House of Lords
Monday 23 November 2020
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.
Arrangement of Business
The following Acts were given Royal Assent:
Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Act.
Arrangement of Business
Hate Crime: Misogyny
My Lords, any hate crime is completely unacceptable. The Government are committed to stamping them out. We have asked the Law Commission to conduct a wide-ranging review into hate crime to explore how to make current legislation more effective and whether additional protected characteristics should be added. It will report next year and we will respond to the review in full when it is complete.
The Home Office has the opportunity today to state clearly that unintended or apparent bullying is still bullying. A woman has been murdered every three days for the last 10 years, 62% of them by partners or former partners, yet there is no co-ordination among the authorities to build an accurate pattern of abuse. Making misogyny a hate crime will go some way to addressing this scandal in our society, but when, Minister, when?
The noble Baroness will know, because I have said it here before, that the Law Commission will report on its findings next year. She will also understand that equality of protection is a crucial element of ensuring public support for hate crime legislation.
My Lords, charities and campaign groups have raised concerns about closed online groups mobilising to incite hatred and violence against communities. The Government need to act now to protect ethnic, religious and LGBT+ communities living in fear. Will the Minister agree to provide an urgent Written Statement to your Lordships’ House at the beginning of January, after the end of the Law Commission review, on what plans the Government have to introduce hate crime legislation and protect those communities now from this insidious crime?
My Lords, I will make one brief point. My noble friend will have noticed the concession made by the Scottish Government on their hate crime Bill that one has to show intent to incite hatred. Will my noble friend keep this in mind when the Law Commission reports next year?
My Lords, hate speech that results in criminal actions such as incitement to violence is to be both deplored and subject to legislation. That said, I am concerned that one of our most precious democratic freedoms—freedom of expression—might be hampered if this is widely applied to include any offensive or misogynistic speech. The distinction between unpleasant, even hateful, speech and criminal incitement is often determined by the context in which it occurs. Does the Minister agree that each hate speech incident should be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than by means of broad legal sanctions?
I certainly agree that freedom of speech is one of the most precious things we preserve in this country, but it comes with responsibility. Where freedom of speech is used as an excuse to inflict a hate crime on someone else, that line has been crossed.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend’s last answer. We are all against the hatred of women, but does my noble friend agree that we do not need to create more offences when there are already laws dealing with misogyny? Is it not already a crime, for example, to breach the peace, to threaten violence against a woman, physically to attack a woman, both sexually and non-sexually, and to incite violence against a woman? Where those crimes are aggravated by hatred of the victim or women generally, the court will take that into account when sentencing the defendant. If the evidence is there, we can and should prosecute. We do not need more offences.
We will keep an open mind until the Law Commission reports but my noble and learned friend is absolutely right in some of the things that he says. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, if we created a hate crime in relation to gender, we would have to think very carefully about whether it would apply to the entire population or just women. That is what the Law Commission is considering.
This week is White Ribbon Week. Despite much progress around support for victims of domestic abuse, Citizens UK has found that hate motivated by gender is already a factor in 33.5% of all existing hate crime. It is therefore no wonder that many people feel that the current legislation is outdated. Further to my noble friend Lady Primarolo’s question, may I press the Minister a little further? Will she commit to accepting the Law Commission’s final recommendations on this issue and to bringing legislation forward next year?
I do not know what those recommendations are yet but I can say to the noble Baroness that the Law Commission’s review will include how protected characteristics—including sex, gender and age—should be considered by new or existing hate crime law, as well as how legislation protects the existing protected characteristics.
My Lords, one of the problems in making sure that killers and abusers of women are prosecuted is the fact that the police often—that is, in the past and still now—do not take women seriously. Misogyny is clearly a problem in police forces. What is the Home Office doing about it?
The noble Baroness asks about domestic abuse, primarily, and misogynistically motivated crimes against women. In recent years, training for front-line police responders has been improved significantly, so what might have been seen as a domestic 20 years ago is now taken extremely seriously and the appropriate action is taken.
Following on from the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, in 2016, Nottinghamshire Police introduced its misogyny hate crime policy, which enables women and girls to report cases of abuse and harassment as misogyny and for them to be recorded as such. Four other police forces have followed its excellent example. Will the Minister ensure that a similar policy is adopted nationwide, at least to assist with the collection of data for the Law Commission in the preparation of its report, promised for the coming year?
I was aware of Nottinghamshire and other police forces doing that. I welcome police forces across the country disaggregating hate crime into, say, anti-Semitic hate crime, Islamophobic hate crime or, as the noble Lord said, misogyny. The data that they produce is very helpful but, again, I hesitate to say anything further until the Law Commission has reported.
Reflecting on an earlier answer from the Minister, I would point out that a French author has published a book called I Hate Men. Far from being condemned, it has received widespread and pretty favourable coverage. The Law Commission’s work shows that this is a very complex area. Research has even thrown doubt on the deterrent effect of sentences aggravated by hate crime. So, should we not wait, even if it takes another year, for the outcome of the Law Commission’s consultation before rushing to create a specific offence?
I thank the noble Baroness for pointing out the complexity of this area. The consultation will finish on 24 December and the Law Commission will report next year. I agree with her that we should not pre-empt the outcome of the review just yet.
My Lords, non-fatal strangulation is often part of the pattern of abuse leading up to attempts on women’s lives. Can the Minister say whether an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill—shortly to be debated in this House— to include a new offence of non-fatal strangulation would be welcomed by the Government?
I am aware that such an amendment may come forward to your Lordships’ House; the debate on it will be very interesting and thoughtful, as debates on such amendments always are. I look forward to discussing it with the noble Baroness before the Domestic Abuse Bill comes to your Lordships’ House.
Farming: New Entrants
My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. The Government are working with the skills leadership group to introduce a professional body for agriculture and horticulture to promote the sector and the vibrant careers in it. New technologies are transforming food production, generating opportunities that require skills in farming, environment and business. The Government are also developing a new entrants’ scheme to provide funding for councils and other landowners, providing opportunities for new entrants.
My Lords, my noble friend will recall that, during the passage of the Agriculture Act, a lot of emphasis was placed on opportunities for new entrants into farming, just as he described; I welcome that. Does he share my concern that a number of councils, including Scarborough Borough Council, are seeking to dispose of agricultural land, including tenant farmers’ land, from their portfolio? This will lead to fewer opportunities for tenant farmers. Will my noble friend and the Government address this grave issue?
My Lords, we value the role that council farms play in providing opportunities for new entrants. That is why we want to incentivise councils to retain and invest in their farm estates so that they can continue to provide opportunities into the future.
My Lords, post-Brexit British agriculture and horticulture require a new generation of farmers and a larger and more highly skilled UK-based workforce. In response to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, about county farms, will the Government urge counties to stop divesting their county tenancies and start investing in new opportunities for those who wish to farm but do not inherit and cannot buy the land? Are they proposing to produce an updated recruitment, skills training and career structure for UK land workers in agriculture and horticulture?
My Lords, one of the reasons the Government are reforming post-16 technical education to provide clearer routes into skilled employment in agriculture and other associated sectors is precisely to address the point the noble Lord has made. The other issue, as I will repeat, is that we want councils to retain and invest in their farm estates and for other landowners to take the opportunity of the new entrant scheme that we are developing because we think that this is a positive part of the future in agriculture.
My Lords, with the changes in funding arrangements for farmers, many of the older generation are thinking about retirement, and ensuring that there are plenty of opportunities for the younger generation to take over these farms will be essential. How are the negotiations promised during the passage of the Agriculture Act for nieces and nephews to take over farms is progressing? If nothing has happened so far, can the Minister update the House on when this will take place?
My Lords, so far as tenancy agreements are concerned, our first priority is to bring forward the regulations that are required following the Agriculture Act 2020 into modernising those areas of the tenancy regime that we think will be very productive. Once we have done that, working with the Tenancy Reform Industry Group, which engages with all parties, will enable us to bring forward any other changes with consensus.
My Lords, I refer noble Lords to my interests as set out in the register. From his earlier answer, my noble friend will doubtless agree that a considerable part of the problem of attracting new entrants into the agriculture industry has been the demise and disposal over many years of the county council smallholdings estate which has otherwise provided an excellent entry point for those who might have found it impossible to gain access to farming in their own right. Will there be an opportunity within the Agriculture Act, perhaps under the public good requirement, for larger landowners to be encouraged to make available land that will enable small entry-point farms to be established?
My Lords, my noble friend has picked up on something very important. Going beyond our new entrants scheme and councils with rural estates, we also want to work with landowners and other organisations that want to invest in creating new opportunities for talented new entrants. We think that there are strong reasons for county local authorities to work with private landowners so that we can create a continuing momentum of availability of land. We want to have innovative and new agriculture entrepreneurs.
My Lords, I declare my interests as a farmer and landowner as set out in the register. Opportunities are principally linked to the availability of land, availability of finance and likely profitability. Without resolving these points, the entrant is limited to apprenticeship or employment on an existing farm. Given the enormous amount of capital required to enter farming, can the Minister assure us that thought is being given to either the Government providing guarantees directly to a new entrant or to the banks, the landowner, the machinery manufacturer or other meaningful supplier to encourage their working with the new entrant?
My Lords, my noble friend has raised a key point. Not only do we need access to land and skills, we want to ensure this through the productivity grants, which are part of the Agriculture Act and the work we want to undertake in this area. This important part of the Act addresses not only access but also equipment, technology and so forth, whether it is for entrants or indeed established farmers. That is part of our continuing work.
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that increasing the number of affordable rural homes is vital to enabling new entrants to come into the farming sector. However, the housing Minister revealed to me recently that the Government do not keep data on the number of existing affordable homes that are lost through sale or inflated rents. When are the Government going to address the haemorrhaging of cheap homes for rent in rural areas so that young families can afford to live and play their part in the rural economy?
The noble Baroness is absolutely right that affordable rural housing is key to ensuring that we have a vibrant agricultural industry. That is why in 2018 the Government launched the revised National Planning Policy Framework. The rural housing chapter gives strong support to rural exception sites and includes new policies to support the building of homes in isolated locations where that supports, for instance, farm succession. In addition, the Government have amended the permitted development rights to support rural housing and agricultural productivity by enabling up to five new homes to be created from existing agricultural buildings, an increase from a maximum of three.
My Lords, more than 50 years ago, my mum and dad got their first foot in farming through the tenancy of a county council holding. A survey by Who Owns Britain? shows that up to 2017, the acreage of county farms halved. Only yesterday, Staffordshire had eight farms for sale. The Minister has said warm things about county farms, and we welcome that, but unless the Government put up money now, that haemorrhaging of county farms will continue. What are the Government going to do now in order to encourage councils to do what they want them to do?
My Lords, we are working on a co-design with councils, landowners and others so that the new entrant scheme works precisely with county farms and local authorities. That is because, as I have said, we want that to be retained. This work is under way and will be co-designed in 2021, and we hope to roll out the programme in 2022. Not only are there county farms, but a third of the land in this country is tenanted and there are obviously opportunities in the tenant farming sector as well.
My Lords, will the Minister keep in mind the land mobility scheme in Northern Ireland? It has been in operation for three years and facilitates the transfer of land from older retired people to new young entrants. Will he discuss these matters with the Minister responsible for agriculture in Northern Ireland in order to ensure the implementation of best practice?
My Lords, in order to turn opportunities into reality, farming has got to be profitable or the Government must subsidise farmers. Is my noble friend any clearer on what the costs of implementing ELMs properly will be, and if he is, does he know whether the Treasury will fund them in the current economic situation?
My Lords, we are regularly assessing Covid-19’s impact on tourism businesses. We recognise that these are extremely challenging conditions for those in the sector. High street travel agents have, of course, been able to access the Government’s comprehensive economic support package. While we have no current plans to appoint a new Minister for the travel sector, a cross-government global travel task force has been established to consider what steps the Government can take to enable a recovery of international travel.
I declare an interest as a member of the TSSA parliamentary group. In the summer, nine out of 10 holidays were either cancelled or changed. ABTA said in August that 90,000 people’s jobs were either at risk or had already been lost. That figure increased to 164,000 people by the end of October. Will the Government look at a specific strategy for this sector and specific support? The TSSA and many businesses are asking for one Minister to have specific responsibility to put forward a strategy for this area because responsibilities lie across a number of departments—some are with the Department for Transport, some with other departments, and some fall between. Is this not something that the Government could look at and perhaps discuss with industry and the trade unions?
We have many consultations with the industry and we have put in place a strong package of financial support that businesses in the sector can access, including government-backed loans, various grant schemes and the extended furlough and self-employed support schemes.
My Lords, I declare an interest as someone whose holiday was understandably cancelled due to Covid. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that it is unacceptable that some travel agents should still be holding back on refunding customers and using customer payments as interest-free loans to their business without customer consent? Should not the ending of such practices be a condition precedent of eligibility for government support schemes, as well as future certification as fit and proper travel agents?
Companies have a legal obligation to ensure that they treat their customers fairly and that they pay refunds when they are due. Where disagreements exist we encourage customers and businesses to seek to find a solution that is mutually acceptable to both.
My Lords, while the imminent threat to the travel and holiday industry is the pandemic, can the Minister say what support the Government intend to give from 1 January to British holiday firms and the thousands of British workers, permanent and seasonal, including young working-class people, whose jobs and job opportunities are at risk following the UK leaving the single market?
I draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register of interests. Would the Minister accept that the call for a dedicated Minister is no reflection on the way he carries out his own duties? Such an appointment might help to bring sector-specific support for the travel industry, where, as I am sure he is aware, the number of redundancies is now expected to exceed 160,000. Would he agree that such an appointment would enable the Government to offer a cost-effective Covid-19 testing system to allow holidaymakers to travel and to shorten quarantine periods for those who return?
My Lords, the Government are currently developing a tourism recovery strategy to rebuild the £30 billion of export earnings that inbound tourism generates for the UK. What financial assistance are the Government providing to UK tour operators to enable them to get through this year and next year to deliver the tourism strategy that the Government want?
I outlined the measures that we put in place for individual travel businesses, but bigger operators have been able to access extensive loan and grant schemes. However, I readily accept that it is a very difficult time for businesses in these areas.
My Lords, all aspects of the travel industry, international and domestic, have been hit as a consequence of the pandemic. With the continuing uncertainty in making foreign travel plans, would my noble friend the Minister agree that there is a unique opportunity for our domestic tourism and hospitality sector to be restored and to flourish? However, for this to happen, we first need to ensure these sectors survive what are likely to be an incredibly challenging few months ahead. Can my noble friend outline what steps the Government are taking to assist with this, especially in the hospitality sector?
I agree with my noble friend. She is absolutely right that there is a unique opportunity for our domestic travel industry and hospitality sector to flourish once they get through these extremely difficult and challenging few months. She will be aware that the furlough scheme extension and the tourism and hospitality VAT cut extension both run until March next year. We hope that they will help the industry.
My Lords, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has said that the Government have “ignored calls for help” from our travel trade and that the buck
“has been passed from the Department of Business to the Department of Transport and back again.”
Can the Minister explain why that is the case and why the travel sector has slipped between departmental cracks during the pandemic? Can he explain what support the Government will give because of the existential threat to high streets and travel agencies in particular? What additional help could the Government consider giving to this sector so that good companies do not go out of business or have to make people redundant?
It is nice to see that the TSSA is well represented in today’s questions from noble Lords. As I said, there is a Minister for Tourism. A cross-departmental tourism task force has been set up and, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Snape, there will be an announcement tomorrow.
My Lords, following on from the previous question, could my noble friend look into the somewhat misleading, confusing and contradictory statements applied to travel agents? On 31 October, all non-essential retail was ordered to close. On 5 November, the Chancellor said in the other place that
“Travel agents’ businesses … will benefit from business grants”,—[Official Report, Commons, 5/11/20; col. 513.]
but when the regulations and guidance were published, travel agents seemed to be excluded. I urge my noble friend to clarify what the situation is, especially since florists and pubs, which can do click and collect, have qualified for support that seems not to have applied to high street travel agents.
I believe that the advent of a vaccine gives a real glimmer of hope that the people working, as travel agents are, to the future have a lot to look forward to, provided they can get through the probably three months that we will have to wait until the industry starts to recover. I am quite happy that, if the Government believe they have made things clear so that people know what help is there, they have in fact done all we can ask.
I thank the noble Lord for his support. The developments on the vaccine are encouraging. It is not my area of responsibility, but we all have our fingers crossed that the vaccine will prove successful, and that we will be able to help the industry through its current short-term difficulties and that it has a bright future ahead.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interest in the register. I ask the Minister to urge on his friend convening the cross-departmental tourism task force the need to take on board the genuine concerns of the trade unions, and in particular pilots, who, because they have a need for a certain amount of flying hours, are being quite challenged on keeping their flying credentials up to date. I hope the Minister will be able to encourage his friend to look across the whole spectrum of problems in the travel industry.
I will indeed pass on my noble friend’s concerns. As I have said, I cannot predict what will be in the announcement tomorrow, but we have been looking very closely at all the problems that exist for the tourism sector, in particular for those who want to travel abroad. I will certainly pass on my noble friend’s remarks.
Migrant Women: Domestic Abuse
My Lords, it is essential that migrant victims of domestic abuse, including those with no recourse to public funds, are treated first and foremost as victims. Already, the destitution domestic violence concession provides emergency crisis support to protect victims on certain spousal visas. We are taking steps to provide further protection through the £1.5 million scheme to support migrant victims, and to assess and address shortfalls in the current provision.
My Lords, instead of listening to the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, organisations on the ground and the commissioner-designate, the Government’s review of migrant domestic abuse victims has produced a pilot widely condemned as unnecessary, totally inadequate and, despite what the Minister has just said, potentially discriminatory, because it subordinates abused women’s needs to their immigration status. Will the Government act on these concerns and rethink the pilot or, better still, enshrine in the Bill protection for abused migrant women and the Istanbul convention principle of non-discrimination, as is widely called for?
We listened very carefully to the Joint Committee’s recommendations. I will discuss with colleagues whether there is any discrimination inherent in the scheme. While it will be in force for only four months, we fully intend to roll it out far beyond March. I will keep the noble Baroness updated, and certainly take back her point about discrimination within the scheme.
My Lords, the destitution domestic violence concession is a limited way in which some of these women can access some support, but can the Minister confirm how long it currently takes for such applications to be considered, and for a payment to be made to these vulnerable women?
I cannot confirm the time but, particularly during Covid, our intention is to get funds to people and to lift any restrictions on recourse to public funds as quickly as possible, so that those people—mostly women—get the support that they need when they need it.
My Lords, the Joint Committee, of which I was a member, was shocked by the evidence from those women with no recourse to public funds about how perpetrators exploited their immigration status. We now know that many of these women, during the pandemic, have been forced by those same perpetrators into sex for survival. It is shocking that in Britain today we are unable to support these women, so that they do not have to resort to such extreme and deplorable activity. This is urgent. What are the Government prepared to do to support them so that they are not exposed to such huge vulnerabilities?
If anyone is subjected to domestic violence or any other type of exploitation outlined by the noble Baroness, we will treat them first and foremost as victims. The Government have—particularly during the Covid situation, as she outlined—put quite substantial funding into ensuring that people in these vulnerable positions, and their children, get the help that they need, when they need it.
The Minister has told me that she believes that all domestic abuse victims should be protected, no matter what their status. Therefore will she confirm that, when amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill to afford financial protection to all are put forward, they will be favourably received?
I do not know what the amendments are, but the noble Baroness will know, since I have responded to her previously on this, that we will look as carefully as we can at any amendments that seek to protect women at a very vulnerable time in their lives, hence the support for migrant victims scheme which will be rolled out very shortly. We will look at gaps in provisions but, to return to her initial point, people will be treated as victims first and foremost.
My Lords, this is such a difficult area. On 19 October, the Government put forward the support for migrant victims scheme, which we have been alluding to. The day after, they reported to the authorities of the Council of Europe that this was evidence of their making progress towards ratification of the Istanbul convention and their need to comply with its requirements. The trouble is that I have here 58 signatures from leaders in this field who feel that this was an entirely misconceived initiative that will end up with measures that “directly contravene” Article 4.3 of the Istanbul convention, the non-discrimination principle in relation to migrant or refugee status. Can the Minister help me to see my way through these apparently contradictory remarks?
My Lords, I do not think that the Government wish in any way to contradict themselves on what they intend to do on the Istanbul convention. I understand that when the Domestic Abuse Bill becomes an Act, extraterritorial jurisdiction over specified offences, as required by the convention, will enable the convention to be ratified. However, I will look into it further and perhaps get back to the noble Lord on any further measures that are needed—or indeed any contradictions that do exist, because we would not want that unintended consequence of the passage of what I think is quite forward-leaning legislation.
My Lords, many of these women have very little English, so huge language barriers isolate them from help that could be available to them. Will the Minister encourage local authorities and voluntary organisations to help groups and individuals to overcome these barriers? An additional problem that has been researched by charities in north Kensington is that very few such individuals have internet contact of any sort—the figures are quite alarming—so there will be no help for them at all until they become more conscious of using the internet and can afford to get some appliances.
I agree with my noble friend that accessibility to online services is crucial, and in fact we announced funding to help with online services during the Covid period. I wholeheartedly support her point about people who have very little English. I have met women in such situations who not only cannot speak English but have had their passports taken away from them. That leaves them in the most vulnerable situation imaginable, as they are not even able to explain what has happened to them.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants argued, even before the Covid pandemic, that having no recourse to public funds had pushed families into abject poverty, unsustainable debt and homelessness. Covid has exacerbated this problem, particularly with regard to the rise of domestic violence suffered by migrant women. As a matter of urgency and decency, can we massively widen the exceptions to “no recourse to public funds” or, at best during this difficult time, abandon it?
As a matter of course during the Covid pandemic, if someone is a victim of domestic violence, they are effectively supported as such first and foremost, before any other considerations are taken into account. Certainly, “no recourse to public funds” change of conditions grants have been 89% successful. I do not take away from what the noble Lord says at all, because he is asking whether we can help these people as victims of domestic violence first and foremost.
Windrush Compensation Scheme
Private Notice Question
My Lords, the Windrush compensation scheme was established in April 2019 to compensate members of the Windrush generation for the losses and impacts that they suffered because they were unable to demonstrate lawful status. The first payment was made within four months of the scheme’s launch and, to the end of September, over £2.8 million has been paid or offered in compensation, including multiple offers of over £100,000. More payments and offers are being made every week.
My Lords, there are serious allegations of racism and racial discrimination against those who are dealing with outstanding Windrush compensation claims. The injustice has lasted for over 70 years. The evidence from Wendy Williams has been accepted. We deal with contracts on Covid, awarding millions of pounds, without proper scrutiny. The Home Office cannot be the fit and proper body to sort out these grievances. Many people have died awaiting their claims while the Home Secretary’s mind is on other matters. I ask the Minister to set out a date when all the outstanding claims will be resolved. Failing this, experience proves that the anger of the community will spill on to our streets.
I will not give some sort of defensive response to the noble Lord’s point because, if serious allegations of racism are being put out, we need to take that extremely seriously. If the noble Lord can provide me with further detail, I will take that back. He also asked whether the Home Office is indeed the right department to deal with this. I think it is the right department to deal with this in the sense that people’s identity needs to be established—which, of course, is the purview of the Home Office—before the claims are looked into. He is absolutely right to raise the issue of deceased people: first, it is tragic that someone is deceased before their claim is heard; secondly, it says to us that we need to be quicker at responding; but, thirdly, where someone is deceased, that claim can be dealt with in the appropriate manner with respect to their next of kin.
Wendy Williams, who carried out the Windrush review, told the Home Affairs Select Committee last month that she was surprised that only 168 people—certainly, at that time—had been compensated. She also expressed concern that there had been so little progress in reviewing the hostile environment policies and said that the Home Office could either embrace her recommendations or pay lip-service to them, and not institute fundamental cultural change. There is clearly a lack of leadership at the very highest level in the Home Office. A culture change was promised; it still has not been, and is not being, delivered. It is actions, not words, that count. Do the Government agree, or has even Wendy Williams got it all wrong?
I totally agree with the noble Lord that a culture change is badly needed. A culture change does not come in a quick timescale but over time. On the figure of 168 people, we need to move faster in processing claims, and I know my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is looking at that. We have also enlisted more resource to try to help process those claims. On complexity, yes, it is complex; people have complex lives, and each case has to be taken on the evidence and information that is brought forward. We do not want people to go short on what they receive but to get the full amount they deserve—and all these people are very deserving of the compensation they get. Regarding the slow progress on the recommendations, I do not contradict what Wendy Williams said at all. One thing she said was that we should reflect, rather than jump to action, in implementing some of the recommendations. That is not to say that we should drag our heels, but we are going as fast as we can in what is a very sensitive area indeed.
I cannot substantiate the point that the noble Baroness makes; that is possibly my ignorance rather than anything else. First and foremost, however, we must assist people to get the compensation that they deserve for the wrongs that they have suffered over the past 70 years under successive Governments.
My Lords, as a result of the complaints about the way the scheme is being administered, the Home Office is reported to have launched an internal inquiry about racism and so on. Can the Minister please tell the House: what is the remit of this inquiry, when will it be completed and will the results be made public?
My Lords, about 12,000 people are expected to claim under the compensation scheme. Nine have died before receiving any compensation and, unfortunately, there may be more deaths before the payments are made. Can my noble friend the Minister explain the Government’s plans to support the bereaved families?
I have to agree with my noble friend that someone dying before they receive compensation is absolutely tragic. Of course, we would work with the next of kin to ensure that any compensation due to that person is paid to the next of kin or to the designated chosen person. The point is that it is not acceptable that people die before they get the compensation they deserve. It is incumbent upon the Home Office to ensure that these claims are expedited more quickly than they have been.
My Lords, the Windrush protests are a wake-up call to all of us and to every institution in this country. Indeed, the Church of England has set up an antiracism taskforce to look at this issue and to achieve change. Is it correct that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is investigating this issue with regard to the Home Office, does not have a single black commissioner on the current board? What do Her Majesty’s Government plan to do to make the EHRC more representative so that it can undertake this work?
I do not think it essential that there is every protected characteristic on the EHRC. However, I take the right reverend Prelate’s point that—certainly in the current climate—BAME representation or indeed black representation might be a really good asset to the EHRC. I am sure he is correct, but I will check out the veracity of that and get back to him.
My Lords, this is particularly personal to me. My mother was part of the Windrush generation and gave the best part of her life, more than 50 years, to working for the NHS. The most senior black civil servant working on the Windrush compensation scheme resigned, citing racism and stating that there was a complete lack of humanity in dealing with applicants. Equally strong was Wendy Williams’ Windrush review, which highlighted that people were not coming forward because the burden of proof for their legal status was far too high. Given that trust in the system is at an all-time low, particularly among black people, and that things are still going catastrophically wrong, does the Minister agree that we should pause deportation flights such as the one to Jamaica scheduled for 2 December?
On the last point, I understand that none of the people scheduled for deportation is Windrush, and actually there are some very serious criminals due to go on that flight. That said, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, the fact that the most senior black civil servant made those claims is not something that I can stand here and be defensive about. We need to listen very carefully to what people are saying as opposed to dismissing it—although I am not saying that it is being dismissed at all. The scheme was designed with some of the claimants in mind, but it is something for us as the Home Office to reflect on in the weeks and months ahead.
My Lords, we have known since 2013 that there was a documentation problem regarding the Windrush generation. We have had years of trying to put this right but the progress we have made so far is clearly insufficient and inadequate. Identity is sometimes difficult to prove, but are we making that process too difficult? Will the Minister at least undertake to update the House, shall we say on the anniversary in April 2021, on what further progress has been made?
I would be very happy to update the House. Regarding the EU settlement scheme, the attempt was to make identity assurance very easy. The noble Baroness says that we have known about this since 2013; the sad thing is that we have actually known it for decades, and we all need to reflect upon that.
My Lords, we are all aware that in situations such as this where a wrong has been committed, there can be a ripple effect and wider family members suffer as well. What is being done to ensure that everyone who has suffered is compensated in due course?
As I said earlier, each case will be treated sensitively and each person who makes a claim will be assisted through that process—not to prove them wrong but to prove them right regarding the compensation they are owed. There is no cap on the level of compensation or indeed on the scheme itself. However, we need to encourage more people to come forward. There have been communications campaigns and money has been given out to community organisations to promote the scheme, but by this point we would have expected more people to have come forward for their claims to be processed.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that many of the Windrush generation who have been treated so badly for so long are actually quite frightened about approaching the Home Office because they see it as an institution that has been responsible for many unfair deportations? Will the Home Office think about being much more proactive about going out and talking to these people, many of whom are now in the last stages of their lives? If we do not get this sorted out soon, it is going to be a real travesty of justice for all those people.
I totally take that point on board. I agree with the noble Baroness that they might be frightened and that any notion of “state” might be frightening to them. As I have said, we have done quite a lot of outreach through church leaders, faith leaders and community leaders, but I shall certainly take that back. I know we will be reflecting on how far we have got with people coming forward and trying to make that process better, because clearly, more people should be coming forward.
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 19 November.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the Government’s integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy.
Our review will conclude early next year and set out the UK’s international agenda, but I want to inform the House of its first outcome. For decades, British Governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defence budget. If we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our Armed Forces—the pride of Britain—have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability, and, once lost, they can never be regained. That outcome would not only be craven; it would jeopardise the security of the British people, amounting to a dereliction of duty for any Prime Minister.
I refuse to vindicate any pessimistic forecasters there may have been by taking up the scalpel yet again. Based on our assessment of the international situation and our foreign policy goals, I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now. I am increasing defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years. That is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment, raising it as a share of GDP to at least 2.2%, exceeding our NATO pledge, and investing £190 billion over the next four years—more than any other European country and more than any other NATO ally except the United States.
The Ministry of Defence has received a multi-year settlement because equipping our armed forces requires long-term investment, and our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions we take today. I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic, amid every other demand on our resources, because the defence of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first. I pay tribute to my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary, who believe in this as fervently as I do. Reviving our armed forces is one pillar of the Government’s ambition to safeguard Britain’s interests and values by strengthening our global influence and reinforcing our ability to join the United States and our other allies to defend free and open societies.
The international situation is now more perilous and intensely competitive than at any time since the cold war. Everything we do in this country—every job, every business, even how we shop and what we eat—depends on a basic minimum of global security, with a web of feed pipes, of oxygen pipes, that must be kept open: shipping lanes, a functioning internet, safe air corridors, reliable undersea cables, and tranquillity in distant straits. This pandemic has offered a taste of what happens when our most fundamental needs are suddenly in question. We could take all this for granted, ignore the threat of terrorism and the ambitions of hostile states, hope for the best, and we might get away with it for a while, before calamity strikes, as it surely would. Or we could accept that our lifelines must be protected but we are content to curl up in our island and leave the task to our friends.
My starting point is that either of those options would be an abdication of the first duty of Government: to defend our people. My choice—and I hope it will carry every Member of the House—is that Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies, sharing the burden and bringing our expertise to bear on the world’s toughest problems. To achieve this, we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board. We have already united our international effort into a new department combining aid and diplomacy, led with grip and purpose by my right honourable friend the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary. Next year will be a year of British leadership when we preside over the G7, host COP 26 in Glasgow, and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first United Nations General Assembly in London. We are leading the world towards net zero with our 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. We are campaigning for our values, particularly freedom of religion and the media, and giving every girl in the world access to 12 years of quality education.
But extending British influence requires a once-in-a-generation modernisation of our armed forces, and now is the right time to press ahead, because emerging technologies, visible on the horizon, will make the returns from defence investment infinitely greater. We have a chance to break free from the vicious circle whereby we ordered ever decreasing numbers of ever more expensive items of military hardware, squandering billions along the way. The latest advances will multiply the fighting power of every warship, aircraft and infantry unit many times over, and the prizes will go to the swiftest and most agile nations, not necessarily the biggest. We can achieve as much as British ingenuity and expertise allow.
We will need to act speedily to remove or reduce less relevant capabilities. This will allow our new investment to be focused on the technologies that will revolutionise warfare, forging our military assets into a single network designed to overcome the enemy. A soldier in hostile territory will be alerted to a distant ambush by sensors on satellites or drones, instantly transmitting a warning, using artificial intelligence to devise the optimal response and offering an array of options, from summoning an airstrike to ordering a swarm attack by drones, or paralysing the enemy with cyberweapons. New advances will surmount the old limits of logistics. Our warships and combat vehicles will carry “directed energy weapons”, destroying targets with inexhaustible lasers. For them, the phrase “out of ammunition” will become redundant.
Nations are racing to master this new doctrine of warfare, and our investment is designed to place Britain among the winners. The returns will go far beyond our armed forces, and from aerospace to autonomous vehicles, these technologies have a vast array of civilian applications, opening up new vistas of economic progress, creating 10,000 jobs every year—40,000 in total—levelling up across our country, and reinforcing our union. We are going to use our extra defence spending to restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe, taking forward our plans for eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates, and support ships to supply our carriers.
We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates. This will spur a renaissance of British shipbuilding across the UK, in Glasgow and Rosyth, Belfast, Appledore and Birkenhead, guaranteeing jobs and illuminating the benefits of the union in the white light of the arc welder’s torch. If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy. Once both of our carriers are operational in 2023, the UK will have a carrier strike group permanently available, routinely deployed globally, and always ready to fight alongside NATO and other allies.
Next year, “Queen Elizabeth” will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, encompassing the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and east Asia. We shall deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation, and we shall press on with renewing our nuclear deterrent. We will reshape our Army for the age of networked warfare, allowing better equipped soldiers to deploy more quickly, and strengthening the ability of our special forces to operate covertly against our most sophisticated adversaries.
The security and intelligence agencies will continue to protect us around the clock from terrorism and new and evolving threats. We will invest another £1.5 billion in military research and development, designed to master the new technologies of warfare. We will establish a new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a new RAF space command, launching British satellites and our first rocket from Scotland in 2022. I can announce that we have established a National Cyber Force, combining our intelligence agencies and service personnel, which is already operating in cyberspace against terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity. And the RAF will receive a new fighter system, harnessing artificial intelligence and drone technology to defeat any adversary in air-to-air combat.
Our plans will safeguard hundreds of thousands of jobs in the defence industry, protecting livelihoods across the UK and keeping the British people safe. The defence of the realm is above party politics, and we all take pride in how British resolve saved democracy in 1940, and in how British internationalism, directed by Clement Attlee, helped to create NATO and preserve peace through the Cold War. The wisdom and pragmatism of Margaret Thatcher found a path out of confrontation when she met Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984. In each case, Britain tipped the scales of history and did immense good for the world. Now we have a chance to follow in this great tradition, end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up across our country, protect our people and defend the free societies in which we fervently believe. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, the first duty of any Government is the safety and security of its citizens. The Statement on defence spending is obviously welcome news. The Prime Minister’s announcement of what he called, without any sense of irony, an end to the “era of retreat” is necessary, given that the Conservatives’ last two defence reviews have led not only to spending cuts of £8 billion but to a reduction in the size of the Armed Forces by 40,000 full-time troops.
The enormous international uncertainty we face today reflects the diversity of the dangers we face: adversaries investing heavily in new military; the devastating effects on our health and finances of the global pandemic; economic and security uncertainty as we hurtle towards the end of the Brexit transition without knowing if, when or what the deal will be; technological developments such as AI and sophisticated internet communications that we previously only imagined; and a climate emergency—while the Government’s seeking to write into legislation the right for Ministers to break the law has done little to enhance our international standing. So, there are huge challenges.
However, these uncertain and dangerous times also provide an opportunity for the Government to outline a new vision of the UK’s place in the world. We have been here before: soon after the Second World War, the leadership of Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was instrumental in setting up NATO. Its enduring strength in providing collective security serves as a constant reminder of what the UK can achieve on the world stage. In 2002 the significance of our landmark International Development Act was recognised throughout the world, and during the 2008 financial crisis we worked globally to secure an economic rescue plan. I know I am not alone in wanting us to show such global leadership again, because when we have the vision and the moral imperative, the UK is a force for good in the world. We must ensure that our Armed Forces are properly funded and that they are integral to that vision.
It was almost 60 years ago that Dean Acheson, a former US Secretary of State, observed that Britain has lost an empire but failed to find a role. We ceded that issue with our membership of the EU but, as we leave, the need to define our place in the world again becomes key. This is why it is so disappointing that the Prime Minister’s Statement fails to provide the strategy to meet the many challenges we face today. For a Statement on an integrated review, it does not feel very integrated, lacking both a wider foreign policy context and clarity about the Government’s priorities. For example, other than passing references, the Statement fails to mention the security implications of climate change and how we will respond. Can the noble Baroness tell the House when the MoD’s climate change and sustainability strategy will be published?
Also, there is no commitment in the Statement to the Conservatives’ election manifesto pledge to maintain 0.7% GNI on aid. Following the abolition of the Department for International Development, this could have been an opportunity to restore confidence in how we see our international role. The former Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that abandoning the 0.7% pledge would be
“a moral, strategic and political mistake”
was endorsed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Richards, a former Chief of Defence Staff, saying that this spending is hugely in the UK’s interests. The benefits that such funding has brought across the world reinforce why an integrated strategic approach is so important, and again bring home why those cuts to the budget jeopardise Britain’s soft power and influence. We have had many debates on this in your Lordships’ House and that soft power is critical to how we meet the threats faced and define our place on the international stage.
People need to be placed front and centre of our defence strategy, whether our brave Armed Forces personnel or those working in supporting industries. With the current jobs crisis, we welcome the commitment in the Statement to 10,000 new jobs every year. Can the noble Baroness say where these jobs will be and how they will be recruited and monitored? Will she today rule out any more personnel cuts across the Army, the RAF and the Navy? Can she also say what lessons the MoD have learned from previous overspends and mismanagement?
Last year, the Public Accounts Committee reported on the disastrous failure of the deal with Capita for Army recruitment. That contract has seen costs soar up to £677 million in 2018 and yet it has failed to deliver, leaving the Army understrength. The PAC also highlighted problems with other contracts and added:
“We are disappointed to see the MoD replicate the contract management errors that our Committee sees all too often across government.”
Our military deserves better and increases in spending must be matched by rooting out such scandalous wastes of public money.
I also ask the noble Baroness about the certainty of this funding and its impact on other areas of public spending. The costs of the pandemic are eye-wateringly large. Government borrowing between April and November was £215 billion and is projected to rise further. The deficit continues to grow. The announcement that the defence budget will grow by 4.2% above inflation each year means that, by 2024-25, it will be £7 billion higher than at present, in real terms. That is a significant increase, as she is aware. With the spending review this week, there are strong indications that the Chancellor will impose a public sector pay freeze, including for military personnel and those who have been at the heart of tackling this pandemic and protecting the public. Post Covid, we need to invest to regrow our economy and protect jobs. We all know that difficult decisions will have to be taken. Can the noble Baroness, without pre-empting the Chancellor’s Statement, tell the House whether the additional costs of defence spending will be met from increased taxation or cuts in other areas of public spending?
In his Statement, the Prime Minister is correct to say that
“our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions”
that he is making today. Unlike the extensive consultation in 1998, the call for evidence for this review lasted just one month. We expected to see the integrated review published this month and I understand it has now been delayed until next year. I do not know if the noble Baroness is able to explain the reasons for the delay, but I hope that she will tell your Lordships’ House that the delay will allow for engagement and consultation with all involved. Doing so will have an impact on the likely success of such an integrated review and strategy. We need an ambitious strategy to develop new international relationships and protect our country against serious threats in the years ahead. Defence spending is essential to this, but the Government still need to address the strategy and identify the diverse threats to peace and stability. Doing so requires a coherent, co-ordinated plan with, at its core, a vision of the UK as a moral force for good.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for answering questions on the Prime Minister’s Statement. The Prime Minister begins by saying that he
“will update the House on the Government’s integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy”
but the Statement does nothing of the sort. It is simply a statement of increased military expenditure, particularly on the Navy. The Prime Minister has successfully wrenched the nation’s credit card from the Chancellor’s possession long enough to provide for significant additional expenditure on defence kit. In themselves many, if not all, of the items on the shopping list are clearly desirable. Who could possibly object to having more frigates or drones, better AI or the National Cyber Force? But it seems more than somewhat bizarre to be announcing this additional spending in advance of the completion of the integrated review. Could the noble Baroness explain to the House exactly when that review will be published?
It is particularly worrying when we hear repeated rumours of a cut from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP spent on overseas development. Can the noble Baroness the Leader confirm that these rumours are simply untrue? If she cannot, what is the rationale to spend more on military kit and to cut the aid budget? How could robbing Peter to pay Paul in this way possibly lead to a net gain in our credibility and reputation, taking account of the soft, as well as hard, power we wield as a nation?
The Statement waxes lyrical on the need to fight terrorism, and no one can disagree, but the best way to fight terrorism and protect our security as a nation is in the closest possible co-ordination with our nearest allies. Is it therefore not reckless of the Government to have completely failed to address security co-operation with our EU partners, as part of the Brexit negotiations? Does leaving the EU systems for sharing information on criminals and terrorists, and the European arrest warrant, not present a body blow to our ability to identify, track and trace individuals who pose a direct threat to our security?
There is no update or set of principles on foreign policy, just a general statement that the world is an increasingly dangerous place. This a pretty thin basis for detailed defence procurement priorities. In the Statement, the Prime Minister says that new technological advances will
“surmount the old limits of logistics”,
but there are no advances that mean that fighting ships do not require refuelling or that sailors do not require feeding. When one of our carriers is deployed to the Far East, for example, how is it to be provisioned and, given that the new frigates will not be built for a number of years, how will it be protected?
While there is quite a lot about the Navy in the Statement, there is nothing at all about the Army. What does this mean for Army expenditure? For example, are the Government committed to keeping troop levels at their current levels and are rumours about reducing the number of tanks correct? How does this increased expenditure fit into the Government’s overall public expenditure plans? We will be hearing more from the Chancellor later this week but, given the weakness of public finances, the expenditure being discussed today simply cannot be funded by increased borrowing. To echo the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, which other areas of public expenditure will fall or which taxes will rise to pay for this?
The noble Baroness will no doubt say that she cannot give an answer to these questions because that would pre-empt Wednesday’s Statement—but today’s Statement pre-empts Wednesday’s Statement. The truth is that the Prime Minister has done what he does best: making exaggerated claims for future policy developments, while leaving the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pick up the bill. That is the fundamental problem with this Statement. It is isolated from the integrated foreign, defence, security and development review and from the overall tax-and-spend strategy of the Government. With its soaring rhetoric, Boy’s Own breathlessness and glowing references to past glories, it runs the risk of being isolated from any realistic assessment of Britain’s place in the modern world.
I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. I will start by talking briefly about the integrated review, as they both asked some questions about it. We will conclude and publish the full integrated review early next year. Both noble Lords asked about the delay and, as they rightly said, the review was announced in February; it was then paused in April, due to Covid, and restarted in June. So we did have a delay in the review and it will now conclude early next year. However, we are in the final phases of it, aligning our ambition with our resources. The defence settlement outlines the first conclusions of the review, which will put us on the front foot as we equip our Armed Forces for the threats of today and tomorrow, while ensuring that long-term defence projects have certainty and are not put on hold.
When the full integrated review concludes early next year, it will set out our overarching strategy for national security and foreign policy, including defence, diplomacy, development and national resilience. It will set the direction for more detailed strategies and departmental activity in the coming years. It will also set out the way in which the UK will be a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation, and a strong direction for recovery from Covid at home and overseas. That issue was touched on at the G20 virtual summit held over the weekend, when all the leaders discussed it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, rightly talked about making sure that all parties were engaged. I can certainly reassure her that this is a cross-Whitehall process, allowing all to contribute expertise and analysis—not only within Whitehall but with partners, including NATO. Our closest allies have been involved during the process and will continue to be so. She also asked about the defence review, which is ongoing. Further details will be updated in due course.
Both noble Lords asked about spending. This is the only multiyear settlement for any government department that will be announced this year. I can reassure them that it has been fully costed, building on extensive work by the Treasury and MoD to understand what future capabilities will cost and how much can be delivered through efficiencies.
The noble Baroness talked about jobs, quite rightly. We expect this settlement to create up to 10,000 jobs each year across the UK, and as many as two-thirds more in the supply chain. Both noble Lords will be aware that in 2018-19, the MoD supported over 400,000 jobs, while defence spent £19.2 billion with UK industry last year. This new settlement will support further jobs in a whole array of areas: in shipbuilding, for instance, and obviously in emerging technologies—in space and in the building of the Tempest. We hope that this spending will create jobs in a range of ways. Part of the investment will also be looking to upskill and make sure that we can provide jobs for people around the whole of the United Kingdom—Scotland obviously being key to some of the developments that we are talking about. Hopefully this will be a UK-wide investment in jobs.
Both noble Lords rightly asked about international development. We are of course extremely proud of our work there. We remain committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. Of course, our Armed Forces are also a humanitarian force for good, coming to the aid of the most vulnerable following natural disasters, bringing stability to countries marred by conflict with peacekeeping missions and bolstering efforts to tackle Covid in the developing world. Both noble Lords will both know that the spending review will be announced on Wednesday; funding will be announced then.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about the Army. I can assure him that the UK will continue to have full-spectrum Armed Forces, including an armoured capability. But we also need to ensure that we focus on how the Army is equipped and what we want it to do. This settlement will ensure that our soldiers have some of the best equipment in the world, so that they can continue to do their fantastic job.
Both noble Lords talked about global leadership. They are absolutely right, which is why this settlement raises our defence spending to 2.2% of GDP. That is more in cash terms than any other European ally or NATO member, other than the United States. We will continue to lead internationally. Next year is a critical year for our international leadership, as we have the G7 presidency, COP 26 and the 75th anniversary of the first UNGA meeting in London. We will continue to play our part on the global stage, and this settlement will help us to do that.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the battlefields of future warfare will lie increasingly right inside our societies and inside people’s minds? So, while these measures are obviously extremely welcome for our Armed Forces, in the Prime Minister’s own words, we must
“upgrade our capabilities across the board”.—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]
Will she also assure us that when the integrated review eventually appears, having looked further at our defence needs, it will fully reflect what the Trade Secretary calls the “Pacific mindset”—along with the “Commonwealth mindset”—since these are the areas where our key future alliances increasingly lie for security and defence, as well as for trade and investment?
I thank my noble friend. He is absolutely right that we must look across all our capabilities to ensure an integrated response across the board to the threats and opportunities of the modern world. He is also right to emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth and the Indo-Pacific region. One of our greatest strengths is our alliances, along with our deep ties with the nations of the Commonwealth. We will continue to work closely with them, and of course the Indo-Pacific is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, so it is a crucial transit point for global trade, and a home to UK allies and trading partners. They will be at the forefront of our thoughts.
My Lords, the Statement last week is to be welcomed, albeit I think that it brought relief rather than jubilation to most defence and security experts. However, I too thought that the style and content of the Statement were somewhat disappointing. It is potentially a missed opportunity—little more than a hubristic announcement of a list of new defence capabilities. Will the integrated review itself give more evidence that the capability choices that have been made are matched to reconsidered strategy, particularly in the areas of modernised deterrence, national resilience, an integrated approach and—dare I say it—a more effective use of strategic information?
I thank the noble and gallant Lord and, yes, I can say that as we are now in the final stages of the integrated review, we are aligning our ambition with our resources. As I said in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, this defence review outlines the first conclusions of that and gives certainty to our defence projects. But the noble and gallant Lord is absolutely right: when we publish the fully integrated review, it will set out our ambition for the UK’s role in the world and our long-term strategic aims for our national security and foreign policy.
My Lords, I welcome this announcement, with its impact on jobs and industry, including in the diocese I serve. I note the welcome emphasis that the Government appear to give to defence and security. Will the Minister therefore recognise that previous defence reviews set out grand, strategic ambitions but were not backed by the necessary resources? Will she specifically confirm the Government’s commitment to providing those resources to match the ambitions of the review, and will she further recognise that as we wait for spending commitments on development aid and public sector pay, how much the Government propose in additional investment is an accurate barometer of what they consider to be most important?
I reassure the right reverend Prelate that this settlement puts the defence programme on a sustainable footing and will make sure that our Armed Forces can meet today’s threats at the same time as delivering on a once-in-a-generation modernisation. This £16.5 billion increase over four years is the biggest uplift in 30 years, and, as I mentioned, it cements the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
My Lords, I am sure that I do not need to remind the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that the Conservative Party manifesto contained a commitment to spend 0.75% of GNI on development aid. She failed to answer the direct question put by my noble friend Lady Smith and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, about whether this would be maintained. How, in the circumstances, can abandoning an election manifesto commitment of this kind even be considered—it is enshrined in law? Can she tell the House what the effect of doing so will have on the lives of millions of poor people living in dire poverty around the world, quite apart from the damage it will do to our international reputation?
As I have already said, we are, and should be, proud of our international development work. I have also already said that the spending review will be on Wednesday and announcements will be made there. I will not say anything further on that today, but I can certainly say that we are absolutely committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people. We will remain a world leader in this area through, as I have said, hosting COP 26, our G7 presidency and hosting a major girls’ education summit next year.
My Lords, I suspect that the Prime Minister’s Statement divides Peers, MPs and everybody else, to an extent, into those of us who speak on defence issues and those concerned about wider issues. Therefore, while I obviously welcome what the Statement said on defence expenditure, like other Peers, I ask the Minister what has happened to the 0.7% legal commitment to development aid. In the defence sphere, the Prime Minister talked about a
programme and how we are going to get away from the “vicious circle” of
“squandering billions along the way.”—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]
Given that the cart has come before the horse—the expenditure has been flagged up before the integrated review is complete—could the Minister explain to us how the Government intend to avoid “squandering billions” and how they will improve defence procurement?
As the noble Baroness says, we believe that this settlement gives a chance to break free from the vicious circle whereby we ordered ever decreasing numbers of ever more expensive items of military hardware. We have set out a number of projects that we will move forward across the Navy in particular but also with the RAF and others. We have also set out a very ambitious plan focused on using new technologies, AI, our new National Cyber Force and space. This is a broad package that we believe will truly help our Armed Forces modernise and be able to tackle the emerging and very different global threats that they are currently facing.
My Lords, I certainly welcome this pledge to increase defence spending: the world is a very much more dangerous place, and I will take the noble Lord, Lord Newby, through a few more of the threats outside later, if he likes. Can my noble friend say whether I can be confident that this announcement marks a reverse in the defence cuts that have taken place over the last 30 years since the end of the Cold War? Before I sit down, I will also say that I was on the International Development Committee for six years in the other place and saw some quite excellent work done with British taxpayers’ money. I also saw some shocking waste: an example that particularly springs to mind was an African country buying a fleet of Mercedes cars for its Cabinet Ministers with British taxpayers’ money. I have to say, if I might, that not all money spent on international development, or indeed on defence, is well spent.
I can certainly say to my noble friend that this is a significant investment in defence, and, as I have said, it is the biggest uplift in 30 years. The MoD is committed to making a step-change in defence transformation so that it delivers the digitised, efficient, productive and modernised defence that we require. We will also accelerate the adoption of new technologies, ensuring, all in all, that our military has the best capacity and capability that it needs, as he rightly says, to address the ever-growing challenges that we face.
My Lords, the Prime Minister’s defence announcement is to be greatly welcomed, especially the multi-year settlement. Also welcome is the firm recognition of the strategic priority to keep the sea lanes open. The key to this is destroyer frigate forces, which are of barely sufficient size for this task. Their numbers are imperilled by the decay, through old age, of the Type 23 frigate. The intent to build more ships for the Royal Navy is good news, but this ageing out of the Type 23 means that this intent must be expedited. Would the Minister agree that an in-service date of 2027 for the Type 31 is an unacceptably long time to have to wait for this much-needed asset to join the fleet and that the shipbuilding industry, which is much favoured in this announcement, should be made to do better?
I thank the noble and gallant Lord. Certainly, this settlement will significantly expand the Royal Navy: as well as confirming the current frigate orders, as he rightly says, we have also committed to the next-generation warship, the Type 32, and to research and support vessels. We are sticking to the timescale of 2027 for both the Type 31 and the Type 26. The Type 32 will represent an investment in UK shipbuilding of over £1.5 billion over the next decade and will, of course, create and sustain more jobs. We plan for this to be a UK-led programme that will revitalise the shipbuilding sector and create thousands of jobs. We believe that this is a strong settlement for the Navy, which will enable us to invest in new technology and ships and provide our Royal Navy with the capability that it needs.
My Lords, I am delighted that the Government are investing an extra £24.1 billion over the next four years. It is desperately needed after the reductions since 2010. The decision to base our defence and security on a maritime strategy is also correct and welcomed. As you can imagine, it is music to my ears to have the Prime Minister say
“If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy”,—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/20; col. 488.]
and that we should become the “foremost naval power” in Europe. It would be very easy to express concerns about the many unknowns and possible pitfalls in this announcement: the timing of the frigate build, for example, is one of them, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, mentioned. However, today, I believe we should celebrate the extra money for defence in this increasingly dangerous and unstable world. Many of the details will have to await the review’s outcome in January next year, but I ask the Leader of the House to confirm that, as the Prime Minister is so positive about running two operational carriers by 2023, we will still be ordering a minimum of 90—if not more—F-35Bs to ensure that we have two air groups and an operational conversion unit.
I welcome the noble Lord’s welcoming of this announcement. He has been a vocal and consistent strong voice for the Navy within this House, and I am glad that he is pleased. He is right that the carrier strike group 21 is an ambitious global deployment. From 2023, it will be permanently available to be routinely deployed globally, and, in fact, HMS “Queen Elizabeth” will lead a British and allied task group on our most ambitious deployment for two decades, encompassing the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and east Asia. We are currently finalising our plans for the deployment with regional partners.
My Lords, pandemic was on the 2015 review risk register. Does the noble Baroness recognise that failing to address that has resulted in costs to the economy which are multiples of this defence uplift? What is the point of an integrated review, dismantling DfID even before the review began and this announcement before it concludes if we do not know what challenges the Government think we face and how we might tackle them with our allies? Does she think that global Britain is enhanced or undermined by cutting the development budget?
As I said, we have already worked through the main findings within government to inform this announcement and they are the first conclusions of the integrated review. The Government are working to ensure that we have an integrated strategy. As I have said to a number of noble Lords, that will be published in its entirety in the new year.
My Lords, the investment in space and cyber is most welcome. Many of the skills required are already held in the private sector, so will this review provide the catalyst to implement the whole-force approach? Is this not a golden opportunity to reset the relationship between defence and industry into one of genuine partnership?
My noble friend is absolutely right. That is certainly what we intend to do. On AI, for instance, the MoD is working with partners across government, UK industry and academia, and will invest in AI hubs to test and develop new models of collaboration and co-creation. On space, Space Command will be staffed jointly from the three services, the Civil Service and key members of the commercial sector, and will bring together three functions: space operations, space workforce generation and space capability. Such working together, as my noble friend set out, is at the centre of our approach, particularly in these new and emerging technologies.
Although the UK will still be spending a smaller percentage of its GDP on its defence than at the end of the previous decade, I welcome the financial settlement and the commitment to new and emerging technologies. However, conflict tends to bring with it rather unpleasant surprises. Will the noble Baroness the Leader therefore confirm that the four structures and processes that will be set out in the integrated review will retain the necessary agility and adaptability to enable us to respond effectively to those things that we did not or could not foresee?
The noble and gallant Lord is absolutely right. Flexibility and being able to adapt to emerging threats are certainly at the heart of what this review will look to do. A lot of our investment in new technologies is based on the very issues that he raises: that we need to be able to adapt, because what we face now may not be what we face in years to come. We are all cognisant of that.
My Lords, it is 53 years since the British Government announced our withdrawal of forces from east of Suez, and we well know that our current Prime Minister wants nothing better than to move an increasing proportion of our forces back east of Suez. All the report says about that is that we will be extending our influence, but it does not tell us what influence over whom. Do we intend, as we build up our Gulf base, to defend Saudi Arabia against Iran? If we are to send a carrier task force next year into the South China Sea, is it our intention to challenge China and would that be good for our trade relations with it?
As I said in a previous answer, we believe that this settlement will create jobs across the United Kingdom. For instance, in Scotland, we already spend £1.7 billion a year supporting 10,000 jobs, and we are taking forward our plans for the eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates currently being constructed on the Clyde. There will be further growth of jobs in Northern Ireland and, we hope, in Wales. This is indeed a good settlement for job creation in the United Kingdom. We want construction on those projects to be UK-led. As I said, we hope that 10,000 jobs a year will be created, with many more within the supply chains, across the UK.
My Lords, I am rather disappointed that one “shoddy practice” can be cited to discredit a whole generation of excellent international development work. What assessment have the Government made of the defence and security implications of the proposed US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan? What consideration has been given to ensure the empowerment and education of women and girls in conflict regions where our past military interventions continue to cause death and destruction in the present day?
The noble Baroness will know our absolute commitment to supporting women and girls in areas of conflict. It is one of the personal priorities of the Prime Minister, and we will continue to work on it. Indeed, it was one of the issues discussed by the Prime Minister with other world leaders at the G20 over the weekend. We remain committed to supporting security and stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq and will continue to work closely with our allies and partners on a collective approach to ensure that.
My Lords, I welcome the commitment to our Armed Forces and the Prime Minister defending our people and keeping the world safe, but it would be a moral, strategic and social mistake if we did not continue our foreign aid at the present 0.7% target. Since we have had such a target, Britain has achieved soft power and saved millions of lives in Africa by reducing the number of deaths from malaria and HIV. I hope that the Government will continue with these projects.
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I have said on several occasions in response to noble Lords that we are committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest, but, as I said, spending issues will be covered in the spending review on Wednesday.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume. Some Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing, 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 shall call Members to speak in the order listed in the annexe to today’s list. 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 shall collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make that clear when speaking on the group.
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Report (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 24th, 36th and 29th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 17th Report from the Constitution Committee, 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights
Clause 8: The non-discrimination principle: indirect discrimination
14: Clause 8, page 7, line 4, at end insert—
“(8A) Before making regulations under subsection (7) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending the “legitimate aims” in Clause 8 (which can mean that provision does not count as indirectly discriminatory against goods).
My Lords, I start by bringing to the attention of the House an inadvertent error that I made in one of my replies last Wednesday. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, I misread my note on the relationship between the non-discrimination principle and employment law requirements, and got one word wrong. I should have said:
“If the employment law requirement were to meet that test, they would not be disapplied unless they had discriminatory effects.”
I reassure that House that my misspeaking in this case was, of course, entirely unintentional.
To be absolutely clear about this point, we have already delivered the relevant legislative measures to give effect to Article 2 of the protocol. I again assure noble Lords that the rights for individuals in Northern Ireland captured within the scope of the Article 2 commitment will continue to be protected going forward and will not be impacted by the outworkings of this Bill. Even if employment law requirements were in scope of the non-discrimination principle, which they would not generally be as they would have to relate to goods sold, they would not be disapplied unless they had discriminatory effects. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, last week, I would be happy to facilitate a meeting between her and interested parties and the relevant Ministers and officials, and I stand by the commitment that I gave then.
On the subject of today’s groupings, the amendments in my name would ensure that the Government consult with the devolved Administrations when seeking to use powers. As we made clear in Committee, if the powers are required, we will of course engage with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of the devolution memorandum of understanding. We have been listening to colleagues in the House and appreciate that there is an appetite for these commitments to be included in the Bill. We are therefore introducing these amendments to put beyond doubt our commitment to consult each of the devolved Administrations if any of the relevant powers are used. The consultation requirements and the commitment behind them are clear. However, once consultation is undertaken, the right place for final decisions should be back in Parliament, where parliamentarians from all parts of the United Kingdom can debate and vote on the proposed use of these powers.
It is also worth noting the separate amendment we have tabled, requiring the Secretary of State to review and report to Parliament on the exercise and effectiveness of the powers in Parts 1 and 2 within five years. That will provide an additional degree of accountability and scrutiny, and will again involve consultation with the devolved Administrations—something that I know the House is keen on. For the reasons I have set out above, I hope that noble Lords will accept the amendments in my name, and agree that Amendments 18, 32 and 43 are therefore unnecessary.
Having set out the reasonable measures that Government have tabled, I turn to Amendments 15, 20, 34, and 46. These seek to add additional processes around devolved Administration consent before use of the relevant powers. We have been listening to noble Lords and appreciate the appetite for these commitments on devolved Administration engagement to be included in the Bill. As I have already explained, we are therefore seeking to amend this clause to require consultation with the devolved Administrations prior to use of the power, putting our commitment beyond doubt. As part of this, we will of course set out reasoning for seeking to use the powers, both to the devolved Administrations and to Parliament. We will also seek to reach agreement with the devolved Administrations wherever that is possible. Because of this, it seems to us that putting into legislation the process proposed by noble Lords in their amendments would be duplicative and unnecessary. For these reasons, I hope that the amendments we have already tabled address the concerns of noble Lords, so these amendments are unnecessary.
Amendment 16 requires the publication of the results of consultation on the exercise of the power in Clause 8. While this power was removed from the Bill last week, I will speak briefly about the Government’s position on the subject. The exercise of this power would require consultation with the devolved Administrations. They are perfectly capable of deciding to publish their responses if they so choose. It is not necessary to make that choice for them in this Bill. For these reasons, I ask the noble Baroness not to press that amendment either.
Amendments 26, 27 and 28 would require the Secretary of State to consult all three devolved Administrations before preparing, revising or withdrawing guidance on the operation of the UK market access principles. Amendment 27 specifically stipulates that the Secretary of State should seek the consent of the devolved Administrations. However, should formal consent not be received within a month, the Secretary of State may proceed none the less. This amendment further states that where the Secretary of State makes regulations without obtaining consent, he must publish a statement explaining why. The guidance is itself explanatory; it is important to note that it is not a power to make or amend regulations.
It goes without saying that as part of the guidance process we will engage with all the relevant stakeholders, including the devolved Administrations, because we are committed to helping regulators and traders understand the principles and make the best possible use of them. However, this guidance will not change the rules that apply, so the formal consent of the devolved Administrations should not be required. It is also unnecessary to have a legislative consultation process with the devolved Administrations alone in respect of the guidance, when the guidance will be explaining, not making, the law.
I hope that with those words I have reassured noble Lords on this matter and they feel able not to press their amendments. In the meantime, I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for his correction on the unforced error, I think it is called, in what happened on Wednesday. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, will be speaking later and I am sure will comment on that; I hope the House can let her even if it is not specifically in this group. When the Minister responds, I would ask him to ensure the meeting that he has kindly offered takes place before Third Reading, so that if anything needed adjustments, we would be able to look at it at that point. As I say, I am absolutely certain that it was an unforced error, but it would be nice to have that clear.
We are pleased about parts of this, and certainly the review of the use of powers. It may seem odd to the House that we are continuing with these amendments, almost all of which—the guidance being the exception—set down how regulations should be made, even as the very power to make such regulations is about to be removed from the Bill. Nevertheless, we are in agreement with the Minister that it is helpful to deal with the amendments in his name and those in mine and others’ which deal with how these powers would be handled, should they be put in.
Therefore, it is helpful to have our Amendment 15, which I will formally move in due course, as well as Amendments 20, 24 and 26 in the Bill, so that the Commons and the Government will be well aware—assuming that our amendments are passed—that this House would expect any regulation about the functioning of a market across four nations to be made in partnership with those other three participants.
Amendment 15 and the others go further than what the Minister has offered in his. He has quite rightly added consultation; ours go further than that, but they do not hand a veto to any one of the devolved authorities. What they do is take further the welcome admission by the Government, in their Amendments 14, 19, 36 and 45, that it would be unthinkable to make regulations affecting devolved competences without consulting their Governments and legislatures. Our further step is to add some grip to the consultation by making it a proper involvement. The amendments say that the devolved authorities must either give their consent to the regulations within a month, or else the Government can continue but would have to explain to Parliament and the public why they were proceeding without agreement. This does not seem much to ask. It will not cause any delay, but it would ensure that there was no risk of any tokenism in the consultation. Instead, the devolved authorities will have to reply, and speedily, and the Government would simply have to explain why they wanted to proceed contrary to any of the devolved authorities’ views before proceeding.
I think that the Minister and your Lordships’ House will understand why we need this written into statute. There is a bit of history, I am afraid, because the Bill was published with no prior warning, much less consultation, and nothing approaching the consent of the devolved authorities. We are keen to pull back from the distrust that that has sown and allow the Government to indicate the respect I am sure that they have for devolution and shared decision-making, albeit with Parliament having the final say.
It is no secret that some claim that the Prime Minister’s view that
“devolution has been a disaster north of the border”
explains this Bill’s denial of a say to the devolved authorities. But for those of us from west of the border, there has been a worse consequence, as it appears to tar the highly successful Welsh devolution with a particular Conservative view about Scotland. We can use the Bill—and I think the Minister will want to—through this and some later amendments, to seek to repair the perhaps unintentional damage and demonstrate a real appreciation of the joint nature of decision-making in these areas of devolved competences; of course, we are talking only about areas of devolved competences. It would be nice, therefore, if we did not have to vote on Amendment 15 and the others and the Minister would be persuaded and accept them.
Just in case the Minister does not, I indicate that we would seek to divide the House on Amendment 15 and, if passed, the others in this group, though we should note, as he made reference to, that there is a small error in the third paragraph of Amendment 27, which refers to regulations rather than guidance. That is my bad drafting. I apologise. I think he will understand, but I hope we can tidy that up at Third Reading.
For now, while welcoming the fact that the Minister has realised that consultation needs to be written on to the face of the Bill, we would just like to add that extra bit that there must be consent within a month or the Government must explain why they are proceeding without the consent of the devolved authorities.
My Lords, I warmly embrace my noble friend—in a metaphorical sense, he will be pleased to know—for adopting in Amendment 14 and others what was in my amendment in Committee, which is why I have appended my name to his Amendment 14. I congratulate him on moving in this regard and listening to the concerns expressed in this House so forcefully by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, and as drafted for me and briefed to me by the Law Society of Scotland.
By the same token, I urge the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the co-signers of Amendment 15 and others in this group not to press them. I would be interested to know the provenance of, and thinking behind, Amendment 15 and the others, because I have not picked up on any move, certainly from the Scottish Government and Parliament, to seek consent in this regard. I would be interested to know why the noble Baroness is going to press this when the Government have gone so far to meet the concerns expressed by the Law Society of Scotland and others in Committee. If we do not welcome and congratulate the Government and this Minister when they move as far as they have, it puts down a poor marker for future amendments to this Bill and others on these matters.
My noble friend has said that Amendments 18, 32 and 43 in his view are unnecessary. I think that Amendment 18 is paralleled by and complementary to his own amendment—government Amendment 19. I think that Amendment 32 is also paralleled by his Amendment 36 and his Amendment 35, which I have also signed. Amendment 43, in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, I think is also complemented and paralleled by his Amendment 45, for which I am extremely grateful; I would like to pay tribute handsomely to my noble friend for moving in this regard.
I do have a hesitation as to why my noble friend has not accepted Amendments 26 and 28 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. They are actually seeking to consult in much the same way as an earlier clause that my noble friend has moved and agreed—which is extremely welcome—but, if my understanding is correct, he has not agreed to move in regard to Clause 12 to consult with the devolved Administrations before preparing guidance under Clause 12. I may be mistaken—in which case, I would be grateful if my noble friend would correct me.
I would also like to warmly welcome government Amendment 29. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the spirit of inclusion shown by my noble friend and the Government on this occasion to commit to obliging the Secretary of State to carry out a review of the use of Part 1 amendment powers and, in that regard, his commitment to consult the devolved Administrations. I wish to warmly commend his movement in that regard.
I would perhaps like to nudge my noble friend also to accept Amendments 26 and 28 as being on the same page as his own thinking. I repeat that I do hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the other co-signers of Amendment 15 and others will take this opportunity to withdraw or not move their amendments, given that the Government have moved as far as they have on this consultation, to which they are now committed. So I do not beg to move.
My Lords, I also welcome the Government’s amendments in this group and the speech of the Minister. If I may, I will try to answer the concern just expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. I think it is fair to say that some of us fear that the Government might be tempted to try to overturn the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, in the other place, and so we would like the House to fully consider all the amendments in this group that have been tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and myself.
I would like to speak in favour of Amendments 15, 20, 27, 34 and 46. All of these amendments are based on the same principle: that, when issuing guidance as to the implementation of market access principles, or when seeking to extend or further limit the exceptions to the application of the market access principles, the Government must obtain the consent of the devolved Governments to doing so.
However, we are sensitive to the nervousness of the Government and wish to be helpful by providing clear reassurance in statute of coupling a consent requirement with a limited-time proviso. This states that, should consent not be forthcoming from one or more devolved Governments within a month, the Government may proceed to make the changes or issue the guidance, subject only to the need to make a statement to Parliament as to why this is necessary.
This is not an onerous requirement, and I know that what we have proposed is less than the unqualified requirement for consent that the devolved Governments in both Wales and Scotland would have preferred. But this amendment is a healthy, open compromise which can comprehensively allay the fears of the Government Front Bench as to the risk of the process somehow grinding to a halt should a Scottish or Welsh Minister try to delay. Indeed, our approach, advocated in the slightly different context of appointments to the office for the internal market by the Welsh Government, has been adopted by the Minister in government Amendments 56 and 57, so it seems difficult to see how the Government could object to this.
I therefore hope that the Minister will think again and accept these helpful amendments, rather than put us in a situation where we need to go to a vote.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 26, 27 and 28 in this group, and in so doing I would like to thank noble Lords who tabled the amendments in this group and introduced them so clearly today.
Clause 12 of the Bill provides the Secretary of State with a power to issue statutory guidance about the practical operation and effect of the market access principles for goods. These amendments to the clause highlight what is, of course, a recurring theme in this Bill: the assumption that such decisions will be made by the UK Government, in the guise of the Secretary of State, without any input from the devolved Administrations, dismissing any attempt at building on intergovernmental relationships to come to consensus. It is this assumption and its consequences that I wish to address quite quickly today.
In a recent article published by the Centre on Constitutional Change, Greg Davies of Cardiff University argues that this Bill—and, I would contend, particularly clauses such as Clause 12 and others in this group—represents a failure of soft law and amounts to the introduction of
“a new constitutional settlement by stealth.”
Since the creation of the National Assembly in 1999, our two Governments have used soft-law techniques of intergovernmental political agreements and memoranda of understanding to form and guide the relationship between them. Because soft law relies on mutual trust, good will and co-operation rather than legal enforcement, it can, this article argues,
“be exploited to sidestep more fundamental reform”.
The introduction of this internal market Bill has, I believe, opened the Welsh Government’s eyes to the reality of the weakness of a system that relies on soft law; they themselves have described the Bill as a “new low”. So, in a Bill which will curtail the ability of devolved Governments to regulate products and services within their territories that originate from elsewhere in the UK, Clause 12, and the additional powers it gives the Secretary of State to act in areas of devolved competence, adds insult to injury.
The Welsh Government have no official voice in this Chamber, but they have the voice of many Members who value the devolution settlements and are determined to see the devolved Parliaments flourish and grow. So I am extremely grateful to the noble Lords who have given us the opportunity to debate these three important amendments today, together with other amendments in this group. In these amendments, this House is being asked to reaffirm Parliament’s support for the devolved settlements, to confirm its continued confidence in the soft-law process of building intergovernmental relationships, and to reject the attempts to introduce—and reject being complicit in—what is, in effect, a new constitutional settlement by stealth.
Of course, I welcome Amendments 26 and 28 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, which call for consultation with Ministers in the devolved Governments when issuing guidance relating to Part 1 of the Bill, and Amendment 27, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, which calls for the Secretary of State to obtain the consent of Ministers in the devolved Governments to such guidance. My preference is, of course, for Amendment 27, as it places this Parliament’s commitment to the soft-law process on the face of the Bill and provides for a meaningful outcome to consultation.
I also support Amendments 15, 20, 34 and 46 in this group, which also call for the consent of the devolved Parliaments. In addition, I do welcome the Government’s conversion to consultation in their amendments, but I regret that they really do not go far enough. If the noble Baroness is minded to put any of her amendments, particularly Amendment 15, to the vote, I and my colleagues on these Benches will support it.
My Lords, although I welcome the Minister’s moving of government Amendments 14, 36 and 45, I still wish to speak in support of Amendments 15, 20, 27, 34 and 46, to which I have added my name.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, these are modest amendments which are almost painstaking in their attempts to be reasonable. They balance the right of the devolved Governments to be asked for their consent if and when Ministers want to use Henry VIII powers to clamp down still further on the very narrow exceptions to the market access principles, with the right of the UK Parliament to act if it believes that one or more of the devolved Governments are unreasonably delaying or blocking such changes. I am happy to put my name to these amendments, but the fact that they are so modest highlights the parlous state of the union. We are faced with a Government who are so paranoid about the potential threat of a nationalist veto to their plans that they are prepared to provoke the very thing they fear: the collapse of the house of cards which is our so-called current constitution.
The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, coined the phrase “the good chaps theory of government” as a description of the way the governance of this country functioned in the absence of a codified constitution. We are faced with a Government who have defenestrated the good chaps with an insurrectionist zeal that makes Robespierre appear a model of restraint. They are unapologetic when found by the Supreme Court to be violating the constitutional rights of Parliament, responding by attacking the judiciary; they use constructive dismissal as a routine way of neutering the Civil Service; they give consultancy contracts on a breath-taking scale to their friends and relations without any proper procurement; and they tolerate a Cabinet Minister with the brass neck to remain in one of the highest offices of state after being found to have broken the Ministerial Code by bullying her officials—the list goes on.
If we are to defend devolution and indeed the future viability of the union—which I believe your Lordships’ House has repeatedly shown it wishes to do—we need to compel the Government to respect the rights of the devolved Governments and legislatures. That is why it is so important that the market access principles should be brought into play only if this House and the other place are convinced that a real-world threat has emerged to the internal market which cannot be addressed by the common frameworks. That is why the consent of the devolved institutions to legislative devices which might limit their rights should always be required. Let us be in no doubt that that is precisely what the Bill would do. Even without using the Henry VIII powers to which these consent provisions would apply, the Bill poses a real and present danger to the capacity of the devolved Governments to do what they have been elected to do.
In Committee, many Members raised the issue of single-use plastics. The Welsh Government have consulted on a proposal to ban nine types of these items—a move in line with their recognition of the climate emergency which would be fully possible under EU law, and which is very broadly supported in Wales. Ministers did not give a clear answer as to whether legislation of this sort would be possible if the Bill was enacted. However, in the policy statements published on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—BEIS—website last week, the issue is now crystal clear. To quote from one:
“Conversely, non-pricing policies that place an outright ban on goods being sold, for example a ban on single-use plastics, would be caught by mutual recognition. Devolved administrations could introduce a ban on the sale of a particular good, but the ban would only cover local products produced in that part of the UK (or those imported into that territory from outside the UK). Devolved administrations could not enforce that ban against sellers of goods produced in, or imported into, other parts of the UK.”
That is a quote from an official government website. Will the Minister please confirm on the record that this official BEIS advice is accurate, because its implications are pretty serious? If it is, would he explain how this is consistent with his and his colleagues’ previous assertions that the Bill does no more than replace constraints that existed by virtue of our membership of the EU?
The Bill is a tale of two halves. The one half consists of legitimate fears on the part of the devolved institutions that their role and powers are in real jeopardy, and the other of bogus claims that the devolved Parliaments are lying in wait to sabotage the union as the chimes of Big Ben welcome in the New Year. We must face down the half-truths of this unscrupulous and power-hungry Government and defend the rights of the devolved institutions, as these modest amendments seek to do.
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that I am having to appear electronically, rather than be there in person, for logistical reasons. I am sorry not to be able to engage in a bit of banter with the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for example, and in particular with the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, with whom I have had a few exchanges of interest in the past. Nevertheless, I am very happy to speak today in support of the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and myself.
These amendments would require—the important word—the UK Government to consult with the devolved Administrations in the areas described. Thankfully, the Government seem to be moving in that direction, as we see from Amendment 14. For once, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, for accepting that. In Amendment 15, my noble friend Lady Hayter on the Opposition Front Bench, and others, add a requirement to seek approval from the devolved Administrations while allowing the UK Government to go ahead if that is not obtained within a month. I will support that amendment if there is a Division on it, because it puts extra pressure on the Government to find agreements. There is in fact no difference in principle between the amendments, but they underline the need for some greater understanding of the nature and the extent of devolution. However, I repeat what others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, that we would prefer that the Bill had not seen the light of day and hope the Government and the Commons might think again in the light of their overwhelming defeat here in the Lords.
Meanwhile, we need to consider how these matters are dealt with if the Government do not take our advice and press ahead with the Bill. Some in Scotland, principally the SNP, have described the transfer of responsibilities from the European Union as a “Westminster power grab”. while the UK Government see it as a “power surge” to the devolved Administrations. The fact is that neither is the reality or correct. In truth, we were all willing to see common standards for the whole of the UK decided as part of the European Union common market, with some reservations as appropriate. Now we need to determine how we deal with all these powers in what will effectively be a UK common market.
There is however a constitutional difference between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Whereas the European Union is a federation of sovereign states, as we know, the UK has been a unitary state for centuries but has rightly decided to devolve some powers to three of its constituent parts over the past two decades. I support that and agreed with it, but we are still coming to terms with the new reality, and it is proving more difficult for some than for others.
In areas where there has been devolution of powers, those transferred from the European Union should of course go to the devolved Administrations as long as it can be done without any real distortion of the United Kingdom’s internal market operation. In our amendments, there is provision for them to be consulted, but not, of course, to have a veto, which I believe to be correct. However, there needs to be genuine consultation and, sadly, as my noble friend Lord Hain said, that has not been the case with the current UK Government, who have fuelled resentment and nationalist movements in the three nations.
Finally, I hope that the Minister will spell out in greater detail in his reply the procedures by which the Government intend to consult—the arrangements for consultation; secondly, how they will take account of those consultations within Westminster and Whitehall; and, finally, confirm that they will publish reasons if they are unwilling to accept the views of the devolved Administrations. That is the least that the devolved Administrations can expect, and I hope it will not be too difficult for the UK Government to do so.
I look forward to the rest of the debate and hope that when we get to Amendment 15, if there is a Division, the House of Lords will once again show its good sense.
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for his statement at the beginning of this group, in which he indicated that he had made an error in winding-up last week on Amendment 24, which was in my name and those of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Suttie and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle.
I have listened to what the Minister said today. I wrote to him at the weekend about what was said on broadcast TV, which I quote:
“If the employment law requirement were to meet that test, they would not be disapplied because they had discriminatory effect.”
When the Official Report appeared, it stated:
“If the employment law requirement were to meet that test, they would not be disapplied unless they had discriminatory effects.”
The difference between “because” and “unless” leads to direct opposites, and that requires further clarification from the Minister and from the Minister who will hold the meeting. I thank him for indicating that he will facilitate that meeting with the members of both the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland on this issue.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, stated, if we are not satisfied with the outcome of that meeting—it is important that it takes place prior to Third Reading—I would seek to bring that issue back then. For the purposes of clarification, I think I need to point out that the withdrawal Act 2020 implemented Articles 2 and 13 faithfully. Clauses 5, 6 and 8 of the Bill threaten that implementation by allowing changes to legislation implementing the obligation to keep Northern Ireland in line with equality law in future. It does this by providing that such legislation cannot be challenged on the basis that it is indirectly discriminatory. Until last week, the Government had said that Clauses 5, 6 and 8 did not apply to such legislation. The Minister’s statement today makes it clear that they will apply and may be used to challenge legislation implementing the Article 13 obligation.
I, as the mover of that amendment, along with both commissions in Northern Ireland, which have a significant dedicated role in monitoring the implementation of Article 2, all consider that that would be a breach of the protocol. Therefore, it is important, and I say this with all due respect to the Minister, that we achieve that meeting prior to Third Reading. I hope that in summing up, the Minister can give me that commitment.
I move on briefly to the amendments. I support the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, because they underscore the importance of the devolution settlement and require the consent of the devolved authorities. I acknowledge that the Government have made some movement here in the whole area of consultation, which is important. The noble Baroness’s amendment states that there is a need for consent from the devolved authorities within one month on any changes to the list of legitimate aims by regulation, else the Government should publish a statement why consent was not achieved.
All this comes back to the point that the devolution settlement should not be undermined, even through the use of the Henry VIII powers. Much of what happens under the Bill depends on secondary legislation and regulations, and has made the devolved Administrations in Wales and Scotland deeply uneasy about their future responsibilities. I say quite sincerely that this issue needs to be ironed out. In Northern Ireland, I speak also of those areas that do not fall within the remit of the protocol. The Government should relent on this issue, accept the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, and further honour and respect the work of the devolved Administrations. Can the Minister tell us when the next meeting of the Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit will be, as it has not met in more than a year?
My Lords, I begin by echoing my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. I, too, am deeply sorry that he is not with us, as he was in such splendid and rumbustious form last week. All I would say to him is, “Haste you back”, and I hope he will be able to take part again on the Floor of the House very shortly.
I also genuinely thank my noble friend Lord Callanan for tabling and moving Amendment 14. That has shown that he and his ministerial colleagues have listened to what was said in your Lordships' House in Committee, and for that I am sure we are all grateful. My noble friend is exactly right when he says in the United Kingdom Parliament—we are not a federation—the buck stops with Westminster. That is entirely right, but there is deep suspicion in many quarters about the word “consult”, because it can have a variety of meanings and interpretations. “Politely inform” is often what people mean by “consult”. That is why I am particularly attracted to the wording of Amendment 20 in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain. This requires an explanation. It is entirely proper that the buck stops here. It is entirely proper that the ultimate decision is made in Westminster, given the present structure of our United Kingdom, where, as has been said, certain specific powers are devolved, but ultimate power remains here.
Having said all that, it is important that “consult” means consult—discuss, evaluate and determine the merits before a final decision is made. Therefore, I say this to my noble friend: thank you for coming as far as you have. I in no sense question or impugn his sincerity because I know from experience that he understands the proper meaning of “consultation”, but not everybody in ministerial office does. There have even been recent occasions when advice has been totally jettisoned.
If we are to move forward with the devolved Administrations, it is important that we genuinely consult. I like the idea of giving them time but not allowing them to procrastinate indefinitely; a month seems a good length of time. Then, it is perfectly reasonable that the Westminster Parliament should insist on having its will, but that it explain precisely why. We have got to treat the devolved Administrations as bodies of articulate, well-informed public servants who are trying their best to serve Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Of course, the elephant in the room—we must all be honest enough to admit this—is that, whereas the Governments in Northern Ireland and Wales accept the union of the United Kingdom, in Scotland, they do not. In Scotland, we have a Government who, perfectly honourably—it is an entirely legitimate ambition to have, although I strongly oppose it—have one ultimate aim: to break up the United Kingdom by withdrawing from it. So, it is very important that those of us who believe in the United Kingdom do not succumb to those who want to manipulate themselves out of it, and that we are able, in the interests of the United Kingdom—while there is one—to argue for policies conducive to its continuance.
The balance and wisdom implicit in Amendment 20 commends itself to me. I hope that my noble friend will reflect on that and perhaps say that he will come back at Third Reading with a slightly amplified version of the welcome and, again, genuinely meant and perfectly sincere Amendment 14, because I do not really think we can just leave it at that.
My Lords, the starting point for this group of amendments is, I suppose, that not one of the devolved Administrations has given its consent to this legislation. That is an unfortunate place to be.
However, I welcome the changes that my noble friend the Minister has introduced so far. Listening to the debate, it seems that the gap between the different amendments and the Government’s position is not huge; to be honest, I would have thought it perfectly capable of being bridged. I certainly urge that efforts to ensure it is bridged be pursued, because there is no point in having unnecessary divisions if they can be avoided.
I must say to my noble friend that consultation is in the eye of the beholder. Having been a devolved Minister for just under seven years, I have a little experience of what consultation actually amounts to from time to time. Occasionally, it can be extensive, planned and productive. On other occasions, you read about it in the Daily Mail before you have even got into the office. There is a coherent argument for having a codified process to ensure that consultation happens, and within a framework. We all know that Ministers and departments are sometimes very good at it, but occasionally and, sadly, all too frequently, that is not the case.
I totally accept that no devolved Administration can be permitted to have a veto over what happens in the whole of the United Kingdom, because, as my noble friend Lord Cormack just stated, the buck ultimately stops with the Westminster Parliament; that is totally correct. But one is brought to a position by one’s experience in these matters. What is being asked for in some of these amendments is not unreasonable and would be beneficial. We know that, as has already been referred to, vociferous nationalism is attacking at every opportunity the legitimacy of the United Kingdom. It has been used and abused. So, even though some sections in government may find it a bit tedious, having a structured consultation mechanism is a protection against those who would use it as an anti-unionist argument.
To give an example, due to the action of some of its parties, the Northern Ireland Assembly was unfortunately out of business for three years during the critical Brexit negotiations. We repeatedly asked Ministers what mechanisms they were going to use to consult the people of Northern Ireland about the huge issues arising from those negotiations; indeed, barely a day goes by now without another obstacle and tank trap appearing in the process. We were given assurances that the consultation would be very significant, but I can tell noble Lords that that did not come to pass. It was sporadic and haphazard—it certainly was not structured—and we have ended up today in the most awful mess, which, sadly, we will no doubt return to frequently in the months ahead.
We should not really have to have an argument over these issues because there is a broad level of agreement. I urge my noble friend to harness the different threads of the argument and ensure that we take a united position as we move forward with this legislation, whatever we happen to think of it. Setting out clearly that there must be consultation and that it must be done in a formal, structured way without any devolved Administration being able to frustrate the operation of the UK single market—as it will be referred to—is entirely reasonable. I hope that my noble friend will reflect on that when he sums up.
My Lords, one of the pleasant features of this Bill is the extent to which probing amendments have been put down by all sides. It is clear to me from the consultations we have had between debates and the periodic guidance we have received that, for once—this is not true too often—we have on the Front Bench two Ministers who have tried very hard to find a way forward in a controversial and difficult area. I pay tribute to that; it is particularly reflected in the amendment before us today.
I read it carefully over the weekend and underlined the word “before”; how often do you get something on to the statute book that has to happen before anything is laid that would add to the particular clause? The amendment says:
“Before making regulations … the Secretary of State must”—
there is no option; that is a big change from its earlier stage in Committee—
“consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”
In my book, this has gone a long way forward.
I looked at the alternatives very seriously—of course one does—but Amendment 15 is, frankly, unworkable. It says “must obtain”. If you have someone really difficult or there is something else causing friction, which perhaps has nothing to do with the internal market Bill, “must obtain” will not be achievable. However, the noble Baroness shaking her head on the Opposition Benches has put down an amendment which she believes deals with that problem.
Amendment 16 says the Secretary of State should be forced to publish the results of the consultation. That is not the way forward; it does not produce much good will on any side. I would have thought that unacceptable.
Amendment 20 is interesting, and some noble Lords clearly support it. It strings it out a bit too much for me; if I were the Secretary of State, I would think to myself, “My goodness, I’m never going to get on with this job.” Someone will find a way around it. The tightness of what my noble friend on the Front Bench is proposing is its attraction. It is short, tight and attractive. I will certainly support my noble friend.
My Lords, I support Amendment 15 and the other amendments which would require the UK Government to obtain consent from the devolved institutions.
The big political issue from a Scottish perspective in what we are debating is whether this legislation takes back powers that currently reside with the Scottish Parliament to the UK Parliament without consent. It seems accepted by all involved in this debate that that could be the case; I believe that is what my noble friend Lord Hain was saying, and what the Minister clarified on the first day of Report. Any further information or response the Government could give to clarify that point would be greatly helpful, in terms of the political problems from a Scottish perspective regarding this legislation. There can always be situations where it would be completely appropriate for UK legislation to be enacted covering currently devolved areas, with the consent of all parties involved, but that is not the issue we are debating here.
The suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Empey, of a more detailed framework for consultation was incredibly useful, for all the reasons that have been outlined by noble Lords. As I understand it, the current legislation has no arbitration or other process that would deal with disputes. The genuine belief, which has been confirmed around this House, is that, as currently drafted, this Bill undermines the devolution settlements because it potentially involves areas where the Scottish Parliament currently has competence. There could be situations such as that outlined by my noble friend Lord Hain: for example, the Scottish Parliament currently has the ability to regulate for all goods in Scotland, but this legislation would mean it could regulate only for goods made in Scotland or those imported from abroad, and not those from other parts of the United Kingdom.
If that is not how this Bill, if it becomes an Act, would work in practice, or if it is impossible that that set of circumstances could come about, the Government need to be up front about that and make commitments and guarantees, given the political debate around this legislation. As I said on the previous occasion I spoke on this Bill, the concern in Scotland is that it could lead to a race to the bottom on standards and would enable a situation where the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate on matters that it could at the moment.
The concern is that the Government are effectively seeking, in certain circumstances, to take powers back from the Scottish Parliament. The backdrop is that all parties in Scotland, with the exception of the Conservative Party, have been asking and campaigning for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, particularly financial powers, for many years. We have had rising support for independence, which gained momentum during the independence referendum in 2014, and a Brexit which is unpopular in Scotland, where there is a high level of awareness that 62% of the people voted remain. I therefore ask the Government to take all that into account.
My Lords, I will be very brief. I am concerned about Amendments 14 and 15, which both clearly state that:
“Before making regulations under subsection (7) the Secretary of State must”
“the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy”.
I asked myself why it is specifically the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland but not in Wales or Scotland. Can the Minister clarify in winding up why it is specifically the Department for the Economy? The distinction is made in a couple of other parts of the Bill. Surely it is clear, given that the grounds for discrimination cover areas such as animal health and biosecurity, that the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs would have a deep interest in any changes. Thus the restriction to consult only the Department for the Economy is a bit difficult to understand.
I strongly contend that Northern Ireland should be treated in exactly the same way as other regions of the United Kingdom. Would the Minister be good enough to clarify in winding up on this group why it specifically states only the Department for the Economy, and not the Northern Ireland Assembly or other ministries? I will leave it at that.
My Lords, it is welcome that the Government, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, have got up today and made some concessions to the position articulated in this House in Committee. We all welcome that, but he has not gone far enough. In Amendment 15 in particular, what he describes as imposing additional processes on government would actually be very valuable—particularly in the present political context, in which the Government have thrown a lot of doubt on their commitment to the devolution settlement.
In that context, I endorse the speech of my new Labour colleague, my noble friend Lady Clark. A serious political crisis is looming on the devolution question and, in everything we do, we have to behave with enormous sensitivity to the fact that that is a realistic prospect before us. Therefore, I do not see Amendment 15 as nitpicking, in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, described it; I see it as strengthening the principle that the Government have already conceded.
As a federalist and someone who believes in a federal Britain, I believe that this is an inadequate response to the devolution problem. I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Empey, when he says that we should have an arrangement where none of the four nations of Britain can veto a proposal that the other three agree with. I do not believe that England can always exercise that veto through the United Kingdom Parliament—that is what we have to change. If we are to keep the United Kingdom together, I believe that we have to think of new arrangements where decisions are made by a United Kingdom council that properly represents the nations, and, I hope, the regions and cities of England as well. That is a personal point about where I think we should be going.
Therefore, I do not see this as a particularly radical amendment that will address the present growing concerns about the devolution settlement. None the less, it is a sensible amendment, which I support, and I hope very much that my Front-Bench colleague, my noble friend Lady Hayter, will divide the House on it, unless we hear in the Minister’s response that the Government will make a significant move in its direction.
It seems to me that the merit of this amendment is that, by saying that the Secretary of State “must” seek consent, it puts on the face of the Bill the argument that disagreement should be the exception and that we should go into this with all sides—particularly the UK Government—determined to reach consent. Where there is no agreement, to win consent for that decision it is very important that there is a requirement for an explanation of how it is consistent with the devolution settlement, where the principle that the Government have set out is that the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments will have more, not less, powers as a result of withdrawal from the EU. In that explanation, the Government would have to demonstrate why that was so. They have already listened to some extent but I very much hope that they will listen more to what those of us on this side of the House have said, and that the Minister will indicate that he might go further.
The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, has withdrawn, so I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie.
My Lords, this has been a very constructive and interesting debate, which I think needs to be developed further.
We have all welcomed that the Government have softened their position in relation to the Bill and to consultation, and I think that that is genuinely the case. Certainly, up until this point, they had given the impression that, although they had produced the Bill in a hurry and not consulted on it, they were going to drive it through without any consideration of amendments. However, I think that they have now become aware of the degree of resistance towards the whole of the Bill and, in particular, towards the implications for devolution.
I hope that Ministers will reflect on the fact that there is real dismay at the Government’s attitude towards devolution, which the Bill represents. That dismay is not just in the hearts of nationalists but in the hearts of those who want Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to stay in the United Kingdom and to do so in a way that acknowledges devolution through a partnership. However, that is not what people feel it to be at the moment and it is not what the Bill pretends it to be. Therefore, I say to the Minister that there is no need to give in to nationalists—that is not the issue, and the amendment certainly does not do that—but the Government have to recognise that more than consultation is required. As the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, sensitivity, understanding, genuine commitment and accommodation are needed to make devolution work.
The common frameworks have not been mentioned in the debate on this group of amendments, but they have been in the background throughout the Bill. I think that what most people who care about devolution want the Bill to build on is how decisions affecting all parts of the United Kingdom should be made, and the common frameworks principles should be followed.
Amendment 15 takes the need for consultation but adds to it by saying that there must be a requirement to secure consent. That draws on the common frameworks principles, which suggest that every sinew should be bent to secure consent. I think it has been acknowledged that the amendment is slightly compromised in that it allows delay for only a month. However, as has been said, it is a genuine attempt to find something that can be supported by all sides, rather than being an ideal mechanism. Even within the common frameworks, as within the Bill, we still have a problem. We still have an unanswered question, which is that United Kingdom Ministers, who are also English Ministers, can fundamentally override decisions of the devolved Administrations. We need to explore a way of getting around that and ensuring that—again, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said—England does not have a veto. It is quite right that Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland should not have a veto, but nor, in this context, should England, masquerading as the United Kingdom.
On occasion, Ministers have prayed in aid Australia and Canada, but these are federal countries. The UK is not yet a federal country, although it may be moving in that direction. Of course, in those countries, the states and provinces are part of the decision-making process. In Australia, on legislation which has been the inspiration for this Bill, a form of qualified majority voting is applied in a way that ensures that a majority of two-thirds or more of the states have to agree. We probably need to explore something along those lines.
Again as has been mentioned, Ministers boast of powers returning to the devolved Administrations. On the face of it, that is true—powers are coming back from the EU that will go straight to the devolved Administrations. The problem is that laws passed legitimately under the devolution legislation can effectively be set aside by this Bill without any reference at all to Ministers. The Bill itself can be prayed in aid and applied without political interference because that is on the face of the Bill. It seems to be saying to businesses, “You can use the law if you can pick up the principles of the Bill to get round devolved decisions”. That means that companies outside the UK can invoke the non-discrimination and market access clauses to allow their products to be sold anywhere in the UK, even if only one of the home nations has allowed it. In other words, if three out of the four sought to prevent the import of a particular type of product, they would not be able to do so if one of the four nations thought otherwise. Therefore, there is a real need to try to find a solution that goes somewhat further than the Government have done.
Many of the amendments pick up on the welcome recognition by the Government that they will consult. But, as has been said, consultation means different things to different people. Genuine consultation means taking on board rejections and concerns, and equal weight being given to the arguments on both sides. Unfortunately, both the Bill and Amendment 15 as it stands still allow Ministers ultimately to overrule those decisions.
We are pressing for two things. The first is something that I think that we have achieved today to a degree. It is that the Government should acknowledge that they have to move a lot further to try to ensure that decisions relating to this legislation genuinely try to secure consent across the whole of the United Kingdom and that there will be an understanding that aspects of the Bill could have unintended consequences. Actually, the Government have been quite unpersuasive of the need for this legislation and what it is that they feel is being threatened, and they have not effectively defeated the arguments put forward by the devolved Administrations as to how the Bill could be used to stop things that may be in process. For example, there could be restrictions on single-use plastics. That is a very good example. It would also have been the case with minimum alcohol pricing and with other things that we have not yet foreseen.
Amendment 15 seems to be very reasonable, because it ultimately allows the Government the final decision. In our view, it does not really go far enough, but we recognise that it is a genuine attempt to ensure a workable compromise that the Government could accept and that would demonstrate, if they did accept it, that they were getting it—that there is a real tension over devolution and that they have caused mistrust and dismay. The Prime Minister’s recent comments have been disastrous in terms of the perception of the Government’s attitude towards the devolution settlement. If the Government do not understand that, we are heading for a major crisis.
I welcome the Government’s amendments, but I also believe that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the other amendments in the same mode have real merit and would take us further down the track. I therefore ask the Government to consider them very seriously.
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords will be happy to know that I can be brief, because of course I set out the Government’s position on these matters in my opening remarks. However, to summarise, we feel that we have set out a comprehensive package of changes to the delegated powers in the Bill to address many of the concerns that have been raised about the role of the devolved Administrations. Of course, it is always a great regret for me to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, but I have to say that on these matters I am able to go no further.
Devolved Administration consultation is now required by legislation prior to any use of the key powers in Parts 1 and 2. The Secretary of State will also be conducting a thorough review of the exercise and effectiveness of each of these powers within five years, which again will require consultation with the devolved Administrations. Our approach will ensure a high degree of transparency and scrutiny and will guarantee devolved Administration involvement whenever the powers are used or, indeed, reviewed. The alternative approaches proposed in the group would, in my view, overcomplicate these very clear commitments.
I shall reply briefly to the questions that were put to me. In response, first, to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I can confirm that the policy statement he referred to is accurate. With regard to his second question, the design of the Bill is different from the EU single market because the Government’s approach does not simply copy out EU rules, and that means that the constraints under which we operate are different.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about the procedure for consultation. The Bill now requires that consultation should occur as a matter of fact before Ministers exercise their delegated powers. As is normal for such legislation, it does not spell out in great detail how this must be achieved, but we will engage with the devolved Administrations as part of the process of normal policy development such as, for example, sharing draft SIs and publications and co-operating on public-facing events wherever that is possible, and then in any case more formally before a decision is made.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, asked why we should consult with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. I can tell him that the reference to the department is consistent with the precedent of the Northern Ireland devolution settlement. Finally, perhaps I may confirm yet again to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, that I will urgently seek to facilitate a meeting for her and the interested parties that she requested.
With those commitments and answers to the, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support the Government’s approach to this matter.
My Lords, I have received two requests to ask the Minister a short question. They are from the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.
Briefly, my Lords, a question has been raised in the House on a number of occasions: why are Welsh and Scottish Ministers referred to, but a Northern Ireland department is referred to? The reason is that, since 1921, power is devolved in Northern Ireland to the department, not to the Minister. The role of the Minister is to direct and control the department, but the department can still function without a Minister. It is a quirk that goes back 100 years, but it is there.
The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, made a relevant point. I do not know what the Minister means by “consistent with the devolution settlement”, because nothing in the settlement that I am aware of determines that this particular department is responsible. But, if you want a plural, because “Ministers” are referred to in the plural in Scotland and Wales, the only collective equivalent in Northern Ireland is the Executive—or, to meet the point made by the noble Lord, you could say, “Northern Ireland departments as appropriate”. But the reason for the difference is historic; it is not an error, as some people thought in the past. It is consistent with the fact that powers are devolved to the department and not to the Minister.
My Lords, I am overwhelmed that my noble friend the Minister has accepted Amendment 14. Perhaps I may press him a little more on Amendment 16. If I understood him correctly, he said that it should be for all of the devolved Administrations to publish their responses to a consultation. I would beg to differ. It would be much better for all concerned, including myself, to find in one location on a national Westminster-based government website all the responses that have been published.
He did not comment—I would be grateful if he would—on why he would feel unable to give reasons for any decisions reached. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who has also signed Amendment 16. Is there any problem the Government would have in giving reasons for any decisions if they were not prepared to accept the responses to the consultations from the devolved Administrations?
Amendment 14 agreed.
15: Clause 8, page 7, line 4, at end insert—
“(8A) Before making regulations under subsection (7) the Secretary of State must obtain the consent of the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.(8B) But the Secretary of State may make regulations under subsection (7) without the consent required by subsection (8A) if that consent is not given within the period of one month beginning with the day on which the Secretary of State requests it. (8C) If the Secretary of State makes regulations without the consent required by subsection (8A), the Secretary of State must publish a statement explaining why the Secretary of State has proceeded with making the regulations.”
Amendment 16 not moved.
Clause 10: Further exclusions from market access principles
17: Clause 10, page 7, line 23, leave out subsections (2) and (3)
My Lords, I inform the House that, if Amendment 17 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 18 because of pre-emption.
Amendment 17 agreed.
Amendment 18 not moved.
My Lords, I am moving very carefully through these amendments on the grounds that I might get something wrong, but I believe that the next amendment is Amendment 19.
19: Clause 10, page 7, line 25, at end insert—
“(4) Before making regulations under subsection (2) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending Schedule 1 (which contains exceptions from the rules about market access for goods).
Amendment 19 agreed.
20: Clause 10, page 7, line 25, at end insert—
“(3A) Before making regulations under subsection (2) the Secretary of State must obtain the consent of the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.(3B) But the Secretary of State may make regulations under subsection (2) without the consent required by subsection (3A) if that consent is not given within the period of one month beginning with the day on which the Secretary of State requests it.(3C) If the Secretary of State makes regulations without the consent required by subsection (3A), the Secretary of State must publish a statement explaining why the Secretary of State has proceeded with making the regulations.”
Amendment 20 agreed.
21: Clause 10, leave out Clause 10 and insert the following new Clause—
“Exclusions from market access principles: public interest derogations
(1) The United Kingdom market access principles do not apply to, and sections 2(3) and 5(3) do not affect the operation of, any requirements which—(a) pursue a legitimate aim,(b) are a proportionate means of achieving that aim, and(c) are not a disguised restriction on trade.(2) A requirement is considered to pursue a legitimate aim if it makes a contribution to the achievement of—(a) environmental standards and protection,(b) animal welfare,(c) consumer standards, including digital and artificial intelligence privacy rights,(d) employment rights and protections,(e) health and life of humans, animals or plants,(f) cultural expression,(g) regional socio-cultural characteristics, or(h) equality entitlements, rights and protections.(3) A requirement is considered disproportionate if the legitimate aim being pursued in the destination part of the United Kingdom is already achieved to the same or higher extent by requirements in the originating part of the United Kingdom.”
My Lords, as Amendment 21 was debated earlier, I should perhaps make it clear that it would leave out Clause 10, as amended, and insert a new clause. The question is that Amendment 21 be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion shall say, “Content,” and to the contrary, “Not content”. I think I heard that the Contents have it, but I can give the House one more chance on this if it would like. No? Then this amendment is agreed to.
Amendment 21 agreed.
We now move to the group beginning with Amendment 22. 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 amendment or the other in this group to a Division should make this clear in debate.
22: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“Market access principles: protection of devolved competences
The United Kingdom market access principles do not affect the existing powers of Senedd Cymru, the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly, with regard to—(a) their existing procurement practices and procedures, or(b) their existing competence to legislate to secure and apply procurement policies which underpin their economic and social strategies.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to ensure that existing policies pursued by the devolved legislatures are not undermined by this Act and aims to prevent uncertainty regarding the legitimacy of procurement rules and regulations currently in force in the devolved territories.
My Lords, Amendment 22 stands in my name and that of my good and noble friend Lord Hain. It follows on fairly naturally from Amendment 21, which we have just passed. The objective of this amendment is to put on the face of the Bill an unequivocal statement that nothing in this Bill, if enacted, will diminish or constrain the devolved Governments from continuing to use their purchasing power to help achieve their economic objectives. As there have been many worries expressed in this Chamber, in the other place, in Cardiff Bay and in Edinburgh about the danger of a clawback of powers to Westminster, I believe that it would be helpful for the devolved Governments if an unequivocal statement along the lines which I propose could be included in the Bill. I know that Ministers in the devolved Governments would welcome such a definitive statement.
I have at earlier stages, and in the context of the Trade Bill, drawn the attention of the House to the way in which successive Welsh Governments—Labour, Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition and Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition—have all regarded the purchasing power of the Welsh Government as a valuable tool in implementing their policies and achieving economic objectives. It would be very strange were that not the case.
When the late Professor Phil Williams and I, with the help of many others, published in 1970—yes, 50 years ago—An Economic Plan for Wales, we identified that a key ingredient in Wales’s economic plight, namely that the GDP per head in Wales was significantly below the UK average, was the fact that activity rates in Wales were some six percentage points below those in England and that therefore a central objective of economic policy in Wales should be to raise those activity rates to the UK average. Over the subsequent three decades, it was an uphill struggle. Only after the establishment of the National Assembly—now our Senedd, of course—were real inroads made. It was only a couple of years ago that, for a brief time, activity rates in Wales were actually higher than the UK average.
I focus on this for a very good reason: that a significant contributory factor to this success was the deliberate strategy pursued by successive Welsh Governments of using their procurement policy to support businesses within Wales. They did this within the constraints of European competition policy, and without lowering standards. When the Assembly was established, between 30% and 35% of goods and services were procured by the Welsh Government from within Wales. By now, the figure is 55% and the target, I understand, is to achieve over 70% procurement from within Wales. As the larger corporations realised this was happening, some of them opened new sales offices in Wales. In due course, this led to their also establishing local suppliers within Wales. This means that, for every pound spent by the Government, there is a multiplier effect within the Welsh economy: more jobs are created and a virtuous circle is established.
Previously, we saw on occasion the total nonsense of purchasing bodies within Wales—central government, local government, our health authorities, universities and colleges—using suppliers many miles distant when a local capability existed. I well recall during my time as an MP a school in north-west Wales having its grass cutting done by a company from England and a hospital getting its sandwiches from a supplier in the Midlands. Now, the green agenda has at long last become more generally recognised as essential for the survival of the human race, and the concept of buying local and eliminating unnecessary product miles has become mainstream. Supporting local economies is now seen as a valid, indeed essential, objective of government policy. Last month, partly as a response to the devastation that Covid could cause to small businesses, a campaign began called Where You Shop Matters, underpinned by Visa. That campaign has gained widespread support in Wales and, hopefully, will do so elsewhere.
Clearly, it will never be possible to source all Welsh government procurement within Wales. We do not produce all the goods in Wales, and where we do, they do not necessarily compete on price, standards or punctual availability. The fact that they are made in Wales certainly should not overrule all other considerations, but, other things being equal or within a tolerable latitude of being so, economic, social and environmental good sense tells us that this is a valid governmental approach.
Let us not pretend that the sourcing of relatively mundane supplies within the local economy is going to solve all our problems; it is not. The truth is that, despite raising employee activity rates, Wales’s GDP per head remains stubbornly near the bottom of the UK league table. To get to the top of that table requires innovation, creativity, investment, enterprise, self-confidence and initiative. However, as we have slowly started to depend more on ourselves and less on others, we have seen those factors move in the right direction. Within a UK single market, Wales needs the latitude to develop its own solutions to what are long-standing psychological, as well as economic, challenges. The last thing we need now is for central government in London to impose dramatic straitjackets on our capability and capacity to help ourselves.
My amendment seeks assurances that the Bill will in no way limit devolved Governments in taking initiatives in their procurement policies to create economic gain that will serve their communities. It seeks to ensure that existing procurement practices and procedures will not be constrained and that the devolved Governments may continue to legislate in a manner that helps to ensure that their procurement policies underpin their economic and social objectives. That has been permissible under European single market rules, and I ask the Minister to confirm that the Bill cannot and will not be used to undermine those policies within the UK internal market. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with many of the noble Lord’s points. I have tabled Amendment 23 and I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Randall of Uxbridge, for supporting it. It simply seeks a derogation from market access principles to allow all four nations of the UK to put in place proportionate measures to protect the environment, to support the progressive improvement of environmental standards and to tackle climate change.
The combination of the market access principles in the Bill and the absence of an agreed common framework means that, although different Administrations will not be prevented from introducing different standards, in practice we risk seeing a stifling of innovation and a chilling effect when one nation wants to introduce different, higher environmental standards for a particular good or service, or wants to introduce other measures to tackle climate change. Effectively, we are disincentivising Governments from aiming higher because incoming goods from other parts of the UK implementing lower standards will not have to meet the new ones.
Some examples bring this issue to life. The first is the sale of peat for horticulture, which should not happen anywhere, but if any of the four nations were to decide to ban the sale of peat for horticulture due to its impacts on biodiversity, that nation would still have to sell peat from elsewhere in the UK. A second example is single-use plastic. The Welsh Government are currently proposing to ban the sale of nine single-use plastic products, but we are proposing to ban only three. Given how the mutual recognition principle currently operates, Wales would have to allow the sale of the six additional products if they had been manufactured elsewhere in the UK, which would totally undermine that policy. Thirdly, the Government are planning to phase out the sale of household coal and wet wood next year in England. However, under the mutual recognition principle the sale of both household coal and wet wood from other parts of the UK would carry on in England.
In Committee, the Minister said that protecting the environment and tackling child climate change are vital. The EU provides that in certain circumstances, it is possible to go beyond its commonly agreed standards to protect the environment—for instance, banning particular kinds of packaging, such as metal drink cans. However, the Bill as drafted does not allow for environmental or climate-related exceptions. It provides for exceptions in only a limited range of circumstances, such as to prevent the spread of disease or pests or to authorise the use of a chemical in a particular part of the UK. There also exclusions for fertilisers and pesticides, which were added during the Bill’s passage through the Commons.
My amendment asks for one further, crucial addition to the list of exclusions—for environmental standards and for tackling climate change. I would welcome the Minister’s clarifying the decision-making process. Why was it considered necessary to introduce exclusions in certain policy areas, but not in others such as the environment and climate change? I know that that is a broad brush stroke, but it is still possible to address individual elements, which currently we are not. Surely, there can be no more important time to incentivise ambitious climate and environmental policy.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. I endorse everything she has said; indeed, her amendment is powerfully put. I shall speak specifically to Amendment 22, tabled by my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, to which I have added my name. He spoke very eloquently about the need for the amendment, and I shall briefly add one or two points to his compelling speech.
Procurement is clearly devolved to both Scotland and Wales, as is made clear the recent transposition of EU procurement directives being achieved via legislation in the Scottish Parliament. Does the Minister agree that that is indeed as clear-cut as I have stated and believe it to be? It would be helpful to get that on the record.
There is strong interest in the Senedd in improving the impact of procurement on the Welsh economy by encouraging suppliers to have operations located in Wales, creating employment locally and using local supply chains, a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. That is not discrimination. A company based in Scotland or indeed Lithuania can meet these conditions, but that flexibility is important so that the Welsh Government can continue to ensure that the billions of pounds spent by the public sector each year in Wales through procurement processes creates value in the local economy for a nation that has seen massive deindustrialisation. I still live in my old constituency of Neath, which was a heavy industry and mining constituency. The consequences of deindustrialisation have been huge, dismembering those communities and depriving them of the industrial base and secure jobs they once had. The ability, using the public sector, as the Welsh Labour Government are trying to do, to create and support strong local companies is very important. Such community benefit clauses and approaches were possible even under European law.
I had an informal conversation with the noble Lord, Lord Empey, about Northern Ireland’s position. Of course, Northern Ireland is still subject to the single market and customs union rules—even after the UK leaves the EU—under the Northern Ireland protocol. It is my understanding and belief that under EU law, it is still possible to use procurement in the proactive, positive way that the Welsh Government have done to support local jobs and businesses. Can we be assured that that will not be undermined, or even made illegal, by this centralising Westminster Government?
Procurement can also be used to discourage a race to the bottom—for example, by requiring bidders to have strong employment rights policies and equal opportunity policies in order to qualify for a successful procurement opportunity. It is really important that the devolved Administrations continue to have the opportunities and rights to use procurement in that proactive and creative fashion.