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Lords Chamber

Volume 832: debated on Wednesday 20 September 2023

House of Lords

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chichester.

Oaths and Affirmations

Baroness Hale of Richmond took the oath.

Railway Stations: Ticket Office Closures


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with the Railway Group and train operators about proposed station ticket office closures.

My Lords, together with the rail industry, we want to modernise the passenger experience by moving staff out of ticket offices to provide more help and assistance in customer-focused roles. Ministers and department officials regularly engage with industry, including the Rail Delivery Group and train operating companies, to discuss a wide range of topics including how best to operate stations and serve passenger needs in the most efficient and effective way.

My Lords, the Minister in the other place keeps saying that this proposal is all about getting staff out of ticket offices and on to platforms to help people. However, in my local station, Alnmouth, the staff already help people both in the ticket office and on the platform. This proposal therefore represents a deterioration in quality, not an improvement. I have a simple question for the Minister: in cases where a clear majority of the public is against ticket office closures at their station, will their views be listened to, with no question of their views being overridden?

The important thing to understand here is that this is a genuine consultation. The people who have received all the responses to the consultation are independent—they are independent passenger bodies, including Transport Focus and London TravelWatch. They will look at the responses that they get and the proposals put to them by the TOCs. They will listen to concerns and refine the proposals with the TOCs to ensure that appropriate service levels are being offered.

My Lords, will the figures be published? Does my noble friend the Minister not realise that many of us get the feeling that it has been decided that this is what we want when many of us do not?

The independent passenger bodies will publish their responses to each of the train operating companies’ proposals.

Will the people on the platform be prepared to help the elderly and the disabled get their tickets if tickets offices do not exist?

That is the whole point: they will be more than happy to do so. We want to have multi-skilled individuals working for the railways such that they can help all sorts of passengers with a varying range of needs.

My Lords, I will share with the Minister the experience at my local station, where there is only ever one member of staff on duty. In the morning, that member of staff opens up the station, the toilets and waiting rooms, and helps people get their tickets, sold either directly or with these complicated machines. They are, in effect, the station manager; this one person is essential to the operation of the station.

I hope the noble Lord has fed that back into the consultation, where it will be taken into account by the independent passenger bodies.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Transport for London introduced an almost identical scheme a few years ago? It went extremely smoothly; nobody noticed or complained about it once it had been implemented, and it has greatly benefitted passengers.

My noble friend is exactly right. It was a former Conservative Mayor of London who took this step for ticket offices in Tube stations. The current Mayor of London came in with great fury and said he was going to review the whole thing and make changes if appropriate—not a single change was made.

My Lords, it has become clear over the last year that several train companies have ceased to recruit new staff for ticket offices, and have therefore been shutting them gradually by default. Can the Minister assure us that the Government have not sanctioned this, and that any review of the 700,000 people who have responded to the consultation will take into account firmly the balance of opinion among those respondents?

I am very concerned to hear what the noble Baroness has to say, and I hope that she will provide me with the evidence so that we can look into this further. There are 980 DfT-regulated ticket offices and that has been the case for a very long time. So if ticket offices are closing, as she says—again, I am not aware that they are—they also should have gone through the ticketing and settlement agreement. I would be very happy to look at the noble Baroness’s evidence.

My Lords, the ticket office in my local station does not do advance tickets. How can a would-be passenger who wants to book ahead, and thus save quite a lot of money, get an advance ticket with no ticket office?

I cannot comment on the noble Baroness’s ticket office specifically, but 99% of transactions at ticket offices last year could have been made either through a ticket vending machine or online.

My Lords, I travel from Banbury to Marylebone every Monday. When I approach the ticket office there is at least one person ahead of me. I hope that there will be flexibility in this: maybe some stations do not need ticket offices, but places that are busy certainly do.

My noble friend is absolutely right. This is not a one-size-fits-all process; this is a consultation, and we will look to see what the independent passenger bodies say when they have finished reviewing all the consultation responses. We believe that that will be towards the end of October.

My Lords, my noble friend mentioned already the situation for disabled and elderly passengers. They already face barriers to using public transport, which will be made much worse by these proposals. Given that only 3% of blind people are able to use the ticket vending machine, how will the Government ensure that they can still use the railway network?

The Government have been consulting with various accessibility groups, alongside industry, over the period, and have taken their views into account. That has included invitations to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, the National Autistic Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Society— I have an entire list, which I will not read out right now. Accessibility is at the heart of what we are doing here. We are trying to improve passenger service. The ORR’s latest annual consumer report shows that passenger assistance bookings have increased significantly. I am delighted to say that disabled people are coming back to the railways.

My Lords, under these proposals, it will not be possible to buy a senior or disabled persons railcard at the vast majority of stations, whether there are staff there or not. Is that right?

I cannot say, because the consultation process is still going ahead. At this time, 43% of stations do not have any staff at all, so the noble Lord would not be able to get those railcards at those stations. All of those considerations are being taken into account. We want people to travel on the trains, and we need them to get their tickets and their railcards. All of those are very important considerations as we go through this consultation process.

My Lords, any consultation will clearly be a snapshot of the situation now or maybe in the near future. What happens if passengers at a certain station find that there is no help when they need it, particularly with ticket machines or for advice? How can they feed that into the process to make sure that this problem is rectified?

My noble friend makes an important point, and of course that could happen now. I encourage anybody who feels they do not get the service that they need from the railways to get in touch with that train operating company. It could be that circumstances have changed, such as more people or different types of people travelling from a certain station.

My Lords, the Minister has referenced blind people. When I was in my local station the other day, getting my ticket to come to London, I stood behind a blind person who was completely confused and had no idea how to use the ticket machine. The chap in the ticket office was able to help and comfort her and tell her that she would be alright. I find it impossible to understand what the Minister is trying to make us believe—that people like that will not be disadvantaged. They will be.

That same person does not have to be in that ticket office in order to help them. That is what we are saying. There are all sorts of different people who need different help, and having somebody in a ticket office whose time is not being used effectively does not help passengers.

My Lords, I was not planning to ask a question but I find this a completely shocking proposal. Disabled and vulnerable people will be disadvantaged. Can the Minister give us a generic email address—publicly, so that it goes out across the BBC and everywhere else—to which people can write in and express their objections?

I cannot give a generic email address, although I am sure the noble Baroness could contact Transport Focus. The train operating companies have publicised this consultation widely. It is worth pointing out what the Rail Minister said very recently in a Westminster Hall debate. The consultation is ongoing, but, at this stage, he does not

“expect a material reduction in the number of hours where ticketing expertise is available at stations”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/9/23; col. 346WH.]

That will help people who have sight deficiencies, as the noble Baroness mentioned, and it will help all people who need greater assistance at train stations.

Farming: Net Zero


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in assisting British farmers to meet net zero challenges.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.

My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. Farmers are central to delivering the Government’s environmental and climate targets, alongside their core role as food producers. The net-zero growth plan, government food strategy and environmental improvement plan set out a range of specific improvements to support farmers on their journey to net zero. Environmental land management is the foundation of our new approach. Our schemes will pay for sustainable farming practices, which are an important step towards achieving our net-zero goals.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and I appreciate the progress being made, but years on from the passing of the Agriculture Act and the Environment Act, farm owners and landowners are constrained by the absence of many of the basic details on the new schemes. Despite many questions and consultations, we still have no decisions on the tax implications for income tax, VAT and inheritance tax. Current uncertainty over the taxation impacts of ELMS, biodiversity net gain and carbon farming in general is a major obstacle for farmers to take up these schemes. This is exacerbated by the need to commit to 30 years or more for BNG. In successful farming, timeliness is godliness. Will the Minister introduce this mantra to Defra and its dealings with the Treasury, and announce the policy?

I thank the noble Lord. We are doing a lot with farmers to encourage them to farm sustainably, in a way that locks up carbon and rewards them for doing so. I refer him to Nature Markets: A Framework for Scaling Up Private Investment in Nature Recovery and Sustainable Farming, which shows land managers precisely how they can access high-integrity carbon and biodiversity credits markets, which will provide income for them and do what we want; and to our environmental land management schemes, which will lock up carbon. The noble Lord asked a specific question on tax. We have resolved some of the issues and have ongoing discussions with the Treasury. It is vital that we incentivise farmers in every way to help them hit net zero and help us as a society.

My Lords, I pay tribute to Minette Batters, the current president of the National Farmers’ Union, who is in her last year in that post. The challenges of the farming industry have been enormous in recent years, not only in relation to net zero but much more widely. Can the Minister therefore say today that assistance will be given whenever necessary to encourage more people to enter the farming profession, and to help those farmers who meet these challenges day in, day out?

I second my noble friend’s kind words about Minette Batters; she has been an extraordinary leader of the farming sector. In a single act of great courage and determination, she committed English farming under her leadership to get to net zero by 2040. That is a challenge for the Government and for her members, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that the NFU’s ambition and the Government’s align.

The basic payment scheme is due to be wound down next year and, as I understand it, the cross-compliance rules, such as not maintaining hedgerows between 1 March and 31 August to enable nesting birds and other wildlife to thrive, may go. Can the Minister tell us which, if any, of these cross-compliance rules will be retained? Does he agree that there is little point in chasing carbon goals if our countryside is dead and silent?

The noble Baroness says something is so when it is not. There are so many rules to prevent farmers removing hedgerows. There are cross-compliance measures within ELMS, which will replace the basic payment scheme. I do not know where she got that information, and I wish other members of her party at the other end would stop saying this because it is not true.

I, too, pay tribute to Minette Batters. She has been an extraordinary leader, and these Benches support all the work she has done to bring farming towards net zero. We know that the use of smart technologies and more efficient equipment can help farmers reduce their environmental impact, whether that is through reduced emissions, improved yields or reducing damage to natural habitats. However, many farmers are struggling to make ends meet and the cost of borrowing has increased greatly in recent times, which makes new equipment out of reach financially for many farmers. What assessment have the Government made of the potential role for farming co-operatives in acquiring and sharing such equipment, and what role would the Minister see for his department in this area?

There has been a great increase in machinery rings, whereby farmers work together to share equipment. That has reduced their fixed costs and assisted with their working capital. Defra is assisting farmers through our £270 million Farm Innovation Fund, including £15 million to assist farmers in putting solar panels on their barns. However, there is much more we can do to help innovation. Earlier my noble friend made a point about encouraging younger people into farming, who understand the technologies that are available and embrace them. They need to feel that they are assisted by government and the agricultural education sector, and that there are grants available to help them work together to use innovations that reduce their carbon footprint but also help with their bottom line.

My Lords, I want to ask a specific question of detail on carbon. I am increasingly receiving messages of concern about the lack of a national standard in the calculation of carbon. Different farming systems and different models are producing different results. The industry is crying out for clarity. We need a national standard for the calculation of carbon on different livestock systems but also for the calculation of soil carbon. What is the department doing to try to resolve this dynamic?

The noble Lord has great experience in this field. He is right that there are a great many tools available for use by farmers and their advisers to support on-farm calculations and audits. The Government and I share his concern because a number of those tools differ widely in their complexity and underlying methodology. We are therefore working at pace to find the most credible and consistent on-farm tools to assist farmers to understand their baselines and thereby to prove additionality, so that they can actively seek carbon credits and biodiversity credits, which will help them to hit net zero and their income accounts.

My Lords, everyone, including farmers, has to be committed and involved in attempting to achieve net zero. This year the Government turned away farmers from their higher-tier countryside stewardship and landscape recovery schemes. Those farmers were ambitious to cut greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature to the land. In future, is Defra likely to encourage farmers, rather than discouraging them from playing their part in cutting GHG?

I do not know where these stats come from. We have doubled the number of farmers in countryside stewardship. When we increased the rates two years ago, the number of farmers entering countryside stewardship doubled. I do not know where the noble Baroness is getting these figures.

My Lords, farmers up and down the land, along with a lot of other people, will be breathing a sigh of relief because, apparently, later on today we are going to look again at the policies on net zero and, hopefully, will remove all those nonsenses from it and try to make some sense of it, which has not been done so far. When the Minister talks to farmers, could he please ask them to keep growing barley, not bulrushes, and remind them that, as well as keeping up conservation, as they must, their first job is to make sure that the nation is fed?

I agree. There is no dichotomy here at all. As the food strategy shows, on the poorest fifth of land we produce less than 1% of the calories we need. So there is plenty of room out there to do what is necessary to restore nature, which is depleted to historically low levels, which we want to see reversed by 2030. We want farmers to get to net zero, which is fundamentally important. We should all be proud that this country is a leader in promoting net zero by 2050 and passing a Climate Change Act. There are plenty of possibilities for farmers to continue to produce food off land that is productive, as well as to restore nature and to get to net zero using the land that is less productive.

Migrants: Barges


Tabled by

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether adequate provisions have been implemented to prevent the spread of infections on barges used to house migrants.

On behalf of my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

I can assure both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that the health and welfare of individuals in asylum accommodation, including vessels, is our utmost priority. The Home Office has worked throughout with the UK Health Security Agency on the management of contagious diseases and the policies relating to that, particularly in respect of vessels. Medical facilities and isolation rooms on board have been designed by local NHS services, with UKHSA input.

My Lords, the data from Dorset Council discovered that the legionella strain found on the “Bibby Stockholm” was the most deadly. Public health officials remain concerned that the Government, by doubling the number of asylum seekers on the boat, put them at risk of infectious diseases that spread very fast in overcrowded places, such as diphtheria, scabies and gastroenteritis, all issues that have been found at Manston and other places. Can the Minister confirm that the legionella was successfully removed and that the Home Office will follow public health advice about the number of people kept in places to reduce disease spread caused by overcrowding?

I can confirm that the Home Office went above and beyond the UKHSA’s initial advice in managing the legionella situation, which was to have no new arrivals to the “Bibby Stockholm”, and decided to evacuate the barge immediately. We have robust and well-rehearsed processes in place across the government estate to test for legionella bacteria and it is not unusual to identify it in water systems, which is why they are subject to regular testing.

My Lords, has the Minister had the opportunity to consider, at least initially, yesterday’s devastating report from the public inquiry into the scandal that is Brook House detention centre? I will not waste your Lordships’ time with the details, but they are worth a read. Has he had the opportunity to read the published remarks of His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, and his comments about how he has been thwarted by Home Office Ministers in doing his job of independent review? I am sure that noble Lords would be grateful for a response.

As the noble Baroness well knows, sadly this Question is limited to the adequacy of the implementation of measures to spread infection on barges.

The Companion is quite clear. I am afraid I will not be drawn on the Brook House inquiry report in this session.

My Lords, if, as the Minister says, there are robust measures to ensure the health and well-being of people put on barges, why were a number of refugees and asylum seekers put on the barges before the health measures were in place?

The health measures were in place, and it was only at a very late stage that the Home Office was made aware of the findings of Dorset Council. At that time, as I say, the Home Office decided to go beyond the recommended position from the UKHSA, which was not to put any more migrants on the barge, and instead to evacuate it, which was surely the responsible thing to do.

My Lords, will the Minister take on board—no pun intended—the concern for not only the asylum seekers who were subjected to this but Home Office officials, and presumably contractors, who must also have been exposed to the legionella?

As I said in my initial Answer, one of our paramount concerns is the health and welfare of migrants and our staff. I can reassure the House that no one has contracted legionnaires’ disease as a result of the finding of this presence in the water supply.

My Lords, the barge is only one solution to the growing numbers who need to be accommodated. What provision of healthcare is being considered at MoD sites such as Wethersfield and, potentially, Scampton? Will GPs be on site and what all-round healthcare will there be to ensure that those resident there are kept safe?

I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate for that question. One of the great advantages of the utilisation of large sites and barges for the housing of migrants is that specific contracting can be provided for the provision of healthcare for migrants. I can reassure him that there is a GP service available to all the residents of the large sites. A nurse is present routinely throughout the week at various times. The health of the migrants is, as I say, something the Home Office takes very seriously. Furthermore, the provision by contract on these large sites prevents the utilisation of local GP resources in the environs of the large sites, either at Wethersfield or for the barge in Dorset.

My Lords, what confidence can this House have in the Government’s efforts to contain the spread of infectious diseases on barges when the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, referred to by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, has had his contract terminated because he has been too critical of the Government’s policy? I will tell the Minister one thing: it is not the inspector’s contract that needs terminating.

As I replied to the noble Baroness, that is a long way from the topic of infection on barges. The term of office of the chief inspector was time limited. It is clearly open to the Home Secretary not to renew the appointment.

My Lords, can the Minister explain this to me, because I have not really understood it? Presumably the Government instituted health checks before any migrants were put on that boat, so why was it only the Dorset Council review that threw up these very negative findings? If the Government did not know about this, why did they respond to it so quickly?

My Lords, I understand that one of the reasons for trying to house these migrants on the barge is to try to reduce the costs on the Government as far as this whole episode is concerned. Will my noble friend tell me what budget the costs for this project and other projects come from?

My noble friend is absolutely right. Presently, the hotel bill for migrants is in excess of £8 million per day. It is vital that the use of hotels is drawn down and stopped as swiftly as possible. I can reassure my noble friend that the budget is there in the Home Office for the accommodation of migrants. It is equally important that the taxpayer obtains value for money.

My Lords, as the Minister has ruled that this Question is about barges only, once it is clear that the barges are safe and there is no danger to health, can he arrange for one of them to be brought up the Thames and moored outside the Houses of Parliament to provide accommodation to Peers from outwith London who are finding that the escalating costs of hotels in London is using up all our daily attendance allowance?

I have a certain sympathy for the noble Lord’s point. I can reassure him that the use of barges to house asylum seekers is done routinely by our friends in Europe. The German Government housed asylum seekers on this very barge between 1995 and 1998. The Dutch and Belgian Governments have equally done so. The standard of accommodation is high. The noble Lord will recall that the Scottish Government housed Ukrainian asylum seekers on two vessels in Scotland. I think that one of those vessels, the MS “Victoria”, was used to house policemen during the Olympics. This is civilised living accommodation, and clearly I shall inform the Port of London Authority of the noble Lord’s suggestion.

My Lords, can the Minister confirm the cost of the barge sitting there empty at the moment? Reports are that it is about £50,000 a week. Can he confirm whether that is the case, and can he say, for the cost of that, how many immigration officers could be employed to clear the backlog?

I can reassure the noble Baroness that the correct due diligence and financial assessments are carried out and reviewed regularly to ensure that all vessels progressed for asylum accommodation provide value for money to the taxpayer. There is, of course, an intangible benefit, which is that by emptying the hotels we return them to their proper use for the benefit of the communities where they are located. As my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister has repeatedly made clear, it is a problem across the House that these hotels are not in use for their normal purpose, and it is very important that they are emptied as swiftly as possible.

Iran: Prisoner Swap


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of the United States on the implications for United Kingdom and global security of the proposed prisoner swap deal between that government and the government of Iran.

My Lords, we welcome the end of the detainees’ horrific ordeal at the hands of the Iranian regime, including the UK-US-Iranian tri-national Mr Tahbaz and his family. The UK was not a party to the negotiations between the US and Iran, but we were in close touch with US authorities throughout. Iran’s use of detention for political gain must cease. We will continue to work with the US and other international partners to end Iran’s abhorrent detention practices.

I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. The released hostages and their families will of course cherish their freedom, but are the Government not concerned that the true cost may be much higher than the $6 billion now being made available to Iran? Does this not effectively reward the regime for hostage diplomacy and make it more likely that it will repeat its atrocities? Given Iran’s sophisticated network of front companies, how can there be genuine safeguards on preventing that cash being used by the IRGC to maintain and expand its regime of terror at home and abroad, where of course it is targeting UK nationals?

The noble Lord asks some very important questions. By seeking to use foreign nationals as bargaining chips, the regime’s leaders are fatally undermining Iran’s credibility on the world stage. It remains in Iran’s gift to release any foreign nationals who have been unfairly detained; we will continue to urge Iran and any country that arbitrarily detains people to release them immediately. The UK was not a party to negotiations between the US and Iran in this case, but the US maintains that the released funds will never enter Iran nor pass on to Iranian companies or entities but will be available only for humanitarian goods and transactions with non-Iranian-vetted third parties.

My Lords, the Foreign Affairs Committee in the other place produced an excellent report in the summer on hostage diplomacy and argued very strongly for the creation of an arbitrary and complex detentions director, organising cross-government action and cutting through the silos that we know exist, as the chair said. Alicia Kearns said that she was

“disappointed that there was a lack of meaningful engagement with this proposal”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/7/23; col. 377WH.]

Will the Government think again and look seriously at this proposal?

I thank the noble Lord for his question and reference to the report. The Government were grateful to the Foreign Affairs Committee for its report and considered its recommendations in detail. We are committed to learning from the experiences of victims of arbitrary detention. The Government do not agree that we should establish a separate post of director for arbitrary and complex detentions. Our approach reflects the Foreign Secretary’s primacy within Cabinet as the Secretary of State with responsibility for foreign affairs, including consular affairs, with direct access to the Prime Minister. Our approach to the governance and leadership of complex cases also reflects the dual premium we place on country-specific expertise and consular best practice. Relevant senior geographic leaders may lead our diplomatic response to complex detentions, such as those in Iran, working with the director for consular services, who is responsible for consistency of approach. We regularly compare this approach with best practice in other countries.

My Lords, following on from the question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, clearly, it is excellent that Morad Tahbaz has been released. He should have been released last year with the two others who were released then; that was what was expected. However, as in his case, the Government keep the families at arm’s length. I know this very well. There are very uninformative meetings about them, and the Government are very passive when it comes to demanding consular visits and the ability to attend trial hearings. In the light of the Minister’s answer to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, which is that he will not take forward that proposal, what action the Government are taking in relation to Mehran Raoof, who has been detained for three years in Iran, and Mr Abd el-Fattah, who has been detained in Egypt for almost four years?

I thank the noble Baroness for that question. We are supporting the family of British-Iranian national, Mr Mehran Raoof, detained in Iran since October 2020. His health and welfare remain a top priority. It remains entirely within Iran’s gift to release any British national who has been unfairly detained. The Foreign Office and the consulate continue to support all families and are available 24/7. If the noble Baroness has a particular instance that she would like to raise, I will be more than happy to take that further with her after today.

My Lords, is not this the latest example of where the international community has accorded the ayatollahs the dignity of being a sovereign state and been repaid with the export of violence? Iran has continued to sponsor terrorist militias in central Asia, in Lebanon, in Gaza and in the Balkans, even striking as far afield as Buenos Aires. Would we not find it better policy to say that we never pay anyone Danegeld, no matter how trifling the cost, for the end of that game is oppression and shame and the nation that plays it is lost?

I thank my noble friend for his comments. The UK is committed to combating the abhorrent practice of using detained British citizens for diplomatic leverage. Our starting point is that any arbitrary detention of a foreign national for diplomatic leverage is unlawful and a grave abuse of human rights.

My Lords, I have long criticised the regime in Iran for its torture and killing of political opponents and its subjugation of women. However, does the Minister agree that its illegal detention of five American hostages is ethically no worse than America’s equally illegal detention of five Iranian hostages and the withholding of $6 billion of Iranian assets? In that context, will noble Lords applaud the example of Justin Trudeau in unequivocally stating that he puts the human rights of Canadian citizens before any shabby trade deals or considerations of strategic interest?

The UK was not a party to those negotiations between the US and Iran. We are in regular touch with US authorities and regularly engage the US Administration to co-ordinate our foreign policy approaches, including our response to Iran’s unjustifiable detention of our nationals. This is a shared priority of both the US and UK Governments.

My Lords, as President Raisi shamefully got to his feet to address the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, the world sat silently. Only Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador, stood up holding a picture of Mahsa Amini, brutally murdered by the regime one year ago. Where is our moral compass? While the US handing billions of dollars to the regime is concerning, as the noble Lord, Lord Walney, said, at least the US has correctly proscribed the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. We proscribed Hezbollah, which is a state actor in Lebanon, so will my noble friend go back to the department and urge it to act immediately?

I thank my noble friend for his question, which I will certainly take back to the department. I will say, however, that we have already sanctioned the IRGC in its entirety. The separate list of terrorist organisation proscriptions is kept under review. We do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. We have a range of tools at our disposal; this is about using the most effective measures to curb Iran’s destabilising activity.

My Lords, the Minister talked about the exemplary approach by the Foreign Office to these people who were tragically held in Iran. How does that stack up against the way in which it behaved when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in jail for many years? We accepted that we owed the Iranians £400 million, which we refused to pay for many years, and the then Foreign Secretary made a complete mess of it by suggesting that her purpose in visiting her relatives in Iran was different. That was not in her best interests. Surely, the Foreign Office has a lot to answer for in how that was handled. I hope we have learned the lessons.

I thank the noble Lord for his question. Clearly, the Foreign Office continues to monitor situations and to learn lessons. As I said earlier, it is important for us to learn from best practice around the world and we will continue to do that. In the end, we want to make sure that British nationals and their families are looked after by the Foreign Office and our various consulates around the world.

Climate Change Policies

Private Notice Question

Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what changes they plan to make to the UK’s climate change policies.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, and in so doing declare my interest as chair of Peers for the Planet.

My Lords, the UK is leading the world on climate change. We are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements that we have made internationally. The Prime Minister will make a statement on this issue later this afternoon.

My Lords, that really will not do. We have all read what the proposals are. I understand that it is very easy to see on WhatsApp the paper on this issue put to the Cabinet this morning at its emergency meeting. I also understand that the plan was not to have Parliament sitting at all and to make these major announcements on Friday. Instead, because they were leaked, we at least have some opportunity in this House to question the Minister, but I hope he will not hide behind waiting for 4.30 pm, when the Prime Minister will talk to the press and not to Parliament.

In New York today, the UN is underlining that no country has done enough to meet the challenges of climate change, so it is both ironic and depressing that the UK Government are proposing such a damaging retreat from our global leadership position. What is the Minister’s response to the horrified reception these proposals have received from business leaders, who see delaying the transition to net zero as the complete opposite of what they need—ambition, certainty and commitment?

Is it not deeply disingenuous to suggest that rolling back our climate commitments is in the interests of hard-pressed families, when slowing down ambition on home insulation, for example, will only be, as the CEO of E.ON UK put it,

“condemning people to many more years of living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat, in cities clogged with dirty air from fossil fuels, missing out on the economic regeneration this ambition brings”?

Finally, can the Government explain why they are disregarding all the advice from the Treasury, the OBR and others that delays to the actions essential to achieve net zero by 2050—to which the Minister says they are still committed—will make the task more difficult, more chaotic and more expensive?

My Lords, there were a number of questions there. In essence, I think the noble Baroness is asking whether the Government are really committed to net zero. As I said in the original Answer, the answer is yes. More importantly, we have the track record to prove it. The UK has overachieved on all our carbon budgets to date; we have reduced emissions faster than any other major economy; we are home to the first, the second, the third and the fourth-largest offshore wind farms in the world; and renewable power reached a record share of 48% of total generation in the first quarter of 2023. All those matters have been achieved under a Conservative Government. It is our record and we are proud of it.

My Lords, the Climate Change Committee and Chris Skidmore, who was the Government’s own adviser, say that the Government cannot at this moment reach net zero, even before they cut back. Last week, the Government failed the offshore wind industry. This week, it appears that they are making car manufacturers unable to do their jobs. How are this Government going to restore the confidence of investors, businesspeople and the general public that they will stick to their word?

Yet again, the noble Lord is wrong in his statements. As he well knows, we have the largest offshore wind industry in Europe and the second largest in the world. Other European countries are racing to catch up with our record. We have over- achieved in meeting our carbon budgets, and I remind the House that these are legally binding commitments. We are on track to overachieve on carbon budgets 4 and 5. We are also on track to achieve carbon budget 6, which does not start until 2033, so I am afraid the noble Lord’s statements are wrong.

My Lords, it is worth emphasising the comments from Ford UK in its response to today’s news:

“Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three”.

These are not isolated comments; many businesses have made more. Why are the Government content to hurt working people by selling out British business and the long-term future of our economy in this way?

The noble Baroness makes a number of statements before she has even heard what the Prime Minister has to say later; perhaps she might want to read what the Prime Minister actually announces and revise her statements in light of that.

My Lords, the Minister has provided a list of things that all of us have been proud of in the past, but the point is that is the past. This announcement is a tragedy for this nation because that leadership that we had globally, of which we all were proud, is about to disappear. The Prime Minister is likely to say that the target of net zero still exists, which is a fabrication. We know from the Climate Change Committee, the Government’s own adviser, that we are already behind that in terms of policy. This will kill that objective.

We have the IRA in the United States and the green investment plan in the EU. We are now retreating from international investment. The question I ask the Minister is where the investment will come from to get us to net zero, but the question I really want to ask is how come any Ministers are still in the department for net zero. They should have all resigned this morning.

As the noble Lord knows, net zero is a legal commitment imposed on us by Parliament; it is the duty of Ministers to meet that commitment, and we will do so. As I have said, we are currently overachieving on carbon budgets 4 and 5; carbon budget six does not start until 2033. I have sat down with policy officials, and we are confident that we are on track to meet that as well. We are attracting record amounts of inward investment into this country. I talked earlier about the windfarm industry; we could talk about hydrogen or CCUS—the UK is world-leading on all those policies and many global companies are rushing to invest in the UK. Our difficulty is prioritising some of that investment.

My Lords, in responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and a number of others, the Minister has come out with a list of the Government’s claimed achievements. He has not mentioned once the issues of home insulation and energy efficiency, on which the Government’s record is disastrous. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, this means that people are in cold, impossible-to-heat and unhealthy homes. Can the Minister reassure me that we are not going to see back-pedalling this afternoon on home insulation and energy efficiency?

It is always a pleasure to hear from the “noble Green lady”, even though she sounds increasingly red sometimes. I am very happy to talk about our record on home insulation. In 2010, under Labour, 14% of homes had an EPC rating of C or above. It is now almost 50%. Clearly, we need to go further, which is why we are investing £6.5 billion over this Parliament on home upgrade retrofit measures. The Treasury has already committed £6 billion from 2025 onwards—the noble Baroness shakes her head; she should listen to the facts. Last week, I was pleased to announce the Great British insulation scheme— £1 billion over three years. Even if the noble Baroness wishes to, she can apply for it online as we speak.

There is no doubt that His Majesty’s Government have done many good things, and we need all sides of the House to work on this vital area. However, this is not just something which affects some groups; it particularly affects those parts of our nation where air quality is so bad that it is materially affecting the health of many young people and causing huge additional costs to the NHS. What assurances can the Minister give us about the progress of moving to electric cars, to try to make a tangible difference to air quality in our urban areas?

The right reverend Prelate asks a very good question on electric vehicles; let me give him the facts on that. The UK had among the highest battery electric vehicle sales in 2022. We are registering a new EV every 60 seconds. Full-battery EV sales are up 88% year on year. Most of the UK’s emissions cuts have of course come under this Government; we are very proud of our record on electric vehicle sales. We are seeing record investments from BMW, Nissan, Tata and Jaguar Land Rover. Again, the UK has a record we can all be proud of.

My Lords, I hate to disagree with the Minister, but just this morning on the Environment and Climate Change Committee we heard from car manufacturers that they absolutely did not want these targets delayed, because that is what they were doing and they needed that certainty. I have two questions. Does this announcement have anything to do with the ULEZ row that took place at the recent by-election? Secondly, everyone agrees on one thing about climate change: the more you delay, the harder the measures are going to have to be to get us to net zero by 2050, which I am glad the noble Lord still agrees on. Have the Government commissioned the OBR to do a thorough cost analysis of what these delays are going to mean, not for us today but for people in five, 10 and 15 years’ time?

The answer to the noble Baroness’s first question is no. With regard to the OBR, I am not quite sure why the OBR has a role in this. We obviously have our Climate Change Committee which gives the Government advice, but, to be frank, lots of other external organisations send me more advice on this subject every day, so we are not short of helpful academic advice on all the topics under consideration. As I said, we are looking towards the future. The Government are still committed to our legally binding climate change targets. That means sticking to the legally binding carbon budgets that we have overdelivered on, and we are on track to deliver on the next one.

My Lords, it was Nuclear Week in Parliament last week, which showcased a myriad of gigawatt and small, advanced and microgenerating nuclear power. Can my noble friend the Minister reassure me not only that the Government are still committed to investing in nuclear but that they understand the urgency of doing so if the UK is to benefit from both the supply chain and the employment possibilities in areas of the country that desperately need levelling up, such as north Wales?

The noble Baroness has been resolute in her support for nuclear and does a fantastic job in advocating for it. I am very happy to give her the reassurance that she is looking for. Of course, again, the nuclear industry was left to decay under the last Labour Government. We have resumed it through building Hinkley Point, and we are about to take a final investment decision on Sizewell. I know the noble Baroness is particularly keen on the announcement of Great British Nuclear. These are all contributing towards our climate change goals. Nuclear will provide us with cost-effective, CO-free power for many years into the future.

My Lords, the Government have a track record on stuff like this. In 2015, George Osborne cancelled zero-carbon homes about six weeks before it was due to be implemented and when housebuilders had already geared up for its implementation. We lost 10 years of opportunity for net zero-compliant homes and warmer homes for people. The Tory Government have done it again with a major U-turn on their policy on home insulation, boilers and electric vehicles, against the advice of everyone, including the manufacturers and business. What will the Minister say to his colleague, Chris Skidmore, who did the net-zero review for the Government? He came to the conclusion that not enough was being done and is incandescent with rage at the likely announcements this afternoon. What is plan B when we are going to lose another 10 years on the path to net zero?

We will not lose another 10 years on the path to net zero. I outlined our policies earlier. For the sake of repeating them again, we are still committed to net zero and to meeting the carbon budgets; we have an excellent record. We are committed to meeting the 2050 target. We will continue to advance on that path, but we will do so in a fair and proportionate manner that takes people with us rather than by imposing things on them.

My Lords, a third of all emission reductions to get us to our net-zero target will need to be made by people adopting new technologies, choosing new products and services or going for less carbon-intensive consumption. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, all the evidence to our committee’s EV, boiler upgrade and behaviour change inquiries showed that what people and industry want is policy certainty, consistency and clear leadership from the Government. In the clear absence of those this afternoon —as I am sure we will see—how on the earth will the Government achieve their net-zero goals?

The key phrase in the noble Baroness’s question was people choosing green alternatives. We want to help them to do that, and we want them to do it voluntarily. We want to make the choices attractive, which is why we provide incentives for insulation schemes. I refer once again to the Great British insulation scheme that I announced last week, which offers £1 billion over three years to help people in council tax bands A to D to upgrade their homes. If the noble Baroness has a little patience, in the next 20 minutes she will be able to listen to the Prime Minister and I think that she will find at least some announcements that she will like pertinent to some of her recent inquiries.

Hereditary Peers By-election


The Clerk of the Parliaments announced the result of the by-election to elect two hereditary Peers, in place of Lord Palmer and Lord Hylton.

Twenty-three Lords submitted valid ballots. A notice detailing the results is available in the Printed Paper Office and online. The successful candidates were Lord Meston and Lord De Clifford.

There is always the possibility.

My Lords, that was the result of a Cross-Bench hereditary Peers by-election. It could only happen in this place; try explaining it to anyone outside this House. Try it on the schools programme as an A-level level question: “Describe the constitutional significance of the Cross-Bench hereditary Peers by-elections”. We have a long way to go before that will make sense to anyone outside this place, and I doubt whether, as much as we are proud of our constitution, anyone would want to copy it anywhere else.

In the past, the Cross-Benchers produced the most thrilling by-election result in this whole 20-year saga. I will just remind the House of the by-election result that took place just a year ago. There were 21 valid votes; the winning candidate got 11 votes and the runner-up 10. It does not get more exciting than that; it is the most marginal seat. However, I cannot give any more detail about this by-election because of the same old problem. It is not the clerk’s fault, but we should get a bit more information about these by-elections to go in Hansard when the results come out. We should have some figures. We want subsequent generations to be able to read it and ponder what on earth it was all about.

However, I can say a couple of things. First, at this by-election there was an electorate of 32, all men. The turnout, as we have just been told, was 23, so there was about a 75% turnout. There were 13 candidates, all men. I will make just a couple of observations about some of the candidates, who never cease to provide material. One of them has been trying now for 13 years to be successful in one of these elections; this is his 16th attempt. The last attempt he made a couple of years ago did not result in him getting any votes. I have nothing but admiration for that. If you have lost as many elections as I have over the years, to keep going for 13 years and 16 attempts is terrific. Another candidate has been trying for just 10 years—this was his seventh attempt. However, there is a remarkable little history here: of those seven attempts, one was to be a Cross-Bencher, one to be a Conservative and one to be a Lib Dem. Presumably he is now waiting for a Labour vacancy.

I like to end on a happy note, and I have some really good news for the 11 candidates who were unsuccessful in this by-election. There are two more by-elections in the pipeline, and they have to be held within three months—that is the maximum time allowed. So, with a fair wind, a couple of the losers today could be with us by Christmas.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Meston and Lord De Clifford, and hope they contribute well to this House, notwithstanding the excellent and amusing comments of the noble Lord Grocott. I will also say—I am not a hereditary Peer myself—that the hereditary element in this House, elected now in some quaint way, in fact contributes a great deal more than many of us life Peers.

Business of the House

Motion on Standing Orders

Moved by


(1) Standing Order 38(9) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be suspended until the end of the Session so far as is necessary to allow His Majesty’s Government to arrange questions for short debate; and

(2) Standing Order 40 (Postponement and advancement of business) be suspended until the end of the Session so far as is necessary to allow His Majesty’s Government to arrange business.

My Lords, it might be useful if, in moving this Motion, I set out more about its intended use. It is commonplace for there to be greater flexibility in how business progresses towards the end of a Session. This Motion seeks to facilitate just that and to ensure that the best use can be made of any time in the Chamber until the end of the Session.

After Conference Recess—I wish all noble Lords a very happy and enjoyable one—noble Lords will be asked to consider various messages from the House of Commons relating to amendments on legislation. There are often long delays in that process. The temporary changes in this Motion will ensure that we are able to schedule important debates alongside ongoing consideration of legislation, particularly if there are any pauses in proceedings while messages are received or awaited.

The Motion therefore proposes two temporary changes in how businesses are arranged. First, it will allow Questions for short debate to be scheduled between other pieces of business rather than just at the end of the day or during dinner breaks. Secondly, it will enable businesses to be brought forward on any one day with the purpose of filling any gaps that emerge during ping-pong if noble Lords are awaiting messages from the House of Commons. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

Restoration and Renewal Programme Board

House of Lords Commission

Membership Motions

Moved by

Restoration and Renewal Programme Board

That this House has considered the Commons message of 12 September, and

(1) notes the report from the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords Commission on the membership of the Restoration and Renewal Programme Board, HL Paper 241, dated 6 September 2023; and

(2) agrees with the Commons that Dr Michèle Dix should be appointed as an external member of the Board.

House of Lords Commission

That Charlotte Moar be appointed as an external member of the Select Committee, in place of Mathew Duncan.

My Lords, the first Motion invites the House to appoint Dr Michèle Dix as the fourth external member of the Restoration and Renewal Programme Board. Noble Lords may recall that the House approved the appointment of the membership of the programme board in February this year, including three external members. The report proposing those appointments recommended that there should be up to four external members. In May, the programme board agreed to recruit a fourth external member with specific experience of major programmes, particularly during the development phase. The proposed appointment of Dr Michèle Dix has been unanimously agreed by the Restoration and Renewal Client Board, which comprises the House of Lords and House of Commons Commissions. Further information about Dr Dix’s extensive experience and the recruitment process is set out in the report to your Lordships, which the House is also invited to note.

The second Motion in my name invites the House to appoint Charlotte Moar as an external member of the House of Lords Commission, in place of Mathew Duncan, who was an external member for the past six years. Ms Moar will bring a range of public and voluntary sector non-executive experience to the commission. The proposed appointment was unanimously agreed by the commission after a fair and open recruitment process. I beg to move.

My Lords, perhaps I may make just a short point on the appointment of Dr Dix. I very much welcome and agree with the appointment. However, I wonder why, at paragraph 12, the report to the House has the following line:

“All the candidates were required to provide written declarations regarding past political activity and potential conflicts of interest”.

I understand why it mentions potential conflicts of interest; I do not understand why it mentions political activity. If they are experts, whether they are Conservative, Labour or Liberal should have no bearing whatever on their suitability for appointment. It is one of the crazy sorts of things that is, at the moment, for ever guiding the House about political activity. I hope that that can in future be put right.

I also have slight concern that we are appointing Dr Dix for just three years, because at the rate of progress on restoration in this place, she will not have seen a single project start. We have been going on for over 12 months, approving or changing the entrance to the Peers’ Lobby. Three years will not see her seeing through any of these projects. This is a vast project, and it would do well from having continuity of people involved, not constantly changing them. The continuity will be helped by them having the authority of not wondering about being reappointed in two or two and a half years’ time. I see that this appointment could be extended for another three years. I just hope that, by the end of Dr Dix’s appointment, we have started to see some of the restoration of this place that is so desperately needed to protect a valuable and treasured building, not only in the United Kingdom but in the world.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, has made some sound points, and I am certainly intrigued. I obviously saw paragraph 12. I will make inquiries as to the reference that candidates

“were required to provide written declarations regarding past political activity”.

I am assuming that this is a normal course of events with appointments, but the noble Lord makes an interesting point.

Dr Dix has clearly been appointed because of her considerable experience in very large management scenarios, of which this will be almost unique in its complexity. It is absolutely important that we get the right people on the programme board to assist us.

I also note the point about the appointment being for three years. It is usual to have a three-year term with a possible extension for a further three years, as the noble Lord noted. Clearly, this will be a very long project, and we will have to think not only about retaining collective memory but about fresh experience.

The noble Lord made another important point that all of us responsible in this generation need to reflect on. It is very clear that we have this great responsibility and need to do the right thing for this building, not just for those of us in this Chamber but for many people in this country and beyond who see it as iconic of values that are sadly diminishing in many parts of the world. I will take those points on board.

I thought I would take this opportunity to remind noble Lords that the delivery authority’s annual progress report will be subject to debate in Grand Committee. I hope many people will sign up to it because, as the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, commented, this building is not simply about facilities for noble Lords and MPs; it represents this country’s values globally as well as domestically.

I am remiss. The noble Lord is correct. I am delighted that his name is on the speakers’ list. The debate will be at 4.15 pm on 18 October in the Moses Room. I warmly welcome Members to come to capacity, not only to listen but to contribute, because we clearly have a shared interest in this extraordinary building.

Motions agreed.

Public Charge Point Regulations 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 11 July be approved.

Relevant document: 48th Report from Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 13 September.

My Lords, I wish to say something about the regulations before we approve them. I speak as an electric car driver. I note that it has taken about five years for this House to come near to installing a couple of points.

The regulations are welcome, but they are only a tiny step forward. We will not be able to persuade the public to take up electric vehicles when the charging and the infrastructure are so lacking. These regulations do very little to improve the situation. They will not apply to anything that has less than an 8 kilowatt charge, workplace charge points, points for a specific car make, or use by a visitor to residential premises or micro-businesses. They do not apply to blocks of flats and they exclude slow charge points. They will take us only a step forward towards contactless. Most people, if they use charge points, still have to go around with a wallet full of membership cards of different organisations.

In the spirit of the Question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, earlier, will the Government promise that there will be more pressure to bring on board uniform electric charging points all over the country speedily?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for intervening. She reiterated the same points that she made when this statutory instrument was debated in the Moses Room. I covered all the points she raised in my response; noble Lords might want to look at that. I very much hope that she will listen to the Prime Minister’s statement in a few minutes time and feel reassured that the Government are absolutely behind zero-emission vehicles and recognise the need to build the infrastructure such that uptake is ever increasing.

Motion agreed.

Airports Slot Allocation (Alleviation of Usage Requirements) (No. 2) Regulations 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 18 July be approved.

Relevant document: 49th Report from Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 19 September.

My Lords, I would like to ask a brief question on this matter. As your Lordships will be aware, there have recently been two terrible disasters in Morocco and Libya. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that the slots required for emergency supplies for those disasters were made available at the right time at both Heathrow and Gatwick?

I can confirm that slots were available. In these circumstances, ad hoc slots are available during the day. The Government are not responsible for slot allocation; however, there are mechanisms in place such that those flights get slots.

Motion agreed.

Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2023

Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) (Amendment) Order 2023

Motions to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations and Order laid before the House on 28 June and 12 July be approved.

Relevant documents: 47th and 48th Reports from Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 13 September.

Motions agreed.

Windsor Framework (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 4 September be approved.

Relevant document: 51st Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument). Considered in Grand Committee on 19 September.

Motion agreed.

Family Migration (Justice and Home Affairs Committee Report)

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the Report from the Justice and Home Affairs Committee All families matter: An inquiry into family migration (1st Report, HL Paper 144).

My Lords, I am sorry to have driven so many Members away. I should declare my interests: I have introduced Bills on family reunion; I chaired an APPG inquiry that reported in 2013 on the then new rules; and I am a trustee of a charity that assists asylum seekers into university education.

We had a choice of quotes to introduce this report, many of them from senior politicians stressing that family is the bedrock of society. We chose this article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

We found that many families are not protected. This begs the question, what is “family” in the 2020s? We were clear that it is more than the traditional nuclear family of two adults plus two children. Blended families, for instance, may include children from previous relationships. In many cultures, the concept of “family” is very wide, with corresponding responsibilities to family members. The world has shrunk in terms of accessibility and experience, and relationships reflect that.

The principle of the importance of family has fallen foul of current political narratives. The Home Office takes the view that it is a matter of choice if a family cannot be together because of the rules or, as it puts it, whether a family decide to separate. In 2013, I heard a British citizen be told on a radio call-in to go and live in his wife’s country. As he said, “There’s not much call for mortgage broking in Nigeria”.

There is no consistent definition of “family” or “relative” across the immigration pathways. The Government have created bespoke pathways in response to different situations rather than applying one set of principles. Naturally, this causes confusion and resentment. Where there is an apparently family-friendly policy, it is often undermined or negatived by practice and by practical realities, especially the costs—in particular, fees and the health surcharge, which are now rising to considerably more than when they were mentioned in our evidence, as they were frequently.

Of course, the rules barely touch the sides in terms of parliamentary scrutiny. Ministers respond to criticisms of their being too restrictive by saying that, where there are compelling and compassionate factors, we can exercise discretion to grant leave outside the rules. That means uncertainty and unfairness; it also infringes on one of Lord Bingham’s tenets of the rule of law. It is hard not to regard the evidence that the committee received as compelling and requiring a compassionate response.

That is certainly the case where children are concerned. The “best interests of the child” are not just a matter of compassion; they are part of our law. A child’s interests are not paramount, but no other consideration can be treated as inherently more significant. I suggest that the Home Office forgets this last bit; they are not systematically integrated into immigration law. Family law and the family courts deal with these things much better, as they do in recognising the range of people—step-parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts—who are important to a child.

The Islington Law Centre told us:

“We have observed the incredible transformation that young people go through after being reunited with family”.


“experience a dramatic upturn in their mental health”


“are finally able to focus on their future”.

According to other evidence from professionals on the impact of separation from parents on children, adolescents and young people who have experienced human rights abuses, they are

“vulnerable to symptoms of complex post traumatic stress disorder and developmental difficulties in addition to centrally difficulties in the process of mourning, separation and loss”.

In theory, adult relatives have a pathway to join family in the UK if they need support, but the eligibility requirements are almost impossibly strict. No wonder they are regarded not as a pathway but as a ban. To fulfil them, it is unlikely you would be fit to travel. Responsibility and love do not feature.

One witness and her husband worked in the NHS:

“Yes I can arrange carers, help at home in India, but ask any elderly who would they like to spend time with—the love and care from one’s own children cannot be replaced with even the finest carers”.

Another witness said:

“Do I continue to let my mother get increasingly frail and isolated … with her only family half a world away? But the only alternative is to uproot my family, depriving my son of his links with cousins and maternal grandparents, forcing my wife not to see her aging parents and to abandon her successful career here (not to mention my own)”.

A requirement for an adult dependent relative visa is that the sponsor in the UK must undertake to provide for the applicant’s maintenance, accommodation and care for five years, and confirm that the applicant will not have recourse to public funds. The catch is that if they can do that, they can afford to pay for “care” abroad, which in many places must go in quotation marks because of poor standards and even abuse. Given the undertaking, why are the Government so unyielding on the cost to the state?

This is one of the rules which keeps families out of the UK and loses us valuable members of society, when middle-aged people decide they must leave to care for parents. Notably, it is why non-British citizens working in healthcare are lost to it. As of last November, non-British citizens made up 16.5% of the NHS workforce and 37% of hospital doctors. Can we afford to lose them? We deter the very people we need as part of our labour force and who would contribute to our society. I am sure others will mention postgraduate students.

The impact of the minimum income requirement for spouses and partners is considerable, and that cohort will increase because EU and EEA citizens who are not settled now fall within the rules. Let us not forget pensioners living abroad with a foreign partner who want to return. I have heard shock, distress, anger and outrage: “Is this how my country treats me?”

Women who would sponsor a partner may be at a particular disadvantage because women tend to earn less. Non-British partners who are high earners outside the UK do not have their earnings taken into account.

A partner may be faced with remaining abroad with a child or leaving the child. In 2015 the Children’s Commissioner estimated that up to 15,000 children were separated from a parent by the income requirement. We heard of a child whose mental health was so affected that she was hospitalised. She recovered when her father was able to join her and her mother in the UK after two years.

We heard a lot about

“overly strict, inflexible and very onerous”

evidential requirements for resources to count. The MIR was introduced to promote social cohesion and protect public finances. It fails—a view that the Migration Advisory Committee has recently indicated it shares.

I remember a gentleman who was living in a low-wage area with a disabled daughter who needed a lot of care, so his ability to work was restricted. He remarried to a teacher who could have shared that care and contributed to the household income. He did not reach the MIR, so they made do with her visiting. She was then refused entry because the immigration officer did not believe she would leave. She was sent to Harmondsworth, where she collapsed. There is a culture of disbelief. We recommend a rebuttable presumption in favour of applications to visit close family and the reintroduction of a right of appeal.

Let it not be said, although the Government say it, that contact online is an adequate substitute. How can it be if a child thinks that daddy has no legs because they are not visible on the screen? We heard that:

“Staying in touch online has been a crutch, a necessary evil that we hold onto, like onto a straw while drowning. It certainly does not allow actual relationship to develop and bloom”.

Child refugees cannot sponsor family members to join them. The UK is one of two outliers in Europe on this. We reject the notion of a pull factor and accept evidence of the huge detrimental impact on children who are refugees. Children need their parents and their siblings, at least. Siblings are very important. We heard distressing evidence, and the obvious point that a child’s family will normally still be in the persecuting state; the child will spend most of their time worrying about their family’s safety.

We did not call for comments on Home Office procedures, but we got a great many: about the “punitive” costs, described as some of the highest in the world, which mean some having to choose whose visas in the family can be renewed, or falling off the route to settlement because the fees are unaffordable. We heard how poor the Home Office is at communicating. It is nowhere near proactive. It fails to meet its own standards. The descriptions sounded like the worst of call centres; if you email, you get a standard reply, no matter the question. Ask any MP and you hear the same frustrations about failures to respond. The Home Office is its own worst enemy. It could reduce the burden with less frequent requirements for renewal—and I will not start on backlogs.

Even with more time than most speakers have this afternoon, this is inevitably a quick canter around some of our committee’s 61 conclusions and recommendations. We were united in our disappointment at the Government’s uniform—and, frankly, cloth-eared—rejection. I hope the Minister can be less defensive.

My Lords, I draw attention to my interest as a practising solicitor and those declared in the register. Although I am no longer a member of the Select Committee, I am none the less delighted and proud to follow the noble Baroness and to be associated with a notably unanimous report on so contentious a subject. It is now more than 50 years since I incurred the wrath of many in my own party and beyond by publicly opposing Enoch Powell at our party conference and welcoming the brave and controversial decision of the then Heath Government to offer a safe haven to those Ugandan Asians who had shown admirable foresight by retaining their UK passports at the time of independence.

Growing up in Toxteth, in Liverpool 8, I had early experience of a multiracial, multicultural society and have no hang-ups about it at all. Indeed, I welcome and celebrate it. We should be proud of our position as a global leader in diversity. That is not, however, to deny that any sovereign state, in particular an island nation such as ours, has both a right and a responsibility, principally but not exclusively to its own citizens, to police its borders and control immigration. Of course we do, but we have to exercise that right, power and responsibility with clarity, fairness and empathy.

In too much of our political discourse, any display of empathy is now considered to be a sign of weakness. In our response to the illegal occupation of Ukraine by the criminal regime in Russia, we have shown not just characteristic robustness but empathy for the many victims of the ghastly, unnecessary suffering taking place as a direct consequence of Putin’s aggression. Why, then, is so little empathy shown as we consider the plight of other migrants, so many of whom are also fleeing from the most appalling situations?

In this report, specifically in paragraph 40, the committee suggested that

“the Government should revisit existing ‘mainstream’ immigration pathways”

rather than continuing to create a plethora of “bespoke” pathways. Surely that would represent a practical recognition of the sad fact that geopolitical crises are no contemporary aberration. They are now a fact of life and, with the combined effects of political instability and climate change, they are not going to vanish from the scene any time soon.

In paragraph 59, the committee asked why

“the Government has not systematically integrated”


“into its policy and practice”.

That sentiment should not be controversial. In fact, Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 makes it clear that

“the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration”.

If that is the case in family law, why not in immigration law? We can pride ourselves that we are a generous country, or we are nothing.

In response to the Home Office deciding that images of Mickey Mouse were too welcoming for migrant children, a band of cartoonists and writers, including Nick Newman and Tony Husband, are creating a welcome to Britain colouring book about life and culture in Britain to raise the spirits of those children. I congratulate them on their timely and heartwarming initiative.

I will conclude by quoting from the only surviving manuscript believed to be in William Shakespeare’s own hand. There is a speech delivered to a rampaging crowd by Thomas More, the sheriff of London. More asks the rioters to imagine themselves in the shoes of the immigrants they are attacking:

“Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,

Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,

Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation

… would you be pleased

To find a nation of such barbarous temper,

That, breaking out in hideous violence,

Would not afford you an abode on earth”.

At the very least, should we too not occasionally imagine ourselves in the shoes—if they have any—of the desperate souls who want only to find a safe haven, contribute to our way of life and protect their children from danger?

My Lords, it is a genuine pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I should remind the House that he was never known as a Tory wet. The speech he has made this afternoon indicates that in this House, and across parties, we still retain an understanding of the critical importance of our humanity and how we should treat each other internationally as well as locally. I thank him for his speech.

I reinforce the point that the noble Lord made about the unanimity of the committee, on which I have been pleased to serve and will do so for another three months. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on her chairmanship and the resilience that she has shown in being here this afternoon, because I know how ill she has been. I thank her for her words.

I shall reinforce two or three of the points that have been touched on. It is extremely worrying that our Select Committee system, in this House and the other place, is not treated with the respect that would be helpful to the Government and to the health of our democracy in the way that all of us would wish. It is highly unusual for a Government to simply ignore or dismiss all recommendations put forward by a Select Committee. The terms “brush-off” and “cloth-eared”, used by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, are polite when it comes to what can only be described, sincerely, as contempt from the Home Office for anyone, any organisation or any Select Committee that has the temerity even to raise minor criticisms of how it operates.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to the simplification and alignment of different pathways and processes. The rules are applied at the moment in all kinds of contradictory ways that make it difficult for the staff of the Home Office to operate appropriately, not just administratively but in terms of their understanding of the impacts on individuals, and the humanity that goes with that. We also had clear evidence that in local government there was deep confusion about the role that it had to play. That meant that it had to develop an expertise that was not readily available. Although some local authorities shared that expertise, there was little if any understanding by the Home Office about what happens on the ground, at the coalface, for those who face continuing separation and have to deal with the consequences.

We dealt with an issue that has not been touched today: the question of the burden on the “public purse”. It is often said, and often believed, that family reunion will somehow add substantially to the costs for the Government, but we have had clear evidence that, far from doing that, the reunion of families can help directly. If an incoming partner, spouse or other close family member is able to get a job, they can contribute directly and lift other members of the family out of reliance on the public purse. They can also contribute to childcare, which is increasingly expensive. The Government themselves indicated that in their forward programme, in the last Spring Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in terms of the expenditure that we have already in this country.

We all say that we believe in families—all families—and that all families matter. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, that seems to stop when it comes to the genuine uniting of families from across the world. Of course we need rigorous rules and of course they must be enforced both fairly and, often, in a way that can obtain public support and respect for the system, but at the moment that is not the case because of the way in which the rules are drawn up and applied. There is confusion relating to why there should be different rules from those of bespoke pathways. Why were the Government not prepared even to countenance taking a look at how the recommendations might cut costs both at the Home Office and in local government? That might improve the processing system itself, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, we do not have time to deal with today. That could all be run more smoothly while still adhering to the Government’s overall principles in relation to migration.

The report needs to be taken seriously. I hope that at some future juncture it will be possible to pull Government Ministers back to a future Justice and Home Affairs Committee or the Liaison Committee to try to get them to seriously address what was in the report rather than what they thought of in the first place.

My Lords, I want to focus on a particular aspect of family migration: the recruitment of researchers and technicians from overseas, under the global talent and skilled worker visa programmes. I emphasise “recruitment”. Unlike the determination to block immigrants as such, at least part of our current Government positively want to attract large numbers of such talented scientists, technicians and engineers.

The noble Viscount, Lord Camrose, told the House last week, in reiterating the Government’s optimistic claim that they will make the UK a science superpower by 2030—that is to say, in seven years’ time—that

“bringing in overseas talent via the visa system”

is vital to that aim. He added that the number of researchers in key science subjects

“will have to increase by around 380,000, and overseas talent will be a very big piece of that”.—[Official Report, 13/9/23; col. 1008.]

That is what DSIT thinks, as perhaps do the Department for Business and Trade and DfE. The Home Office is pushing hard in the opposite direction.

The visa system is designed to keep families out. It will discourage any applicant with a family from coming. Visa charges have been raised several times in the past 10 years. In addition, an immigration health surcharge was introduced in 2015, initially at a modest £200 a year. This autumn, the health charge will rise from £634 to £1,065 a year, with a discounted rate for children of £776 a year. That is an increase of roughly 400% since 2015. It is payable for an incoming scientist’s partner and children and payable up front, on arrival. Alongside this, the visa charge will be raised by a further 20%, also payable up front on arrival on behalf of the researcher and all their dependants. Someone who has been offered a post at a salary quite likely to be under £50,000 a year will be charged up to £25,000 a year at the point of entry.

The Government have abandoned all pretence that these payments are assessed on the basis of regaining direct costs. The rise in visa charges has been justified by the Home Office as helping to pay for the cost of police forces and border services. The increase in the health charge has been hailed in official government statements as contributing to the cost of offering doctors an increase in pay. These charges are far higher than those imposed by comparable countries with which we are competing for this sort of talent.

We are already in a situation in which graduate students who come to study in this country are pressed to leave their family behind: acceptable perhaps for a nine-month course but agonising for people with partners and children staying much longer. For post-doctoral researchers—precisely the people we want to attract—we are expecting some of the world’s most talented scientists to leave their families behind when they come here to support the UK’s scientific ambitions, or to mortgage their first year’s salary to pay these upfront costs.

Some in government have suggested that universities should pay these extra charges themselves if they really want to attract such talented people, or that grants for research should have to include funds to defray these additional costs—taxing universities and grant-giving foundations to avoid having to pay for public goods out of our own taxes. These people will be paying UK taxes from when they start to work here. In effect, they will be paying twice for health services and, if they want to renew their visa after five years, they will have again to pay a similar amount up front.

This represents a total contradiction in government policy: the Home Office doing all it can to keep talented people out while universities and research centres, with the Government’s active encouragement, are trying to bring them in. I first came across this mess when my son returned from 10 years working in the United States with an American wife. Some of his friends from Cambridge, working in some of the best American universities, decided to stay in the USA because of the way they thought the British Government would treat their American wives and children if they accepted posts back here.

I understand that the Home Office does not always pay much attention to other aspects of government policy. I know that there are many on the right of the Conservative Party who are hostile to universities as hotbeds of leftie intellectuals. They are happy to undermine their finances and unconcerned about universities’ scientific ambitions. But sensible Ministers, such as the noble Lord, Lord Murray, will want their Government to rediscover strategic planning and coherent policy. So I ask the Minister to take this back and tell his colleagues that these increased charges discourage British researchers from returning from abroad and foreign researchers from coming to work here. It is bad enough being nasty to the families of refugees; it is counterproductive to make talented people we want to attract to the country pay through the nose for the privilege of a family life while working here.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for bringing this timely debate to the House. I also pay tribute to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, which the noble Lady chairs, for its thorough and detailed appraisal of this important aspect of migration policy.

In their response to the committee’s report, the Government seek to reassure us that, where applicants can show the required relationship with approved migrants, there is provision for them to be allowed to stay, that the Home Office will recognise where a parent has sole responsibility for a minor and that compassionate visas for extended family members can be granted outside the rules. But the committee’s evidence shows that eligible individuals find numerous obstacles in their way. It may not be the rules that are the issue, but their application. Many of the committee’s recommendations are aimed at achieving better outcomes respecting the rules we have.

The Government also state:

“Extending family reunion without careful thought would … place further pressure on Local Authorities”.

However, local authorities are unduly strained by the present arrangements. From an economic perspective, we know that the benefit of working migrants is overwhelmingly positive for the Exchequer and public services alike. I echo the committee’s view:

“The primary concern of family migration policies should be to allow families to live together. British citizens, permanent residents, and refugees should not normally have to choose between home, safety, and family”.

Our understanding of how families are constituted may be changing, but the significance of family as the cornerstone of our value system is undiminished and widely shared in this country. We have seen how these values drove this country’s response to the war in Ukraine. Through the Loomba Foundation, here I declare an interest; I was pleased to play a part in helping 1,000 Ukrainian mothers fleeing with their children to meet some of their basic needs through our partnership with Barnardo’s last year.

I have seen in many countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and south America, the devastating impact when the breadwinner is lost and the remaining parent is ostracised and cut off from wider family support. Many migrants inevitably find themselves in a similar position. Conversely, British citizens or permanent residents working in key professions choose to leave if they cannot bring their dependants.

In conclusion, my plea to the Government on both humanitarian and practical grounds is to see family not as a threat but as an important part of the solution to mitigate the impacts of migration and to support those for whom we are already responsible and who need it most.

My Lords, I declare my interests as laid out in the register, both with the RAMP project and RESET. I am pleased to speak today following the helpful and insightful report from the Justice and Home Affairs Committee. The concept of family, which we all know is much more than just a societal description—it is a fundamental building block of our communal life as a nation—serves as an excellent basis for the review of migration policy. I refer the Minister to the Love Matters report from the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households, which I co-chaired, which has research on how family is now understood in our nation. I commend my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the committee for their important work.

I shall focus my comments today on family reunification, and particularly its impact on children. As recent debate has focused on channel crossings, this has become a neglected topic, but we must remember that family reunion can transform the lives of those who have already been granted protection as a refugee in the UK and support their integration as they start to rebuild their lives. It therefore remains a mystery to me that the UK, in contravention of legal obligations under both national and international law, still chooses to deprive an unaccompanied child of the right to be reunited with their parents. All EU countries allow separated children this right and, importantly, have not seen an increase in unaccompanied children travelling to Europe as a result. As the committee’s report highlights, there is no evidence that this creates a dangerous pull factor and I find the Government’s response, which is to say that there is a pull factor, a rather inadequate way of responding. So I would ask the Minister: what is stopping His Majesty’s Government, given that the cost of not doing so is the extension of a child’s trauma?

I was recently moved by the account of Wasim, an 11 year-old separated from his parents in the chaos at Kabul airport. He eloquently describes that living without his family is like “living in a desert”, and he says:

“I feel I have no place, I am all alone”.

When will Afghan children such as Wasim, who were evacuated under Operation Pitting and subsequently resettled under pathway 1 of the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme, be given options for reunion with his parents? If his parents are found to have died, why not use kinship care and reunion with appropriate kin?

Restrictive policies should be reformed, but there also needs to be a concerted effort to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of family reunion when a refugee’s circumstances are adequately covered by existing policy. The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration recently commented that, since his 2019 inspection, the effectiveness of the family reunion route “has further deteriorated.” He goes on to say:

“Family Reunion is one of the Home Office’s few safe and legal routes and it is failing those who seek to rely on it”.

Without urgent intervention, the route will become more inaccessible and, worryingly, this may lead to more family members taking the decision to travel irregularly to be reunited. No one should have to choose between safe travel and family. Can the Government confirm what steps they are taking to consider applications within the service standard timescale of 60 days, and how long current applications are taking to complete?

This autumn, the Government are due to consult on safe and legal routes, and I hope that discussion on family reunion will be included in the resulting report. Worryingly, family reunion numbers are at their lowest since 2015—fewer than 5,000 were granted in the year ending June 2023—even though it is one clear way to help reduce the need for people to travel irregularly. Two years on, Wasim has no safe way of being reunited with his parents and many children like him are either prevented from applying for their parents to join them in the UK or are waiting too long in unsafe situations before they can travel here.

As noble Lords would expect, in my role as a Bishop I often pray the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”.

The Government have the power and opportunity to make changes that will reunite families and transform the lives of vulnerable children who are here in the UK and those needing sanctuary. I finish with Wasim’s words about his parents:

“If they could come here I would feel like God has given me a second chance”.

I implore the Government to give this second chance to children.

My Lords, as I was sitting here innocently awaiting my turn to speak, a whisper in my ear said that I would follow the Bishop. It is the entire story of my life as a Methodist minister that I have always been obliged to follow a bishop. I am always glad to follow this particular one, who has persistently argued his case and put the Government in a place where he and we expect answers.

I use the few minutes at my disposal to take an opportunity that is rarely afforded me. I am part of the delegation that represents our Parliament at the Council of Europe. I sit on its migration committee, which commissioned me to write a report to assess the impact of 70 years of the convention on refugees and displaced people from 1951. I did so three years ago, and that report was subsequently endorsed by a full meeting of the parliamentary assembly in Rome in November 2021.

In the work that I did then, I noticed a certain theme that could be traced through all the ups and downs of the migration question in the intervening years. I start by quoting a sentence or two from the decisions of the conference of plenipotentiaries, which met after the ratification of the convention in which the words appear. The conference recommended that the “unity of … the family” should be

“maintained particularly in cases where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country”,

by extending the

“rights granted to a refugee”

to cover all the members of their family and providing special protection for

“refugees who are minors, in particular unaccompanied children and girls”.

That is how it started. The convention itself is of course more ample even than that.

In the report that I wrote and submitted, the following proposal appears:

“The Assembly … notes that recent Council of Europe action plans formulated in the migration sphere, which have focused on the protection of children and vulnerable persons, are set to conclude in 2025. For the period following that date, as part of a succession plan, the Council of Europe … should consider aligning itself with the UNHCR and its ‘Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways’. This strategy has set target figures for resettlement of one million refugees and two million others through complementary pathways such as family reunification or labour mobility schemes—targets to be achieved by 2028. A new pan-European action plan to support resettlement and enhance refugees’ self-reliance in the period from 2025 to 2028”

would allow great benefit to the countries involved. That recommendation was made and accepted.

As a cry of despair, really, I ask the noble Lord the governor—I apologise, I cannot even imagine how I could make such a mistake. I ask the lovely noble Lord the Minister: to what extent, and in what detail, does the Home Office look at what comes out of Strasbourg and use the fact that some of us have been there for the deliberations to engage in discussions on the pithy points being made at the heart of these recommendations? This was unanimously accepted: a pan-European approach to the whole problem, with reunification of families at the very heart of that recommendation.

These arguments were presented and the council deliberated in the shadow of the first of those two wretched Acts—the Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Act. They have robbed our country of its authoritative voice in speaking to these issues in the meetings of the assembly.

My Lords, I wanted to speak in this debate because I strongly believe in the importance of the subject—hence my sponsorship of a Private Member’s Bill on refugee family reunion which has passed this House—and because this admirable report makes a very compelling case for a radical improvement in the rules and practice of the Home Office. I have agreed with all the excellent speeches made so far, including that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee.

Humanity and decency should be at the heart of rights-based family migration policies, but instead we seem to have callousness, even cruelty, combined with slow and cumbersome bureaucracy and inconsistent practices. The Refugee Council verdict is that:

“Many people with protection needs in the UK are struggling to reunite with even their closest family members. This is due to a combination of restrictive policies and operational failures”.

The committee’s report says that

“we … believe that the current rules do not adequately respect the right for families to be together”.

There is also a damning quote from Professor Audrey Macklin of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law:

“What strikes me about the UK system is that it seems to desire to prevent and deter families from living together”.

Amnesty International, the Refugee Council and Save the Children have concluded that the UK’s restrictive policy is in breach of its legal obligations under both national and international law.

If successful settlement, integration and making a full contribution are in the interests of society, as of course they are, then the actions of the Home Office make no sense at all. As the report says:

“We believe … that policies that respect family life also benefit society”.

There is a sheer—even grotesque—political contradiction. The report quotes the Prime Minister as saying that:

“Family runs right through our vision of a better future”,


“Strong, supportive families make for more stable communities”.

I could not agree more, but we want that implemented, because the failure to reunite families has severe consequences for the people who find themselves separated indefinitely from their loved ones. These consequences are particularly acute for children.

I welcome the Labour Party’s pledge to create a system for child refugees in the EU to once again have a facility to join family in the UK. However, we also need to allow refugee children to sponsor family members, which they are not currently eligible to do within the Immigration Rules, with applications “outside the rules” complex, lengthy and frequently unsuccessful.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham described, Afghans evacuated under Operation Pitting and subsequently resettled under pathway 1 of the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme were granted indefinite leave to remain but without protection status. This means that they are not eligible for refugee family reunion. The Home Office has given them no prospect of that. Noble Lords can imagine the anguish of the 11 year-old child Wasim, referred to by the right reverend Prelate. He has been here since he was nine, while his parents are left in Afghanistan. What is the point of that distress to that whole family? The Home Office is both insensitive and inefficient. The report finds that:

“The Home Office is systematically deficient in its processing of family visa applications. Delays pile up, communication is appallingly poor, evidential requirements are excessively complex”—

as my noble friend mentioned—

“and fees prohibitive. Applicants are left distraught”.

No wonder the report calls for Home Office processes to improve considerably and family migration rules to be simplified. The committee advises that:

“The process for bringing family members to the UK should be straightforward, affordable, transparent, and fair, with the rules applied as consistently as possible across different pathways”.

You would not think that was an awful lot to ask for. The committee wants the financial requirements for spouses and partners to be made more flexible, focusing on the likelihood of future income of the family unit rather than on one individual’s past income. It calls for reform of the route for adult dependent relatives so as to stop damaging family life and impoverishing society.

The Conservative Party likes to parade its belief in “family values”, but they are pretty much invisible in the field of immigration. Please can the Government put this admirable sentiment into effect in the Home Office? I hope the Minister can assure us of that.

My Lords, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee report covers a lot of territory and has clearly highlighted many of the real problems with government policy. Its recommendations are, I would say, very sensible—clearly, the Government do not agree with them.

There is one thing that perhaps the Minister can answer now. The committee called for increased funding towards Home Office services to overcome delays and to reduce application fees. We know that the problems we have with the cost of hotel stays and the barges are all down to the Government because they chose not to set up a proper system for all the asylum seekers. I do not see why they could not have taken some advice from this report. The Government’s response is really not very good, which suggests that whoever responded did not read the report properly.

We know that the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers has been abysmal. They have created a backlog that they cannot clear up in the available time before they are thrown out of government, and the next Government will have to do it for them. It is quite shameful that they leave such a mess behind them for the next Government to sort out.

If we put aside all the things that we should feel towards people in such distress—our compassion, humanity, respect for the law and respect for the welfare of anyone in Britain—we could at least look at the financial and economic benefits of immigration. With an ageing population, we need other people. By inhibiting access to this country for people who need to be here to look after their children and so on, the Government are denying the British public all the skills, experience and competence of those who could come here, work and be a benefit to the tax system. They could be taxpayers, and therefore they can benefit us; I do not understand why the Government have such a block about this.

The Minister is clearly a stupendously intelligent person. I wonder whether he has read the report and, if he has, whether he might have a slightly different response from the Government’s, which is quite inadequate.

My Lords, I appreciate the opportunity to make a small contribution to the debate. I start by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, both on initiating it and on the committee’s excellent report.

Some years ago I visited Calais, where I was introduced to five Afghan boys who were anxious to come to the UK. I was given their details and asked whether I could perhaps submit the details to the Home Office to speed up the process. I went there very quickly on my return to London, only to discover that they had all got here already; the Home Office had a record that they had arrived. They had arrived on the back of a lorry, not on boats, but they clearly had no faith in the system and managed to get here by what was still a dangerous route.

I will fast forward to the Dublin III discussions we had. At the time of the 2017 Act, this House passed a Motion, which the Commons accepted, that the Government, in negotiating with the EU on our departure, should maintain the Dublin III provisions as regards the right of a refugee child in one EU country to join family in another. It passed both Houses. Then came the 2019 Act and, to my absolute astonishment, the Government deleted the provision. Bluntly, I was angry. I am a very calm individual, but I was extremely angry. To mollify me, I was invited to a meeting here in the Palace with three Government Ministers and seven officials, one from the Treasury, all to try to browbeat me into accepting the decision.

I had a conversation with the then Immigration Minister, who looked me in the eye and assured me that it would be all right for children to come here, despite the Government having deleted the measure from the 2019 Act. He said, “Everything will be all right—don’t you trust me?”. My Lords, I lied. I said that I trusted him, although I did not trust the Government. He was wrong: nothing happened, and children stopped coming. Indeed, the Minister was then transferred to another job.

I welcome the report suggesting that these matters should be brought within the Immigration Rules. The Immigration Rules should be modified to allow for some security of access to this country for child refugees. I know we always talk about safe and legal routes, but they do matter if we are to deal with the traffickers because safe and legal routes are one of the alternatives to being trafficked. Surely, at least for children to join their families, we can have some safe and legal routes. We should always act in the best interests of the child.

I believe that the majority of the British public, if faced with the argument that we want to have the right of asylum seekers and refugees to family reunion more firmly entrenched in our system, would be on our side. By denying this, we are acting against compassionate public opinion.

My Lords, the importance of a report such as this, and dare I say the importance of a House such as ours, is to highlight the complexity of issues, the understanding of which reveals what otherwise appears counterintuitive.

Political messages have to be headlines that grab people’s attention. The rule of political press offices tends to be that if you have to explain it, it is too complicated to be used as a campaign tool. In a first past the post democratic system, the space for consideration of complexity is limited. That is why we have committees such as this, comprising such eminent Members and supported by excellent officials, and committee chairs like my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who revels in detail. Her passion for the subject has been clearly demonstrated over many years.

The narrative so often advocated by those who are against immigration is the pressure that migrants place on the National Health Service, for example. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, this report provides clear evidence that skilled and experienced nurses and doctors who have come here from overseas are leaving the UK because they cannot provide the personal care that any concerned family member would want to give to their ageing parents and grandparents. They are not allowed to bring their increasingly dependent relatives to the UK, even though they have the means and ability to look after them, while they themselves are providing a vital service to UK society. Indeed, the rules make it almost impossible for dependent relatives to qualify for a visa. They must be practically bedridden but able to travel, for example. It is no surprise that the number of visas issued under the adult dependant route has diminished from 1,738 in 2011 to just one in 2020 and none in 2021.

As with so much relating to immigration, there are moral and practical issues, particularly in relation to children. My noble friend Lady Ludford quoted the Prime Minister, who has said

“strong, supportive families make for more stable communities”.

But, as the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said, it is obvious to those who do not want to wilfully ignore it that the general cost to society of a child with no family to support them—including the detrimental psychological impact on the child and the child’s ability to reach his or her potential, and the cost to local authorities of providing a whole range of services for unaccompanied child refugees—is far greater than the costs associated with those who could be looked after by relatives or even adult siblings, were they allowed to join the child in the UK.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, the committee reached the same conclusion as the Lords EU Committee in 2016 that there is no evidence that the prospect of family reunification could encourage families to send children to the UK to act as an anchor for other family members—based not least on the fact that EU states that allow family reunification show no sign of it. The report highlights the fact that some couples, such as same-sex couples, are unable to cohabit in their country of origin because of local laws or social prejudice, yet the UK Immigration Rules set previous cohabitation as a condition before a partner visa can be issued. Rigid rules, inflexibly applied, are unlikely to cope with the complexities of the real world.

The report is careful in a number of places to indicate that uncontrolled immigration is not the answer, but all the circumstances surrounding the application for a visa and the likely impact on the individual, the public purse—both central and local—and society as a whole should be taken into account. The Government have spent a lot of time and energy trying to ensure, for example, that UK citizens who can work do work; yet when it comes to people from overseas working in the UK, they place an income limit that often prevents a second parent or adult sibling coming to the UK, leaving the migrant worker having to juggle work with childcare, when almost all migrants are working in shortage occupations. There is a crisis in immigration in the UK caused by the failure of this Government. A decade or more ago, there were many more asylum applications, far fewer awaiting a decision and far more removals, yet the Home Office makes the problem worse for itself by requiring multiple visa applications.

This excellent report emphasises that all families matter, but it might also have been entitled “An Encyclopaedia of Unintended Consequences”. Like so many other issues, family migration would be better served were it not for party politics—politics by headline—as opposed to the thorough and professional way that the committee has so comprehensively covered the issue.

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Paddick; I agree with much of what he said. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on her report and other members of the committee, both those here and those unable to be present with us. It is an excellent report, and the noble Baroness highlighted much of what was important about it—she is to be congratulated on that.

In passing, and on a personal level, I also want to note the tremendously important comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt; I do not want it to pass without further recognition. I have read about his part as a Young Conservative in standing up to Enoch Powell. I do not think that any of us who have read about that period of history can fail to have been moved by the courage and determination that it took for somebody to stand up to Enoch Powell. He was backed at the time by a surge of populism, which not only the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, but many others—including the Heath Government, as he pointed out—had to stand up to. That should be an example to us all —not that today is like that—that sometimes you have to stand up for what is right and for what you believe, and that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, tried to do in her report. But do not mistake me: I am not comparing now with what Enoch Powell said then; none the less, I wanted to pay tribute to what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said and not allow it to pass.

I wanted to take just a few minutes to draw attention to something, because it infects the debate that we have on these matters. Page 5 of the committee’s report says:

“The Home Secretary told us that ‘it is not feasible for all those people who might wish to come to the UK to do so’, adding that ‘we do not have an unlimited capacity to welcome every single person who is in a difficult situation in their home country’. We do not argue this but we do believe that the current rules do not adequately respect the right for families to be together”.

I say to the Government: if you set this up as being about those of us who are caricatured as supposedly demanding that everybody across the world who wants to come should be able to come here, that you have no rules and no borders with everyone piling in if they want to, how does that help the debate? Nobody is suggesting that; not a single person present in this debate believes that that is the way forward. However, what all of us are arguing for, what the report argues for, and what members of the committee and others here have said, is that it is important, within the rules that we have, that Parliament tries to act in a way which is consistent with the values that we want to have as a country. With respect to that, the debate is about family reunion, which somehow is not right as it stands—we have heard the story that the right reverend Prelate shared with us, and there are others.

I also want to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. The Government are quite entitled to say in response to a committee report, “We don’t agree with this or that”. However, it is unusual—the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, has more experience than me, as have others in this Chamber—for a Select Committee report to be virtually just dismissed without hardly any of it being recognised as having a point, which may be pulling the Government up to reflect that maybe they do not have it all right. When the Minister responds, I hope he does so in a way which reflects the way in which Members of the House have contributed to this debate, not from a negative point of view but to try to say, “Can we not do better with respect to family reunion than we are doing at the present time? Have the Government got it completely right?”

I do not suggest that everybody goes through the response as I did on a Sunday afternoon, but I have marked the places where the Government just dismiss the report, saying that it is not right, it has it wrong: “This isn’t right, this isn’t true, that’s not accurate, the data isn’t right”. The Government do not say, for example, which you would expect—many of your Lordships have experience of government—“We are reflecting on the point that has been made here because we too recognise that this is not working in the way that we would want it to”. That is how Parliament should work. Can the Minister also reflect on that when he responds to the debate?

I also wanted to highlight the inspector’s report, A Reinspection of Family Reunion Applications. It talks about all sorts of things—again, the right reverend Prelate mentioned this—but the independent inspector absolutely says that the situation has “deteriorated” since the 2019 report and that

“the Home Office’s performance in this area is ineffective”.

I must say—this is what I asked the Minister about in Questions—that it is unusual for the independent inspector’s term of office not to be renewed. We know that Home Office officials have criticised this inspector as being excessively critical and that his term of office is not to be renewed, and I wonder why that is. Maybe it is because he has pointed out that the Government should at the very least consider allowing children to reunite with family members more than it is being considered at the moment.

How can it operate at the moment, with a backlog which was 8,000 when the independent inspector published his report in February 2020 but which, according to the information I have, is now 11,000? What is the backlog of applications for family reunion? Whatever system you have, with whatever rules, it cannot work if there is not basic competency within it and if decisions cannot be made within a reasonable length of time. Can the Minister point out to us the current level of outstanding admissions, what is the average time that these decisions are taking to be made and whether any of the recommendations of the committee of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, and my noble friend Lord Blunkett sat on it—are to be accepted or whether any of them have caused the Government to think, “D’you know what? Maybe we should reflect on this and change something in the light of what is being said to us”?

The last point I want to make with respect to this is to say to the Government that, when we talk about family reunion or immigration generally, we cannot have a situation that operates on the basis of where I said the Government seem to be: saying that that this is an argument between those who wish to open the floodgates and those who wish to control the borders. If that is what the debate about immigration, asylum and refugees has come to, we will get nowhere. One of the things I think about the debate that has taken place in the House of Lords it that it has been a calm, rational and reasonable one that has said, “We have a real issue here on the aspect of family reunion”. People who deserve to be reunited, families which deserve to be put back together, are prevented from doing so by the current Immigration Rules and, frankly, the incompetence of how the system works at the current time. Is it really too much to ask the Government to reflect on that and see whether maybe some change would actually make a difference and bring about an immigration and asylum system with respect to family reunion that we could all be more proud of?

My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for both securing this debate and chairing the committee. I am very grateful to all who have contributed to our discussion today, and I offer my thanks too to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee for its in-depth assessment of the family migration system and its considered recommendations for improvement.

I am sorry that noble Lords were not satisfied with the government response. I can confirm that the Government have read, taken on board and responded to these points, but of course I welcome the opportunity to hear the views of the House on this subject, which is one of wide interest.

I turn to the principal recommendations and will address them in turn. First, on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on harmonising routes, I note that the Government recognise that there is a need to simplify and consolidate the family Immigration Rules, and we are committed to doing so in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission’s report of 2020. Our first tranche of updates was introduced in June 2022, alongside the simplified private life rules. However, of course reform needs to be done properly, and the Government believe that there are risks in attempting to harmonise the rules for the sake of doing so. Each route serves a specific customer and purpose and there is a correct balance to be struck to ensure that each route has the right conditions of entry and stay for family members.

Given the broad and diverse offer for family members across the immigration system, it would not be right fully to align all the requirements for the various family routes. There are clear differences in the needs of different groups and the purposes behind the rules. Therefore, it is right to harmonise the rules where we can, but in a sensible way, reserving the ability to vary requirements according to the nature and purpose of the route.

In addition, there is a balance to be struck between an individual’s right to a family and private life and the need for effective immigration control and public spending. Tailored requirements on family routes enable Parliament to determine appropriately where the balance lies for different cohorts.

On the noble Baroness’s comments in respect of the diversity of contemporary families, the report recommends taking a broader approach to the definition of family members—one that it says would reflect better the diversity of modern families. The right reverend Prelate raised this point. Contemporary families are diverse, and this diversity can affect how and where families might choose to live. We recognise that some elements of the family rules can be difficult to prove, and that, in modern family life, it is not unusual for parents to work, study or even live in different countries. However, it is important to recognise that the Government’s approach to family life is based on well-established guidance provided by the courts in their interpretation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I turn to my noble friend Lord Hunt’s very moving address and other noble Lords’ comments in respect of the best interests of the child. The Government are confident that mechanisms are in place to ensure that the best interests of children are fully considered at every stage of the immigration journey, in line with the statutory obligations imposed on the Secretary of State by Section 55 of the borders and citizenship Act 2009. Considering the best interests of the child is at the heart of what we do; it is a central tenet in our policy and operational decision-making. Decision-makers are routinely trained and have access to guidance that makes specific reference to Section 55. They also take into account a range of other relevant legislation in their decision-making.

In response to the noble Lord’s comments that the Government should revisit the existing mainstream immigration pathways rather than create bespoke ones, where possible we use existing pathways in response to events. However, there are some events so critical that we need to provide bespoke routes best to serve the issue at hand. One example was the Ukraine emergency. We are always learning from these in order to adjust our offer.

I turn to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in respect of adult dependent relatives. The Government disagree with the report’s findings that there is no pathway to the UK for adult dependent relatives, or ADRs. The current ADR route is designed to provide settlement in the UK for those most in need of care, but not for those who simply have a preference to come to live in the UK.

The ADR rules are carefully designed to prevent burdens on the taxpayer, to promote integration and to tackle abuse, and thereby to ensure that family migration to the UK is on a properly sustainable basis that is fair to migrants and the wider community by not being reliant on access to public services funded by UK taxpayers. When the policy was reformed in 2012, the Department of Health and Social Care estimated that a person living to the age of 85 costs the NHS on average around £150,000 in their lifetime, with more than 50% of this cost arising from the age of 65 onwards. These rules were upheld as lawful by the Court of Appeal in 2017.

The impact of medical professionals potentially leaving the NHS was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. This has previously been considered by the Home Office and was part of the review of the adult dependent relative rules, which were published in December 2016. That report considered the very point made by the noble Baroness: the suggestion about the number of NHS staff who support adult dependent relatives overseas is one that should be considered. The report concluded that that number is likely to be a very small proportion of the total population of professionally qualified clinical staff. Furthermore, there is no evidence to show that significant numbers of medical professionals have left or been deterred from applying to work in the UK since the revised adult dependent relative rules were implemented; indeed, record numbers of people are coming from abroad to work for the NHS. In summary, the Government believe that those who choose to come to the UK and ultimately settle here do so in the knowledge that they can be leaving behind family members in their country of origin. There should, therefore, be no expectation that family members will be able to join them in the United Kingdom.

I turn to the financial requirements, which were raised by a number of noble Lords. The Select Committee’s report invited the Government to take a fresh look at the financial requirements set out in the family rules. We will do so. The Government continue to keep the family Immigration Rules under review and make adjustments in the light of feedback on their operation and impact. However, the Government remain of the view that family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense and that family migrants must be able to integrate if they are to play a full part in British life. The purpose of the minimum income requirement, implemented in July 2012 along with other reforms of the family Immigration Rules, is to ensure that family migrants are supported at a reasonable level so that they do not become a burden on the taxpayer and can participate sufficiently in everyday life to facilitate their integration into British society. It has long been a requirement for a family migrant to demonstrate that they are able to support themselves without becoming a burden on the taxpayer, but the purpose of the minimum income requirement is to ensure that that requirement is consistently applied; that is right and fair.

I turn now to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, in respect of fees. I am sure all noble Lords would agree that academia, science and research have an enormously beneficial and enriching effect on our society and way of life. I am proud of this Government for launching the global talent scheme to allow those aged over 18 who work in the fields of science, engineering, the humanities, medicine, digital technology or the arts and culture and can demonstrate exceptional talent or promise to apply for visas. Obviously, that topic is at some remove from the matters discussed in the report.

I turn to the noble Lord’s point about the immigration health surcharge. It ensures, I suggest, that migrants make a suitable contribution to the NHS during their stay. The surcharge is set at a level that broadly reflects the cost of providing NHS treatment to those who pay it. Payment of the surcharge enables migrants to access NHS care on broadly the same basis as United Kingdom nationals for the duration of their visa without them needing to worry about healthcare charges or private health insurance. Since its introduction in 2015, the surcharge has raised more than £3.4 billion in much-needed income, which goes to the Department of Health and Social Care and the devolved Administrations for health spending.

As was noted by a number of noble Lords, on 15 September the Government laid regulations that will increase a range of fees across immigration and nationality routes, including those paid by people who want to settle in the UK. The new fees are to come into effect on 4 October. The increases reflect the fact that the majority of fees have not been subject to a significant increase since 2018, despite a context of high inflation and record high migration to the United Kingdom. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, noted, fees for immigration and nationality applications play an essential part in the Home Office’s ability to operate a sustainable migration and borders system. It is the Government’s policy that those who use and benefit from the immigration system should contribute towards the cost of operating the system, reducing the burden on the taxpayer. The increases announced by the Government will mean that a greater share of that cost will be met by those users of the system. This will, in turn, allow more funding to be prioritised elsewhere in the Home Office.

I turn to the short remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on safe and legal routes. I am proud that since 2015, we have resettled over half a million people through such routes, and we agree that safe and legal routes are preferable to making life-threatening journeys across the Mediterranean and the channel. That is why we are launching our consultation on safe and legal routes, as required by the Illegal Migration Act, a topic the noble Lord knows well.

Many noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, discussed the topic of family reunion. Between 2015 and June 2023, the United Kingdom issued more than 46,511 family reunion visas. More than half of those were issued to children—this is no small feat. The Government recognise that families can become separated because of the nature of conflict and persecution, and the speed and manner in which people are often forced to flee their country. Our refugee reunion policy allows individuals with protection status in the UK to sponsor their partner or children to stay here with them, provided they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country of origin to seek protection.

We believe that if children were allowed to sponsor parents, this would create a perverse incentive for more children to be encouraged—even forced—to leave their family and risk hazardous journeys to the UK. This would play into the hands of the criminal gangs who exploit vulnerable people and goes against our safeguarding responsibilities. Our policy is not designed to keep child refugees apart from their parents but, in considering any policy, we must think carefully about the wider impact to avoid putting more people unnecessarily in harm’s way.

In response to the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who suggested that the policy was contrary to international or domestic law, a recent judgment of the High Court in the case of DN v Secretary of State for the Home Department ruled in favour of the Government’s policy on child sponsors. It was not found to be unlawful, so I do not accept his point.

Family reunion in the UK is generous, more so than in some of our European counterparts. Sponsors do not have to be settled in the UK, there is no fee, no time limit for making an application and there are no accommodation or minimum income requirements that applicants must meet. Our family reunion policy makes it clear that there is a discretion—as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out—to grant visas outside of the Immigration Rules, which caters for extended family members where there are compelling compassionate factors. If children are not able to sponsor their parents or family members to join them under refugee family reunion routes, they may be eligible to be joined in the UK via family Immigration Rules. This is in Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules, which provides a route to enter the UK as the parent of a child who is in the UK. A condition of that is that the child must be under the age of 18, and either British or settled or in the UK with limited leave under Appendix EU. Parent applicants in the UK can seek permission to stay with a child who is under 18, either British or settled, or who has at least seven continuous years of residence in the UK, preceding the application, where it would be unreasonable to expect the child to leave.

In all applications from parents, where the applicant is unable to meet the suitability and eligibility requirements, Home Office decision-makers will consider any exceptional circumstances that would mean a refusal may have breached the right of the applicant or the affected family members to a family life in accordance with Article 8 of the ECHR.

To answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about unmarried partners who have the option of getting married or having a civil partnership if they have not cohabited, the department will have regard to that. I hope that provides some comfort.

I have already addressed the simplification of the Immigration Rules, which is being conducted. The work is under way, but I am afraid these matters are complicated and will take time. The Government can see the merit of what was said, so I do not accept the general thrust of the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, that we have rejected everything the committee has said.

I turn to the comments made about the burden of family migration policies on the public purse and the impact on local authorities. The final local government finance settlement for 2023-24 makes up to £59.7 billion available for local government in England, which is an increase in core spending power of up to £5.1 billion, or £9.4 billion in cash terms. The Home Office provides a range of services to support local authorities to understand and discharge their duties, in line with their legal obligations in respect of immigration, including the NRPF contract, local partnership managers and on-site immigration officials.

In closing, I repeat my earlier thanks to all who have contributed today and to the committee for its work in producing the report. Family migration is a complex topic and it is right that our approach balance the interests of those coming to this country with those of the British people. The Government remain committed to delivering improvements and reform across the board, including on family migration, as we strive to deliver a fairer, more effective and more sustainable immigration system.

Can the Minister write to me with the current figures for applications outstanding and the average length of time spent waiting?

Are there any other bids? I am grateful to the speakers who have added their voices to that of the committee. I clearly cannot go through every point the Minister made, but I will say that my noble friend Lord Paddick’s point was not about couples who have not gone through a civil partnership but same-sex couples who cannot cohabit in their own country when a requirement for leave is that they should have cohabited.

I sincerely thank members of the committee for their work on the inquiry. The unanimity was notable; there were no fudges. I also thank our clerk David Shiels, our policy analyst Achille Versaevel, our committee assistant Amanda McGrath, our communications officer Aneela Mahmood, our specialist adviser Helena Wray of Exeter University and, of course, the 100-plus witnesses for their compelling and sometimes distressing evidence. They all helped us to stand in the shoes of the people who are affected by the rules—so far as any of us who are not so affected can.

I will have to see whether I can find any nuggets of cause for optimism in the Minister’s response. I commend to him the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt: empathy is not weakness. I well remember the occasion when the Secretary of State in oral evidence to the committee prayed in aid, “We can’t welcome everyone”. I was quite taken aback: I simply said, “No one is suggesting that”.

We clearly approached the issues from a completely different point of view from the Government and with completely different attitudes. I cannot help wondering about the reference to the rules being based on what the courts have ruled regarding Article 8. There is a series of successful appeals on the basis of Article 8 where the appellant has won against the Government. Immigration is a political issue; family should not be. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.

UK-EU Relationship (European Affairs Committee Report)

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the Report from the European Affairs Committee The future UK-EU relationship (4th Report, HL Paper 184).

My Lords, the European Affairs Committee published our report, The future UK-EU relationship, on 29 April this year. We took oral evidence between October last year and March this year, hearing from 43 witnesses, finishing with the Minister for Europe, Leo Docherty MP. We also received 58 written submissions. The Government responded to the report on 28 June and to certain follow-up questions on 31 August. I am very grateful to the usual channels for expediting this debate today.

Put simply, the report looks at the overarching state of the relationship between the UK and the EU and how this might be developed into the future. This inquiry looks forward and not into the rear-view mirror. We did not address issues specific to Northern Ireland, including the Windsor Framework agreement. These are handled by our sister committee on the protocol.

The inquiry focused on four themes: the overall political, diplomatic and institutional relationship; the foreign policy, defence and security relationship; energy security and climate change; and the mobility of people. These do not comprise an exhaustive list of areas in which the UK-EU relationship could be developed. However, we as a committee believe that they are especially salient at the current juncture.

Here, and on behalf of the committee, I thank our staff: Jarek Wisniewski, Jack Sheldon, Nick Boorer, Tabitha Brown, Tim Mitchell and Louise Shewey. Their commitment and professionalism underpin everything in our report.

I start with the overall political, diplomatic and institutional relationship. It was unhappily the case that, during our inquiry, this was impacted by the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol. Now, however, there are signs of improvement, not least with the recent welcome news on Horizon Europe.

The current institutional framework under the trade and co-operation agreement and the withdrawal agreement includes a total of 32 committees and working groups that bring together the Government and the Commission. Two of these committees are political, with the others essentially powered by officials. It is a double-headed structure, with two sets of committees reporting to one or other of the political committees, each of which is set up under its respective big agreement.

The committee felt that this huge apparatus was operational but not really operating. We recommended that there should be a “considerable increase” in the intensity of activity within these structures. We must optimise matters, and it is vital that the committees hum with activity to the mutual benefit of all concerned. Can the Minister give us an update on the 32 committees’ level of engagement and work, and assure the House that, from the UK side, at least, activity and warm relations are seen as a priority?

Our second theme was the foreign policy, defence and security relationship. We welcomed the “close and productive” co-operation between the UK and the EU following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the effective co-operation in the imposition of sanctions against Russia, but called for closer co-operation on their implementation and enforcement. We specifically proposed that the UK and the EU agree a memorandum of understanding on the imposition, implementation and enforcement of sanctions, complementary to the G7 enforcement co-ordination mechanism.

In its response, the Government said that they are not currently considering an MoU with the EU but that they

“will continue to review options to maximise the efficiency of our cooperation with the EU going forward”.

I ask the Minister: what factors are influencing the Government’s hesitation about this MoU on sanctions, which I assume would track the enhanced sanctions partnership agreement reached already between the Government and the US Treasury?

We heard a lot on having a structured framework for foreign and security policy. The report recommends that the UK and the EU should “deepen and improve” working relations on foreign and security policy, with some limited structured arrangements for ongoing co-operation. We thought that a purely ad hoc approach was not wise. We felt that any such structured arrangements should include provision for the UK Foreign Secretary to engage with the EU Foreign Affairs Council at least twice a year.

To date, the Government’s responses are none too clear on this. On 31 August, the Foreign Secretary said that

“both sides are focused on making sure our cooperation delivers, rather than on institutional changes”.

Can the Minister give some further clarity here? It seems to me that engagement at the General Affairs Council would improve the chances of delivery.

I turn to our third theme, which is energy security. This is obviously a wide area, and we focused on several specific topics in our report. The committee welcomed the close co-operation with the EU since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and noted that, in part thanks to this, there had been no disruption to energy trading. The report made various recommendations —for example, on the need for more interconnectors. I am glad that the government response materials have been positive on the recommendations. I look forward to others developing this vital area.

Turning to emissions trading schemes, the UK left the EU ETS at the end of the transition period. A separate UK ETS was established, which is very similar in design. This began trading in May 2021, and the carbon price has since broadly tracked the EU scheme. The UK scheme is around 10% of the size of the EU one. We saw

“significant mutual benefits to be gained”

from linking the schemes, citing the Swiss precedent. We recommended entering negotiations in what we called a “can-do spirit” and noted that a link would be

“easier to achieve sooner rather than later, given the possibility of greater divergence over time”.

The Government’s response says that they

“partially agree with the Committee’s recommendation”,

but it does not make clear which parts they agree with. A follow up in correspondence has not shed much new light on matters.

Commentators are now referring to a growing divergence between the UK and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. As the Government have previously assured us that they are considering linking our respective systems, I ask the Minister: does this remain the case, and what steps are being taken to take this forward?

In December 2022, the EU Council agreed its general approach to a carbon border adjustment mechanism. A draft regulation is now progressing. The EU sees CBAM as a necessary part of its wider efforts to combat climate change. Without a CBAM in place, the EU foresees a risk of carbon leakage, whereby energy-intensive industries might relocate outside the EU and sell their goods back into the EU, effectively undercutting EU-based industry subject to carbon-reduction policies such as the EU ETS.

Under the EU’s current CBAM proposal, countries with an ETS linked to the EU’s would be excluded from such charges. As the UK and EU schemes are not currently linked, it is possible that CBAM could apply to UK-EU trade. I see no reason why the EU’s logic does not apply in reverse to the UK. All this of course strengthens the argument for linking ETSs. The Government have been consulting on measures to combat carbon leakage and their report on this area has not yet been published. Will the Minister say when we might expect the Government to provide an update on their position and where in the existing TCA committee structure CBAMs are being discussed?

The last section of our report examined the broad area of mobility of people, including the implications of the TCA’s provisions for both inward and outward business and professional mobility between the UK and the EU, but I will concentrate only on our work in the education and young persons sectors. The Government have made much of the Turing scheme, and we applauded it in its limited scope. However, we studied the Welsh Government’s Taith scheme. Indeed, we travelled to Cardiff. Introduced in 2022, Taith provides financial support for inbound educational group mobility. A Welsh organisation can apply for funding to send people out of Wales to another country and get funding to bring people to Wales. The Turing scheme provides funding for outbound mobility only. The Scottish Government have recently announced plans for a similar scheme to Taith, although details have not been provided. Of course, students in Northern Ireland can access Erasmus+.

We asked the Minister for Europe whether there are plans to introduce a scheme similar to Taith in England. He said the Government were

“open-minded and we look with great interest at the extent to which we might operate a similar scheme”.

In the most recent correspondence with the committee, the Foreign Secretary said,

“the Turing Scheme’s focus on outward mobility funding has not been a hindrance to forming partnerships between institutions, which may go some way to providing the kind of links the Committee is seeking”.

Three-quarters of the United Kingdom’s nations are already or will be establishing some form of reciprocal student exchange programme. Given the Minister for Europe’s admission that Erasmus+ has been “very beneficial” to the UK and the evidence that Taith has been successful in Wales, will the Minister comment on whether the Turing scheme will be enhanced?

The committee heard evidence that suggested that post-Brexit barriers to mobility between the UK and the EU, in both directions, have had an especially significant impact on young people, including workers and professionals in the early stages of their careers, as well as students across different educational levels. We recommended that the Government discuss with the Commission the possibility of an ambitious reciprocal youth mobility partnership, similar to the youth mobility schemes that the UK and EU member states enjoy with other jurisdictions, allowing young people to apply for fixed-term visas to travel and work. The Government’s response here was lacklustre, saying that the Government are

“exploring bilateral opportunities for reciprocal youth mobility schemes with international partners, including our European neighbours”.

Finally, will the Minister give us an update on discussions with the EU and individual EU member states about youth mobility partnerships?

There are many speakers and I look forward to the debate very much. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and congratulate him on his chairmanship of the Select Committee. His calm, efficient manner and attention to detail made it a very great pleasure and also made it easier for us to reach a unanimous conclusion to our deliberations. I join him in thanking our staff. I know it is customary and a habit always to say that, but it is well meant. We got some very good advice and service.

I was one of two leavers on a committee of 11, but I strongly support its recommendations. I want to explain today why. I also want to concentrate my remarks, almost entirely on the context, the political background, of the report. The report starts by saying that the relationship since Brexit was initially

“characterised by tension and mistrust”.

I think this is true and awkward. Perhaps it was inevitable. Brexit as an act caused hurt and possibly the desire to punish in some parts of the EU, but as my noble friend Lord Frost said when he gave evidence, the fault was on both sides. We had evidence from a wide range of witnesses. It was interesting that when we had my noble friend Lord Frost and the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, together, their evidence did not diverge very much.

Brexit has happened. It was a seismic event but, having happened, it is in everybody’s interest that we should have as close and co-operative a relationship as possible. It is not a betrayal of Brexit. It was Boris Johnson who said after Brexit that we must concentrate on developing a close and co-operative relationship with Europe. On what basis should that co-operation and collaboration happen? Again, I think my noble friend Lord Frost put it well to the committee when he said that Europe was a port of call, not always the first port of call, but an important port of call. We do not want close alignment, rule taking or the imposition of EU law. We are a third party. We accept that we are a third party, but we can still have a close relationship as third party.

It is important while talking about the need for collaboration to be realistic about its limits and about the relationship. We should not delude ourselves that we can sweet-talk our way into a different sort of trade and co-operation agreement while remaining outside the customs union and the single market. It seems to me—I make this point not as a political point but to illustrate my point—that the leader of the Opposition is in some danger of falling into this error, peddling the idea that he can change the relationship profoundly while remaining, as he claims we will be, outside the single market and the customs union.

During the committee, we had a vigorous argument between—if I may still use the terms—remainers and leavers about alignment and divergence. To my way of thinking, both sides make a fetish of this and it is a mistake. We must have the sovereign right to diverge, but we should not diverge in regulations for the point of diverging. We should diverge when it is necessary to diverge and when there is an interest for this country in doing so.

Similarly, what should be our principles in co-operation with the EU programmes? I think an interesting case was that of Horizon. The decision that the Government made to join the Horizon programme got a lot of applause, but at the same time people criticised the delay in reaching that decision. I think that is wrong. I think it was right for the Government to take their time to consider whether this was the only option and whether it really represented value for money. The EU has much to gain from UK participation in Horizon, and it would have been an act of self-harm by the EU to have excluded Britain from it.

Part of our report, perhaps too much of our report, is about how many meetings this committee or that committee has had and which ones were missed. I note the Government’s reply which I thought was a master- piece. They said that the intensity of contact is not a measurement of effectiveness. Hear, hear to that and brilliantly put by the Government.

The most important recommendation of the committee refers to security and foreign affairs, with a call for a more structured dialogue. That does not mean having the bureaucracy or the law of the CFSP. The Government’s reply was non-committal. I read in newspapers in July that the Government had rejected a call from the European Council for more structured dialogue, and I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us whether that is true. It seems to me that this recommendation is sensible. Ukraine has reminded us, tragically, that the defence of Britain and Europe goes together. Britain is important to the defence of Europe, Europe is our first line of defence and where there is increasing co-operation, after what has happened in this tragic war, that can only be in both our interests. I support that, I support the other recommendations of the committee and I commend the report to the House.

My Lords, this is an admirable report and I agree with virtually all its recommendations. It is a fine swansong for the period of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, as chair of the committee. It is wonderful, in a way, that we were able to reach agreement on the report’s important recommendations. It was a great pleasure to work with the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, on the committee; although I do not agree with everything he said in his speech, I agree with quite a lot.

Now that we are outside the European Union, we should be striving for consensus on how we can improve the relationship. Consensus does not mean that everyone should agree—for example, I do not think we should allow the populist right a veto over how we try to improve our relationship—but it means that when we talk to Brussels, whether through the present Government or an incoming Labour Government, it should feel that there is some kind of political willingness on Britain’s part to have a constructive relationship.

The big gap in our report, and this was done deliberately, is economics. It is a gap, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, referred to, that Keir Starmer was trying to fill when he announced that he was determined to improve the TCA. Obviously there is some scepticism about that, even among the European academic bubble—yesterday I read a report by the UK in a Changing Europe group that was rather sceptical about what it might achieve—but I think change is achievable in the trading relationship.

A big problem that we have had since Brexit is the lack of trust between the EU and the UK. A lot of that is due to the way in which the present Government threatened to breach their treaty obligations on the Northern Ireland protocol. The present Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, deserves praise for negotiating and agreeing the Windsor Framework, but there is still hesitancy about taking the relationship forward. For example, I do not know how the present Home Secretary thinks that threatening a potential British withdrawal from the EHRC is going to help our efforts to control illegal migration. That would mean a crisis in our relations with the EU and a great interruption in police and justice co-operation. The fact is that we would be less able than we are now to work with our partners in tackling the criminal gangs of people smugglers.

We should stop trying to threaten these things, however sotto voce, and try to build a relationship of trust. Labour can do that. Labour can work strongly with our European partners in the defence of democracy, which is fundamentally what is at stake in Ukraine. If we have a change in the presidency of the United States next year, that will be an existential crisis for whether Europe can work together to defeat the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Secondly, there is common agreement on large parts of the climate change agenda, although I am sorry to see the Government backing off it today.

Thirdly, there is a lot of scope for industrial co-operation on the new technologies. In the 1970s we had the great Airbus project. Let us think about how to work together on new technologies so that European efforts can match the challenge of China and the dominance of the US tech giants.

We can build an atmosphere in which change in the trading relationship is possible. We cannot be stuck with David Frost—the noble Lord, Lord Frost—for ever. That, it seems to me, would be fatal to Britain’s economic growth prospects. It is therefore worth working hard at trying to build a more constructive relationship with our partners and friends.

My Lords, I wish I could be as optimistic as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, that Keir Starmer will be able to make Brexit work.

I congratulate the committee on this excellent report. It is useful to focus on the non-commercial aspects of this broad relationship: foreign policy, defence, energy co-operation and the mobility of people.

I found the government response disappointingly thin on content. Its preference for the Turing scheme over Erasmus+ is specifically stated to be because Turing does not offer reciprocal benefits. Searching issue by issue for arrangements in which the UK gains and others give is no way to rebuild a close relationship with the EU and our neighbouring states. Good relations depend on mutual trust and broad reciprocity.

I read the article in yesterday’s Telegraph by the noble Lord, Lord Frost, on relations with the EU. As he was the Minister who negotiated the trade and co-operation agreement, it would have been valuable for the House to have heard his comments on this report, and he was in the Chamber earlier today. I was puzzled that he claimed in the article that his negotiations on fisheries and on security had been successful, and I was astonished that he made no reference to the impact of the Ukraine conflict on UK relations with the rest of Europe and on European security as a whole.

I agree with the report that UK participation in the loose framework of the European Political Community—alongside 20 other third countries, including Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and Liechtenstein, as well as the European Union—is a useful but small step forward. No doubt its coming meeting in Spain will focus on support for Ukraine and the spillover of conflicts and migrants from north Africa into Europe. I hope that preparations are now well under way for the UK to host the fourth meeting in spring next year, but I note that the Government have already recognised that this is not enough by joining the PESCO Military Mobility project. We need to move much closer towards regular and frequent consultations on foreign and security policy, multilaterally in Brussels as well as bilaterally in national capitals.

I remind the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, that successive British Foreign Secretaries, from Lord Carrington and Sir Geoffrey Howe onwards, were architects of the development of the common foreign and security policy mechanisms, and I can think of no Foreign Secretary, Labour or Conservative, since the beginning of that process under Jim Callaghan who has not regarded that as an invaluable contribution to British foreign policy.

The article in yesterday’s Times by the noble Lord, Lord Hague, provided another powerful argument for foreign and security co-operation with EU members. We cannot rule out the possibility that Donald Trump might win the next US presidential election. If that happens, the British Government will need to respond with the closest possible co-operation with our European partners, as well as Canada and Australia, and we need to build that relationship now.

The chapter on energy policy restates what everyone following energy policy already knew, but which the proponents of leave denied: our energy supplies are already dependent on interconnectors with other neighbouring states and will become more so as we and others move further towards renewable energy. One might add that these Governments are all now painfully aware that the interconnectors are vulnerable to hostile sabotage and that defence co-operation in protecting the network from attack is a security interest that we share with states across the channel and the North Sea.

The noble Lord, Lord Frost, mentioned extra-European migrants in his Telegraph article but had nothing to say about the current confusion over mobility between the UK and the EU, which the report sets out. Policy here is incoherent, with the Home Office wanting to keep as many people out as possible, and DSIT and DfE proclaiming that we are open to foreign workers, foreign researchers and talented students. Some EU states are now imposing restrictions on the number of weeks that British businesspeople, academics and lawyers can work in their countries in return. I fear we will have to wait for a different Government before any reciprocal arrangements can be agreed that will allow a freer flow in both directions across the channel.

The report also recognises the flimsiness of any European strategy or framework for co-ordination across Whitehall. It has not helped that we have had six Ministers for Europe since the 2019 election, one of whom served for two months and another for five months, with the post now downgraded to a Parliamentary Under-Secretary. It is a great contrast with the coalition period from 2010, when David Lidington was in office for five years as a senior Minister of State, with real influence across Whitehall.

The Government are making almost no effort to get their act together in managing the complex relations with our nearest and most important partners, which cover most of the important interests across Whitehall. Furthermore, the cadre of expertise on the EU—its regulations and institutions—that had been built up in Whitehall is shrinking, at a time when even right-wing Conservatives admit that we need to rebuild political and policy links. We need to rebuild the networks of co-operation among officials, Ministers, political parties, schools, universities and civil society that have been so badly damaged in the past five years. I welcome this report’s contribution to making such arguments.

My Lords, the report we are debating, so admirably introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who contributed to great effect to its production, is quite simply the first overall analysis of the future development of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU by either House of Parliament since we left the EU in early 2020, more than three years ago, so it deserves to be taken seriously. It will not be the last word on a subject which, whatever side you voted on in the 2016 referendum, will be prominent in our politics for the foreseeable future, but its long list of suggestions for developing that relationship deserves careful scrutiny and response.

First, it is a great pity that the Government have yet again rejected the idea of negotiating an SPS agreement with the EU, when it has the wholehearted support of the agri-food industries in all four nations and of most parties in Parliament. That industry, which has benefited to an increasing degree from its access to continental markets, is being sacrificed on the altar of sovereignty—that imprecise and poorly understood concept which is trotted out whenever needed to reject a well-argued proposition.

Secondly, the report’s proposal that the UK should establish a structured framework for co-operating with the EU on foreign and security policy issues has been supported strongly by all previous speakers in this debate. It was a concept endorsed by both parties in their joint political declaration, negotiated and ratified in 2019 and 2020, and then dropped by Prime Minister Johnson. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision at that time, the case for such a framework has been greatly strengthened since then by the need to respond effectively to two major challenges: Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the rising assertiveness of China worldwide. The Government say that we are getting along just fine by co-operating with the EU on an ad hoc basis on those and other issues, but that demonstrates a not-unprecedented misunderstanding of the way the EU best responds, which is through frameworks for co-operation laid down in advance, while leaving each party autonomy in its own decision-making. Surely this is a moment for a rethink on that issue.

Thirdly, there was the Government’s response to the report’s proposal that the UK and EU should develop the closest possible co-operation on their climate change policies, in particular linking their emissions trading schemes and ensuring that any cross-border adjustment mechanism did not get at cross purposes and give rise to further friction in their mutual trade. To say, as the Government do, that they agree with the report’s views in part, without saying which parts, is just a curate’s egg reply. Every single professional witness who gave us evidence urged the need for the closest possible co-operation on those issues, but in the real world the UK’s emissions trading scheme is now drifting away from the EU’s and the Government have not yet decided even whether to have a CBAM scheme, let alone what relationship it should have with the EU scheme that is already taking shape. What will the Government do if the EU imposes a CBAM on Chinese steel and cement? Will they just sit back and allow the trade to be diverted here?

The section in the Government’s response on the report’s conclusions on school visits and many other forms of cultural and educational co-operation is, frankly, shameful. The Prime Minister and the French President agreed last March to remedy the free fall in UK-France school visits since Brexit. What has happened since then? Precisely nothing is the answer; something might happen by the end of the year, we are told. Meanwhile, successive generations of schoolchildren are missing out on those formative experiences, and what could be more self-defeating than refusing to make the Turing student exchange system one which operates mutually and opens up possible co-operation with the EU’s Erasmus scheme? There is narrow-mindedness here which is quite shocking.

There is much wrong with the Government’s response so far to our report. How best could that be remedied? First, we should open discussions with the EU on how to strengthen the framework for our co-operation on foreign policy and security issues, as we foresaw doing in the 2019 political declaration. At the same time, we should begin exploratory talks with the EU about how to put to most effective use the 2025-26 review of the trade and co-operation agreement, which is provided for in its terms. None of this will be easy or straight- forward, so the sooner we begin the better. It will be important for both parties to work for ways to strengthen our co-operation to their mutual benefit, as we emphasised and underlined in our report. That should help to answer silly criticisms of cherry-picking, which are bound to surface from some quarters in Brussels.

The first few years following Brexit have hardly been a happy experience. Now we have a real opportunity to get on to the front foot and treat the existing skimpy system as a floor and not a ceiling. The Windsor Framework and the deal on Horizon are a promising beginning, but we need to be more systematic and determined about the next stages. That is the challenge this report makes to Parliament and to all parties represented here. Let us hope they will rise to it.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with whom I first became involved in the European adventure, if one might call it that, as far back as 1977. I have listened to his wisdom a very great deal since then. It is also a pleasure for me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and those who served on the European Affairs Committee that produced this report. I was very sorry when I had to leave the committee earlier this year. I can see that the quality of the work that the committee has done has continued to improve since my departure.

This report is exactly the kind of thing which was needed at present. It is a detailed and workmanlike assessment of how to make the UK-EU relationship work better for this country as a whole, as well as for the EU. When I say as a whole, I mean for individuals, businesses and interest groups. As my noble friend Lord Lamont said, the important thing now is to make Brexit work, and this report is an important contribution towards exactly that aim—towards getting things done which were left undone at the time of our departure, and the sooner that we can act on these matters, the better.

Reading the recommendations relating to creative artists, school visits, higher education and support for small businesses, as well as the sanitary and phytosanitary rules, brings home the extent of the lost opportunities. These are all matters on which my noble friend Lord Frost might have had something to say if he was here today. He could explain how it was that these matters were overlooked at the time of our departure. It is tragic, by which I mean that businesses, interest groups and individuals themselves have all suffered loss and lost opportunities. I am glad that this report has shown the way forward.

There is also much good sense in the report on the big political issues, such as the overall political relationship, defence and foreign policy co-operation, the institutional framework and green-related issues. But these matters will, of course, take time to resolve and will depend very much on circumstances within both this country and the EU. So far as the EU is concerned, they are by no means top of the agenda. The EU has its own problems in relation to immigration, the eurozone, energy security and of course Ukraine.

That brings me to my key point. Looking ahead, it seems that Ukraine will become an increasingly important factor in framing the EU’s approach to its relationship with the United Kingdom. Here, I am thinking of two quite separate but interrelated matters. On the one hand are the consequences that flow from Ukraine’s application to join the EU and how that is dealt with. However it is dealt with—whether Ukraine joins as a full member at some distant date or whether some special arrangement is made—the consequences of that decision are bound to be extremely far reaching on the structures of the European Union and will also create precedents in terms of relationships between the European Union and other countries. Ukraine is a transformational matter.

Another factor will be the huge costs involved in reconstructing the country and preparing it for eventual EU membership—or whatever other relationship is agreed. In the nature of things, the primary responsibility for financing and carrying through the preparations to bring Ukraine into the EU, or into whatever relationship is decided on, will be for the member states. But surely those countries which have played an important part in supporting Ukraine during the war—the United Kingdom has been particularly prominent in that respect—will also play a part in reconstructing Ukraine after the war, whenever that may be.

That reconstruction will involve the creation of a very close and novel relationship with the EU. The terms and conditions on which we co-operate with the EU in Ukraine will, I think, have a very great influence on the nature of our overall relationship and how it might play out, and it is not too soon for us to start thinking about that now.

My Lords, much of the thrust of the committee’s report is on the need for increasing the level and intensity of UK-EU contacts in a context in which Brexit is now behind us. The importance of our relationship with the EU as a bloc and with individual members bilaterally is recognised widely and only disputed by ultra anti-European ideologues who, regrettably, still have some hold in the far-right fringes of the Conservative Party.

The need for close and meaningful contact with the EU has been recognised very recently, I am glad to say, by the leader of the Labour Party. He pointed in particular to the need for a more friction-free trading relationship with Brussels, saying that, if elected, he intends to try to negotiate better post-Brexit arrangements when the TCA comes up for renegotiation in 2025. I would be a little bit more confident that that could produce some improvements than the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, was suggesting—and I think the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches was also a bit pessimistic.

As background, it is also worth noting the results of an opinion poll commissioned by the Tony Blair Institute in which respondents were asked their views about the EU and UK in the post-Brexit environment. Some 53% now think that we were wrong to leave the EU and only 34% still believe the decision was right. They also overwhelmingly support the UK moving closer to the EU in the coming decade, with 73% wanting a closer relationship. Only 7% think it is satisfactory when considering the medium-term future. Their views are surely a consequence of the UK’s poor economic performance since leaving the EU, with a serious fall in economic output, trade openness and investment.

This, then, is the context in which the report’s recommendations need to be considered. There is a willingness to strengthen our ties with the EU at a political level and in the population more widely. The Government in their reply to the report have responded positively to a number of its recommendations but have pushed back on some of them as either undesirable or unnecessary. I will pick up on four specific examples and I hope that, as the Minister replies, she will be able to say whether the Government will be able to think again on them.

First, while informal approaches are of course of value, attention must be given to the formal institutional structures for meeting to debate key issues, particularly in foreign policy and security, but elsewhere too. The Government claim that “outcomes” are what matters, not the number of meetings, but it is hard to see how key outcomes—or any outcomes—can be achieved without more properly structured meetings in the first place.

Secondly, because the committee is now doing an inquiry on the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the UK and EU, I will not in this debate go into other foreign policy and security questions, except in one respect. Could the Minister tell the House how the Government intend to respond to the charge made by commentators that their approach to sanctions has been ad-hoc rather than rigorous and well structured? This view was expressed in the committee’s report too.

Thirdly, turning to the report’s recommendations on energy and carbon emissions, what arrangements are the Government making to reach agreement with the EU on ensuring energy flows in the event of a critical supply shortage? The EU and UK must also work together to mitigate the effects of climate change, as has been mentioned by other speakers. As the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, did too, there are technical issues to be resolved in the UK and Europe concerning linking their respective emissions trading schemes, where there is a growing gap. Can more be done to link them and to narrow this gap?

My last example concerns the section of the report on the mobility of people. Brexit had a disastrous effect on this in many areas—for example, on the work of musicians and performers undertaking European tours, because of the need to obtain multiple visas. The Government have been engaging bilaterally with EU member states to try to reduce visa requirements for short-term touring, which is welcome, but progress is still needed on solutions in the four member states which have not agreed to this.

School visits are a very important way in which children and young people can learn about the culture of our nearest neighbours. There has been a huge, really regrettable decline in these since Brexit. This has been exacerbated by a refusal to accept collective travel documents and an insistence on individual passports instead. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, I would like to know more about the Government’s intentions on finding ways to reverse this decline.

To end on positive note, it is excellent news that, at last, we are going to rejoin the Horizon programme, even if it is only as an associate member. Rejoining means that the UK can combine knowledge and research skills with European partners, which will help innovation in the economy and elsewhere. Going it alone was never going to be a good substitute for collaboration. Let us hope that going back into Horizon is a start to greater co-operation with the EU in many areas, which the opinion poll to which I referred earlier suggests the British electorate want.

Like previous speakers, I congratulate the committee on its excellent report, and the ex-chairman of the committee on the brilliant timing of this debate. Like previous speakers, I believe that we need to work together with the EU

“to safeguard the rules-based international order”


“co-operate against internal and external threats”

to the values and interests that we share. That means rebuilding a relationship extending beyond trade and economic partnership to

“law enforcement, criminal justice, foreign policy, defence and wider areas of co-operation”,

and doing so in an institutional framework, with both sides committed to a regular dialogue and efficient and effective arrangements

“for its development over time”.

The House will recognise that I am quoting from the political declaration referred to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, which the May Government agreed with the EU—or rather, I am quoting from the revised version agreed by officials but rejected by Mr Johnson four years ago, when he chose instead to go for deliberate distancing. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, who found a splendid quotation about the Johnson desire for close co-operation, that he deliberately went for deliberate distancing, with the noble Lord, Lord Frost, as his disciple. I had hope that the noble Lord, Lord Frost, would explain why, but we are not having that pleasure today.

I do not know why we wanted to burn the bridges. I suppose that we should have seen it coming when Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary refused to attend the Foreign Affairs Council when it planned to discuss the significance of Trump’s election in America. He dismissed the concerns of the 27 as “Euro-whinge”, and he stayed away. It is usually better to talk and, as Foreign Secretary, the responsible course, if you do not think you like what might be the emerging European consensus, might be to turn up and try to change it.

The problems we share now—aggressive Russian revanchism, the challenge of China, US protectionism, managing migration and the costs of net zero—are problems common to us and the European Union. We live in a world that is more insecure, or feels more insecure—and I think it is more insecure—than it used to be. We could do with precisely the kind of partnership that the EU and we at official level envisaged four years ago. They tell us that they particularly miss our contribution on defence, intelligence and foreign policy analysis of the big geopolitical issues. That is the first bridge that I would try to rebuild.

The Leader of the Opposition was quite right to talk security, not single market, in The Hague and Paris. I look forward to the Minister’s answer to the question from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, about the Government’s response to the recommendation from the committee on foreign policy co-operation and the Foreign Secretary’s dismissive reaction to it. This debate shows that the committee’s recommendation is widely supported.

I do not dismiss the possibility of also using the 2026 implementation review of the TCA to correct some of its obvious errors and omissions. There are some additions that would be win-wins for both sides. The report makes very sensible suggestions, but I cannot see any great appetite across the channel for a major renegotiation. The EU has moved on. Rather than try to reopen an agreed text, we might do better to pick up and draw on the one that was agreed. Michel Barnier sweated blood to get this agreed by the Council. Precedent is quite a useful thing to have. It could be best to look at it again.

I have one more point—rather downbeat, I fear. We will be living for some time with the legacy of the posturing and lies, the arrogant amateurism and the dossiers not understood and perhaps not even read, as well as the insult of the deliberate distancing that followed. It will take time to live it all down and rebuild trust. The present Prime Minister has made a good start with the Windsor Framework and, at last, the Horizon decision, but there is a long way to go, and it would help if we could do three or four things.

We could stop making regulatory autarchy paramount and listen to the voice of business. We could stop tabling Bills which, if passed, would break international commitments, and stop threatening to leave the ECHR. We could tone down the bombast a bit—the exceptionalism and chest-beating, as with the Truss trade agreements. It jars a bit here, but it jars a lot more across the channel. Above all, we could try to get the tone right and get away from zero-sum thinking. When things go well for the EU, do we really have to sneer or, when they go badly, cheer? It is our biggest market, and it is in our interests that things go well over there. This is the Ryder Cup that we are playing—we are all on the same side. We are in this together and it is a very cold world outside, so let us build bridges and thaw the frost.

My Lords, I congratulate the committee on its report and on recommending closer co-operation with the EU. This is to be applauded, although sometimes I wonder how much lack of co-operation is as much the fault of the EU. I have no doubt that the report will contribute to overcoming impediments to closer ties. At the same time as applauding the committee’s desire for closer co-operation with the EU, it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on how leaving the EU has allowed the UK to pursue an independent trade policy, striking several new agreements with real benefits for the UK economy and leading to closer international co-operation, to the benefit of Great Britain and the EU.

Our free trade agreement with Australia removes tariffs on £4.3 billion of UK exports, making it cheaper to sell iconic products such as ceramics and Scotch whisky. British companies have also been granted the most substantial access to Australian procurement contracts worth billions of pounds. Meanwhile, cheaper imports will save British households up to £34 million each year, and the deal creates new opportunities for young people and professionals to work and travel in Australia.

Last year’s deal with New Zealand is expected to increase bilateral trade by almost 60% in the long run, boosting the UK economy by £800 million. The agreement cuts red tape for the 5,900 UK small and medium-sized businesses that export to New Zealand, as well as ensuring that services exporters from accountancy to engineering can compete on an equal footing. Notably, it includes a world-leading environment chapter to encourage trade and investment in low-carbon goods, services and technology.

The UK has just opened a new gateway to the Indo-Pacific by joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, building our relationship with economies that will account for most of global growth in the decades to come. No one should underestimate the importance of this agreement. These countries account for almost 10% of investment into the UK, creating over 5,000 jobs in 2021 and 2022, and the CPTPP offers protections, which will encourage further growth. The agreements on rules of origin also create opportunities to diversify our supply chains, and membership allows the UK to shape the CPTPP’s fight against unfair and coercive trading practices. Joining the CPTPP also means that the UK will have a trade agreement with Malaysia, to which UK businesses exported £1.7 billion of services in 2022.

Less than two weeks ago, the UK signed a strategic partnership with Singapore to enhance co-operation on the economy, security and innovation. This includes a first-of-its-kind partnership with Singapore’s Digital and Intelligence Service, drawing on common strengths such as AI to tackle emerging cyber threats. This builds on our 2022 digital economy agreement with Singapore, which helps businesses seize new trade opportunities by opening digital markets, protecting intellectual property and digitising trading systems. I look forward to seeing progress in our ongoing negotiations, including work towards new agreements with India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

None of these agreements impedes closer co-operation with the EU. Indeed, they enable the EU, through having trade accommodations with us, to join in these wonderful things that have been arranged.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate this evening. I commend the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the European Affairs Committee for this very fine report— I agree with its recommendations. I declare an interest as a member of the sister committee on the protocol and Windsor Framework.

I agree with the committee that our relationship with the European Union was characterised by tension and distrust, which is slowly evaporating as a result of the good work on the Windsor Framework and now that we are back in Horizon Europe. I know that, in a Northern Ireland context—the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, already referred to this—students can avail themselves of the Erasmus+ programme, and that should be available to all students within the UK.

It is important, like the committee has said, that there are much greater levels of collaboration between the UK and EU in the fields of foreign policy; defence and security, particularly in the whole area of Ukraine; protecting democratic institutions and democracy; energy security; climate change—we can only think of today’s announcement, which tries to dilute commitments relating to fighting against and mitigating climate change—and, very importantly, the mobility of people. I think of those in the dramatic arts and music industry who benefit from greater levels of mobility. So those issues are important.

I also concentrate on the area of commercial economics and the need for greater levels of trade between the UK and the EU; I refer in particular to the Border Target Operating Model. I know that many logistics groups have already met with the Minister, but there are certain areas where they feel they still need certain answers. The Government need to urgently share the technical details and guidance that businesses need to prepare. The new barriers could impact the cost and choice of products for UK consumers and risk distorting trade. This means rising prices as well as shortages of fresh food, as the UK is reliant on the EU for these goods, particularly via the short straits between northern France and Kent and during the winter. Small and medium-sized enterprises specialising in grouping multiple shipments in a single load—known as groupage—will be hit particularly hard. It is therefore important that work takes place between the UK and EU to break down trade barriers and to build relationships and collaboration, so as to ensure that trade is made much easier and that there are reduced costs for hauliers and consumers.

I therefore have three questions for the Minister. I know that this has already been referred to—by the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, I think—but when will an SPS agreement between the UK and EU come to fruition? What assessment has been made of the readiness of EU exporters and rest-of-world exporters for importing goods into the UK under the implementation of the Border Target Operating Model? And what assessment has been made of the readiness of EU vets for undertaking processes related to importing goods into the UK under the Border Target Operating Model? In asking the Minister for answers, I am emphasising the importance of greater levels of collaboration in commercial trade policy and in the areas already defined by this very fine report from the European Affairs Committee.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and his committee for this report and for continuing to highlight the challenges that the TCA presents for the creative sector. In choosing not to focus on this in his comprehensive introduction, he has left a welcome space for my noble friend Lord Clancarty and me to fill, perhaps giving a new meaning to the concept of speaking in the gap.

The latest report from the Independent Society of Musicians provides new evidence of impact 30 months after the TCA came into effect: half the UK musicians surveyed reported less work in the EU, with over a quarter saying that they now had none—lost work, lost income and lost opportunities, but increased costs, increased time and more red tape. Hardest hit are young and emerging artists, who make up the greater part of the sector and who lack the resources to meet the financial and administrative burden of the post-Brexit regime.

The impact of this hostile environment is diminishing the cultural sector, not just in the UK but across the entire continent, with cancellations and economic loss affecting both UK and EU artists. European festivals and venues, which have hitherto relied on the bigger box office appeal of UK artists to drive revenues and local tourism, are forced to look elsewhere. No longer do UK artists “dominate the European panorama”, as the European Commission stated in 2019. EU opera and dance companies cannot call, as they used to, on the UK’s dancers and singers for last-minute jump-ins. Of the musicians surveyed, 39% had turned down jump-in requests because of the 90 in 180-day rule.

Even now, both sides continue to claim that they offered, and the other side rejected, a better deal. The noble Lord, Lord Frost, has admitted that his approach was too purist, yet the Government’s response to this report repeats the line:

“The UK took an ambitious approach … that would have addressed many of the issues artists now face. Regrettably, our proposals were rejected by the EU”.

There is little to be gained by rehashing these arguments, but this mutual finger-pointing does offer cause for optimism. If where we are is where neither side wanted to be, surely we can work together towards the better place we both say we wanted.

I am privileged to be a member of the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly. Within this group, there is clear appetite—from EU and UK members—to right these wrongs. The PPA has twice reiterated its recommendation to the Partnership Council that both sides be encouraged to negotiate a comprehensive and reciprocal touring agreement. Our own European Affairs Committee recommends the same and the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education has called on the main committees responsible for TCA implementation to address the absence of the cultural and creative sectors in the TCA. With both sides clearly wanting the same thing, can the Minister explain why it is taking so long to make progress on this issue?

A good first step would be to improve the situation for younger artists by establishing the reciprocal youth mobility partnership recommended in this report—a proposal supported by both the PPA and the European Parliament’s Economic and Social Committee. The chief executive of the Independent Society of Musicians —the ISM—told the committee that such a scheme would be

“important in creating opportunities for emerging artists”,

stressing the value to artists of collaboration between the EU and the UK. She makes an important point that, while the economic loss to the next generation of talent is significant, the greater impact is arguably the loss of cultural exchange.

In some industries, growth depends on putting down roots, but artists develop and flourish by moving between different environments and experiences. Touring opens up new opportunities, markets and audiences. It enables collaboration and intercultural dialogue and builds networks and partnerships. The loss of these opportunities is not just personal and professional—it is potentially a loss to the industry, with all the knock-on effects to the UK’s economy, reputation and soft power around the world.

The committee’s report points out that barriers to mobility post Brexit have especially impacted young people—the same young people who were disproportionately affected by Covid and who will suffer most from this economic downturn. The benefits of international exchange for young people are spelled out by the committee: cultural, social, personal, professional and economic. Prioritising youth mobility would demonstrate that the Government are considering the opportunities and life chances of the generation that will, in the end, shape the future UK-EU relationship—the generation that had the least voice in the 2016 decision but that will live with its consequences longest.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl and his committee on not only producing this report but, for once, getting it into the Chamber for debate before it has gathered too much dust. He has done remarkably well there.

The House knows my attitude to things European. I welcome what have been called “changing attitudes”, but I am a member of the Lord Speaker’s panel for schools and there has been no change of attitude there. School pupils were appalled by the referendum result. Every time I speak to a school, I say quite clearly, “I think it was a dreadful thing and we should reverse it as soon as possible. Does anyone disagree?” Occasionally you get the odd hand, but very seldom. Most of our younger generation, including the students at Cambridge University whom I meet from time to time, believe that we should repeal the whole process. That is why I welcome recent statements about looking again at how we can get a closer relationship.

It is fine to say that you can go around Australia for tuppence, or whatever, but most people want to go to Europe. Most people want the Erasmus programme back and students from the European Union to be able to come here. Most students want to come here. I want to see a Government looking to get as near as they can to the single market and back to the customs union and free movement. It seems incredible that we have such labour shortages but do not allow people to come into the country who would be prepared to work and benefit the economy.

I welcome the European Political Community and Britain’s participation in it. I see that we are hosting a summit next year; I hope we will put a lot of effort into it. I have also been interested to see recently that the French in particular are looking at a possible different structure. It has been common gossip in Brussels for years that the EU needs a different structure to enlarge. As someone said to me of the Balkan states, “You let one in and they’ll veto all the rest”. We have to work out a different structure; this two-tier structure is certainly worth looking at and working on, because I think it would work. It would probably also work for some of the current members of the EU that appear congenitally unable to keep its rules when it does not suit them. They do not seem to realise that the EU is an organisation where you have to compromise and, in the end, agree in order to go forward. That has been the EU’s secret—people can talk together. In this landmass, with fewer languages than India and a far smaller population than India or China, we have no option but to work together.

One hundred years ago this year, my grandmother moved into her first married house. She had gas mantles—not electricity—and no radio, and penicillin was a thing of the future. By the time she died, towards the end of the last century, all those things had changed. I say this because my granddaughter, now aged two, will probably be alive for the better part of another 100 years. This world will then be very different. Britain will be a small part of a small continent. It may well be China’s century—however much fantasy we have, I can tell noble Lords it will not be Russia’s—and we need to come to terms with that. The only way of doing so is to work with our European colleagues and to accept that you have to make compromises in working together —compromises that lead to the better good, a stronger Europe and a better place for us to leave our children to inherit.

My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate and I am pleased to take part in it. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, who speaks with a lot of European experience, as do so many other noble Lords taking part. I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, on a really interesting report; the committee took a lot of interesting evidence and, like others, I am very pleased that we are having this debate sooner rather than later.

It is not often that I have to declare an interest when speaking in this Chamber, but on this occasion I refer to the register of interests. In the last 20 years or so, I have spent a lot of time in Europe, especially France, where the personal experience I have gained is relevant to this debate. I will return to this later. Speaking of France, the King is making his state visit there today— I hope the weather in Paris is better than here.

I begin by saying one fairly simple thing: the next Government will need to take UK-EU relations seriously, no matter what Government they are. They will also need to improve them. If the present Government are re-elected, they will need to improve them; if, as I hope, a Labour Government are elected, the important difference is that they will want to improve them. I was heartened to read in a recent interview in the Financial Times that the leader of my party said he would attempt to secure a “much better” relationship with the EU than the existing TCA. He said:

“I do think we can have a closer trading relationship as well. That’s subject to further discussion”,


“As we go into 2025 we will attempt to get a much better deal for the UK”.

I have no time to go into the trade issues, but Europe remains our biggest and nearest export market.

However, trying to negotiate a better deal is a lot easier said than done. I have heard it said that the European Commission will take a limited approach to any renegotiation, as reflected in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and there may be a limit to what can be achieved. However, if there is a change of government, a new Prime Minister can do some things that would signal from the top that there is a new, more constructive and more stable Government with which the EU can do business. There would be a diplomatic dividend, which would take them so far but would need a lot of work.

In the short time available, I will highlight two areas in which I hope improvements can be made. First, there is the political, diplomatic and institutional relationship. We can make more progress by talking more. I am in favour of more UK-EU summits at prime ministerial and ministerial level. I am in favour of giving more UK momentum to the joint UK-EU partnership councils and the various specialised committees set up under the TCA. I am in favour of the UK-EU parliamentary partnerships set up to exchange views on the implementation and operation of the TCA— I very much endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, now on the Woolsack, said a moment ago on this. I am also in favour of the UK playing an active part in the European Political Community.

I welcome the Government’s decision to re-join Horizon Europe. I have campaigned for it since I joined the House and I am sorry about the damage that has been done by the delay, but it is essential. We cannot hope to be a science superpower unless we take part, and I am glad that we will do so. Now that we have re-joined it and Copernicus, why cannot we re-join the Erasmus scheme also? Perhaps the Minister can say something about that.

This brings me to the second major area I want to mention: the cultural relationship. It is no good talking about the UK’s “soft power” if we do not deploy it, or if we cannot deploy it. It is not just in the professional world of the creative industries where damage has been done; it is the amateur world as well. The committee rightly talks about school visits and there has been a staggering drop in the numbers of those taking place, in both directions. This is utterly self-defeating for the UK. Apart from the professional world of music and creative arts, there is also the amateur world. I want to emphasise the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and, in advance, those that may be made by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. One of the tragedies of leaving Europe has been that visits to Europe by youth orchestras have been rendered well-nigh impossible, and here I speak from personal experience. For years, I have travelled round Europe in support of my own children, a violinist and a cellist, who were members of the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra. They were invited to play all over Europe in the summer: in Austria, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia, Poland and other countries. It was a deeply enriching musical experience for the orchestra and audiences alike, and in many cases, it was the first time those young people had been abroad at all. One litmus test of better UK relations in the future will be the restoration of this kind of important cultural link, and I hope the Minister will be able to say something positive about a youth visa that may make this possible.

In conclusion, I welcome the fact that we are now talking about a new and different relationship with the EU; accepting the committee’s report and everything in it would be a very good basis for approaching the task ahead.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Viscount and to join everyone in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for securing this debate in such a timely manner. I thank him and his committee for the excellent report. I note the noble Earl’s comments, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about emissions trading schemes and carbon border adjustments. I will not repeat them, but I associate myself with the concerns expressed.

We have here a committee report which has produced a huge amount of sense in the midst of so much nonsense from the Government. To take just one recent example, there was the long, unnecessarily drawn out, politically biased delay, which was so deeply damaging and draining to the scientific community, to the process by which we finally re-joined the Horizon programme.

I feel I should begin by setting out the Green Party’s position to demonstrate to your Lordships’ House, and to the country, that there is a political force ready to stand up for the country’s clear, best economic, social and environmental interests and for the wishes of the people. The Green Party is working to make us “rejoin ready”, so the UK can rejoin the EU when the political conditions are right. In the meantime, many of the worst problems created by Brexit would be eased by rejoining the customs union, negotiating the return of freedom of movement of people between the UK and the EU, and signing up to a comprehensive agreement covering the protection of human, animal and plant life.

Brexit has been all pain and no gain. I start where I always start, and that is with the losses of all Britons, but particularly the young, who have suffered from the loss of freedom of movement. The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, referred to their awareness of this. These are the young people who in 2016 overwhelmingly voted to maintain their European future, and who no doubt today would do so even more overwhelmingly, although, as we have seen from the Prime Minister’s speech this afternoon, the Tory Party is clearly no longer interested in attracting the votes of young people.

Young people today have considerably fewer freedoms and opportunities; the loss of Erasmus+ is only one part of that, and I am delighted the committee recommends resuming participation. But far larger is the fact that they can no longer start a journey to Poland or Finland, Spain or Croatia from Victoria Coach Station, just down the road from where we sit. I looked it up: tomorrow at 7 am, they could have got on a coach to Warsaw for £91 and they could stay there or anywhere else across the EU. They could explore, find work or study, make friends or find a partner, or settle down across a continent with the wonderful freedom that their parents enjoyed but young people no longer have. Youth mobility schemes are clearly essential, as the committee recommends in paragraph 333.

Then there are the economic effects, and I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, will forgive me for joining their chorus that focuses on the creative sector: the musicians, the theatre groups and many others who have been forced to lay down their careers on the altar of so-called sovereignty. Also hit hard are the small and medium enterprises which have lost half or more of their markets, blocked by the impossibility of import controls and custom duties, from customers who have now been forced to go elsewhere. Their businesses were sacrificed on the false promise of replacement trade with distant Japan or Australia, with trade deals that not only hold no hope for those businesses but threaten the futures of our farmers and our already dangerously inadequate food security.

I turn to a couple of specific environmental elements of the committee’s findings, which I am afraid may well have been overtaken by the events of this afternoon. Paragraph 192 recommends regular meetings between the UK Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero and the European Commissioner for Energy. Well, yes—although I doubt whether they will regard us as in any way a serious partner after this afternoon’s climate horror movie starring Rishi Sunak. In paragraphs 206 and 207, the committee suggests full membership of the North Seas Energy Cooperation, with which the UK signed an MoU to support offshore grid development and renewable energy potential in the North Sea. Again, yes—although our offshore wind programmes, both those already supposedly in train and those not bidding in the latest contracts for difference auction, are in grave question. Why would the NSEC want to bother?

My Lords, this report is an impressive survey of our current relations with our European neighbours and the noble Lord, Lord Kinnoull, and his committee deserve congratulations. For those of us who have spent half a lifetime working on, first, how best to get the UK to fit in to the European Union and, once we were in, how the UK could best help shape its further evolution from within, and help it escape from its original cocoon of 20th-century protectionism, this debate gives a strong sense of déjà vu and having been here before many times. The dulcet tones of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, are very evocative of night after night of debate in the past, going round and round old treaty issues, long forgotten, and coming to the same conclusions as before, which were usually very negative.

The missing element, if I may begin on a negative note, is that the discussion continues scarcely to touch on the changing nature of European governance and the enormous momentum for European reform, as the world alters rapidly around it and entirely new challenges emerge. We talk about more co-operation and trust; that sounds splendid, but exactly with whom or what? Are we talking about the 32 committees—this army of committees that we have to work through and do not meet often enough? The EU institution is in flux, and understandably so. Talking about it is like being confronted by a chair with one leg missing, and the missing leg is the fast-changing nature and direction of the EU itself as an institution. We may say that perhaps that is inevitable because we are outside the EU, but I am not so sure. We are, after all, just as much a European power as before, and just as much affected by the major common issues of today as we were before. Indeed, I find the chorus of “losing influence” in the whole European scene utterly self-defeating, as well as self-fulfilling.

Indeed, you could argue that today there are more common issues for us and the rest of Europe—and, as my noble friend Lord Hague remarks in his evidence, more need for a new framework for the future—than when we first joined the European Union 50 years ago. For one thing, the whole nature of modern defence has changed but the EU has not. The Ukraine outcome will change everything further, as my noble friend Lord Tugendhat reminded us. For another, free trade is under threat as never before in the last 50 years. There is the biggest migrant surge of all just beginning, as we saw over the weekend. There are deep divisions on Europe’s relations with and dilemmas about trade with China and whether it will start a new trade war by trying to ban Chinese vehicles and getting a sharp rebuff, as it will, from China. Our transatlantic relations need revising and, as your Lordships remarked earlier, even more so if Mr Trump is elected.

As for energy and climate issues, which are addressed extensively in this report, a European system of energy co-operation is really urgent. What has been delivered from the EU side is a fragmentation that will tear apart the whole energy market, and the European Green Deal is in a terrible muddle. For example, Germany’s latest energy package is a real go-it-alone strategy, and there is no unified view of nuclear power in Europe at all. I hope that in this country we will not give up or turn shy on all our work addressing these enormous crises, and all the work we have put into handling them, intellectually and creatively, with very wise minds over the last 50 to 60 years.

The Europe-wide reform cause is growing stronger all the time. The slightly supplicant note of some of HMG’s utterances and some reports should be replaced by a much more positive tone. By that, I do not mean concentric circles and all that rubbish, which we have discussed endlessly before and should put aside. For these reasons I strongly welcome the support given though membership of PESCO—advanced defence co-operation—where we can update Europe’s woeful defence inadequacies for modern war conditions. I also welcome our participation in the European Political Community, as this report does, and the North Sea energy co-operation—although goodness knows how we get electricity to market from the coming offshore forest of wind pylons being planned, since no one has begun to work that out or how to pay for it.

At the end, this report rightly asks how the laser beam coherence we need here at home to focus creatively on all these issues can be concentrated and directed by the united efforts of the FCDO, the Cabinet Office and other departments—indeed, the whole Whitehall machine. I confess that I see little or no sign of that in the Government’s response to these urgent matters of supreme national interest and importance.

My Lords, there were various reasons on both sides why people voted the way they did in 2016. My main personal reason at the time was to protect freedom of movement, in particular the right of young British citizens to be able to move freely across their own continent and live, study and work there without hindrance, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, talked about. We have lost that freedom—although that loss was not a given and could have been avoided, even while leaving the EU. Of course, it is a loss that affects not just young people but people of all ages: students, workers and retirees who have wanted to spend their latter years in Spain or France, for example, many of whom voted for Brexit.

While important for UK citizens, that movement has been vastly overshadowed in the media by movement in the other direction. This report, so ably introduced by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, is a very helpful corrective to that media bias by looking at both inward and outward movement. The chapter on mobility notes that in 2019, the last pre-Covid year when the UK was a member of the EU, 4.8 million UK nationals visited the EU for work purposes. We have made constructive use of this benefit, which many on the continent understand today less as a benefit and more as a democratic right.

The importance of freedom of movement within Europe to our service and creative industries cannot be overestimated. The TCA was, in effect, a no deal for these industries. The report says that Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Independent Society of Musicians, referred to by my noble friend Lady Bull, described post-Brexit arrangements as an “unmitigated disaster” for the music industry. It also quotes her as saying that

“musicians are telling us that it is simply economically not viable to tour into the EU anymore”.

The current feeling of the music industry—indeed, the arts as a whole—is one of frustration, of the sense of a Government dragging their feet on facing up to a litany of Brexit-related concerns: on visas and the need for a visa waiver or cultural touring agreement with the EU; on work permits; on the cost of carnets; on musical instruments and cabotage, where exemptions need to be urgently negotiated; on costs and red tape around merchandise, which is so important for up-and-coming bands; on making Eurostar St Pancras a CITES-designated port, which so far the Government have refused to do; on the 90 in 180 day limit. Vision engineer Tim Brennan of Carry on Touring tweeted this month to the Prime Minister, as one can:

“I’m out on tour at the moment in the EU, building the LED screens for a gig. After my next tour I will have run out of Schengen allowance. Who do I send the invoice to for the following 90 days that I’m unable to work”.

Other areas of the creative industries are also affected, including the visual arts, as this excellent and detailed report points out. Recently, an artist said to me that Brexit has turned her and other artists unrepresented by galleries into smugglers: unwilling smugglers of their own work when they transport it for exhibition in Europe, since the costs and red tape of declaring themselves as exhibiting artists would be prohibitive. As I am sure the Minister agrees, this is a truly absurd situation. Even the noble Lord, Lord Frost, who is not in his place but whose ears must be burning this evening, said in his Zürich Churchill lecture in 2020:

“We should take another look at mobility issues”.

A few weeks ago I had the experience of helping my daughter obtain a visa to study in France, starting this year. I know at first hand how difficult, time consuming, expensive and frankly off-putting that process is, and will be even more so for less privileged members of society.

On the subject of visas, while rejoining Horizon was very good news for scientific co-operation, the fact remains that, as long as we are outside the single market, UK scientists will always be at a disadvantage to our European counterparts, who enjoy free movement with each other. In music and the other arts too, there are finite barriers for young UK musicians or performers unable to obtain a permanent post in Europe as part of an accepted career path because those positions are advertised only for EEA passport holders. It is very difficult indeed to see how we can get over that, other than by rejoining the single market. Even with the best will in the world, which we seem still not to have, despite the thawing in UK-EU relations that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, indicated, there will nevertheless be a limit to what can be achieved in the longer term. My own hope is that, say, two years into a Labour Government, Keir Starmer will turn to the people of this country and say, “Well, I tried to make Brexit work”.

My Lords, I welcome this report, which I think is reasonable, balanced and realistic. I also welcome the Government’s response. I speak as a veteran of the Brexit wars, having been chief of staff and special adviser to the Secretary of State in DExEU in 2017-18. One of our jobs was to meet heads of different Governments on a bilateral basis and explain Brexit from the UK perspective. It was also important for me to understand the European perspective, which for many was that the EU was a redemptive project to avoid the horrors of war.

On the issue of Horizon, which the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, has so ably enunciated over many months, I welcome the decision. But I have to say that I was disappointed by the somewhat churlish tone of some nobe Lords when the decision was made, given that the issue was weaponised by the European Union for many months, notwithstanding the fact that it was laid down in the TCA. The tone was: how dare perfidious Albion have the temerity to seek a better deal and better value on behalf of British taxpayers?

The future relationship with the European Union should of course be seen through the prism of British national interests. Our relationship with the EU matters: in 2022, 42% of total UK exports went to the EU and 48% of imports came from the EU. We also have to give consideration to the wider health of the European economy and the UK’s role as a global soft power nation, militarily, diplomatically and economically. Brexit catastrophism has been somewhat overplayed. Even the Economist has conceded that, notwithstanding that goods trade has remained becalmed, service exports since 2021 have risen 3.6%—significantly higher than most G7 countries.

On the subject of being churlish, it would be churlish not to admit that the Windsor Framework has changed the playing field in respect of our relationship. I neither supported nor voted against it. I believed that it was an unacceptable interference in the territorial integrity of a so