Monday 25 April 2022
Arrangement of Business
Good afternoon, my Lords, and welcome to the Grand Committee. I remind Members that they are encouraged to leave some distance between themselves and others—not, I think, a problem with this order, but it may apply later. If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after a few minutes.
Industrial Training Levy (Construction Industry Training Board) Order 2022
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, as the Committee will no doubt appreciate, the construction sector is broad and a significant part of the UK economy. It is responsible for delivering infrastructure and large construction, including transport, energy, social infrastructure and commercial buildings. It is also responsible for delivering new housebuilding and for the repair, maintenance and improvement work needed for existing buildings and the built environment.
The traditional image of the industry and its workers is shifting. New technologies are enabling more efficient and modern methods of construction. We recognise the role that construction plays in reaching the UK’s net-zero targets, which the House passed into legislation in 2019.
This is a broad sector, as I said, and it is a large and growing one. It is valuable to our economy, currently contributing £155 billion, which represents 9% of our national gross value added. It is also valuable economically due to the large number and wide range of employment opportunities that it provides, many of them well-paid, highly-skilled roles offering excellent progression opportunities. It is valuable to the individual too; it employs 3.1 million workers, 813,000 of whom are self-employed.
In research conducted by the Construction Industry Training Board, known as the CITB, the Construction Skills Network forecast indicates that the sector will grow at an average rate of 4.4% across 2021-25. Skills interventions will be critical in meeting existing and future construction labour market demands and addressing skills deficits. New and existing workers will require interventions to retain, retrain and upskill as new regulations and technologies are introduced.
It is a broad, growing, and valuable sector, but it is a fragmented one too. Small and medium-sized enterprises make up more than 99% of all businesses, of which the majority are micro-businesses. It relies heavily on subcontracting and self-employment. This fragmentation creates long-held disincentives for employers to train and develop their construction workforce. This goes to the heart of what the CITB was created to do.
Established in 1964, the CITB is, at its core, industry led, and it exists to encourage the provision of construction training. It has a clearly defined role in identifying construction skills needs and plays a part, with others, in addressing them. It provides targeted training spend, as well as grants to employers, to encourage and enable workers to access and operate safely on construction sites, drive up skills levels and incentivise training that would otherwise not take place. It supports strategic initiatives to help to maintain and develop vital skills in the industry and to create a pipeline of skilled workers. It is developing occupational standards and recognised qualifications so that skills are transferable and increase productivity.
In all activity, the CITB is working in ways that will support the construction sector to develop an environmentally sustainable future, supporting the Government’s ambitions towards net zero. Over the coming three-year levy period, the CITB expects to raise around £502.2 million to invest in construction skills.
The recent 2021 levy order was for one year, not the usual three years. That order was more unusual still, as the levy rates that it prescribed were reduced to 50% of those prescribed by the three-year 2018 order. This was to accommodate the CITB’s decision to allow levy payers a payment holiday in response to cash flow pressures the industry was facing during the first Covid lockdown.
I now turn to the details of the draft order, and I thank the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee for considering this draft legislation. This three-year 2022 order returns to the levy rates prescribed by the three-year 2018 order—0.35% of the earnings paid by employers to directly employed workers and 1.25% of contract payments for indirectly employed workers—for businesses liable to pay the levy. However, the industry, having been consulted on the CITB’s delivery strategy and levy rate, supported the retention of the higher exemption and reduction thresholds for small employers contained in the 2021 order. Construction employers with an annual wage bill of up to £119,999—previously £79,999 in the 2018 order—will not pay any levy, while still having full access to CITB support.
It is projected that approximately 62% of all employers in scope of the levy will be exempt from paying it. Employers with a wage bill between £120,000—previously £80,000 in the 2018 order—and £399,999 will receive a 50% reduction on their levy liability while also receiving full access to CITB services. Approximately 14% of all employers in scope of the levy will receive a 50% reduction. Maintaining the increased exemption and reduction thresholds seeks to acknowledge and ease the budgetary pressures on SMEs.
The CITB has consulted industry on the levy proposals via the consensus process required under the Industrial Training Act 1982. Consensus is achieved by satisfying two requirements: that both the majority of employers likely to pay the levy, and employers that together are likely to pay more than half the aggregate levy raised, consider that the proposals are necessary to encourage adequate training. Both requirements were satisfied, with 66.5% of likely levy payers in the industry, which between them are likely to pay 63.2% of the aggregate levy, supportive of the CITB’s proposals.
This order will enable the CITB to continue to carry out its vital training responsibilities, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful and informative introduction to a welcome order of importance to our national economy and, indeed, to our future. I also acknowledge the ever-present commitment, conscientiousness and insight of my noble friend Lord Watson. I declare my interest in the register as president of the Engineering Education Scheme Wales, the EESW.
Page 2 of the order refers to consultation with Scottish Ministers, and I ask how and when consultations with Welsh Assembly Ministers took place. In the Explanatory Memorandum in paragraph 10.1, reference is made to a small group of employers that advised on the 2022 to 2024 levy orders. Will the Minister name the employers in the small group and describe the process? If the answer is not immediately forthcoming, perhaps she might write. Where in all this was there a place for trade unions? Was the TUC considered in any way?
Will the Minister expand on the role of technical colleges in the training of apprentices? Concerning apprentices, what role does a Minister play in relation to college trusts and boards? Surely these colleges have a huge and beneficial role. I have in mind here paragraphs 7.2 and 7.3 of the very helpful Explanatory Memorandum.
At paragraph 7.4 there is a more serious statement, which I will quote:
“The construction industry contributes 8.6% of the UK’s gross domestic product, employing over 2.5 million people. However, there remains a serious and distinct market failure in the development and maintenance of skills in the construction industry: the trading conditions, incentives and culture do not lead to a sufficient level of investment in skills by employers.”
I thought it was very helpful to see that paragraph in our papers, and surely it is to the credit of the Government that it was put in. It is of huge importance, and I am sure the Minister will respond.
What special and urgent initiatives is the Minister undertaking on the basis of that serious paragraph? What policy stimuli are under way? Are not engineering apprentices of great national importance—for example, in our aerospace industry and the Ministry of Defence? How does a Minister liaise cross-departmentally to seek ever more and ever better apprenticeships?
I note the 21 November impact assessment and its self-evident helpfulness. Look, for example, at the figurative illustrations—figures 5 and 6—at paragraph 36. First, figure 5 shows the estimated CITB levy payable by employers in England, Scotland and Wales in 2018 versus 2022—that is, the changes. In this, general building, civil engineering and housebuilding come out on top, with £20 million for housebuilding. Why are the Government not pushing harder for housebuilding?
Secondly, figure 5 shows the levy paid by nations in 2022: some £149 million in England, £13.6 million in Scotland, but only, I note, £4.8 million in Wales. Will the Minister tell us what is going on in Wales? For certain, the Welsh Assembly and Government have a good record; all my compatriots are good payers, as I am sure the Minister would agree. Will she please comment and explain? Is it simply that the money that Wales pays is based on population only? But why so little?
Thirdly, in figure 6, it is good to see the brickie and the pointer itemised. The pointer puts the icing on the brick cake. Is the Minister prepared to agree? What are the Government doing to get more brickies and pointers? They are absolutely vital in housebuilding and they are in very short supply, which leads to bottlenecks. The Government want, in the most positive way, more housing built, but here is a bottleneck around the brickie and the pointer. We need many more in the industry, so how hard are the Government negotiating with the employers? Do they pressurise the chief executive officer of the CITB for more brickies and pointers?
Lastly, as a context for this order, at least for possibly youthful departmental officials, I refer to another place in the 1980s where, from the opposition Dispatch Box, I opposed the then Thatcher Government’s policies on industrial training boards. With large majorities, the Government would abolish board after board. Night after night, it seemed, the boards were despatched. The Secretary of State, James Prior, one-time PPS to Prime Minister Edward Heath, deputed his junior, Peter Morrison, soon to be PPS for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to mastermind and operate the carnage. Our votes were three liners after the three-liner 10 o’clock votes. We never got away before midnight, and it was always a packed, restless House for that business.
I shared a national and constituency boundary with Peter Morrison, and always found the Secretary of State, Mr Prior, to be adamant. My other opponent was the substantially figured Mr Cyril Smith. That Government let the CITB survive; the CITB and engineering survived that midnight culling of those many boards. But constituency-wise my rayon factory stood down its apprentice school. Neither our steelworks nor the aerospace factory recruited apprentices for quite some years. That is a historic fact, and I relate it to the paragraph that I have quoted from our documents.
Britain’s perpetual skills and productivity crises are rooted in that midnight culling of the boards. I emphasise again what paragraph 7.4 refers to, and again thank the Minister for her opening speech.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jones, for that tour de force, and, having spent the week in Anglesey, we have a Welsh connection.
As the Minister rightly said, the construction industry is hugely important to the economy of the UK. She also referenced the need for a pipeline of skilled workers. What she did not talk about was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jones, that there is a national crisis in the shortage of construction workers, which could hamper the many infrastructure schemes that we have—not just big infrastructure schemes, but local and small ones. If my noble friend Lord Stunell was here, he would tell the Minister in no uncertain terms, which I think he has already done, about the dire consequences of not ensuring that those brickies and pointers, as the noble Lord, Lord Jones, said, are recruited as quickly they should be. I have also wondered why more women are not involved in the construction industry.
The Construction Industry Training Board undertakes a large number of activities, and the Minister spelled them out in some detail, but this is perhaps a time to question what has been going on. I wonder whether the CITB would be considered by Jacob Rees-Mogg as part of his bonfire of the quangos. I hope not, but I hope that it will be reformed and refocused, because there are real concerns. You have only to listen to the National Federation of Builders, which is calling for a fundamental restructuring of the CITB, including an end to its levy-raising powers. It states that the majority of construction employers asked do not see the CITB as adding value to the industry and do not believe that it meets the labour market or industry needs, and that they cannot access the training they need when they need it. That is quite a concern.
Employers in the construction industry are facing many issues, post Covid. Is it fair that the academic institutions receive so much more; should not the levy go directly to levy-paying employers? The levy returns can sometimes be challenging and time-consuming for employers, generating additional administrative costs. Importantly, there needs to be an easier and quicker way to complete the required documentation without further record-keeping. As I have said before, a business must focus on the job of the business, making a profit and securing jobs. When the bureaucracy gets in the way, that often causes real problems for the business.
I hope that the Minister will listen to the comments made and answer them. I too had scribbled down that it would be useful to know, on a regular basis, the names of the small group who advised: let us name them and see who they represent. I had also scribbled a note asking whether the TUC was involved.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her introduction to the order, which it is fair to say is not controversial. It states that
“the Secretary of State is satisfied that the industrial training levy proposals are necessary to encourage adequate training in the industry”,
and we concur. For that reason, I do not propose to say much at all about the levy itself, which will continue much as before. Rather, I shall focus on the CITB and its role in assisting the construction industry to address some of the issues of recruitment and training it currently faces.
In a previous life, further back than I care to remember, I was a full-time official with a trade union in the engineering sector, and I recall dealing with several industry training boards on a number of different issues. Indeed, from memory, there were more than 20 in the 1980s, until the number was significantly reduced by the Industrial Training Act 1982. It is to be regretted that, apart from those in the film sector, only the Construction Industry Training Board and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board are still in place today. The last two are non-departmental public bodies, and thus accountable to Parliament and, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, possibly within the sights of the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency—a quaint name, without a department behind it.
The order we are considering today runs to six pages, but its impact assessment is five times that length. That is to be welcomed, because it contains much interesting—in some cases, fascinating—information and statistics about the levy, the board and the construction industry itself. From it, we learn that the industry has had a levy and grant arrangement for 58 years. The impact assessment says that it currently employs more than 2.5 million people—the Minister said 3.1 million, so I am glad to hear it is growing—contributes 8.6% to GDP, and, if I caught it correctly, 9% of gross value added, which, as an economist, I think is a productivity metric. Both demonstrate the importance of the industry.
The CITB exists to ensure that the construction workforce has the right skills for now and the future, based on three strategic priorities: careers, standards and qualifications, and training and development. As is made plain in the impact assessment:
“There remains a serious and distinct market failure in the development … of skills in the construction industry”.
It is stated that this is because
“the trading conditions, incentives and culture do not lead to a sufficient level of investment in skills by employers.”
Unfortunately, this malaise is not restricted to the construction sector. UK employers in many sectors have long been unwilling to recognise the need for upskilling and to pay for it, and that is a major factor in the low productivity levels from which our economy suffers. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy five years ago was a clear sign of the Government’s acceptance that employers will not in sufficient numbers invest of their own volition in skills development, and thus require a firm hand on their collective shoulder to encourage them to do so.
The training levy plays a key role in equipping the construction industry with the skilled and flexible workforce it needs. In the post-EU world in which we find ourselves, and given the large number of EU nationals who have traditionally worked in the construction industry in this country, it is not just important but absolutely vital that the industry is in a position to train, and continually retrain, its workforce for the challenges facing the economy.
Indeed, to quote the Explanatory Memorandum:
“It is essential, now more than ever, that employers have access to the support needed to upskill existing workers and adequately attract and train new talent, as industry seeks to fully recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”
Absolutely. This order will raise more than £0.5 billion between now and 2024 to invest in training skills, which is why employers have always strongly supported the levy and value the payback they get from their contributions.
However, as the Minister will have noted from the impact assessment, the consultation among employers on the CITB’s proposals for this levy produced a figure of 66.5% in support. That should cause some concern, because not only does it mean that a third of employers were not in favour of the levy—for reasons unknown, or at least not listed in the impact assessment—but the 66.5% figure was down from 76.9% when the vote was last held, in 2017. Perhaps the Minister can say whether DfE officials and/or Ministers have asked the CITB for its explanation of that reduction and what action, if any, the board will be asked to undertake to ensure it does not fall further in three years. More positive is the survey on the final page of the impact assessment, which shows that, when asked whether the statutory levy, grant and funding system should continue, 75% of employers said that it should.
The CITB has had an awkward few years recently, with more than its fair share of criticism from within the sector. The board was forcefully led by Sarah Beale from 2017 until her departure last year, and now has Tim Balcon as its CEO. Ms Beale oversaw a restructuring that saw its workforce cut by two-thirds as it returned to its core business, but that has not assuaged all in the sector. One of its largest participants, Build UK, recently called for fundamental changes, stating that there remains
“widespread frustration with the performance of CITB”.
Mr Balcon deserves the chance to make his influence felt, but are the Minister and her officials aware of the discontent with the board felt by some of the employers it exists to assist? If so, can she share any information as to what support—I am not talking about financial terms—might be offered to the board?
One of those areas should be the need for much greater diversity within the construction industry. The CITB itself deserves credit for becoming, under Sarah Beale, a female-led organisation in a male-dominated industry. One of the potential benefits of that was that it allowed the CITB to push boundaries and promote change, but much more remains to be done. ONS data shows that the construction industry’s 16% female workforce—a point referenced by the noble Lord, Lord Storey—compares with 23% in transportation and 25% in water supply and manufacturing, the other worst sectors.
The 2011 census showed that 13% of the UK population identified as black, Asian or minority ethnic, yet ONS data found that the percentage employed at that time in UK construction was just 7.5%. More worryingly, in a 2015 survey of its own, the CITB found that the actual figure could have been closer to 5%. We should be told what the current figures are, so that the board can begin to plot a course towards increasing the number substantially. As Kay Jarvis of the global infrastructure company blu-3 reported in 2020:
“The 2018 OutNext/PwC Out to Succeed survey also found construction had the third-worst image of all industries as an LGBT+ employer.”
A recent study by recruitment analytics specialist Hays discovered that, of those black people
“who managed to break into the construction sector”—
that term is perhaps of some importance—no less than
“78% claimed they had experienced career restrictions due to their race or other demographic factors such as sexuality and age.”
Whether this is down to structural prejudice or unconscious bias, it highlights the significant and clear challenge of discrimination in the hiring and promotion process, which surely must be addressed. The CITB is well positioned to do so; I hope that the Government will offer it every encouragement, perhaps by setting a baseline and then measuring year-on-year progress against it in respect of equality and diversity in various forms in construction.
Role models are extremely important in addressing prejudice. In 2019, UK Construction Week led a role model campaign that sought to provide a platform for people across the industry, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to share their success stories and discuss the challenges they have faced. Since then, applications for roles in construction have increased fourfold, which illustrates that having a positive example is often enough to encourage someone to apply for a position in the industry that they otherwise might not have applied for.
So the industry is making an attempt to tackle some of the inherent inequalities in the sector; that must be continued, side by side with the training and upskilling being offered to those in the industry and those seeking to develop a career in it. The apprenticeship levy has many faults but it has at least concentrated employers’ minds on the importance of bringing through the next generation of a skilled workforce. Together with the benefits that the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill will bring, there are more opportunities than ever for people—young and not so young—to access the training that they and the economy need.
Properly resourced, the CITB is positioned to focus on that delivery. I wish both the organisation and the industry it represents well. I hope that we will be presented with further progress in the development of skills and an industry with greater diversity when we are asked to consider the next draft levy order in three years’ time.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate. I will attempt to cover the questions asked but I will of course write on any that I cannot answer at the Dispatch Box.
Before I go any further, the noble Lord, Lord Watson, highlighted the difference between the 2.5 million employees cited in the Explanatory Memorandum and the 3.1 million that I referred to in my opening remarks. The figure of 3.1 million comes from the Office for National Statistics and represents a wider definition of construction that includes the built environment and manufacturing. The figure in the Explanatory Memorandum is an estimate of the CITB-relevant part of the total. I hope that clarifies it for the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, shared his deep expertise in the sector and asked a number of questions in relation to Wales. In line with the requirements of Section 88 of the Scotland Act 1998, we consulted Scottish Ministers—the noble Lord pointed this out—who confirmed that they are content with the levy order. The Welsh Assembly has also confirmed its support for the order.
The noble Lord asked why the contribution for Wales appears to be so small. The levy is charged to in-scope employers based on their wage bill, so it is possible that there are fewer or smaller such employers in Wales and this is reflected in those figures. The noble Lord also asked how much of the levy will be distributed in Scotland and Wales. The split in income and expenditure between England, Scotland and Wales is not something that the CITB generally measures or reports on.
The noble Lord asked about engagement with the unions. Obviously, it is up to the CITB as to who it engages with. It is the legislation that controls who can actually vote on the levy proposals.
The noble Lords, Lord Jones and Lord Storey, challenged whether the Government are doing enough with our investment in training, qualifications and skills in this area. We have already put in place a wide range of opportunities for adults to gain the skills that they need for employment and are ensuring that people have opportunities to study by delivering on the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee. The provision of skills, in construction in particular, is supported through a number of routes, including courses available through further education colleges and independent learning providers, with funding of more than £1.3 billion from the adult education budget. Noble Lords will be aware that we introduced construction T-levels in 2020, as an alternative vocational route into the sector, and are continuing to develop skills boot camps, which offer free and flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, funded through the national skills fund.
As noble Lords observed, apprenticeships remain a key route into this industry. There are currently over 640 high-quality, industry-designed standards available, and we aim to continue to improve and grow apprenticeships, so that more employers and individuals can benefit from them.
The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Storey, rightly focused on the lack of diversity in the construction workforce. Obviously the CITB is not responsible for the construction workforce, but it has an important role in facilitating skills opportunities to help the industry strive towards a workforce that reflects today’s society. It undertakes a wide range of initiatives and activities; it works with industry and other partners to try to attract a diverse pool of new entrants into the industry and to promote construction careers. I share the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that in three years, when we debate this instrument again, the make-up of the sector will look very different from where it is today.
The CITB is funding the training of industry construction ambassadors on fairness, inclusion and respect, who contribute to a dedicated industry project which creates resources for employers to promote and celebrate best practice across the sector. It is also funding a digital resilience hub, which is a free and accessible tool that brings together mental health resources for those working in the construction industry. Finally, it is funding the on-site hubs that support individuals to become employment-ready and site-ready to take up opportunities in construction. Their target is to support underrepresented groups, including women and those from black, Asian and other minority-ethnic backgrounds, to secure sustainable job outcomes. It is fair to say that representation from those groups remains disproportionately low. The CITB continues to work with partners to try to address that.
The noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Storey, questioned the value of the CITB and raised some of the criticisms that have been lodged against it, and asked whether there would be an alternative model for funding skills development in the construction industry. The Government seek to evaluate the rationale for and effectiveness of its arm’s-length bodies through a programme of regular reviews, and that includes the ITBs. In 2017, the review of ITBs confirmed that there remains an ongoing need for a central skills body and recommended that the CITB should make stronger efforts to address the skills gap and market failure within the industry. That included the requirement for the CITB to lead on emerging needs, such as supporting the Government’s ambitions for housing.
I mentioned earlier that the impact assessment shows that 75% of employers, when asked, said that they wanted the current scheme to continue. Is it not unthinkable that, with that kind of backing, the Government might move away from the current model?
Obviously I cannot predict the future. I can only repeat what the review of 2017 said, on which basis the Government are moving forward. The review showed that there is an ongoing need for a central skills body and, as the noble Lord says, employers support it.
Following that review, the CITB’s implementation of its three-year transformation process, Vision 2020, has helped to make it a more focused and more agile partner to industry, and, as a result of the initiative, the CITB has implemented new governance structures so that industry voices are at the heart of decision-making, has launched new funding systems to allow employers to have easier access to support—the noble Lord, Lord Storey, referred to bureaucracy being a barrier to accessing support—and has moved to an investment model based on strategic commissioning. As I noted, the industry has expressed concerns about the performance of the CITB, but we are confident that it has worked hard to increase industry involvement in its strategic planning to address those concerns.
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked about the funding model and exactly what it pays for. The levy provides an investment in skills through a redistributive and collective fund, and it provides value through strategic initiatives that benefit the whole industry—I have referred to some of them already—such as attracting new entrants, identifying common standards and common training solutions, encouraging the transferability of skills, quality control of training provision, leadership and project management development, and collaborative behavioural training programmes.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked about the relationship between the amount of levy that is paid and the grants that an employer might receive. We believe that employers receive value for money, but they do not expect to receive a direct financial return via the training grants that is equal to the levy that is paid. As I mentioned, the levy is an investment in skills through a redistributive and collective fund that benefits all employers.
The noble Lord, Lord Jones, asked about our housebuilding targets. One of the priorities from the DfE to the CITB for 2022-23 is providing support to the industry to meet our ambition to build 300,000 homes each year.
There continues to be the collective view across the sector that training should be funded through a statutory levy system and that that system should be used to contribute to a pool of skilled labour, now and in the future, for this critical sector. There is a firm belief that without the levy there would be a serious deterioration in the quality and quantity of training in the construction industry, leading to a deficiency in skills levels and in capacity. That would create particular challenges in the current economic environment, when skilled workers are needed to deliver the infrastructure projects required to meet the environmental challenge of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050, as well as all the other ambitions that we have referred to in relation to other infrastructure and housebuilding projects.
Coronavirus Act 2020 (Delay in Expiry: Inquests, Courts and Tribunals, and Statutory Sick Pay) (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, last month, 25 March marked two years since the Coronavirus Act gained Royal Assent. This Act gave us the necessary powers to tackle the direct health impacts of the Covid-19 virus, support individuals, businesses and the economy, and maintain our critical public services during the pandemic. When the Act was introduced, this House and the other place agreed for the temporary provisions within it to have a two-year lifespan. The Government have always been clear that these provisions would remain in place only as long as they are necessary and proportionate to respond to the pandemic. Thanks to the progress made in the fight against the virus, the Government have been able to repeal the vast majority of the temporary non-devolved provisions in this Act. There are now only five temporary non-devolved provisions remaining in force, which are extended by the regulations before us today.
Four of these provisions, at Sections 30, 53, 54 and 55 of the Act, relate to the justice system. They have allowed the system to continue to function throughout the pandemic, enabling the courts to deal promptly and safely with proceedings, and to avoid unnecessary social contact and travel while upholding the principle of open justice. They are now proving vital in our efforts to support court recovery. These temporary measures are so important to court recovery that we intend to replace them with permanent legislation, but we cannot afford any gap in provision while we wait for that legislation to complete its passage through Parliament, albeit some of it is comparatively well-advanced.
Section 30 removes the obligations for coroners to hold inquests with a jury where Covid-19 is the suspected cause of death. An equivalent measure is included in the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which is expected to receive Royal Assent later this spring. The replacement measure has effect for two years and can be extended by regulations made by the Secretary of State. Neither Section 30 nor the new Judicial Review and Courts Bill prevents coroners from holding jury inquests in cases where they consider it appropriate. I think it is important to emphasise this element of discretion vesting in the coroner.
Sections 53, 54 and 55 enable participation in court and tribunal hearings to take place remotely by video or audio links. They also allow audio or video footage to be transmitted to remote observers and create new offences to prohibit the unauthorised recording or transmission of any live links sent from court. Essentially, it is an updating of the power inherent in the court already to regulate the behaviour of those observing its proceedings.
They are due to be replaced this summer with new provisions in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, subject to parliamentary approval. In the meantime, it is vital that these measures remain in place so that our courts and tribunals can continue to hold virtual hearings in an open and transparent manner. These measures continue to be crucial in helping our courts and tribunals to work more quickly through the backlog of cases that has built up during the pandemic.
Currently, around 10,000 hearings each week take place using some form of remote technology. On 14 February, the Lord Chief Justice issued guidance on the circumstances and types of proceedings where it might continue to be appropriate for advocates to attend Crown Court hearings remotely under these provisions. This includes bail applications, ground rules hearings, custody time limit extensions, uncontested Proceeds of Crime Act hearings and those hearings which involve legal argument only. Conducting these types of hearings via audio and video links means that court-rooms can be reserved for hearings which require participants to attend in person, including trials and sentencing hearings.
Without Section 30, the backlogs in our coroners’ courts would be significantly larger, further increasing the demand on local authority-funded coroner services. Hundreds, possibly thousands of individuals, would have to serve on Covid-19 inquest juries and coroner services would have been overwhelmed by the logistics. If the courts are unable to continue to use these provisions, even for a few months, I submit that it will have a significant impact on our court recovery programme. It will mean that defendants are waiting longer than necessary for trial, more complainers are waiting longer than necessary for justice and the bereaved are waiting longer than necessary for inquests. Therefore, we cannot, I submit, allow these powers to lapse. A maximum six-month extension will enable a smooth transition and avoid any disruption to service before replacement primary legislation comes into force. The provisions we are discussing today will be repealed once this new primary legislation is in force.
I turn to address a provision at Section 43 which relates to statutory sick pay in Northern Ireland. Section 43 is extended by this statutory instrument for a period of six months. This enables statutory sick pay to be paid from day one in Northern Ireland for absences relating to Covid-19. While statutory sick pay is ordinarily a transferred matter in Northern Ireland, Section 43 confers on the Secretary of State the power to make regulations in respect of this provision. In this provision, the UK Government are facilitating the extension of Section 43 on the formal request of the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland.
I take the opportunity today on behalf of the Government to note an addendum in the 12th two-monthly report of the Act, which was published on 24 March. This addendum addresses omission of status updates for two temporary provisions in previous reports. These are Sections 42 and 43 that relate to statutory sick pay and extend to Northern Ireland only. On behalf of the Government, I apologise for this omission and welcome the opportunity to correct it. The addendum provides information about the status of these provisions over the course of the pandemic. I have made inquiry of the Bill team about the way in which this addendum is promulgated and I am told that it together with an accompanying apology is placed in prominent view in the report.
I reassure the Committee and the House in general on behalf of the Government that the reporting omission has not impacted the policy relating to these provisions. The addendum provides information about the status of these provisions over the course of the pandemic.
On behalf of the Government, I thank all front-line workers and those working in our courts, tribunals and coroner services for the sterling work they have done to keep the system running.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument. It is fairly technical in the sense that it is a six-month extension of the current emergency provisions —starting from 25 March—to cover the coming into effect and Royal Assent for the two Bills which the Minister mentioned. In that spirit, we do not oppose this statutory instrument.
The Minister set out the importance of this emergency legislation in dealing with the situation we were in during the pandemic. I remind the Committee that I sit as a magistrate in the adult, youth and family jurisdictions, and have sat in a lot of these courts over that two-year period. I have been active in the two Bills the Minister mentioned, in trying to take the best of that experience and use it in continuing to work with an overburdened court system. I accept the points that he made that we are dealing with 10,000 hearings a week that have some form of remote technology in them and that we should do what we can to do hearings remotely, because it frees up court rooms to try to address the backlog.
Understandably, given the nature of this statutory instrument, the Minister did not address the BBC’s headline news today about the continuing and worsening backlogs for sexual offences. I was just looking up the statistics while waiting for this debate and the figures are getting worse: the average case length for sexual offences is 266 days—nine months waiting for suitable cases to come to court. This is getting worse, so I ask the Minister what the nature of the bottleneck is. Is it, as the criminal barristers are saying, that the number of criminal barristers has fallen over recent years? Is it because the number of judges’ sitting days has reduced? Or is it, as I have also heard, that there is a difficulty and a bottleneck in recruiting a sufficient number of judges to deal with these backlogs, that of sexual offences in particular? The Minister’s predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, made the point in previous debates that the lack of availability is not of courts as such but of appropriate judges. I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether that is still the case.
The Minister talked about Section 43 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and statutory sick pay provision in Northern Ireland. I noted the correction that he highlighted, which I am happy to take as read; I do not want to go into that any further.
As I opened, we support this statutory instrument. It is a technical measure as provisions within other Bills come into place. Nevertheless, I think the Minister should say something about the seriously bad figures that were produced in BBC programmes and made headline news today.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his contribution and the spirit in which he framed his remarks, acknowledging the justification for this measure to extend the powers brought in under the peculiar and unique circumstances of Covid and the value that they had. As always with the noble Lord, he speaks from a position of expertise and experience of the value of such measures from his position as a magistrate—or, rather, his position as a magistrate informs his remarks.
The noble Lord posed a question on the figures. He sought an answer on the bottleneck and advanced a number of potential causes for it. I can tell the Committee something of the scale of the investment that the Government are making in the criminal justice system over the next three years. The sum of £477 million is to be invested in the system overall, which will allow us to reduce the Crown Court backlog to an estimated 53,000 by March 2025.
To provide additional capacity in the Crown Court, we are extending the sentencing powers in the magistrates’ courts from six to 12 months’ imprisonment for a single triable-either-way offence to allow more cases to be heard at that level in the magistrates’ court and drive down the backlog of cases over the coming years.
The figures we have indicate that these measures are already having a beneficial effect in that the case load in the Crown Court reduced from around 61,000 cases in June 2021 to around 58,500 at the end of February 2022. As a result, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases this financial year than we did pre-Covid. The figures would be 117,000 in 2022-23, compared to 97,000 in 2019-20.
As to the specific causes for the backlog, I am not at this stage able to present the Committee with a view on or answer to the noble Lord’s question. However, if he is content, I undertake to have officials explore the question in detail and revert to him in writing. On the basis of this short debate, I beg to move.
Licensing Act 2003 (Platinum Jubilee Licensing Hours) Order 2022
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, I beg to move the instrument before the Committee today to extend the licensing hours in recognition of Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I am asking the Committee to support the instrument to extend licensing hours on Thursday 2 June, Friday 3 June and Saturday 4 June. Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 allows the Secretary of State to make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of
“exceptional international, national or local significance”.
The Government consider the Platinum Jubilee to be such an occasion. This will be a period in which we celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s incredible service and remarkable dedication, and many people will want to gather with their family and friends and raise a glass to mark this historic milestone.
The extension will apply to premises licences and club premises certificates in England and Wales, which license the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises. These premises will be allowed to remain open until 1 am without having to notify the licensing authority and police via a temporary event notice, as would usually be the case. Premises that are licensed to provide regulated entertainment will be able to do so until 1 am on the nights covered by the order, even where those premises are not licensed to sell alcohol. This includes, for example, venues holding musical events or dances as well as theatres and cinemas.
The order does not extend to premises which sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, such as off-licences and supermarkets. Premises which provide late-night refreshment, which is the supply of hot food or hot drinks to the public, between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am, but do not sell alcohol for consumption on the premises will not be covered by the order; such premises will only be able to provide late-night refreshment until 1 am if their existing licence already permits this.
The Home Office conducted a public consultation, which ran for a month and concluded on 26 January this year. The majority of respondents agreed with the extension for the three-day period and that it should apply to England and Wales. The consultation also received responses from numerous trade organisations, which were supportive of the extension of licensing hours. The National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Local Government Association and the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers were all in agreement with the proposed extension to licensing hours for Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
I am sure the Committee will support this order to help celebrate a special and historic moment in our national history. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing forward the order, which I entirely endorse. It recognises and reflects that there is a willingness, as we come out of the pandemic, to celebrate such an auspicious occasion. It has been a particularly tough time for the hospitality sector over the last two years or so.
I refer briefly to my chairmanship of PASS, the Proof of Age Standards Scheme, where I work closely with the hospitality sector. Not having to pay the TEN fee, as referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum, will be very welcome in saving not just the fee but the time that would have had to be spent.
I have one hesitation. I am sure my noble friend will be aware of the agent of change issues that have been flagged up. She will be aware that we are just concluding a follow-up report to our previous Select Committee inquiry on the Licensing Act 2003. I am not yet at liberty to say what our recommendations will be because we have not yet concluded that, but there is an issue where there may have been a recent application for an outlet in the hospitality sector to open its doors in an area that has previously been primarily residential. Is that something that both the Government and those acquiescing to these licences will be mindful of, given that it will be, as my noble friend said, a four-day bank holiday? That is my only reservation. Otherwise, I entirely endorse the order.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this instrument. If ever there was an occasion of exceptional national significance, surely it must be Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Therefore, we are generally supportive.
However, my concern is over the fact that the Government listened to the consultation that was run and, according to what they have published:
“Out of the 74 respondents, 58 agreed that the extension should only apply to on sales”,
not to off-sales. As a consequence, this instrument does not apply to off-sales.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My concern is Section 11 of the Business and Planning Act 2020, which allowed on-licence premises to sell alcohol as an off-licence for a period of time, because of the Covid pandemic. That included sales in open containers and alcohol for delivery to residential or work premises. Effectively, on-licence premises could act as off-licences. The ability of on-licence premises to act as off-licences does not cease until 30 September. That is my understanding of the legislation.
As I said, of the 74 respondents, 58 agreed that the extension should apply only to on-sales, presumably because they were concerned about disorder in the streets if people were allowed to buy alcohol in off-licence premises and take it away, rather than consume alcohol in regulated on-licence premises. Therefore, there is a flaw in the instrument, in that the concern about increased alcohol-related crime and disorder as a result of the extension being applied to off-licence premises has not taken into account that all on-licence premises are, until 30 September this year, able to act as off-licence premises. What does the Minister have to say about that?
Other than that concern, I hope that people will celebrate in a manner fitting with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
My Lords, we in the Labour Party also support this statutory instrument and wish the Queen a happy birthday. I hope that the country enjoys a weekend to celebrate this happy occasion.
This is a usual extension of licensing hours, if I can put it like that, for royal events and major sporting events. For example, we did this for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
We have heard about the consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was kind enough to mention his concern before today’s debate, and I will be interested to hear the Minister’s response to the point he raised. It is a fair question.
Finally, my question to the Minister is this: does she propose raising a glass until 1 am, as a fitting tribute to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. On that very tricky question, I might raise a glass beyond 1 o’clock, but in my own home. I am very much looking forward to the weekend, as I am sure all noble Lords are, and I am reassured by the general consensus.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we gave careful consideration to the responses that raised concerns about the potential for a rise in crime and disorder as a result of the extension, and any impact on public resources, including policing requirements. As I said, the National Police Chiefs’ Council raised no concern about the proposed extension. The police have been given early notice of the Government’s plans and have a range of mitigating actions available to them to prevent and to deal with any isolated problems, should they arise.
The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, drew attention to previous extensions: namely, for the royal wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and Her 90th birthday in 2016. We are not aware of any increased crime or disorder during those occasions. The SI itself specifically excludes sale for consumption off the premises. It is for a short duration, and many people will want to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee together in their local pub. Pubs may also wish to put on special celebrations for the occasion.
I agree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh that the potential boost to trade is very welcome, given the financial pressures that businesses have been under. She also pointed out the cost saving of £21 for a temporary event notice. I am very much looking forward to reading the agent of change report that she referred to, and we will comment on it in due course.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about off-sales for the coronavirus period interacting with this, this is purely for premises licences which establishments have in ordinary times, but I have asked those in the Box behind me what this will mean for off-sales, so I shall get back to him on that. In the meantime, I beg to move, and God save the Queen.
Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Representations and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2022
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the regulations before the Committee today meet a commitment made by the Prime Minister in the 2020 policy statement Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Walking and Cycling to give local authorities outside London powers conferred in Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to enforce contraventions of moving traffic restrictions. These powers are being commenced to coincide with these regulations, which are due to come into force on 31 May. The regulations before the Committee today form part of a package: an affirmative statutory instrument and a negative one. I shall refer to the former as the appeals regulations, and it is these are being considered by the Committee today.
The appeals regulations consolidate the rights of representation and appeal which have been in place England-wide since 2007 for vehicle owners who are or may be liable to pay penalty charge notices—PCNs—in respect of parking contraventions. They also extend those rights to disputed bus lane and moving traffic PCNs outside London. However, noble Lords should also note the negative procedure instrument: the Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Approved Devices, Charging Guidelines and General Provisions) (England) Regulations 2022. This instrument includes wider provisions for evidence, penalty charge notices, adjudication, penalty charge levels, and income and expenditure.
This regulatory package, introduced under Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, consolidates existing legislation. At the same time, it makes powers available to local authorities outside London to issue PCNs for contraventions of safety-critical moving traffic restrictions, such as no entry, banned turns and unlawful entry into box junctions. From now on, local authorities wanting to undertake moving traffic enforcement may apply for formal designation of these powers to enable enforcement to begin in practice by using CCTV cameras that have been certified by the Secretary of State. We plan to lay an order designating the first group of LAs as soon as practicable and will lay further orders as demand dictates.
When using these powers, local authorities have a duty to act fairly. These regulations therefore make provisions entitling drivers who are or may be liable to pay penalty charges for contravening certain traffic restrictions, including the moving traffic restrictions, to make representations to the enforcement authority and, if their case is rejected, to appeal to an independent adjudicator against the penalty charge. The regulations prescribe the information that must be given when a penalty charge is imposed about the right to make representations or appeal against that charge. The regulations also prescribe time limits for each stage of these processes, within which both the motorist and the local authority must respond, and create an offence of knowingly or recklessly making false representations under these regulations or in connection with an appeal.
I assure noble Lords that these regulations merely extend long-established provisions for motorists wishing to dispute parking penalties to the forthcoming civil enforcement regime for moving traffic contraventions. To create parity across the board outside London, we have also used this opportunity to repeal the bus lane enforcement regime, in place since 2005 under the Transport Act 2000, to create a single enforcement regime under the 2004 Act; that includes bus lane enforcement. It was always envisaged that this would happen soon after the 2004 Act was introduced.
By doing so, we have removed some of the inconsistencies in the legislation. Motorists challenging bus lane penalties will therefore benefit from representations and appeals provisions not previously available to them. These will apply to all contraventions. For example, they can challenge a penalty charge on the grounds of “procedural impropriety”. There will also be an express duty on local authorities to consider any “compelling reasons” that the motorist gives for the cancellation of the charge; express powers for adjudicators to refer cases back to the local authority where there are no grounds to allow the appeal but the adjudicator considers that the authority should reconsider whether the appellant should pay all or some of the penalty; and a requirement for the authority to respond to representations within 56 calendar days.
Bringing bus lane powers under the 2004 Act also has an allied benefit, in that it enables Ministers to publish for local authorities, for the first time, statutory guidance to cover all contraventions to which local authorities must have regard. This will simplify the system for the local authority so that it does not have lots of different types of enforcement considerations when it plans how to operationalise them.
However, I am clear that civil enforcement of moving traffic contraventions—or, indeed, of any traffic contraventions —should be a last resort. If contraventions are preventable through other means, such as improvements to road layout or traffic signing, I expect this to be done before enforcement is considered. We will issue statutory guidance to ensure that local authorities use these powers correctly.
Before enforcement can begin in practice, local authorities must apply to the department for an order by means of a letter to the Secretary of State. To ensure due diligence, designation of a local authority will be conditional on them having already consulted local residents and businesses on where existing restrictions have been earmarked for enforcement, and due consideration must have been given to any legitimate concerns.
Local authorities will also be expected to issue warning notices for first-time moving traffic contraventions at each camera location for six months following enforcement going live. This will apply to any new camera location in the future. These requirements will be enshrined in the statutory guidance to ensure that enforcement is targeted only at problem sites, that road users clearly understand the new powers and that enforcement is carried out fairly.
I stress that traffic enforcement must be aimed at increasing compliance and not raising revenue. Local authorities will not have a free hand in how any resulting surplus is used, which will be strictly ring-fenced for covering enforcement costs or specified local authority funded local transport schemes or environmental measures. Neither will local authorities have a free hand in setting penalty charge levels for moving traffic contraventions, as these are banded and set out in the regulations in line with existing penalties for higher-level parking contraventions. As moving traffic and bus lane contraventions are of a type, we are increasing bus lane penalties by £10 to align with contraventions of moving traffic and higher-level parking contraventions —for example, parking in a disabled bay.
These regulations support the enforcement of moving traffic contraventions and play a key role in reducing congestion, with consequent benefits to air quality and to well-being. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
My Lords, I have just two brief points to make. I thank and congratulate my noble friend on bringing forward the regulations this afternoon. First, I understand that there was a delay and that the statutory instruments had to be withdrawn and re-laid. I would very much like to understand why that was the case and have an assurance that that will not happen with future SIs.
My second concern relates to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s 29th report, dated 10 February 2022. At paragraph 40 it says:
“To free up police officers’ time, these Regulations extend the range of offences that can be dealt with by civil enforcement officers acting on behalf of local authorities, or in some cases traffic cameras.”
I would like to understand from which budget the civil enforcement officers will be taking on this work. I am mindful of the extent to which local authorities’ budgets are under severe pressure at this time.
Who will be responsible for the traffic cameras? In north Yorkshire and County Durham we have very few fixed cameras; the traffic cameras are mostly mobile. When I was an MP in north Yorkshire, I was informed, on the quiet, that in many instances there is no film in static cameras in north Yorkshire—they are just there to alarm people, in the hope that their behaviour will be reformed because they see a traffic camera in front of them. Are we relying on mobile traffic cameras, which are still the province of the police, or are there some other traffic cameras of which I am not aware?
With those few remarks, I wish the SI good speed.
My Lords, on this side we very much support these measures; it would be odd if we did not, as my noble friend Lord Bradshaw has been arguing for this move for pretty much as long as I have been in the House, which is over 20 years now. Civil enforcement of moving traffic offences is, as he has argued, really important in improving the flow of traffic generally and particularly for buses. Bringing the rest of England in line with London is a welcome step. I also agree with the Government that we need better enforcement for safety reasons for cycle lanes, pedestrian crossings, and so on.
I very much agree with the Minister: we need to ensure that these penalties are a means to achieve those objectives on congestion and safety, not a revenue raiser. I welcome the protections that have been put in place. The AA has done a huge amount of work gathering data on all this. One of the things it has found is that most drivers faced with a penalty just pay up even where they do not believe that they have done anything wrong or think that they have a good mitigating reason; because they are afraid of the penalty going up if they do not pay immediately, they decide that it is easier to pay. That is concerning.
Similarly, in its data gathering, the AA has picked up locations where the volume of violations is such that it suggests there is a problem with either the layout or the signage. Clearly something should be done about that, not just simply issuing more and more fines. It argues for a sort of automatic review mechanism when particular locations reach a certain point. I wonder whether the department has thought about that. The AA also argues that first-time offenders should receive a warning letter no matter how long the measures have been in place, not just within six months. Again, I wonder what the Government have thought about this.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I had a look at Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments’ report. The committee has some concerns. It highlighted two instances of defective drafting—I gather that those have been accepted by the department so I will not dwell on them—but there are also two instances of a difference of opinion between the JCSI and the department about whether some provisions are intra vires. One of them is on the question of what happens when a local authority fails to decide what to do with the proceeds of crime.
The second one troubles me a little more. The department asserts that the 15-minute period between the issue of a notice and clamping is a minimum period. The JSCI has argued that, in primary legislation, 15 minutes is the period and, if Parliament had wanted a 15-minute minimum, it would have legislated for that—but it did not and has given it as a definite period. So the committee does not accept that the department is correct. I am slightly troubled about this simply because, as the Minister will know, there is quite an industry in finding legal loopholes to get through fixed-penalty notices and various things. We need to be absolutely sure that we are confident that this will not become a loophole.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for bring forward these regulations, which I welcome. They will extend the rights of representations and appeals in parking, bus lane and moving traffic cases. I will not seek to detain the Committee for long, given that there is broad consensus on the basic principles. However, I welcome any details as to why it has taken so long to introduce these changes, given that they relate to a policy statement from two years ago.
A colleague was going to be doing this debate today so I came against the regulations only at 11.30 am. My understanding is that this is really a package made up of a commencement order that has no parliamentary procedures, a negative order that nobody has prayed against—so it will go through—and this measured affirmative order, or whatever the right term is. I hope that these regulations do a simple, uniform thing and bring the powers and appeal rights in England and Wales into a uniform piece of legislation. There are lots of nods but I would like to hear the Minister say yes to that because it would simplify how one thinks about this.
I wonder whether the Minister can offer a timeline for what flows from this package. I recognise that she may have done that in her speech but the impressive speed of her delivery was beyond my comprehension in places; I am not suggesting that she was not right and accurate, so I apologise for that. The reason I would like to see a timeline is because, as the Minister knows, the commencement of this order depends on the commencement of the negative order but I do not know when that is proposed to be. It would be useful to have on record when that will happen and when the consultation on the guidance will complete. I got the impression that the guidance might be published on the same day as the commencement. That would be unfortunate but it goes to the general issue of how motorists will know about both the offences and their appeal rights at the same time. I think the Minister said a little about how motorists will know about the offences, but knowledge about their appeal rights seems equally important.
The Committee hopes that these regulations will contribute to making the system of road traffic contraventions fairer and more effective. On broader road traffic issues, the Minister will be aware that the Government recently published an updated private parking code of practice, which caps fines at £80 in London and £50 elsewhere. Welcome as that is, unfortunately, the new code will not come into force fully until 2024. In the meantime, many parking firms are charging more than those caps permit. Does the Minister believe it is right that they are able to charge extortionate amounts before the new code of practice fully comes into force?
I thank noble Lords for contributing to this short debate. I apologise at the outset for my speed of delivery. I must slow down; I will slow down. I promise the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, that, next time I give an opening speech, I will slow down, enunciate and break for breath every now and again.
Some important points have been raised, which I hope to cover. I will write, of course, because I suspect that I will not be able to answer a couple of things in full. I am grateful for the broad welcome for these regulations. I accept that they have been a long time coming, particularly given that the Traffic Management Act was enacted in 2004. Then there was the issue of commencing Part 6. The delay in commencing that part and in putting these regulations before the Committee is partly down to the pressures of the pandemic; it has been a little busy in the Department for Transport. We wanted to get this right, recognising that it will be up to local authorities to put this into operation. They, too, have been suffering from a lack of time and resources during the pandemic.
We did crack on with it when we felt that things looked a little more positive but we had an issue with the JCSI, which was alluded to by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering. An error was discovered in the affirmative SI, which meant that we withdrew it and then re-laid it with the error resolved. It did not have an impact on the date of its coming into force, so it did not have an impact on the whole process of what was going to happen, but we are grateful to the JCSI for its work on finding the error because it would have been unforgivable for that to have got on to the statute book.
On the issues relating to the JCSI vires, I might write with a little more detail, perhaps to explain why we slightly differ from the JCSI and how we propose to respond to it. I believe that we will make some changes at the earliest opportunity; potentially, there is an opportunity to make a change in the first designation order, which will come soon.
On the point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh on resources, cameras and the gubbins that will have to be in place to operationalise these regulations, we know that some places have already put them in place. We know that London already does it but, let us face it, London is not really like everywhere else. But one might look at Cardiff. For example, in Wales, the Welsh Government commenced the Part 6 powers back in 2013 and, to date, Cardiff City Council and Carmarthenshire have acquired the designation of those powers. In Cardiff, we have a little bit of visibility about how they did it, how much it cost them and what the impact was on their budgets. The council’s latest Annual Park and Traffic Enforcement Report for 2018-19 confirms the following. For the first full year of enforcement, which was actually 2016-17—it is a little while ago, but that was its first full year, and it is the most up to date that we have—it ended up with a combined income of around £3.4 million and a total expenditure of £5.6 million, including parking. We estimate that it probably spent around £3.7 million on bus lane and moving traffic enforcement. So that was a deficit of about £0.3 million. We would expect that, in most circumstances, after the first year when things have settled down, you would end up with a surplus. As I explained in my opening remarks, that surplus can be used only on very specific things.
There is also the issue to consider, if a local authority is putting something in place, that we have said that within the first six months there will be warning notices rather than fines to be paid for any individual attracting a contravention at a particular camera. So that will reduce the income. It is also worth recognising that many of the set-up costs will be one-off costs. There will be ongoing maintenance costs for the CCTV, but they will usually be one-off costs, which can be met more than over just the first year. On the flip side, we know that costs will be mitigated somewhat by the slight increase to the bus lane penalties.
In general, in our new burdens assessment, we suggested that there was no additional burden to local authorities by implementing these regulations, and the Local Government Association did not object to the new burdens assessment. So I think either it will work out cost neutral or there will be a surplus which, as discussed, will be used only for certain areas. I take the point about some sites being very non-compliant and therefore attracting large numbers of fines. Of course, we will make it clear in the guidance how local authorities should deal with those sites. We want the cameras to be in problem sites but, clearly, there will be areas where they can improve their highways layout or, indeed, their traffic signage to make people understand exactly what has happened.
To go back to my noble friend’s question about cameras, those that are used for moving traffic contraventions must be certified by the Vehicle Certification Agency. We have very specific cameras that are certified by the VCA, and we certify cameras at no charge to the LA—the department bears the cost. We have a specific fund from which we draw down. But it is local authorities that are responsible for paying for the cameras and then putting them in place, so it is up to them.
That slightly leads on to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. The guidance that we will complete will set out all sorts of things in relation to operating these regulations appropriately. I have mentioned those areas where there is lots of contravention. We have worked closely with the sector on the development of the detailed statutory guidance. We have had input from a wide range of stakeholders, including the motoring groups—the RAC and the AA have been very involved—and local government: the Local Government Association and local councils. We have also been in touch with and talked to active travel groups, including Sustrans, British Cycling and Living Streets, as well as the British Parking Association and the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. Clearly, we have to get this guidance right. We need to make sure we have the right level of enforcement and in the right places.
The noble Baroness mentioned the warning letter and asked why it is a six-month thing. It is for many reasons. At the heart of this, drivers should be following the signs anyway. If they have committed a contravention at some stage, they really should pay a penalty for it. When we looked at how long you could keep it for, there were two issues. The first is that to operationalise holding such a significant amount of data was quite tricky. There was also a GDPR consideration: you cannot hold people’s data for a vast period of time unless you are going to do something with it. We felt that six months was entirely reasonable, so that is why we landed on that.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for standing in to do this statutory instrument, possibly at short notice. He asked for categorical confirmation that this was a uniform set of regulations that covered all the representations and appeals for all the different contraventions. I really want to say yes, because I think it is. However, I am fairly sure it will be “yes, but”, so I will write with further details as to whether there is any “but” and what currently falls out. The good thing is that we have consolidated bus lanes, parking and moving traffic, but something might have fallen through the gaps.
The timeline will depend very much on local authorities. Should these regulations be approved by your Lordships’ House, they will come into force on 31 May. We will be receiving applications from local authorities, but of course they will have to have done their consultation beforehand, which will take time. They will then apply to the department, and we will put them into groups and bring them through in designation orders in groups. It will not happen immediately and, through the consultation, residents in local areas will know that changes are afoot. People who are not from that area potentially will not, but they should be compliant with local traffic laws anyway. If in future they get a penalty charge notice from a local authority, it will specifically say on it where they can find out more information about representations, appeals and, for example, the 50% discount. All those things will be set out on the penalty charge notice, as they often are now for parking fines.
I cannot really say when I expect the first designation order to come through. I certainly expect that it will be this year, but I have not had an update as to how many local authorities have been in touch to say that they are pressing ahead quickly with this. I know that local authorities really want these powers and I think they will make their lives easier, particularly as we take forward the measures in the national bus strategy, which are so important.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, finished by mentioning the private parking consultation. I may write to him on that to make sure I have covered the question he raised. Otherwise, I commend these regulations to the Committee.
Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (High-Risk Countries) (Amendment) Regulations 2022
Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the Government recognise the threat that economic crime poses to the UK and to our international partners, and are committed to combatting money laundering and terrorist financing.
Illicit finance causes significant social and economic costs through its links to serious and organised crime. It is a threat to our national security, and it risks damaging our international reputation as a fair and open rules-based economy. It also undermines the integrity and stability of our financial sector and can reduce opportunities for legitimate businesses in the UK.
That is why we are taking significant action to combat economic crime, including legislating for the economic crime levy and the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act, and progressing the Government’s landmark economic crime plan. We are also working closely with the private sector and our international partners to improve the investigation of economic crime, strengthen international standards on corporate transparency and crack down on illicit financial flows.
The money laundering regulations support our overall efforts. As the UK’s core legislative framework for tackling money laundering and terrorist financing, they set out various measures that businesses must take to protect the UK from illicit financial flows. Under the regulations, businesses are required to conduct enhanced checks on business relationships and transactions with high-risk third countries. These are countries that are identified as having strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regimes that could pose a significant threat to the UK’s financial system.
This statutory instrument amends the money laundering regulations to update the UK’s list of high-risk third countries by adding the United Arab Emirates and removing Zimbabwe from the list. This is to mirror lists published by the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard setter for anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing. As the Financial Action Task Force carries out its periodic reviews and regularly updates its public lists of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies, we also need to update our own. Updating our list shows that we are responsive to the latest economic crime threats and ensures that the UK remains at the forefront of global standards on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
This amendment will enable the money laundering regulations to continue to work as effectively as possible to protect the UK financial system. It is crucial for protecting UK businesses and the financial system from money launderers and terrorist financiers. I therefore hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting this legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support these measures. My noble friend Lady Kramer has been suffering from Covid, as, regrettably, are so many colleagues. She would ordinarily have been here, and I wish her the best and a speedy recovery and return as soon as possible. I spoke to the previous set of measures involving a change to the list when the orders were brought to remove Botswana, Ghana and Mauritius, and I took the opportunity to ask the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, questions about how robust our internal systems were with regard to organised financial crime and the interaction between drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorist activities.
At the time, I also asked when we were likely to get the register of beneficial ownership. It shows how fast time flies, as he is no longer the designated Minister for financial crime and we have moved ahead in so many of these areas. We may well do, but I should be interested to know whether, after the more recent changes in government, we have a Minister with a designated portfolio who has taken over from the noble Lord on money laundering and financial crime. I know it is normal practice that these instruments and schedules are signed off by Government Whips rather than Ministers—the previous ones were too—but I should be grateful to know how that is structured in government.
However, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing these regulations. If she will tolerate me asking a number of questions, I would like to do so because these measures make changes with regards to individual countries and are also a policy change. Apparently, the Government will now automatically use an external set of decision-making for the classification of countries in the grey category by the FATF, the Financial Action Task Force. We have also been told repeatedly that we are moving away from the European Union’s approach, in which we would take the Commission’s view, so that we have the freedom to set our own approach. However, it seems as if one of our very first acts in having that new freedom is to give it away to another organisation for it to make some decisions on our behalf. I would be interested to know the rationale for that. In the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government simply say that, because we are aligned to the FATF, it makes sense for us to copy it for efficiency purposes. However, we were previously aligned to our European colleagues; I am not really sure what has changed.
One consequence of this, of course, is the change of countries. In particular, there is a difference in Zimbabwe because, as has been stated, it has been removed. I would be interested to know what the Government’s representations are, or what the position of UK Ministers is, in the FATF. I understand that it met at a ministerial level last week; I was in Washington while that was taking place. Given that there is Russian investment in Zimbabwe, particularly in mining, and given our interaction with Russia in terms of our sanctions, I am interested to know why decisions have been made with regards to Zimbabwe that may have a negative effect on our reducing the possibility of money laundering—especially when it comes to those who are investing in mineral extraction in these countries—and on trading. I would hate to think that one of the first actions of this measure was to create potential loopholes for Russia.
In that regard, there are new countries on the list. I support that but I see that, for Haiti, Mali, Malta, the Philippines, South Sudan, Turkey and the UAE, there is a difference of approach. In a previous debate on our sanctions regime, I singled out a mercenary group that is under the pay of the Kremlin: the Wagner Group. I have seen it at first hand, on a visit to Khartoum. I know that it is active in Mali, Chad and the Central African Republic, but it also operates in other countries. I am on the record as asking for the process to be started to proscribe the Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation. It would then be under the proscription legislation and would come within this legislation. With Mali being a high-risk third country, I would be interested to know how that interacts with our work in seeking to reduce the scope of the mercenary operations from Russia. I hope that there are no gaps between the way we would operate under this approach and the FATF and our sanctions legislation. The destabilising work of that group in particular needs to be stopped; the UK can play a significant role in that.
With regard to the UAE, I am interested in the lack of information I have seen from the DIT on GOV.UK to inform those operating in our 19th-largest market that this measure is now in place. I understand that there will obviously be a lag in information when legislation has been put in place, but this had been signalled a fair bit in advance. I have seen plenty of government promotional material highlighting the £10 billion UK investment partnership with the UAE sovereign wealth fund, but there is a lack of information stating that the UAE is now in an at-risk category as far as doing trade in that area is concerned.
I looked at the impact statement. It highlighted that the cost to businesses doing trade with the UAE as a result of this measure—of it now being on the list—will be just £2.5 million, due to them having to conform with the requirements in paragraph 4 of the impact assessment. Given that the investment relationship the Government have promoted is a whole set of complex legal and financial arrangements under that overall banner, I question whether the statement has correctly captured the whole significance of the requirement. I therefore believe that it would have been beneficial for a full impact assessment to have been carried out. The Government have used as their formula simply adding up all the people conducting this business, but I am not sure whether simply taking into consideration UK nationals doing this work will correctly capture all the implications of this measure regarding our investment portfolios, which by definition involve international bases.
I do not have any criticism of the UAE being part of this. I would like to know from the Government their understanding of why it is now on the high-risk third country list. The Minister simply stated that it was on it. More information on the record as to why that is the case could be helpful. While the Government are promoting more investment from and more business with the UAE, they cannot be silent as to why they now believe it is a high-risk third country to do that business. At the moment I have not seen anything on the DIT website on GOV.UK for doing trade with the UAE, but given its significance I hope that it will appear. In the meantime—before that arrives on the government website—I would be grateful to hear information from the Minister today.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing these latest updates to the list of high-risk countries. She will know that we fully support mirroring the list produced by the Financial Action Task Force—the FATF—so we will not oppose these regulations remaining on the statute book beyond the 28-day scrutiny period. As has been outlined, the latest iteration of the FATF list sees the removal of Zimbabwe and the addition of the United Arab Emirates.
I wonder whether the Minister can provide a little more information on the FATF’s rationale for these changes. Although Zimbabwe is no longer listed in the schedule, can she confirm whether the UK has decided to maintain any specific enhanced measures relating to that country? If she is unable to provide these updates today, can she commit to writing and placing a copy of the correspondence in the Library?
The last time this list of high-risk countries was debated, in November 2021, there was much debate around the absence of both Afghanistan and Russia. Is the Minister able to provide any update on the situation regarding Afghanistan, including any steps taken by the UK outside the FATF framework? Just because there have been other geopolitical developments in recent times, we must not forget that Afghanistan continues to undergo significant social and economic change. Much of that is unrelated to this policy framework but some of it may be. Clearly, the events in Afghanistan do not currently meet the FATF’s threshold for the country to be included on this list. However, it would be comforting to know whether and how the UK is keeping these matters under review.
Turning to Russia, the conflict in Ukraine has altered the picture significantly. In response to the actions of Vladimir Putin, the UK Government and other nations have sanctioned a variety of Russian businesses and individuals. The Labour Party has supported this and will continue to do so. Sanctions may act as a brake on Russian money-laundering operations for the time being but can the Minister confirm how such matters will be factored into the eventual winding down of sanctions? We must not return to business as usual.
We all know that the UK has a reputation as a destination for dirty Russian money. After sustained pressure to act, the Government recently brought forward a limited economic crime Bill. That legislation facilitated the creation of a register of overseas entities but it is no secret that it will take time for such a register to be operational. Once it is, it will be a useful tool, but it is no silver bullet. Can the Minister provide any update on the implementation of that register?
The Government committed to a progress report to Parliament within eight weeks of Royal Assent. We have not quite reached that date but we are only a couple of weeks short and mere days away from Prorogation. I would hope that the Treasury and others have made great strides, but have any of the enabling regulations yet been laid? Can the Minister comment on what has become known as the economic crime Bill part II, which has been promised early in the new parliamentary Session? I know that the Government normally resist pre-empting the contents of Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech. However, we know that this Bill is coming, and it is vital to get that follow-up legislation right if we are truly to crack down on the illicit acts that the FATF was established to tackle.
I appreciate that these questions go slightly beyond the contents of this particular SI but I am sure that the Minister will agree they deserve to be asked. I look forward to her reply and to the House playing a constructive role in these matters in the months ahead.
I would like to bring up one or two issues that are related not particularly to the SI but to the Explanatory Memorandum. In the past, I have found the very last part of the memorandum, labelled “Contact”, a useful device when I was having trouble understanding SIs. The contact on this occasion is Stephanie, who has a surname that I fail to be able to pronounce; I hope she will forgive me for not doing so. She is at HM Treasury and
“can be contacted with any queries regarding the instrument.”
The ability to contact a relevant civil servant has been really helpful to me in the past but, on this occasion, there is neither a contact telephone number nor an email address. I put to the Minister that this is utterly unacceptable. It has crept into Treasury Explanatory Memorandums whereas many other departments—including the Department for Transport, which we previously had here today—have maintained the standard of a telephone number and an email address. I do not expect an answer now but I would like a written response.
The problem with reading paragraph 15.1 is that one is then tempted to read paragraph 15.2, which states:
“Emily Bayley, Deputy Director for Sanctions and Illicit Finance at HM Treasury can confirm that this Explanatory Memorandum meets the required standard.”
I am sure that this has appeared before but it is the first time my eyes have got this far through an Explanatory Memorandum. I have been campaigning for years to know what the standard for Explanatory Memorandums is, particularly in terms of the requirement I believe they should have that they can be understood by people other than those seeped in the detail of the subject. Can the Minister forward to me what the required standard is?
My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their contributions to this debate and join the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, in wishing his colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, all the best.
The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, started by asking about the change in approach from the UK Government to mirror the FATF’s list for high-risk countries after leaving the EU, rather than setting out our own list. The approach that the UK has taken, to align with the FATF, was first set out in an SI in April 2021. The reason for that approach is that the FATF is the international standard-setting and monitoring body for anti-money laundering, counterterrorist financing and counterproliferation financing. It has a detailed and extensive set of standards, which countries are monitored against using a transparent and rigorous peer-review mechanism.
By aligning the UK’s approach to the FATF, the UK is in line with international standards and the identification of countries is underpinned by the FATF’s consistent technical methodology and robust assessment processes. As a result, enhanced measures are implemented in a co-ordinated manner by the international community, thereby magnifying the preventive effect. I think that this approach to international standards is welcomed by noble Lords. However, it remains open to the UK to review and amend the list according to our own assessment of risks if necessary.
The noble Lord also referred to the EU’s procedures. The EU mostly follows the FATF, with some exemptions; it does not mirror it entirely. For example, EEA countries listed by the FATF are excluded from the EU’s list. Also, changes to the EU list happen less frequently than to the UK list, meaning that it is not reflective of geographic changes in risk profiles. That was an issue repeatedly raised by regulated entities in the UK when the EU list had legal effect in the UK. None the less, we will continue to work closely with European countries and the European Union on countering shared money laundering and terrorist financing risks to ensure a co-ordinated and targeted response.
The noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Tunnicliffe, both asked further questions as to why the FATF has added the UAE and removed Zimbabwe from its list. The FATF mutual evaluation of the UAE, adopted in February 2020, found significant deficiencies in the UAE’s illicit finance regime, with 10 of 11 measures of effectiveness rated low or moderate. As a result, the FATF placed the UAE under enhanced scrutiny. At the March 2022 FATF plenary, the FATF concluded that the UAE should be added to its list of jurisdictions, with significant weaknesses in its regimes for countering illicit finance. The UAE has expressed its high-level political commitment to making further reforms in a number of areas to exit the FATF list. Zimbabwe, following its evaluation in 2016, underwent a process of enhanced monitoring, similar to that of the UAE, but has now completed its FATF action plan to address the key deficiencies that had been identified in its anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime back in 2016. Therefore, the FATF decided to remove Zimbabwe from its list.
The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, asked how the Government have informed those who may be affected by the changes to the list and, in particular, by the addition of the UAE to it. Her Majesty’s Treasury engaged with the sector ahead of adding the UAE to the list and published an advisory notice ahead of the change being made. Supervisors are also in communication with the regulated sector about the update to this list.
Following the delisting of Zimbabwe, both noble Lords also asked about the UK maintaining any specific enhanced measures in relation to that country. No specific enhanced measures remain in relation to Zimbabwe following the delisting. None the less, firms should continue to apply risk-based measures across their customer base, and to take appropriate measures where higher risks are confirmed. When assessing whether there is a high risk of money laundering or terrorist financing in a particular situation, firms will need to consider customer risk factors, the risk factors of particular products or services, as the noble Lord mentioned, or delivery channels, as well as geographic risk, as identified by credible sources such as the FATF, the EU, the UN, the IMF or the World Bank. When assessing risk, firms also need to take into account information made available to them by anti-money laundering supervisors or the national risk assessment.
The Minister is being very thorough in responding, and I am grateful. Could she write to me in answer to my next question? I do not expect her to reply now. It has been helpful for her to outline the FATF’s position on the UAE, but it is worrying if 10 out of the 11 are within this area of concern. Does the UK sovereign investment partnership with the UAE include elements seeking that the UAE makes progress on the areas that have been highlighted? It is worrying if a partnership investment worth £10 billion does not have within it mechanisms to make progress on areas where we have inserted that country into a high-risk category while having financial investment relationships with that very entity. The Minister does not have to answer that now if she does not want to. I do not expect to her to answer it now, but I shall be very happy if she wishes to write to me.
What I can do now is talk about the UK’s role and influence at the FATF, which in turn works with countries on the lists that we are discussing, to improve their performance. The UK as a founding member plays a leading role through its place on the FATF’s steering group, and makes significant voluntary financial contributions to the FATF and its global network on core projects and through extensive involvement in the FATF assessment. So the UK is absolutely committed through that channel to improving countries’ performances. I shall write to the noble Lord on his specific point about the UK’s sovereign investment partnership. If he will forgive me, I will also write to him on the specific points he raised in relation to Mali and other specifics in that area.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked about an update on the situation in Afghanistan and how the UK is keeping these matters under review. The UK is absolutely keeping the evolving situation in Afghanistan under review, and we continue to work with public and private sector partners to maintain an up-to-date understanding of money laundering and terrorist financing risks in that country.
The noble Lord also asked about how the current deterrents of sanctions on money laundering from Russia will be factored into the eventual winding down of sanctions. In lockstep with our allies, we are introducing the largest and most severe economic sanctions that Russia has ever faced to help to cripple Putin’s war machine. These co-ordinated sanctions go broader, deeper and sharper in punishing the actions of Putin and the Russian Government. They are having an impact on Russia’s economy; Putin has acknowledged the problems and difficulties caused by sanctions. Current estimates are that two-thirds of the assets available to the Russian Government have been frozen, strangling access to funding for military aggression.
We are particularly starving Russia’s access to finance, with asset freezes on major banks including Russia’s largest bank and the removal of selected banks from SWIFT. We have sanctioned Russia’s largest banks with global assets worth £500 billion pre-invasion. Since the invasion, we have also sanctioned well over 1,400 high-value individuals, entities and subsidiaries. However, we are not complacent and will continue to revise and reform our response to illicit finance to ensure that, as illicit finance threats evolve, our response does too. As the noble Lord noted, we brought forward the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act and we are preparing a wider economic crime Bill at pace. This is alongside a new kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency to target sanctions evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK. That means that oligarchs in London will have nowhere to hide.
As I just touched on, the noble Lord asked about the implementation of the measures in the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act, specifically on the overseas entities register. Since the legislation received Royal Assent, the Government have been working at pace to ensure the register is in place as soon as reasonably practicable. The Companies House digital designs team is making strong progress in building the register for operational readiness.
The noble Lord also asked about the planned economic crime Bill part two. We have published details of upcoming legislation, including fundamental reform of Companies House, enhanced information-sharing powers and new powers to seize crypto assets which are designed to clamp down on money laundering and illicit finance. We do not have long to wait for the Queen’s Speech at this stage, when I am sure more information will then be made available.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, made a final point on Explanatory Memorandums. His point is well made that we often discuss quite technical matters in this Committee, sometimes at short notice, and therefore the Explanatory Memorandums are incredibly important to noble Lords. Of course, it was not the fault of the official named that their contact details were not there, and it is for Ministers to ultimately take responsibility for the information provided to Parliament. On the noble Lord’s specific question about the standards for Explanatory Memorandums, I will undertake to write to him if he permits me to. With that, I beg to move.
Committee adjourned at 6.08 pm.