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Lords Chamber

Volume 809: debated on Monday 18 January 2021

House of Lords

Monday 18 January 2021

The House met in a hybrid proceeding.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

Arrangement of Business


My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber; others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally.

Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them short and confined to two points? I ask that Ministers’ replies are also brief.

International Soft Power Strategy: Role of BBC


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of the BBC in their international soft power strategy.

My Lords, the BBC plays an important role in promoting our values globally through its independent and impartial broadcasting. It is a central part of British soft power and influence. The role of soft power is being considered as part of the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. This will be informed by the conclusions of the cross-government work already undertaken on our strategic approach to this area.

My Lords, what steps are the Government taking to co-ordinate their domestic approach to the BBC with their international soft power strategy? Does the Minister not consider that the repeated criticism of the BBC by Ministers, including the Prime Minister, and the right-wing press weakens the standing of the BBC and its reputation abroad?

My Lords, as I already said in my original Answer, we recognise as a Government the important role the BBC plays and continue to support its work around the world. Since 2016, the Government have invested heavily in the BBC, with over £370 million of funding. We continue to recognise the important role it plays on the world stage.

My Lords, the BBC is the world’s most trusted broadcaster and its work in promoting values such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law is crucial when Chinese and Russian state-funded propaganda channels, with no commitment to accuracy or impartiality, are building large audiences in Europe, across Africa and Asia, and beyond. Will the Government commit to maintaining the funding they provided to introduce new and enhanced services—including the Russian service—after it runs out in September? Any cuts could put this work at risk, undermining the promotion of our values abroad.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord on the important role that the BBC plays. Funding is of course being considered alongside other FCDO spending priorities, as part of the 2020 spending review, but I would add that I also agree with him on the importance of new language services. During the previous period that I mentioned, between 2016 and 2020, the BBC has already launched 12 new language services supported by the Government.

My Lords, our International Relations and Defence Committee report, published last week, welcomes BBC World Service provision of impartial information in three languages in Afghanistan. Does my noble friend agree that this work is important, because it contributes to fostering a more open society in which women can be empowered, and that the Government should maintain their financial support?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend and, through her role as chair, congratulate the committee on its important report. The FCDO is supportive of the BBC’s delivery of impartial and trusted news to Afghanistan. I spoke to the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan this morning on the importance of the role of women, in particular when it comes to peacebuilding. We believe that the BBC, particularly its BBC Pashto platform, is an important part of doing just that.

My Lords, despite the proliferation of online news services, millions across the world turn towards the BBC World Service for accuracy and balance. Are Her Majesty’s Government planning to severely limit this most powerful of all soft power instruments, or will the current level of funding be guaranteed beyond September 2021?

My Lords, I have already partially answered the question on funding. However, let me reassure the noble Baroness that we remain committed to the BBC, as has been demonstrated by our support for the 12 new language services over the period from 2016 to 2020.

My Lords, the Government’s welcome and important funding of the World Service beyond the licence fee has more than achieved its objectives with a greater number of language services, double-digit audience growth and ever-higher trust ratings. Does the Minister accept that this unique world-leading asset for the UK is the right vehicle for further and larger support to achieve our vital national interest of combating disinformation and the use by hostile actors of dishonesty to undermine the stability of democracies?

My Lords, I fully recognise what the noble Lord has said about the important role that the BBC World Service plays, for the very reasons that he says.

My Lords, I welcome the words of Richard Sharp, the newly appointed chair of the BBC, that it is

“part of the fabric of all our national identities”.

Does the noble Lord the Minister agree? And does he agree that a globally strong and domestically supported BBC is massively in the national interest? I am afraid I have to press the Minister. Will the Government commit to sustaining their investment in the BBC World Service which has reaped such great rewards?

I agree with the noble Baroness in her opening remarks. On the issue of finance, we are currently reviewing FCDO priorities. She may press me, and she is entitled to, but I cannot give a specific answer at this time.

Now that we have cut our ties with the EU, we need to be more, not less, focused on how we maximise our influence around the world. We have many assets at our disposal: a strong economy, our aid budget, our military, our membership of many influential bodies and we are chairing the G7 and COP 26 this year. However, our language and how we deploy it through the likes of the BBC World Service and BBC World News remains one of our greatest assets, as others have already iterated in this debate. I ask the Minister to reassure us that, as we look to review the licence fee, we do not cut funds to these most valuable assets—especially as we are competing with state media outlets from the likes of China and Russia.

I have listened very carefully to my noble friend and I agree with her. Like many noble Lords, indeed all noble Lords, I welcome the role the BBC continues to play, and the Government are very supportive. I take specific note of the concerns raised on the issue of funding. I am sure the input from today’s questions will feature in our thinking as we move forward on the future funding of the BBC World Service.

My Lords, we live in times of fake news. “Fake news” is an allegation made by the President of the United States against the media in America. Will this Government pledge and make public their support of the BBC as a trustworthy news source?

My Lords, can the Minister update the House on action taken by the Government to protest about and bring an end to the systematic persecution by Iranian authorities of the BBC’s Persian service journalists and their families, both in the UK and in Iran?

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. I reassure her that we consistently raise the important role of journalists within Iran with the Iranian authorities. Let me also reassure her that, as she will know, media freedom and protecting journalists around the world is a key Government priority.

My Lords, in underlining everything that has been said about the importance and value of the BBC’s foreign language services, may I turn to the need to increase trade with Latin American countries? Are there any plans to build on the success of the BBC World Service’s Spanish-language Latin American service BBC Mundo? For our home consumption, will the Minister press the BBC to increase positive coverage of events in the region? I must confess that I often have to switch to Al Jazeera to get the wider picture.

I take note of what my noble friend has said. In looking towards what is now global Britain and our support, I am sure that the BBC and its valuable service will be part of our thinking as we strengthen our approach to trade and other areas around the world.

My Lords, does the Minister envisage that the soft power strategy that was anticipated will ever be produced, or has it been subsumed into the integrated security and defence review? Where will the BBC World Service fit into that?

As I have already said, the integrated review is a vital part of that, and all these component elements will be in the announcement of the findings of the integrated review. The BBC World Service provides an important source of communication and information, as we have heard from noble Lords, and it will continue to be part of our thinking. The issue of soft power around the world is a key part of what we do. Whether we look at the BBC, some of our scholarships or global Britain’s place in the world through the Commonwealth, all of these are part and parcel of our soft power strategy and part of what will feature in the announcement of the integrated review.

Airports National Policy Statement


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Climate Change Committee Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s path to Net Zero, published on 9 December 2020, what plans they have to review the Airports National Policy Statement.

My Lords, on 16 December 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the earlier Court of Appeal decision and declared:

“The airports national policy statement is lawful”.

The Government are carefully considering the court’s judgment. We take seriously our commitments on the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we will consult on an aviation decarbonisation strategy in due course.

I draw attention to my entries in the register. I thank my noble friend for her not entirely unexpected answer. However, will she agree with me that, especially in this year of the UK hosting the COP 26, our aviation expansion policy should be re-examined? Does she agree with the sixth carbon budget that any future expansion plans in London should be balanced by reductions in capacity elsewhere in the UK, which will not be good news for a levelling-up agenda, never mind our commitment to net zero by 2050?

I agree with my noble friend that this year is very important in terms of ensuring that we capitalise on our role as president of COP 26 and establish the sixth carbon budget in law, which will be done by June 2021. The role of international aviation within that is being very carefully considered by my department.

My Lords, of all the ways of restricting carbon dioxide emissions from air travel, is not restricting the capacity of airports the silliest? Its main consequence would be that more planes would be stacked up above busy airports, using more fuel, and all other flights to those destinations would have to carry more fuel just in case they were stacked up too.

I agree with my noble friend that there are many ways that we can tackle carbon emissions. He mentions stacking. That is why we are taking forward the airspace modernisation plan, which will have capacity benefits for airports, reduce costs for airlines and reduce delays for passengers—because stacking will become a thing of the past.

My Lords, will the Minister tell us whether the Government accept the climate change committee’s recommendation that international aviation emissions should be formally included in the UK climate targets when setting the sixth carbon budget? These are real emissions and account for 7% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions; by 2018, they had increased by 88% above 1990 levels.

As the noble Lord will know, the climate change committee published its report on 9 December, which is not that long ago, and Christmas was in the intervening period. We are looking very carefully at the recommendations. International aviation emissions is a very knotty problem which can lead to unintended consequences if countries act unilaterally. We really need to see international action, and the UK is at the forefront.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that, when the Prime Minister made his extremely welcome announcement on 11 February that the Government were proceeding with HS2, he said:

“Passengers arriving at Birmingham Airport will be able to get to central London by train in 38 minutes, which compares favourably with the time it takes to get from Heathrow by taxi”?—(Official Report, Commons, 11/2/20; col. 712.)

In view of that, can the Minister give a commitment that her department will look very carefully at HS2’s potential for shifting traffic from domestic flights to trains, as that would make a huge difference to the carbon emissions target?

The noble Lord is absolutely right that HS2 will provide huge benefits and may well lead to some people choosing to make a domestic train journey rather than taking a domestic flight. He is also right that it connects Birmingham Airport to north-west London in particular; I am sure the residents there will appreciate that.

Within the transport industries there is a growing consensus that travel patterns will change post-pandemic, with greater emphasis on leisure travel. Some 60% of Heathrow’s customers were business passengers, but we all use Zoom now. Heathrow expansion was already a white elephant before the pandemic. Does the Minister accept that it must now be reassessed, applying modern environmental standards?

Any expansion by Heathrow would already be assessed according to modern environmental standards because, of course, the ANPS is future-proof: London Heathrow must show that its plans are compatible with updated carbon targets and international obligations before it can obtain a DCO for the project.

My Lords, regarding the path to net zero, it is likely that a significant number of the roughly 223,000 jobs in the aviation sector may be lost. What is the Government’s strategy to replace them with sustainable jobs in an environmentally sustainable aviation sector? Now that the Government are providing further support—paid, of course, by the taxpayer—why are they failing to attach conditions, including banning the “fire and rehire” tactics used by aviation companies to push through wage cuts for already low-paid workers?

I am less pessimistic than the noble Baroness about the future of the aviation sector. The Government are working very closely with it both as it recovers from the immediate effect of the pandemic and on the medium-term strategy for regional connectivity, decarbonisation—as noted in earlier questions—and many of the other issues that are key to getting people back in the skies. On the noble Baroness’s comment about hiring-and-firing practices within some airlines, that is a matter for them and their human resources policy.

My Lords, as the urgent doom and gloom predictions of 20 years ago have not materialised, and as attempts to alter climate change are hugely expensive, how far have the Government got with the essential cost-benefit analysis?

My Lords, when we look at carbon emissions, we must do so in the round: air-quality and noise considerations also need to be taken into account. All of these are important. I accept that there are investments to be made, but I believe that, in the round, whether it be on carbon, air quality or noise, these investments are worth while.

My Lords, in light of the urgent need to reinvigorate the British economy post-Covid with ambitious and large-scale infrastructure projects that will require plentiful and flexible travel opportunities, and of the previously mentioned devastating impact of lockdown measures on aviation, tourism and jobs in that sector, will the noble Baroness assure us that net zero targets will not be used as a barrier to airport expansion and rejuvenation? Will the Government discourage the eco green version of unnecessary travel rules under the guise of hectoring us to fly less, and instead encourage us to fly more, when safe to do so, whether for pleasure, holidays, business or even to attend global summits to discuss carbon reduction?

Of course, the Government have a wide range of transport infrastructure projects that we are taking forward under the guise of building back better. The noble Baroness is right, in that there is always a balance: in the future, when aircraft emit less, it may be absolutely acceptable to take as many flights as one likes. Sometimes, we are told we should not fly, but, of course, that is just because of the carbon. Actually, flying is a very good, quick and efficient way of getting from A to B.

My Lords, the airports NPS proceeds on the stated basis that:

“Aviation demand is likely to increase significantly between now and 2050”,

and that

“Any increase in carbon emissions alone is not a reason to refuse development consent”.

However, the sixth carbon budget report says quite specifically that there can be no airport expansion unless emissions from flights can be reduced to compensate. Does that not require the Government to revisit and revise the NPS, considering this new conditionality, which they have accepted?

As I have said previously, the Government are extremely grateful for the expert advice provided by the climate change committee. We are considering all the recommendations in its report and we will report back shortly.

My Lords, I welcome the Government’s commitment in the energy White Paper to net zero for flights to European Economic Area countries. Therefore, could the Minister tell the House when the UK emissions trading scheme is likely to be aligned with our net zero trajectory, how it will take account of the non-CO2 warming effects of aviation and when net zero will be applied to all aviation, regardless of destination?

The noble Lord raises a series of questions that probably cannot be answered briefly, so I will write to him.

My Lords, will my noble friend undertake to keep under review airport passenger duty, which is now charged at double the amount compared to EU destinations and will act as a brake to ramping up airline travel as soon as the Covid pandemic is over?

As my noble friend is aware, the Government are keeping airline passenger duty under review. We are aware that it has significant negative impacts, particularly on domestic flights, and we will consult in due course.

Circular Economy and Elimination of Waste


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage (1) a circular economy, and (2) the elimination of waste.

My Lords, in the 25-year environment plan, the Government pledged to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation, committing to eliminating avoidable waste and doubling our resource productivity by 2050. Our resources and waste strategy sets out how we will meet that commitment, moving society away from the inefficient linear economic model of take, make, use, throw to a more circular economy, where resources are kept in circulation for longer.

I thank the Minister for his Answer. I understand that the Government are going to publish a resource and waste strategy imminently—there was a policy statement last July. However, it is quite piecemeal in approach. Some 80% of the environmental impact is in the design phase, so to prevent waste we have to look at things such as built-in obsolescence and the manufacture of white goods which can only be repaired by the manufacturer and are in fact designed to be thrown away rather than reused. Will the Government produce a proper circular economy action plan, as the EU has done, and lay out how it can be put on to the statue book?

My Lords, the Environment Bill includes powers to introduce legislation on product or eco-design—for example, to support durable, repairable and recyclable products. It will also enable us to introduce extended producer responsibility schemes for packaging and a whole range of products, as well as a deposit return scheme, or DRS, for drinks containers. We are absolutely ready to initiate a whole suite of measures that will reduce waste and remove built-in obsolescence.

Will the Minister update the House on how the Government plan to tackle planned obsolescence? Do they favour altering consumer rights legislation, taking a regulatory approach or introducing primary legislation?

My Lords, as I mentioned, the Environment Bill includes a whole suite of primary legislation measures, which, combined, will result in a move towards a more circular economy. That means tackling built-in obsolescence and encouraging manufacturers to produce products that can either be recycled, repaired or reused. It means removing waste as a default for manufacturers and shifting the emphasis as much as possible towards the producer and away from the consumer so that products are designed in such a way as to avoid a legacy of unnecessary waste.

My Lords, I fear that the Minister has probably answered my question, but I recall that 60 years ago my father used to acquire damaged and scrapped cycles, rebuild them and sell them at auction. He was literally an early recycler, I suppose. Could manufacturers be legally required, by better design, to make access to items easier, thereby enabling the owner to repair as opposed to replace items such as domestic appliances?

Yes, subject to the consultation that I mentioned earlier, it is possible, even likely, that manufacturers will be required to manufacture products that are not simply thrown away as a default. In addition, since publishing the resources and waste strategy, we have already introduced a whole range of measures. We have consulted, for example, on major reforms to the way in which waste is managed, including DRS, extended producer responsibility and consistent recycling. We have set up pilot schemes to reduce food waste and have published proposals for targets in the Environment Bill. Our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful; it will be extended to all retailers and increased to 10p. There is a range of bans on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. We are not waiting for the Environment Bill to begin this process, but it will create a coherence and give us the powers that we need to go further.

My Lords, given that prevention is better than cure and to achieve food waste elimination ambitions recommended in the CCC’s sixth carbon budget, what steps is my noble friend taking to prevent household waste, beyond awareness campaigns, and to explore novel ways in which to make reducing food waste easier for households?

My Lords, my noble friend raises a really important point. The UK is fully signed up to meeting the UN sustainable development goal 12.3 target, which seeks to halve global food waste at consumer and retail level by 2030. Our resource and waste strategy committed us to better redistributing food to those in need before it gets thrown away, and we have put £15 million into that. We are consulting on mandatory food waste prevention targets for businesses and publishing a food surplus and waste hierarchy to support businesses to prevent food waste. Around 3 million tonnes of waste has been prevented since 2013 and, of that, around 2.7 million tonnes is food waste.

My Lords, I was appalled to find that on leaving the EU, the UK will be exporting our plastic waste to third world countries, where it will be burned, releasing toxins into the atmosphere. I understand that countries receiving our toxic waste have the option to refuse it. Can the Minister reassure us that not only will he encourage his colleagues to ban the export of plastic waste, but he will campaign rigorously to reduce plastic waste to zero?

The noble Baroness has my commitment on both points. We recognise the problems of waste mountains in numerous countries that cannot or do not manage their waste properly. The Government have already committed to banning the export of plastic waste to countries that are not members of the OECD. In addition, the entire thrust of the Environment Bill that I mentioned earlier is designed to reduce all avoidable and unnecessary waste.

My Lords, on a related issue, is my noble friend satisfied with the functionality and efficiency of local council waste reception sites? Is he concerned, like me, that many types of waste materials taken to these sites are capable of being recycled—for instance, some plastics, shredded paper and other materials—but they are still being sent to landfill unnecessarily and perhaps in error? Perhaps guidance to the operators needs reviewing.

There is no doubt that the recycling infrastructure or approach across the country is mixed. The Government are committed to a 65% recycling target for municipal waste by 2035, which is a significant increase on where we are now. One way in which we will do that is by requiring local authorities and other waste collectors to collect the same core set of recyclable materials—including plastics, but other materials as well—from households and businesses in England from 2023.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the order of change that the circular economy will effect on society must equally mean significant change in education, particularly in schools, not just in terms of content but fundamentally in classroom organisation and dynamics, with the encouragement of holistic thinking and multidisciplinary learning? Then there is the central role that design will play in future. Finland is leading on these changes, and we should be looking at this too.

My Lords, our goals in the 25-year environment plan are for zero avoidable waste, doubling our resource productivity by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on nature relating to waste, as well as enhancing our resource security. One way in which we will be able to do that is by ensuring that the educational system—by which I mean not just what children are taught but the environment in which they are taught it—promotes an understanding and appreciation of the value of resources and the damage of resource waste. Education awareness is a key component; it is already a key component in the litter strategy for England. I believe that 80% of schools in England are already members of the eco-schools programme, and we are pushing hard to increase that. There are numerous other resources available for schools as well.

My Lords, WRAP has recommended that as we recover from the economic impact of Covid, government financial support to businesses should focus on remanufacturing and repair, which will generate new jobs and tackle structural unemployment. Does the Minister agree with that approach? What is he doing to deliver that investment, which, of course, will need to take place with other departments?

I certainly agree with that assessment, and the Government do too. Reusing and repairing products saves people money. Low-income households saved, we believe, £468 million in 2019 through reuse and repair. Widespread adoption and circular economy business models have the potential to add around £75 billion in gross value added to the UK economy, according to WRAP. It also believes that moving to a more circular economy, including recycling, could create around half a million jobs across all skill levels and regions in the UK. This is central to what we are attempting to achieve through our waste strategy and via the Environment Bill, which will facilitate the changes that are needed.

My Lords, electronic waste is an enormous problem, particularly given the speed at which we replace our devices. One of the main barriers to recycling is a concern about the security of those devices. Will the Minister give some urgent thought to how to support and extend initiatives to make devices secure and get them out to schools and other settings where they are badly needed?

UK law can already be used to set requirements in relation to electronic equipment: on durability, repairability and recyclability. BEIS has run a call for evidence, which will be completed in June. Following that, BEIS and Defra have commissioned research to prioritise energy-related products for future eco-design regulation. I cannot confirm whether that work covers the security aspect that the noble Baroness raised, but I will write to her on that specifically following this session.



Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

My Lords, the Minister for the European Neighbourhood has spoken four times to the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers, most recently in November, when she welcomed the cessation of hostilities. We recognise that both sides have had to make difficult decisions to ensure the safety and security of their citizens. We of course remain deeply concerned by allegations of war crimes, desecration of cultural heritage and the humanitarian situation, and continue to raise these with all concerned parties.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. However, is he aware that, despite the ceasefire, reports continue of atrocities perpetrated by Azerbaijani forces on Armenian military and civilian prisoners? During and since my visit, I have seen videos and photos of mutilations, torture and killings—there have been beheadings of Armenians—and heard of Azeris taking phones from prisoners, filming their torture and killings and sending these back to their families. Will Her Majesty’s Government act with great urgency to ensure that Azerbaijan is called to account for the continuing, well-documented atrocities, or will they allow Azerbaijan to maintain impunity?

My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness that we continue to raise these issues at the highest level. My honourable friend Minister Morton, as well as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, are fully engaged on this agenda. We are, of course, supporting the OSCE Minsk co-chairs in this regard. On a positive note, we also welcome the recent news of an exchange of prisoners of war that took place on 14 December. However, atrocities need to be fully looked at and investigated.

My Lords, Nagorno-Karabakh remains a frozen conflict and a continuing danger to regional peace. So far, our role has been limited, if not irrelevant. Can the Minister say whether we shall concentrate on human rights, religious toleration and the protection of civilians and religious sites?

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that the points he made are important areas to consider, not just in this conflict but in any conflict. I also assure him that those very points have been made in all our exchanges, with both sides. We have also emphasised the unfettered access of the ICRC to the region.

My Lords, following up on that, can the Minister tell the House what access the ICRC and other international bodies are being given in the area, to guard against feared ethnic cleansing? What follow-up might there be to independently investigate possible war crimes committed by either side?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness may know, on 30 October, the Foreign Secretary announced £1 million of funding to the ICRC to support its humanitarian efforts in this regard. We are working with international partners on the issue of access, to ensure that all people across the region receive the aid they require. It is important that crimes are fully investigated in any conflict, anywhere in the world. That is why we are very supportive of the work by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the OSCE in this respect.

My Lords, following the recent ceasefire, Turkey suggested that it might deploy peacekeepers to the region. Does my noble friend agree that it is a prerequisite of a peacekeeper that they should enjoy the confidence of both sides? This is clearly not the case. What discussions have my noble friend and the Government had with the Turkish Government, our NATO partner, about how they might use their facilities to reduce tension within the region and ensure co-operation, so that those who have perpetrated war crimes and acts against humanity are brought to justice?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend on the principle that peacekeepers need to have the support of all sides to the conflict. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for the European Neighbourhood have engaged directly with their Turkish counterparts on the specific issue of Turkey.

My Lords, we all share a deep concern and revulsion at the extent of these atrocities and lots of words have been spoken. However, it still appears that not enough pressure has been brought to bear to try to resolve this issue. Can the Minister confirm what international conversations he has had with the UN and others to bring more pressure to bear to resolve this dreadful situation?

My Lords, discussions have taken place at all levels. I have already mentioned the support given at the OSCE. There have also been discussions on this at the UN Security Council. The important thing is that the cessation and peace deal that has been negotiated holds, that there is a return of prisoners and that, ultimately, there can be peace in a region which has suffered from conflict for too long.

My Lords, I have two quick points. Picking up on the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the FCDO confirmed last month in a Written Answer that she had discussed humanitarian access with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Titov. Can the noble Lord tell us a bit more about the outcome of those discussions? Also, last October we had an announcement of £1 million going to humanitarian support. Can he update us on how that money has been distributed, and on what success the United Kingdom has had in encouraging others to give humanitarian support?

My Lords, if I may, I will write to the noble Lord on the impact of the £1 million. On discussions, we are of course raising the need both for support for all refugees in this context and for support within the region. We continue to impress on all authorities the key issue of unfettered access, also raised by my honourable friend in Russia.

My Lords, atrocities have been reported on both sides. Of course they must be investigated and prosecuted, but this conflict has been frozen for nearly 30 years. The rights of Armenians must be protected, but so should the rights of the more than 600,000 Azeris who have been displaced for more than a generation within their own country. So does the Minister agree that the international community, while recognising Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan, has failed to progress a long-term solution? What can be done to ensure that this settlement leads to a permanent resolution and does not become the seed of a renewed conflict?

My Lords, the important point is that all occupied territories are vacated and that, ultimately, the rights of citizens within Nagorno-Karabakh are respected. In this regard it is our view, as I have said, that the Minsk process provides the basis on which this can be taken forward, and we implore all sides to co-operate fully.

My Lords, as has been implied, thousands of Armenian monuments and cultural heritage sites are now under Azerbaijan’s control, including ancient churches, monasteries and cemeteries. There is evidence that Azerbaijan has already begun to deny the Armenian heritage of these sites, so what steps are the Government taking to support UNESCO in drawing up an inventory of the most significant cultural monuments, and have conversations been had with Azerbaijan about its responsibilities under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict?

My Lords, I assure the right reverend Prelate that the protection of heritage and religious sites is an important part of the discussions that take place with both sides, including on the case of Nagorno-Karabakh referred to in his question. On the issue of UNESCO making a detailed assessment of specific sites, I will need to write to him.

My Lords, according to Genocide Watch’s 10 stages of the genocidal process, published in November, Azerbaijan had already reached stage 9, extermination, and stage 10, denial. What steps will Her Majesty’s Government take to fulfil their duty to protect and provide for the victims of Azerbaijan’s genocidal policies in the recent war?

My Lords, as I have already said, I assure my noble friend that the Government have implored both sides to protect all citizens, particularly those in Nagorno-Karabakh, to make sure they have their rights protected and guaranteed. My noble friend will be aware that it is a long-standing government policy that genocide is a matter for judicial decision rather than for Governments or non-judicial bodies.

Sitting suspended.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Working Parents and School Closures

Private Notice Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report published by the TUC Working mums: Paying the price published on 14 January, what action they plan to take to support working parents and those with caring responsibilities to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme who (1) cannot work due to the latest school closures and (2) were denied or not offered furlough.

My Lords, the furloughing of staff is a voluntary arrangement entered into at the employer’s discretion and agreed by employees. It is not for the Government to decide whether a firm should put its staff on furlough. However, the eligibility criteria are clear that an employee is eligible if they are unable to work, including at home, due to caring responsibilities resulting from Covid.

My Lords, I am sure it will not be lost on noble Lords that today is Martin Luther King Jr Day. It is in his spirit of fighting for social and racial justice that I make a passionate plea to the Minister that we confront head-on the findings from the latest TUC report that so many parents and carers—particularly mothers—often working for low pay, many of whom are black, Asian and minority ethnic, are being denied furlough. Can we have temporary legislation for these parents to be afforded furlough during this difficult time or, at the very least, give a clear direction to employers about their obligation? Like many, I am also very worried about the stress and impact on mental health this is causing for parents and their children, which will only get worse if we do nothing.

My Lords, the Government are acutely aware of the pressures faced by working parents, with schools shut. We do not intend to change how the furlough system operates; as I said, it is a voluntary decision by employers and employees. However, we have put in place far more support to parents during the current lockdown compared with when schools were previously closed; for example, they have the right to form a childcare bubble to help with their childcare demands, and there is a requirement on all schools to provide a minimum level of high-quality online learning to children while schools are shut.

My Lords, this TUC report is another excellent piece of work by my old organisation. It highlights the heavy pressures of the pandemic on working families, especially mothers, many of whom are juggling low pay, awkward hours, childcare and home schooling. How are the Government going to address these problems? Will they, as the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, asked, plug this gap in the furlough scheme after consideration? At the same time, will they address other gaps in support which have been highlighted in the recent report of your Lordships’ Economic Affairs Committee; for example, for the 500,000 self-employed?

My Lords, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, the Government consider that a voluntary arrangement for the furlough scheme is the appropriate one, while being very clear that the eligibility criteria allow parents and carers to be furloughed where they are unable to work, including from home, due to Covid affecting their caring responsibilities. We have put more support in place during this third national lockdown, including keeping childcare settings open for preschool children, to help alleviate the burden on parents.

My Lords, one group has definitely been left out. This report also calls for access to the furlough scheme for the clinically extremely vulnerable who cannot work from home but are required medically to shield. Currently, these individuals are entitled only to statutory sick pay; at just £95.85 per week, how are these shielding people meant to be able to support their families over many months? When will the Government correct this inequality and add them to the furlough scheme?

My Lords, the guidance for the furlough scheme is also clear that those required to shield because they are clinically extremely vulnerable are eligible for the scheme under its current rules. The other piece of hope for the clinically extremely vulnerable is the fact that we have sent out 5 million letters, starting today, to those over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable to start their programme of vaccination.

My Lords, since these difficulties for parents are caused by the inability of the local authority to perform its responsibility under the statutory duty of the parents to send their child to school and the local authority’s duty to receive the child, is there a legal responsibility on the local authority to deal with these difficulties?

I say to my noble and learned friend that the decision to shut schools in England was taken by central government. However, we have set out clear, legally binding requirements for local authority and academy schools to provide high-quality remote education, equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would have received in school: from three hours a day for key stage 1 to five hours a day for key stages 3 and 4.

My Lords, the TUC report shows the difficulties faced by the parents of children unable to go to school in the Covid lockdown. It is not easy for some to work from home, reschedule work or incur the cost of reducing working hours. Does the Minister agree that we should urgently consider copying the initiatives in Germany and Italy of giving the parents of young children some additional paid leave to help in the present crisis?

My Lords, in international comparisons, our furlough scheme is actually more generous than many other countries’ and has fewer eligibility criteria than other countries’. But the Government completely understand the pressure that working parents are under. That is why we worked hard to keep schools open for as long as possible, and that is why we are working to get transmission rates down as quickly as possible so that we can reopen schools and get children back to the place where they are best off.

My Lords, it is vital that the Government respond swiftly and decisively to new developments in the fight against the pandemic. The impacts of school closures on parents were apparent during the first national lockdown, and yet the Chancellor did nothing to ensure that the furlough scheme would be fit for purpose in the event of further closures. The TUC has provided clear evidence that the scheme is not fit for working parents, so will the Government now build in the flexibility that parents so badly need? Further, will they finally extend the eligibility of other schemes to those who have thus far been excluded from desperately needed finance?

My Lords, the Government are clear that the furlough scheme can be used flexibly by employers—it can be used to accommodate those employees who cannot work due to their caring needs arising from Covid. They have extended eligibility in the extended scheme to account for employees who were taken on since the furlough scheme first operated. Learning from our first experience, we have put other measures in place to support parents, including childcare bubbles and the provision of high-quality online education.

My Lords, I have a suspicion that among Members of the House of Lords there are not many single parents who are home educating their young children. I am one of those, however, and I spent last week with my 11, 12 and eight year-olds, helping to home educate them and doing everything else that they needed. I do not have to choose between my job and looking after my children but many people are in that position. Surely, at the very least, there should be some rights for these parents to have support where the schools are not open. In addition, if employers are not prepared to support them, at the very least employers should be required to give them their job back at the end of this period.

The noble Lord is absolutely right that where parents need to take leave for caring responsibilities they have the right to do so, and if that is taken for under 26 weeks, they have the right to return to the same job when they return to work.

My Lords, following on from the previous question, might it be possible for the Government to consider extending the carers’ leave, given that the pandemic has gone on for so long, so that it is more akin to maternity leave and lasts for a longer period in these exceptional circumstances?

My Lords, the right to take parental leave is one of a number of options open to parents. We hope that employers will work with their employees to find the best solution in each circumstance, including the use of the furlough scheme where appropriate and where the eligibility criteria are clear.

My Lords, juggling childcare, home schooling and work is extremely challenging, with many facing the dilemma of choosing between home schooling their children or work, especially when they cannot work from home. Clearly, this serious issue needs addressing urgently. Can any legal obligation to offer furlough include backdating payments to allow payments to those who have already had to take unpaid leave and therefore lost valuable income because they did not have alternative childcare arrangements?

The Government do not intend to change the operation of the furlough scheme from a voluntary scheme for employers to use to a legal obligation for employers to offer it. We do not believe that that is the right way forward. However, we are providing additional support to parents facing a very difficult situation in juggling work and home schooling.

My Lords, the TUC report points out that financial insecurity is having a bad effect on the well-being and mental health of mums. This will affect family well-being, as well as poverty, inequalities and social mobility for children—which are perennial issues outside crises. Does the Minister think that it is high time for the Government to appoint a senior Minister totally focused on children and families to safeguard their rights, welfare and progress?

My Lords, I believe there is a Minister for Children and Families who has that responsibility in the department. However, I completely take the noble Baroness’s point on the pressures on parents, including with regard to financial security. That is why the Government have put over £7 billion more into the welfare system in this financial year to support people through the current crisis.

My Lords, the TUC has highlighted the challenge. Surely the only answer in the short term is to use the February half-term break to vaccinate all teaching and non-teaching staff and get the children back into school. Perhaps the Minister will take that back to her colleagues in Cabinet.

My Lords, I am happy to take that back, but as regards the vaccination schedule, we are following the initial first wave set out by the JCVI, which goes by clinical vulnerability and particularly by age. I know that we will consider further waves after that and that we will consider the latest evidence, including on transmission and the impact on workers and public services.

But is the Minister not aware that in an unprecedentedly large response, the TUC found that more than 70% of those who asked their employers to put them forward for furlough were refused? The Government are refusing to make this a legal obligation on the very same day that down the Corridor, in the Commons, they are refusing to continue the £20 increase in universal credit. They are being exposed yet again for the mean and heartless Government they are.

The support that the Government have put in place through the furlough scheme and other schemes during this pandemic is absolutely unprecedented compared to any time in our history. The Government are there for families and people struggling through very difficult times, and will continue to be.

Sitting suspended.

Arrangement of Business


I will call Members to speak in the order in which they are listed on 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 the amendment and the Minister, Members may speak only once in each group. Short questions of elucidation on a Minister’s response are permitted, but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk in advance.

The groupings are binding, and it is not possible to de-group an amendment for separate debate. A participant who might wish to press an amendment other than the lead amendment to a Division must give notice either in the debate or by emailing the clerk in advance. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the Question, I will collect the voices in the Chamber only, so if a Member taking part remotely wants their voice to be accounted for when the Question is put, they must make this clear when speaking on the group.

Trade Bill

Third Reading

Relevant documents: 15th Report from the Constitution Committee

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Trade Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

My Lords, as the Government have made clear throughout all stages of the Trade Bill, the UK Government are committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations to deliver an independent trade policy that works for the whole of the UK. I am pleased to say that the Senedd and the Scottish Parliament have both granted legislative consent, and I am grateful to colleagues in the Welsh and Scottish Governments, who have worked tirelessly to consider this Bill and schedule the necessary votes. However, the Northern Ireland Executive have not brought forward a legislative consent memorandum, and the Assembly has therefore not voted on legislative consent. I reassure noble Lords that the Government will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Executive.

Clause 8: Standards affected by international trade agreements

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 8, page 8, line 23, leave out “in advance of such agreements being” and insert “are”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is to clarify the drafting of this provision.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Grantchester, who has unfortunately been delayed on his way to the House, I beg to move Amendment 1. This is a technical amendment to correct an error that was made in the original drafting, and I understand that the Minister and the Government will not be opposing it.

My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to say just a few words about this amendment. Although it is technical, the intention is to provide clarity to that part of Clause 8 which sets out the procedure whereby the Government propose to implement an international trade agreement which has an impact on standards in domestic legislation relating to, for example, social, environmental or animal welfare standards. I completely understand that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in tabling this amendment is to make it clear that the legislation relating to standards should complete its parliamentary processes, as the clause says, prior to the trade agreement being laid.

I am not really speaking about that aspect of it. Indeed, I draw attention to the fact that, notwithstanding Clause 8, Clause 7 has what I would regard—not least because I moved the relevant amendment at Report—as a better formulation, which requires the subordinate legislation, secondary instruments, to have been laid before the ratification of the trade agreement and for the primary legislation required for its implementation to have been passed before ratification. However, Clause 8, as clarified by this amendment, has the effect of meaning that the parliamentary procedure in relation to domestic legislation has to be completed before those texts are laid before Parliament. I think that is unnecessary and rather burdensome, and it would be better to rest on the text in Clause 7, which requires the legislation to have been passed prior to ratification.

The point I want to make is actually about impact assessments. If, in response to this short debate, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—who I see is, happily, now in his place—can explain why impact assessments should not be laid before Parliament prior to the completion of parliamentary processes relating to the implementation of domestic legislation, I would welcome that. That seems unnecessary—indeed, undesirable. It would be better were impact assessments formulated and laid before Parliament relating to domestic legislation which implements any change in standards in this country consequent to an agreement in an international trade context. For them not to be required by legislation to be laid before Parliament until the text of the trade agreement itself is laid seems unnecessary and undesirable.

I do not oppose the amendment, as it has the effect of making clear that subsection. However, what the subsection suggests, particularly for impact assessments, is undesirable. As it happens, as we dispatch the Bill to the other place, this clause rather duplicates what is set out in Clause 7. It would be better to retain Clause 7, rather than the formulation in this part of Clause 8.

My Lords, I welcome Amendment 1, as it brings greater clarity, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—who I am delighted to see in his place—for bringing it forward.

I take this opportunity to put a question to my noble friend the Minister, and to thank him for the openness he has shown throughout proceedings on the Bill. Does he have a timeframe in mind as to when the code of practice, as envisaged under Clause 8, is to be brought forward? I imagine that is also subject to Amendment 1 before us this afternoon. Will the code of practice envisaged be general, or does he envisage that a separate code of practice for each future international trade agreement may need to come before the House?

As my noble friend is aware, I care passionately about maintaining the standards in paragraphs (a) to (f): in particular, food, animal welfare and the environment. Does he share my concern at the noises off, which are saying that, now we have left the European Union, we do not have to maintain those high standards? Can he, from the Government’s perspective, quash any such move, paying tribute to British farmers and to the high standards to which they produce our food, to which consumers have become accustomed and wish to continue to purchase? With that, I give Amendment 1 a warm welcome.

My Lords, I also welcome the amendment, and I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, who is back in his place. I hope his journey was safe.

I want to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in his characteristically accurate and sensible contribution. We will probably debate impact assessments, including their value and necessity, to some degree during ping-pong if the Government make the regrettable decision not to support what was Amendment 6, which refers to the need for independently verified impact assessments on trade agreements. Many of us are rather startled, and indeed worried, by the fact that, on the biggest trade agreement of them all—the one with our European Union partners—the Government have maintained a position of refusing an economic impact assessment, even after all the statements made during the passage of this Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, whom I hold in very high regard, that it is the Government’s position that every trade agreement will come with an impact assessment. I hope the Government can clarify their position and say that we will get an impact assessment with our trade agreement with the European Union.

I want to comment on the necessity of having this amendment corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, as has been remarked on. In an interview in the Financial Times last week, Tim Smith, the outgoing chair of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, made some very strong statements, which I support, about the UK not entering a “race to the bottom”, needing to be vigilant on behalf of the different elements of the UK—rural and agricultural business, in particular—and wanting to see the Government, in their permanent arrangements for the independent body that we have now established under the Bill, being as strong as possible on standards.

I therefore share the unease indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, whom it is always a pleasure to follow in these debates. The Government seem set on an agenda that demonstrates why their approach needs to be different from that previously taken in the European Union. This might be just to show that we are different, rather than being at all meaningful, but the damaging aspect is that, as Tim Smith indicated, there are many countries with which we have had rollover agreements—and will have trade agreements in future—but which do not prohibit the use of the same chemicals, additives and procedures in the rural industry as we do. Our trading relationships with them should be about us maintaining our standards and working with partners to see the ever-increasing standards that they enjoy.

This minor and technical amendment, which I hope we will see go through to be in the finalised Bill after the House of Commons considers it, is of value. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, has brought it forward and I support it.

My Lords, I will be brief in my remarks on Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I will restrict my remarks to this amendment rather than to the underlying amendment that it would amend.

We disagree with the fundamentals of the clause voted into the Bill on Report. However, we believe that there is no sense in dividing your Lordships’ House over this amendment, which aims to clarify ambiguities in the drafting in a previous amendment. I noted carefully the comments made by my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

As far as the code of practice and its timing are concerned, until the Bill has completed its passage and been subjected to ping-pong, we will not know exactly what will be in it, so we have not yet turned our attention to the detail and substance of the code.

I agree completely with the comments of my noble friend Lady McIntosh on the importance of food standards; we have been pleased to reiterate that constantly during the passage of the Bill. I join her in applauding the great work our farmers do day in, day out.

We will not oppose this minor and technical change to the clause, and we will return to debate the detail of this provision at the appropriate time.

My Lords, I shall start with a quick apology. My train down this morning was part of the new lockdown schedules and did not exist, so I took the next one; I thought that I would still be all right but, as we discovered, I was two or three minutes late. I apologise for that. I thank my noble friend Lord Collins for standing in for me and moving the amendment formally, which is all I would have done in any case as this amendment was discussed earlier during the passage of the Bill. I was notified that it was slightly unclear—hence the correction before the House today.

I am grateful for the further comments I received from noble Lords in looking at the amendment again, but the substantive point is that we are happy to have this part of the Bill looked at again by the Commons and to have time to discuss it, because the points are well expressed and the thrust of the amendment is very cogent. The Commons will look at it among the totality of the clauses in the Bill. I am sure that this will give an opportunity for further clarity, assimilation and—how can I put this?—alignment between the various clauses to make better sense of it.

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, yes, it is important that statutory instruments come with impact assessments. As to whether an impact assessment is required for every trade Bill—or, indeed, every statutory instrument needed for every trade Bill—I am sure that the Minister, when he is going through trade Bills and the CRaG procedures as determined already, and by amendments to this Bill, will clarify that and make it clear. I am sure that he will also make it clear that, of course, once this Bill becomes legislation, the Government will do all they can to facilitate a full debate in both Houses.

Amendment 1 agreed.

My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Schedule 3: Exceptions to restrictions in the devolution settlements

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Schedule 3, page 25, line 23, after “(5)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

My Lords, as stated on Report, the Government bring forward these amendments in the light of the passage of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020. These amendments will revise the paragraph numbering in Schedule 3 to accord with the amendments made to the respective devolution Acts by the aforementioned Act. Schedule 3 relates to exceptions to restrictions in the devolution settlements. Although these amendments amend Schedule 3, I assure noble Lords that they are minor and technical and will not make any substantive policy changes to the Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, my interests are as listed on the register. I will be brief; I fully endorse all the amendments proposed in this group.

I have a few comments on the proposed trade and agriculture commission but, first, on behalf of my friends on the Cross Benches, I thank the Minister for being so helpful and considerate throughout the passage of this Bill. His patience and willingness to engage have been very much appreciated, particularly when the sense of time pressure has been apparent. Obviously, the constraints of the pandemic have imposed on the parliamentary process, and coupled with the need to speedily expedite so many Bills to meet the timetable determined by leaving the European Union, this has placed enormous pressure on the system—not only on Ministers but on the myriad of staff teams that have of necessity been required to support this demanding timetable. I thank all for their valuable support, which has been incredibly important and is very much appreciated.

I thank the Government again for recognising the need for the trade and agriculture commission, and for deciding to give it statutory footing through the Bill. This is a hugely important step forward and is valued by all key stakeholders. I have a very straightforward request for clarity from the Minister, and I apologise for raising this again. It is on the relationship between the TAC and the food standards agencies. I am deliberately using the plural because of the separate functions that exist within the United Kingdom, and these amendments today are addressing issues relating to the United Kingdom. Removing human health from the remit of the TAC—because, one assumes, the food standards agencies will undertake that responsibility—raises the question of how this will work in practice when a new trade deal is being scrutinised by all these bodies, and how this will be reported to Parliament. Will there be a number of separate reports, will the individual bodies and agencies collaborate and produce a joint report, or will the Secretary of State filter the various reports before submitting to Parliament?

I know that the Minister tried to respond to these issues on Report, so I apologise that I am probably stretching his patience to the limit, but I am still rather confused and would appreciate it if he could please explain it again so that I have clarity. I end by thanking all staff once again for their immensely valuable help with this most important Bill.

My Lords, I declare my interests, notably as chair of the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and of Crown Agents. I congratulate the Minister and my noble friend Lord Younger on getting this important Bill to this stage after such an extended passage. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, about the support provided by the Ministers and their professional and helpful team.

Britain has a great trading history and we must enter the new era with confidence, backed by our strengthened Department for International Trade and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I spell them out for good reason: there is potential in goods, services and digital.

My noble friend will recall that there were some uncertainties on Report, and that in summing up and withdrawing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, said that he or I might come back at Third Reading. This seems the right place to ask my questions, since the operation of powers in the devolved nations was under discussion. That has been clarified in these government amendments, to which I do not object, despite the earlier reservations I had expressed. I have given advance notice in the hope that the Minister can reassure me.

The clauses on trade information enable HMRC to collect information about UK exporters. It has been made clear all along that compliance with the request would be entirely voluntary. On Report, my noble friend the Minister said that the practical implementation of this would be a “tick box” on the tax returns—presumably, both corporate and personal. However, he gave no indication of the sorts of questions that would be asked; can he kindly do so today? I appreciate that this will be in regulations in accordance with what was Clause 7(4), but we need an idea of what information will be sought. For example, will it be the name of the trader, and which country or countries they exported to in the tax year in question? Will they need to provide a breakdown of customs headings?

In our wish to have well-informed trade policy we must not forget the Prime Minister’s new-found instructions to reduce red tape. I agree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, about the usefulness of impact assessments, and I thank my noble friend the Minister for the impact assessment that was produced for this Bill. Will an impact assessment be prepared on the regulations on data gathering and so on, and will that be cleared by the Regulatory Policy Committee? I fear that any reply that is more complicated than “yes”, when multiplied by the number of those involved in trade and filling in tax forms—which will obviously include exports to the EU under the new regime—is bound to have net compliance costs of more than £5 million.

On the same theme, perhaps the Minister could kindly confirm that the Henry VIII power that was in Clause 7(4), and is now a little later in the Bill, will be used only to put these voluntary questions on the tax return, as he said last time. If, for example, it is going to be used for other reasons, will new primary legislation be sought? As I said before, it seems to be a wide power. Assuming, as I hope and expect, that the Minister is able to reassure, can he give some indication of what sort of information public authorities will glean from tax forms? For example, I would be a little concerned about tiers of information on profitability being made public.

Finally, I come back to the linked issue of confidentiality of disclosure and the risks of that—whether in London, Edinburgh or elsewhere—in relation to the new export information that will be sought, and the information on imports, border security and transport flow, referred to in the following clause. Such information can be disclosed only with the agreement of HMRC, under the terms of the Bill. I very much took the Minister’s point last time that the devolved Governments take their responsibilities seriously, and I hope that experience justifies the Minister’s confidence on that. However, once information has been provided to any of our public authorities, can not a decision by Ministers, or a freedom of information request, reveal which companies or sole traders are exporting or importing, or give details of where and what, from which others can draw conclusions? I hope not, as this would be damaging to UK competitiveness, and could be used by foreign interests to gain an advantage at this critical time for UK plc. The Data Protection Act is useful but any further reassurance the Minister can give to our businesses and sole traders would be much appreciated.

My Lords, I welcome this group of amendments. I pay tribute to my noble friend and his colleagues, who have successfully engaged the legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament. I say that as someone of Scottish descent, and a non-practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.

I honestly do not believe that we would have got to this pass if it had not been for the intervention of a number of noble Lords, but especially the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, among others, who intervened at all stages of what is now the United Kingdom Internal Market Act. I hope my noble friend will join me in paying tribute to the ongoing discussions on the framework agreements between the four nations that will be increasingly important as we develop trade, agriculture and environmental policy. But I am sure that there was more than a minor hiccup in engaging with the Scottish Parliament, so I congratulate him and I welcome these amendments in bringing us to that pass. Although he describes them as technical and not significant, I think they are a major step along the path to securing the passing of the Bill as it proceeds to the Commons.

Following two previous attempts spread over years, the Trade Bill seems finally to be making its way towards the statute book, perhaps by way of ping-pong. These amendments were described by the Minister as essentially technical housekeeping. I agree with him and certainly with the amendments, but perhaps it is appropriate that the final amendments we will discuss focus on inserting the Bill into the devolution settlement, as symbolised by the Scotland Act.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, the Trade Bill is about setting Westminster’s role for the future, just as the internal market Bill did. I am pleased to hear about the legislative consent from Scotland and Wales, but in the past months these Benches have shown that we disagree with the way the Bill has avoided the effective involvement of Parliaments and Assemblies in the United Kingdom, taking a lot of power for the Executive.

But we have had those debates, and I will use this time to focus on some elements of the application the Trade Bill might enjoy. It is worth pointing out that the UK will be embarking on this so-called independent trade policy when the global trading environment is—how should I put it?—challenging. Even before the massive uncertainty of the global pandemic there were increasing trade tensions and a slowdown in the global economy.

Yet when I listen to the words coming from government mouths, I often hear echoes of British exceptionalism. Phrases such as “sovereign island nation”, when trotted out, seem to hark back to the 19th century. It is this backward view of the world that most disturbs me. I hear overtones that reflect the use of trade deals in a way that European nations did to compete for imperial domination in the 1800s.

At the heart of this is a total lack of understanding of the nature of modern global supply chains. Despite ministerial remonstrations when debating the Bill, it is impossible for me not to take the recent deals as examples of trade policy and how they are being applied. Of course, we could look at the rollover deals, but none of these has delivered anything material that we did not have before, so there is not much material there.

Then we come to the EU and UK deal. Clearly, there are substantial changes here that point to the direction we are travelling in. It is hard. It demonstrates this lack of understanding of how the flow of goods and services is facilitated by supply chains. Such flows are no longer maintained by access to the clipper ships of the East India Company, as this nostalgia seems to reflect, but nurtured by standards, people and data—three areas the EU trade agreement fails to enhance.

The role of shared standards and regulations is becoming only too apparent to our exporters struggling with serious border friction. Meanwhile, the lubricating effect to trade of mobility frameworks and mutual recognition of skills has yet to impinge on the wider public. However, I believe the tone of the Government’s responses to amendments addressing these issues will ultimately be seen as foolish. Finally, there has been no progress on data flows. That problem has just started.

Christmas Eve was not the end of this story; it was one step in a long process of negotiation. There will be protracted and difficult discussions about implementing the provisions covering trade in goods. We are starting to see this. Then there are two key areas outstanding. The first is financial services. Talks on an equivalence deal are taking place over the next three months, but this will exclude core banking services such as lending, payments and deposit-taking. If the EU and the UK fail to secure agreement, the UK will be left with the task of negotiating separately with 27 member states.

Then, as I said, there is data adequacy. The EU Parliament has severe reservations regarding sharing data with the UK. There is great suspicion over the potential onward transfer of data to the USA. Overcoming these fears will require much more than the Prime Minister looking into the eyes of MEPs and saying, “Trust me”.

However these go, the EU and the UK will remain in low-level dispute on all sorts of issues far into the future. Through all this, the UK will have to calculate the impact of whatever is agreed with the EU on its efforts to conclude bilateral trade agreements with other countries.

I question how the Government will use the much-vaunted freedom that they and the Prime Minister parade. As my noble friend Lord Purvis indicated, the UK Government are already looking for opportunities to diverge from the EU to demonstrate the symbolic value of Brexit and perhaps to pursue what they see as an advantage. Yet each change, each extra difference adds new friction to the EU-UK trade border. For every action there stands a possible reaction and a cost. We will see as time goes on whether the UK trade machine has the depth and sophistication to walk these lines. The weekend leaks on the working time directive and the Chancellor’s “big bang 2” speech seem to indicate otherwise.

The Bill sets a framework for trade. The Executive have taken upon themselves such powers that they will have no one else to blame for the results.

My Lords, these are minor and technical amendments. Agreeing to them should pose no difficulty to us. In introducing them the Minister spoke very warmly about his commitment to working with the devolved Administrations. It is very good to hear that two of the three have now passed their required legislative consent Motions. It is a pity that Northern Ireland simply was not able to do so, but it does speak to progress.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made a good point about the need to keep an eye on the ball here, because these issues go far wider than just the trade debate. They certainly came up on the internal market Act, but they go further than that as well. We need to be sure that those who work and operate outside central London feel confident that the responsibilities available and open to them to achieve what they want for their communities will not be obstructed by any centralising force in government. This will come out of this Bill, but it also needs to be taken account of much more widely.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to the points that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, made on the TAC. This body is still shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Maybe we can reach some further development on that with Amendment 1, which we discussed earlier, but we still need to spend some time talking about how we might take forward the issues that remain unresolved as the Bill goes from here to the Commons.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, was extremely agile in finding a way to bring back an issue she had raised previously. I respect her ability to do that. I also look forward to the Minister’s response. There seem to be two big issues here. There is the question about how the trade information will be gathered: will it be tick-box, voluntary or otherwise? If it is voluntary and tick-box, why is it necessary to use such an extraordinary amount of legislative time, and in particular the Henry VIII power in the Bill? The legislation seems to require only a very minor change to encourage people to register their interests in exports. If that is the case, why on earth does the Minister need to take powers that might change primary legislation? I look forward to his full response to that.

The noble Baroness also raised confidentiality, which I know she feels very strongly about. It can perhaps be dealt with without too much consideration, because it seems obvious, but it could bear further examination. Perhaps further discussions can take place, if not today, on what is happening with the information that has been gathered.

We have no objection on the narrow point of the government amendments before us. I am sure that they will pass.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate, and I am very grateful for their kind words about those who have worked so hard on this Bill. I will come back to this during my Third Reading speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, was characteristically eloquent, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, was characteristically practical. I have carefully noted their comments. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, asked about the reports that would be made in relation to matters in this Bill under the Agriculture Act. To clarify, there are effectively two reports. The statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission must make a report, which will be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State too must lay a report according to the provisions of the Act. His or her report will of course be informed by the report of the statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission, but will also draw on expertise from other sources; for example, there will be a requirement to report on the impact of matters covered by the report on human health.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe raised a few specific points which I will briefly reassure her on. Like her, speaking from the viewpoint of practical businesspeople, I abhor red tape and can confirm that we have no intention of adding to the mountain of it that already exists. I can give my noble friend a complete reassurance that the question on the tax form will absolutely be a simple and voluntary tick box, asking “Do you export goods or services?” Companies will not be required to provide a breakdown of customs headings and literally no other information will be sought other than that tick. I can also confirm that the Government have done an impact assessment on the entire Bill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was agreed that this additional question on the corporation tax form—or, where appropriate, the self-assessment form—was regarded as a minimum burden on business. If there was a word that meant “smaller than minimum”, it could have been used. I also reassure my noble friend that the Henry VIII power will be used only to place the necessary question into the tax form.

Finally, I can provide a complete assurance that commercially sensitive record-level data collected by HMRC on exporters and others would be exempt from a freedom of information request. Responses to such requests must not disclose information that is in breach of other law. In this case, sharing disclosive information about businesses or people collected by HMRC would be in contravention of the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs Act 2005 and the Data Protection Act 2018, and of course there are penalties for so doing. I hope that my words provide complete reassurance to my noble friend.

This has been a short but useful debate, and I would be grateful for the support of the House in making these minor and technical amendments.

Amendment 2 agreed.

Amendments 3 to 13

Moved by

3: Schedule 3, page 25, line 23, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

4: Schedule 3, page 25, line 24, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

5: Schedule 3, page 25, line 25, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

6: Schedule 3, page 25, line 28, after “(8A)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

7: Schedule 3, page 25, line 28, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

8: Schedule 3, page 25, line 29, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

9: Schedule 3, page 25, line 30, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

10: Schedule 3, page 25, line 33, after “(4)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

11: Schedule 3, page 25, line 33, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

12: Schedule 3, page 25, line 34, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

13: Schedule 3, page 25, line 35, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

Amendments 3 to 13 agreed.


Moved by

My Lords, as we come to the end of the legislative process for the Bill in this House, I will say a few words to express my sincere gratitude to those who have made its progress possible, starting with my noble friend Lord Younger, whose support throughout this process has been invaluable, especially to a rookie Minister such as myself. I am hugely in his debt. He has shown me the ropes, he has been a deep well of knowledge on parliamentary process and he has stepped up time and again during the debates.

I also thank my predecessor in this role, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, who laid the groundwork in so many ways and whose prior work undoubtedly made the passage of this Bill so much smoother. Any credit for this Bill should surely start with her. I pay particular respect to the noble Lords who have taken their time to meet with me, virtually, to listen to me and to advocate for their issues, and particularly thank the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I also thank my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, Lady Noakes and Lord Lansley.

I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kidron, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Berkeley, for their expertise and relentless advocacy of important issues that often get subsumed in the wider debate. There is one notable addition to the names I have just mentioned. My predecessor, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, singled out the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his contributions in the 2017-19 Bill, and I do the same. Without his forthright counsel, his expertise and his patience, the Bill would not be where it is today.

But this has been very much a team performance. Behind the scenes, civil servants have put in an unbelievable job of work. My thanks go to them, to my private office—in particular, my private secretary Donald Selmani—and to those in the Department for International Trade and across Government who have helped get the Bill to this point. With permission, I will specifically mention the Bill team, whose support has been invaluable not only to myself but to many Members of our House, beginning with the previous Bill manager, Gail Davis, who has expertly guided this Bill and who will now enjoy a well-earned retirement after a distinguished career in the Civil Service. I also pay tribute to the other members of the Bill team, past and present. James Copeland, the current Bill manager, has been on this legislation since day one. I suspect that he is almost as hopeful as noble Lords of getting it on the statute book. I should also mention members of his team: Alistair Ford, Oscar Burbidge, Ross Holton and Thomas Bingham. Finally, I thank the parliamentary staff, the doorkeepers and the clerks, for their patience and professionalism, and I know that I speak for the whole House when I thank all those who have helped make the hybrid process a success during the time of this dreadful pandemic.

This has been my first experience of taking a major and substantive Bill through the House and I do believe that the legislation, after the hard work that Peers have put into it, will be a credit to all Members of this House and the other place and will have a significant positive impact on the citizens and businesses of this great country.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very graceful and elegant introduction of this brief part of the Bill. Votes of thanks are very difficult to do, whether in the Chamber, as they were here, remotely or as part of a more social gathering. It is very difficult to get them right, but I think everyone would agree that this was very nicely done.

The Minister is a relative newcomer to our work, although he has got into the groove very quickly and been able to manage it very successfully. Of course, he has a secret: he started his career in the Civil Service. Therefore, it is to be expected that members of the Bill team have welcomed him back, as it were, and have supported him in a way that has allowed him to do his job with a great level of skill.

I often think that Bills passing through your Lordships’ House acquire a character of their own. This Bill might be described in a number of ways. “Groundhog Day” would be most people’s choice, but that would involve a daily repetition whereas this Bill has been with us only twice. I say “only”, but each time it has repeated much of the stuff that we have dealt with before. The first time it went through with the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, and it was very different because of changed circumstances.

However, that comparison perhaps does not work quite so well, so I suggest that we are talking about a version of “Hamlet”. Parts of this Trade Bill are perhaps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: they, too, are involved in events often happening just outside their understanding and make all-too-infrequent appearances before escorting Hamlet to England and an untimely offstage death—such a waste of such wonderful characters. I will leave others to speculate who played the other parts. I certainly have in mind characters who might be accused of playing Polonius and others who might have played the Player King.

Of course, having the Bill twice, as we have had, may bring other benefits. One suspects that there are probably several PhDs and books to be written about how different approaches were taken over the two cycles of the Bill, the changes in Ministers, the impact of the changes in the political environment and even the change from real to virtual debate, which was mentioned by the Minister, which will have had an impact. I think it might be interesting see them in a few years’ time.

However, we need to focus on where we go next with the Bill. The Government have achieved their target of getting it through all its stages in your Lordships’ House, but it is not finished. In 2019, the then Minister kindly acknowledged that she felt the Bill had been “improved” by its passage through your Lordships’ House. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, also implied that, although he did not quite say so in the same words, but I thank him for his thanks to us and the others who have contributed to the Bill.

I am sure that I speak for all those involved in the Bill, indeed, for the whole House, when I say that this is, amazingly, the first Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has done, and he has done so with extraordinary skill. The idea that only a few months ago he made his maiden speech at Second Reading of the Bill means that we have to look in a new light at his ability to catch up and work forward. He has been very good at organising meetings and providing the information we wanted. Indeed, at one point I had to remonstrate with him about his propensity to email me and colleagues at all hours of the day and night and at weekends. Enough is enough, I think—although he did not seem to take the message.

The noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, whom the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, mentioned in his speech, supported him very well and showed his usual charm and courtesy at the Dispatch Box. The Bill team, which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, was exemplary. We have had a very good service from them and I thank them very much for that. He also mentioned the debt of gratitude we owe to the broadcasting hub and to the staff of the House for making it possible to deliver the Bill at all. My struggles today have been a good example of that. I have been able to communicate at very short notice in a way that I did not think was possible when the internet went down a couple of hours ago.

Outside the House, we have been assisted by the Greener UK alliance and the Trade Justice Movement, in particular. Over the period that we have been involved in the Bill, it has been interesting to see how external groups and civic society have become more interested in trade policy. This is a good thing, given that it is crucial to us as a nation going forward. That is something we want to build on and have endure.

I have been supported in this phase of the Bill by my noble friends Lord Grantchester, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Lennie, our Whip, who have coped very well with me in my “Hamlet” mode. Dan Harris, our legislative assistant, has also been absolutely brilliant and has supported the whole enterprise, even sacrificing his birthday celebrations on one occasion to make sure that papers were made ready and got out. His negotiations with the Public Bill Office have been a joy because I have not had to do them.

We have made a number of changes to the Bill which we hope will be considered sympathetically by the other place tomorrow. I say again to the Minister that we are not far apart on many of these issues, and it would be good to meet him in the interim to see whether there is further common ground to be hammered out.

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, in his literary thanks to the Minister. I cannot compete with that. I am from the Walter Scott area rather than Shakespeare country, but I am certain that, during the three-and-a-quarter years of the passage of the Bill, the Minister and Ministers probably felt that many of our amendments and much of what we were saying were “Much Ado About Nothing”, much as we thought that the Government were probably acting as a “Comedy of Errors”. But the Minister will now probably think that “All’s Well That Ends Well” with the passage of the Bill, and I congratulate him on putting this legislation on the statute book.

In response to his maiden speech, I indicated that it was the third time that the Bill had been presented to the House and that I was certain that it would be third time lucky for him, and it has been. However, I do not think there has been much luck associated with the Bill. I congratulate him on taking it through in a conscientious, gracious and inclusive manner. All those qualities were indicated in his first correspondence with me when he became a Minister when he set out how he wished to operate. He has demonstrated that to the letter, and I am very grateful, as are my noble friends Lord Fox, Lady Kramer, Lady Bowles, Lord Bruce, Lady Bakewell and others on these Benches who have been able to benefit from the Minister’s time and the manner in which he has listened our concerns and thoughts and responded in a timely manner. In that, he has been very ably assisted by his private office, which I also commend, as well as the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, who has been an extremely patient Whip on the Bench on many of these proceedings.

I had a look at the Parliament web page for the Bill. One of the signs of how conscientious Ministers are is what the website terms “Will write letters”. The noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has written 23 letters during the passage of the Bill through the Lords, which demonstrates two things: first, that across all the Benches there has been great interest in trade policy in a post-Brexit scenario; and, secondly, that he has tried to respond to all the points that have been raised. For the record, I say that not all the 23 will-write letters were to me, but I am sure that the Minister probably felt at certain stages that the contributions from me and these Benches were perhaps excessive. My colleagues and I care very deeply about having a 21st century trade policy to meet the needs of the 21st century. During ping-pong, we will endeavour to continue to make the case.

The Minister said that he commends those on the other Benches on getting the Bill to where it is today. I hope he does not mind me saying that if the Bill becomes an Act as it is today we would be very happy, but we are not yet at the very final stage—like some of the trade agreements that have not yet been ratified after the end of the transition period, this involves a degree of provisional application. I hope the House of Commons will see the sense in the cross-party amendments that this House has passed so that the Bill as it is today will continue to be strong.

I will say one final thing about the Minister. I commend him on putting through this legislation while also having significant health problems with his eye. I have never known a Minister who has seamlessly managed to have major eye surgery—and we commend the NHS and Moorfields Eye Hospital on restoring his eyesight—while taking this legislation through without pause. No one would have noticed any difference, so I commend him on doing it.

I hope that, during ping-pong, we will be able to protect some of the elements of the amendments that we passed during the scrutiny, which I think most colleagues consider to have been thorough, conscientious and effective.

My Lords, as we near the end of lengthy deliberations over a long period, during which we have finally managed to leave the European Union, and now have to start to combat, economically, the greatest worldwide pandemic in many centuries—I do not think that is an exaggeration—I want to make a short contribution imploring the Government not to follow a tendency inbuilt in all Governments. When legislation has taken so long to put together and eventually receives Royal Assent, I implore them not to sit back and leave others to do the next stage. We in this country are good at appointing trade envoys to go out across the world but we are not nearly as good at taking the message inwards. If one thing strikes me more than anything else about what is needed with the freedoms that come from leaving the European Union and the complexities of recovering, at some stage, the economy post the Covid pandemic, it is that we will need to engender two things that will not come automatically.

The first is an entrepreneurial spirit. It is easy for politicians to talk about that but, when industrialists, business people and workers have been anchored down for so long with the pandemic and will continue to be in some way for some considerable time, entrepreneurship will not simply emerge quickly from nowhere; it will need encouraging, facilitating and inspiring.

The second thing, as part of that, will be the need for a new social contract, to use an old term in a modern setting, post Brexit. If those who own and work in our businesses are not on the same wavelength, with the same motivations and moving in the same direction, that entrepreneurship will be severely hampered. The innovations will be concepts rather than delivered goods and services that boost our economy. The Government need to decide whether we will be an economy that trades cheap and cheerful or as the best in the world. That choice will be made in the next 18 months and will last for many years to come.

I implore the Government to go inward into our industrial heartlands of the past, taking the message of this Trade Bill about what trade means and re-establishing that social contract—the message that we are all in this together. The UK, with its new freedoms, will prosper and thrive if we do so on the basis of being the best, rather than the cheap and cheerful back end of the industrial world, I hope that Ministers from this department will take the lead in doing that.

My Lords, I pay fulsome tribute to my noble friends Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Younger of Leckie for their stewardship of the Bill, bringing us to where we are today. I join my noble friends in also paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Fairhead for originating the original Bill, to which I also contributed.

My noble friend has alluded to all those who contributed, and I join him in thanking all the officials who have helped us—notably, his private secretary and the Bill team. I also thank the doorkeepers, the attendants and those in the Printed Paper Office and the Public Bill Office, who have worked exceptionally hard on the Bill. I thank, too, the catering staff, who have ensured that, while we have been meeting in this House, we have been well fed and watered.

My noble friend alluded to the fact that the Bill has changed during its passage in this House before it proceeds to the ping-pong stage. I echo the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, that the food standards agencies of the four nations will be asked to advise on human health. There is a concern over how they will report on and feed the human health aspects into the other two reports to which my noble friend referred.

I also extend warm thanks to the Law Society of Scotland, which briefed me at various stages of the Bill to ensure that Scottish concerns—particularly those of the legal profession in Scotland—were heeded.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred to “Hamlet”. Obviously that was set in Denmark, with the Prince of Denmark being the main player. I end by thanking my noble friend Lord Grimstone, who has emerged as the swan, with the rest of us being the ugly ducklings. He has had an aura of calm at every stage of the Bill, and I am sure that he has been serenely paddling underneath. I thank him and congratulate him and other noble friends on getting the Bill to this stage today. I look forward to the ping-pong stage to see how the unfinished business, particularly relating to the CRaG procedures and the other domestic legislation and the regulations they put in place, plays out.

My Lords, on behalf of myself and everybody else referred to, I thank noble Lords for their most generous comments. I constantly stand in awe of the expertise in our House and the courtesies with which views are expressed. With a sense of relief, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Mental Health Act Reform


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday 13 January.

“With permission, I would like to make a Statement on reforming the Mental Health Act. Even amidst the pandemic, I am enormously grateful for the work that my team and the NHS have done, led by Sir Simon Wessely and Claire Murdoch and my honourable friend the Minister for Mental Health, to deliver this White Paper, which we published today, to bring mental health legislation into the 21st century.

We are committed as a Government, and as a nation, to seeing mental health treated on a par with physical health. We are increasing funding for mental health services to record levels, with £2.3 billion extra each year being invested through the NHS long-term plan, and an immediate £0.5 billion in place to support mental health services with the very significant pressures they are under. Our mental health services are now helping more people than ever before. Services are there for the most serious mental illnesses, although those, of course, are under significant pressure. Services are there for better community support through 24/7 crisis services and establishing liaison in A&E, and supporting people to manage their own mental health.

This programme of transformation is ambitious, and as we support mental health services now, so we must bring up to date the legislative framework for the long term. The Mental Health Act 1983 was created so that people who have severe mental illness and present a risk to themselves or others can be detained and treated for their protection and the protection of those around them, but so much has changed since the Act was put into place, nearly 40 years ago. We now understand a lot more about mental health. Public attitudes around mental health have changed significantly for the better. We now have a better understanding and practice of how we can best support people with learning disabilities and/or autism. We are also concerned by the growing number of people being detained, inequalities among those who are detained, and the length of time that people are spending detained under the Act.

So, after a generation, we must bring the Mental Health Act into the 21st century. The previous Prime Minister, my right honourable friend the Member for Maidenhead, Mrs May, asked Professor Sir Simon Wessely to lead a review into what a modern mental health Act should look like. I thank her for her work, and I am so grateful to Sir Simon and his vice-chairs for their dedication. As I said to the House last year on its publication, the Wessely review is one of the finest pieces of work on the treatment of mental health that has been done anywhere in the world. I know that the review was welcomed across the House. We committed in our manifesto to deliver the required changes, and I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his emphatic support.

Sir Simon’s review compellingly shows that the Mental Health Act does not work as well as it should for patients or their loved ones—that the Act goes too far in removing people’s autonomy and does not give people enough control over their care. I am delighted to set out our full response to that review in our White Paper, which, together with my right honourable and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, we have laid before the House.

The White Paper sets out plans for a landmark new mental health Act. The new Act will ensure that patients are put at the centre of decisions about their own care; that everyone is treated with respect; and that the law is used to compel treatment only where absolutely necessary. The White Paper has been developed in close consultation with those with the greatest expertise—the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind, the Centre for Mental Health and countless practitioners on the front line—and I thank them all.

There are four pillars to this work; I should like to take a moment to update the House on all of them. First, we will give patients a voice in their own care, which we know leads to better engagement in treatment. We will put care and treatment plans and advance choice documents in statute for the first time, so that patients are more closely involved in the development of their care and so that they can have confidence that, if they lose capacity because of illness, their preferences will be properly considered. We are making it easier for patients to challenge decisions about their care, creating a new right to choose a nominated person who is best placed to look after their interests, and increasing patients’ access to the independent tribunal to provide vital independent scrutiny of detention. In his report, Sir Simon recommended that one of the best ways to ensure dignified care is to ensure that patients can expect the privacy of their own ensuite room. We have already committed £400 million of funding to deliver that, and we are building new mental health hospitals, with two schemes already approved and with more to come.

Secondly, we will address the disparities that currently exist within the application of the Mental Health Act. Black people are currently four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people, and black people are 10 times more likely to be placed on a community treatment order. We also know that people from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds can often engage with services later, and our plans to enhance patient choice, increase scrutiny of decisions and improve a patient’s right to challenge will help us to improve service provision for all. On top of that, we have already announced our new patient and carer race equality framework, as recommended by the review, and we are developing the use of culturally appropriate advocates, so that patients from all backgrounds can be supported in making their voice heard.

Thirdly, it is important that the Act supports patients within the criminal justice system. We will make sure that, where people in prison require treatment in a mental health hospital, they are transferred in a timely way, and we will support rapid diversion from custody to care where appropriate, so that people in our criminal justice system can get the right care in the right place at the right time, while we fulfil our fundamental duty to keep the public safe.

Finally, in our manifesto, we committed to improving how people with learning disabilities and autistic people are treated under the Act. Until now, the use of powers in the Act did not distinguish between people with mental illness on the one hand and people with learning disabilities and/or autism on the other. That is wrong. Needs are different and the law should be different, too. That is all part of treating everyone with respect. We therefore propose reforms to limit the scope to detain people under the Act where their needs are due to their learning disability or autism alone. In future, there will be a limit of 28 days for these detentions, which would be used to assess clinical need, and, wherever possible, we will work to ensure that appropriate support is available in the community rather than in institutional settings. I thank Baroness Hollins, Ian Birrell, Mencap and the National Autistic Society for their advocacy and for their support for these reforms.

This Act is there for us all and we want to hear as many views as possible on these plans, so we will consult widely on this White Paper and will respond later this year before we bring forward a new mental health Bill. I believe that everyone in our society has a contribution to make and that everyone should be respected for the value that they bring. It is the role of government to support people to reach their potential, even at the most difficult of times, and to protect people when they are at their most vulnerable. That is what I believe, and I believe these reforms will help put those values into action and help give patients the dignified treatment they deserve. I commend this Statement and the White Paper to the House.”

My Lords, the whole House will welcome this White Paper. The overhaul of the Mental Health Act has been long awaited. It is also to be welcomed that the Government have accepted the majority of the recommendations from Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act. As Sir Simon Wessely’s report highlighted, there is a great need for patients to be heard, for their choices to be respected and for them to be supported to get better in the least restrictive way.

Although legislative changes are important, the best way to prevent people being detained under the Mental Health Act is to prevent them reaching a crisis point in the first place. This means bringing reality to equality for mental health, bringing in investment and training, and introducing a culture change in the NHS.

My first question is whether the investment detailed in the long-term plan will be sufficient to achieve that. Many of the organisations which have championed mental health doubt that it will. Surely we will require greater investment to implement the proposals of the White Paper.

The Government accept almost all the review’s recommendations on advocacy and tribunals, including the funding that will be required to implement them. These are key reforms affecting people’s liberty and will play an important part in making other improvements to people’s rights effective. Can the Minister assure us that planned reforms will be fully funded?

The independent review was published over two years ago. Since then, the murder of George Floyd and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement have brought the impact of structural racism into greater focus. Among the five broad ethnic groups, the known rate of detention for the black or black British group—321.7 detentions per 100,000 of the population—was over four times that of the white group, which was 73.4 per 100,000. Men and women from African-Caribbean communities in the UK have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide risk and are more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic. Does the White Paper go far enough in tackling the racial disparities within our use of the Mental Health Act? It is very much to be welcomed that the Secretary of State has announced the new patient and carer race equality framework, which was recommended by Sir Simon Wessely. Can the Minister tell us the timetable?

On health inequalities in general, children from the poorest 20% of households are four times as likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 as those from the wealthiest 20%. Half of LGBT people—52%—have experienced depression in the last year. One in eight LGBT people aged between 18 and 24 say that they have attempted to take their own life in the last year. Almost half of trans people have thought of taking their own life in the last year, and 31% per cent of LGB people who are not trans say the same. People living in the most deprived areas are more likely to be referred to an IAPT service by their GP but are substantially less likely to receive a complete course of treatment or make a successful recovery. Long-term funding decisions will be needed in the next spending review. What will they look like? Will the Government make a long-term commitment to invest when this is required?

I am sure we all welcome the aim to improve how people with learning difficulties and autism are treated under the Act. Will there be limitations to the scope for detention where their needs are due to learning disabilities or autism alone? Do the Government accept all the review’s recommendations on advocacy and tribunals, including the funding that will be required to implement them? These are key reforms affecting people’s liberty and will play an important part in making other improvements come about.

The emergency legislation of the Coronavirus Act 2020 represented a concerning reduction in patient rights and safeguards. While we understood the reasons for their initial introduction, I am sure that everyone is glad that they were never enacted and pleased that they have now been dropped. However, Covid-19 will prove a defining moment for the way in which we discuss and protect our mental health. A rising tide of people who have not previously experienced mental health problems now find themselves in that position. For a lot of people, the pandemic has seen a shift from merely “struggling” to becoming clinically unwell. Funding and reform will be needed more than ever.

Finally, can the Minister tell us when the legislative programme will commence? Is there to be a joint pre-legislative scrutiny committee? I believe the Minister’s right honourable friend the Secretary of State suggested that that might be the case. That would be very welcome and I hope that it will start very soon indeed. When, finally, will we see the draft Bill?

My Lords, there is much to be welcomed in this White Paper, for which we have waited so long. I am pleased to see patient voices being put front and centre of plans and proposals to address the current shocking disparities in the rates of detention of people from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds. However, the issues that were highlighted in the Wessely review two years ago have continued to scar the lives of too many people during the extremely long gestation period of this White Paper.

The original legislation is 40 years old now and out of date. It is shocking, frankly, that it has taken us so long to amend archaic processes, such as an individual’s father automatically being their advocate in a mental health crisis, whatever the nature of the relationship or preference of the individual patient.

I understand the importance of getting the details right. However, I was concerned by the lack of urgency shown by the Secretary of State when responding to questions from MPs on the Statement last week. Why do we have to wait another year before the legislation can even begin? Can the Minister give us a concrete timeframe for the further consultation? What is the timetable for taking forward the non-legislative reforms in the Wessely review, not least to achieve wholesale cultural change in mental health services?

I am similarly very concerned about workforce issues facing this sector. Many of the workforce aims laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan are not on track to be met, with 12% vacancy levels in many mental health services. Between 2016 and 2019, demand for services increased by over 20%—and that takes no account of the exponential growth in mental health problems during the pandemic. Recent forecasts suggest, for example, that only 71 additional consultant psychiatrists will be added to the NHS workforce by 2023-24, against a requirement of more than 1,000 to deliver the long-term plan. What measures are the Government taking to address the additional workforce requirements of reforming the Mental Health Act?

We then come to the issue of funding. The short-term injection of £500 million is, of course, welcome, but it is sustainable and long-term investment in services—covering the full spectrum from preventive to crisis care—that we so badly need. We need a comprehensive plan for funding all existing and new mental health services, rather than one-off injections of short-term funding. Above all, this means investment in community services. In a survey of Royal College of Psychiatrists members, insufficient access to community health services was cited as the greatest cause of increases in formal admissions. The best way to prevent people being detained under the Mental Health Act is to prevent them reaching crisis point in the first place.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, I am deeply worried about the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health. In October last year, the Centre for Mental Health estimated approximately 10 million extra people with mental health needs due to the pandemic—a staggering figure. While it is understandable that we have been focusing on the physical threat of the pandemic and protecting our acute services, when will the Government come forward with proposals to address what some are now calling a mental health emergency?

It is an unpalatable fact that black people are currently 10 times more likely to be placed on a community treatment order. In these situations, patient voices become even more important, ensuring that culturally appropriate services can be provided. The patient and carer race equality framework is a good start; I look forward to hearing more on this issue. I note that cultural advocates are currently being recruited, but can the Minister confirm how many patient and carer advocates will be involved in both the advancing mental health equalities task force and the patient and carer race equality framework steering group? Also, why are the Government not proposing to legislate for a CTO to have a maximum duration of two years or to allow tribunals to change the conditions imposed on an individual by the order, as recommended by the Wessely review?

I end by returning to the issue of prevention. The courses of action covered by this legislation represent the worst-case scenarios for individuals experiencing severe mental health problems. We have so much evidence telling us that investments in preventive measures are highly cost-effective interventions and avoid the trauma of crisis scenarios for patients. While we debate this White Paper, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture.

My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their incredibly perceptive, thoughtful and detailed questions, some of which I am afraid are beyond the brief in front of me. I reassure them, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, that I will write with detailed answers to some of their more perceptive and searching questions.

We are all enormously grateful to Sir Simon Wessely for his thoughtful, persuasive and thorough report. It has taken some time to work on it, but now that it has arrived we will act on it. I reassure the House that it is an enormous priority.

I reassure both noble Baronesses that funding is absolutely in place for mental health. If I may briefly run through that, an extra £2.3 billion a year for mental health services is committed by 2023-24. Some £500 million in mental health investment in the NHS workforce was announced in the spending review, and it will go towards addressing waiting times for mental health services.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, referred to the challenge of recruiting psychiatrists. As she knows, that area is extremely challenging. The employment brand of mental health services is not as strong as it is for, say, surgeons, but we have done an enormous amount through HR and the people plan to find new ways of attracting people to rewarding and challenging roles in psychiatry, and those investments are beginning to pay off.

We have invested more than £10 million this year in supporting national and local mental health charities to continue their vital work in supporting people across the country. I will move on to the mental health effects of the pandemic in a second. We have invested £8 million in the Wellbeing for Education Return programme, which will provide schools and colleges all over England with the knowledge and resources to support children and young people, teachers and parents. We have announced more than £400 million over the next four years to refurbish mental health facilities to get rid of dormitories in such facilities across 40 trusts.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, asked me about urgency and whether the Government were truly committed to moving quickly. I reassure her that money has already been announced and plans are in place to address some of Sir Simon’s most urgent recommendations.

Both noble Baronesses asked about the timetable for legislation. I reassure them that the consultation began last Wednesday; it is a 14-week consultation and we have committed to responding to it this year. If I may advertise to noble Lords, this is a terrific opportunity for all those with views on mental health to contribute to that important engagement. It is our plan to publish the Bill next year on the back of that consultation and for legislative scrutiny to take place next year. The question of whether that will be joint legislative scrutiny is not clear to me right now, but I undertake to both noble Baronesses to inquire and press the case for joint scrutiny when I return to the department. I shall write to both of them accordingly.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, raised the impact of the racial dimension highlighted in the report. The numbers in Sir Simon’s report are incredibly striking and it is crystal clear that this is an issue that we absolutely have to deal with. Will we go far enough? Yes, indeed we will. The framework recommended is extremely powerful and we are already putting it into place. We have learned an enormous amount from the report. The ability for those with mental health issues to nominate their own advocate is an extremely powerful innovation that I think will have a big impact on this issue, but we still have further to go. We are engaged with those who are both representative and expert in this area to ensure that we are challenged to go far enough.

Likewise, on learning difficulties and autism, noble Lords will remember that we have had powerful and moving debates in this Chamber in the last few months on that very issue. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that we note Sir Simon’s recommendation in his report for a 28-day cap on the detention of those with learning difficulties and autism. It is just not good enough for those with learning difficulties and autism to be detained under a Mental Health Act restraint for an interminable period. That point is thoroughly recognised, and the report’s recommendations are extremely well made.

On the question of the pandemic, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, put it extremely well: there has been a shift in many people’s response to the pressures and the isolation of lockdown, from being stressed and anxious to having genuine clinical challenges. The full effects of that have not worked their way through the system so it is difficult to get a nuanced and complete view from the numbers today, but we are very much on the balls of our feet to understand and react to the pressures

If I may draw out one issue, young girls seem to be a demographic who have particularly felt the loneliness, anxiety and uncertainty around the pandemic and lockdown. We are particularly concerned to ensure that support goes to families and individuals who present clinical mental health issues as a result of the pandemic.

On the other, very detailed questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, I undertake to answer them in writing at the earliest possible opportunity.

We now come to the 20 minutes allocated to Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of the 15 remaining speakers on the list.

My Lords, I welcome the focus of the consultation and the White Paper on prevention, along with the new duties on local commissioners to ensure that they understand and monitor the risk of crisis for individuals—for example, when a family member dies—and to ensure an adequate supply of community services for people with learning disabilities and autistic people as an alternative to admission. Does the Minister agree that for these duties to have teeth, the descriptor “adequate” will have to be defined and subject to legal enforcement?

The noble Baroness asks a very perceptive question. I pay tribute to her work in this area and the challenge and scrutiny that she has given to the Government, which have helped lead to the position we are in at the moment. This is exactly the kind of area that we will be presenting for consultation, and I very much look forward to the noble Baroness’s contribution to that consultation.

I welcome the White Paper, which represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Allied to that, can the Minister confirm whether the Government will commit to prioritising permanent and immediate mental health support for all our NHS front-line workers in ICU, in the emergency room and beyond—immediate lifelong prioritised mental health support for all those who have given so much support and continue to give it to all of us through this pandemic?

My Lords, I live opposite University College Hospital. Every night I hear the ambulances arriving and I think of the staff on the front line working so hard night after night in such difficult circumstances, dealing with people in agony. The mental health of our NHS staff is paramount. Some £50 million has been invested in strengthening mental health support for staff. We have put in place the mental health hotline, practical support, financial advice and specialist bereavement and psychological support. I have no doubt that more could be done but this is very much an area that, as my noble friend rightly points out, is worthy of more investment.

My Lords, I join fellow Members in welcoming the Statement and the response to the significant report by Sir Simon Wessely. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, noted and as the Minister commented, the evidence is that minority ethnic individuals are 40% more likely than white Britons to come into contact with mental health services through the criminal justice system. Will the Minister explain how the proposed framework will address the underlying attitudes and practices that led to this statistic, which at best are described as a failure to understand the culture and at worst are a reflection of racist views?

The right reverend Prelate is right to allude to the importance of culture. No amount of bureaucracy or guideline-writing can ultimately address the basic attitudes, backgrounds and mental starting point of those involved in these decisions. I reassure the House that at the moment we are processing the people plan, which addresses at a fundamental level the hierarchy, racism, homophobia and misogyny sometimes found in some parts of the NHS. We are acutely aware that culture is fundamental to the safe provision of services to patients. The framework itself is not wholly directed at culture, but it will be supplemented by these kinds of reforms.

I congratulate the Government on getting Sir Simon Wessely to help them bring about this much-needed reform and will welcome seeing how it progresses in the next year. I want to draw attention to one of the problems about sectioning patients. Two members of my team at different times have been sectioned; both were psychotic and severely depressed at the time. One phoned me at 5 am to say that people had come for her; it was clear that this was highly scary and very damaging. The other patient was left in a police station after being found on a moor for many hours before eventually a bed could be found, miles from where she lived or where anybody could visit her. Also, the premises available for such patients when they have been sectioned seem quite inadequate. The Minister has mentioned the dormitory system, but when I visited both those women, I felt that I would be very depressed myself if I were in those circumstances. We need to do much more to make premises more homely if we are to be more successful in encouraging a return to normal health.

The noble Lord is entirely right: when people experience a mental health crisis, they should be treated with consideration. Unfortunately, the police are sometimes at the front line of dealing with those with mental health difficulties. It is a stretch for them, and they should have the right training to be able to deal with a situation sensitively and they should have the right premises to be able to give people safe and secure environments. It is at the outer limits of their professional responsibilities, but we are doing as much as we can to put the training in place.

I remember from my own personal experience, when my father and my mother were sectioned, the consideration and thoughtfulness of those involved in both those processes. It is not all bad, but I take the noble Lord’s point.

My Lords, I welcome the White Paper and the commitment to deliver person-centred care. Many health and social care professionals will need to change the way they work, which is both necessary and welcome. What is the national budget for training over the next five years and how soon will those being treated for mental health conditions expect to notice a difference in their care?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is entirely right: the training is critical in this area; it could not be more important. We have invested £500 million in mental health services and support for the NHS workforce to address this. I cannot give her the precise number that she has asked for, but I shall write to her if I can track it down. However, we recognise the urgency of the situation and we hope that the impact of this money will be felt as quickly as possible.

My Lords, I too welcome this White Paper based on the Wessely review. However, without real increases in spending on mental health, the anticipated Bill will not be able to fulfil its potential. I was not reassured by the Minister’s comments on funding.

If we become physically ill, we can expect to be treated within a reasonable timeframe; that is not so in mental health. If the Minister agrees that that is not acceptable, will he challenge the £2.3 billion figure, which, as I am sure he knows, will do nothing to rectify the ongoing imbalance and will leave people detained in hospital because of the absence of adequate community services?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right that community support for those with mental health challenges is critical—we are supporting community health in addition—but I slightly disagree that the £2.3 billion will make no difference. It is a phenomenal commitment and it demonstrates that the Government have recognised that mental health services have lagged behind primary care and physical services, as the noble Baroness rightly points out, and we are working hard to make up the difference.

My Lords, I too welcome the White Paper and in particular one of its key aims, which is to address the disparities that exist in relation to those from black, Asian and minority-ethnic backgrounds. The data from the race disparity audit played an important role in revealing those disparities. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that the Government will continue to utilise the work of the Race Disparity Unit as we continue on the path towards the first new mental health Bill in 30 years?

My Lords, I have met the Race Disparity Unit and can share my noble friend’s testimony to the critical work that it does. The statistical collections managed by NHS Digital have shone a light on the extent of the disparities illustrated by Sir Simon, most notably that black people are more than 10 times more likely to be made subject to a community treatment order after discharge from hospital. That is an astounding number. We are determined to take action; we will introduce a new patient and carer race equality framework which will support NHS mental health care providers to work with their local communities to improve the ways in which patients access and experience treatment. The Race Disparity Unit will continue to play a key role.

My Lords, while I welcome the White Paper, it is unlikely that the legislation will be enacted until 2023. Many reforms can be made before that date to implement some of Sir Simon’s recommendations, including the development of community facilities to support people with learning disabilities and autism so as to hugely reduce the use of in-patient beds and, crucially, alternative provision to finally stop the use of prison and police custody suites as places of safety. I therefore press the Minister again to assure the House that sufficient capital funds are available within the NHS long-term plan to implement such key recommendations.

The noble Lord is 100% right: we can definitely start work on the recommendations of the report. As I said earlier, we have already done so: committing £400 million to end dormitories in 40 trusts. That sort of parallel processing can be done for other elements of the report. The consultation began last week, which shows our determination to get moving. Some recommendations of the report are spellbindingly obvious; we will work on them immediately. The role of police suites in safe refuge, cited by the noble Lord and by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, is exactly such an example.

My Lords, this is yet another NHS document which makes not a single mention of the needs of LGBT people. The Statement is in effect an admission that the Mental Health Act 2007 was deeply flawed and, as a result, thousands of people have been subject to wrongful treatment. Will the Government act now to stop the abuse of community treatment orders and other elements of that Act that have led to the position that is so accurately described by Sir Simon Wessely?

My Lords, I confess that the noble Baroness has me on the hop there, because I had not noticed that LGBT issues are not mentioned in Sir Simon’s report. I share the noble Baroness’s surprise about that. Let me return to the document and I will address her point in correspondence.

My Lords, Sir Simon found excessive use of restrictive practices in mental health institutions. Many of us will be familiar with the appalling case of Bethany, the autistic teenager who spent three years in what can be described only as a cell, in an appallingly inhumane regime that kept her locked up in solitary confinement and with no physical contact with other people. Only when her father went to court did she escape, and she is now living happily in an open-plan institution. Can the Minister assure us that such treatment will never be condoned again? We cannot wait for legislation on this.

My Lords, I certainly do not condone that treatment in any circumstances, but I acknowledge the noble Baroness’s point: there have been some instances in the past—reasonably rare but consistent—where those with autism and learning difficulties have been subject to the most inappropriate regimes and where a completely different type of support, therapy and accommodation from the kind found in mental health institutions was needed. The campaign to which the noble Baroness alluded is entirely right and we are moving quickly to address those points.

My Lords, the White Paper is certainly to be welcomed, as there is much to be done. The number of people being detained in hospital under the current Mental Health Act has increased over the past few years. One reason is the lack of resources to provide the support needed in the community and respite care. While we are told that there has been investment, the resources often do not reach hard-pressed mental health trusts. More resources will be needed, not only to grow the workforce but for the workforce to receive education and training in the values and practices needed to deliver the radical changes envisaged in this review. We should also ensure that the workforce better reflects the communities it serves. Again, while I welcome the promise of further investment in mental health services, will the Minister give a commitment that this will be new money and that it will reach mental health trusts, to provide the workforce growth, and Health Education England, to provide the workforce training essential for delivering the aims of the White Paper?

The noble Lord is right; the numbers are inappropriate. Fifty-one thousand detentions under the Act in 2019-20 seems far too many. Detentions under the Act rose by 40% in the 10 years to 2015, and we thought of this Act to try to address that injustice. The £2.3 billion is new money, and it will make a huge impact on the mental health trusts he describes.

My Lords, sadly, I have personal experience of having to invoke the Mental Health Act. It is a dreadful process. It concerns me that one of the reforms proposed is to tighten the criteria for civil patients’ detention by raising the threshold for risk of harm. Does the Minister agree that this reform risks increasing harm to the person who is ill and their family?

My Lords, that is not the intention of the report, and I confess to struggling to understand how that would be the case. I would welcome correspondence from the noble Baroness to detail her concerns so that they can be taken on board.

My Lords, the Minister is to be commended for calling out racism, because that is what many black and south Asian patients experience. Will he ensure that commissioners in the field, with this new money given to them, fund local, community-based advocacy groups? And will he ensure the health review tribunals reflect the communities on which they are adjudicating and recognise racism in the mental health service?

My Lords, the role of health review tribunals is critical, and more needs to be done to ensure that they reflect the communities they represent. I am not sure it is the role of mental health trusts to finance local advocacy groups, but he is right that they make a difference and hold the system to account. The broader issue of racism in the NHS is a cross-institutional challenge that must be addressed by all parts of the NHS, and we are committed to doing so.

My Lords, I warmly welcome the Government’s proposals. A key area of concern for me is the length of time people spend waiting in emergency departments for assessment, even after being referred by their GPs. Will the Government guarantee, as others have mentioned, that sufficient resources in staffing will be made available to ensure that these warmly welcomed reforms are carried out and the quality of care increases?

My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord only by saying we have put an ambitious report on the table. We will follow it up with a detailed consultation process that will engage Parliament in due course and lead to an ambitious Bill. That will be backed by substantial financial investment; thereby, we hope to make a major impact on the issues he describes, which I recognise and acknowledge.

My Lords, Sir Simon’s report makes no reference to international best practice and gives no internationally comparative statistics—for example, on sectioning. I gave the noble Lord notice of a question I would like to ask about what international best practice the Government have in mind. Will he be able to make available to me, perhaps in correspondence, internationally comparative, population-adjusted statistics for sectioning? This will be important for putting the reforms he suggested in context before we proceed to legislation.

I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord for sending me his question, but I am embarrassed to say that I did not receive the correspondence. I would love to have the figures to hand, but I will write to him with details. If I could gently push back: this is not an easy issue to make international comparisons on, and we are not necessarily led by what other countries do in this area. We have to own this problem ourselves and find an approach that fits the NHS and people in Britain, and we have to be accountable to the people of Britain for our performance.

Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will speak to both Bills on the Order Paper. I declare my relevant interests in commercial and residential property, as set out in the register.

Both Bills both provide targeted relief for ratepayers and support the reform of the business rates system, delivering on this Government’s commitments. I am pleased that, with the agreement of noble Lords on the Benches opposite, I am able to bring both Bills to this House today in a joint session. I will first set out the purpose of the lists—or revaluation—Bill, before moving on to the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill. I look forward to hearing the views of this House on both.

I know that as we tentatively begin to consider what our local economies will look like on the other side of the pandemic, it is important to recognise the concerns about the current business rates system held by the ratepayers who make up our commercial areas and high streets. It is with this in mind that I move the Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No.2) Bill. The Bill delivers on the Government’s commitment to set in law the date of the next business rates revaluation at 1 April 2023. This will ensure that future rates bills will better reflect the exceptional impact of the pandemic on the commercial property market.

The basis of a property’s business rates bill is its rateable value, which broadly represents its annual rental value. This is assessed independently of Ministers by the Valuation Office Agency. The agency has carried out regular revaluations of rateable values since the introduction of business rates in their current form in 1990. These ensure that the responsibility of paying the rates, which fund important local services, is fairly distributed among all ratepayers.

At each revaluation, all rateable values are based on the rental property market at a set date. This is known as the valuation date. A revaluation is an extensive exercise requiring many months of collecting and analysing rents, then the preparation of 2 million valuations. To give the Valuation Office Agency time to prepare these valuations, the valuation date is set two years before the revaluation.

Prior to the pandemic, we had wanted the next revaluation to take effect from 1 April 2021 and reflect a valuation date of 1 April 2019, but the impact of the pandemic on the commercial property market since 2019 means it would now not be right to continue with the 2021 revaluation. I hope noble Lords will agree that we could not have a revaluation that resulted in bills which did not reflect the impact of the pandemic. The Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No.2) Bill therefore sets the date for the implementation of the next revaluation in England at Wales at 1 April 2023. This revaluation will be based on rents at 1 April 2021, a date which has already been set in secondary legislation.

The Bill will also make a change to when the Valuation Office Agency must publish draft rateable values to support the smooth transition of the revaluation. This date will change from no later than 30 September to no later than 31 December in the preceding year. Doing this will allow us to align the publication of these draft rateable values with the timing of decisions relating to the multipliers and transitional arrangements—decisions which are normally made at the autumn fiscal event. Ratepayers will still be given several months’ notice of their bills for the following April onwards.

While policy on business rates is a devolved area, the Welsh Government have agreed that the application of the Bill should include Wales. This means that, as in England, the next revaluation in Wales will be implemented on 1 April 2023 and the latest date for publication of Welsh draft rateable values will also be changed to 31 December. Entirely different legislation applied in Scotland, where the Scottish Government have also committed to implementing their next revaluation on 1 April 2023, and Northern Ireland, which has only recently implemented a revaluation on 1 April 2020. There is therefore recognition across this country that moving the date of the next business rates revaluation to better reflect the impact of the pandemic is the right thing to do. I hope that this agreement is also shared in this House.

As I have said, this is an exceptional step, taken in exceptional circumstances, and the Government remain committed to implementing more frequent business rates revaluations. The fundamental review of business rates will look at the frequency of revaluations alongside how they are carried out. It will report on these aspects of the business rates system in the spring. However, this is a step we can now take to provide greater fairness and certainty to ratepayers.

Turning to the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill, this Government recognise the importance of public lavatories. That is why at Budget 2020 the Government recommitted to introducing a business rates relief for public lavatories. This small but important Bill delivers on that commitment and responds to calls from local councils. It would ensure that eligible public lavatories receive a 100% reduction on their business rates. It will cut the operating costs of public lavatories, particularly in cases where rates bills are a significant proportion of their running costs, and help to keep these important facilities open. The relief will apply to eligible public lavatories run by the private and public sectors, including those operated by parish councils.

Even now, when we are minimising the use of our public spaces and of public transport, the availability of appropriate toilet facilities to those essential workers who continue to keep our country running, such as taxi and delivery drivers, is of particular importance. Given how vital these facilities are, it is understandable that there has been public concern around the potential reduction in the number of available lavatories. I know that the sentiments of these concerns have previously been reflected in the contributions of many noble Lords in this House. Removing the business rates on public lavatories will make it easier for them to remain open. Furthermore, to ensure this measure is implemented quickly and support provided as soon as it can be, I am pleased to say that, subject to Royal Assent, this Bill will apply retrospectively from April 2020. This means that, for eligible properties, the relief will be backdated to the start of the financial year.

I hope your Lordships will allow me the opportunity to pay tribute to councils, and to the National Association of Local Councils, for their support for this Bill. Let me also thank the private organisations and businesses which, through their launching of innovative local initiatives, have formed the vanguard in the campaign to extend the provision of public lavatories. In particular, I would highlight the community toilets scheme, which has now been adopted by local authorities across the country. This scheme allows the public, in less restricted times, to make use of toilets provided by local businesses and councils without making a purchase. I would also highlight the support that the British Toilet Association has given to this scheme through its “Use Our Loos” campaign and the launch of the Great British Public Toilet Map.

Of course, for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets, it is about not just the number of facilities available but ensuring that the right facilities are available. This is why the Government have delivered in providing more “Changing Places” lavatories to ensure that everyone in this country, including those with special lavatory requirements, can be confident in using our public spaces. At the Budget last year, the Chancellor announced £30 million to fund “Changing Places” toilets in existing buildings and accelerate the provision of these vital facilities. We will announce the details of this funding in due course. The ability of people to enjoy our public spaces, and to support our economy, should not be determined by their disability or personal circumstances. I am proud of the commitments that the Government have already made on this important issue. I hope that the measures included in the public lavatories Bill will help to give people the confidence to get out in our public spaces and support our high streets, once it is safe to do so.

The provisions of both Bills before this House today act only to supplement the extensive support that the Government have already provided to ratepayers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In response to it, we have ensured that eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will pay no business rates at all in 2020-21. This is a relief worth £10 billion which, when considered alongside small business rate relief, means that more than half of ratepayers in England are paying no rates at all this year. Both Bills before the House form part of the critical package of support for ratepayers and reform to the system that this Government have committed to delivering. I commend both Bills to the House.

My Lords, I want to focus my remarks on the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill. I was unable to speak on this Bill when it was first introduced—what seems like a lifetime ago—and I welcome it now with a particular interest.

In 2008, when I was standing where the Minister is now, I was pleased to introduce the then first-ever guidance on public lavatories, designed to prevent further closures, improve access and quality and, in general, to make the point that public lavatories should not be a national joke—let alone a national disgrace—but a local asset, which local people can rely on and take as much pride in as any other local provision. The case made then is the same as made now eloquently by the Minister: that everyone of all ages and conditions should be able to count as of right and dignity on there being a decent public loo accessible. We wanted to expand access and encouraged private partners in retail to consider how they could make their loos more accessible. As the Minister has reflected, a great deal of good practice has been inspired at local level: for example, by encouraging the use of S106 to build more loos and in notable innovations and changes.

However, that was not a national strategy, which was at that time beyond my reach. Sadly, however welcome, neither is this Bill a national strategy. That alone would ensure that there were minimum mandatory standards of access, provision and quality tailored for special needs, particularly those of the elderly and disabled, and the many people who suffer from medical conditions and require frequent access. This is therefore a reactive Bill; it is long overdue and reflects decades of pressure from the British Toilet Association. It has worked with successive Governments to achieve it and we should be very grateful to it, but I think it would agree that a national strategy would be welcome now.

The statistics suggest that in the last decade almost 700 loos have been closed, accelerated, I have no doubt, by the vast cuts in local authority spending. In addition to the loss of public lavatories, we also need to face—as sadly the Bill does not—the degraded and frankly disgusting nature of so many of them. Even in the most beautiful towns such as the one I live in, Lewes in Sussex, our local loos are frankly a disgrace. Other local authorities—Ceredigion in Wales is an exemplar—take huge and award-winning pride in what they offer their local community and tourists. If it can make it an important priority, every local authority can. I should add here how glad I am that Wales is also sharing in this measure.

As with everything else, Covid has exposed the importance of things we took for granted. The awful impacts following closures of public loos revealed that only too graphically. We have also become more aware, as shops and buildings close, that public loos become the only option for people who are still working in the outdoors.

This Bill, which provides business rates relief, is long overdue. It is a modest proposal but it has, in effect, removed what was, frankly, always a historic anomaly. The exam question is: what sort and what scale of difference will it make? In principle, it will certainly incentivise better local provision and free up resources, and it might stop the closure of some local lavatories. However, it is impossible to tell whether it will have a real impact, given that current estimates are that there is a black hole of about £10 billion in local authority finance. It goes without saying that the funding deficit makes it simply impossible for local authorities to provide the services which are so badly needed. As we approach post-Covid better community building, that has to be at the heart of it.

The Bill can be improved in this House. For example, I would like to see more emphasis on how loos in public buildings such as museums, town halls and libraries could be involved. However, I have some real questions for the Minister, primarily regarding how far this small amount of extra funding will go to address the extent of the loss of provisions. My questions are these. What estimates have been made for the public loos that will now be saved? How will this be monitored or reviewed? What guarantees are there that this money will be spent on what it is intended for, rather than lost in the other huge demands of local authorities? What incentives are there that this money will also provide for caring for public loos and providing extra facilities, such as changing places? Finally, does the Minister agree with me that the essential thing now is to build on this Bill, and to recognise that public health—as we know acutely at the moment—needs constant vigilance and constant investment, and local agency and partnership? I ask our Minister to take the lead in pressing for a national strategy.

Public lavatories were a sign of public dignity, of high standards and municipal confidence. They were constructed with care and beauty by our Victorian ancestors. They should also be a fundamental part not only of our public health strategy but of our strategies for equality, ensuring that children can be cared for and comforted when they are out and that parents do not have to search in desperation for a friendly pub, and ensuring that people of all ages, and people with medical conditions, are free to leave their homes without a battle plan for finding a loo and living constantly in fear of embarrassment. This is not a trivial or facetious issue. It is far more profound than we give it credit for because, to take it seriously, if we do not prioritise it, it is discriminatory and dangerous. I really hope that the expectations held for this small but important Bill are fulfilled.

I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

First, I want to agree with the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, on the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill. I welcome the decision to combine the two Bills for Second Reading, given that there has already been a Second Reading of the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill. However, it is also appropriate to consider the two Bills separately as they progress through the House, because they cover different issues.

I shall not say much about the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill, as other colleagues on my Benches will cover those issues fully. From my perspective, I welcome the Bill and it is right that the Government have agreed to backdate its implementation to April 2020.

I want to speak on business rates and the need for urgent reform of the system. In his introduction, I think I heard the Minister say on the review of business rates that the Government will be reporting in the spring. I had assumed that the Budget at the beginning of March might be the appropriate time for that to be announced, but it sounds now as though it might actually be early summer. I would be grateful if, when he responds to the Second Reading, the Minister might clarify that.

I accept that a delay in revaluation to 2023 is inevitable, given the coronavirus pandemic. However, revaluation must ensure that local government does not end up being underresourced and that councils are enabled to widen their sources of income. Revaluation, when it comes, will be effective only if there is a root and branch reform of the system, so that it is much fairer to high streets and city and town centres, and raises much more from online retail companies and their warehouses. Valuations in much of retail, hospitality and leisure have become very out of date. We should bear in mind that retailers currently pay over one-quarter of business rates across England and Wales.

I hope the Government will avoid the temptation for further temporary fixes to the system. The system was in great difficulty before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is now broken. One reason for this is that the current system treats companies in the same way, whether they are making a profit or a loss. This is the consequence of levying taxes on the value of a property as opposed to the value of a business itself. This problem can be made more acute by the need of national and local government to raise broadly the same amount each year from business rates, even if turnover and profits of businesses plummet. Another reason is that the current system does not address the lower business rates paid by companies retailing online and based in out-of-town warehouses. Revaluation must take this into account. I have concluded that we should consider the retail sector as a whole and divide up the tax burden differently, so that online retailers pay their fair share of the total tax bill.

There is a lot pressure to move to an annual system of revaluation. I can understand the arguments for that, but, instinctively, I think that three years would be better. It would reduce administration and allow trends to be more certain.

Finally, there is a very strong case for extending the business rates holiday from April this year. In the current year, the Treasury has written off some £10 billion in business rates, fully exempting around 358,000 properties in retail, leisure and hospitality. The case for continuing the current scheme is strong, probably for another full year, although some selective phasing might be appropriate. That said, the Government should be careful not to give a business rates holiday to companies which do not need it. As an example, large supermarkets—whose profit levels have been rising during the pandemic, as evidenced by their recent results—did not need the help they were given in the current year and so were right to pay it back. The Government should not be borrowing money on behalf of the taxpayer to give it to retailers whose profits are rising. That said, smaller high street retailers, including convenience stores, will certainly justify extra help, well into next year.

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate these two Bills, which I support. I thank the Minister for an online meeting last week. I refer to my professional involvement with non-domestic ratings, my membership of the RICS and other bodies, and my interests as a vice-president of the LGA and the NALC, and as a business property owner.

My own experiences started in the Inland Revenue valuation office in 1975. At that time, residential and commercial properties shared a common valuation approach based on an assumed rent between a hypothetical landlord and a hypothetical tenant. I observed both the Layfield report and the Lyons report, which looked at local government finance and central government grant. My maiden speech here was on the Local Government Finance Act 1988, enacting the ill-fated community charge and setting domestic and non-domestic systems on different trajectories. I was in private practice when the poll tax was replaced with council tax, or CT, based on bands of capital value as at 1991. Business rates remained rent based. Subsequently, there was a capping on limited CT increases, but original value bandings for England remained. Business rates, by contrast, were subject to inflation-plus annual increments to uniform business rates, with periodic revaluations. This divergence has changed the tax burdens.

Things sharpened up when the Labour Government curtailed empty property relief, but nothing matched the later financial shock of the 2010 revaluation, based as it was on 2008 peak-of-market rents, by which time of course values had fallen, with insolvencies and rent voids soaring. I saw demands for a fairer approach, reliefs and more frequent revaluations grow, and the effects of the Treasury principle of fiscal neutrality meaning that changes could not of themselves adversely affect tax yield. Welcome exemptions and reliefs for the very smallest premises were thus funded by larger ratepayers. I benefit from that.

Transitional relief for large changes in the rates burden balanced gainers and losers, but the way in which downward transition now operates means that, in the example of a shop in Canterbury, the 2021-22 rates bill will still be 80% more than it would have been without the relief. That seems intrinsically unjust. More frequent revaluations would reduce or eliminate the need for transitional relief but lack delivery. Ideally, we should have annual revaluations but, like the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, I suspect that that may be impractical, although it is proposed for Scotland. Meanwhile, too many rates bills are still coloured by the never-repeated 2008 rental values.

A surge in rating appeals of course followed the 2010 revaluation—many thousands on that list are still outstanding—in response to which the Government introduced a check, challenge, appeal, or CCA, system. It was designed to weed out frivolous cases and reduce administrative burdens, but it also put significant barriers in the way of genuine cases, perceived by appellants as protecting the Valuation Office Agency, the VOA, from the inevitable results of poorly resourced, researched and compiled valuation lists. Avoidance, needless to say, has become more prevalent.

Criticism continues. Largely because of the inflation-proofed and fiscally protected yield, the uniform business rate has risen to over 50p. Some businesses pay more in business rate than rent; reliefs apart, all pay much more on any measure than their services-hungry residential counterparts or businesses under any comparable European tax. The Minister may well wish to reflect on this legacy. The pandemic measures have been very welcome, but even they do not alter the underlying landscape.

I turn to what I call the “lists Bill”. It puts back the next revaluation to 2023 and cuts to three months the deposit of the rating list before it comes into force. The Minister has said how the antecedent valuation date works, but a 2023 revaluation means a 2021 AVD. Although I am assured that the Valuation Office Agency is confident of the evidence base—despite lockdown, furlough, forced closures, pop-up rent deals and rate holidays—other experts think that market rental evidence this April will be thin and unreliable. For bars, clubs and property valued on fair maintainable trade, current evidence will be largely absent. Delaying the AVD to, say, September or December is possible, but apparently not in contemplation due to VOA operational timeframes. I am not entirely convinced on that but am keeping an open mind.

The reduced three-month list deposit period was originally linked to three-yearly valuations—on which the Bill is silent, so it is a little asymmetric. Checking an assessment and pointing up errors in January is one thing; getting the VOA at a busy time of year to make corrections in time for dispatching rate bills in March is another. Bear in mind that rate demands are payable in full until the rateable value is amended. I note that the LGA says it is altogether too short a lead-in period for its members. So this “lists Bill” has consequences.

On public lavatories, I welcome the overdue and long-promised exemption. I thank the Minister for writing to me last October and for confirming backdating. What the Bill sets out is reasonable and appropriate, but it highlights the need to examine public facility exemptions more generally.

Rental values still afford an excellent market-derived business tax base, but problems with the business rates system remain and, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, major reform is certainly needed. On this, professionals, local government, businesses, the CBI, Revo and trade organisations are united. I commend the Government for commissioning their fundamental review and thank the Minister for his reassurance, but can he confirm that Parliament will have a chance to debate it?

I hope the review will be bold and will look at the overall business rates system and its fairness within local government finance, alongside the appropriateness of exemptions and reliefs and issues of avoidance. I hope that alternative revenue streams, such as those related to online trading and opportunities for locally managed and levied revenues, will be included. It is not before time; critically threatened physical retailing, as well as many investments, pension schemes and jobs may depend on getting this right.

My Lords, I intend to make only a short intervention today.

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the sport and recreation sectors. While the arts lobby successfully negotiated a £1.57 billion package of support for the art, culture and heritage sectors as long ago as July 2020, the sports sector has not been so fortunate. Some £300 million in emergency funding was agreed to help sports clubs in England survive the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions during the recent winter. Rugby league, rugby union, horseracing and the lower tiers of national league football were all beneficiaries of the support, but in the world of sport the funding gap exists most prominently—and the pain is most acutely felt—among community sports clubs, local authority sports facilities and the smaller local amateur sports clubs, many of which have been the lifeblood of communities the length and breadth of this country throughout our lifetimes.

During this debate on the Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill, I want to draw one item to my noble friend’s attention, in full anticipation that, having heard him respond to my noble friend Lord Botham when he made his impassioned plea on the subject and received such praise from the Front Bench, today in the wider context of post-Covid non-domestic rating policy, his plea and mine will not fall on deaf ears.

Sports clubs in the community provide opportunities for people from all walks of life to have a healthier and more active lifestyle. Non-domestic rate relief pre-Covid had a significant discretionary element. Charities, other not-for-profit bodies and sports clubs could apply for a percentage reduction in the business rates payable on any non-domestic property which was wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes. There were two elements to this reduction and relief: mandatory by law and discretionary—in other words, at the discretion of the council.

If you were a registered charity you were entitled to mandatory charity relief: an 80% discount on the full or transitional amount due. If you ran a community amateur sports club registered with the Inland Revenue, you were also entitled to an 80% mandatory discount on any non-domestic property that was wholly or mainly used for the purposes of the club. However, the rateable values and the cost to the clubs of going through that process—of being at the mercy of some local councils for part of the rates paid—remained a major cost item at a time when many were barely surviving, and those barely surviving have gone through even tougher times now.

I congratulate the Government on the business rates holiday that is in place and on a range of initiatives they have taken, on which my noble friend the Minister has led from the Front Bench in this House. However, the critical issue for the future—I know this is passionately felt by my noble friend in sport, the noble Lord, Lord Addington—is the continued support for sports clubs. My view is that there should be 100% rate relief into the future from the Government for registered community sports clubs. I believe that the time has now come to raise that mandatory element from 80% to 100% and to remove the discretionary element. This should be a mandatory part of the package of measures to help sports and recreational clubs get back on their feet and play a pivotal part in ensuring that the population is healthier and more active as we emerge from Covid-19 and face future challenges.

In summary, I hope that rate relief for community amateur sports clubs will be made compulsory, and I very much hope we will have the opportunity to return to this in future debates. In the meantime, I appreciate the opportunity of raising this important subject in the context of the draft legislation before us.