble Viscount for his pertinent question. We have committed to enshrining the military covenant in law. That issue is currently being investigated and we hope to be able to confirm further details in due course.
My Lords, I note noble Lords’ criticism but generally I support the Bill. While no one is above the law, there have clearly been attempts at vexatious prosecutions and false claims against members of our Armed Forces many years after the alleged incident. In the case of innocent members of our Armed Forces and their families, this has been deeply distressing and unjust. It is time that our Armed Forces are protected from the greed of some opportunistic lawyers and their clients. I therefore think that, on the whole, this Bill achieves the right balance.
I thank the noble Lord for his observations. I am afraid that the sound quality was very distorted so I did not detect a question, but I will look at Hansard and if I need to return to the noble Lord on another matter, I will do so.
My Lords, we should all celebrate the fact that, in Johnny Mercer, there is a Minister who supports and champions our veterans. He led from the front in acknowledging last week in the other place that he would be
“absolutely happy to amend the legislation … to get it right”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/7/20; col. 1674.]
The Bill will ensure that veterans who have served our country so bravely are freed from the reprehensible actions of certain human rights lawyers who have abused the system and made the lives of some of our veterans and their families an utter misery. Does my noble friend agree that the thrust of the Bill should not, and must not, be changed?
I thank my noble friend for his helpful comments and his tribute to my honourable friend, Mr Johnny Mercer, who is a noted proponent of the interests of veterans and a passionate supporter of this Bill. My noble friend gets to the kernel of the issue. I fully anticipate debate about a number of aspects of the Bill—that is healthy and the Government will of course look carefully at what your Lordships have to say when the Bill comes to your Lordships’ House—but I can confirm for my noble friend that, for the sake of our veterans and armed services personnel, it is important that the underlying principle and under- pinning thrust of the Bill be preserved.
Can the Minister reassure the House that the Bill will not deny essential rights to victims and potential claimants?
I am happy to give that reassurance to my noble friend. As I explained earlier, the Bill is neither a statute of limitations nor an amnesty but an attempt to strike a fair balance that recognises the legitimate rights of victims and potential claimants. However, it weighs those against the undoubted obligations and pressures which confront service personnel when, in the name of this country, we deploy them overseas to carry out operations and they find themselves in an unusual and very challenging environment. That is why the Bill has tried to strike that balance appropriately.
Business and Planning Bill
Relevant documents: 17th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 9th Report from the Constitution Committee
My Lords, a limited number of Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House. Other Members will participate remotely, but all Members will be treated equally wherever they are. For Members participating remotely, microphones will unmute shortly before they are to speak—please accept any on-screen prompt to unmute. Microphones will be muted after each speech. I ask noble Lords to be patient if there are any short delays as we switch between physical and remote participants. I should remind the House that our normal courtesies in debate still very much apply in this new hybrid way of working.
A participants’ list for today’s proceedings has been published and is in my brief, which Members should have received. I also have lists of Members who have put their names to amendments in, or expressed an interest in speaking on, each group. I will call Members to speak in the order listed. Members’ microphones will be muted by the broadcasters except when I call a Member to speak. Interventions during speeches or before the noble Lord sits down are not permitted and uncalled speakers will not be heard.
Other than the mover of an amendment or the Minister, Members may speak only once on each group. Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk.
The groupings are binding and it will not be possible to degroup an amendment for separate debate. A Member intending to press an amendment already debated to a Division should have given notice in the debate. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the Question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make this clear when speaking on the group.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will say a few words before we start. It is imperative that we complete this important emergency Bill today so that it can achieve Royal Assent on Wednesday. A large number of Members have indicated that they wish to speak, so I ask noble Lords to be conscious of that and, when participating, to keep their contributions brief and to the point. Of course, if a point has already been made, there is no need to make it again. I really do hope that all Members will listen to this and try to be co-operative so that we can get this important Bill passed tonight. Thank you.
Clause 1: Pavement licences
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after “furniture” insert “safely (including a barrier being sufficiently visible to separate the furniture from the pavement and furniture placed sufficiently away from the pavement to allow for the safe passing of pedestrians)”
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate. In doing so, I thank the Minister and officials from the department for their positive and extensive engagement before and after Committee on these amendments and others. In deference to and out of respect for the Chief Whip, I will try to set the pace for the length of speeches going forward. I thank the Minister and officials for listening to and hearing many of the arguments that I and other noble Lords made, which are reflected in the government amendments on national conditions and the significant changes to the draft guidance that have been made.
This is in no sense a work of perfection but it is a huge step forward from where we were before Committee stage. I do not intend to speak to any of my amendments in this group. Safe to say, while there is still work to do on the guidance, which I am happy to participate in, the amendments that the Government have brought forward and the spirit in which they have done so have been more than helpful. Without in any sense wishing to curtail debate or seeking to guide the Government, I wonder whether, at some stage in the debate on this first group, it would be worth the Minister speaking in broad terms about the changes that have been made. This may also help there to be swifter debate on a number of the amendments that I and other noble Lords have brought forward. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. I will speak to Amendment 4, which is in my name and those of my noble friends Lord Hendy, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lord Monks. It is an extremely modest amendment. It simply ensures that employees, trade unions and businesses are consulted and involved before a local authority determines a pavement licence application under Clause 3.
The coronavirus crisis has obliged the Government to set aside years of doubt about the value of consulting either the CBI, which they are sure is a hotbed of remoaners, or the TUC, which they viewed as the awkward squad. Since March, Ministers have consulted both sides of industry about how to keep firms afloat, how to keep workers and customers safe and how to stop supply chains seizing up.
Consultation has now moved on to lifting the lockdown safely and encouraging a confident and safe return to work. Those consultations have proved productive and surprisingly valuable. They have brought to the fore our shared interest in promoting the common good. Robust discussions have generated mutual respect. The Prime Minister’s “New Deal for Britain” speech even borrowed the phrase “build back better” from a TUC policy paper. We all seek inspiration wherever we can find it.
Business leaders accept that the trade union response has shattered the myth that the TUC spells trouble and some of my trade union colleagues have conceded that not all bosses are Neanderthals. Consultation and co-operation have necessarily become the name of the game in this crisis. Last month, the CBI elected a new president, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and appointed a new director-general, Tony Danker, to take office in November. Britain’s three biggest unions—Unite, UNISON and the GMB—are currently electing new general secretaries. A change of guard is a good time for a fresh approach.
Amendment 4 urges the Government to grasp the opportunity to establish a new framework for co-operation at work—one that makes consultation between business and unions the norm and gives workers a voice inside their workplaces and a say in their own futures. Unions have already demonstrated in practical ways their value in helping employers to get through this crisis. I mentioned some of these in Committee, as did my noble friends Lord Hendy and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. Unions have helped and have come out the other side better placed to thrive, as have employers.
The Communication Workers Union, for which I used to work, has agreed with the Royal Mail Group a four-step process to help employees who have been categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable or as a carer of someone in that category to return to duty. In May, the Food and Drink Federation, the GMB, Unite, USDAW and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union highlighted how partnership between food and drink manufacturers, trade unions and employers has enhanced both the safety of workers and the effective running of workplaces. Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said:
“Partnership between employers and unions has been crucial to continuing production over the last eight weeks.”
Britain’s biggest union, UNISON, has given fresh guidance to its workplace health and safety representatives on how to carry out inspections and investigate potential new hazards, such as Covid-19. It is also talking to employers to ensure that employees with underlying health conditions can work from home or, if that is not possible, are redeployed to roles where they are less at risk. Unite persuaded Rowan Foods to backdate sick pay to 1 June 2020 after a Covid-19 outbreak among the company’s workforce for any employees who tested positive and were isolating. It also negotiated an agreement with the 2 Sisters Food Group that all of the staff employed at its Llangefni site would be paid in full for the two-week isolation period imposed following the Covid-19 outbreak.
The GMB, Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and Four Seasons Health Care have agreed full sick pay for 15,000 care workers for any coronavirus-related absence. The long-standing partnership agreement between Tesco and USDAW is the biggest such deal in the private sector, covering some 160,000 staff. Tesco has agreed with USDAW that employees will receive contractual pay if they are following government guidelines to stay off work.
In a previous debate, the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that a ministerially led strategy on consultation was unnecessary, yet the Prime Minister wants us to draw inspiration from President Roosevelt’s New Deal, a federal government-led strategy that promised what Roosevelt called relief, recovery and reform. Roosevelt delivered a much more ambitious programme of employee consultation and investment in jobs than the Prime Minister has in mind; sadly, this Bill reflects a lack of ambition in that respect.
I wish to press the noble Earl to explain what exactly is wrong with this amendment and what is wrong with all the trade union agreements I have cited, which make everyone—workers, managers and the public—safer in the coronavirus crisis. Why do the Government not accept that employee consultation on navigating our way through this complex and dangerous pandemic should be the norm, to be officially and statutorily promoted?
This is an extremely modest, reasonable, common-sense amendment. It does not prescribe or constrict employers in any precise method of consultation. It simply states that they should implement it in a way that they feel is appropriate. I cannot for the life of me understand why the noble Earl, who is usually very responsive to constructive points, has not contacted me or my noble friends to indicate in advance his acceptance or, alternatively, to explain that he has tabled a government amendment to achieve exactly the same result in a different way.
My Lords, I declare my interests as on the register. Forgive me if I do not wax as lyrical as the noble Lord, Lord Hain, about the behaviour of the trade unions—especially the teachers’ unions, which have behaved atrociously. My remarks will also be considerably shorter.
First, wearing my hat as chair of the Delegated Powers Committee, I give a warm welcome to Amendments 16 and 87, giving effect to our recommendations that the guidance be converted into SIs. I mention them now so I will not speak on them when they are reached.
While I support what my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond said and while I think that my Amendment 10, setting out a simple minimum requirement of 1,500 millimetres on the face of the Bill, is better than what the government amendment says, nevertheless, the Government have moved considerably on this measure and I am content to accept that, one way or another, there will be sufficient consideration given to the needs of disabled people when setting out tables and chairs on the pavement. My noble friend the Deputy Leader has written to us, saying that
“guidance will make clear that in most circumstances, 1,500 millimetres clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway.”
The word of my noble friend the Deputy Leader is good enough for me. I have looked at the wording that he circulated in paragraph 4.1 of the guidance, which says the same thing. Accordingly, I will not move my amendment.
I also suggest that if the usual channels have an urgent discussion on this, the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Holmes for the Minister to speak early and set out the changes the Government propose would be helpful. Often, when a Minister speaks early, it antagonises the House, but this may be one of those occasions when it helps the House.
Finally, let me say that if, when I am out and about, I find that the gap is not wide enough between the tables, I shall simply bulldoze through them in my armour- plated wheelchair.
My Lords, I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Blencathra would indeed go through in the way he suggests. I will be very brief. I am concerned entirely with the issue of pavement licences, and I raised these matters in Committee a week ago. When new constraints are imposed or new freedoms given—even if for only a very brief period, relatively speaking—it is important that we should know precisely where we stand. That is why I have said, in my Amendment 17, that the Secretary of State should have no discretion on whether he prescribes conditions: he must prescribe conditions. I have gone on to say, in my Amendment 18, that he must have regard for those who will be inconvenienced by these new freedoms and conditions, specifically people who are disabled physically or who are blind or partially sighted.
I am afraid I have not received the letter to which my noble friend Lord Blencathra alluded in his speech, and I therefore look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister has to say. I agree with both my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, that this is one occasion—there are few, but this is one—where it might be helpful to have an earlier ministerial intervention than normal.
I want to feel assured at the end of this debate that people who are physically disabled, blind or partially sighted are not going to be inconvenienced by the new freedom that has been granted to people to spill over on to the pavement. In earlier debates, we heard how very dangerous that can sometimes be. We must always have uppermost in our minds the proper protection of those who are not always able to protect themselves and who, perhaps unlike my noble friend Lord Blencathra, do not drive mini tanks fearlessly along the road or on pavements.
I will speak to Amendment 4 and endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Hain said in his powerful speech in support of it. As he pointed out, the striking thing about this amendment is its modesty. All it requires is consultation of relevant trade unions and businesses over the granting of pavement licences. As was pointed out in Committee, for 70 years and three weeks since it ratified ILO Convention 98 on 30 June 1950, the United Kingdom has voluntarily assumed the obligation to encourage and promote collective bargaining. The United Kingdom fortified its commitment to collective bargaining when it ratified a similar obligation in Article 6 of the European Social Charter in 1972.
The need for collective bargaining, particularly at sectoral level, was brought home when we learned of the appalling conditions and pitiful rates of pay—often less than half the national minimum wage—in the sweatshops of the Leicester garment industry. We saw that need again in the agricultural sector, when an outbreak of Covid-19 among workers at a vegetable farm revealed the appalling living and working conditions among the workers there. We know that, in agriculture, conditions and pay are so bad that it was found necessary to fly pickers in from Romania earlier this season, since British workers, even faced with unemployment and the terrors of universal credit, were not prepared to put up with them.
The answer in these and other sectors was explained long ago in the other place by Sir Winston Churchill, who in 1909 introduced legislation to make sectoral collective bargaining mandatory. I will read three sentences from his speech that day:
“It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions.”
“where you have what we call sweated trades, you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst”.
He concluded by saying:
“where those conditions prevail you have not a condition of progress, but a condition of progressive degeneration.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/4/1909; col. 388.]
Hence, the Trade Boards Act 1909 was introduced and passed.
My noble friend Lord Hain referred to Roosevelt and the New Deal. Part of that was the National Industrial Recovery Act 1933, which introduced sectoral collective bargaining widely in the United States. It is in these circumstances that I stress the modesty of the amendment my noble friend proposes today. There can be no sensible reason not to adopt it, and I commend it to the Minister.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, in supporting the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. This is not only a very sensible and modest amendment; it will provide a new framework for co-operation between businesses and employees, as the noble Lord said. Why not allow employees to have a say over the implementation of pavement licences, as they will be directly impacted upon and charged with the responsibility of ensuring that—shall we say—the letter and spirit of the law is adhered to?
Employees have discharged many responsibilities during the whole Covid pandemic. However, there is absolutely no doubt—and there is evidence-based research to prove—that when employees, employers and businesses co-operate, it boosts performance, production and profitability, lifts living standards and enhances job prospects. We can look to Germany and the role of work councils, which we talked about last week when considering a similar amendment in Committee.
I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Hain, Lord Hendy and Lord Monks. I commend it to your Lordships’ House and ask the Minister to give dutiful consideration to accepting it.
My Lords, now that we have reached Report stage, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I shall be brief. My name is attached to Amendment 20, which is part of a group concerned with safety and accessibility for all who use the pavement. At previous stages of the Bill, I have emphasised the need to set clear and enforceable rules on the use of pavements—and I prefer conditions to guidance.
The Government’s changes may well be a step forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, has explained, but improvements could still be made. Amendment 20 would help to achieve these, and I hope that the Minister will explain how the Government’s approach will deliver the degree of certainty we are looking for to enable our pavements to be accessible for all.
My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 4. As my noble friend Lord Hain said, the Bill misses an opportunity to engage trade unions fully in the measures it proposes, specifically on the issue of pavement licences. In his excellent new biography of Ernest Bevin, which I commend to the House, my noble friend Lord Adonis quotes from a letter from Bevin to the boss of ICI during the Second World War. In it, he proposes a round table for every workplace and says:
“Present methods tend to emphasise the apparent conflicting interests, whereas, if we could get round the table and get that idea suggested, we should get more emphasis on community of interest engaged together on a common task.”
Ironically, this message was better received in west Germany than it was by employers in the UK and other places. Germany’s impressive results are well known to Members of this House.
This amendment covers one small area, but it also looks to pave the way to a round-table approach from now on in the much-changed environment in many workplaces. Working from home, social distancing, protective clothing, and new hygiene standards are now features of work for many. For them to be successful, they need consent, support and active encouragement from all concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to the teachers’ unions. Our message about round tables and partnership is aimed at everybody, including employers, trade unions and other organisations, including local authorities. What has been happening in Leicester? The workshops there show a serious failure in that city—although not just there—to engage workers properly on health and safety and, no doubt, other matters too.
The Chancellor said recently that the Government would look after employers who looked after their workers, but we need more than paternalism. We need a sense that we are all in this together and breeding an idea of partnership. As my noble friends have said, that sense of common endeavour was a key feature of Roosevelt’s New Deal, which the Prime Minister has been extolling. Roosevelt promoted trade union collective bargaining as part of his job creation programmes and the PM’s admiration for the New Deal should not blind him to the fact that it is not an a la carte menu from which you can pick different bits. It is a package, of which trade unions are an essential ingredient. What was good enough for the USA, and is good enough for Germany today, is surely good for the UK. I hope that the Government will recognise the strength of this case, do the right thing, and support Amendment 4.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 10, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, concerning the minimum width left on pavements for pedestrians to pass safely. I welcome the Government’s announcement in Committee that they would be bringing forward amendments to place the conditions of pavement licensing on a statutory footing. I also welcome the acknowledgment in the Bill of the needs of people with disabilities to be able to access streets safely. However, I remain deeply concerned at the speed with which these measures are being rushed through. As the Government were not prepared to extend the consultation period for applications, it is essential that there is a clear requirement regarding the minimum space that businesses need to leave on the pavement for pedestrians to pass safely.
At Second Reading, I outlined the difficulties that people who are blind or partially sighted face as a result of social distancing, as well as many of the new challenges due to altered road layouts and one-way systems, not to mention the rapid rollout of e-scooters on to our streets. As it stands, the Bill risks a significant and barely controlled expansion in the level of obstruction on our pavements, which is especially hazardous for people with a sight impairment or limited mobility.
While putting conditions for licensing into statute is welcome, this will be useful only if the guidance that these conditions refer to is relevant and up to date. It is also vital that the requirement to meet these conditions is clearly communicated to licensing authorities. At present, the Bill’s draft guidance refers to the Department for Transport’s document Inclusive Mobility, which is one of the main sources of information on accessible design for planning authorities in England. In Committee, the noble Lords, Lord Blencathra and Lord Adonis, noted the inconsistencies in the minimum distances set out in that document and the confusion that this will cause. Inclusive Mobility only has limited references to street café furniture. As the last version is from 2005, the references to equality legislation are largely out of date. Most obviously, this guidance was drawn up well before social distancing was a consideration. As well as needing to take into account the minimum physical distance that is required for a wheelchair, mobility scooter or guide dog to pass, further space is surely now required in order that pedestrians can pass in congested areas at an appropriate distance.
The need to update this guidance is obvious, and has been for some time. The coalition Government’s 2012 accessibility action plan set out a goal to complete an update of Inclusive Mobility by 2014, but this did not happen. The previous Government made updating it a goal in their 2018 inclusive transport strategy, but we are still waiting. I strongly urge the Government to see the Bill as a cue for clear minimum distances to be specified. The conditions and guidance will be published only after the new system of licensing is up and running, but this requirement needs to be clear from the outset. Will the Government commit to publishing updated inclusive street design guidance, reflecting the new reality of social distancing and to communicating these changes to planning authorities?
My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. It is important that we make sure that the additional street furniture—the tables and chairs—do not restrict access or movement for individuals, especially disabled people. We must guard against creating potentially dangerous situations where people need to walk in roads, navigate around tables and chairs, or break social distancing rules to get past people on the street because of pavement licences. We need to get this balance right. Applications should not be granted if pedestrians are forced to cross a pavement in a dangerous manner, or if there is insufficient space between tables and chairs to enable disabled people to use the new space comfortably and safely or to pass through it without risk of incident. If properly managed and located, so that the needs of all pedestrians and customers are considered, pavement licences can make outdoor places vibrant and socially distanced safe places to be in the summer.
If the Minister does not accept these proposals and relies instead on the amendment in the name of his noble friend Lord Howe, it is important that he sets out, for the record, a clear framework to give clarity to those who need to enact this legislation on the direction they need to go in, and the guidance they need to follow to get this balance right. Finally, will the Minister assure the House that the relevant stakeholders have been consulted on the Government’s amendment on this issue?
My Lords, at this stage, I would like to suggest something which the Government might include in the guidance. I do not fully support Amendment 1, as is not about access but about erecting barriers, which is often unnecessary and counterproductive. It should be perfectly possible, as in other European cities, to do something as simple as mark the corners of the café’s territory with an object, such as a wooden tub of flowers, so that that territory is fixed in what I termed in Committee an open but rigid structure. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, correctly used the term “segregation” if barriers were installed, although I disagree with his inference. The problem with barriers is that those who have them imposed on them push back against them. They start to move, whereas fixed markers do not.
I appreciate that the reason for extending the café on to the street is to increase business at this time, but it should be done in a way that enhances the community. It is wrong that we insist, even before the local geography is assessed, that the café be cut off and isolated physically from everything else. The Government’s draft guidance only says that the use of barriers should be “considered” by local authorities. However, I notice that markers of the kind that I referred to are not listed in that guidance as a possible strategy. Will the Government consider this? I am not talking about permanent fixtures, just something solid enough to help determine the territory designated but able to be carried off the pavement at night and replaced in precisely the same position the following day.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl. I declare an interest in having had the honour, I think in 2016, of chairing the ad hoc Select Committee on the review of the Licensing Act 2003. When my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh sums up this little debate, could he put our minds at rest that the measures in the government amendments in this group, tabled by my noble friend Lord Howe, will negate the need for the other amendments tabled? I think that will carry the House with him. Does he share my concern that the wide-ranging consultation proposed in Amendment 4, while well-meaning—normally I would be in favour of as wide a consultation as possible on any long-lasting modifications —would in this case negate the whole point of speedy measures, which are, of necessity, of a temporary nature?
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, has withdrawn from this group. I call the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady McIntosh. Appropriate regulation to ensure proper provision for the blind, the partially sighted and the disabled in the allocation of pavement licences is absolutely right. In a civilised society, such measures should be a given. I therefore welcome the moves proposed by the Government in the amendments which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is bringing forward.
It is important that we encourage economic activity. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh said, that must be done speedily if it is to make sense in this context. We should bear that in mind. The provisions brought forward by the Government in this group on access and protecting individuals are appropriate and to be welcomed. We should embrace the wider Bill, which seeks to promote the necessary economic activity I referred to. I will not delay the House further, as there is a long list of Peers who wish to speak. I give this part of the Bill my total support.
My Lords, I stand here as a rather inadequate substitute for my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester to support the thrust of the amendments spoken to very ably by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and a triumvirate of government Back-Benchers. This took me back a few years to when we had to cover access on virtually everything, as every single Bill required it. One wonders why when we have the Equality Act, but apparently we need to put something into this piece of legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has said that he is satisfied with the Government’s amendments, so I feel that we probably should be too. However, there is one other issue—enforcement. Who will undertake enforcement? Access officers have been cut. Who will make sure that the arrangements embodied here are enforced? Clearness of guidance is vital, and, as we hear from the Government all the time, this is emergency legislation. If we have to wait to book someone to come in and have a look, that will take time. Will the police have some enaction? Will someone else do something? How clear will that guidance be?
It is not just those who are disabled or in wheelchairs who will benefit from this, but the entire flow of pedestrian traffic. Anyone pushing a buggy with a child in it or luggage on wheels will be positively affected by these changes. How will we make sure that they are enforced? The Government must answer this question; if they do not, this will become an empty series of words with no action to back it up.
My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 9 and 10, although many in this group which make a lot of sense. I welcome the Government’s Amendment 16 and will possibly welcome what follows on from it even more. I hope so. I cannot better what those who tabled them have said about needing more space on pavements, other than to add that I can think of many more reasons to have one and a half metres of space as well as disability needs.
I welcome Amendment 9 from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, which probes how much scope local authorities will be able to have in what they put on under the conditions. Could the Minister make it clear whether local authorities can stipulate a set of standard requirements in advance that will always apply to every licence? Examples could include space, no smoking or types of barriers, but I am sure that there would be other things for particular circumstances. To have a list in advance that you knew would apply to your licence would be helpful both to those seeking licences and to those who may have concerns. Such sets of requirements are far more easily consulted on. Is it reasonable to expect the public to respond to a continuous flow of licence applications? Will fatigue not set in? Ultimately, responses that should perhaps have been made will not go in.
My Lords, I always take great pleasure in following the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles. I note that we debated many of these issues very well in Committee. Things have come on a great deal, and my noble friend the Deputy Leader has tabled a number of well-judged amendments and concessions in this and later groups.
I wish to reiterate the importance of balance. This legislation is intended to help businesses, particularly in the hard-pressed hospitality sector, so that they can get back to work, lure back customers and support broader economic recovery. We are concerned with temporary measures and must not confuse matters by adopting regulatory amendments, some of which we might feel would be well justified if we were talking about permanent laws. To my mind, we have already gone quite far enough and the detailed draft guidance—I think its extent will make many small businesses blanch—makes it quite clear that where a pavement licence is granted, clear access routes on the highway will need to be maintained, taking into account the needs of all users, including disabled people, as my noble friend Lord Blencathra made clear earlier. The guidance also requires applicants to fix a notice to the premises when they make their application.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made a good point about enforcement. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister on that.
We have to get the economy, our construction industry and our high streets going again if we are not to live through a number of frigid economic winters. In particular, our hospitality sector has been decimated and needs all the help it can get. We must stop debating this Bill with its temporary provisions and get it on to the statute book.
I declare my interest as a vice-president of the LGA. I am quite torn on these amendments, as I appreciate that the Government have moved and accommodated some of the problems, but I also see their compromise as insufficient to address the issues raised so well by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.
The Government’s amendments tend to kick the issues into the long grass, leaving your Lordships to hope that Ministers will made the right decisions at the right time. That might mean bringing in the necessary provisions later through secondary legislation, which none of us likes very much. Instead of the Bill providing certainty that blind people and those with disabilities will be protected from unnecessary obstacles, the government amendments actually create uncertainty.
That uncertainty also exists for the many businesses that will be applying for pavement licences, which will have questions about all sorts of random conditions that might later be applied by central Government to their licence. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Earl the Minister can explain their plans and set out a clear timetable for bringing in secondary legislation for these amendments. Most importantly, I would ask him to give a clear assurance that blind and disabled people will be safe and will not be put into harm’s way by the Bill. I hope that he will do everything in his power to ensure that this remains the case.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl the Minister for bringing forward these amendments. No comment has yet been made in this discussion about Amendment 21, but I welcome the clarification that licensing is not part of the executive function of a local authority. It should be done by an independent panel within the authority.
I want also to support Amendment 4, in the name of my noble friend Lord Hain, and again pose the question again: why is this not acceptable? What this amendment and a number of others in this group are all about is effective consultation, in the instance of Amendment 4 with trade unions and the employees who are affected. It is always better when such consultation happens. It can happen at a reasonably fast pace, but at the least the exercise should be undertaken.
The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has argued forcefully on a number of occasions for a 1.5 metre margin around pavement activities. He is quite right to do so and I trust that that will be made explicit in the government guidance. As I have wandered around my local area over the past few weeks, I have seen able the burgeoning of pavement tables and pavement activity. I welcome that because I like the idea of a much more café culture society. However, as people drink during the course of the evening, there tends to be pavement creep, and the space gets narrower. That is why the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and echoed just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, about the importance of enforcement are so critical. Can we be assured that local authorities will have the enforcement and regulatory officers to ensure that there is no pavement creep of the kind I have just talked about, and that the police will be there in sufficient numbers to provide back-up if required?
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister and his fellow Ministers for the careful way in which they have looked at the points that have been made and for the concessions that they have given. Indeed, if you asked the question, “What is the role of the House of Lords?” this Bill provides a good example of it, because while it went through the Commons in a matter of an hour or so, we have given it detailed consideration and, importantly, the Ministers responsible have looked industry detail and with sympathy at the points that have been made. So I make those points first.
I want to make a couple of points, in particular about Amendment 4. Some noble Lords will remember that I was David Cameron’s envoy to the trade union movement. I know a bit about it because I have been a member since the age of 16. Now the first thing about Amendment 4 is that, of course, there are very few trade unionists in the catering industry. The second point I should like to make about it is that this is Labour virtue signalling. There are plenty of trade unionists who support the Conservative Party. Indeed, in the union of which I am president, BALPA, the majority voted Conservative at the last election. Many trade unionists vote for the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and, in particular, for the Green Party—so what we have here is very much a bit of Labour special pleading.
On that, I am always pleased to hear Churchill being quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Monks, that I believe he was working for the TUC when it turned down the proposals of the Bullock committee to consult unions and have them on the board. So let us have a bit of remembrance. And let us also remember that Labour has decided not to support any Divisions on this Bill. So it is worth remembering when it starts asking, “Can this be done or can it not be done?” that it will not be supporting anything to the point of a Division.
I make all of those points because I would ask the Minister to acknowledge in his summing-up that co-operation is needed from all groups in society, including responsible trade unionists. I am sure that they will be happy to co-operate, whether they are trade unionists or just workers in the catering industry. I look on this amendment as a partisan one that does not add to the Bill; it is so that a group of people can go and wave at the TUC.
I note that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is set to follow me. I will just tell him that on one occasion when David Cameron met a leading member of the TUC General Council, he asked, “Apart from the national minimum wage, which we are not going to abolish, which piece of pro-union legislation that the Blair Government passed are you worried that we might repeal?” The answer was total silence. So let us not have too many lectures about what Labour is going to do for trade unions until some future date when it may even have done something.
I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is not going to follow the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, because he has withdrawn from this group. So I now call the noble Lord, Lord Naseby.
My Lords, I have taken part in every stage of this Bill and I believe that we must never forget that its basic principle is to get the economy going and in particular to help the hospitality industry. I do not know how it was for anyone else, but over this last weekend less than half the pubs in Bedfordshire were open to cater for people who wanted to go out on Friday or Saturday evening. Why were they not open? Either they did not have the space or they had not managed to get organised, et cetera. Against that, I pay tribute to what my noble friend Lord Blencathra, and the noble Lords, Lord Holmes and Lord Low, have done to ensure that the Government of the day have taken note of the challenges for disabled people. They have worked tirelessly on this and I say a great personal thank you to them. It is good that my noble friend on the Front Bench has listened and that we now have Amendment 16 before us.
The only other point I want to make is about guidance notes. I have been the chairman and the leader of a local authority and there is nothing worse than guidance notes that are out of date. They do not need to be 300 pages long; they need to be probably 20 clear and short statements of what is necessary in an emergency situation.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and others for continuing to raise the issue of access for disabled people, and I too will not rehearse my arguments again. I welcome the Government’s amendment and I have two questions for the noble Earl the Minister. How will this provision be monitored to ensure that reasonable access is not something that is provided from day one, which is what usually happens when the intention is good, but swiftly erodes as we move further out of lockdown, potentially leaving disabled people with a much poorer level of access than they currently have? My second question is: how will disabled people be able to make a complaint and be listened to if their access has been diminished?
My Lords, at the outset I reiterate what I said at Second Reading and in Committee. I welcome the Bill, which will trigger a revitalisation of our businesses and help people’s well-being. We would like the economy to pick up and create employment for people who have been idle for the last few months. We need to take steps to enable restaurants, pubs and cafés to expand their businesses and provide additional facilities to attract customers. Our hospitality sector has taken a massive hit and we need to assist the sector to get back on its feet. We should therefore give consideration to how we can do this. One way is to allow customers to be served outside the premises and on the pavement.
I support these arrangements but we need to look at certain issues that may cause problems to pedestrians. I am concerned about accessibility and the passage of blind, partially sighted and disabled pedestrians. They must be able to get through the customers outside a premises without being obstructed in any way. Blind and partially sighted people already feel less independent during the lockdown. If we do not have proper controls and make appropriate provisions, they will encounter difficulties. If adequate arrangements are not made, these persons may go on the road, take someone else to go with them or not go out at all.
Some disabled persons are in wheelchairs that need to be carefully manoeuvred. If people are congregating on the pavement without adequate controls, manoeuvring will be difficult and cause distress to the disabled persons. Furthermore, there is the possibility of an accident arising because of a lack of proper spacing for wheelchairs to get through, which may cause injury to a customer or the disabled person.
As far as pedestrians are concerned, in Committee I expressed concern about Muslim ladies who may be harassed or picked on if they are walking through a crowded area. Since my speech in Committee, I have been approached by other Muslims expressing support for what I said. It is therefore important to bear in mind issues concerning Muslim ladies. I have been told that since the lockdown has been eased, there has been a spike in Muslim women being insulted and abused.
In addition, there needs to accessibility for all persons, with a distance of at least one metre for everyone’s benefit and as a safeguard against the spreading of the virus. I therefore support Amendments 1, 2, 5 and 6. I also render support to Amendment 7, which will
“establish a right to appeal the approval of an application”
within the time stated in the amendment.
Furthermore, I support Amendment 12 regarding the need for a local authority to investigate a complaint where there are issues of accessibility relating to people with disabilities or other pedestrians. I feel that Amendments 7 and 12 are necessary to ensure that relevant persons with genuine issues are listened to where there are difficulties regarding passage or accessibility.
Finally, I support Amendment 16 as I feel the Secretary of State must
“specify conditions for pavement licences”.
I am sure that in doing so, the Secretary of State will be minded to ensure adequate access and passage of all pedestrians without hindrance.
My Lords, I associate myself with so much that been said in this discussion about the rights and accessibility of disabled people in particular; the importance of employer-employee co-operation in the fight against the virus; the need to return to economic activity; and enforcement. That is perhaps why the swipes at the trade unions were particularly gratuitous and jarring.
The deadly pandemic we are still in the grip of seems to discriminate quite brutally and savagely, so it is particularly important that we do not discriminate in our response to it. If anything, we should work harder—perhaps even more radically—to redress the balance in the discrimination provided by the virus.
The economy exists for the benefit of people, not the other way around, so there ought not to be any real tension between the aspiration of protecting people—all people, the vulnerable in particular—and wanting to bring the economy back and to restore some normalcy in our lives.
I am grateful to Ministers for taking on board the points about disabled access and safety in particular. I hope that in doing so they are reflecting not just an approach to this Bill—which, after all, is primarily about economic growth—but an attitude to coping with the virus in general and to not being irritated by reasonable questions about workplace safety, whether posed by teaching unions or anyone else, and concern about public health and safety foremost in the difficult times ahead.
It seems that too many members of our polity and commentariat have tried to present a zero-sum game between this abstract thing called the economy and people’s lives, including those of the most vulnerable. We have heard really quite eminent voices in newspapers and the media say, “Save the economy and let the elderly or vulnerable shield themselves.” That is not a compassionate approach or one of a civilised society that puts human rights at its heart, so I hope the broad base of comments in this debate will be taken on board and not the more jarring ones. It seems we all love our own rights and freedoms; it is just others’ that we sometimes find a little more difficult to swallow.
My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my interests as set out in the register as a councillor and a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
We on these Benches support the Bill’s intentions to provide some additional business opportunities for construction companies and pubs, bars and cafés, which are often smaller, independent businesses on our high streets and have had their trade curtailed by the coronavirus restrictions.
This group of amendments in general provide for cafés and pubs to apply to extend their sales on to the pavement in front of their premises for a temporary period. In Committee we had an extensive debate about the consequences for people with disabilities, in particular those with a sight impairment. I thank the Ministers—the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh—for the meetings following Committee to discuss these issues of concern.
My noble friend Lord Shipley has succinctly described the purpose of our Amendment 20, to which I also have my name. Our intention is simply to ensure that in the granting of licences, pavements do not become a hazard for pedestrians. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has raised similar concerns and tabled a number of amendments to seek clarification and prevent pavements becoming inaccessible. In particular, we have been concerned about tables and chairs on the pavement gradually spilling over into the area set aside for pedestrians. This is the reason for the suggestions we have made about the requirement for a simple barrier to mark off the area of the pavement licence. I hope that most businesses will make this simple provision.
On another issue, the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has made an important point in his Amendments 23 and 24: the principle of inclusive design should be the starting point when changes to the built environment are made. I hope the Government take note.
The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, to aid a partnership approach between employers and employees and their trade union representatives states a principle we can easily support. It is good that the Government have listened to these concerns and have tabled several amendments seeking to ensure that pavements are kept clear for pedestrians. Although these amendments do not go as far as we and others have argued, they go a long way to satisfy those of us worried about the potential consequences.
If the Government’s Amendment 16 passes, there will be provision for the Secretary of State to make conditions on pavement licences by regulation. I thank the Government for sending an update of the guidance, which shows their willingness to safeguard the interests of pedestrians. We accept that the Government have moved a considerable distance in resolving these issues and look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests in the register. It is right that the House is again afforded the opportunity to consider the implication of pavement licences. The various amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, highlight the need for inclusive design. I agree with him and am pleased that the Government have also tabled amendments on this theme. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, raise similar concerns, and I am glad that the House has debated them today.
I hope that, in addition to the Government’s amendments, the Minister offers further non-statutory assurances to make certain that accessibility issues are resolved. As my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley noted, applications should not be granted if people are forced to cross a road; they should be able to pass by without incident. Pavement licences, when granted, can result in vibrant social spaces, but relevant stakeholder consultation is essential, as is the role of local authorities in ensuring compliance—as raised by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. I agree with him that resources will need to be made available to local authorities for the extra work that this will entail.
My noble friend Lord Hain returned to the issue of trade union engagement, and he has the support of these Benches in so doing. As he said, consultation and co-operation have become the name of the game. I associate myself with the remarks of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti in that respect. It should be the norm and statutorily implemented.
The House is aware from previous stages of the Bill that amendments in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, have been raised about the concerns of trade union members. This amendment would ensure that local authorities consult employees and their unions when determining pavement seating applications. In recent weeks, I have spoken to members of Wetherspoon staff represented by the BFAWU, and it is clear that they are often left in the dark on decisions that have enormous ramifications for their working conditions. I hope the Minister will assure the House that he has at least engaged with trade unions in drafting the legislation and that he continues to during its implementation.
My Lords, the pavement licensing clauses in the Bill will provide vital temporary flexibility to aid the recovery of the 158,000 hospitality businesses that employ almost 2 million people over the summer months. That is the importance of this legislation, as raised by my noble friends Lord Naseby and Lord Sheikh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock.
Noble Lords have voiced concerns over accessibility, which the Government agree is paramount. While the Government have sought to address accessibility from the outset, through robust conditions such as the no-obstruction condition, guidance and enforcement procedures, we have reflected on the strong feeling in this House and recognise that more needs to be done.
In response—and what has been described by “a huge step forward” by my noble friend Lord Holmes—the Government have tabled Amendments 6, 16, 21 and 87, in the name of my noble friend Lord Howe. First, the Government have tabled Amendment 6 to Clause 3, which would insert a new subsection after subsection (6). New subsection (6A) provides that, when local authorities are determining whether furniture put on the highway would be, or already is, an unacceptable obstruction, they must have specific regard to the needs of disabled people and to any recommended distances required for access by disabled people, as set out in guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This puts in the Bill a requirement that a local authority, when deciding whether to grant an application and to exercise its enforcement powers, must have in mind the needs of disabled people and for clear access, as set out in the Government’s guidance.
Secondly, as well as the amendment to the Bill, I appreciate that there has been some confusion over the application of inclusive mobility guidance, so we are going to sharpen the focus. Inclusive mobility draws on a wide range of stakeholder inputs and remains the key piece of design guidance for the pedestrian environment. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Low, work led by DfT is under way that will update inclusive mobility next year. However, we recognise that businesses applying for licences may need clearer direction.
That is why our guidance will make clear that, in most circumstances, 1,500 millimetres or 1.5 metres of clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway. We will also address other concerns raised—specifically, provision of clear barriers to demarcate seating, explicit reference to duties on local authorities under the Equality Act and style of furniture. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that is the framework within which we are asking local authorities to operate.
We have also set out, in the House, the circumstances when local authorities can use their power to revoke, including where there is a breach of condition or there are risks to health and public safety, as well as highways obstruction. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, there are robust enforcement procedures and local authorities can revoke licences when they give rise to these risks. They will need to have regard to the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act, when devising and implementing the new licensing regime, to eliminate discrimination and harassment. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, disabled people can complain to the local authority, so authorities can act and revoke the licence for breach of a condition, which would be taken immediately. The idea of using markers, as raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, will also be considered in the guidance. That was a good point.
In drafting the guidance, we have consulted key stakeholders, including the RNIB and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, as well as the Local Government Association. These are the relevant stakeholders requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Since these measures will come into effect immediately on Royal Assent, it is important that we publish final guidance now, so that local authorities and businesses have regard to these vital considerations of accessibility without delay, as soon as these measures are implemented. However, we have made clear that any new national conditions will be subject to the negative procedure, as I will turn to shortly.
Finally, as a third step, we will be communicating the publication of the guidance to local authorities to make sure that they have sight of it as soon as possible. In so doing, we will point to existing examples of best practice on accessibility, as suggested by the RNIB.
With these steps, the Bill now makes clear that authorities must take the needs of disabled people and recommended distances into account, while guidance will set out further detail on what this entails. This provides very clear direction to local authorities and leaves scope for them to respond to their own local circumstances, while complying with their existing duties under equalities legislation. That delivers the certainty referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, with a degree of local discretion. I have to say, I note that my noble friend Lord Blencathra reserves the right to bulldoze through any obstruction in his armoured wheelchair.
I hope, therefore, that my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Holmes and Lord Cormack, the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, will accept government Amendment 6, and not press their amendments on this matter.
As I set out at Second Reading, the Government have accepted the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and tabled an amendment to replace the Secretary of State’s power to publish national conditions on pavement licences with a power to specify any national conditions for pavement licences in regulations, subject to the negative resolution procedure. This should provide a robust level of scrutiny of any national conditions. I hope that noble Lords will accept government Amendments 16 and 87.
The Government have tabled Amendment 21, a minor and technical but important amendment, to ensure that pavement licence functions are discharged by the authority, rather than by the authority’s executive. This responds directly to an ask of the Local Government Association. It means that these functions can be delegated by the authority to a committee, sub-committee or an officer, or to any other local authority under Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972. This is in keeping with other similar licensing regimes, such as the existing pavement licence regime. In short, this will provide a real practical benefit to local authorities on the ground; it means that decisions can be made more efficiently by an existing committee, reducing the burden on local government. This issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I trust that the House will see the benefit of this to local authorities and hope that Amendment 21 is accepted.
I finish by turning to Amendment 4, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hain, Lord Hendy and Lord Monks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, which seeks to require that trade unions and other relevant businesses are consulted when determining applications. I appreciate the intent behind this amendment and the importance of ensuring that employees are consulted. However, this would make the process unworkable and contrary to the emergency nature of the Bill, which is to speed up decisions. We would expect businesses to engage with their employees, so there is no need to mandate this in statute, a point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Lords will not press Amendment 4.
I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Wilcox, that the Government have worked constructively with unions throughout the pandemic to ensure that workplaces remain safe, and will continue to do so as the UK looks towards economic recovery. The Government recognise that trade unions can play a constructive role in maintaining positive industrial relations, and collective bargaining remains an important form of negotiation in the workplace. However, where possible, we believe that industrial relations should be undertaken voluntarily and not mandated by the state. I will leave the matter there.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this group. It has been a very clear and effective debate that goes to the heart of the changes that my noble friend the Minister has spoken to this afternoon. As many noble Lords have said, although the Government certainly could have gone further, they have indeed gone a considerable distance from their position when the Bill arrived in your Lordships’ House.
I thank my noble friend Lord Blencathra for his traditional clarity and effectiveness in getting across his point of view. It is reflected in the guidance of 1.5 metres, although as my noble friend and I agree, it would have been more helpful across the piece had this been in the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for her comments, and thank other noble Lords who have spoken on this group.
I am content with the amendments that the Government have laid on the points that I have already spoken to, and with Amendment 21, the technical amendment. I ask my noble friend the Minister to consider whether further amendments can be made to the guidance. There are issues that could be made clearer, particularly around the application process and the appeals process. Wording could be inserted to make it absolutely clear to disabled people and others that they would be able to make appeals, not least under the Equality Act. It would be helpful to have that spelled out in the guidance.
There are also issues around the whole concept of consultation, not least relating to paragraphs 7.5 and 7.6 in the guidance. This debate has demonstrated that there is a bit of a misconception around consultation in a number of ways. I do not believe that consultation needs to be lengthy, but it needs to be effective and authentic. Although it sounds tautological, it needs to be truly consultative. In so many instances across society, it is not, but rather is something masquerading as consultation, and the reality for those involved is very different. I believe that for individuals and local authorities, it would be helpful if, in the guidance, an affirmative function was clearly set out for local authorities to engage swiftly in consultation and to speak to organisations of and for disabled people and others. That could be done incredibly effectively—it may be a matter of a few phone calls. It does not need to be a massive consultation; it needs to be an effective consultation.
My noble friend Lord Naseby was quite correct when he talked about guidance being seen as a leaden weight around the neck of local authorities. Guidance needs to be conceived to be helpful and seen as helpful. To that extent, will my noble friend the Minister also consider putting in some kind of checklist or flowchart, both at the front of the guidance, setting out what it does in a few bullet points, and as an appendix, to take applicants through the procedure and what they need to consider at each stage. That should be done in a clear, effective and understandable manner.
To that extent, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister and his officials for the positive way in which they have engaged. This will be an ongoing issue. We will obviously have time to see and assess what happens as the Bill lands. In conclusion, I am absolutely, wholeheartedly behind economic growth and getting the economy up and running effectively again. I do not believe in any sense that anything around accessibility, or inclusion and inclusive design, runs counter to that. In reality, inclusion, inclusive design, accessibility, enablement and empowerment are the bedrock of a fully functioning economy and civil society. With that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Applications
Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.
Clause 3: Determination of applications
Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.
6: Clause 3, page 4, line 8, at end insert—
“(6A) Where a local authority is considering for any purpose of this group of sections whether furniture put on a relevant highway by a licence-holder pursuant to a pavement licence has or would have the effect referred to in subsection (6)(a), the authority must have regard in particular to—(a) the needs of disabled people, and (b) the recommended distances required for access by disabled people as set out in guidance issued by the Secretary of State.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision for the needs of disabled persons in particular to be taken into account when determining whether furniture put on the highway is an obstruction.
Amendment 6 agreed.
Amendment 7 not moved.
Clause 4: Duration
Amendment 8 not moved.
Clause 5: Conditions
Amendments 9 and 10 not moved.
My Lords, that brings us to the group beginning with Amendment 11. Members should ensure that they have the correct text of Amendment 11, with the word “not” in proposed new subsection (2C). I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover of the amendment and the Minister may speak only once, and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this, or any other amendment in the group, to a Division should make that clear in the debate.
11: Clause 5, page 4, line 37, at end insert—
“(2A) Conditions under subsection (2) may include that smoking is prohibited in either the entire area or part of the area covered by a pavement licence.(2B) A condition to prohibit smoking under subsection (2) may only apply if the local authority has first consulted local businesses and residents prior to the publication of such a condition.(2C) Conditions under subsection (2) may not prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in the area covered by a pavement licence.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would allow local authorities to prohibit smoking in areas covered by pavement licenses, provided they have first consulted local businesses and residents. This would not prohibit e-cigarettes.
My Lords, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Although fewer than one in five adults in the UK now smoke, the Government must do all in their power to aid this remaining population to quit. We are in a fortunate position, in that in recent months, a million people in Britain have stopped smoking. The Government would do well to consider the recommendations of Action on Smoking and Health for how this can be built on.
The health risks of smoking are, of course, not restricted to smokers. The House will clearly be aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke, including in outdoor areas of pubs, bars and other premises to which the Bill relates. The Bill, as introduced by the Government, was a missed opportunity. In creating new outdoor areas, there should have been provision from the outset for smoke-free areas. On this basis we tabled Amendment 11, which would create a power for local authorities to prohibit smoking in certain areas covered by pavement licences after due consultation.
I am pleased that the Government sought to rectify their omission by tabling Amendment 13 to allow for smoke-free areas. It has the support of these Benches, but the amendment alone is not enough. The Government must take a firmer line on public health and consider how they can reduce the dangers of second-hand smoke more widely. In future legislation, I hope they will focus on doing so from the outset, for if they do not, we will again.
The amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, would create a condition that pavement licences can be granted only if smoking is prohibited. While I fully sympathise with her reason for tabling this effort, I am afraid that we cannot support the present draft. As it stands, it might have enormous unintended consequences. It does not clarify that the prohibition of smoking should apply to the area covered by pavement licences, and without the definition of smoking it might unintentionally ban e-cigarettes. I understand that there are also concerns that other errors might lead to judicial review. If not for these errors we could consider the amendment, but in its present iteration I am afraid we cannot.
The noble Baroness is right to press for the Government to consider the implications of second-hand smoke, but when the hospitality industry is already suffering as it is, this attempt at some form of blanket ban, attached in haste to emergency legislation, would have consequences that I am sure are unintended. I hope the noble Baroness will reflect on this, support the efforts to create smoke-free zones and join us in holding the Government to account on their widespread failures to reduce smoking.
Finally, I ask the Minister to confirm that the Government’s amendment will not be their only effort to eliminate the dangers of second-hand smoke during this crisis. The initial drafting of the legislation served as a missed opportunity to tackle smoking. I am afraid that that is somewhat characteristic of their attitude over the past decade. I will press the Government on three specific issues. Will they halt the planned cuts to smoking cessation services across England? Will they properly fund the devolved Governments, including the Labour-led Welsh Government, to support their efforts in stopping people smoking? Will they engage and equip local authorities to play their significant part in what remains an enormous challenge to public health? I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 15 in my name and that of my colleagues, the noble Lords, Lord Young of Cookham and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. There has been an anti-smoking cross-party coalition in the Lords for almost two decades. That cross-party approach reflects the House at its best. Since Sir Richard Doll’s report all those years ago, we have known that smoking kills, and in an appalling fashion. Nevertheless, as we know, it has been an uphill battle to set in place anti-smoking measures. The noble Earl, Lord Howe—I am glad to see that he is in his place, even if he is not on the Front Bench—has long been part of that coalition. This issue does and should arch over mere party concerns, though that is not always the case. It is extremely disappointing when that manifests, because our opponents are funded and united.
However, I was very glad that when we raised this as the sole amendment on this issue in Committee the Government responded. I was in the Chamber, and I admit that I directed much of what I said to the noble Earl, given his track record on this issue. I hugely commend those of other parties who have had the determination to stand against the pressure on them for the sake of public health.
Let me state the case for this cross-party amendment. Smoking kills smokers and those exposed to second-hand smoke. That is why we secured—and now the vast majority of the public enjoy—smoke-free restaurants, pubs and other public places. This is not a ban on smoking outdoors. Our amendment would apply only to the new fast-track licences, which allow premises to put furniture on the pavement to alleviate the capacity restrictions caused by coronavirus.
Because of Covid-19, the outside is the new inside. We need to make sure that people are protected there as well—for their health, for staff serving them, for families and for unborn babies of pregnant women. Some 86% of people do not smoke, so bringing them back and making it appealing for them is vital. If people do not think that is relevant, look at the fact that 1 million people have given up smoking during lockdown. That shows a level of fear and concern about health and safety. We need to support them in that process, and local government and the hospitality industry say that it much easier for them if there is a clear national policy on this.
I am afraid that I find Amendment 11 surprisingly weak. I did not expect that from the Labour Party. I do not understand why it tabled it. I am afraid that, well-meaning as it might be, it will allow FOREST and the tobacco industry to drive a coach and horses through it. I am glad that it is not being put to a vote. I encourage Labour to support our cross-party Amendment 15. So many on those Benches have done so much on this issue over the years, and I pay tribute to them. The Labour Party holds in its hands the ability to secure this clear, simple public health measure—or not. I hope it will.
I am immensely encouraged that the Government are committed to England being smoke-free by 2030, which is defined as 5% of the population smoking. I was also delighted when Jo Churchill, the Health Minister, got in touch with me and made clear her own very strong personal commitment. I do not doubt the noble Earl’s. I thank the former Secretary of State—the noble Lord, Lansley—the noble Lord, Lord Young, and many on the Conservative Benches for all their help.
I also thank the Government. I am very glad that they realised when it was flagged to them that they had completely overlooked the problem of smoking outside premises, and that they have now recognised that they need to address this issue. I have sympathy with the Department of Health and Social Care, which came to this late. It had much else to think about. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has clearly been busy, for which I thank him.
However, the Government’s so-called compromise is supported by FOREST, which is funded by the tobacco industry. That should send important signals to everyone. The problem with their amendment is: how do you stop smoke drifting over non-smokers, just as it did when different areas of pubs were designated in that way? Is it fair to expect proprietors to accommodate smokers, who are not likely to be the majority of their customers, yet whose activities will affect all of them? What is this: simply an “aim” to keep the two groups two metres apart? Who will decide the regulations, the Department of Health and Social Care, or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is clearly less familiar with this area and whose Bill this is? The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, was asked earlier whether the Department of Health would lead on the guidance. He implied that that would not be the case. Is that so? Will this come to us as an SI? If so, will it be negative or affirmative?
I understand the huge concerns in the hospitality industry about getting customers back; who could not? The MHCLG was unfamiliar with the effects of tackling smoking when the ban was introduced a decade and a half ago and clearly believed the lobbyists, but local government, which is responsible for public health, does know. The Local Government Association, speaking on behalf of councils of all political persuasions, all 10 authorities in the Greater Manchester region, the cities of Liverpool and Newcastle, and Oxfordshire County Council, supports our cross-party amendment, because it will be good for business and protect public health by encouraging people to come back to pubs and restaurants without fearing an unpleasant and unsafe experience.
I strongly commend Amendment 15, which I may vote on. It was drawn up not by me but by that outstanding campaigning organisation, ASH, working with local government, and it is the right thing to do. I look forward to hearing the Government’s response.
My Lords, I begin with a brief word about Labour’s Amendment 11, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. I am disappointed that the party which—with a bit of prodding when in government—introduced the ban on smoking in pubs has in opposition retreated from that bold approach to public health issues, and cannot support Amendment 15. This disappointment is shared by many of Labour’s noble Members. Its own amendment has been trumped by the Government’s amendment, which goes further, and which I will turn to in a moment, but I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that more action is needed to combat smoking.
The Government have adopted the “hard cop, soft cop” approach on this issue. Last week, my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh was cast as the hard cop and was obliged to read out an uncompromising speech asserting that our amendment would lead to pub closures and job losses. Why pubs that have survived all the problems that have confronted industries so far should decide to close when given the opportunity to extend their non-smoking premises to include the pavements outside was never explained. He also said that imposing a condition to prohibit outdoor smoking would not be proportionate. Yet outdoor smoking is already banned in open-air stadiums and at open-air railway stations, because they are places where people congregate and therefore there is the health risk and the annoyance of passive smoking. It would be the same with pavement smoking.
However, it would be churlish to complain too much, because in the meantime the hard cop was replaced by the soft cop, my noble friend Lord Howe, emollient and with an impeccable public health record. He has tabled an amendment which goes a long way towards what we were arguing for, and wrote a helpful letter to noble Lords today. I pay tribute to his role in listening to last week’s debate and moving government policy forward on this issue. I know that my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh, who made a personal commitment to the anti-smoking campaign in the debate last week, has also played a role.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, the government amendment does not go as far as I would like, but before turning to that, I will make one point about the guidance referred to in the noble Earl’s amendment. Given that many pubs have already made provision for smokers on their own premises—usually canopies with patio heaters—I hope the guidance will say that where this is the case, any extension to the pavement should be smoke-free, since there is already somewhere for the smokers to go.
The Government’s amendment does not go as far as I would like, and I will not repeat the arguments in favour of Amendment 15 so ably put by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and other noble Lords, last week. While none of the arguments against it have convinced me that they would be the right way forward, I recognise that given the position of the Labour Party, the cross-party alliance so skilfully constructed by the noble Baroness has gone as far as it can, and therefore I am prepared to settle for and support the government amendment. I hope that others who share my view will feel able to do the same.
My Lords, yesterday’s press release from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated:
“People using pubs, restaurants and cafés will soon have greater freedom to choose non-smoking outdoor areas”,
a laudable objective that is consistent with the cross-party Amendment 15, which I have signed, along with the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, and which is identical to the one we debated in Committee last week. Some of your Lordships may take the view that had we not raised the issue of smoking in areas covered by pavement licences, the other amendments in this group might never have seen the light of day today. Indeed, if it had not been for the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raising the subject at Second Reading, that would probably be the case.
As I indicated in Committee last week, our amendment enjoys strong cross-party support from the Local Government Association, which represents local councils in England and has asked the Government to make pavements smoke-free. Birmingham Labour councillor Paulette Hamilton, vice-chair of the LGA’s community well-being board, is urging your Lordships to give councils the power to extend smoke-free areas to include pavements, so that
“this alfresco summer can be enjoyed by everyone.”
“Councils have worked hard to help hospitality businesses reopen, including relaxing requirements and making changes to roads and pavements to enable pubs, cafés and bars to operate outside safely with more outdoor seating. Pavement licensing should not be a catalyst to increase smoking in public places, putting people at greater risk of ingesting second-hand smoke when they are enjoying a drink or a meal.”
This view is shared by the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Ian Hudspeth, whom I quoted in the debate last Monday, and who has set the laudable target of a smoke-free Oxfordshire by 2025.
On 15 July, the Welsh Government committed to bringing in new laws to ban smoking in hospital grounds and schools under the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, to
“protect the public from second-hand smoke and de-normalise smoking in the eyes of young people.”
They are on course to bring in a smoking ban for the outdoor seating areas of restaurants and cafés, which is supported by nearly two-thirds of adults in Wales, according to a survey by ASH Wales.
My final point arises from my supplementary question to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, earlier this afternoon. Noble Lords may recall that I asked him whether today’s proposed guidance for smoke-free areas outside pubs and restaurants would be agreed with the DHSC, published before the House rises and subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Rather to my surprise, he did not answer any of these rather important questions, and later in the session, when the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked them again in the same form, she did not get a reply either. What is going on? Have the Government not yet made up their mind, or does the MHCLG refuse to acknowledge that this is a public health issue, let alone that it has anything to do with the Government’s aim to make England smoke-free by 2030? I still think that our amendment is the best of the three on offer, and I will be disappointed if the House does not agree to it this afternoon.
My Lords, Amendment 15, to which I have added my name, seems to be the best way to avoid the Government throwing away the hard-won gains in public health that smoking reduction strategies have achieved to date. There is now clear evidence of the benefits from our legislation, which has banned smoking in public places. The benefits of ending passive smoking are to the heart, the vascular system and the lungs. The strongest evidence of the health benefits of making places smoke-free is in those working in pubs. The Smoke-free Premises and Vehicles (Wales) Regulations 2020 will extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas of hospital grounds, school grounds and local authority playgrounds.
In smokers, the evidence is clear. The cancer-promoting effect of tobacco smoke is enhanced by drinking alcohol at the same time as smoking. Alcohol and smoking independently promote cancers of the mouth, throat and larynx. Smoking while drinking multiplies that risk most markedly, possibly by direct effect on the mucosal cells of the mouth, throat and larynx. These are ghastly disfiguring cancers, and the multiplicative effect on risk is also seen for oesophageal cancer.
In young people the addictive potential of nicotine is particularly high, which is why two-thirds of the 280 children who experiment with cigarettes every day go on to be long-term smokers. Of smokers aged 16 to 24, the vast majority of adult smokers start before the age of 21. Many remain tempted by their addiction for the rest of their lives, making it particularly difficult to stay “quit” when out drinking if others are smoking. Is it any surprise that the tobacco lobby does not want a mandatory smoking ban in pavement licences? The tobacco industry has recognised the importance of the under 21 year-old age group for decades. In 1986 Philip Morris said:
“Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchasers to 21 could gut our key young adult market (17-20).”
More than 200 adults die each day from smoking. In 2017 it was estimated that the NHS spent £2.4 billion per annum on their treatment and care and that the average amount of life lost was more than 13 years. Through absenteeism, social care costs, fires and other effects, smoking costs England alone more than £12.5 billion each year.
Covid–19 is not simply a respiratory illness. It affects the heart, scars the lungs, increases the risk of thrombosis and can cause strokes. These are the same organs that are hit by tobacco. It does not make public health sense to spend billions on treating Covid and ignore the call from the Local Government Association to impose a ban on smoking at pub seating. Noble Lords should not forget that children’s lungs are particularly vulnerable to second-hand smoke, so without protecting spaces the socialising benefits for families will be negated by long-term damage to the next generation. Will the guidance advise families to avoid going to pubs where there is smoking on pavements? I think not. Do people who do not smoke now look forward to going out and coming home smelling of tobacco smoke? I think not. I suggest that they are far more likely to drink alcohol bought in the supermarket at home or in the park, and this choice will do nothing to support the hospitality trade. I fear that the unintended consequence of the Government’s amendment will be that the struggling hospitality industry will not be helped as much as it wants and deserves.
The damage caused by smoking during pregnancy is clearly documented, so why are the Government not doing everything to support pregnant women who want to socialise for their mental and emotional health by at the same time supporting their efforts not to smoke by not allowing them to be temped? Can the Minister explain why the Government, in their blurred amendment, are abandoning their own policy of working towards this country being smoke free and are giving in to tobacco industry lobbyists? I hope the House will support Amendment 15.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and her three co-signatories to Amendment 15. As she rightly said, it is only by virtue of their bringing forward the amendment in Committee that we had the benefit of a very good and persuasive debate last Monday. They won the argument, as evidenced by the Government’s Amendments 13 and 14 and what they said about the guidance that will be issued alongside the no- smoking condition. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for that.
I might say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, that the Labour Party did not put down such an amendment. I welcome what she said about maintaining positive forward pressure on this vital public health issue, but I remind her that as a result of the coalition Government’s activities—in which we were all participants, including my noble friend Lord Howe—this country was regarded as having the toughest tobacco control regime in the world, perhaps bar Australia, although I think there was a debate about that. The point is to maintain that pressure. The Government’s commitment, which I wholeheartedly support, is to secure a smoke-free England by 2030. The point of this temporary legislation is to support the hospitality and leisure industries, and our debate was about ensuring no retrograde steps away from our objective of banning smoking in public places. We do not want families who expect to go to a public house and have a smoke-free meal to find that they are exposed to second-hand smoke.
Like my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, I would have liked the Government to have gone a bit further and the guidance to have been more specific—particularly on the points he mentioned, which for brevity’s sake I shall not repeat—but I share his view that the Government’s Amendments 13 and 14 are significant victory. He and his cosignatories to Amendment 15 can take credit for that. I welcome what the Government have done, I hope the House will support Amendments 13 and 14 and that, in consequence, the noble Baroness will not see the need to press Amendment 15.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of Amendment 15, which was so cogently moved by my noble friend and spoken to so persuasively by her co-signatories. In Committee, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, said:
“The Government recognise the vital importance of health and safety concerns but we do not believe that imposing a condition to prohibit outdoor smoking would be proportionate.”
He also said:
“The case is now incontrovertible that there are dangers from second-hand and passive smoking.”—[Official Report, 13/7/20; col. 1482.]
I acknowledge that the Government have come part way to meet the amendment, but I hope that, even now, they will change their mind.
I want to address the Minister’s proportionality point, especially in the light of his second statement and this Government’s plans for a smoke-free England by 2030. A new survey conducted between 15 April and 20 June 2020 for ASH and UCL has found that more than 1 million people in the UK have stopped smoking since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. A further 440,000 smokers tried to quit during that period. Younger smokers have quit at a much greater rate than older ones: around 400,000 people aged 16 to 29 have quit, compared to 240,000 aged over 50. The rate of quitting for 16 to 29 year-olds is more than twice the rate for those over 50. This is quite unprecedented and hugely encouraging for the health of our nation. Given what the Minister has said about the dangers of passive smoking—and given that smoking-related illnesses linked to worse outcomes from Covid-19 include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, stroke and other heart conditions—is it not proportionate to want to build on the success during lockdown by restricting smoking in public areas in this way, especially as it applies only to these newly permitted outdoor spaces, as my noble friend pointed out?
As fewer people are smoking after lockdown, is it not right to do everything to attract non-smokers back to the outdoor spaces of our hard-pressed pubs, bars and restaurants by providing a smoke-free environment? We are not yet seeing customers return in great numbers—that much is clear from restaurant owners quoted over the weekend. Would this assurance not be of huge benefit in luring them back?
The Government’s amendments are welcome so far as they go, but they are very much half a loaf. I remember only too well that Forest was the principal opponent obstructing my tobacco advertising and sponsorship Bill, and I am sorry that it has been given any credence by this Government.
Amendment 11, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, is also disappointing. It is very disappointing that Labour is not supporting this cross-party amendment, especially when the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, quotes the research from UCL and ASH, and the latter is supporting Amendment 15.
I am not going to rub salt in the wound by reminding her why I had to introduce the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill in the first place in 2001. I hope, therefore, that the Government will go the whole way and ensure that the adoption of Amendment 15 will be an important staging post towards a smoke-free Britain.
My Lords, despite his eloquence, I am afraid that I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, since I am opposed to Amendment 15.
The Government have repeatedly underlined the point that this is emergency and temporary legislation. It should not be used as a Trojan horse to ban smoking outdoors for the anti-smoking fanatics. Even the Labour Party’s amendment is not as extreme as that and does permit for some consultation. Initially, I did not understand the ambivalence but, as my noble friend Lord Balfe reminded us in the first group of amendments, it is just indulging in rhetoric. Labour says it cannot support the government amendment, but it seems it will not vote against it. It says that they are holding the Government to account and pressing them hard, but it is not voting against it. This is the sort of irresolute, sitting-on-the-fence opposition I would have loved as a former Whip.
At the moment, smokers use outside tables—perfectly correctly, since they are banned from being inside. There is no danger whatever from passive smoking outside. Those who confess to being worried about the public health impacts of smoke inhalation should ban toxic diesel buses, which are far more dangerous than someone having a fag at a pavement table. There are legitimate arguments for and against smoking outside but, if extremists and ASH want to bring forward a ban on smoking outdoors, there must be proper consultation, proper debate and subsequent legislation—not this sneaky back-door attempt.
My Lords, I mean what I say when I say that it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. He always speaks in primary colours, so we know exactly what he means. But on this occasion, I am afraid that he and I are, not for the first time, going to disagree with convivial cordiality.
I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who has made a considerable effort to come towards those of us who support Amendment 15. I am afraid that I am always suspicious of clauses in statutes—especially for temporary legislation—which are peppered with the word “reasonable”. There are so many “reasonable”s in these amendments that it gives a clue to what is in reality a key to confusion. I believe that Amendment 15, moved so clearly by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and supported by those who signed the amendment with her, does not commit any terrible act which would put any economic interest—including that of the tobacco industry—at any real disadvantage. We need to bear in mind that it applies not to existing open-air spaces outside pubs and restaurants, because they are not newly licensed premises under the Bill, but to licensed sites.
Why is it so important? We are dealing with a double problem: not merely health damage caused by the exhalation of tobacco smoke but the real danger of the exhalation of coronavirus with that tobacco smoke, if the people smoking are suffering from coronavirus or have the necessary symptoms. The draft guidance makes it clear that many of the licensed venues will effectively be largely enclosed and partly covered—[Inaudible].
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of paragraph 1.5 of the draft guidance, which refers to
“umbrellas, barriers, heaters and other articles used in connection with the outdoor consumption of food or drink. … The furniture is required to be removable.”
[Inaudible]. Provisions in the draft guidance make it doubly clear that these are really going to be like cricket pavilions with their doors open.
Please forgive me if I read one sentence from paragraph 4.3, which states:
“Where a local authority sets a local condition that covers the same matter as set out in national published conditions, then the locally set condition would take precedence over the national condition where there is reasonable justification to do so.”
I submit that that kind of sentence pays lip service to reality. It is just discursion. I understand each of the words, but not the meaning of the lengthy sentence in which they appear.
So I suggest that the Bill as it stands is a field day for confusion, while Amendment 15 introduces clarity and simplicity without any equivocation whatever. The Bill, as it stands, would make life very difficult for many licensees, who would have to enforce something that is vague and covered with words such as “reasonable”. The only sensible and simple solution, which would do no harm to anyone, and a great deal of good to many, is to support Amendment 15.
My Lords, I strongly support Amendment 15 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and other noble Lords. I listened intently to the debate in Committee, and it is important for this amendment to be considered, because of the impact it could have on some disabled people.
Other noble Lords have talked about the impact of smoking, and this is more of a personal plea than I would normally allow myself in your Lordships’ Chamber. I have never smoked, but secondary smoking has a significant impact on me and some other disabled people. People who hold tobacco products, whether they are walking or sitting, often hold them at my head height, so, in normal times, I spend a considerable amount of time identifying who is smoking and working out how to avoid them. Though it has not been deliberately done, I have had cigarettes waved in my face, I have been burned by lit cigarettes and I have had ash flicked in my face. The amount of smoke I inhale may be considered negligible but, in my view, if I can smell the smoke, I am inhaling it. And, although it might be considered a better option, I am not a fan of the secondary inhalation of e-cigarettes, either.
The reality is that often, non-disabled people do not look for or see disabled people, and this is where the problem arises. As I have tried to explain with other amendments, it is not always easy for disabled people to move out of the way, and that is in normal times; we are not in normal times. With different street furniture, and smokers in different places, it might be really difficult for disabled people to avoid those smokers. There may be people with a visual impairment who are not aware of the new arrangements and may come far closer to those smokers than they would wish, and not be able to move out of the way terribly quickly.
As this Bill is opening up establishments in a new way—people have not been sitting outside in this way before—it makes it really difficult for disabled people. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, very articulately explained the need to think about those who might be using these new places. This is not about stopping smoking—arrangements are already in place for smokers, which they should carry on using—but about ensuring that places are smoke-free.
I like the suggestion from the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, that we must continue to look for ways to encourage people to stop smoking in the future, but the reality is that that will take a long time to implement further. We need to be thinking about now. I am delighted that so many people have chosen to give up smoking, but we have to make sure that we do not in any way encourage them to go back—which can be very easy when alcohol is involved. We should be thinking of non-smokers, who are in the majority.
In conclusion, it is very important that we consider how to protect people and that we think about smoke-free zones in these new spaces. I will support the amendment if the House divides on it.
My Lords, I understand the need to follow the exhortation of the Chief Whip to be as brief as possible in today’s debate, and I will try to do my bit in that regard by speaking very briefly.
I can see the need for a speedy passage of the Bill in order that businesses, and, most importantly, the hospitality and retail sector can attempt to salvage whatever they can from this health and economic catastrophe. I also see the importance and understand the aims of Amendment 15, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. It is entirely sensible, particularly in the light of what I have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and others in this debate. I have absolutely no issue with their aims.
However, although I agree with all their motives, in my view the noble Baroness’s measures should be complemented by a more considerate and deliberative conversation about public health messages on addictive behaviour, given that the single biggest long-term public health crisis in this country is obesity and people who are overweight. This conversation needs to be part of a wider strategy on healthy living and education. Having now seen the Government’s amendment, which seems to be a sensible compromise, I will support that today.
My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 15, so well moved by my noble friend Lady Northover and well spoken to by others. If in recent years you have visited one of the ever-decreasing number of countries where smoking in public places is not banned, I think you will have appreciated how awful it is. The difference from the experience in our country is dramatic, particularly if you are a non-smoker. To have second-hand tobacco smoke wafting about your food and drink is both unpleasant and nauseous, and inhaling second-hand smoke injures your health.
The distaste about stepping back more than a decade is not just because we have made the change in this country; it is because it is very much an experience to which we do not want to return. With so many of us now being non-smokers and having had the smoke-free experience for so long, we take it for granted that tobacco smoke will not be around our food and families as we eat.
I am pleased that the Government have gone some way to recognise that in their amendments, but I do not think that they have gone far enough. The arrangements for this Bill are partial and temporary, and for England only. Noble Lords will be aware that the ban on smoking in public places began earlier in Wales than in England. I am pleased that Wales was a pathfinder then, and it now looks like it will be so again. The Labour Health Minister in Wales has just announced that he will bring forward legislation to prohibit smoking in the spaces outside pubs and restaurants and that the ban will be permanent. I hope that his party colleagues in your Lordships’ House are listening to that.
Of course, that legislation is moving with the non-smoking times. As more and more people give up tobacco smoking and public health improves, so the introduction of smoke-free areas around places such as those proposed by the Labour Minister, along with children’s play areas and the precincts of schools and hospitals, is a logical step. As the smoking minority of our population has got smaller, smokers have become more and more used to moving away from others in public places, and this amendment proposes a logical next step. There is no evidence that it will diminish the number of people who go to pubs and restaurants. In fact, the opposite might occur and people might be encouraged to attend because they know that smoke will not be wafting around them.
I have one question for the Government on their proposal. Your Lordships are of course familiar with our own arrangements for separating smokers and non-smokers on the Lords Terrace: a physical barrier is in place between the two areas. Can the Minister explain whether the legislation proposed by the Government requires a physical barrier to be put in place between the two sectors? Will it be a solid barrier through which smoke cannot pass and, if so, at what height? Smoke drifts and floats about, and without clear barriers it would pass between the tables of smokers and non-smokers alike. Without making it clear that that issue will be dealt with, this problem will not be eradicated. So it is obvious to me that Amendment 15 is the way to go in order to get clarity on this issue.
My Lords, I am surprised that we are even having this debate. Pubs are closing every week. No one seems to realise that one reason for that is that they are in many ways not very pleasant places to be in. I can say without any doubt whatever that my wife and I would not go near a pub that permitted smoking. It is as simple as that. If you want to get rid of your middle-class clientele and close your restaurants, start allowing smoking. It is not just acceptable in a place where you go to dine.
The government amendments include a “smoke-free seating condition” so that any premises that provide outdoor seating for smoking will also
“make reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted.”
We have been down this route before. I have flown around the world for 50 years. We used to have smoking and non-smoking sections on aeroplanes and it did not work. That is why planes are all non-smoking today. We used to have ashtrays in hotel rooms and there was an overhang of smoke if a smoker had been in there. Then hotels started to introduce smoke-free floors and found that they were so popular that they started to ban smoking, before it was banned anyway because it had started a lot of fires. Hospitals used to have seating areas where patients could go outside for a smoke. That was stopped because it was recognised that the ambient smoky atmosphere was bad for the people who did not smoke.
I hear time and again that this is a temporary provision, just like income tax, that will be brought in and disappear after a year. I do not believe that. I think that some of these provisions will be permanent. The noble Lord, Lord German, mentioned Wales. There will be a tendency to say, “This system works. We’ll carry on with it for another year and maybe another year after that”. So I really do not see it as working. I welcome where the Government have got to, but I do not think that they have gone far enough. I am pretty neutral on the thing because I will not in any case go near a pub or restaurant that has smoking, but I urge the Government to go some way further, to grasp this particular bull by the horns and say, “We’re not having smoking in places that serve drink or food”.
My Lords, I very much welcome the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. I stress its cross-party nature and the support that it has from all around the House. Even this late stage, I ask the Minister to take this back and consider it further between Report and Third Reading. I was very proud of the actions of the Labour Government which led to the banning of smoking in public places. I worked with my noble friend Lord Faulkner and other noble Lords across the House in getting through the Lords the amendment that banned smoking in cars when children are present; we have a great history of working together in relation to measures against smoking. I do not see why, even at this late stage, we cannot do this again. With Covid-19, we know that many of the worst-affected have been those with cardiovascular or lung disease. Equally, Covid-19 has had a powerful impact on people taking up exercise programmes, fighting obesity and giving up smoking as a result; some 1 million people have done this during lockdown and there could be more.
This amendment, in whatever guise, could be helpful to many people. Far from having an adverse impact on business, smoke-free areas would be welcomed by most customers and would therefore bring in more trade; the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, surely had his finger right on the pulse in that. The measure is proportionate; the regime will apply only to licences on highways so not to pub, café or restaurant garden areas or pavement seating, where smoking is allowed. It also has support from local government. In addition, we need to think about the workers. The noble Lord, Lord Young, reminded us in Committee of the health risks to employees of passive smoking. Given the risks that those staff already carry, a duty of care is surely owed to them in respect of the risk from passive smoking.
My noble friend Lady Wilcox made a powerful speech, arguing that the decision should be left to the discretion of local authorities. I welcome the progress that my Front Bench has made on this. She also pointed to some technical deficiencies with the Bill. We have a way of clearing up technical deficiencies: either through a government amendment at Third Reading or, if the Government agree, by holding this over until a discussion can take place between all of us before we reach Third Reading. I hope that, even at this late stage, we can attempt to reach some form of consensus; I urge everybody concerned to do all they can to do so.
My Lords, possibly the most surprising thing about Amendment 15 as drafted is that the signatories are predominantly Liberal Democrats; it is not a particularly libertarian policy that they have come up with. Also, it seeks to unravel the compromise reached when the smoking ban was introduced. What I regret most about Amendment 15 is that it does not recognise the heavy investment that pubs, bars and restaurants have made in the outdoor facilities that they hope to open more of. For that reason, I regret that I shall be unable to support Amendment 15.
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Howe, who, through my chairmanship of PASS, I know has spent a great deal of time with the hospitality industry; obviously, I have had dealings with the hospitality industry as well. It is keen to recognise—and I welcome—the compromise offered by the government Amendment 13: there will be a smoke-free seating element. Had Amendment 15 not been tabled, perhaps we would not have got to the position we are now in. I note that a number of noble Lords have expressed the wish that the Government should go further, but the beauty of Amendment 13 is that it has regard to the heavy challenges currently facing the hospitality and leisure sectors during the ongoing Covid crisis and the way they are seeking to reopen. I very much welcome the work that has gone into Amendment 13; I will be delighted to support it if we have to later this evening.
My Lords, earlier today, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, congratulated the million people who have given up smoking during the lockdown, permanently we hope, to protect their health. Sadly, the government amendments today fail to do enough to protect them and others, including staff and families with children, from the dangers of second-hand smoke, which does not respect social distancing rules. We do not want non-smokers to be encouraged to return to habits they have struggled to give up. The connection between the consumption of alcohol and the smell of tobacco smoke is well known as a significant problem for people trying to give up smoking. The cross-party Amendment 15 is about minimising that problem by making newly created pavement areas smoke-free.
As is to be expected, tobacco company representations on this issue are disingenuous and, sadly, their views are too close to what is set out in the government amendments this afternoon. Today’s letter from the noble Lord, Earl Howe, to Members of the House repeats a fallacy about the cross-party amendment. It wrongly suggests that, in the event of making new areas non-smoking, there would be confusion with existing outside areas which would not be subject to the new rules. There need be no such confusion. Existing outdoor areas will maintain their current designation and provision for smokers, while newly created areas should be clearly signposted as being smoke-free, with something placed on the tables instead of ashtrays. The distinction should be very clear.
The cross-party Amendment 15 is not about banning smoking outdoors. As the Minister’s letter says, existing outside areas would not be subject to the new rules and nor would other open spaces. The proposal for new areas outside pubs and restaurants to be smoke-free is in line with the present provisions banning smoking in areas such as railway station concourses, which often have many different cafés and restaurants within them. Making new outdoor seating areas smoke-free will make them more attractive to the 86% of adults who do not smoke, especially families who do not want their children exposed to greater risk of second-hand smoke. The avoidance of smoking will make these places more attractive to potential customers, which is why local authorities support Amendment 15.
Finally, this amendment does not go nearly as far as the Welsh Government are going. With Labour support today, this amendment will be carried. Perhaps the Government will agree to think again before Third Reading.
My Lords, it is good to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, and to hear of the progress that has been made with so many people giving up smoking during lockdown. I rise, however, simply to lend my voice to those who applaud the care being taken in this difficult area by my noble friend the Deputy Leader. I could not support Amendment 15—or the introduction, in emergency legislation, of what amounts to a new smoking ban. This would be a real slap in the face to the hospitality sector, which is already on its knees. The measure could also displace customers into other trading areas, blocking access and achieving the near opposite of what is desired. The government amendment, which I support, requires proper provision for non-smoking seating. This will allow customers to sit outside whether they want to smoke or not and aid the observance of social distancing. We should not delay the Bill by trying to work the issue further. The government compromise should be agreed to forthwith.
My Lords, leaving aside what colleagues have said about their support or non-support for particular amendments, the right policy here is very clear. In fact, it has been supported by 15 of the 17 noble Lords who have spoken before me in the debate.
That policy is this: licensed outdoor premises, where they replace indoor premises where smoking is currently not allowed, should not be licensed for smoking. As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley—a former Health Secretary—said, anything less than this is a retrograde step. This is emphatically not a new smoking ban, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, just suggested. It is the replacement of indoor premises by outdoor premises, and those indoor premises do not currently allow smoking.
I applaud everyone who has helped get us to the halfway stage: my noble friends on the Front Bench who have done an excellent job in negotiations with the Government; the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, who first raised this matter at Second Reading; and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, whom we hold in very high regard, and whom I know has worked hard to get to a compromise position.
The compromise is a compromise. The House needs to address this question: on an issue as fundamental as this, to the public health of England and to people’s ability to enjoy and access licensed premises, should we settle for a compromise or should we move to the right policy which—as I have said—almost everyone who has spoken in this debate supports? This policy would simply replace the existing prohibition on smoking indoors in licensed premises with a prohibition on smoking outdoors, in respect of those licenses. Contrary to what the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, said, this would not affect existing outdoor smoking facilities.
I have listened carefully to this debate, and to representations which have been made to some of us outside of it. I cannot see a single good argument for not agreeing with this amendment. I applaud the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, on bringing it forward and pushing it so strongly. Without people like her, we never make progress on these fundamental issues of public health and civil liberties. I will simply end with the great injunction of David Lloyd George: “When traversing a chasm, it is advisable to do so in one leap”.
My Lords, we need the hospitality sector to be active and to start doing business, both for its benefit and for the good of the country and members of the public. People have been frustrated over the last few months due to the lockdown. Some of them suffer from anxiety problems, and it is important for them to go out and mingle with their friends and relatives. Therefore, we must cater for people who smoke, as well as those who do not, when they go out.
We must bear in mind that over 85% of the British population are non-smokers, and they are concerned about being subjected to passive smoking when they go to a pub, restaurant or café. We all appreciate that if any person smokes it causes harm, not only to himself but to others around him who inhale second-hand smoke.
Persons who have been confined indoors over the last few months are now able to go out, and they feel happier when they are sitting in the open, rather than inside the premises. I was recently at a private club, where nearly all the customers were sitting outside on the terrace. In fact, the group next to me were smoking, but there was adequate distance between the two tables and I was happy with the situation.
In Committee, I supported an amendment disallowing smoking outside the relevant premises. In fact, the Government are unwilling to ban smoking altogether, and I support Amendments 13 and 14 as I feel it is an adequate compromise. These amendments will allow both smokers and non-smokers to go out with some degree of safety, as there will be areas for both groups.
I follow the logic of the Government, as they do not wish to ban smoking outside generally. By banning smoking outside a restaurant, pub or café, it could be deemed that we are banning smoking altogether. I feel that the Government have listened and introduced Amendments 13 and 14. Having said this, I hope that we will achieve a smoke-free England by 2030.
With regard to the situation at present, there needs to be appropriate distance between smokers and non-smokers, which will prevent the danger of passive smoking affecting non-smokers. In addition to supporting Amendments 13 and 14, I am happy to support Amendment 25, as we ought to clearly define what smoking is all about and avoid ambiguity.
My Lords, I support Amendment 15 very strongly. I do not understand why on earth the Government are being so weak on this. They should accept that this is the way in which society is moving. Furthermore, why is Labour letting them? I have huge respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, and I could not understand the rationale for Labour accepting the government amendments. The smell from e-cigarettes does not go very well with food either, so why on earth should we not ban those when we are trying to enjoy our food?
As we heard, thousands die from the complications of smoking. My mother, a lifelong smoker, did exactly that. It was decades ago, but I still miss her; she had an early death because of smoking. The damage from smoking was not clearly understood then—we understand it now, and we really should be doing something about it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, spoke extremely well. I thought that she expressed her concerns and it was a brilliant speech; I was delighted that I agreed with her. I often agree, surprisingly, with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and I often support her amendments. She says that this is not very libertarian, so I ask: what about my liberty to breathe clean air? Road traffic and road safety campaigners that I meet come up against this all the time. We want the liberty to breathe clean air, and smoking does not allow that. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support Amendment 15 and I very much hope that it will go to a vote.
My Lords, we have heard, as we did in Committee, powerful arguments about taking this opportunity to exclude smoking from new pavement licensed areas. The case for ensuring that those of us who do not wish to inhale second-hand smoke are not excluded from that enjoyment is well made.
The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Northover is a vital step in making our country smoke-free. It had strong and detailed arguments in support of it from the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Grey-Thompson, the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Balfe, and many other noble Lords.
However, Amendment 11, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, lacks clarity for businesses and shies away from the paramount public health concern. It is a cop-out. When an argument relies on pointing to the drafting issues of a stronger amendment, as hers did, you know that it is very weak.
We have heard that the overwhelming majority of people do not smoke: a mere 14% do. Protecting the interests of a minority does not extend to a situation where, by doing so, harm is created for the majority, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has just explained. Smoking kills and second-hand smoking kills. Surely the Government should take every opportunity to restrict it.
The choice is clear: do we use this opportunity to keep the health needs of customers paramount or not? The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, is supported by the Local Government Association. I hope the Minister will provide a full response to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, to have further consideration on Amendment 15 prior to Third Reading, so that progress on this issue can be made.
Other amendments on this matter fudge these vital health concerns, and we on these Benches wholeheartedly support the cross-party amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Northover.
My Lords, we would do well to remember that the pavement licensing clauses in the Bill provide vital temporary flexibility to aid the recovery of hospitality businesses over the summer months, and that we need to proceed quickly to achieve that. Noble Lords have voiced some concerns and requested clarity in relation to the position on outdoor smoking under these temporary fast-track licences. I am not going to go into the respective roles of the hard cop and the soft cop in achieving the Government’s amendments, as my noble friend Lord Young put it. However, in recognition of the mood across the House the Government have tabled Amendments 13, 14 and 25 to provide the clarity that local authorities, businesses and customers need.
It is important to recognise that we are winning the battle against smoking: Great Britain has one of the lowest rates of smoking in Europe, at 13.9% of adults. Fewer than one in six adults smoke today and, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, over 1 million people have given up during the lockdown, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bethell earlier today.
This Government have taken great strides in reducing the harms caused by smoking. We committed to doing so in the prevention Green Paper. We will publish the prevention guidance response in due course and set out our plans to achieve a smoke-free England by 2030 at a later date. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, supports that mission. I emphasise to her that there has been no stop in providing smoking cessation support. The Government continue to provide those programmes of work, which address smoking harms nationally and are delivered locally through the tobacco control plan for England and the NHS long-term plan’s commitment to provide smoking cessation support in hospital settings.
In the debate noble Lords expressed their support for the temporary, urgent and necessary reforms brought forward in the Bill to support the businesses hardest hit by this pandemic—our pubs, cafés and restaurants—and to protect jobs in those sectors. We recognise that the Covid restrictions mean that customers are encouraged or required to eat and drink outside, and that clarity is critical as we support businesses to recover. That is why the Government have tabled an amendment requiring proper provision for non-smoking seating via a smoke-free seating condition. This amendment does not prevent the portion of businesses which wish to cater for smokers from doing so. It requires proper provision for non-smoking seating. This means that customers who want to choose to sit in smoking or non-smoking al fresco dining areas will be able to do so.
The Government’s position means that all businesses eligible for pavement licences can share the benefits of this new fast-track licence, while ensuring provision for non-smoking seating. Of course, businesses can already make their own non-smoking policies for outside spaces to reflect customer wishes without the need for regulations, and the Government support that. I say to my noble friend Lord Balfe that a blanket ban can be imposed by businesses themselves. Our guidance will further reinforce this point, making it clear that the licence holder has to make reasonable provision for seating free of smoking.
The guidance is available on the GOV.UK website and was circulated to noble Lords and noble Baronesses before this debate. It includes clear no-smoking signage, displayed in accordance with the Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations 2012. No ashtrays or similar receptacles are to be provided or left on furniture where smoke-free seating is identified. Licence holders should aim for a minimum two-metre distance between non-smoking and smoking areas, wherever possible. That is the framework, so I do not see the confusion raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.
It is also worth reiterating that businesses must continue to have regard to smoke-free legislation under the Health Act 2006, and the subsequent Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006. This is restated in our guidance, as it is absolutely right to stress it, and the Government are committed to working towards a smoke-free society by 2030, as I have said.
Now is not the time to prevent businesses catering to their customers, or to use a temporary provision on pavement licences to ban smoking outdoors. Now is the time to support our hospitality industry and ensure that all businesses eligible for pavement licences can share the benefits of this new fast-track licence. This point was made by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, is to withdraw her Amendment 11 and I thank her for her support for our amendment, which seeks to achieve what she set out in her amendment.
However, I fear that Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, is not the way to proceed and would be unfair to businesses. While undoubtedly not its intention, it would create confusion. The effect is to create an unfair playing field between businesses applying for these new licences, which need to abide by the condition, and those with existing licences, which do not. This point was made by several of my colleagues. Her amendment also cuts across the ability of business owners to make their own non-smoking policies for outside space, without the need for regulations. Of course, there are cases where the regulations are already clear. The existing power, set out in the Health Act 2006 and subsequent Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006, made it illegal to smoke in public in enclosed, or substantially enclosed, areas and workplaces. The Bill changes none of this.
On the other hand, the Government’s amendment has the proportionate approach advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. He said that we needed proportionality and this is what we deliver with this amendment. It rightly requires proper, fair provision for non-smoking seating, while not undermining business owners whose customers include smokers. It supports our hospitality sector in continuing to operate, while following the Covid restrictions necessary to protect public health. I thank my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lord Sheikh, Lady McIntosh, Lord Lansley and Lord Young for supporting the government amendment, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner. I therefore urge noble Lords to support government Amendments 13, 14 and 25, which will ensure that consumer choice remains. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, has already indicated that she will withdraw her Amendment 11, but I ask that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, does not move her Amendment 15 when called.
On a couple of points of clarification, the guidance being issued is joint guidance from the MHCLG and DHSC. It will not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. In response to the noble Lord, Lord German, there will be no physical barrier between non-smokers and smoking areas but a two-metre gap. I hope that answers the questions raised in the debate.
Unfortunately, Lady Wilcox, we cannot hear you. Can we try again?
Deputy Speaker, can you hear me now, please?
Yes, carry on.
Thank you. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for the many important and apposite points raised. The Government could have gone further in the development of their amendment, as I noted, and thus we tabled our own amendment. I may be one of the most recent Members of your Lordships’ House but I believe it is one of the prerequisites of our work to make those changes. For the record, the Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, made a manifesto commitment before the introduction of legislation that will follow, under normal process, regarding Wales’s public spaces and smoking in the next Senedd term. We will keep these matters under review and, no doubt, return to the issue within longer-term legislation in the future. I therefore now beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.
Amendment 11 withdrawn.
Amendment 12 not moved.
Amendments 13 and 14
13: Clause 5, page 5, line 3, after “no-obstruction condition” insert “or a smoke-free seating condition”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment makes provision for a “smoke-free seating” condition.
14: Clause 5, page 5, line 6, after subsection (5) insert—
“(5A) A “smoke-free seating condition” is a condition that, where the furniture to be put on the relevant highway consists of seating for use by persons for the purpose of consuming food or drink, the licence-holder must make reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted. (5B) In considering for any purposes of this group of sections whether a licence-holder has made reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted, a local authority must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment relates to the first amendment to Clause 5 and defines the “smoke-free seating condition”.
Amendments 13 and 14 agreed.
15: Clause 5, page 5, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) Pavement licences may only be granted by a local authority subject to the condition that smoking is prohibited.”
I thank the Minister for his response to the amendment. I remind the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that the noble Lord, Lord Young, sits on her Benches, that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, sits on the Labour Benches, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, sits on the Cross Benches—this was a cross-party amendment. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and their overwhelming support. I am glad that the Government have taken on board the issue of smoking, which we raised at Second Reading and in Committee. I realise that it was late in the day to put something effective in place at this stage, despite the Government’s apparent commitment to England being smoke-free by 2030. I note that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has chosen not to move his amendments in person, even though he is here in the Chamber.
This amendment was about public health, and about encouraging people back to pubs and restaurants. I said that this issue was in Labour’s hands, and it is an open goal. It is utterly specious to say that this amendment is flawed. If it were to go through, the Government’s lawyers would help to iron out any deficiencies if they existed, as is absolutely usual. I am disappointed that Labour chose to put down their own, much weaker, amendment. I thank the numerous supporters on the Labour Benches, who have told me of their own disappointment about their party’s position today, which means that we cannot secure the cross-party amendment which would have been clear, simple and the right thing to do. Once a further 30 Peers are introduced, it may become even more difficult.
I am more than ready to work with others across the House, and with the Government, on making sure that their regulations are clear, simple, and encourage people back, making a clear situation for both proprietors and local authorities. But as we cannot win without Labour support, and as the Labour Front Bench has made its position clear, I will not put my co-signatories in a difficult position. This is, after all, a cross-party amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
I inform the House that if Amendment 16 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 17 and 18 by virtue of pre-emption.
16: Clause 5, page 5, line 7, leave out subsections (6) to (8) and insert—
“(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations—(a) specify conditions for pavement licences, and(b) make provision as to whether, or the extent to which, those conditions have effect in addition to, or instead of, any other conditions to which pavement licences are subject.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment replaces the power to publish national conditions with a power to make provision about national conditions by regulations.
Amendment 16 agreed.
Amendments 17 and 18 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 19. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once, and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in the group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.
19: Clause 5, page 5, line 7, at end insert—
“(6A) Any conditions published under subsection (6) are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 19, I will also speak to my other amendments in this group. Since there is much agreement, and also duplication, I will try to be brief.
These amendments are drafted pursuant to the 17th DPRRC report. I thank the committee for its hard work on this Bill, and on the emergency Bills on which it has had to work in recent weeks. The timescales are very difficult, and the pressure to deliver is also very high, but it has been able to do that with considerable skill, and we are very grateful.
The DPRRC recommendations set up, in essence, a dialogue between the Government and the committee. However, in a spirit of co-operation and because of the short timescales of the emergency legislation, we often put down the recommendations of the committee as amendments as a way of encouraging the Government to act. In Committee, we had a series of notifications that the Government were preparing to accept the DPRRC recommendations. However, on this occasion, it also produced an interesting outcome. For your Lordships’ information, the wording of our amendments has been strongly influenced by the helpful advice we received from the Public Bill Office, although they are our responsibility and tabled in my name. But it is interesting that on several occasions, recommendations made by the DPRRC in the report have resulted in different wordings in the amendments that have been tabled by the Government and by ourselves. When the noble Earl comes to reply, he may be able to shed light on the Government's thinking and explain some of the differences in approach, and I think that would be helpful. Amendment 78 in the name of the noble Earl says:
“If the Secretary of State considers it reasonable to do so to mitigate an effect of coronavirus.”
But our version in Amendment 79, which we hope will achieve the same result, says
“but regulations may only be made under this subsection where the Secretary of State considers it necessary or appropriate for a purpose linked to the coronavirus pandemic.”
I am not saying that we have a monopoly on the correct drafting, but I think it interesting that we have come to different conclusions about what might be considered the same issue.
I am left with a slight concern that we may have exposed a gap in our procedures that is exacerbated by the nature of these pieces of legislation. I hope that in calmer times, the DPRRC and the House might find an opportunity to reflect on this, and that our other committees, such as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Constitution Committee, might do likewise.
When he comes to respond, it would be for the benefit of the House if the noble Earl highlighted any areas where the Government have decided not to follow the advice of the DPRRC, in whole or in part. I beg to move.
I only really need to say one thing. I am concerned that some of these clauses might turn into permanent legislation—I am aware that there is a tendency for what is temporary to become permanent. Can I have the Minister’s assurance that it is not intended to extend any of these clauses beyond what is absolutely necessary to deal with this emergency?
My Lords, I share the fear expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, and by many others during the brief passage of this urgent legislation. We must be mindful that it is on the whole about temporary and not permanent measures, and that we have clearly identified where the temporary should apply. I will not overegg the difference between Amendments 78 and 79, which has been rightly highlighted by my noble friend Lord Stevenson, especially as the Government Chief Whip has reminded us to confine ourselves to getting this Bill through to Royal Assent without keeping people up until midnight. Enough has been said.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, who I think has done a service to the House and indeed the country. It was interesting to hear what he said about advice from the Public Bill Office. However, Amendment 27, which is the one that took my eye, is precautionary and by definition refers to the coronavirus pandemic and, therefore, one hopes it is time-limited. I thank him for raising this absolutely crucial issue and yet giving the Government the facility to act as they feel appropriate.
I would not normally intervene on a Bill when I had not taken part in its earlier stages, but noble Lords will know that my earlier absence was because of the illness and death of my wife, who contributed so much to this House and had friends in all parts of it.
I speak as a member of the Constitution Committee to underline its concerns about fast-track legislation and, to some extent, the way they have been dealt with as the Government have brought forward the amendments in this group. Fast-tracking tends to limit parliamentary scrutiny and discourage necessary amendment of Bills. It also tends to increase confusion about what is the law, what is guidance, what is advice and what is merely a proposal. During the whole of the coronavirus epidemic, this has been a besetting failure, leaving those who have to enforce the law uncertain as to what it is and is not. Fast-track legislation should not be drafted widely, loosely and without clarity.
These government amendments appropriately limit the worrying power to extend the time limits on what is supposed to be temporary legislation dealing with an emergency—admittedly one whose duration none of us can be certain about. Had we passed the Bill in its original form, we would be enacting sunset clauses in a land where the sun never sets—as people used to say about the British Empire—because they can be extended for no purpose connected to the coronavirus. This might have been challenged in the courts, but it would have been a long and complicated case.
The new drafting makes Parliament’s intention in allowing these powers of extension clear: it is to allow them only to the extent necessary to deal with the effects of the coronavirus. I note that the wording deals with the effects and not merely the virus itself; we are clearly talking about the economic consequences as well. I welcome the fact that the Government have brought these amendments forward, and they significantly improve the Bill.
I am most grateful. It is a pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Beith, back in his place, and we mourn his loss. I recognise the contribution that his late wife, the noble Baroness, made to this House; she will be greatly missed.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and my noble friends have done a great service to the House with this group of amendments, which can only improve our understanding of the temporary nature of the legislation before us today. I do not wish to add anything further at this stage.
My Lords, I associate myself with what my noble friend Lady McIntosh said about the noble Lord, Lord Beith, and his late wife. I have nothing to say on this amendment and am delighted with the amendments the Government have brought forward. I also associate myself with the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Beith.
My Lords, I take this opportunity to say something positive about the Government because it is positive that the Minister has tabled amendments that tighten up the secondary legislation powers in the Bill. The Government routinely ask Parliament to grant excessively broad powers so that they can go off and make up their own laws. It would save a lot of time if they were to exercise self-restraint in writing Bills because, if they thought something like, “Let’s draft it as narrowly as possible without undermining the purpose of the Bill”, I think we would have fewer fights in your Lordships’ Chamber.
The amendments brought by the Government today will head off many of the potential problems raised in Committee and show how parliamentary scrutiny can bring the Government to the right place in the end.
My Lords, I refer to government Amendments 58, 65, 78 and 81, as well as to other amendments related to them. This takes me back to law school and the two greatest challenges I encountered there. The first was in the field of equity. We had a phrase in the legal profession: “Equity varies with the length of the Chancellor’s foot.” Yet it was—and still is—a vital and valuable area in which fairness can be administered in the application of the law in England and Wales.
The second element was the word “reasonable”. I spent much time then, as I have again now, rereading some of the judgments, particularly those of a lawyer I greatly respect—the late Lord Denning—who talked about reasonableness and the interpretation of “reasonable”. It is a minefield, particularly in an area of legislation such as this. I think the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was so right in what he said a little while ago in this debate: dealing with the word “reasonable” in terms of the Minister’s powers to extend the provisions opens up a challenge—which I hope will not happen because in general this legislation is not only necessary but, in the main, well drawn.
I recognise the activities of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in what it said. It supported—as shown by the letter we received from my noble friend Lord Howe earlier today—the wording of the various government amendments here, with the word “reasonable” used in terms of ministerial activity. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Beith, said, the Constitution Committee came out quite clearly with wording not dissimilar to that used by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. The advantage of that wording is simply this: talking of necessity, and introducing necessity and appropriateness into a decision taken by a Minister who wishes to extend, makes the legislation less vulnerable to challenge.
I hope that, even at this late stage, my noble friend the Minister will consider looking at those words, which again came from the Public Bill Office as well as from our Constitution Committee, and making those changes to give the Bill a real prospect of being unchallenged—either in its temporary form or in any extended form that might be regarded as necessary and desirable.
My Lords, thanks to the work of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, a number of very important amendments have been tabled by the Government that limit the extent of the powers in the Bill, with exceptions for a need consequent on a further outbreak of the coronavirus. Although there are disputes over the wording—the exact precise wording, as we have heard from a number of speakers—in general the amendments are supported on these Benches.
Of course, we all greatly miss our friend Baroness Maddock and record our commiserations to my noble friend Lord Beith.
My Lords, I begin by speaking to the government amendments in my name—Amendments 26, 28, 47, 49, 58, 60, 65, 67, 73, 75, 78, 80, 81 and 83—which are grouped with Amendment 19 and the others in this group tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for tabling his Amendments 19, 22, 57, 63 and 71, which would require any statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State in relation to pavement licences, extended planning permissions, construction hours or electronic inspection of the Mayor of London’s spatial development strategy to be subject to negative parliamentary procedures. As he indicated, these amendments reflect recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of your Lordships’ House in its report on the Bill. I welcome the opportunity to discuss them.
The committee’s views are always important, and we have responded positively elsewhere in the Bill to its recommendations, as I shall explain in a moment. However, in relation to this matter, I am afraid we cannot accept its recommendations or, by extension, these amendments. This reflects partly a general principle but also the practical realities. First, the statutory guidance under Clauses 5, 8, 16, 17, 18 and 21 is planning guidance. Guidance by the Secretary of State to local planning authorities has been a key feature of the planning system ever since its creation over 70 years ago—whether that guidance has been through circulars, planning policy guidance or, more recently, the National Planning Policy Framework and its associated practical guidance.
The issuing of this guidance, as a general principle, has never required statutory instruments. For instance, there is no parliamentary procedure requirement in relation to guidance to local planning authorities about the preparation and content of local plans, a key planning function under Section 34 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Similarly, and to give an example directly relevant to this Bill, our construction working hours provisions and the extension of planning permission provisions modify the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The various powers of the Secretary of State to issue guidance under that Act are not subject to parliamentary procedure. These documents will form part of the full suite of planning practice guidance and, in practice, it would be peculiar to have different parallel procedures for publication.
Our pavement licence clauses are linked to Part 7A of the Highways Act 1980. That Act contains four powers for the Secretary of State to issue guidance, none of which are subject to parliamentary procedure. Two of these powers were inserted by amending Acts in 2000 and 2015. The situation is similar for other statutory guidance required by this Bill. So, prescribing a parliamentary procedure for guidance in relation to the temporary planning measures in the Bill would be out of kilter with our well-established approach.
Furthermore, requiring guidance to be subject to parliamentary procedure does not reflect the practical realities of planning guidance. The draft guidance we have published is, like our other planning guidance, technical and practical and expressed in the form of questions and answers to help local planning authorities, and applicants, and has been formulated taking account of the view of sector specialists. For instance, the guidance on additional environmental approval for extending planning permissions has had input from the Environment Agency and Natural England. I hope that many noble Lords will have had the opportunity to review this guidance during the course of the Bill’s passage.
This guidance is designed to evolve over time in response to local planning authorities’ practical experience of these temporary measures. While we have obviously sought to ensure that guidance is as comprehensive as possible from the outset, we know that, in time, additional questions or clarifications may be required. We want to be able to make these updates in a flexible and timely way. We should not forget that local planning authorities are best placed to understand the specific needs, requirements and arrangements of their local areas. Providing helpful and up-to-date guidance is essential in allowing them to exercise their judgment on the ground. Requiring each change of guidance to be subject to the negative parliamentary procedure makes it more difficult in practice to make incremental changes to help them. I therefore regret that we cannot support these amendments, and I humbly beg the noble Lord, after reflecting on our arguments, to withdraw or not move them.
Turning to the other amendments in this group, I am pleased to say that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and I find ourselves in broad agreement. The Government’s Amendments 26, 28, 47, 49, 58, 60, 65, 67, 73, 75, 78, 80, 81 and 83 implement another of the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which the Government are pleased to accept. As noble Lords will be aware—I emphasise this to my noble friend Lord Balfe and the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett—the vast majority of the measures in the Bill are temporary. In several cases, clauses provide for expiry dates to be extended by regulations, subject to the affirmative or “made affirmative” procedure.
We thank the committee for its careful consideration of the Bill. Our amendments in this group would implement its recommendation to clarify that the provisions will only be extended for a purpose linked to the coronavirus pandemic. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beith, for his supportive comments on this issue. I join other noble Lords in extending my sympathy to him on the loss of his wife, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock.
The Government’s intention has always been for the powers to extend the temporary provisions to be used, if necessary, in response to emerging information about the duration of the pandemic, the nature of social distancing requirements and the impact of coronavirus on relevant sectors. We want to provide absolute clarity that the powers to extend will be exercised only where this is necessary and appropriate, and only to mitigate an effect of coronavirus. Therefore, these amendments make this clear on the face of the Bill. The wording we have used is consistent with other legislation. I also remind noble Lords that the requirement for any extensions to be by regulations, subject to the affirmative or “made affirmative” procedure, will provide opportunity for further parliamentary scrutiny.
I am sure that noble Lords will welcome this clarity, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, will agree to withdraw Amendment 19 and to not move Amendments 27, 48, 59, 66, 74, 79 and 82, which are intended to achieve the same purpose.
I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, not just for their widespread support but for their brevity. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for his kind words. I join other noble Lords in very much appreciating that the noble Lord, Lord Beith, has come in today to speak on this issue, and sympathise with him at this time of loss.
It was good to hear the noble Earl give a full response. He always couches his words to your Lordships’ House in such reasonable terms, packaged in a velvet of deepest hue, that it is sometimes easy to think that he is agreeing with you, when in fact he is not. In particular, I picked up his heavy points regarding the Government’s intention not to take up the recommendations from the DPRRC on statutory guidance to which regard must be had. The noble Earl gave very good examples, which had not occurred to me, but I have no reason to doubt that they are genuine. However, the DPRRC’s report is very firm on this issue:
“We have frequently taken the view that statutory guidance to which regard must be had … should be subject to a parliamentary procedure.”
It goes on to say that:
“This is not to say that the guidance should have to be drafted like a statutory instrument … The point is that guidance which has legal significance, and which may have—and may be expressly designed to have—a transformative effect on behaviour in important areas, requires a parliamentary procedure.”
There is clearly no chance that the House will resolve this important issue in this Bill, but I point out to the DPRRC that it has now been raised. It, and other committees, may wish to return to it in order that we resolve it going forward.
The House has given this issue a good kick about. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, for picking up exactly point I was trying to make about the importance of the choice of terminology. He focused on a different set of amendments, but this issue runs like a golden thread through all the Government’s proposals when compared to ours. These are important differences, but they are not necessarily going to hold the House back tonight. I hope, again, that the DPRRC will look at them in due course. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 19.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendment 20 not moved.
Clause 8: Guidance
21: Clause 8, page 7, line 3, at end insert—
“(2) Schedule 1 to the Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000/2853) (functions which are not to be the responsibility of an authority’s executive) has effect as if, in paragraph B, after item 72 there were inserted— “73 Functions relating to pavement licences Sections 1 to 7 of the Business and Planning Act 2020.””
“73 Functions relating to pavement licences
Sections 1 to 7 of the Business and Planning Act 2020.””
This amendment secures that, where a local authority has executive arrangements, functions relating to pavement licences are not the responsibility of the executive.
Amendment 21 agreed.
Amendments 22 to 24 not moved.
Clause 9: Interpretation