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Grand Committee

Volume 824: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2022

Grand Committee

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Arrangement of Business


My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.

Exclusivity Terms for Zero Hours Workers (Unenforceability and Redress) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Exclusivity Terms for Zero Hours Workers (Unenforceability and Redress) Regulations 2022.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, these regulations, which were laid before the House on 6 July 2022, will make exclusivity terms unenforceable in contracts which entitle workers to earn net average weekly wages that do not exceed the lower earnings limit—currently £123 per week. The statutory instrument will ensure that such workers are not restricted by exclusivity terms. It will give them the right to take on additional employment without being subject to detriment and—applicable only to employees—unfair dismissal.

The measures we are introducing will increase participation in the labour market, which, together with our agenda to boost productivity, will drive higher employment, wages and economic growth. We want to give businesses the confidence to hire and retain workers and provide their workforce with the skills and experience they need to progress in work. We want to put more power into the hands of individuals and businesses to find and create work that suits their personal circumstances. We want to enable workers to reskill to make the most of economic opportunities and best apply themselves to drive growth and productivity in the economy.

During this cost of living crisis, we will continue to protect vulnerable workers. These measures will help ensure that low-income workers can boost their income with additional work, should they wish to. This builds on support we have already given to many workers during the cost of living crisis. In April, we raised the national living wage to £9.50, equivalent to an annual pay rise of over £1,000 for a full-time worker. We are giving 1.7 million families an extra £1,000 a year, on average, through our cut to the universal credit taper and increase to work allowances. A new in-work progression offer will also mean that 2.1 million low-paid workers on universal credit will be able to access personalised work coach support to help them increase their earnings. These reforms reflect the Government’s ongoing commitment to protecting and enhancing workers’ rights across the country.

I should like to take a moment to talk through what the regulations will do. The statutory instrument will extend the protections in the Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015. These existing regulations make exclusivity terms unenforceable in zero-hours contracts, where previously workers were banned from doing work under any other contract or arrangement, or barred from doing so without the employer’s consent.

We are making further provisions to extend this protection to individuals who work under workers’ contracts earning less than or equal to the lower earnings limit, ensuring that they can take on additional work to boost their income should they wish to do so. The regulations will also extend the right to redress to these workers, so that they have the right not to be subjected to any detriment from a non-compliant employer if they breach an exclusivity clause in their contract that is subject to these regulations. For employees, any dismissal for this reason would be regarded as unfair. All workers subject to any detriment will have the right to bring a claim or a complaint to an employment tribunal.

A second, separate statutory instrument, subject to the negative procedure, will be laid in Parliament after these regulations are approved. This is necessary to make the right to bring a claim under these regulations subject to early conciliation, a requirement set out in the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. This separate statutory instrument will mean that a prospective claimant wishing to take a case to the employment tribunal must first contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service about their dispute and consider conciliation before presenting a claim to an employment tribunal. This second SI will also amend these regulations to extend the time limit for making a claim to take into account this application of early conciliation.

The current provisions of the 2015 regulations make unenforceable exclusivity terms in zero-hours contracts. However, this does not cover such contracts where only one hour or limited hours are guaranteed, which leaves a number of some of the most vulnerable workers in our society subject to exclusivity terms while their weekly income is low. These low-income workers are significantly more likely than the average worker to want to take on additional work.

We have seen a rise in recent years in the use of short-term, variable-hours contracts. For some people this has been very positive, with the flexibility on offer helping those with other commitments to stay in work or get back into the labour market. For others, this has resulted in a level of unpredictability that has made it difficult to plan their lives effectively or have the financial security they need. We want to protect those most in need and address inequalities so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the labour market and enjoy fulfilling working lives, and to make a living, especially during this cost of living crisis.

The Government consulted on the policy in these regulations between December 2020 and February 2021. The consultation generated 30 formal responses from a range of legal organisations and professionals, along with trade unions, academics, local government and equalities groups. Overall, responses showed wide support for our policy proposals to extend the range of contracts in which exclusivity clauses should be made unenforceable.

On impacts, an estimated 1.5 million workers receive a weekly wage below the lower earnings limit in their main job, and the new reforms will ensure that workers in this group that have exclusivity clauses are able to top up their income with extra work if they choose.

Workers will have more flexibility over when and where they work to best suit their personal circumstances such as childcare or study, including the option of working multiple short-hours contracts. Businesses will benefit from a widening of the talent pool of job applicants to include those who would have otherwise been prevented applying for roles due to exclusivity clauses with another employer.

The reforms could also create more opportunities for low-paid workers to reskill as they take on additional work where desired, allowing individuals to make the most of new opportunities in existing sectors with growing labour demand, as well as in emerging sectors and occupations.

To conclude, the Government want to ensure that businesses and individuals can make the most of the opportunities in our flexible and dynamic UK labour market, to generate long-term economic growth and prosperity. These reforms will help us deliver on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work and do business by putting more power into the hands of individuals and businesses to find and create work that suits their personal circumstances. I commend these draft regulations to the House.

I thank the noble Baroness for her presentation. As she said, exclusivity terms were banned for zero-hours contracts in 2015 through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act. It enabled workers unable to work enough hours for one employer to work for another. It seems outrageous that employers were able to impose exclusivity terms on an employee who was not receiving enough pay to live on and to dismiss them for doing so. However, this protection was not extended at the time to contracts with employees on very low pay. This statutory instrument extends the protection to employees earning as little as £123 a week, meaning that if they are not given sufficient hours by one employer, they are able to seek additional work elsewhere, and if they are in any way discriminated against or any kind of action is taken against them, as the noble Baroness explained, they have legal redress.

In supporting this long-overdue change, we should remember the nearly 2 million people who are on in-work benefit because they are not paid enough to live on, many of whom are on zero-hours contracts. While the flexibility of zero-hours contracts is welcome to some who are not dependent on them for main income, such as students, many on zero-hours contracts are dependent on unreliable and often short-term work without the employment rights of permanent contracts such as sick pay, holiday entitlement, pension contributions or security of employment. Employers using these contracts can dismiss workers for sickness or even pregnancy.

Although we welcome this change, which will be of great importance to the very lowest-paid workers, we should appreciate that the low pay, poor conditions and lack of employment rights of zero-hours workers are not acceptable, and that for the 2 million low-paid workers on benefits, low pay and unreliable employment lead to deep insecurity and anxiety for the poorest families. The current economic crisis hits these people hardest, and I hope the Government will take the needs of this group of people, many of whom have families and children, very seriously indeed.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her pithy and informative introduction. I wish to look briefly at Part 4 of the regulations, which is very important. Could the Minister enlarge on Regulation 7(3), which states:

“The reason is that the worker breached an exclusivity term of their specified contract”?

Then there is Regulation 8, “Complaints to employment tribunals”. Regarding such complaints, will the Minister indicate the approximate annual number of tribunals dealt with? Is there a specific statistic that tells us the percentage of claims that succeed and fail? Are those statistics available for us in this debate? I think they should be.

Lastly, does the Minister have any insight into the promptness of payment of awarded compensation? How speedily is financial justice enacted? Again, I thank her for her introduction.

I add my thanks to the Minister for a very full explanation of the material in front of us. It is important for all of us to focus on the context in which this discussion takes place and recognise the terrible state that too many families are having to live in, with insecurity and low wages against a backdrop of soaring prices. We have heard how this SI brings the situation in line with the work that has been done on zero-hours contracts in the past. I acknowledge the comments that the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, made about how difficult it is to imagine that we are in this position today.

We welcome any step, however modest, to tackle the problems we are facing in the country’s labour market—as we have heard, the measure before us is modest. In welcoming what we have in front of us, we have to acknowledge that it is a sad indictment of our current labour market that the principle of someone being able to take another job alongside a low-paid job is being championed as a major step forward towards a fairer labour market. I ask us all: can we not do better? Surely hard-working people deserve the right to more predictable contracts; we should keep that at the front of our minds.

It is disappointing that a threshold of the national minimum wage or national living wage has not been adopted, which would have extended support to many more workers than the lower earnings limit. The fact that the Government still actively chose to use the lowest reasonable income-based threshold tells us that there is still far more to do in this area, and that is compounded when we look at the implications for those claiming universal credit.

What assurances can the Minister give those earning above the current lower earnings level of £123 per week but below the universal credit threshold of £332 per week about the exclusivity clauses that remain in their contracts? What steps will be taken to protect those who may earn below the lower earnings limit but may not be covered by the regulations because they are classed as self-employed? I am talking not about those who are genuinely unemployed but those working in the gig economy, who are often placed on highly restrictive contracts that do not offer the genuine freedom that self-employment provides. As I say, this is crucial, given that the precarious nature of work at this moment in time is at the front of people’s minds. Much more must be done to create stable and secure employment across the piece. I am sure that all of us know too many heartbreaking stories of how people have suffered under this regime.

There is regret that it has taken time for this to come forward, given that it is seven years since the original regulations and that the review was started 18 months ago. However, as I say, it is welcome, but there is more to be done, and I hope we will all put all our efforts into tackling the scourge of in-work poverty. The number of children living in poverty today with at least one adult in their household in work is something that we should not countenance.

May I say at the outset and to reassure all noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, that we take the needs of the lower paid seriously? This SI is an attempt to address some of those issues, and I, too, regret that it has taken this long to come to the statute book after the end of the consultation period.

I thank noble Lords for their valuable contributions. The points that have been raised demonstrate the need for these regulations and the broad support for introducing them. The Government are intent on driving higher employment, wages and economic growth to impact on all families, particularly the lower paid. The implementation of the regulations will support that aim by building much more flexibility into the labour market and putting more power into the hands of individuals and businesses. As we all know, short-hours contracts can provide a necessary level of flexibility for individuals, which allows them to work around other commitments such as study or childcare. Many people welcome zero-hours contracts. However, in some cases we know that they have been abused by certain employers and we have tried to introduce legislation to put that right.

This proposal will allow individuals to work multiple short-hours contracts, boosting income while maintaining the level of flexibility required for their personal circumstances. A dynamic and flexible labour market helps us retain and attract talent, while fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. A widening of the talent pool of job applicants, who may have been prevented applying for jobs by another employer, helps businesses to fulfil vacancies in key sectors and provide employment opportunities in marginalised areas. This more flexible market encourages an upskilling of workers, allowing a match to be made between individuals and work that best uses their skills and which will drive higher employment, higher wages and economic growth. The culmination of those factors will contribute to the commitment that we are making to ensure that the UK is the best place in the world to work.

I was asked a number of questions by the noble Lord, Lord Jones, specifically on the statistics on the annual number of tribunals and the promptness of payments. I do not have those statistics with me but I shall endeavour to write with a full response, and I shall make that available to all Members of the Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Blake, asked why we use this particular income threshold. It was a difficult balancing act, but it was felt that using this threshold balanced the needs of the employers as well as those of the employees—the workers employed under these types of contracts.

With those few words, I commend the draft regulations to the House.

Motion agreed.

Trade Marks (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

My Lords, I beg to move that these draft regulations, which were laid before the House on 19 July 2022, be approved.

The UK’s intellectual property system is consistently rated as one of the best in the world. The Government are committed to ensuring that we maintain that position. These regulations relate to a specific branch of the UK’s IP system—trademarks, and in particular well-known trademarks. A well-known trademark is a mark that is considered reputable and which the general public commonly knows about, such as Rolls-Royce or Google. Trademark law gives special protection to these marks, in the light of their recognition and reputation. This protection is irrespective of whether or not they are registered in the UK.

As the Committee will know, the United Kingdom has signed a trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, which sets out the new UK-EU relationship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Here, the UK sought robust provisions to maintain a high level of protection and enforcement for intellectual property rights, including for trademarks. These contain dedicated provisions for well-known trademarks.

The UK-EU TCA placed a binding commitment on both parties to apply an international standard for the protection of these special marks. That standard is the World Intellectual Property Organization’s joint recommendation on the protection of well-known marks, adopted in 1999. The UK played an instrumental role, as a member of the committee of experts, during the preparation of these international recommendations between 1995 and 1997.

Although it had been considered, when negotiating the TCA, that UK trademark law was consistent with the joint recommendation, we have since identified the need to make a technical amendment to our existing provisions for well-known marks to bolster the protection afforded to these special rights. This will deliver on our commitment to the TCA and the WIPO’s recommendation on well-known marks.

This instrument has three objectives. First, it amends the Trade Marks Act to provide owners of a well-known mark that is not registered with an additional remedy against infringement. We already have provisions in place for holders of unregistered well-known marks to stop the use of a conflicting trademark where it is being used on the same or similar goods and services. This technical amendment will change the law so this benefit can now also apply when a conflicting mark is being used on dissimilar goods and services.

As an example, a famous brand such as Rolex can rely on well-known mark provisions when its name is unjustly being used not only on watches and similar goods, such as clocks, but on sports equipment or even cleaning products. In particular, this applies where that use is likely to damage Rolex’s interests or take unfair advantage of the distinctive character or repute of the Rolex mark.

Secondly, this SI will amend existing trademark law to ensure that this new remedy, and all the existing provisions for unregistered well-known marks under UK law, will now apply equally to UK nationals, so our own nationals will enjoy the same benefits as those provided to third-country nationals.

Thirdly, these changes will ensure that we fulfil our international obligations. As described previously, this includes those found within the UK-EU TCA, but it will also place the UK in the strongest position to negotiate safeguards abroad for the protection of well-known marks of British companies within the context of future trade agreements.

I turn to the impact of the SI. Due to the special nature of well-known marks and the niche nature of these IP rights, the impact is anticipated to be modest in terms of extra cases being taken to the Intellectual Property Office’s tribunal or the courts. However, as already outlined, these changes are important to safeguard the robust functioning of our well-known mark provisions and to adhere to our international obligations. Stakeholders have confirmed that these amendments are a welcome addition to trademark law. The Intellectual Property Office will prepare guidance to help businesses that fall into the scope of these changes to deal with any impacts that the changes have on them.

In conclusion, these regulations relate to a niche area of trademark law but will ensure robust protection for unregistered well-known marks, and that the UK meets its international commitments. I hope noble Lords will support the draft regulations. I commend them to the Committee.

My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for her introduction to this SI. It is framed to substitute a connection country with the United Kingdom, and it appears to make no attempt to improve or explain the Trade Marks Act 1994. This seems a missed opportunity. What constitutes a known trademark? Is being well known a moving target? You can be well known today but disappear from sight tomorrow. Where is the dividing line? Who decides? It really worries me who decides who is well-known.

The Minister used Rolex as an example. I do not know how many people in this Chamber are interested in that top end of the market, but a lot of other trademarks are in much more use by the general populace. I was trying to think which trademarks would be referred to. I did not think of Rolex, but would it include Woolmark, BS984, which I think would concern large numbers of the population. How does it affect things such as champagne: is that protected in any way?

Furthermore, is the trademark national or international? The Minister talked about how the provision gives protection in overseas markets, but the SI seems to concentrate on Section 56 of the 1994 Act and does not really go beyond it. What happens if a trademark has a reputation elsewhere in the UK: does the SI protect it in the UK and elsewhere?

The Minister spoke about services. The SI talks about trademarks, but there are also service marks, which the SI does not mention at all. There is nothing wrong with the SI, but it seems to have missed an opportunity. Things have moved on since 1994, but we are concentrating only on Section 56 of the 1994 Act and nothing else. Can the Minister address some of those concerns?

I shall be interested to hear the response of the Minister to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. I thank the Minister for her fulsome explanation of where we are and why the instrument is necessary, of course noting that the regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure.

I notice that the Intellectual Property Office considered alternative options to addressing the commitment undertaken by the UK under the TCA, but there were no viable alternatives—which suggests that some alternatives were considered. I just wonder whether there will be an opportunity to review the impact of the SI and ensure that we keep up to date, ensuring for everyone involved that it is fit for purpose as time goes on.

Excuse me, I am seeking divine guidance. I wanted to give an example of a trademark that might be unregistered but would still get protection under the instrument. I keep coming back to Coca Cola and Rolex, which I recognise are both registered trademarks. The whole point of the SI is that we in the department discovered the EU was unaware that we had a bit of a hole in our legislative cover for trademarks, so the SI has a very specific purpose: to try to plug that hole to give protection to trademarks that were otherwise not protected by the original legislation.

The noble Lord mentioned things such as champagne, but I think that is a confusion with geographical indications, which are used on products specifically protected as a term because of where they come from—such as Melton Mowbray pork pies or champagne, which have to be produced in a particular region. That is why that would not fall within the scope of this SI.

I have very few other specific answers that I can give the Committee at this stage. If noble Lords bear with me, I will write with specific answers to the questions, particularly those from the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. I hope noble Lords will agree that this SI is necessary for a very specific and small purpose, and I commend the regulations to the House.

Could the Minister address the comment that I made about service marks? She mentioned them in her speech, but they are not mentioned here.

At this point, I do not think that I can go any further than the comments I made in my speech, but I will include that in a full letter after this session.

Motion agreed.

Airports Slot Allocation (Alleviation of Usage Requirements) (No. 3) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Airports Slot Allocation (Alleviation of Usage Requirements) (No. 3) Regulations 2022.

Relevant document: 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, these draft regulations will be made under powers conferred by the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, or ATMUA. Following our departure from the European Union, this legislation created a more flexible set of powers for Ministers to implement alleviation measures related to the impacts of Covid, subject to a vote in both Houses. This allows the Government to adopt a bespoke approach to best support the recovery of the aviation sector. Ordinarily, airlines must operate their airport slots 80% of the time to retain the right to them the following year. This is known at the 80:20 rule, or the “use it or lose it” rule. This encourages efficient use of scarce airport capacity.

This summer, we saw a promising recovery in passenger demand. It is welcome that so many people have been able to travel on business, visit family and friends or travel abroad for a much-deserved break. However, demand remains below pre-Covid levels, and this recovery has not been without its challenges. It is well known that the sector struggled to ramp up operations. This caused some disruption at airports in early summer, which abated as the summer progressed, supported by swift action from the Government.

We have designed a package of measures for the winter 2022 season that aims to balance the recovery of the sector with enabling airlines to plan deliverable schedules. When the pandemic struck, the 80:20 rule was fully waived to avoid environmentally damaging and financially costly flights with few or no passengers. We then offered generous alleviations for four seasons while travel restrictions remained and demand was uncertain. Last summer, we implemented a 70% usage ratio, reflecting the more positive outlook in demand. We provided additional alleviation during the summer season in response to the high levels of disruption at airports arising from the continuing impact of Covid-19.

As required by ATMUA, we have determined that there is a continued reduction in demand, which is likely to persist, and we consider further alleviation measures justified for the winter 2022 season, which runs from 30 October 2022 to 25 March 2023. On 20 July we therefore published this draft statutory instrument, setting out the package of measures we propose. This package was developed following consultation with industry and careful consideration of the responses.

The draft instrument being considered applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Aerodromes are a devolved matter in relation to Northern Ireland and, as there are currently no slot co-ordinated airports in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Executive agreed that it was not necessary for the powers in the Act to extend to or apply in relation to Northern Ireland.

In this instrument, the Government have focused measures on encouraging the ongoing recovery in flight traffic while protecting connectivity to destinations where restrictions remain in place and minimising the risk of disruption at airports while the sector recovers. This includes retaining the 70:30 usage requirement, but the regulations also include a justified non-use provision, which provides alleviation for airlines flying in restricted markets.

For this winter, we have expanded the list of Covid-19 restrictions that airlines may use to justify not using slots if they severely reduce demand for the route or, indeed, its viability to include pre-departure testing requirements. Restrictions covered also include flight bans and quarantine or self-isolation requirements applied at either end of any particular route. As was the case for the summer 2022 season, this will apply whether or not the restrictions could reasonably have been foreseen to ensure that we are protecting carriers and markets with long-term restrictions in place.

There will be a three-week recovery period during which the justified non-use might still apply following the end of Covid-19 restrictions. We will also allow early application for justified non-use. By this, I mean where an official government announcement about the duration of restrictions gives rise to a reasonable expectation that they will still be in place on the date of operation of the slots. The carrier will then still be able to apply for justified non-use, otherwise it would have to reapply every three weeks. This allows earlier hand-back of slots so that other carriers can use them. It also removes some of the administrative burden.

In the winter 2021 season we allowed full series hand-back, whereby an airline could retain rights to a series of slots for the following year if it returned the series to the slot co-ordinator before the start of the season. For this winter season, we have included a more limited measure that allows the carriers to claim alleviation for up to 10% of their slots at any airport if they returned them to the slots co-ordinator for reallocation between 1 and 7 September this year.

All this is so that the aviation sector can plan its schedules and make sure that they are deliverable. We are currently considering whether further alleviation is likely to be justified and I will certainly listen very carefully to what noble Lords have to say. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comments. Slot alleviation has become routine in the last couple of years. I have always accepted it as an important aspect of ensuring that we do not have unnecessary flights. “Half full” would be an overstatement; “almost empty” would be more accurate during Covid. However, I have got to the point where I question whether it is justified any longer in the current terms that the noble Baroness presents.

The Explanatory Note refers to an expansion of the list of reasons for slot alleviation, but that expansion is still in terms of Covid. Paragraph 7.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to demand being at or around 80% to 85% of 2019 levels during May to July. Does the Minister now have access to figures for August and September?

The irony is that the reduction in demand over the summer was significantly affected by the cancellation of flights because airports instructed airlines not to fly, not because of Covid but because they did not have the ground-handling capacity. That happened at both Gatwick and Heathrow. The impact was, of course, to reduce the number of flights, but it also suppressed demand beyond those who thought that they had booked flights. I am sure we all know people who found that their flights were cancelled or deferred, and people who simply gave up trying to fly abroad as a result of the congestion at airports. There was suppressed demand over the summer, so the alleviation of slot rules could be said to be no longer appropriate for those reasons. It is time the Government reconsidered it, because it distorts the market.

Finally, I point out that there is no impact assessment for this. The grounds given for this are that it is for less than 12 months, but this has actually been going on for years, as the Minister pointed out in her explanation. I draw the Committee’s attention to the 12th report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Losing Impact: Why the Government’s Impact Assessment System Is Failing Parliament and the Public. At this stage, now that we appear to be through the immediate emergencies of Covid, it is important that the Government restore the standards they once had in legislation, in terms of impact assessments.

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on taking over full responsibility for air—until the next reshuffle anyway. I think that happened last week.

These are very interesting regulations. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, I can see that in the Explanatory Memorandum there is a sort of conflict between wanting not to lose slots at airports, wanting to preserve monopolies and wanting to encourage competition. We do not really like running ghost flights if that is the only way to do it.

The question I would like to ask the Minister relates, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, to some of these lists of reasons, which could become cop-outs for just about everything an airline or airport does not want. The noble Baroness mentioned shortage of airline or airport staff and strikes, which have been happening and will probably continue.

Then there is slot limitation. The noble Baroness mentioned Heathrow Airport limiting slots. I looked at the website for Schiphol Airport and it has similar limitations on slots, I suspect for similar reasons. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what is happening to these limitations on slots, certainly at Heathrow, because I think the present one finishes at the end of October. Is that matched with Schiphol and other regional or local airports in Europe? Presumably you have to have similar restraints at either end of a flight, and an awful lot of them go to Schiphol and places such as that.

The other interesting item in the list of reasons, for me, is in paragraph 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which is to do with the

“closure of airports or hotels”

and the effect that it might have on the passenger. That is a very subjective way in which to decide on slots, if one is relying on the number of people who are complaining, or what you think the solution is. I am not sure that the regulations will help matters much, in that way.

I turn to paragraph 12.2. I do not really understand what it means when it refers to airlines, in order to

“retain their historic rights to the most valuable slots”,


“to consolidate their operations at Heathrow … with adverse consequences for other smaller airports”.

Do the Government actually mind whether that happens? There is lots of debate about Heathrow’s expansion, but surely there is a policy issue here that needs to be taken into account.

The next paragraph talks about “loss-making flights”. Can the Minister give us any indication of how many of those ghost flights take place in a month? Are we talking about hundreds, or thousands, or two—and are they relevant? They are pretty bad for the environment, as the Explanatory Memorandum says, so it would be nice to know how serious a problem it is.

Finally, paragraph 12.4 refers to the concern about negatively impacting

“new entry and competition amongst airlines.”

I shall finish on that note. It is lovely to be able to say that we are encouraging the airlines and making sure that they stay in a good financial state. On the other hand, we have seen over the years how competition has really helped to deliver better services and lower fares. It is a challenge, and I hope that the Minister will keep abreast of those challenges—as well as customer service, at which some airlines are doing very much better than others—when she comes to look again at these regulations in six months’ time.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her helpful introduction—she got airborne and made height. She might know that there is one airport in Wales, in Cardiff, and that the Welsh Government bought it for some £50 million some years ago. Previously, there were difficulties, and it was thought that the lovely land of Wales needed an airport—at the very least one. So I think that the Welsh Government were right to make their intervention. Cardiff Airport was undoubtedly not congested before purchase.

Could the Minister make a statement here in this Committee about Cardiff and slots—the 80:20 rule? Can she explain the general situation as it might concern Cardiff? One presumes that these regulations apply to Wales—it is there on page 1. Does the Minister have the information? How does the 80:20 rule impact on Wales’s one and only airport? Can she make any remarks of a helpful nature about Cardiff Airport in the context of the pressures on Heathrow and Stansted? What is the impact of the regulations on Cardiff Airport?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing the instrument, which I welcome and which again amends the airport slot usage rules, this time to 70:30, for the winter 2022 season. The aviation industry brings growth and prosperity to the UK and, as we deal with the after-effects of the pandemic, the Government are right to amend rules such as these. However, they must also plan for the long term and provide certainty to airlines, passengers and businesses that rely on the industry.

The airline industry is now recovering from significant challenges and levels are still at around 80%. As a result, airlines would likely operate ghost flights without an amendment to the rules. None the less, I would appreciate clarification of how the department decided that 70:30 is the correct rule for the fall/winter period. Will the Minister confirm what formula was used to decide this? I hope she can confirm whether the Government expect to extend the relaxation further when this instrument expires.

I listened to the case for reconsidering. We do support the extension as it stands, but I recognise that, to some extent, this solution is looking a bit tired—I have a vision of sticking plasters stuck round it to try to make it work. My recommendation to the Minister and the department is to be extremely careful with any modification. It would be very easy to have significant unintended consequences. Ideally, we should hope that growth which allows us to grow out of the need is in sight. Once again, we support this instrument.

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I will start with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about how we got to where we are. There is not a formula per se, but obviously consultation with the industry and other stakeholders was incredibly important. We also looked at detailed data on flights.

It is quite interesting speaking to airlines; I was speaking to one yesterday. They might say, “We’re back up to 100% and are doing brilliantly, thank you for asking”, because they fly the European routes, which have been open for a very long time and where the demand is back. However, we know that there is wide variation in the number of routes that can be flown at the moment. Some of the long-haul routes are still not open, particularly those to China, for example, and Japan has only recently opened up. In aggregate, the picture is looking much better for the airlines, but there are still some places that cannot be flown to, which, to my mind, means that maintaining 70:30 for at least the winter season is the right decision.

The noble Lord went on to ask whether we will be doing it in future. I am not sure; that is what we are doing right at this moment. I take heed of his words that we have to be very careful with slots. We must look at the things we have in our armoury. This 70:30 slot alleviation is potentially a very large hammer to crack a nut. We would potentially look again at justified non-use. Once we and other areas of the world are further out of the pandemic, what does justified non-use look like? It seems to me that it could be a better thing to use, because you want to try to protect some airlines from factors beyond their control. I cannot say where we will go in future. Do I think it will look exactly like this? I do not think so, but I am content with where we are at the moment and where we have got to in the proposals that we have set out.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about demand being suppressed. Obviously, we have quite a lot of data on why demand is being suppressed. There is still a reluctance from some to come back to the skies, because of Covid. They do not particularly want to travel just yet. I agree with her that this summer did not do the aviation sector any favours: I have made the point to many people in the sector that there is a job of work to do on public perception. The sector should make sure that going on holiday, for example, is not a chore but a delight. Airports and travelling should be a delight; you want to join your airline going off to Corfu, or wherever, with the bar fully stocked and everything working. I am focusing on working with the industry on getting the industry working—not only airlines and the airports but third-party suppliers—and then making sure that we somehow get across to the travelling public that some of those terrible Daily Mail front pages from the beginning of last summer are no longer the case at all.

The noble Baroness expressed some doubt over whether the alleviation is needed for the winter season; I think I have managed to explain the Government’s position on that. The pandemic is quite far away in our rear view mirror but not in other parts of the world, some of which are the very valuable long-haul destinations. One would not necessarily want to disrupt the slots for them at this time.

I take the noble Baroness’s point about the impact assessment, although the Government stand by our position that it is for six months. Obviously, we put as much information as we possibly could in the Explanatory Memorandum.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is right about London Heathrow; it is proposing that the passenger cap comes off at the end of October. I warmly welcome that. Heathrow, like many other airports, is very reliant on third-party suppliers and, as the noble Lord knows, the Government are undertaking a review of ground handling. That is one of the unseen parts of the entire system and if it breaks down, everyone gets very cross because their luggage does not arrive—and quite rightly so. They blame the airline, the airline has contracted the ground handlers and the ground handlers do not really see the anger of the passengers, so there is a bit of work to be done there.

The noble Lord also brought up the question of alleviation at the other end. I had the same question. However, I am reassured—and airlines have not raised this with us—that different alleviation measures in different countries have not caused a problem, so that is not necessarily an issue we need to worry about.

Are we concerned if airlines consolidate at London Heathrow? Yes, I am, actually. I do not want airlines to consolidate at Heathrow unless they have no alternative. If they have slots at other airports, I should very much like them to stay in those other airports. The Government are very much committed to regional airports.

There are no ghost flights—or fewer than 1% in the second quarter of 2022, and they were not caused by slot rules. Because the alleviations have been in place for so long now, the system has managed to adjust to them. All being well, in future, we will have no ghost flights.

I have had quite a lot of deep dives into slots and slot reform, something the Government said we would look at in Flightpath to the Future. It is hugely complicated: there is the balance between wanting the industry to invest for the long term, competition and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, pointed out, upsetting the apple cart by doing things that have unintended consequences. We will be looking at that very carefully.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Jones, spoke about Cardiff. I am pleased to say that although the regulations cover Wales, Cardiff is not an airport with co-ordinated slots. It is not quite busy enough for there not to be enough slots. We now have to get more airlines flying into Cardiff, then it will have co-ordinated slots and any regulations will cover it. For the time being, however, it has enough slots to go around. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Water Fluoridation (Consultation) (England) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Water Fluoridation (Consultation) (England) Regulations 2022.

My Lords, in moving that these regulations be approved, I shall also speak to the Health and Care Act 2022 regulations.

The water fluoridation provisions of the Health and Care Act will come into force on 1 November, and in doing so will transfer the power to initiate new schemes, or to vary or terminate existing schemes, from local authorities to the Secretary of State. Public consultation will continue to be an important aspect of proposals, and the focus of today’s debate is the draft consultation regulations, which set out the process that any future consultations must follow. We know that some have strong feelings on the subject of water fluoridation and consultations relating to it, and we were keen to gather public opinion before laying these draft regulations. We therefore launched a public consultation on 8 April, which ran until 3 June 2022, seeking views on whether future water fluoridation consultations should be restricted only to those affected locally and bodies with an interest, as has previously been the case, or whether they should now be open to all, given the shift of responsibility from local authorities to central government.

We received 1,228 responses; 94% came from individuals and 6% from organisations. The majority of respondents favoured a consultation which is open to all. The draft regulations do not therefore restrict those who can respond to any future consultation. However, we understand that it is those living, working and studying in the areas in question who are directly affected, which is why the regulations also provide for consideration to be given, as part of the decision-making process, to whether those who may be particularly affected by any future proposals should be given additional weight.

Although public opinion and the extent of support for a water fluoridation proposal will continue to be important, consultations are not referendums. It is right that regulations provide for a range of other factors to be taken into account when considering a water fluoridation proposal. This includes, but is not limited to, the strength of evidence underpinning any arguments made by respondents. It is right that due regard is given to those arguments that are properly supported by sound evidence.

We are committed to scientific evidence surrounding water fluoridation underpinning any proposal. The department continues to review scientific papers published both in this country and internationally as part of the continuous monitoring of the evidence—including those on the epidemiology and toxicology of water fluoridation —and every four years the department will continue to publish a summary report on our knowledge, in line with the Secretary of State’s responsibility for monitoring the effects of the water fluoridation arrangements on the health of the populations served by schemes. I provide assurance that, if the balance of evidence in favour of water fluoridation as a public health measure were to change, a review of the current water fluoridation policy would take place.

Another important element in deciding to proceed with a water fluoridation proposal is the cost-benefit analysis of such proposals. Any new proposal will have to demonstrate that the benefit to health will represent good value for the investment of public money proposed.

We want more of the country to benefit from water fluoridation, and many noble Lords may be aware that yesterday we announced, subject to the outcome of this debate and future consultations, that funding has been secured to begin expansion across the north-east into Northumberland, County Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Teesside, including Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington and Middlesbrough. I know that the local authorities in these areas are strong supporters of water fluoridation. In accordance with the regulations we are debating, we will hold a public consultation on this proposal next year. This expansion would enable an additional 1.6 million people to benefit from water fluoridation, which will help to reduce the level of tooth decay in the area and over time will reduce the number of children who need to be admitted to hospital for tooth extractions.

I turn now to the draft Health and Care Act 2022 (Further Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2022, starting with mandatory training on learning disability and autism. People with a learning disability and autistic people experience poorer health outcomes in comparison to the general population. There is a need to address the significant and persistent health disparities faced by this group of people. That is why the Government have introduced, from 1 July 2022, a requirement in the Health and Care Act for CQC-registered service providers to ensure that their employees receive specific training on learning disability and autism. Introducing mandatory training on learning disability and autism is intended to ensure that health and social care employees have the skills and knowledge to provide safe, compassionate and informed care. The Act also creates a duty for the Secretary of State to publish a code of practice which will outline how to meet the new requirement on mandatory training. The code of practice is being developed and we expect to publish a draft for consultation early next year.

The consequential amendment proposed today seeks to remove the requirement for the Care Quality Commission to issue statutory guidance about the mandatory training requirement, by amending Section 23(1) of the 2008 Act. This carve-out clause should have been applied during the passage of the Health and Care Bill. If the Act is left unchanged, registered service providers will have two sets of guidance: statutory guidance issued by the Care Quality Commission and, subsequently, the code of practice issued by the Secretary of State. Removing the requirement for the CQC to issue statutory guidance will mean that registered providers will have a single source of guidance once the code of practice is published. The Care Quality Commission has agreed to keep all its statutory guidance, which was published on 1 July 2022, available to registered service providers until the code of practice is published.

Lastly, I turn to virginity testing and hymenoplasty. Safeguarding vulnerable women and girls is a top priority for the Government, which is why we were one of the first countries in the world to ban virginity testing and hymenoplasty. Virginity testing and hymenoplasty have no scientific merit or clinical indication and are a violation of human rights. These degrading and intrusive acts have an adverse impact on women and girls’ physical, psychological and social well-being. They can lead to extreme psychological trauma in the victim, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, and physical trauma including damage to the hymen and vaginal wall, bleeding, infection and sexual difficulties. As such, we are proud that the Health and Care Act 2022 made carrying out, offering, and aiding and abetting virginity testing and hymenoplasty illegal.

As these are new offences, certain changes to other legislation are necessary to protect vulnerable groups. The Scottish Government have requested a change to be made to the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984, which contains a list of matters which disqualify a person from fostering a child in Scotland. The consequential amendments proposed today would add to that list the conviction of an offence of virginity testing or hymenoplasty in relation to a child. The change would also flow through to assessments by adoption agencies in Scotland under The Adoption Agencies (Scotland) Regulations 2009 in relation to the suitability of prospective adopters.

The 2009 regulations require those suitability assessments to be carried out by reference to a range of information, including whether the prospective adopter or any member of their household has been disqualified or prohibited from keeping a foster child under the 1984 Act. This change would have the effect of disqualifying or enabling the disqualification of individuals convicted of virginity testing or hymenoplasty offences from fostering or adopting in Scotland.

Similar changes were made to English and Welsh law in negative regulations under the Health and Care Act 2022. Scottish provisions on this matter are set out in primary legislation requiring an affirmative procedure. It was unfortunate that we were not able to make this amendment in the Health and Care Bill, as the need for the change was not identified during the Bill’s passage, but the priority is to put in place these restrictions now. This change will help to protect girls and young women from so-called honour-based abuse.

My Lords, I have spoken previously in the House in Committee and at Second Reading of the Health and Care Bill about how the Government’s water fluoridation policy is considered to be misguided by numerous eminent scientists in the UK and overseas, including government advisers. They warn that fluoridation causes a variety of health ailments, including damage to the foetal brain. I hope to offer my noble friend the Minister some constructive comments on how to improve the water fluoridation consultation process, which is unsatisfactory and inadequate in many respects.

First, the consultation should be more prescriptive as to the minimum level of publicity required from the Secretary of State to promote the policy. The current framework gives scope for minimal effective publicity, as the media requirement is merely defined as that which the Secretary of State considers appropriate. In comparison, in the case of public health initiatives concerning Covid, the NHS has texted those patients registered and sent letters to relevant individuals based on their ages. The same has applied to screening tests for various cancers. In addition to the NHS database, local authorities have council taxpayer databases and electoral register databases, which could be used for public information notifications. It is particularly straightforward to do that on a locality-by-locality basis, as would apply for fluoridation schemes. There could also be a specification for notices in local papers and in the national press.

Secondly, the consultation period is quite short, given that the public are expected to gather information and evidence, analyse data, review scientific evidence, carry out cost-benefit exercises and marshal arguments on a variety of aspects of a given scheme. Six months would be a more reasonable period.

Thirdly, no objective process is stipulated whereby the Secretary of State can realistically assess

“the extent of support for the proposal”

under Regulation 5(1)(a). What about the extent of opposition to the proposal? There should be a requirement for independent public opinion-polling and also canvassing of the views of parish, borough, city and county councillors. A local referendum should be considered. It stands to reason that, if a local proposal is to have any real democratic legitimacy, the view of a majority of the local populace should not be overridden.

Fourthly, it is difficult to see how the Secretary of State can gauge the cogency of arguments, ethical considerations or scientific evidence without being guided by a panel of relevant experts. These should be recruited independently from the Department of Health, by nominations from bodies such as the royal institutes or other professional bodies for engineers, statisticians, accountants, economists, scientific research bodies, toxicologists, ethicists and the like. They should be similar to commissions of inquiry or standing advisory bodies, chaired by legally qualified personnel.

Fifthly, Regulation 5(1)(b) should prescribe that particular weight should be given to representations made by individuals who would be affected by the proposal. Conversely, it is difficult to see why any weight should be given to anybody with an economic interest in favour of a proposal, because a public interest health policy should not promote private economic interests.

Sixthly, as far as “capital and operating costs” are concerned, in Regulation 5(1)(c), the relevant costs are the full range of costs, including establishment costs, insurance costs, admin costs, consultation costs, any extra security costs, extra wear and tear or corrosion costs, monitoring costs, safety training costs, additional computer software costs and many others. A narrow compass on these costs would generate some very misleading results.

On Regulation 5(1)(c), it is no good looking at the above costs in isolation: there has to be a comparative cost-benefit analysis, taking into account a range of alternative options such as no scheme, a lesser or more targeted scheme, alternative dental preventive health schemes such as providing fluoride via milk or tablets or topically, public education or in-school training, and so forth. This should include an analysis of the successful Childsmile programme in Scotland, which, through education and dentist visits to schools has been shown to reduce tooth decay in children.

Point eight: for Regulation 5(1)(d) there should be explicit reference to mental as well as physical health, given the large amount of anxiety and other untoward psychological effects these sorts of schemes might generate.

Point nine: there should be consideration of whether the proposal promotes human rights, is proportionate in a democratic society, takes account of those with protected characteristics within the meaning of the Equality Act—those with disabilities, different religious groups, et cetera—and promotes social cohesion and whether it enhances or diminishes trust in public institutions. There should also be consideration of localism, as different communities have different attitudes, and schemes imposed by central government can create local resentment if not attuned to local circumstances. The question of human rights is important considering that water fluoridation effectively represents the imposition of medicine without consent. Some European countries have rejected the policy because they believe that it conflicts with medical ethics and best practice.

Finally, references to “available scientific evidence” should be supplemented by attaching particular weight to the latest evidence and should specifically include international evidence. The Secretary of State should be required to list the evidence that has been taken into account and state what evidence has been discounted and for what reason. In the last few years, an increasing number of international peer-reviewed studies have highlighted the distinct correlation between water fluoridation and serious health ailments, particularly with regard to the developing foetus. We would be committing a disservice to the public if all the latest available research was not analysed effectively.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, although I do not agree with him; we debated this during the passage of the Health and Care Act through your Lordships’ House only a few months ago. I must declare that I am president of the British Fluoridation Society.

I have form, because I remember when I was secretary of the Edgware/Hendon Community Health Council in the mid-1970s, taking part in an extensive consultation exercise in the London Borough of Barnet when the then Government were encouraging the introduction of fluoridation. We had two very well attended meetings in the borough where there was a clear view in favour of fluoridating water. Unfortunately, virtually no progress has been made since then. That is why I am very glad that the Government have brought forward primary legislation, and I was very glad to hear what the Minister had to say about the intention to move ahead in the north-east. That is very encouraging and I hope that that will be the first of many such schemes.

It seems that the consultation progress that the Government have set out is entirely reasonable. We must remember that the principle is decided—it has been decided by primary legislation. The local consultations that will take place are not a reason for reopening arguments about the effectiveness of fluoridation; they are about the detailed proposals, making sure that the areas are covered correctly and that individuals can have a say about that. However, I have to say that I noted in paragraph 7.3 that in the consultation a higher weight is to be given to individuals affected by the proposals

“who reside or work in the area.”

I am sure that that is right, but I ask the Minister to agree that the highest weight has to be given to the statement by the Chief Medical Officers of all four UK countries last year that water fluoridation is both safe and effective as well as being the most cost-effective way to reduce inequalities in dental caries prevalence. That must be the principle that lies behind any consultation process. I wish these regulations all speed ahead and very much hope that the foundations for a second wave of fluoridation schemes can now be laid in the north-east.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to consequential SIs from the passage of the Health and Care Act. Some of those present will remember the long debates we had during the passage of that legislation, some of which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has returned us to today.

I will start on water fluoridation. My points were actually about consultation, and I will return to those, but the noble Lord has a point: there are now scientific records to show that excess levels of fluoride do cause damage. There is a very good academic article entitled “Assessment of fluoride levels during pregnancy and its association with early adverse pregnancy outcomes”. It concludes that this happens mainly in developing countries where the level of fluoride is not managed. I echo the point that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, just made, that if the four Chief Medical Officers for the four countries of the United Kingdom believe that it is safe, that should be enough for us.

Of course all care must be taken and monitoring must continue, but the other point I want to make is from a dentist in Australia, who was very supportive of Australia’s move to fluoridation a while ago. He said that the region where he lives was one of the last to add fluoride. He talks about the experience of having to give very small children repeated anaesthetics and pain relief, and the effect on them. He says:

“Since fluoridation was introduced to Geelong in 2009, my colleagues are much happier, as severe dental abscesses requiring tricky anaesthetic techniques are much less common, and tend to mainly come from areas in the region which still aren’t fluoridated.”

He goes on to say:

“The other anecdote … was that one of my colleagues who had worked in Europe for a few years went away with 3 children under the age of 6, who were the same age and social demographic as our own children. When they returned … 2 of his 3 children had needed dental treatment”

under general anaesthetic. The key point is that they went to unfluoridated places. Although I hear the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, I hope we can be reassured that everything we debated during the passage of the Health and Care Bill shows that this is being done very carefully.

During the passage of that Bill, my noble friend Lady Pinnock made a very important series of points about how to decide where to consult about fluoridation of water, given that we have so many reservoirs where water goes in lots of different directions. Often, you cannot identify each of those areas. Although it was good to hear the Minister talk about the way that consultation will happen, and it is good news that there has been broad consultation in the north-east and that there are some resources there, might the Minister comment on how it is possible for civil servants to identify the relevant areas for consultation? This was one of the reasons why we said during the passage of the Bill that there needed to be very broad consultation.

Moving on to the other statutory instrument on training on learning disabilities and autism, and on virginity testing and hymenoplasty, I signed both of those amendments during the Bill’s passage. Each time it came back I spoke to both of them. It was wonderful that the Government listened and accepted the amendments on training for health staff working with people with learning disabilities and autism. I know that this is only a technical amendment to remove the CQC, but this is a moment to thank the Government for listening to the concern of those of us who work with and know many in the learning disabled and the autistic communities, who have often found that they have been treated by people who do not understand their conditions, which makes it that much harder to communicate with them.

I will now move on to virginity testing and hymenoplasty—I welcome the Minister to the language that we have all had to learn. We were very pleased that the Government decided to support measures on this. I have one question for the Minister. He mentioned that this was about the suitability of foster parents or of their household. It is not clear how wide that household is regarded; is it literally the people who live in that house, or, as in other safeguarding issues, would it also include a member of the foster parents’ family who might be visiting that house on a regular basis and who, in any other safeguarding terms, would have to be notified? If the Minister cannot answer that today, I would completely understand, but I look forward to the answer because I have a particular interest in safeguarding. Apart from that, I support all three elements in front of us today.

My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for bringing these regulations forward today. They very much flow from the measures supported in the Health and Care Act, and we are very glad to support them.

I will first refer to the instrument dealing with fluoridation. My noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, rightly made the point that this is not the time to reopen the whole matter as to whether fluoridation is a good thing. I feel that that has been exhausted in the debate. I am familiar with the concerns that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has previously put before the House and which he referred to today. However, every independent review of fluoridation has confirmed its safety. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and my noble friend Lord Hunt said, the UK Chief Medical Officers back this measure, and I do not believe that they do so lightly. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, may come round to the way of thinking that explains why this measure is important in the Act and why we need the regulation today.

I have a few questions for the Minister. Regarding consultation, the necessity of taking responsibilities away from local authorities and to the Secretary of State reflects reality, because there are real difficulties when boundaries are different, yet fluoridation needs to be brought in. Also, it is important to take communities with us in this process, and the consultation measures in this regulation provide that opportunity.

Can the Minister comment on plans to extend fluoridation nationwide? What is the plan—the vision— bearing in mind that only 10% of people have fluoride in their water at present? What timeline might we be talking about? Do the Government have a target for the percentage of the UK that will benefit from fluoridation at the end of the process? I also wonder how the Government will spread awareness of the evidence of the benefits of fluoridation and gain buy-in for them, as that is extremely important.

In the course of evidence sessions in relation to the Health and Care Act we heard from experts that many families do not habitually drink water, and that many people who suffer tooth decay are now too far down the line to stave off tooth loss. It would be helpful to hear whether the department has any plans for a wraparound strategy on dental health generally.

I note from the Explanatory Memorandum that a separate impact assessment, beyond that of the Health and Care Act, has not been done for this regulation. Can the Minister comment on that? It is important to have an analysis of how the movement of powers in respect of consultation beyond local authority boundaries will play out.

Turning now to the Health and Care Act regulations, which concern minor enabling amendments and are therefore uncontroversial, I particularly reference those regarding the implementation of the ban on virginity testing and hymenoplasty, and those regarding autism training. I endorse the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton: these are excellent examples of your Lordships’ House working together to make positive change. I also associate myself with her thanks to the Government and the Minister’s predecessor for seeing that this was absolutely the right thing to do. At the time of the debate in the Chamber, I was very glad to support those amendments.

Statutory guidance on training for learning disabilities and autism has to be of the highest standard, wherever the guidance comes from. The regulation before us reminds us of the enormity of the task that sits with government, but it will ensure that those with autism will be able to access the support and services they need at the right standard.

Virginity testing and hymenoplasty are serious matters of abuse. They are not medical practices, they do not have medical benefits and they are both violations of the human rights of women and girls. Those who carry out these abusive practices in any part of our country should be, and now will be, regarded as criminals. I completely endorse the provision that there should be no right to foster a child. It is important, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, to draw a clear definition here of who would be referred to by the regulation, because we want to ensure that those who are criminal in this regard cannot foster a child, because there is no fitness to foster a child.

With those comments, I welcome the regulations and thank the Minister.

I thank your Lordships for your contributions today. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, the principle has been decided in previous debates, and the debate today has been about the consultation and the implementation. As for the comments made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Merron, there is strong evidence in favour, as illustrated by the Australian dentist cited by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, we must at all times be driven foremost by the medical evidence, so I agree that the highest stakeholder in this process should be the science.

At the same time, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, makes good points about ensuring that the consultation is properly done, so I completely hear his comments about making sure it is well publicised so everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the debate, ensuring that sufficient time is given so that everyone has a chance to submit their piece, and having proper experts assess the consultations. I think we could also all agree as a principle that private, commercial interests should not be a factor that people can use. I hope those are items on which we could all agree.

On the point about health research and different cases emerging all the time, as noble Lords will be aware, under these provisions we have committed to publish the latest evidence every four years so that if things change, we are able to change with them. I hope that will give the safeguards and make sure that we are always led by the science and the medical evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said.

On the points about learning disability, virginity and hymenoplasty, I welcome the thanks; it was before my time, but I know that it was very much a team effort. My understanding is that it was very much the Lords working at its best, with cross-partisanship.

A very good point was raised on the foster parent household definition. I have just phoned a friend, but I am not sure my friend has given me the answer. I understand the point that you can often have an elder—a household member who might not actually live there but who can be hugely influential—so I will come back in writing on that. It was a well-made point.

I hope I have covered all the points raised in this debate. Again, I thank noble Lords for their contributions and trust that we have been able to answer them, apart from the household point, which I will come back on in writing.

I am glad to see that we mostly agree on the benefits of water fluoridation. The regulations reflect the consultation responses from the public and will not restrict those who want to respond to future public consultations on water fluoridation schemes.

I trust that my answers have provided reassurance that removing the requirement for the CQC to issue statutory guidance on mandatory learning disability and autism training will not leave service providers without clear guidance. I trust that they have also provided reassurance that amending the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984 will help protect children being fostered and adopted in Scotland from virginity testing and hymenoplasty.

Finally, on a personal note, reflecting on the 10 debates and speeches I have done today, it is with pleasure that I feel I am playing a small part in doing something very good here. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions.

Motion agreed.

Health and Care Act 2022 (Further Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2022

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Health and Care Act 2022 (Further Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2022.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 5.23 pm.