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Grand Committee

Volume 823: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

Grand Committee

Thursday 14 July 2022

Airports Slot Allocation (Alleviation of Usage Requirements) (No. 2) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Airports Slot Allocation (Alleviation of Usage Requirements) (No. 2) Regulations 2022.

My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under the powers conferred by the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, or ATMUA. Taking the opportunity of our departure from the European Union, ATMUA created a more flexible set of powers for Ministers to implement slot alleviation measures. We are now able to adapt our approach to best support the UK’s own specific circumstances.

We will all have seen the disruption that holidaymakers and other passengers have faced at some of the UK’s airports, particularly over the recent Easter and half-term breaks. There have been unacceptable queues, delays and short-notice cancellations of flights. The persistent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has presented challenges for the aviation sector as it recovers, and there have been difficulties ramping up operations to meet the high levels of demand. Airlines, airports and the myriad other businesses that support aviation operations have struggled to recruit and train enough staff. Many other airports around the world are struggling with similar challenges. There have also been delays due to European air traffic control restrictions, strike action and airspace closures. This has resulted in short-notice cancellations of flights and considerable disruption for passengers.

The Government are doing everything in their power to support the aviation industry and ensure that passengers can fly with confidence over the summer. On 30 June, the Government set out a 22-point plan to support the aviation industry to avoid further disruption so that all travellers can get away over the summer period. One of the key elements of this package is the slot amnesty to which these regulations relate. It offers carriers more flexibility to plan and deliver reliable schedules and it introduced a two-week window, which closed on 9 July, during which airlines were able to offer back 30% of their remaining slots for the summer season. This is a one-off measure to allow airlines to plan a realistically deliverable schedule for the summer, and in particular to reduce the risk of short-notice cancellations and delays. Critical to this will be the sector itself ensuring that it develops robust schedules that it is confident it can deliver.

Ordinarily, airlines must operate slots 80% of the time to retain the right to the same slots the following year; this is known as the 80:20 rule. When the pandemic initially struck, the 80:20 rule was fully waived to avoid environmentally damaging and financially costly flights. Following the UK’s departure from the EU and the passage of ATMUA, we were able to introduce a more tailored alleviation of slot rules in response to the pandemic as the situation developed. For summer 2022, our focus is on encouraging recovery following the success of the vaccine rollout, the removal of travel restrictions and the generally positive demand outlook for aviation. After consultation with the industry and consideration of the evidence, we determined that a 70:30 ratio was an appropriate usage requirement for the summer period. This includes an extended justified non-use provision, which helps carriers when they are operating in markets that are still restricted due to the pandemic.

However, in light of the severe recent disruption at UK airports, caused by the persistent impact of Covid and a tight labour market, we consider that further alleviation measures are justified for the current season, which runs until 29 October. On 21 June, we therefore published this statutory instrument, which set out our plan to offer carriers the two-week window when they can hand back up to 30% of their remaining slots per airport for the current season. This is a critical measure to allow airlines and airports to take stock of what they can realistically deliver. This has been our message to the airlines and airports, and the entire aviation sector; they must be able to provide the certainty of a deliverable schedule. There is no point in continually announcing short-notice cancellations when they suddenly realise that they do not have the staff to fly a planned flight.

This proposal was developed following a short consultation with airports and airlines and there was strong support for it, with the great majority of both airlines and airports supporting it.

The draft instrument covers England, Scotland and Wales. Aerodromes in Northern Ireland are a devolved matter, but in any event, there are no slot co-ordinated airports in Northern Ireland, so the Northern Ireland Executive agreed that it was not necessary for the powers to extend there.

One other issue is worth highlighting. If an airline does hand back one of its slots, it can only be one that would be flown at least 14 days after it was handed back. This will mean that we do not end up with lots of short-notice cancellations within that fortnight. Orderly communications with consumers will be essential. We also expect airports to maintain their communications with consumers to advise them on what they need to do in order to ease their passage through the airport.

This is a simple statutory instrument that does just the one thing. I look forward to hearing comments from noble Lords and I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing forward the regulations before us, which I broadly support and welcome. I have a number of questions relating directly to the instrument and to the current situation. I understand that when a passenger buys an airline ticket, the simple measure of paying airport tax shows the airport and the airlines the number of people travelling on that particular day—so I am confused about why the numbers travelling seem to come as a complete surprise. I declare an interest: when I met and married my husband, he was an airline man and worked for a number of years with Delta Air Lines, Singapore Airlines and BOAC. As part of his responsibilities he was also director of Gatwick Handling.

Is one of the problems that airports and airlines are not themselves responsible for the ground handling operations, so that there is no joined-up operation from the moment that a passenger arrives at the airport and checks in their luggage? One word of advice, having married someone in the airline business, is to travel with hand luggage only so that, if you are offloaded, leaving the aircraft is a much simpler exercise. But I understand that for families and people going away for a long period that is not possible.

Do the Government have any plans to review the fact that ground handling operators are separate companies that are perhaps one step removed from the companies that passengers are paying for their services? I know that the airlines, airports and the Government are saying that they are doing all they possibly can to ensure a better experience than what we have been seeing since the May bank holidays earlier this year, but there still seem to be issues. How long does it take to train and give security clearance in particular to those working airside? I accept that we must take that extremely seriously, because that is where we are most vulnerable to a breach of security.

I welcome this amnesty. I offer a word of sympathy to the airlines and airports, which have probably been the hardest hit, alongside the hospitality and retail sectors. People were laid off. Willie Walsh said this week that, at the height of Covid, during the lockdown, only 2% of flights were operating. They had to grasp that situation and, given their ongoing overhead costs, save money as best they could, and obviously a lot of people who were in those positions have found work elsewhere.

Heathrow has asked for a moratorium on ticket sales for departures before 12 September. I pay tribute here to Simon Calder of the Independent, an expert in this field who does an enormous amount of work and is very helpful in advising passengers. He said that, after that announcement was made, when he tried to buy tickets—possibly yesterday—he found that a number of airlines were still selling tickets for before the magic date of 12 September. If that is the case, what comeback will there be? Those passengers may or may not read the newspapers and may or may not be aware of the issue. I have a further question on the impact of the amnesty. I want to establish whether, if an airline cedes a slot, it will recover the slot on the due date and there will be no economic loss to it.

I am one of the lucky passengers. I travelled during the May half-term. Although Ryanair may not be everyone’s favourite airline, I understand that it has the best figures for the fewest cancellations and the reliability and promptness of its flights. That week alone, it was estimated that between 2% and 4% of total flights were cancelled within a week of departure, compared with the normal rate of around 1%. Some 200,000 consumers were impacted by short-notice cancellations, as we are told in paragraph 7.4 of the Explanatory Note. It is not acceptable that 2.3 million passengers have been affected by delayed flights—approximately 43% of passengers arriving at or departing from UK airports. Given the importance of airports to the local economy in which they are based and to the national economy, that is obviously unacceptable.

Finally, paragraph 7.5 says that there will be 14 days’ notice when slots are ceded and that airlines are required to notify passengers of the cancellation of each flight at least 14 days before the date of the flight. Can my noble friend tell us what will happen if the airline fails to honour that commitment? It clearly is not happening. Anecdotally, a member of my family was caught up in this when they were actually in a taxi going to Heathrow airport. Having had a British Airways flight cancelled, she was then reallocated an EasyJet flight. When she was an hour from the airport, she was informed that that flight also was cancelled. So what redress will there be and what compensation will be given?

This is a deeply unfortunate situation in a major part of the economy, which is trying to do its level best to emerge as best it can from Covid times. I would like to think that one solution might be to consider ground handling operations being more hands-on with those closest to them. However, I hope my noble friend will give me the reassurance I am seeking for those passengers who have had less than 14 days’ notice, and, importantly, tell me how the airlines are required to inform passengers of a cancellation.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation, but I have to comment that there is something surreal about this SI. It talks about a lack of demand at a time when almost all airports, especially our largest—Heathrow and Gatwick, and one or two others—are struggling to cope.

The Government announced a grand plan of 22 points—this is one of them—and the Explanatory Memorandum talks of

“intervention to facilitate advance planning for a robust and reliable flight schedule.”

There is certainly a long way to go to achieve that, because it does not happen at the moment.

There are some misconceptions in the Explanatory Memorandum. It talks about “prolonged reduced demand”, and there is evidently not prolonged reduced demand. At the moment, government intervention and the situation at airports are artificially holding down demand. Anecdotally, I can point to several conversations that I have had with contacts, friends and relatives over the past couple of weeks in which they have said, “I’m not flying this summer. I would normally do so”. So demand has returned and recovered, certainly in the leisure market, but it is not being catered for.

I always smile when I read Explanatory Memoranda that try not to mention Brexit. This one does its best at paragraph 7.3 by talking about

“wider challenges to the UK labour market”.

The point is that Brexit is the wider challenge to the UK labour market, which means that there is likely to be a long-term labour shortage. So my first question to the Minister is: what progress has there been on the Government’s attempts to speed up the training and recruitment of additional workforce? The stories coming out of our airports are truly dire at the moment.

The impact of the Government’s efforts in the short term has been, as I said, to suppress demand to ensure that customers have a better experience, and I understand the good intention behind that. As a result, Heathrow is cancelling a percentage of flights and seats sold. Yesterday, there was a similar story in the Evening Standard about Gatwick. I am told today that Heathrow has specified the flights to be cancelled, which include Emirates flights. The Emirates airline is complaining loudly about this and has coined the memorable phrase “It’s Airmageddon”. It is very bad news for the aviation industry and for Britain that such a phrase is being used about our major airport.

I will be interested to hear the Minister’s explanation of how Heathrow has the right to specify the flights to be cancelled. I understand it having the right to say to airlines, “You must work within certain parameters”, but how can it choose a particular airline? How will that impact the aviation market, because it will distort it? We have had conversations in the past about the distorting effect of the slot process and how we can avoid that. Is it within the terms of the legislation that Heathrow can specify the flights to be cancelled?

My final point is that the two-week timeframe the Government gave the industry for cancelling slots seems very short. Is the Minister satisfied that the decisions were made with due care and attention, rather than in some kind of scramble by the industry to divest itself of some flights to fit the Government’s criteria? I would be particularly grateful for an answer about the Heathrow situation.

My Lords, since it seems fashionable, I declare an interest as a British Airways pensioner after a 20-year career in BOAC—that is how old I am—and BA.

The chaos at airports in recent weeks is indicative of a Government who have lost their grip. In recent days, Heathrow has asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets, data has shown that one in every 14 flights from Gatwick was cancelled last month and the chief executive of Menzies, which provides check-in and baggage services, has laid the blame squarely at the feet of Ministers. But this issue has not crept up overnight. The Government have had months to resolve it, yet—unbelievably—I am told the Transport Secretary did not hold a single meeting with aviation bosses during Easter or the jubilee weekend, despite the chaos at airports across the country. The only reason the Government are now bringing forward this instrument and facilitating the mass cancellation of flights is that they have been slow to act. By introducing these regulations, Ministers are conceding that airlines are not able to meet the pre-Covid demand that is now returning. Ministers cannot escape their responsibility.

I always try to make my interventions in debates such as this fairly small because the impact one has is somewhat limited, but at the end of the day this is an important event and a national disgrace. One way or another, the airline industry has failed to operate. The Government have offered the view that their 22 points published on 30 June would solve the problems. I decided to examine the 22 points to see what the Government have promised to do and whether they have done it.

Points 9 to 14 are about supporting passengers. This is desirable, but it is not what we want. Passengers do not want support; they want to fly on time, and that is what we must concentrate on. Points 15 to 22 are about recruitment and retention. Once again, they are worthy but too late to make much impact this summer, so I go back to points 1 to 8.

Point 1 sets out “expectations”, but does not actually say who is supposed to do what. Point 2 is these regulations. As I read the 22 points, it is the only one that requires any legislative action.

Point 3 says:

“We have strengthened industry-government working, by establishing a new weekly Strategic Risk Group, chaired by ministers and attended by airline, airport and ground handler CEOs to ensure they are prepared for summer and can meet the schedules.”

“Weekly” presumably means that there have been at least two meetings. Can the Minister affirm whether that is true? Crucially, did the chief executive officers actually turn up? Most importantly, what did the meetings achieve? What new initiatives or co-ordination that was lacking were achieved?

Point 4 is about establishing

“a weekly Summer Resilience Group with airline, airport and ground handler operational directors to help them work through their pinch-points in the aviation system as they emerge and work collaboratively on solutions.”

Again, how often has this group met? Was it attended by the operational directors of each of the appropriate companies? What did it decide and what points were overcome?

Point 5 says:

“We have established a joint Home Office and DfT Ministerial Border Group to identify and prepare for high levels of demand at the UK border.”

I was somewhat surprised by this, because I rather assumed that was the sort of thing Ministers would do routinely. Nevertheless, it is promised. Has this border group actually had any outcome?

Point 6 says:

“We have worked with the major airlines and airports to get weekly updates and assurances to government that they can run their schedule of summer flights.”

Have the airlines met that demand? Are the Government getting weekly updates? What picture do those weekly updates present? Is the information that is submitted published in any public domain material?

Point 7 says:

“We are working with international partners, neighbouring countries and EUROCONTROL, to ensure that disruption is minimised through coordinated planning and cooperation across airspace boundaries.”

My recollection is that that is what these organisations do all the time. I find it difficult to see how that will have any impact.

Point 8 refers to a discussion of the ground handling market.

Although we will not oppose the instrument, on the grounds that we want the Government to bring forward a wider message for the efficient use of new slots, I hope the Minister can use this debate as an opportunity to bring forward a real strategy to solve this crisis.

I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to today’s debate. I hope to get through as many of the questions as I possibly can. I think I can do them all, but if not, as ever, I will pop a letter in the post and try to provide a bit more information.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering raised the airport tax with me beforehand and we discussed it. The airline knows when someone books a ticket, so it knows that it has people who are about to fly, but many people book tickets many months ahead. I suppose that the airline thinks that it will be able to meet those obligations many months ahead, and then it turns out that it cannot. That is where short-notice cancellations come in. We know that there is a significant amount of data in the sector; obviously a lot of it is commercially sensitive, but we are fortunate in that it is shared with the department in certain circumstances so that we can scrutinise what is going on.

I was interested in my noble friend’s intervention about ground handling and operations. That was one of the things we pointed out specifically in our letter to the industry with the CAA, which we sent at the beginning of June. We were absolutely clear with the sector that we need a realistic schedule. This is one of the things that today’s regulations will help to provide. People need certainty.

The second point that we put in that letter was that we wanted all airports to have airport partner working groups. This was particularly to address the issue that my noble friend identified: to make sure that airports are not caught short by a lack of staff in ground- handling operations that they did not know about. We asked them to do that; we also asked them to focus, again, on passengers with reduced mobility, as there have been some dreadful stories of people being left on aircraft. But in all that, there should be no compromise on safety and security. Of course, we also said that all passengers must be informed of their rights and compensated where appropriate.

I am probably going to say this quite a few times this afternoon, but this is a private sector. The Government are not going to go in and start requiring that sector to do certain things because it looks like a good idea right now. We are doing as much as we possibly can. However, it is a private sector and we expect the private sector to sort itself out. If we can help, we will, which is what the 22-point plan is about and where we can remind the sector of things it should be doing—for example, the airport partner working groups—then we are very happy to do so.

In that vein, the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned training and security clearance. There are two facets to this. The first is that background checks are required, which the industry does. You have to be able to prove five years of your employment history to work in the sector and we enabled the use of HMRC employment history letters, which are helpful in that regard. The second thing we said on the industry background checks, because it can obviously sometimes take time to confirm someone’s employment, is that training can start during that period; previously, I think we were prevented by EU law from training starting while background checks were ongoing. We recognised that training could start—obviously, certain elements of it would not have been able to start, but at least the basic elements could.

There is a second lot of checks, which are those done by Her Majesty’s Government. Those include UK security and vetting, where there is no backlog and all applicants are being turned around in a few days, so that is not an issue. We have done what we can; the airports and airlines have not also stepped up and been able to recruit the people, given that there are no other barriers than them essentially being able to attract the right people, pay them the right amounts and give them the right terms and conditions. Clearly, that is something they will have to look at but, again, it is not for government to get involved in that. If the sector decides it wants to shoot itself in the foot by not providing a good service then it will, and others might then enter the sector and provide a better service. We shall see how that pans out.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned Heathrow. One of the journalists—I think it was Mr Calder—that the noble Baroness mentioned said that airlines were still selling tickets in that period. Yes, if the cap had not been reached there was no rationale for people not to sell them then. But on the more general situation at Heathrow, it is clearly a very important airport and has its own relationships with its airlines. I have seen the back and forth with Emirates and I should imagine that Emirates is extremely irritated. Heathrow will have to manage its relationship with Emirates, and all the airlines, because other airports are available.

At the end of the day, there are other options and an airline that felt particularly aggrieved might decide to take another option. Again, we are not going to get involved in that. We have no lever with which to get involved to shape how Heathrow Airport manages its business. It has decided to act as it does, which it is within its right to do as the owner of the airport. You cannot just turn up; you have to have a booking. It will be interesting to see how that develops.

Obviously, we all want to see everything go back to normal and our hugely successful aviation sector get back on its feet, but this is not unique. My noble friend talked about half term. I think she said 2% to 3% of UK flights were cancelled; it was 11% in the Netherlands. This is not unique to the UK. However, I reiterate what my noble friend said: I too travelled at that time and had no trouble at all. Not all airlines, airports or times of day are affected. We should therefore make sure that people do not get overly concerned or anxious about the situation.

On short-notice cancellations, there are usually emails and texts—the normal ways one communicates with airlines. I thank both noble Baronesses for raising the 14-day period. We originally proposed seven days, but following the consultation that was increased to 14. That is beneficial for all concerned in terms of planning, and it benefits consumers. If a flight is cancelled within 14 days, the airline loses its right to alleviate that slot, so this is quite a useful lever.

I know it does not feel like it, but there is still reduced demand for aviation globally. The shortage of staff globally—this affects the States as well—is putting a dampener on demand, but some people are still choosing not to travel. The Government are trying not to suppress demand but to manage supply. Our number one concern is getting a schedule that is deliverable. By putting this regulation in place, we will improve the deliverability of the schedule and of whatever supply is out there. I very much hope that all the demand can find an appropriate flight, but I do not know whether that is the case as we have not seen exactly what will happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, talked about the Government’s plan for aviation. We have a very capable Aviation Minister who has been working in the sector for a number of years and there are a number of strategic documents out there that set out very clearly what the Government are looking for, such as Flightpath to the Future. We have done all sorts of consultations recently on consumer policy reform. We are also working very hard on the longer-term skills element of this, in terms of how we encourage people into the aviation sector. My honourable friend the Aviation Minister is at the heart of these 22 measures. Although the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, is disappointed that the Secretary of State has not met somebody this summer, I assure him that the Aviation Minister is all over this and has been since the beginning of the year. We have been working on this for months. Obviously, these regulations do not come from nowhere; we have been working on them for a very long time.

The noble Lord asked about some of the elements from the 22-point plan. Point 3 refers to the strategic risk group. It is an important group and yes, very senior attendees from the aviation sector turn up. He reckoned that it could have met at least twice. I assure him that it has met five times and will continue to meet during the summer. I will write to him if I can get any more information about the outputs from those meetings; I suspect a lot of the information will be commercially sensitive, but it may not be and I may be able to provide a bit more input. The operational directors do turn up to the summer resilience group referred to in point 4. That group has met seven times to date and will continue to meet over the summer.

The joint Home Office and DfT ministerial border group would not normally meet if there were no problems at the borders—I do not like having meetings unless something is wrong—and our borders normally function incredibly well. The four meetings that have happened this year so far have been used to scrutinise plans and make sure that everything is appropriate.

On point 6, I can confirm that we get data from the major airlines and the airports weekly. Obviously, much of it is commercially sensitive and therefore is not published.

I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and other noble Lords that the Government take this really seriously. We have tried to intervene wherever we can but, at the end of the day, this is a private sector and we will leave it to the private sector to sort this out. We want our aviation sector to be back to its greatness as soon as possible. This regulation is a small step to help the system to stabilise and then, hopefully, to grow.

Motion agreed.

Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Movement etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Movement etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022.

My Lords, the import, export and placing on the market of cat and dog fur, and any products containing such fur, has been banned in the United Kingdom since 2008. This Government are committed to maintaining this existing ban in order to protect our much-loved cats and dogs—something that I am sure all noble Lords will welcome. I declare an interest as the co-owner of two rather lively black working cocker spaniels.

In 2008, when the prohibition entered UK law, the UK was implementing an EU regulation. The UK was a key supporter of the introduction of this ban on the trade in cat and dog fur while we were a member of the EU. The ban was in response to fears that non-labelled fur from cats and dogs was being sold in the EU. Consumers were naturally concerned about the possibility that they could find themselves unwittingly buying cat and dog fur and products containing such fur. The UK supported and pushed for the ban at the time of its inception, and our position on this remains unchanged. This is why it is so important that we replicate and maintain the ban on the trade in cat and dog fur by ensuring, through this SI, that it is fully operable now that we have left the European Union.

Some may ask why this ban is not being extended to cover the fur of other species. That is not possible through this instrument because it is made under powers contained within the European Union withdrawal Act 2020. These powers are limited to correcting technical deficiencies in retained EU law and implementing the Northern Ireland protocol. This instrument cannot introduce new policy; instead, it ensures that we can continue to maintain a fully functioning ban on the trade in cat and dog fur and, therefore, protect cats and dogs from those who would trade in their fur.

The instrument replicates, clarifies and makes fully operable the ban on the trade in cat and dog fur by replacing references to the European Union, its institutions and its legislation with references to Great Britain. It also makes continued provision for enforcement and clarifies criminal penalties for breach of the prohibition in each of the United Kingdom’s criminal law jurisdictions. This will ensure that there can be no doubt about the penalties for breaching this important ban.

Unfettered movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is a requirement of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. The SI recognises this requirement by technically allowing the movement of cat and dog fur between Northern Ireland and Great Britain so that the retained regulation does not conflict with the requirement for the unfettered movement of goods within the United Kingdom.

However, to be clear, I assure noble Lords that this is merely a theoretical access to movement for cat and dog fur. No lawful movement of these goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will occur in practice, because it remains illegal to import, export or place on the market cat and dog fur across the whole of the United Kingdom, through the combined effects of the EU regulation in Northern Ireland and the retained domestic version in Great Britain.

There is no evidence of a trade in cat and dog fur with the United Kingdom. Indeed, the farming of such fur—or of any fur, for that matter—is illegal and has been so in England and Wales since 2000 and in Scotland and Northern Ireland since 2002.

This instrument follows the affirmative procedure as it transfers to the Secretary of State for International Trade a power that sat with the European Commission: the power to derogate for exemptions to the ban for educational and taxidermy purposes. While I understand that many would wish the removal of this power for the Secretary of State to allow for exemptions, we are limited by the powers under which this SI is made. Under the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 we can correct deficiencies in the existing provisions but cannot make broader changes. Modifying or removing this power would therefore be beyond the scope of this instrument and the powers contained in the withdrawal Act.

I reassure noble Lords and the British public that this Government have no intention of using this power to limit the ban. The European Commission never exercised the power while we were a member state, and we see no reason for this or future Governments to do so.

For the record, the Government shared these regulations with the devolved Administrations in draft, outlining the changes made as part of the SI. We remain confident that there is consensus across the United Kingdom on the need to maintain the ban on trade in cat and dog fur.

I am pleased that trade measures can play such an influential role in helping protect our cats and dogs. This instrument is an important step in maintaining the ban on the import, export and placing on the market of their fur, and products containing such fur. I hope that, with this rather detailed explanation, noble Lords will be unanimous in their support for this statutory instrument and for its critical objective. I beg to move.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing forward this instrument. I am sure everyone would wish to support it—I think the fur would really start to fly if there was any sign of any trade whatever.

I have just one question for my noble friend. It is good to know that there is no evidence of any trade either from third countries or the EU—which is now a third country to us as well. What steps are taken at UK borders—airports, sea ports and indeed the Channel Tunnel—to ensure that there is no fur from cats or dogs in any part of the luggage? Obviously it is quite small and would be quite easy to hide. I would like to put my mind at rest that measures are in place to ensure that no fur is being brought in wilfully by passengers and can pass through untraced.

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, for his thorough explanation. I very much support his sentiments and comments around this area. I do not want to prolong the debate but, as we have heard, the instrument makes no change to policy and we welcome the Government’s continued commitment to maintaining pre-existing trade measures. I particularly recognise the Minister’s comments on how it is possible to use trade measures to make sure that these important matters are implemented, and I echo the sentiment and understanding that the fur trade is an abhorrent and cruel industry, and we have to do everything in our power to make sure that we interrupt any such practices wherever we can.

I have a couple of brief questions. I am sure the Minister will be aware of comments from Cats Protection raising concerns that regulations will be effective only where goods are explicitly sold as cat fur and do not address the problem of real fur being imported and sold as faux fur in poorly labelled goods. It has seen evidence of cases where fake fur used in products and garments such as shoes was in fact cat fur. What assessment have the Government made of that and have they given any consideration to further steps to stamp down on such practices? It cannot be right for UK consumers to be unwittingly supporting this cruel trade due to improper labelling.

On a wider but related note, have the Government considered changing labelling requirements so that any products containing animal fur or other parts of animal origin are clearly listed, so that consumers can be further aware of when they are and are not buying animal products, where they may have come from—both which animal and which country—and how they have been manufactured? I understand the possibilities around this; in the United States, there are detailed labelling requirements under the Fur Products Labeling Act.

I welcome the sentiments and intent of the proceedings today, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, for their brief comments and support for this SI. I will do my best to answer the questions raised. They broadly follow the same theme of enforcement, so I will pick up first on the point made by my noble friend and touched on by the noble Baroness.

There is no evidence of a trade in these products in the United Kingdom. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, it has been banned since 2008. Importers and exporters must declare that their goods do not contain cat and dog fur. Border Force is responsible for enforcing anti-smuggling controls at UK points of entry and exit to prevent imports and exports of prohibited cat and dog fur and products containing such fur. Where Border Force believes an item has been intentionally described to conceal its true identity and suspects that it is cat or dog fur, it has the ability to detain or seize it and, if necessary, have it forensically tested. I hope that touches on the point about faux fur as a cover for real fur.

Traders found to have breached the ban can be subject to criminal penalties, and this SI provides for the imposition of those penalties and clarifies them in each of the United Kingdom’s criminal law jurisdictions. There can be no doubt as to the penalties that can be applied to those found to be trading in cat and dog fur. I have no doubt that UK Border Force is well trained in seeking out such goods, particularly as they can be easily hidden—a point that was well made.

Labelling was brought up by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. Labelling is more linked to Defra policy, so I will write a letter to the noble Baroness, and copy in my noble friend Lady McIntosh, explaining its link to the DIT.

This was not raised, but I want to give some reassurance to the Committee about the future. In May last year, Defra published a formal call for evidence on the fur trade in Great Britain. The evidence gathered will be used to inform future action on the fur trade in Great Britain. The outcome of the call for evidence will be published soon. I am afraid that I cannot give any further details, but it is happening. It is important to mention that as I am on my feet talking about this subject. I hope that I have answered all the questions.

Motion agreed.

Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2022.

Relevant document: 6th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, these regulations were laid in draft before the House on Thursday 16 June 2022 under Section 23(6) of the Business and Planning Act 2020 for approval by resolution of each House of Parliament. If approved and made, these regulations will extend the temporary pavement licence provisions for 12 months, to 30 September 2023, and will come into effect the day after they are made.

The temporary pavement licence provisions created a faster, cheaper and more streamlined consenting regime for the placement of removeable furniture, including tables and chairs, on pavements outside premises such as cafés, bars, restaurants and pubs. These measures have been popular and very successful in supporting businesses, making it easier for businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés to facilitate al fresco dining with outside seating. It is vital that we continue to support the recovery of the hospitality sector from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic by extending these provisions for 12 months.

I turn to the details of the regulations. The sole purpose of the regulations is to change the four references to the expiry date of these temporary pavement licence provisions in the legislation, as amended, from 30 September 2022 to 30 September 2023. The regulations do not change any other part of the temporary pavement licence provisions, so the process for applying for a licence during the extended period will not change.

Subject to the regulations being approved and made, businesses will be able to apply for a licence under the process set out in the pavement licence provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020 for the extended period, until 30 September 2023. The regulations do not automatically extend licences that have already been granted under the current provisions, so businesses will need to apply for a new licence if they wish to have one in place during the extended period. Local authorities are encouraged by guidance to take a pragmatic approach in applying the relevant provisions so that it is as convenient as possible for businesses to apply for a licence during the extended period.

As the process for applying for a licence under the extended period will remain unchanged, I will briefly remind noble Lords of this process. All licence applications are subject to a seven-day public consultation period, starting the day after that on which the application is made, and then a further seven-day determination period during which the local authority is expected either to grant a licence or to reject the application. If the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period, the licence will automatically be deemed to have been granted in the form in which the application was made, and the business can place the proposed removable furniture, such as tables and chairs, within the area set out in the application for the purpose or purposes proposed.

Licence application fees will be set locally but are capped at a maximum of £100. Again, these fees are unchanged from what they are for licence applications under the current temporary provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020. All licences will be subject to a national no-obstruction condition and smoke-free seating condition, as well as any local conditions set by local authorities.

The grant of a pavement licence covers only the placing of removable furniture on the highway. A pavement licence does not negate the need to obtain approvals under other regulatory frameworks, such as alcohol licensing. Once a licence is granted, or deemed to be granted, the applicant will also benefit from deemed planning permission to use the highway land for anything done pursuant to the licence while it is valid, such as using furniture to sell or serve food or drink supplied from, or in connection with relevant use of, the premises.

These regulations will enable food and drink hospitality businesses to continue to obtain a licence to place furniture on the highway outside their premises expediently and as cheaply as possible. As I stated, this extension is considered necessary and vital because it will provide businesses with much-needed certainty to help them recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic, and it will support them in planning for the extended period.

I will explain just how hard the sector has been hit. Evidence from trade organisations and other sources indicates that wider economic pressures faced by the hospitality industry continue, with the sector yet to return to pre-pandemic levels of trading by March 2022, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. I firmly believe that these regulations will provide essential economic support for many food and drink businesses by continuing to enable expanded outdoor capacity for serving food and drink. To support local authorities and businesses with the implementation of the regulations, we will publish an updated version of the pavement licence guidance when the regulations are made.

If these regulations are not introduced, there is a real risk that this will undermine the steps that food and drink hospitality businesses have taken to recover from the economic impacts that they have suffered. We seek to make permanent this measure through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, and failure to extend this measure would result in an unnecessary gap in service and a return to the process under the Highways Act 1980, which would be confusing and costly for businesses and local authorities.

All of us in government have enjoyed al fresco dining at pubs, cafés and restaurants and can see the positive impact that it has on the vibrancy of our high streets. Since introducing a simplified route for businesses such as pubs, restaurants and cafés to obtain a temporary pavement licence, we have heard many examples of local businesses being able to increase their outdoor capacity quickly and at low cost. These draft regulations will allow al fresco dining and drinking to remain a reality for these businesses and provide much-needed continuity and certainty for another year, while we seek to make permanent the measure through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

I express my gratitude to local authorities for the huge effort that they made in this matter. Their hard work enabled businesses to thrive, while building vibrant high streets, leading to the success of these measures. I commend this instrument to the Committee.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing the statutory instrument and putting it in context. As she said, it rolls forward the existing pavement licences regime for another year, prior to them being embedded in primary legislation in the forthcoming levelling-up and urban renewal Bill.

My noble friend did not mention one controversial issue: smoking. If she did, I must have missed it. This is the background to the controversy about the instrument. When it was initially introduced there was no provision for non-smoking areas associated with pavement licences. There were then very strong representation from a number of noble Lords that, like licences for inside pubs, those for outside should also be non-smoking. There was a debate, and we ended up with a typical House of Lords compromise, which I suspect did not satisfy the Government and certainly did not satisfy me—namely, that provision must be made for non-smoking areas on the pavements. That is in the statutory instrument and is being rolled forward.

I remind my noble friend that a regret Motion was carried in your Lordships’ House a year ago on the omission of 100% non-smoking provision in the licence. That should be a warning to the Government that, when the LUR Bill eventually comes forward, there will be similar representations that the legislation should be changed. I say in passing that I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh, whom we much miss in these debates, for the briefing that he gave me last week.

There has been a significant change since we last debated this, in the form of the Khan review on smoke-free 2030 policies. The Khan review is quite unequivocal on this. It recommends that the Government

“amend the 2006 Health Act to prohibit smoking on all premises where food or drink is served.”

It actually goes a lot further, calling for the introduction of more smoke-free outdoor public spaces through a ban on smoking in all outdoor areas, not just pavement licences, where children are present. If the Government are serious about the Khan review and the ambition to make this country smoke free by 2030, they have to take on board the review’s recommendations when they draft the LUR Bill.

In the meantime, some local authorities have used the freedom that they have under the SI to introduce smoke-free pavement areas—for example, Manchester and Newcastle. There is no evidence at all that this has had any impact on trade. In fact, the reverse is the case: all the public opinion surveys after the initial ban on smoking in pubs indicated that more people visited pubs when they were smoke free, and 100% smoke free with a pavement licence is much easier to implement than the halfway house we have at the moment. You just have to put up one notice saying “No smoking”, and then there are no ashtrays and no two-metre gap between the smoking and non-smoking areas.

My noble friend mentioned that new guidance will be issued in conjunction with this SI. I ask for an assurance that, before that guidance goes out, there is consultation with the Department of Health, which obviously has an interest in this subject. Last year there was an instance where correspondence went out to Manchester from the department—I think it was then the MHCLG—that I do not think had been cleared with the Department of Health and sent a slightly confusing message. While welcoming this statutory instrument, I would be grateful for that assurance from my noble friend that there will be consultation with the Department of Health before the guidance is sent out.

My Lords, I spoke in support of these measures when they were first presented two years ago, and I am glad that they have been extended for another year. It is worth emphasising how important the hospitality trade is. In 2019 it was worth £59.3 billion and represented 3% of total UK economic output. From the point of view of levelling up, the trade is important across the whole country. But as the Minister says, hospitality has by no means recovered to pre-Covid levels. This is not just about the pandemic, although that is part of it: we now have the energy and cost of living crisis and the prospect of further rail strikes. But we should not forget what the pub group Mitchells & Butlers said last autumn—that Brexit was still

“an important event for the market”

in terms of workforce shortages, which have run into the thousands for that group alone. This is shades of what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was talking about in the earlier SI on airports. There are also supply and cost of product problems, and transport costs as well. So what measures, alongside this welcome if relatively modest measure, are the Government taking, or considering taking, to help the hospitality trade? The trade clearly needs considerably more help, not least to save more pubs from closure.

Clearly, it is important that pavements can be accessed properly by all users, including those with disabilities. It is worth repeating what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, two years ago: this is about not just access but predictability of access, so that street furniture is put out as precisely as possible, in the same place as the day before, to enable that access. That is a really important point, which I hope will appear in the new guidance. Will businesses clearly be able to refer to such guidance? Will this be checked after licences are awarded?

We are getting better at al fresco dining in this country. Of course, the weather at present is perfect for it, and I hope that we will enjoy the rest of the summer in this way and that the hospitality trade benefits from this as well.

I too give a warm welcome to my noble friend for stepping into the breach and presenting the regulations this afternoon. I join my noble friend Lord Young in congratulating my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh on all he achieved in his position. We have been extremely fortunate to have him. I do not think a day or a week passed without him making some contribution and he was extremely knowledgeable and skilled in his field, so I look forward to his many further contributions from the Back Benches—for the moment.

I will give a plug and a thank you to the Liaison Committee, which allowed us to do a follow-up report on the Licensing Act 2003, which is like the mother Act of many regulations, including those before us this afternoon. We published the report on Monday and it seems to have been extremely well received. I was fortunate enough to meet UKHospitality at a beer dinner last night, where I was able to discuss it briefly, and I hope we will have the opportunity to discuss our recommendations and conclusions.

One of the witnesses, Kate Nicholls, was in fact from UKHospitality and was extremely powerful. I pay tribute to her for the work that she has done; I think the Government have appointed her as the first ever disability ambassador for hospitality. She will have a great role to play on pavement licences. We are fortunate that we are able-bodied and able to walk around quite freely—if you can pass the crowds on the pavement at the moment. But I think anybody who is hard of sight, or with a disability and needing a mobility scooter, is very mindful of the obstructions that street furniture and other things can cause.

We had a debate on airport slot allocations earlier. I would say that the airline, retail and hospitality sectors have definitely been the most damaged by the Covid crisis, which is still ongoing, so I warmly welcome the provisions that my noble friend has set out today. Looking back to 2003, when I had been an MP for, I think, six years—I am looking at my former Chief Whip—we were full of expectation that there was going to be a café culture and that we would be able to take young children and older family members into cafés to order coffee, wine or soft drinks. That never really took off under the Licensing Act 2003 in the way that the then Government intended.

However, we should pay tribute to the original regulations that my noble friend referred to, which came in in 2020, as she stated. Under the temporary provision, the process for applying for a licence was capped at £100—I think it still is—so everybody knows and the local authorities are onside. Perhaps even more importantly, a licence is automatically deemed granted if the authority does not make a decision on the application before the end of the determination period.

The two things I welcome most warmly in what my noble friend said are, first, the fact that the regulations today will extend the provisions right up to 30 September 2023 and, secondly, the commitment to make that a permanent feature in the levelling-up Bill. I am really looking forward to tackling that Bill as I have many other ideas, and I hope that my noble friend will enter into the spirit of that. With those few remarks, I welcome the regulations before us.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Pinnock, who cannot be here today, I can say that we welcome the ability of cafés, restaurants and so on to have spaces outside on pavements. She leads in this area and wanted to make that clear. It has been a welcome development, pandemic or no pandemic. However, my noble friend’s particular concern is that businesses should pay rent for these spaces because the spaces are publicly owned and maintained by council taxpayers.

That links to a point which other noble Lords have made and that my noble friend Lady Janke, who is standing aside because the last SI went through so fast that she did not make it here in time, wanted to emphasise. It concerns narrow pavements and those with pushchairs or wheelchairs, or people with mobility issues. We now have permanent structures being installed in the footway—business extensions, in effect—and councils do not seem to have the power or resources to remove them, even in conservation areas; for example, my noble friend is very familiar with Clifton in Bristol in this regard. Businesses use lengthy legal processes to resist. Will the Government issue guidance on the duty of local authorities to enforce regulation and restraint? That ties in with what my noble friend Lady Pinnock intended to say about resources, which could therefore be tackled in that way.

I turn to the reason I wanted to speak in this debate, following on from the noble Lord, Lord Young—the Minister may not be surprised to hear this. I want to come on to what I see as the major deficiency in these regulations, which the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, said would be sorted if they were extended; he certainly told me that after the first regulations were put in place. When the regulations were first introduced, the then Minister pointed out that his father, Professor Roger Greenhalgh, a noted vascular surgeon, had a deep understanding of the public health importance of what I am about to say. The Minister shared that understanding of the public health implications of what he was introducing.

Once again, however, the Government have extended these regulations without revising them to require that all pavement seating is 100% tobacco-smoke free. This would have contributed to the Government’s ambition to make England smoke free by 2030, an ambition which we are currently on track to miss by seven years. Fewer than one in seven adults now smokes—a welcome development that has been very hard fought for—and people dislike being exposed to tobacco smoke. The ban on smoking in public places was introduced against a cacophony of warnings from the tobacco industry, but not only did those warnings not come to pass; people really liked the fact that pubs, cafés and restaurants had become smoke free. They felt clean and welcoming.

What we have done here is to extend the inside of pubs, restaurants and cafés to the outside. These outside areas are equally public places where smoking should quite simply be banned, with no ifs, buts or exceptions. Research shows that this is popular and some councils are doing what the public want, with 10 councils in England introducing 100% smoke-free requirements. These bans have proved popular, with high levels of compliance, and have not been shown to decrease revenues.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, under the current legislation, councils have two options on smoking: to implement the national condition to provide some smoke-free seating, or to go further and make 100% smoke-free seating a condition of licences at local level. It is a more complicated system than a blanket ban and means that non-smokers and children will continue to be exposed to second-hand smoke. The Minister will not need to be told that scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke and that exposure is linked to all sorts of health problems including cancer and heart disease, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, acknowledged.

As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, there is strong cross-party support in the House, as there has been for 20 years, for reducing the harm that tobacco causes and, in this case, for 100% smoke-free pavement seating. As he said, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, tabled an amendment, which was passed despite the Minister’s party having a heavy Whip on that vote.

As we have heard, only last month Dr Khan published an independent review of smoke-free 2030 policies, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, which recommended the prohibition of smoking on all premises where food or drink is served, as well as a ban on smoking in all outdoor areas where children are present. This statutory instrument is therefore a missed opportunity to implement Dr Khan’s recommendations and continues a challenge that was introduced in rushed circumstances.

As we have heard, the current pavement licensing conditions will apparently be made permanent in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. We cannot vote on these regulations because we are in Grand Committee and, anyway, SIs cannot be amended. I therefore urge the Government to amend the upcoming Bill to require that pavement seating is 100% smoke free. If they do not, I and others will put forward an amendment when the Bill comes to the Lords. The best thing would be if those working on the Bill, knowing that it will be amended, sorted it out in advance. That would mean one fewer thing to worry about when the Bill reaches this House. Clearly, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, will raise a number of other issues too—so pick this one off and sort it out. There is always the challenge of whether government is joined up.

I am sure the Minister will know how the tobacco industry has long pushed back on tobacco control. But it was in the UK, because of the cancer registries developed because we had a comprehensive health system, that Sir Roger Doll was able definitively to connect smoking with cancer—something the industry knew well but kept closely to itself. We have had long battles to curb smoking and, through cross-party support, progress has been made. The Department of Health is now very switched on in this area, but the department that deals with local government clearly did not have this expertise. In the pandemic, with the Government needing to restrict the number of people inside premises but trying to ensure that businesses remained viable—all very laudable aims—pavement licences were granted. It is extremely clear that pressure was put on the department, persuading it that there would be an economic hit if these were smoke free. I hope we do not hear that from the Minister today. We tried to ensure that these areas, which are an extension of the inside to the outside, were smoke free. It became clear that the local government department had not consulted the relevant part of the Department of Health until after the proposals had been laid.

There was a certain amount of scurrying around, supported by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, when we pressed the case; we were told that things had to be rushed through. But we are not in a rush now, and we forced the department properly to engage with the Department of Health. What consultation was there over this element of this SI with the Department of Health and, in particular, with the part of it that deals with smoking and public health—not simply a ministerial write-round? Will the Minister make sure that the levelling-up Bill, when it comes forward, has been updated so that it is in line with what the Government say they want to do on public health and so that the siren voices, which have been so powerful here, do not help to lure staff, adults and children on to the very obvious rocks that the tobacco industry presents to us? I look forward to her reply and, if she cannot for some reason fully reply—I would understand that—to her writing to us.

My Lords, over recent years, hospitality businesses across the UK have struggled, but the problems they face did not begin during the pandemic. As the cost of living bites, it is important that the Government support local businesses in any way possible. Even minor steps such as these regulations are welcome. Labour therefore does not oppose these regulations to extend pavement licences, but instead calls on the Government to minimise the unintended consequences. That means monitoring the impact on local residents and pedestrian access, particularly for those with disabilities and mobility issues—a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

Guide Dogs UK and the RNIB both raised concerns about the shortened timeframe for consultation when the temporary changes on pavement licencing were introduced. The department must work with both groups to resolve concerns. The Government should also work closely with local authorities to enforce safeguards in cases where businesses are blocking pavements and ensure that councils are properly resourced to fulfil their responsibilities.

Aside from the specific provisions of this instrument, Labour wants the Government to bring forward further support to help the hospitality industry, and that includes making sure that people have more disposable income to support local businesses.

Several noble Lords—particularly the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham—mentioned that the hospitality industry has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. I have a few questions to follow up on some excellent contributions made by noble Lords in this debate.

During the two years since this has been in place, how many licences have been rejected and what were the main reasons for those rejections? On hospitality and local councils, has there been any feedback between the department and local authorities on what have been the major impacts? That is a very broad area, but I am sure that the Minister could comment on whether the issues are Brexit or pandemic-induced—a point made earlier. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made a powerful contribution and added to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham about the complexities and confusion around smoking and non-smoking areas. I hope for some clarification from the Minister.

The Minister also gave many examples of increasing capacity at minimum cost and short notice. In particular, has the department assessed how much value there has been in footfall to different hospitality sectors and has there been an economic measurement of increased revenue for businesses? Has work been done on that area?

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. I am sure that in forthcoming proceedings on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill there will be many contributions and amendments, but it is a good start to hear the issues raised today.

I thank noble Lords for all their contributions, which have given us an interesting debate on the draft regulations before us today—a meatier debate than I expected at the outset. We have been discussing an essential extension of the temporary pavement licence provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020 for 12 months to 30 September 2023. As previously outlined, the regulations continue our support for the hospitality sector’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as supporting businesses in times of rising costs and expenses. They are vital to provide certainty for the businesses in their planning for al fresco dining for the next year.

I am grateful to noble Lords for raising a number of important points in relation to how this will operate, and I welcome this opportunity to respond. I have heard loud and clear the contributions of both the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and my noble friend Lord Young on the issue of smoking and smoke-free areas and I acknowledge that they are both very well informed on the subject. To be fair, I merely touched on the issue of smoking in my opening remarks—certainly not in any great depth.

As they both know, all licences are subject to the smoke-free seating condition, which requires that the licence holder must make reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted. The pavement licence guidance recommends that a minimum two-metre distance should be provided between non-smoking and smoking areas wherever possible. My noble friend is quite correct that local authorities can also apply their own local conditions to licences, and both Newcastle City Council and Manchester City Council have entirely banned smoking in areas that have been granted pavement licences.

I can confirm that we are working with the Department of Health on that guidance. The Government are carefully considering the 15 recommendations set out in the Javed Khan independent review to support the Government’s ambition for England to be smoke-free by 2030. The new tobacco control plan, due to be published later this year, will set out a comprehensive package of new proposals and supporting regulatory changes. I have heard loud and clear your Lordships’ request that we consider amending the LUR Bill. All I can promise to do is to take those concerns straight back to the department; it is beyond my pay grade to make any such undertaking from this Dispatch Box.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh were particularly concerned about the impact on disabled people and access issues. Ensuring pavements remain accessible to everyone, including the disabled, is a condition of temporary pavement licences. Licences can be revoked where this condition is not met. The pavement licence guidance makes clear that, in most circumstances, 1.5 metres of clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway, and this will continue to apply under the extended provisions.

In framing the guidance, we worked closely with the RNIB and the Guide Dogs association to refine it to ensure that local authorities consider the needs of the blind when setting conditions and making decisions. Local authorities must consider the need for barriers to be put in place to separate furniture from the rest of the footway, so the visually impaired can negotiate around the furniture with ease. We are updating guidance to emphasise to local authorities that extra care should be taken to ensure that national and local requirements on accessibility are still being met.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, about the possibility of local authorities charging for the use of the pavements. Unfortunately, the Business and Planning Act 2020 does not give local authorities a specific power to charge ongoing rent for use of pavements. This measure supports businesses by making it significantly cheaper to gain a licence compared to the previous route, while fully funding local authorities’ costs for providing this service. We are not looking to impose additional costs on businesses at a time of rising costs.

I know that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, was also concerned what else we are doing to help businesses through what is a particularly difficult time, with both rising costs and lack of staff. We believe that these temporary measures benefit businesses by offering a cheaper and faster route to obtaining outdoor eating licences, and this cuts costs for businesses and enables additional seating. Not only do the measures assist in the economic recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic but they support businesses during this time of rising costs. We must not forget the amount of support that we gave the hospitality industry throughout the pandemic, such as the furlough scheme and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The noble Lord, Lord Khan, asked how many licences were rejected. The department does not have that specific data but, anecdotally, refusals are for many reasons, including fire safety, access for disabled people and the lack of safe functioning of the area. We approved 25,382 licences. I hope that has dealt with the questions.

To conclude, extending the temporary pavement licences provisions through the regulations is necessary to support hospitality businesses. This is particularly important when we consider just how badly hit by the pandemic the sector has been, and these temporary pavement licence measures have already been very successful in supporting the sector in its economic recovery. Extending the provisions will enable this success to continue and provide much-needed certainty to businesses in their planning for the coming year. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 2.34 pm.