House of Lords
Tuesday 14 March 2023
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.
Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Sheffield
Peter Jonathan, Lord Bishop of Sheffield, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Worcester and the Bishop of Guildford, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Death of a Member: Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, on 12 March. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness as a distinguished Paralympian, the longest-serving life Peer and the longest-serving female Member of this House ever. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Baroness’s family and friends.
UK Car Production Since 2016
What time do you call this?
My apologies; I was waiting outside.
The Government are focused on transitioning our car industry from internal combustion engines to electric and other sustainably powered vehicles. Shortages of semiconductors and supply chain disruption have been key factors affecting recent UK and global car production numbers. However, the Government are accelerating and positioning ourselves for growth in electrification and unlocking industry investment.
I also appeal to Ministers to be more open. My question asked about car production. Car production in the UK has collapsed by over half since 2016—the worst performance of any car producer in Europe. Even the soaring demand for electrical vehicles is likely to be affected when, under the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, car industry rules of origin exemptions for EVs come to an end this coming December. Brexit has created nothing but uncertainty, extra costs and supply chain problems for business. What incentives have the Government provided for international investors in the car industry to come to this country at a time when the major trading blocs, from which we are now excluded, are becoming more protectionist?
I sincerely thank the noble Lord for raising this point. It is important that we have a strong car industry in this country, and there are some legitimate reasons why the industry is transitioning. As many noble Lords who have been involved in this industry will know, we are moving from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, which means some lines end and it takes time to start new lines. I am also very aware of the rules of origin issue, and I sincerely hope that our new relationship with Europe will allow us to have a more constructive conversation around that. It is in no one’s interest to have a trade war on cars.
I will finish by saying that there have been some great announcements over the last few years, and the Government have been extremely influential and relevant in supporting companies such as Nissan and Envision, with investment in the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port and support for Pensana’s factory near Hull. Ford has committed just under £0.25 billion of investment in Halewood, and in 2022, Bentley announced a £2.5 billion investment to produce its first battery electrical vehicles by 2026, which will secure 4,000 jobs at its Crewe plant. There is certainly more that we can do, but we are acting, and we are trying to transition our car industry into one that is sustainable for the future.
My Lords, with growing Chinese competition in car manufacturing—in fact, China is dominating the EV market altogether—there are obviously even worse challenges to come. But would my noble friend like to say what he thinks about the EU proposal, announced yesterday, to go for what it calls a Net-Zero Industry Act to compete with the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, because it is very nervous that Volkswagen and other European manufacturers are all about to move from France and Germany to the United States? How are we going to work it out in this situation? It seems rather dangerous.
I thank my noble friend for his comments. There has been a large amount of debate around the value of the Inflation Reduction Act, which I believe is the greatest oxymoronic legislative title in history, frankly, as I cannot believe that it will reduce inflation. Some of its measures are also relatively protectionist. The Government are investing heavily, not just in car manufacturing but in the research and development around it. For example, the Faraday Challenge amounts to £500 million, the Automotive Transformation Fund is hundreds of millions of pounds and the Advanced Propulsion Centre is providing huge amounts of much-needed money for new car production facilities and the inventiveness around that. It is not good enough just to try to find a bigger bazooka; we must ensure we focus on regulation and proper support for R&D, because our brains are our best defence.
My Lords, the Minister may call it “transitioning” but most people will call it “declining”. But let us take his word: transitioning. In order to create the industry for electric vehicles, Britain needs a gigafactory. The Government pinned their hopes on the Britishvolt factory. That failed, the company is being taken over and it will now be used for a different purpose. Last week I asked how the Government’s ambitions for a gigafactory would be fulfilled in the very near future. I did not get a detailed answer and I would be very grateful if the Minister could give me a proper answer now that explains how the industry is going to be able to rely on a gigafactory at the centre of government strategic thinking.
I greatly appreciate the pressing on this point. It is essential that we have strong battery manufacture capability in this country if we are to have an automotive industry. Do not be under any illusion: the Government are concentrating on this night and day. I draw the noble Baroness’s attention to the fact that I think the Britishvolt transition —if I can use that word again—was quite successfully handled. The Government pledged money, which should have worked in the financing. Unfortunately, it had to evolve to a new owner, but that transition has been successfully managed and it will still be making battery materials and technology.
As I highlighted earlier, through government support through the Automotive Transformation Fund, Nissan and Envision have signed a deal to produce batteries. Importantly, this is linked to a critical mineral supply deal we did with Indonesia that I personally helped steer through after the excellent work of my noble friend Lord Grimstone. This does not just give us battery manufacturing capability. As importantly, the focus of this Government is to make sure that we have the materials to supply these batteries, so that we can be ahead of our competitors.
My Lords, the Minister referred to our brains as being our competitive advantage. The Government reiterated in the integrated review refresh their ambition for the UK to be investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D. The OECD average is 2.7%. Does the Minister think that the Government’s ambition is likely to turn us into a so-called superpower in terms of science, and will that be sufficient to support the kinds of ambitions we ought to have in our car industry?
I thank the noble and gallant Lord for his point. I am glad he agrees with us that our brains are our best defence. I see around this House many good examples of that. I would stress that the Government are investing not simply in R&D in science and technology to become a science and technology superpower, but heavily in education, which is not necessarily classified under those figures. I saw recently an extra £2.8 billion being announced for education and training. We have further projects to ensure that our tertiary education remains the strongest in the world with, I might point out, three of the top 10 greatest universities in the world coming from this nation, which is something we should celebrate.
I greatly appreciate the noble Baroness for drawing this to my attention; I am afraid that I was unaware of government investment in Korean car production, so maybe we can follow that up at a later date. As I said, the Government have provided a huge amount of support for the motor industry, not just financial support but real support. I can assure her that the Office for Investment, which is under me at the Department for Business and Trade, works continually to ensure that all the opportunities around the world are brought to this country so that we can have a strong car manufacture and research and development industry in this nation.
It is good that the Minister emphasises R&D, but, truly, electric cars are not really sustainable, so the Government will actually have to think about the next generation of much more sustainable vehicles. Will any of that research and development go into improving our public transport networks—not HS2?
I am grateful, as always, for the prompting on the importance of achieving net zero and sustainability over the next so many years. I draw this House’s attention to the broadness of our attempts to build a sustainable automotive sector in this country, with Johnson Matthey announcing in July an £80 million hydrogen gigafactory at its existing site in Royston. So this is not simply about EVs; it is important that we want to have a diversified strategy to ensure that we are sustainable for the future. That requires effort, finance and the businesses themselves to be successful, and we are supporting all those three.
My Lords, is the European-wide nature of the problems facing the car industry not illustrated by the fact that Germany in 2021 produced fewer car passenger vehicles than it did 30 years ago? The German Ministry for Economic Affairs has prophesised that there will be loss of 100,000 jobs in the car industry because of the transition. Has my noble friend the Minister noted the intention announced by both the German and Italian industry Ministers that they may veto the previous decision of the EU to phase out CO2-emitting cars by 2035? If that were to happen, what would the impact be on Britain, with its different target?
I appreciate my noble friend’s point on this subject. We are committed to our targets, and it is absolutely right to achieve net zero by the date we have set. I am glad that he mentioned the other European car manufacturers, because this past week alone the Prime Minister travelled to Paris for a summit with President Macron to work on the very important task of rebuilding our links with Europe, to ensure we can have sensible conversations with our European partners. I call that Project Grand Amour, and it has been enormously successful. If we look ahead at some of the problems facing us, particularly in our automotive industry—and at the importance of ensuring we have strong trading relationships with our European neighbours, which is the essence of this point—we should be extremely grateful for, and indeed celebrate, the Prime Minister’s wonderful and marvellous actions last week in the new Belle Alliance.
Cleaner Energy Technologies
My Lords, published carbon values are used across government for valuing the impacts on emissions resulting from policy interventions, including options for different clean energy technologies. Those values are consistent with the UK’s domestic and international climate change targets.
I thank my noble friend the Minister for his Answer. In light of third-party research suggesting that atmospheric carbon units would need to be at an unaffordable price of several hundred pounds per tonne, even many years into the future, for electrolytic hydrogen to make economic sense, can he reassure the House that the Government are confident in the economic case for its support and that the economics will remain under review?
I understand the point my noble friend is making, but the potential of hydrogen to support the global transition to net zero is widely recognised, with international partners, such as the US and the EU, also having set out significant support for hydrogen. The Government are supporting multiple hydrogen production technologies, including both CCUS-enabled and electrolytic hydrogen, to get the scale and cost reductions we need.
My Lords, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit released a report last week that stated that, when it comes to green steel, the EU has some 38 projects, while the United Kingdom has one—and eight of those in Europe are already functioning. Does that mean, for the country that invented the Industrial Revolution, that we are about to see the extinction of our steel industry?
No, I think the noble Lord is being too pessimistic, as he often is. We have ambitious projects supporting steel. The noble Lord is right that hydrogen is probably one of the technologies that will be required to decarbonise the steel industry and we are working closely with the industry on that.
My Lords, in 2021 the Government set out in guidance a revised approach to valuing greenhouse gas emissions due to the more ambitious goal in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise and the UK’s legal requirement to achieve net zero by 2050. Can the Minister say what steps the Government have taken since this adjustment to ensure that the revised approach is meeting its intended goals?
We give a value to carbon and use that to inform our policies, not least through the ETS. We have supported a number of early-stage technologies. Offshore wind was extremely expensive when we first started supporting it; now it is very cost-competitive and we are confident that we will end up in the same position on hydrogen.
My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the only way even to get close to the net-zero targets is to make major changes to the current energy policies to enable a substantial increase in both the number and speed of deployment of nuclear reactors?
I certainly agree with my noble friend that we need to expand both the potential and the deployment of nuclear reactors, and we are doing just that. We recently passed the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill, for which I am grateful for the House’s support. We have invested several hundred million pounds in the new Sizewell plant and are supporting Rolls-Royce to develop the next generation of small modular reactors.
My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I think the Minister would be disappointed if I did not raise with him one established clean technology: onshore wind. Can he tell the House what progress we are making with the consultations about lifting the effective ban on new onshore wind developments? Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred to the parliamentary pension fund and its investments and report. As a pensioner, I read its report and was delighted to see a photograph of a wind turbine in which the pension fund had invested. My disappointment was that it was in Sweden, not the UK. When can we get some investment and some jobs in onshore wind in this country?
I would indeed be disappointed if the noble Baroness did not raise the subject of onshore wind. She partly answered her own question in that she knows that we are consulting on revising the planning policy framework. I think she is doing us a bit of a disservice. Sweden has a different topography and interests from those of this country. Where we have a world-leading operation is, of course, in offshore wind, where we have the biggest offshore wind farm in the world—and the second, third and fourth. We are truly world leading.
If there is one thing many parts of the UK are not short of, it is water. The noble Baroness’s point is partly valid in that we need substantial quantities of water for producing electrolytic hydrogen, which is fundamentally electricity and water, so that is something we need to bear in mind in terms of location.
My Lords, as the Minister fully appreciates, we do not necessarily get the energy at the right time from some of the alternative sources and that brings into play the importance of pumped-storage schemes. Is he aware of concern in the industry that the regulations the Government are abiding by are holding back the development of pumped storage and will he please have a look at this in association with those in his department?
The noble Lord is of course right in that renewables are good, available and cheap but they are intermittent so we need technology such as nuclear, which has already been referred to, and pumped storage, of which there are excellent examples in Wales. We will certainly look at removing any future barriers to the deployment of further pumped storage.
My Lords, on an earlier occasion, the Minister referred to the possibilities of nuclear fusion. Is he in a position to say whether the contribution that British scientists have been making to this exciting possibility are inching forward in any way? Given the earlier exchanges about the importance of lithium in making batteries for electric cars, how does the Minister respond to reports today that China already possesses 25% of the lithium market and within a decade will have 30%? Of course, it relies on child slave labour in countries such as Congo to make those batteries.
The noble Lord had two questions there. I completely agree with him about fusion. We need to support it, but of course it is at a very early stage. It has great potential, but it seems to have had great potential for many years now. The noble Lord’s other point on the use of critical minerals is important, of course, which is why we have a critical minerals strategy. There are also lots of exciting new battery technologies which might perhaps not need so much lithium—so the Chinese need to be careful that they are not investing in the wrong technologies.
Has the Minister seen the recent report from the Climate Change Committee, which says:
“A reliable, secure and decarbonised power system by 2035 is possible—but not at this pace of delivery”?
Indeed, it went on to say that there had been a lost year in which politicians had not acted with the necessary determination and delivery. Can the Minister reassure the House that the Government are on target to meet the targets that have been set? The committee really does not think that they are.
Well, if the noble Baroness is referring to the legally binding carbon budgets, of course by their very nature they are legal targets and we have to meet them. We have met all our carbon budgets so far—in fact, we have exceeded them—but of course as we go on it gets more difficult. We have lots of ambitious policies to continue rolling out renewables and other carbon-reduction technologies, but we will respond to the CCC report in due course.
Yes, well, however many times the noble Lord asks me that question, he gets the same answer. We are supporting tidal stream technology under the latest CfD round—and of course we keep the technology under review and, if the costs come down, we will want to continue to support it and roll out further projects.
The noble Baroness makes a very good point. Security of supply is vital, and it is one reason why we want to continue to roll out the deployment of renewables in the UK—because, of course, if it is generated in the UK, it is secure. Part of the problem that we have seen over the past year has been our exposure to the vagaries of international markets. Sadly, we get only 40% of our gas supplies now from our own resources in the North Sea, and the rest we have to import, either by LNG or by pipeline. So we want more secure, reliable power generated here in the UK, because of course that is the most secure.
Schools: Data, Digital and Financial Literacy
My Lords, data, digital and financial literacy all feature in compulsory national curriculum subjects. For example, data literacy is covered within mathematics, science, computing and geography, digital literacy within computing and relationships, sex and health education, and financial literacy within citizenship and mathematics. They also feature within the subject content of GCSEs which count within the English baccalaureate. The statutory national curriculum tests and assessments, the Ofsted inspections and the EBacc further encourage schools to teach these subjects.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree, considering so many of the challenges facing particularly our young people in online and offline situations, that it would be helpful to do more than encourage effective quality data on digital and financial literacy—not just through school but throughout life? That would be beneficial not just to young people but to all people.
My Lords, given the importance of this subject and the risks that children in particular run on a daily basis with the internet, why have the Government not seized a golden opportunity in the Online Safety Bill to set minimum standards for digital and media literacy in schools and give Ofcom greater powers in terms of media literacy strategy?
My Lords, recently I had the privilege of serving on your Lordships’ Communications Committee. What came through consistently in our inquiry into the effects of technology on the creative industries was the need for creative and artistic literacy as well as digital literacy—we need STEAM, not just STEM. I speak as a former scientist deeply committed to science and technology. Does the Minister agree and, if so, what can the Government do to enable that, given their reluctance to review the national curriculum and prioritise arts more?
The right reverend Prelate raises an important point. Certainly, when I was talking to a number of young people recently, they raised exactly the same issues as he does. I do not think that there is any resistance at all from the Government about the importance of a STEAM curriculum; we talk a lot about STEM, but we also talk a lot about our vibrant and incredibly successful creative industries. Our commitment to the teaching workforce has been that, during this period of recovery post Covid, there will be no changes to the national curriculum.
My Lords, seeing that, according to last year’s Ofcom research, 6% of households —1.6 million—have no internet access, have the Government looked closely at the relationship between that and digital literacy in schools? If so, what do they conclude and how many children do they estimate that this affects?
My Lords, my party has long been calling for reform of the citizenship curriculum to include practical life skills such as budgeting and, most importantly, young people staying safe online. Are the Government still committed to keeping the curriculum in England as it is at present, despite large gaps in the current provision for the children and young people of the 21st century?
I have the advantage of having the citizenship curriculum in front of me. I should like to reassure the noble Baroness and the House that it absolutely covers the issues that she raises. It looks at saving, spending and use of money through key stages 1 and 2 but, in particular, budgeting and managing risk at key stage 3 and beyond.
My Lords, I strongly support the far-seeing proposal of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond. Every country in Europe is teaching its students up to the age of 16 in digital, computing and technical skills. Some 90% of our students in school today are taught nothing about artificial intelligence, computer-assisted design, cybersecurity, virtual reality or networking online and coding. Is it not time for torpor and indifference to disappear? The Department for Education and its Ministers should now recognise that they should bring in a curriculum based upon our digital age.
My Lords, while reviewing the school curriculum, will the Minister ensure that pupils have access to compulsory courses on ethics and human rights? This would help to ensure that future generations are relieved of the pain caused by directors of profiteering companies and members of the Government who may be inclined to flout international laws and human rights.
The noble Lord makes a broader point. Many of those issues are indeed covered in the curriculum. Specifically in relation to financial choices, there is dedicated time to look at social and moral dilemmas, to which the noble Lord refers, within the citizenship curriculum today.
My Lords, the APPG on Financial Education for Young People’s recent report alarmingly highlighted that 41% of secondary school teachers in England said they did not think that financial education is required as part of the curriculum, and a further 15% did not know. Does the Minister agree with the APPG’s recommendation that Ofsted undertake a series of deep dives into financial education provision across schools as a matter of urgency?
I am very sympathetic to the issues that my noble friend raises, but our approach to these issues has been to weave them through multiple aspects of the curriculum. My noble friend will be aware that, for example in relation to maths and computing, this is something that Ofsted will regularly be doing deep dives into when it is inspecting individual schools.
My Lords, while I agree very much with what my noble friends Lord Holmes and Lord Baker said, I ask my noble friend to look very carefully at the history curriculum. It really is shameful that young people do not have history as a compulsory subject after the age of 14. It is also shameful that most of them leave school knowing very little about the history of their own country, of Europe or of any part of the world. They have certain samples, such as the Nazis and the Tudors, but there is no chronology. Can we look at that?
My Lords, independent research by Cambridge University, published by the Money and Pensions Service, suggests that money habits are formed as early as the age of seven. This shows that educating children about money at primary school is very important. Has the Minister heard of GoHenry, a charity set up by parents that gives a prepaid debit card to children, along with an educational app so they can understand financial affairs? If she has not, will she meet them? It might be of interest in developing this curriculum.
I have heard of it, but I would also be delighted to meet them. Just to repeat, at the earliest stage, at key stage 1, the compulsory curriculum includes helping children understand how they make choices about how to spend, how to save and how to use money.
My Lords, what steps are the Government taking to improve the balance between technical, academic and creative subjects in schools so that all pupils have the opportunity to pursue and develop knowledge and skills in the areas for which they are best suited, rather than being left behind if they do not achieve five good GCSEs?
I thank the noble Lord for the question. He is aware that the Government are very committed to improving the quality of our skills offer, hence the reforms we have made at level 3 qualifications and the introduction of T-levels. It is not just at schools: we are really stressing the opportunities for young people across a range of apprenticeships and other routes into the workplace so that they can realise their potential.
Patient Deaths: Ambulance Waiting Times
We recognise the pressures facing the NHS and the need to recover performance following the impact of the pandemic. We are working hard to make sure that no one waits longer than necessary, given how important response times are for patient care and outcomes. We are backing the NHS to meet these challenges and our emergency care plan will deliver one of the fastest and longest-sustained improvements in waiting times in history, backed by £1 billion in funding and up to 800 new ambulances.
My Lords, it is alarming that last year, the number of deaths of patients waiting for an ambulance for up to 15 hours more than doubled from the previous year. What action will the Government urgently take, co-ordinated across the whole of health and social care services, to reverse this tragic tide? Can the Minister also explain the lack of a government plan over the years for getting to hospital in time those who have had a stroke or a heart attack, whose breathing has stopped, or who have been in an accident?
I thank the noble Baroness for that question. As I said, we are providing 800 new ambulances, but there is a flow issue, as she rightly points out. To resolve the issue at the back end, so to speak, £500 million will be provided for new adult social care places, which is a vital part of unblocking 13% of the beds that are blocked and creating space throughout the system. At the same time, providing ambulance hubs will create offloading space so that ambulances can quickly get back on the road again. These are all key aspects. Fortunately, we are starting to see an improvement but there is a lot more that needs to be done.
My Lords, talking of patient care, is it not a matter of shame that the strike by junior doctors is leading to patients with heart problems and cancer problems and those needing hip operations having their operations postponed for more than six months, because the doctors have walked out of hospitals and operating theatres? How does that help patient care?
Clearly, we regret any circumstances where capacity is taken out of the system, and this is a clear example. Patient care is primary, and we hope to sit down and resolve the differences. I am glad to say that we are now having good conversations with the nurses’ unions and other unions, and I hope we can have similar productive conversations with the doctors.
My Lords, NHS data shows that there are significant variations in ambulance response times in different areas of England, and we see especially long response times in areas like the east of England, where some category 4 patients were waiting for over eight hours in February. Can the Minister explain how we got into this situation with what are supposed to be national targets? What are the Government doing specifically to help areas that are currently missing the targets by a country mile?
Local ICBs—integrated care boards—are integral to this, understanding the need for ambulances in each of their areas. As noble Lords have heard me say before, often, having a fall does not require an ambulance response at all, but it is much better to have a full service. Now, it is the responsibility of every ICB to set up a full service so it can respond more appropriately. Additionally, we are tasking each ICB with getting on top of ambulance wait times.
My Lords, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s February report says:
“The crisis in emergency care is relentless and staff are burned out and exhausted. The significant shortfall of beds and staff is driving this crisis.”
In February there were 1.2 million A&E attendances. More than 126,000 patients waited more than four hours from the decision to admit them—these are trolley waits —and nearly 35,000 of those were delayed by more than 12 hours. What are the Government doing in their workforce plan to look at projected workload and figures and ensure that the plan has minimum staffing levels and staff numbers overall?
The noble Baroness is correct that capacity is key to this, as are the workforce and the workforce plan. I am pleased to say that a more advanced version of that will be published shortly, hopefully showing that we are getting on top of it. At the same time, we have put 7,000 extra beds into the system, which is starting to have an impact. Category 2 wait times are down by an hour compared with last month, but clearly there is more that we need to do.
My Lords, I declare that I am a councillor in Telford and Wrekin. Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals are under one health trust. The Government plan to close 24/7 A&E services at Telford hospital, which means that people will have to travel 15 miles to Shrewsbury in ambulances. This will put further pressure on our already overstretched ambulance services. Does the Minister agree that this will have a negative impact on the people of Telford and Wrekin?
I am convinced that the ICS will make the best decisions for that area. I am very familiar with Sir Jim Mackey’s plans, which advocate setting up so-called hot and cold sites. It is often better to specialise in A&E in one area and “cold” elective treatments in another, in order to have more efficient treatment in both. I imagine that is very much part of the plan, which will see improvements in both A&E and elective services.
My Lords, may I ask about dissemination of good practice? Some trusts are improving ambulance response times but others are not. I accept that they are working in different geographies with different demographics, and have different A&E capacity in each area, but how are the Government making sure that proven best practice is being disseminated across the country?
The noble Baroness is absolutely correct. Some 50% of all wait times—I have used this statistic before and I will correct it if I have not got it exactly right—come from I think 20 trusts. Clearly, there is a focus on working on those areas. That is starting to bear fruit, with each of those trusts having specific plans to ensure that they use best practice. We have tried to pick the best practitioners in an area— I have done this on two occasions recently—and bring them into the centre to help us advise across the board. That really is making a difference.
My Lords, as well as disseminating good practice, there is the issue of accountability. The Government have put significant sums of money into the NHS, so what are the regulators —NHS England and others—doing to ensure that good practice is disseminated and, more importantly, that the chief executives and the boards are delivering on the commitments they have made?
My noble friend is absolutely correct: with responsibility for these things comes accountability, and it is the job of us all to hold people to account where performance is not where it should be. I know each Minister has their own set of ICBs— I have a particularly close relationship with seven; other Ministers have the same—so that we can bear down on exactly these sorts of differences and hold people to account.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the junior doctors’ representative at the BMA and the Department of Health should get round the table and negotiate the end of the doctors strike before more harm is done to the patients? To express a personal view, as a doctor, I would never withdraw my services from patients.
I thank the noble Lord for his contribution, as ever. Yes, absolutely; these things always have to be resolved around the table. As I say, I am pleased that we are making good progress with nurses and ambulance workers, and I hope we can get around the table and make more good progress with GPs as well.
Noble Lords will be aware that this is a situation facing people all around the world. Just today I was being grilled by a Select Committee talking about the problems in Stanford in California, where people were having to wait 48 hours to go from A&E to get to a bed. It is a worldwide issue.
It absolutely is; just look at Wales, at Scotland and at the whole country: it is a systemwide issue and we are implementing a systemwide solution. We have recruited 29,000 additional nurses, with still more to come and more in training than before. There are more doctors. We are targeting 50 million additional GP appointments and we have increased them by 30 million to date. That is solid action. Is there more to do? Yes. Are there plans to address that? Yes. Will I report on them very regularly? Absolutely.
Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
Order of Commitment
National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2023
Motion to Approve
Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]
Public Order Bill
Commons Amendments and Reasons
1A: Page 36, line 15, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Meaning of serious disruption
(1) For the purposes of this Act, the cases in which individuals or an organisation may suffer serious disruption include, in particular, where the individuals or the organisation—
(a) are by way of physical obstruction prevented, or hindered to more than a minor degree, from carrying out—
(i) their day-to-day activities (including in particular the making of a journey),
(ii) construction or maintenance works, or
(iii) activities related to such works,
(b) are prevented from making or receiving, or suffer a delay that is more than minor to the making or receiving of, a delivery of a time-sensitive product, or
(c) are prevented from accessing, or suffer a disruption that is more than minor to the accessing of, any essential goods or any essential service.
(2) In this section—
(a) “time-sensitive product” means a product whose value or use to its consumers may be significantly reduced by a delay in the supply of the product to them;
(b) a reference to accessing essential goods or essential services includes in particular a reference to accessing—
(i) the supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,
(ii) a system of communication,
(iii) a place of worship,
(iv) a transport facility,
(v) an educational institution, or
(vi) a service relating to health.”
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Motion C.
Amendment 1 provides a definition of “serious disruption” which is the trigger for a number of offences and powers contained in the Bill. As I explained when this was first considered on Report, the Government do not believe that the amendment is appropriate. First, it does not read compatibly with the measures in the Bill—a point made by several of your Lordships during that debate. Secondly, it does not set an appropriate threshold for what constitutes serious disruption, which is why, on Report, the Government supported the definition proposed in the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. The Government have brought an amendment in lieu to more closely align the definition with that proposed by the noble and learned Lord and to address these two issues. The new proposed threshold is rooted in case law from both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. It now has the support of the other place.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled Motion A1, which replaces the “more than minor” threshold in this amendment with “significant”. I will paraphrase the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, who, when this was debated on Report, expertly argued why “more than minor” was an appropriate threshold. There is no question that minor disruption is not only acceptable but is a constituent part of the right to protest. However, when disruption exceeds this, the police should intervene. The use of “more than” implements this concept in law, which is why the Government continue to support the formulation of the noble and learned Lord. We encourage your Lordships to support Amendment 1A.
Motion C relates to journalists. This group concerns Amendment 17, which seeks to establish a specific safeguard for journalists and bystanders during protests. It is in response to the unlawful arrest of the LBC journalist, Charlotte Lynch, and others by Hertfordshire Constabulary in October 2022. The Government are clear that the role of members of the press must be respected. They should be able to do their job freely and without restriction. However, we remain of the view that the amendment is unnecessary. The police may exercise their powers of arrest and powers to maintain public order and public safety only in limited circumstances specified in law. Therefore, there is no need whatever for carve-outs of circumstances where these powers cannot be used.
However, we recognise the strength of support for this amendment. Sometimes there is a need to send a signal as to the values and principles we stand for; this is one of those times. That is why the Government brought forward an amendment in lieu in the other place. It accepts the principle of the amendment while also minimising the risk of unintended consequences. We make it explicit that the police may still use their powers on those reporting and observing protests when it is necessary and lawful to do so. The police must still be able to exercise their powers on journalists and observers who break the law or who put public safety at risk.
Amendment 17A was supported by the other place, including by the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that it will now also be accepted by your Lordships’ House. I beg to move.
Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)
1B: In subsection (1)(a), leave out “more than a minor” and insert “a significant”
1C: In subsection (1)(b), leave out “delay that is more than minor” and insert “significant delay”
1D: In subsection (1)(c), leave out “disruption that is more than minor” and insert “significant disruption””
My Lords, the Minister said that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, proposed his amendment for “more than minor” and that was why the Government reintroduced it in the Commons and were supporting it again. Of course, that was lost when it was debated in your Lordships’ House and the Government have inserted “more than minor”—admittedly, with some flowers and curtains around it. I keep saying to noble Lords that it goes to the heart of the debate as to the threshold we wish to set where we start to undermine the right to protest. I still contend that the Government’s “more than minor” threshold is too low. Hence my Motion A1 would insert in subsection (1)(a) “significant” instead of “more than a minor”; in subsection (1)(b), it would leave out
“delay that is more than minor”
and insert “significant delay”, and in subsection (1)(d), it would leave out
“disruption that is more than minor”
and insert “significant disruption”. The point of that is, of course, to raise the threshold.
First, because I think it is important for noble Lords to understand, I want an assurance from the Minister that whatever we decide will be respected by the Government. To refer back to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, Sections 73 and 74 define public nuisance and impose conditions on public processions, public assemblies and various sorts of activities, including defining what activity may result in serious disruption. Tucked away in those sections is the power for the Government to change any of that by regulation. I want a categorical assurance from the Minister that, were the Government to lose the amendments before us today, and they may win, and the Bill went back to the other place, or if the amendments that could not be reinserted in the Commons because they had been introduced in the Public Order Bill only in the Lords—namely, what we called the “slow walking” clause and the “reasonable excuse” amendments—were lost, the Government will not seek to overturn the expressed will of this Chamber and, I hope, eventually the will of the other place by using Sections 73 and 74 of that Act, which they could do. I would appreciate that.
The debate today centres on thresholds. At what level should we restrict the right to protest, above the laws that we already have? We already have a number of laws that restrict the right to protest and allow us to deal with protests as they occur. Indeed, many chief constables, including the chief constable of Manchester, have asked why we do not use the existing legislation. Notwithstanding that, the Government have panicked and come forward with the Bill to try to deal with what they perceive as a problem.
To make this real, I spent Sunday afternoon looking at various protests that have taken place around the country that, I contend, with a “more than minor” threshold would under the Bill be something that the police could arrest people for and stop. I ask everybody in this Chamber whether that is what people want, because I contend that it is what the “more than minor” threshold will mean, rather than the “significant” threshold that I am seeking to replace it with.
Let me quickly go through some of these protests that made the headlines, which would be illegal under the Bill. The first is “Protest in Oxford blocks major road in both directions”. I suggest that, before a court, that may not be significant but is more than minor. Next we have a “No HS2” protest. Some people may have more sympathy with that, but lots of protests have taken place with respect to that. “No nuclear power station” protests have taken place in Suffolk. Are they covered by the Bill? They come under “more than minor”, and I contest that offences would be committed under the Bill. East Sussex residents protested outside the housing department at the treatment of a road and blocked access. That is an offence under the Bill, and certainly above the “more than minor” threshold. Next is “Furious parents block road to protest poor enforcement of school street in north London”. I contend that that is an offence under the Bill. In the case of “Wellingborough: Protesters halt tree-felling plans”, they blocked the diggers and the cutters, which is not allowed under the Bill and is certainly more than minor. Two more are angry mothers blocking drivers over school drop-offs and unhappy Trowbridge residents turning out to block tree cutting. Under the Bill, some of these protests would be illegal and the police could potentially have the capacity to arrest.
We also saw the massive protests that took place last July when summer holidays were affected. Thousands of lorry drivers across the country blocked the M4, the M5, the M32 and the A38 in protest at the cost of fuel. My contention is that under the Bill that is more than minor and those protesting against the cost of fuel would be liable to arrest more than they are now. If you are blocking five or six motorways, that is certainly more than minor. What else did I find? Farmers blocked roads in protests; tractors were used in response to falling milk prices. That would not be allowed under the Bill. Blocking a major road is certainly more than minor. There is example after example showing that the Bill puts at risk the rights of people to protest. It puts at risk one of the democratic traditions of our country.
I do not hold with the idea that the Minister seeks to ban protests. That is ridiculous: I have never said that. What I have said is that the Bill unnecessarily restricts the right to protest and unnecessarily causes uncertainty about what is allowed or not. Lowering the threshold would mean that activity that is currently allowable in some of the examples I have given would not be. That is because of the phrase “more than minor”.
I am sure that many noble Lords will wish to comment on that, but all I ask is for noble Lords to reflect that if a tractor turns up, a mother turns up or a group links arms, before anything has happened it could be illegal under the Bill—this is the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. It does not even have to have caused disruption; it simply has to be capable of causing disruption. You can turn up with five tractors and park in a car park, and if the police think you are going to do something, even if you have not done anything, they could stop it because it is capable of causing disruption.
The Government will say, “Of course, this is ridiculous —an overreaction. Stupid nonsense. Why on earth is that going to happen? Our police will not act in that way. Ridiculous. People will be shaking their heads in disbelief that anybody could posit that anything like this would happen in our country.” All I say is: why would you pass legislation that creates the potential and the risk for it to happen?
It is not the way to legislate. Existing laws are appropriate and satisfactory and could be used. They are not being used as effectively as they could be. The Government’s answer to Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion and all that is to seek to pass a totally disproportionate piece of legislation. Through my Motion I am trying to mitigate the impact and effects of that. I beg to move.
My Lords, since the noble Lord was kind enough to mention my name, I should perhaps briefly explain the thinking behind the form of words the Government have introduced to this debate.
Before I do, I remind your Lordships of what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said at Third Reading—words that are worth listening to again. He said that
“the debates here and the changes made reflect a genuine attempt to address where the line should be drawn between the right to protest and the right of others to go about their daily lives.”—[Official Report, 21/2/23; cols. 1560-61.]
Those are valuable words and were worth saying again because they encapsulate exactly the dispute between us, which has been conducted with a great level of courtesy, certainly on the other side of the House and, I hope, on my side too, in trying to find a solution to the problem.
The words I chose were designed specifically to deal with the two groups of offences in the Bill, locking on and tunnelling. Those offences differ from the other kinds of protest activities. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has reminded us of a lot of examples of these. The whole purpose of those conducting these activities is to disrupt. That is their method of making their views known. That is quite different from people who assemble with flags, shouting, singing and so on, or who walk in a procession as their method of making their views known. If you make your views known by disrupting, the position is that you cross a line.
That line was identified by the Court of Appeal in the Colston case. It used the words “minor or trivial”. If that kind of activity goes beyond what is minor or trivial, you lose the protection of proportionality available under the European Convention on Human Rights—you have moved to something different—because the activity you are conducting is deliberate and the consequences of what you have done in the exercise of that deliberate decision are properly described as more than minor.
I was looking for a definition of the threshold because I took the view, rightly or wrongly, that when you are dealing with those categories of offences, there is a point—at a fairly early stage, as the Court of Appeal is indicating—where it should be available to the police to stop the activity. Tunnelling, for example, is designed to inflict economic harm on the body that is conducting the railway. We are talking about HS2, which has parliamentary backing. To inflict economic harm should not be allowed to continue for any longer than a minor interference.
Locking on is the same thing. Once it reaches a stage of going beyond minor, the sooner the police are free to take the necessary action, the better. It is their judgment, but the point of my amendment was to identify a threshold. The problem with “significant”, which is a perfectly respectable word for describing a state of affairs, is that it does not define a threshold. It defines a state of affairs. The police need a threshold to be clearly identified, which my words were designed to do.
The problem, and it is part of our debate with each other, is that in legislation we cannot use algorithms or numbers. We are driven to use adjectives, which are quite malleable creatures. They have a shade of meaning, and some people have different views as to what words such as “significant” mean. I would say that once you move beyond “minor” you have reached something that is significant.
That is the point: it is a state of affairs that you have reached, whereas my wording is to identify exactly the stage at which the threshold is crossed. As I said last time, “more” is absolutely crucial. I can well understand that “minor” excites fear and alarms but, with great respect, I do not think that is really justified. “Minor” has to be given full weight. In my submission, it achieves the object that I was trying to achieve and which I think that the Government have now accepted. It is the difference between a state of affairs and a threshold. In the end, that is the crucial point.
My Lords, I thank the Government for Motion C—yes, I did say that. In very turbulent and polarised times in our country, it is a real pleasure to be able to welcome it. Noble Lords will notice that there is a fairly minor tweak to the original amendment passed by your Lordships’ House. We said that a constable should not exercise powers for the principal purpose of preventing someone reporting, and the Government have replaced “principal purpose” with “sole purpose”. I for one am convinced that the precious and vital protection for journalists and others reporting on protests, rather than participating in them, is provided. The Minister wrote and said that they do not think that this is necessary but are doing it anyway. That is not ungracious. It is gracious, because I happen to think that this protection is vital. The Government disagree but they are doing it, so I am happy to thank them.
I remind noble Lords, as the Minister did, that the provision is in response to real cases: real journalists were arrested and detained last November, some for many hours, just for doing their job. The offence used when it was suggested that journalists were giving the oxygen of publicity to protesters was the fairly vague conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. While the Government have been consistent in their position that additional protection is unnecessary, no one at any stage of proceedings on the Bill could point to a single legislative provision on the current statute book that gives this protection. Therefore, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has engaged with this and responded, not least to what I think was the largest defeat that the Government suffered on the Bill last time.
I am particularly grateful to Charlotte Lynch, the LBC reporter who visited us last time, having experienced the really quite traumatic incident of being arrested, handcuffed, put in a police van and detained for seven hours. This causes her some anxiety even to this day. She carried on and reported on that experience, and that has been very important for future journalists in this country, I hope that noble Lords will agree.
I am grateful to the all-party group, Justice, and Tyrone Steele, who worked with us on this amendment. I am especially grateful to the five distinguished Conservative Members of your Lordships’ House, including the former governor of Hong Kong and a former leader of the Conservative Party, who did the very difficult thing of coming through the lobbies with Her Majesty’s Opposition. I give my absolute respect to them.
I am, of course, grateful to my noble friends, the Liberal Democrats and many Cross-Benchers who supported this vital protection. I give especial thanks to the co-signatories of the original journalists’ protection amendment, including the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. It was a great comfort and support to have such a distinguished journalist and former newspaper editor on my side in this.
My enormous thanks also go to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We disagree about some things, but not about this. In particular, I thank my co-signatory, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, not only for co-signing this amendment and bringing his noble friends with him, but for a lifetime of public service in policing and in your Lordships’ House. He is the most diligent and distinguished face of the police service in this country. When we reform that service, it will better reflect his values. That career of public service could not be better demonstrated than by him being here today, after suffering such unspeakable loss in recent weeks.
I do not want to take your Lordships’ time on the next group, so will say now that I support the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend Lord Coaker in the remarks that they will make about suspicionless stop and search. Stop and search is always difficult and challenging for police community relations, but suspicionless stop and search is positively toxic and not something that we should be increasing in these troubled times in our country.
Finally, I come to the difficult question of the meaning of “serious disruption”, not for the purposes of some offences, but for the whole Bill. We have the narrow policy question of what the threshold should be before a number of criminal offences and intrusive police powers impugned what would otherwise be totally peaceful and innocent dissent. That is the narrow question.
We also have a rather deeper and broader—almost philosophical—question of common sense and the English language. Is “serious” significant, as I believe, or simply more than minor? Is it a simple binary, like a child’s 18th birthday that turns them from a minor into someone who has majority; or is there a whole range of disruption that one can face in one’s life from something that is minor to something that is really quite a lot more than minor—that is significant?
This is a serious question and the threshold should be high. I am reminded of George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language”—my favourite writing of his—in which he reminded us that distortion of language can quickly lead to abuses of power. This is a Public Order Bill and this ought to be a very serious threshold. However, if noble Lords prefer their literature to be accompanied by music, I will invoke not George Orwell but Cole Porter:
“There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor”.
I urge all noble Lords who care about these things, who take a bipartisan approach to fundamental rights and freedoms in our country, as those distinguished five Conservatives did last time, to support Motion A1 in the name of my noble friend Lord Coaker.
My Lords, I have been reflecting on the speeches which we have just heard. Listening to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his point about the threshold, I have been thinking about what would be more than minor that was not significant. Looking at the examples that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, gave, it seems to me that if one discovered people tunnelling under an area that was going to be HS2, that is not only more than minor; my goodness me, it seems to me to be significant. I was also thinking about the closing of four or five motorways. So far as I am concerned, that seems to be both more than minor and significant. I just wonder, rather hesitantly, whether we are arguing about a position where the difference between “more than minor” and “significant” is extremely small. I cannot at the moment think of a word that I would use that was more than minor but not significant. That is where I stand—a slightly different position, I confess, from what I said on the last occasion.
My Lords, I hope I do not cause offence here, but I disagree strongly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I shall give the House a few words that would be more than minor but less than significant: it could be “reasonable”, “measured, “limited” or “tolerable”. There are all sorts of stages between “more than minor” and “significant”. As a veteran protester, I have probably passed quite a few red lines in the past, although I have never committed violence—so far.
I turn to Motion A1. Obviously I am upset, along with other noble Lords, I hope, at the fact that the other place immediately whips out all our good work and indeed our hard work. We spend time reading the Bill and thinking about it, which obviously the majority of people in the other place do not; they simply do whatever the Government tell them. I feel that the Government are trying to stop protest of virtually every kind—almost any protest imaginable—and that is so deeply oppressive that I could not possibly support it, so I wholeheartedly support Motion A1.
If the House will indulge me, I will mention the other two Motions as well so that I speak only once. I am horrified by Motion B2. I regret that Labour feels it cannot support Motion B1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Sitting here, I have been thinking that I would vote against Motion B2, but that is probably too difficult. I do not even think I can abstain, so I think I am going to vote for it—but it will be through gritted teeth as it goes against all my libertarian views, and I am really annoyed with Labour for putting it in.
To finish on an upbeat note, there is Motion C. The Government make endless bad decisions. We are wallowing in an ocean of bad decisions nationally because of this Government, and some extremely unpleasant scenarios, with poverty and deprivation, are playing out because of them. But here they have done the right thing. It is incredible that the Government have come back with not just something that we generally asked for but with a slightly improved version of the Lords amendment, which I have to thank them for and say “Well done”—if that does not sound too patronising, or matronising. It is a win for civil liberties and the right of the public to be informed about protest and dissent.
On a final note, I have been saying that I am the mother of a journalist. That is a slight twist of the truth, because actually I am the mother of an editor, and I just know that she will be absolutely delighted with what the Government have done today.
My Lords, I declare an interest: I generally pay my mortgage by debating the difference between “significant” and “more than minor”, so I am on very familiar territory.
The problem with the word “significant” is this: what is the opposite of significant? It is insignificant. There is therefore a constant debate in the courts when something, generally a contract, is said to be significant. Does it mean substantial—that is, quite a lot—or does it mean not insignificant, in other words more than de minimis? That is the problem with a word such as “significant”. For those reasons, I respectfully endorse the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. We need a test here that is easy to apply.
Elsewhere in the law, we have the concept of significant risk. Of course, that is even more difficult, because there you are talking about risk—something that might happen—whereas here, in Motion 1A, we are talking about something that has happened or is happening. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked what the difference was between “more than minor” and “significant”. In the Court of Appeal case of R v Lang, Lady Justice Rose, who is now in the Supreme Court, said in her judgment:
“The risk identified must be significant. This is a higher threshold than mere possibility of occurrence”—
that is, a risk case—
“and in our view can be taken to mean … ‘noteworthy, of considerable amount or importance’”.
Even in that definition, there is a difference, I would suggest, between “noteworthy” and “of considerable amount”—and that is in the context of a risk, not something that is actually happening.
I would strongly endorse the approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. What we are dealing with here is not a risk; it is something that is actually happening. We do not want a test of “reasonable” or “tolerable”, where it is all in the eye of the beholder. We need a test where you can see it and you know whether it exists or not, and I would suggest that, for those reasons, “more than minor” really hits the nail on the head.
My Lords, I respectfully agree with what the noble Lord has just said. The House may remember that the whole question of the definition of “serious disruption” emanated in part from a recommendation of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. I supported an amendment put down by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I think the Opposition then accepted that it would be useful to define “serious disruption”. So, there was a measure of agreement, and what we were concerned with was where the threshold lay.
It is clear that the amendment the Government are seeking to put into the Bill is lawful. There had been some doubt, but various decisions, including the decision on Ziegler and the subsequent decision in the Northern Ireland case, show that this is well within the legality required by the European Court of Human Rights. The question is: how do you balance the undoubted right to demonstrate—I do not think there is any doubt that everybody in this House accepts the fundamental importance of that right—against the rights of others to go about their business, to go to hospital, to go to school and to do all the other important things? They must put up with inconvenience, but whether their lives should be seriously disrupted is a different question.
What worries me about the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is that, for example, it would require there to be a “prolonged disruption” before we get to the stage that an offence has been committed or, more realistically, that the police can do anything about it. Imprecision in adjectives is of course inevitable, but “prolonged” worries me. We have to achieve a difficult balance in this legislation, and it seems to me that that put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is the right one.
My Lords, one thing that is significant is when the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, congratulates the Government. I think that is a significant and not minor moment. But she was right to do so; the importance of journalistic freedom cannot be overestimated, and I would like to thank the noble Lords who put that amendment forward on this Bill and turned something which has been discomfiting into something positive at the end of it all. So that is very positive.
I also want to note that, when I was considering how I was going to intervene today, I actually said to colleagues that it was terrible that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, would not be with us, because I would have been relying on him to give us a steer. Then I walked in and he was in his place, and I would like to pay tribute to his courage for being here and the reassurance it gives many of us. That really takes some courage.
On the substantive point, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, did us a great service when he spent his weekend not demonstrating but looking at everybody else’s demonstrations on an average weekend, as it were, and laying them out for us. They were not particularly big, glamorous or headline-grabbing demonstrations, but all of them undoubtedly caused disruption to the people in the local area, in the way that he explained, and blocked roads quite substantially.
That is important because, throughout the discussions on this Bill, it has always felt as though we have had in our sights the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, explained well that their aim is to disrupt, not even to protest. That is their tactic and their raison d’être. It has caused a lot of problems for me as somebody who supports the right to protest very strongly, and it has certainly aggravated the British public in all sorts of ways.
The reason the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, was so useful was that it remembered the laws of unintended consequences. I say to the Government that those groups are not the only people who are going to be caught up by this law, which is why I would like us to make the threshold higher. The Government will not always be the Government—if we are talking about things being “prolonged”, it might not be that long. There will be all sorts of different people out on streets protesting. Sometimes it might even involve members of the Government at the moment and their supporters.
All the protests the noble Lord described covered all types of members of the British public who felt the need to take to the streets one way or another. They are voters of all parties and voters of none. They might well be disruptive, but they are certainly not using disruption as a tactic. My concern, straightforwardly, is that they are not criminalised by this law in an unintended way because we had one group of protesters in mind and forgot the wide variety of protesters who support all parties across the board. I anticipate there will be more protesters in turbulent times ahead.
My final point on Motion A1 is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, said, when you are making laws, you cannot use algorithms or numbers, so you are using words. We are having an argument about words. It is tricky and I cannot pretend that, when I hear the noble and learned Lords speak, I always understand the way language is understood by courts. However, I was thinking about how language might be understood by the police. They are the people who will potentially, as has already been explained, look at a bunch of tractors or what have you and say, “That is capable of causing disruption which is more than minor”. This seems to be a much lower threshold than thinking it will cause “significant” disruption. I would like the word “significant” there so that the police pause and do not just say “It’s more than minor: let’s stop it”. They should pause and think that something has to be quite serious. Is that not the way the language will be understood? As a consequence—maybe I am wrong, and they are all legal scholars—my fear is that they will read those words and see it in a particular way. Therefore, there will be the unintended consequences of sweeping up people who, after all, are democratically demonstrating.
Finally—because I realise that this is what is done and so that I do not speak on Motion D—despite supporting wholeheartedly the Labour amendment, I am disappointed with Motion D1 from the Labour Party. I think I understand what is meant by conduct which is
“frivolous or vexatious, beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest.”
However, it seems to be an unnecessary concession and I will find it very hard to vote for. Beyond that I urge everyone to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, in this group.
My Lords, I will be very brief. I want to thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for the way in which he reacted to what I will always refer to as the Charlotte Lynch amendment. It was moved very elegantly by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the Government listened.
This amendment is an illustration of the value of your Lordships’ House and of the fact that there is no point or purpose to your Lordships’ House unless, from time to time, the Government are indeed defeated, are obliged to take a very serious view of a serious defeat and react accordingly. My noble friend has reacted accordingly and graciously, and, for that reason, I am extremely grateful that a most important amendment is now part of a very important Bill.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, before I start, I thank all noble Lords from all sides of the House, the doorkeepers, the attendants, the security and the police officers, who have shown such kindness towards me following the sudden, unexpected and so far unexplained death of my husband. I am very grateful.
As the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, have explained, the definition of “serious disruption” underpins the entire Public Order Bill. It is an element of many of the new offences and the trigger for the use of new draconian police powers, which we will debate in the next two groups. The police asked for clarity, as there was no definition of “serious disruption” in the Bill that originally came to us from the other place, and we joined forces with His Majesty’s Official Opposition to provide a reasoned and reasonable definition of “serious disruption” that gave clear guidance to the police—Lords Amendment 1—which was agreed by this House. The Commons disagreed with our amendment and substituted Amendment 1A as an amendment in lieu.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, about the problem with ambiguity around the word “significant”, the fact is that the original amendment this House passed had examples clearly explaining to the police what we meant, so that ambiguity was not there in the original amendment passed by this House.
Instead of defining “serious disruption” as causing
“significant harm to persons, organisations or the life of the community”,
which would include, for example, preventing an ambulance taking a patient to a hospital, the Government have substituted, as we have heard,
“more than a minor degree”
for “significant harm”. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and to address the concerns of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I will repeat what I said on Report: on a spectrum of seriousness, “minor” is at one end and “serious” is at the other. I say that as a former police officer speaking about how the police might interpret the legislation. For example, a minor injury is a reddening of the skin, and a serious injury is a broken limb or inflicting a fatal injury. My interpretation, as a former police officer, of what is being said in the Bill is that disrupting to
“more than a minor degree”
cannot reasonably be said to be “serious disruption”; it is far too low a threshold. While I understand that the noble and learned Lord wanted to establish a threshold—the exact point at which the law would be broken—our argument is that that point is far too low. We therefore support Motion A1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and we will support him if he decides to divide the House on his Motion A1.
I join the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, in saying that I am grateful to the Minister for Amendment 17A, mentioned in Motion C, which we support. It is right to protect observers of protests from being prevented from carrying out their work by the police.
Finally, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Fox of Buckley, for their kind words about my public service, but I reassure the House that this is not my valedictory speech.
My Lords, again, I thank all noble Lords for participating in this debate and for the scrutiny they continue to bring to bear on these important measures.
Before I get on to the amendments, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the Government’s intentions for Section 73 of the PCSC Act. For the benefit of the House, Sections 73 and 74 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act contain delegated powers which allow the Secretary of State to amend the definitions of
“serious disruption to the life of the community”
“serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of a public procession”
for the purpose of Sections 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.
The police have the ability to place necessary and proportionate restrictions on public assemblies and processions to prevent these harms from occurring. The Government are always looking to protect the public from harm, including unjustifiable disruption, and we are open to using all the tools available to do so. However, and to be clear, these regulation-making powers do not interfere with the Public Order Bill currently being debated. They do not permit this or any future Government to make changes to the meaning of “serious disruption” in this Bill.
I have set out clearly the arguments in defence of the Government’s Amendment 1A and why I believe this establishes an appropriate threshold for “serious disruption”. I think it is worth pointing out, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, reminded us, that that threshold applies to the offences in the Bill—locking on, tunnelling, and so on.
I will not detain the House for longer than necessary, not least because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and my noble friend Lord Wolfson have put this much more eloquently than I can. I encourage the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, to withdraw his Motion and hope that your Lordships will support the Government’s Amendment 1A to ensure that both the police and the courts have this appropriate threshold, which strikes the right balance between the rights of protesters and the rights of the public.
I think this debate has highlighted the point that ultimately it will be for the police and the courts to assess whether an individual’s acts are in scope. Any threshold will inherently be somewhat subjective and there is no way around this, as I think my noble friend Lord Wolfson pointed out. This term provides a reference point for the police and courts when determining whether one’s actions exceed the protections of the ECHR, and it is based in case law.
Finally, I will touch on government Amendment 17A. I hope noble Lords are wholly satisfied and I appreciate the indications that they are. The Government have accepted the principle of Amendment 17, while adding a clarification. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti—and, of course, others—for her not insignificant thanks.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the Minister for listening, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for the amendment on journalists. The Government are to be congratulated for moving on that and for responding to people’s very real concerns.
I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for saying that there is a genuine attempt within this Chamber to deal with what is clearly quite a difficult issue, with genuine differences between people. It has been well argued and well debated. That has never been an issue. There is an issue about where the threshold is but there has never been an issue about the genuine nature of that and I welcome his point.
I also thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, and many other noble Lords practised in the law for my speed course in trying to understand what some aspects of it mean. I think the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, and indeed by the Minister in his response just now, goes to the heart of it. The Minister said—and I have not got this completely right so I hope he will correct me if I am wrong—that in the end there will be an element of subjectivity in the police and the courts.
That is the very point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, and my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti. If there is an element of subjectivity, if a police officer or Vernon Coaker is walking down the street and you said that something is “significant”, I would see that as more serious than something that is “more than minor”. I cannot argue it with all the case law that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, used. I cannot use the legal terminology that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and many others would use. But I absolutely defy anybody to prove to me that 130,000, or however many there are, police officers across our country would not see “more than minor” as a lower threshold than “significant”. I just do not believe it.
The Minister himself said that there would be subjectivity. Of course, there will be subjectivity, which is why I raised the examples that I did. The Government have panicked. It was outrageous what happened with Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion—and none of us supported the disruption caused by that. Many of us in this Chamber asked why the police were not using the powers on obstruction that they had and quickly sorting it out by using those powers. They should have had the confidence to use them and to know that this Chamber and the other place would be behind them, sorting those protesters out and dealing with the issue in the way it should have been done.
The Government’s response through the Public Order Bill and some of these measures will impact on people who should not be impacted on in any way, especially if you have a definition of “more than minor”. A police officer will go to those people who are driving tractors and protesting about milk, they will go to people slowing lorries down on the motorway because of fuel prices, and they will go to parents blocking roads because of school playgrounds—they absolutely will. If people start getting cross, as they inevitably will, the police will say, “Well, this is more than minor”, and do something about it—rather than what they would do if they had a threshold of “significant”. That will be the practical reality of the legislation that this Government are asking this Chamber to pass, supported by the other place. It is simply not tenable, and simply not good legislation; it will have consequences that the Government do not intend for it.
There was one thing on which I disagreed with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, when he talked about disruption. I have not been on many protests that have not caused disruption, and I suspect that not many noble Lords have been on protests that have not caused some sort of disruption. I do not want to be controversial, but sometimes the point is to cause some disruption—that is the absolute point. I am sure that there are many noble Lords, not just behind me but on other Benches, who have been on demonstrations and protests and have caused disruption. The argument is over whether that is serious disruption—and according to the Bill it has to be serious; well, “more than minor” —whereas I am saying that it should be “significant”. At the end of the day, that is the point of difference between us.
All I say in closing is that the police, in policing the Public Order Act, as it will become, will treat “more than minor” at a much lower level in dealing with protests than they would if “significant” was in the Bill. For me, that trumps any arguments of case law or that the courts will have problems defining it. The courts always have problems defining things, and that is why, in the end, you have courts, because they will use their best judgment to define it—but I would rather they had to define “significant” than “more than minor” in dealing with protests. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Motion A agreed.
Before I call Motion B, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the revised version of Motion B2, published today on a supplementary sheet. The difference is that Amendment 6E has been added.
6A: Because it is appropriate for the police to be able to exercise the stop and search powers contained in the clause removed by the Lords Amendment.
7A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.
8A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.
9A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.
36A: Because the Amendment is consequential on Lords Amendment 6 to which the Commons disagree.
My Lords, your Lordships’ Amendment 6 and the related consequential amendments remove the power to stop and search without suspicion from the Bill. While I recognise the strength of feeling expressed by noble Lords when considering these amendments during Report, the Government cannot accept the removal of the suspicionless stop and search powers from the Bill. The other place has also disagreed to these amendments for their reasons 6A, 7A, 8A, 9A and 36A. I therefore respectfully encourage the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, to reflect on Motion B1, which seeks to overturn this wholly and which I do not think appropriate.
Suspicionless stop and search is a vital tool used to crack down on crime and protect communities, and we see it as entirely appropriate that these measures be extended to tackle highly disruptive protest offences. These are much needed proactive powers. Large protests are fast-paced environments where it is difficult for the police to reach the level of suspicion required for a suspicion-led search. The police should not have so sit by idly where there is a risk that someone will commit a criminal offence, and this is why suspicionless stop and search powers are necessary.
This view is shared HMICFRS, which found that suspicionless search powers would act as a deterrent and help prevent disruption and keep people safe. I want to be clear that the power to conduct a suspicionless search does not mean that anyone at a protest will be at risk of being searched without suspicion. The vast majority of protests in this country are peaceful and non-disruptive. These powers will be used only in the exceptional circumstances where it is likely that people at a protest will go on to commit criminal offences that cause serious disruption to others.
I also want to assure your Lordships, as I have sought to do throughout the passage of this Bill, that the safeguards on existing stop and search powers will apply to these powers, both for suspicion-led and suspicionless stop and search, and that includes body-worn video and PACE codes of practice. The Home Office also publishes extensive data on the use of stop and search to drive transparency. We expect the police to operate in a legitimate, fair and transparent manner, which includes decisions surrounding their use of this power.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled Motion B2. I want to remind the House that the power to conduct a suspicionless stop and search in a public order context will only be used in limited cases where a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes that protest-related offences will occur and therefore authorises its use. In such cases, suspicionless stop and searches are limited to a specified locality for a specified period, but no longer than 24 hours. This can be extended for a further 24 hours to a maximum of 48 hours by an officer of or above the rank of superintendent, but it cannot be in place for more than 48 hours.
The reason why we have set out the thresholds and time limitations in this way is that we wanted to keep the legislation as consistent as possible for officers who will be using suspicionless stop and search powers. The amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, would set a higher authorisation threshold for suspicionless searches than if officers are searching for a weapon, and limit the initial window that officers would have to use these powers, which has the potential to confuse officers with the well-established Section 60 legislation that we have discussed previously.
Suspicionless stop and search can be authorised only if specific protest-related offences are likely to be committed. These are the offences in this Bill and the offences of obstructing the highway and public nuisance. As the offence of public nuisance is committed so frequently by those who use disruption as a protest tactic, it is nonsensical to remove it from the list of relevant offences. Doing so would completely undermine this power.
The Government recognise that communication is a fundamental element of building trust and confidence between the force and the community it serves. As good practice, most forces already communicate their Section 60 authorisations, and I know that communities appreciate knowing detail on the geographical area, time limits and the background of the issue. Therefore, although I am sympathetic to the final proposed new subsection in the proposed amendment, which would establish in statute a requirement for the force to communicate when the powers are used, I do not think we want to introduce an inconsistency between the Section 60 legislation framework, which does not carry a communication requirement, and the proposed powers in the Bill. I therefore ask that your Lordships’ House does not insist on these amendments.
I must inform the House that if Motion B1 is agreed to, I cannot call Motion B2 by reason of pre-emption.
Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)
My Lords, police stop and search is an intrusive power that is used disproportionately against visible minorities. As I said on Report, you are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police if you are black than if you are white if suspicion is required, and 14 times more likely to be stopped and searched if no suspicion is required. The facts show that the police have been targeting black people for stop and search, the overwhelming majority of those stopped and searched having done nothing wrong.
In 2020, 25% of eligible black people in the UK were not registered to vote, compared with 17% of eligible white people. Black people, even more than the population as a whole, have little or no confidence that the political system represents them. Protest is therefore more important to them than the population as a whole. Giving the police powers to stop and search in connection with protests will deter black people from exercising their human rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We cannot and will not support the inclusion of new stop and search powers for the police in connection with protests for these reasons, whether with or without suspicion.
However, at this stage of the Bill, if this House again insisted on removing stop and search without suspicion from the Bill the other place would have to move. That is something that many noble Lords around the House, for constitutional reasons, would be reluctant to do. I therefore do not intend to test the opinion of the House on my Motion B1.
On the basis that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, we support Motion B2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which, as he will no doubt explain, would restrict the circumstances in which the police can invoke stop and search without suspicion in relation to protest. We will support the noble Lord should he divide the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak primarily to my Motion B2, which I will move and seek to test the opinion of the House on. In doing so, I very much agree with some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. We have arrived at a place where I and, I suspect, many in this Chamber would not wish to be. In other words, frankly, suspicionless stop and search should not be in the Bill.
We tried to take Clause 11 out. The Government reinserted it. We have opposed suspicionless stop and search throughout the passage of the Bill—and still do. The practical and pragmatic reality is what to do about it. My Motion B2 tries to restrict the use of suspicionless stop and search and to ensure that there is at least greater proportionality within it. Is that totally where I want to be? No. Is that a brilliantly principled position where I go down to glorious defeat? No. Is it the practical, political reality of where we are? I would argue yes. That is why I am moving Motion B2, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and all Members will know from our previous debates, I fundamentally believe that Clause 11 should not be in the Bill.
I do not want to speak for long, but this point deserves repeating. How has it come to the point where His Majesty’s Government seek to introduce suspicionless stop and search for protest-related offences? Every other debate on suspicionless stop and search has concerned the most serious circumstances—either to try to prevent people shooting, stabbing or murdering one another, or to prevent terrorism. Even in those circumstances, there has been significant debate both in the other place and here about the proportionality of one of the most significant powers that we can give to our police officers.
Each and every noble Lord can only imagine walking down the street to be stopped by a police officer and searched without reason. As relatively mature individuals, we appreciate that in no circumstances would the police do this if there was not good reason, even if we did not realise it, but I suspect that even many of us would object to it. But certainly, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, rightly reminded us, if you are young and black, young and in an ethnic minority, or young in a disadvantaged community where there is already distrust between police and public, one can only imagine the circumstances. Why are we doing it? It is because of protests. It is completely and utterly disproportionate and over the top. It is another of the panicked responses in this Bill to the protests by Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. On numerous occasions, we have said those were of course unacceptable, but let us not undermine one of the fundamental democratic principles of this country to go about one’s business without interference in order to try to deal with that. How on earth is that proportionate or something the Government would wish to do? It is simply not the case.
Ideally, I would wish to take Clause 11 out of the Bill, by my Motion B2 recognises where we are. There may be disappointment about me or about the position which I think is correct to have arrived at, but I hope that people at least understand why I have arrived at that point. I would do anything to get rid of Clause 11, and I have tried to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and I—and many others—have failed. The Government have not shifted. I have tabled a reasonable amendment. If the Government will not shift on suspicionless stop and search and are keeping it in the Bill, at least let them restrict it, narrow the scope or do something to make it less disproportionate.
The noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, paraded as a great thing the inclusion of the following words in Clause 11:
“This section applies if a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes”.
Even if they want Clause 11, an inspector is not a senior enough rank to do that. We can argue whether chief superintendent is a senior enough rank. I am sure there are serving police officers who would say, “No, that is not consistent”—as the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, has done—“It is not consistent with X; it should be an assistant chief constable, a commander or whatever.” I say to the Chamber that the principle I am putting forward in my amendment is that a very senior police officer needs to make that decision.
I am narrowing the scope of Clause 11 by taking out subsection (1)(ii), which deals with intentionally or recklessly causing a public nuisance. That does not prevent the stop and search power of a police officer who has reasonable suspicion. If they reasonably believe something, the police officer can stop anyone. This is trying to narrow the scope by saying, “Do not do it if there is no suspicion. Do not do it if you just think something has happened.” It will not be a load of people who look like me who get stopped and searched. That is why I have done that.
On reducing the time from 24 to 12 hours, someone said to me that it should have been 10 hours. I have not done a scientific survey to come up with 12. My point is that I want to restrict its scope, so I propose reducing 24 to 12. Somebody may say it should be six, it should be four—I do not know—but at least it would restrict the scope, which is what I have done.
Clause 11(5), which is where there is a revised memorandum because of a miscommunication, states:
“If it appears to a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent that it is necessary”
for renewal of the suspicionless stop and search area. The Government are saying that it should be a super- intendent; I am saying it should be a chief superintendent. You can argue that it should be an assistant chief constable. My point is that for renewal, I do not think that superintendent is a significant enough rank; it should be higher. That may indeed be an assistant chief constable, but I have just added the word “chief” to make it a chief superintendent.
To be fair, the Minister has been good enough to say that he sort of agrees with Amendment 6F, which states:
“The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps.”
That is so important. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, gave me the idea by saying that from his policing experience one thing he thought was a problem, whatever you think of suspicionless stop and search, is making sure that the public are aware of what you are doing. That is difficult. I am not saying it is easy or how you do it, but there should be an attempt to do it. The noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, said that some police forces do it and there is some good practice. I say: put it in the Bill and make it a statutory requirement that, if the police are to use one of the most draconian powers we give them, they must take all “reasonable” steps to inform the public of what is going on.
We can only imagine it, when the Public Order Bill becomes an Act and, outside this place, there have been protests and the Government or the police disagree with them because they are more than minor. A “more than minor” disruption occurs and, alongside that, we get suspicionless stop and search, because we have chucked out my amendment to make it “significant” and it is just “more than minor”. The police think, “It is more than minor disruption; we had better have suspicionless stop and search” and introduce it around Parliament. MPs, Peers, members of staff, members of the police coming into work, catering staff and others could all be subject to search without suspicion. How would you feel? How would I feel?
Honestly, it is a completely and utterly disproportionate clause. Really, it should be wiped out of the Bill, but we have failed; the Government will not listen. Perhaps they will listen to Motion B2 and at least we will have some more proportionality in it, but we will see. With that, I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has not disappointed me. I am sorry for the Lib Dems and Labour that they have not tested the opinion of the House on Clause 11, although I understand entirely why: constitutionally, it is fairly straightforward. What the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, said is exactly correct: stop and search without cause can be useful when there are dangerous conditions. We have had Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to protect certain places, so that rather than going through a great process of “Can I look in your jacket?” and all the rest of it, at Parliament, a nuclear defence establishment or wherever you happen to be, you could search without cause. Now, under Section 60 of the Public Order Act, you can stop and search without cause where there has been serious violence; when a senior officer declares it for a certain period of time, you can stop and search without cause.
There are two reasons for doing it. The principal reason is to deter—to stop the carrying of knives in a certain place—and the other is to detect, if somebody is silly enough to carry on doing it. On the point that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, picked up, for which I am grateful, my view is that communicating to the public, at the point at which they enter an area, that they are liable to be stopped and searched without cause can help the conversation. This is never easy when you are a police officer because you have to say to someone, “I am going to stop and search without cause”, which causes you two problems: “Why did you stop me?” and “Why do you want to search me?”. Your short answer is, “I don’t know. I am trying to deter other people if you have done nothing wrong.” It can be useful at the most dangerous times if it is limited by time and properly monitored.
When people are protesting in a democracy, it is quite often when they are at their most emotional and they can get angry. They do not want the police to interfere in that at all. Usually, they are people who have never had any contact with the police in any way, so it really leaves the police officer in a pretty vulnerable place. These are generally the people you want to keep onside, not the criminals you have to challenge because that is what the law says.
It is a contentious power and we should be really careful before we give them that power, but not because I think the police are waiting to go out and have a go at people. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, there have been times—I acknowledge this—when the power has been disproportionately used against minorities, particularly in this city. That history alone is a reason why I would be very careful, particularly in London; this is the place where this power is most likely to be used, because people will be protesting outside Parliament. Of course, they will be protesting in other places as well, but this place is probably more likely than most to see it used as a power and to be challenged to be able to use it.
I accept that it will not go any further. The changes proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, are reasonable attempts to restrict it. I worry a little about the practicality of 12 hours, as opposed to 24. Quite often people start travelling, particularly to London, at very early hours, usually by coaches or however they travel. That could be at 4 am if you are going to have the stop and search power. They do not usually leave the street until probably 6 pm to 8 pm, so it is getting a bit tight. You may say that we do not want it to be allowed to be used at all, but if you are going to have it, it has to be practical, and 24 hours is probably more sensible.
I say this again about some senior officer colleagues: you cannot always get hold of chief superintendents 24 hours a day. You are supposed to be able to, but they are not quite as available as inspectors, who are always there. I have seen at least one or two people who have had that experience in the past. They are the ones who are always there, 24 hours a day. They are the senior people, particularly around the rest of the country—probably less so in London—whom you would probably be able to get hold of to exercise the power. For that reason, I dispute using the chief superintendent, but I understand why that proposal was made.
My Lords, it would be a great mistake for us to ignore the views that have just been put before us. I was one of those who did not want this clause at all, because I find the definition of stopping people without suspicion an extremely difficult one. There must be few occasions on which a policeman cannot claim that he has some suspicion when he stops a person. The fact that he cannot even claim that seems to be a very curious position to be in.
I have taken seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said about certain circumstances—not those referred to in the Bill but other circumstances where this has proved to be necessary—but it would be very dangerous for this House to accept, unamended, what the other House has passed back to us. I could also argue about the amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has tabled, but they do begin to bring this into a much more proportionate situation. I say to my Conservative colleagues that we have to be very careful, as what is supposed to be the party of law and order, not to change the law in such a way that sections of the community increasingly find it unacceptable.
I have four law-abiding children—they are not children now—who were brought up in London during the week. They were all treated by the police in a way that no one in this House would like to have known, and they were white, reasonably well dressed and certainly well behaved. I want this House to realise that when you are our age, these things do not affect you. Although it is, very importantly, those of ethnic minorities, it is also young people. This society has to show young people that we recognise and welcome them, and that we do not have laws that disproportionately and unnecessarily affect them.
I beg of this House to support these amendments to make a sign to people that we have taken this Bill seriously and are not prepared to give the police these powers without very clear definitions and a reminder that they should be used only in circumstances where they genuinely need to stop without suspicion. I would also like the Minister to explain a single circumstance when it would be impossible to stop somebody without this, because I do not believe you would stop somebody unless you had some sort of suspicion.
My Lords, I declare an interest because I am going to follow the noble Lord in talking about young people. I am the president of the YMCA. A lot of those young people would have been caught up in the language the noble Lord referred to. I find it extraordinary.
When I was Bishop of Stepney, I was stopped and searched. The police officer who stopped me and searched my car asked me who I was. When I said that I was a bishop, he did not believe me. He then saw my dog collar and said, “Whoops”. The matter was of course taken up by the then leader of the city police. Thankfully, the gentleman acknowledged that it was him.
It is not just young people. It is not just black people. Your Lordships have heard the noble Lord, Lord Deben, telling us about his children. The power to stop and search somebody without a very clear definition gives me a lot of bother. I am a believer, and I love belief. The Bill says that the section of powers
“to stop and search without suspicion … applies if a police officer … reasonably believes”,
but how do you work that out? Was it in your head? Was it in your heart? Was it in the things you had read or seen on television? Friends, the word “belief” is so dangerous. The old “reasonable grounds for suspecting” is in there too. I would rather this section of the Bill did not exist.
I was on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. I am sorry to mention it because the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, is in her place. We went around the country, and people had been stopped and searched so many times when the police did not have reasonable grounds to suspect them yet believed they were about to commit a crime.
The Stephen Lawrence inquiry gives a definition of the grounds on which you can suspect. The Bill is about public order and, therefore, some of the exceptions that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, was talking about cannot be extended to it. Those are there, but they are not for this Bill. Do noble Lords seriously want a police officer to “reasonably believe” and then do it? How will you question that? They will simply say, “I believed it”. That cannot be good for a country of this kind.
I want noble Lords to read the Stephen Lawrence inquiry again—about the failures of the different ranks. Inspectors did not do too well during our inquiry. They are the de facto junior rank. I hear again that there are not many superintendents about. If the Bill is built on that, you need a much higher rank of police officer, not an inspector. If not many are about and this is what the Government want to do, increase the role of the chief superintendent to deliver this clause, which I think is unnecessary.
My dear friends, it is for those reasons: for the many young people of YMCA, and many like them who would have to think twice before going on a demonstration. For a country that believes that there is a right to protest—not a right to violence—you are really cutting them off. If the Minister really insists that this must go in, then the rank of a chief superintendent is a must. A police officer acting on the grounds of their beliefs, however reasonable they may be, is not a protection for the police officer or for the person being stopped and searched.
My Lords, I lived in Notting Hill for many years, near All Saints Road, on the route of the carnival. During the carnival especially, it was a joy to often see police officers entering into the spirit and dancing. That was absolutely wonderful. We must not paint this one way or the other. But, more often than not, I saw examples, especially not during carnival, where stop and search was used in an incredibly provocative way. Having lived there for many years, I would say that there was no more socially divisive thing about policing than stop and search. I beg noble Lords to think very carefully about inflaming this position.
As I said, I met many police officers who behaved wonderfully, but there were and still are some who stop and search far too often and, as we have heard, it is on black people on the whole. If we want a socially cohesive society, we must not make laws that threaten and may undo that. I would really counsel caution about this. Anything that can help us not go too far, such as the amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, should be supported.
My Lords, I will intervene very briefly to make two points. I spent about eight years overseeing police work on counterterrorism in London and more generally. The use of the Section 44 power, which gives the police the power to stop without suspicion, was one that most people, when they thought about it, would say was acceptable: they understood that they were in an area where there was an obvious terrorist target and heightened concern.
When that power was exercised, was it without controversy? I am afraid that the answer is no. There was enormous resentment towards it, precisely because of the issues about disproportionality that have already been referred to and the complications that ensued from that.
That was in circumstances when most people might understand it, when they had it quietly explained to them—which does not usually happen during the course of a normal stop and search—that, “We’re stopping you, because we’re in this area, you are close to this and we are stopping people at random, just to make sure that they are not carrying explosives or a bomb”. But this is about circumstances where people are engaging in a demonstration or exercising their civil rights. That is of a completely different order and what makes this disproportionate.
My second point may sound trivial by comparison. We have had the point made about what rank of officer should look at this. It was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, that it might be quite difficult to find a chief superintendent at the right moment. All I would say is, if this is a matter of such seriousness that we are being asked to approve these extraordinary, disproportionate powers, then there should be a chief superintendent or people of equivalent rank overseeing and supervising what is happening.
Before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that he refers to the Terrorism Act power of stop and search. Of course, Section 44 is now replaced by Section 47A, which adopts a similar model to Clause 11. Has the noble Lord noticed and does he have any comment on the provision that the power to authorise no-suspicion stop and search under Section 47A, which can be exercised only when there is a reasonable suspicion that an act of terrorism will take place, may be taken only by a senior police officer—in other words, a commander or an assistant chief constable?
The noble Lord interrupted me before I sat down, although I regarded myself as having sat down. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is absolutely correct. The reason Section 44 was changed was because of the concerns that I have expressed. The conditions on that, in circumstances when most sensible people would regard it as appropriate, perhaps, to have in your back pocket the power to stop without suspicion, were tightened in a way which this Bill would not allow.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have partaken in another fruitful debate. It has long been the Government’s view that suspicionless stop and search powers are necessary and much-needed proactive powers for tackling highly disruptive protest offences. This view remains unchanged.
I will endeavour to answer some of the points that were raised. First, on why, in its report into the policing of protests HMICFRS concluded:
“On balance, our view is that, with appropriate guidance and robust and effective safeguards, the proposed stop and search powers would have the potential to improve police efficiency and effectiveness in preventing disruption and making the public safe”.
It is worth reiterating that last point “making the public safe”.
On the disproportionate use of the powers with people of colour, nobody should be stopped and searched because of their race. Extensive safeguards, such as statutory codes of practice and body-worn video exist to ensure that this does not happen. The Home Office publishes extensive data on police use of stop and search in the interests of transparency and will expand this publication to the use of the new powers provided for in this Bill.
On the subject that was just under discussion about the appropriate level of officer who may authorise a suspicionless stop and search, I take the points that noble Lords have made about Section 47A, but this replicates existing powers within Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, as I said in my opening remarks. Wherever possible, to ensure consistency, officers of inspector or higher may give an authorisation for up to 24 hours. Any extension must be made by an officer of superintendent rank or higher and no authorisation can last for more than 48 hours.
With regard to the geographical extent of a no-reasonable-suspicion stop and search order, it is for police forces to determine how and, indeed, whether to communicate the geographical extent of a search order under Section 60. This will also be the case for the new suspicionless powers in the Bill. Forces are no longer required to communicate that a Section 60 order is in place, but many continue to do so, where they judge it operationally feasible. Obviously, that in itself helps to deter criminals and enhance community trust and confidence. It is common for forces to use their social media channels or websites to communicate the extent of a Section 60 order.
I do not think there is a great deal more I can usefully say or add. I therefore invite the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Paddick, not to press their amendments.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for his comprehensive and convincing explanation of his Motion B2, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Sentamu, who, from his personal experience and from the experience of the people he works with and has talked to and whose experiences he has shared, has said that we should listen very carefully. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, who feels that Clause 11 should not be part of the Bill but, regrettably, as I said before, probably accepts, as do I, that constitutionally we cannot take it out at this point.
On the issue of giving notice being problematic, the Metropolitan Police gives notice of where and when Section 60 stop and search provisions are in place. It does so via Twitter; I have seen it do so. It might also do it by other means that I do not know about, but it is possible, and what the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is suggesting is therefore workable and practical.
We should not forget that Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was designed originally not for the police to impose at short notice by a relatively junior officer when someone got stabbed but to prevent gangs of football supporters arming themselves to beat each other up at a prearranged meeting using weapons. That is what it was originally intended for, but we have had mission creep so that it is now used regularly—although I have to give credit to the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, because during his time as commissioner the use of Section 60 by the Metropolitan Police reduced significantly compared with how it was being used before.
The noble Lords, Lord Hogan-Howe and Lord Harris of Haringey, talked about Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, talked about it being used to protect Parliament or nuclear installations. The reason the Conservative Government repealed Section 44 of the Terrorism Act is that the Metropolitan Police imposed Section 44 on the whole of London for months on end. It abused the power, so the Government withdrew it, and there is a danger that the police could similarly abuse this power.
The Minister talked about HMICFRS, saying that this could potentially make the public safer—but at what cost to people’s human rights to protest, to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression? He said there are all sorts of measures to prevent disproportionality in stop and search. Well, whatever the provisions are, they do not work.
While urging noble Lords to vote for Motion B2, I beg leave to withdraw Motion B1.
Motion B1 withdrawn.
Motion B2 (as an amendment to Motion B)
6B: Clause 11, page 12, line 17, leave out “inspector” and insert “chief superintendent”
6C: Clause 11, page 12, line 25, leave out subsection (ii)
6D: Clause 11, page 13, line 8, leave out “24” and insert “12”
6E: Clause 11, page 13, line 17, leave out "superintendent" and insert "chief superintendent”
6F: Clause 11, page 14, line 3, at end insert—
“(12) The chief superintendent must take reasonable steps to inform the public when the powers conferred by this section are in active use.””
17A: Page 19, line 22, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Exercise of police powers in relation to journalists etc
(1) A constable may not exercise a police power for the sole purpose of preventing a person from observing or reporting on a protest.
(2) A constable may not exercise a police power for the sole purpose of preventing a person from observing or reporting on the exercise of a police power in relation to—
(a) a protest-related offence,
(b) a protest-related breach of an injunction, or
(c) activities related to a protest.
(3) This section does not affect the exercise by a constable of a police power for any purpose for which it may be exercised apart from this section.
(4) In this section—
“injunction” means an injunction granted by the High Court, the county court or a youth court;
“police power” means a power which is conferred on a constable by or by virtue of an enactment or by a rule of law;
“protest-related breach”, in relation to an injunction, means a breach which is directly related to a protest;
“protest-related offence” means an offence which is directly related to a protest.”
Motion C agreed.
33A: Clause 20, page 24, line 19, leave out sub-paragraphs (iii) to (v)
33B: Clause 20, page 24, line 31, at end insert—
“(c) P’s conduct in relation to each occasion mentioned in paragraph (a) has not been taken into account when making any previous serious disruption prevention order in respect of P.”
My Lords, your Lordships’ Amendment 20 removes Clause 20—“Serious disruption prevention order made otherwise than on conviction”—entirely from the Bill. The Government listened carefully to the concerns expressed by this House regarding the conditions that could be considered when applying an order to an individual. That is why the Government have accepted the Lords amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. Making this change means that an order could be given only on the basis that an individual has been convicted of a protest-related offence or been found in contempt of court for a protest-related breach of an injunction on at least two occasions. I believe that this is the issue with which your Lordships were most concerned, so we listened and we acted.
We still believe it is important that the police have the opportunity to apply for an order at a later point following conviction. Without this measure, it would not be possible to place an order on individuals who have already been found guilty of multiple protest-related offences until they reoffend and are convicted of yet another offence. Removing the ability to impose an SDPO otherwise than on conviction undermines this proactive element. That is why we disagreed with Lords Amendment 20 and tabled amendments in lieu, which reintroduce this clause but tailor the list of conditions, so that upon application an order can be made only where individuals have been convicted of protest-related offences or breaches of injunctions, thereby aligning this with the Lords amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich.
There has been some confusion about the nature of this clause, quite possibly due to its title, which should more accurately be defined as “Serious disruption prevention order made on application”. I assure noble Lords that we will look to make that change following the passage of the Bill.
For the avoidance of doubt, updated Clause 20 will not allow an order to be applied to an individual without a conviction. It will simply allow for an order to be made by a magistrates’ court on application by a relevant chief officer of police at a later point following two or more convictions.
The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has tabled Motion D1, which, with respect, I cannot support. To be subject to a SDPO, a person must be convicted of two protest-related offences or found in contempt of court for breaching two protest-related injunctions. Being found guilty by a court for these acts inherently means that their conduct was beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest. Additionally, it creates an inconsistency between this provision and SDPOs made on conviction, which have already been accepted by Parliament. With that in mind, I respectfully ask that the noble Lord does not move his Motion.
Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D)
33C: Clause 20, page 24, line 31, at end insert—
“(d) P’s conduct was frivolous or vexatious, beyond a genuine expression of their right to protest.””
My Lords, I appreciate the significant concessions the Government have made on serious disruption prevention orders. I believe that the clause is in a better place than when it was introduced, in part thanks to the efforts across this House; in particular, those of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson.
My amendment to the Minister’s Motion D seeks to make it explicit in the Bill that a magistrates’ court may issue an SDPO only if it reasonably believes that a person’s conduct has been frivolous or vexatious, to the extent that it has gone beyond a genuine expression of their inalienable right to protest. This criterion is in addition to, not instead of, that which requires that a person must have been convicted of two or more protest- related offences or contempt of court over breaches of an injunction. We believe that this is an important safeguard to the flawed clause, which we accept that the other place has voted to keep in the Bill. This change will ensure that the courts, when assessing whether someone’s behaviour warrants a prevention order of this kind, will have to rule explicitly that they have gone further than what can reasonably be interpreted as genuine protest. We hope this will protect those exercising their democratic freedoms in good faith.
I have spoken to colleagues across the House, and I will not seek to test the opinion of the House on my Motion, but I will listen with interest to other noble Lords’ contributions to this very short debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, we on these Benches accept that the amendments have been made in the Commons but are still concerned that they do not go far enough. Taking the matter back to the beginning, the bar set on which people can be convicted or the orders can eventually be issued is based on the balance of probabilities. That matter was the source of a great deal of discussion in this House. A bar has been set which is basically non-evidential, because no evidence has to be proven of what has happened. Any amendments which would raise that bar just above a zero threshold are to be commended.
Having made the orders less draconian and brought them in line with the terrorism prevention and investigation measures, the SPDOs are to be imposed on protesters, taking away their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, on the balance of probabilities. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services reported, in its review of public order policing, that it doubted that these orders are workable, even with a breach of the order occurring. A person attending a protest peacefully, in breach of an SPDO, is unlikely to be treated by the court in the same manner as a potential terrorist. Courts would look at the effect of an order and measure that against the breach of human rights legislation, and, in the end, the effect of an order breaching a person’s human rights could well override the effect of the order.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, pointed out in Committee, these orders would remove people’s rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but only if a court was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that depriving people of their human rights on the weakest of evidential tests was sufficient. Therefore, there is an expectation that the courts would use a breach of human rights legislation to override the effect of the SPDO.
In seeking to raise the bar from zero—the bar is sitting on the floor, as no evidence is required—these amendments at least provide an evidential activity. They require an officer to have observed the evidence behind the requirement. The requirement in the amendments before us may not be sufficient, but it certainly lifts the bar, in relation to evidence, off the floor. In fact, we need to help police officers. Police officers may be faced with situations without evidence, such as listening to somebody’s hearsay about a protester. Alternatively, they may have it in their mind that possible action will take place if they assume that a protester, who is standing peacefully and undertaking a peaceful activity, could well jump across the road, lie on the ground and stop the traffic. In those cases, they would not have any evidence that the person was about to conduct themselves in a dangerous manner, so it would be effective to introduce provisions for that. This set of amendments could provide for those matters, but, as I have said, in a very limited way.
As the noble Lord will not press his amendment to a vote, it seems to us that the Government have to consider how the courts will deal with these matters when they are placed before them, when we have human rights legislation guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom to join together with others and freedom of expression. When all those rights are being harmed, what will the courts say and are the Government sufficiently ambitious that they think that their evidence based on these rules will give the human rights opinion any credence whatever?
My Lords, again, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their thoughtful and considered contributions to this debate. As I have already detailed, the Government listened carefully to your Lordships’ concerns regarding the serious disruption prevention order measures. Orders will now be applied only where individuals have been convicted of protest-related offences or breaches of protest-related injunctions on at least two occasions.
The noble Lord, Lord German, argued that serious disruption prevention orders contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. They do not. The right to protest is fundamental and despite sensationalist claims such as that, that will not change. These orders will ensure that individuals who deliberately cause serious disruption more than twice will face justice. Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR set out that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, these rights are not absolute and must be balanced with the rights and freedoms of others.
I hope your Lordships will be satisfied that the Government have responded with a very significant offer that addresses the key concerns expressed throughout the passage of this Bill. The Bill will better balance the rights of protesters with the rights of individuals to go about their daily lives free from disruption and address the ever-evolving protest tactics we have seen employed by a selfish minority of protesters. Blocking motorways and slow walking in roads delays our life-saving emergency services, stops people getting to work and drains police resources. The British people are rightly fed up with it and are demanding action from their lawmakers.
It is time for this Bill to become law. I thank the noble Lord for saying that he will withdraw his Motion.
Motion D1 (as an amendment to Motion D) withdrawn.
Motion D agreed.
Bill returned to the Commons with amendments.
UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL]
Motion on Amendments 1 and 2
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to the other amendments and that in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman.
I start with Commons Amendment 2. As was noted in the other place, the Government agree that the bank will make it a stipulation that any investment into the water sector must be in line with the company having an appropriate plan and making sufficient progress against that plan to deal with sewage discharges. However, I want to make it clear that in this circumstance the word “preventing” is aimed principally at preventing harmful discharges and does not mean eliminating all discharges. I want to make this distinction in the House because I do not want the bank to be prevented by fear of legal action from investing in water companies which have a plan in place to meet their obligations.
I reassure the House that the Government are already taking major steps to improve water quality. We have announced legally binding targets on water quality under the Environment Act and ambitious interim targets to deliver these in our environmental improvement plan.
This Government have also implemented the strictest ever targets to crack down on poor water company performance. On sewage spills, our storm overflows plan requires companies to deliver the largest ever environmental infrastructure investment—£56 billion over 25 years. Where water companies are found to have broken the law and face fines for this behaviour, this Government have committed to reinvest those fines directly back into schemes to improve our water environment.
Commons Amendment 3 removes the Lords amendment to include nature-based solutions and the circular economy in the definition of infrastructure. As noble Lords will recall, we debated this issue extensively in this House and it came up frequently in the Commons. At the time, I noted that nature-based solutions were already included under the inclusive definition of infrastructure and, as such, we did not think it necessary to add it explicitly in the Bill. The Government have reflected on the debate and recognise the strength of feeling on the matter and, as such, think the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, strikes a careful balance of making it clear that nature-based solutions are within the bank’s remit without being overly prescriptive.
The Government agree with the removal of the circular economy from the definition. We do not think including the circular economy—which is an imprecise term—in the definition of infrastructure would be helpful for the bank. However, I thank all noble Lords, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for raising this issue during the passage of the Bill. We reassure them that the circular economy is an incredibly important principle and will be key as we transition to a more sustainable economy in a number of sectors. While we do not wish to expand the scope of the bank, I reassure the noble Lord that several of the areas highlighted in the debate on the circular economy are covered within its existing remit and objectives; for example, nature-based solutions, waste and energy efficiency, as was clarified in an earlier amendment to the Bill. I therefore anticipate that the bank will invest in and be a key proponent of a circular economy wherever it is in line with the overall objectives.
Commons Amendment 4 removes subsection (6) from Clause 2 of the Bill. The subsection included the wording “have regard to”, but this would still have had a significant impact on the bank. For example, on improving jobs, we understand the intention of the amendment and do not disagree with it as a general principle. However, we are concerned that there may be consequences if the principle were to be applied across the board as a statutory requirement in relation to every investment proposal. It could lead to the bank being overly cautious for fear of legal challenge.
The second part of this subsection, on reducing regional inequality, is also of concern. We do not want the bank to be under a statutory duty to consider regional disparities in the same way in relation to every investment proposal that comes before it. The strategic steer makes it clear that the bank must focus on geographic inequalities. However, this is best done on a portfolio basis rather than investment by investment, which would be required by the proposed amendment.
Although the Government agree with the Commons amendment, we recognise the concern of the House, and I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, on this matter. I recommit to this House that after the Bill achieves Royal Assent the Government will amend the bank’s framework document to provide clarity on the role on the bank in levelling up the United Kingdom. We will include under the operating principles the wording:
“The bank will also address the spatial disparities across and within UK regions.”
This is in addition to the wording already in the framework document under its second objective:
“to support regional and local economic growth through better connectedness, opportunities for new jobs and higher levels of productivity”.
Commons Amendments 5, 6, and 9 concern provisions to add a duty to consult relevant Ministers in the devolved Administrations on the use of delegated legislative powers in the Bill, including the power to amend the bank’s activities or the definition of “infrastructure”, and to issue the strategic steer. Commons Amendment 7 is related and sets out a requirement for UKIB’s board to appoint one or more directors to be responsible for ensuring that the interests of the devolved Administrations are considered in the board’s decision-making. These amendments have come as a direct result of positive engagement we have had with the devolved Administrations, and I am pleased to say we have received legislative consent Motions from the Welsh and Scottish legislatures. Unfortunately, given that the Executive have not formed, it was not possible to get a legislative consent Motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Given we are on the subject of the board of directors, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, was interested in whether the bank would appoint a workers’ representative to the board. I reassure him that the bank is abiding with the requirements of the corporate governance code and has appointed a non-executive director, Marianne Økland, to facilitate engagement with the workforce.
Commons Amendment 8 reduces the time period for statutory reviews of the bank following the first such review from seven to five years. This balance reflects the fact that we need to allow a nascent institution time to embed and fully establish itself in the market, which is why the first review will take place after seven years. However, subsequent statutory reviews will take place every five years to ensure proper scrutiny of the bank’s performance.
Commons Amendments 1 and 10 are of a technical nature and broaden the definition of “public authority” in relation to the bank’s capacity to lend. The drafting as is broadly meets the policy aims and would allow the bank to lend to local authorities and the Northern Ireland Executive. However, given that primary legislation can be something of a blunt instrument, we do not want inadvertently and by implication to preclude the bank from lending to other public authorities, such as any public bodies created by local authorities or government departments in future.
Finally, as is standard for a Bill that starts in the Lords and concerns matters of public finance, a privilege amendment was passed. Commons Amendment 11 removed this.
The Government have listened to concerns in both Houses and have made changes to improve the Bill. I look forward to the debate and hope that noble Lords will accept these amendments. I beg to move.
I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet and rise to speak to my Motion 3A, which as the Minister said would reintroduce nature-based solutions into the definition of infrastructure in which the UK Infrastructure Bank may invest.
We had some very helpful conversations after Report and the debates in the other place, and I think we have now reached a highly satisfactory position on this amendment, in no small part due to the Minister’s customary constructive approach to the debates that have taken place in this House, for which I am very grateful.
Of course, the original amendment included the “circular economy”, and I know that there will be some disappointment that that is not included now, but the bank’s strategy is reassuring on that issue. Anyone who listened to the item on the “Today” programme this morning about data centres using the heat they normally have to dispose of to heat up the water in local swimming pools will have heard a lovely example of how we need to put those sorts of issues together.
I thank all the Members of this House who have taken part in the debates, and in particular those who signed the various iterations of my amendment, including the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. This amendment has had significant cross-party support because of the increased recognition that nature-based solutions have a critical role to play in the fulfilment of the bank’s objectives. The Chancellor’s strategic steer in 2022 encouraged the bank to
“explore early opportunities in nature-based solutions”
and aim to have
“a positive impact on the development of the market”.
The bank has since published a discussion paper setting out its initial thinking on how it can invest in and support the growth of natural capital markets, and I look forward to the results of this consultation.
The discussion paper clearly explains the importance of natural capital as a form of infrastructure and the vital contributions it makes to our society and economy, often in ways which are more cost-effective to the taxpayer. Carbon removals through creating and restoring woodlands, wetlands and peatlands, flood mitigation measures, providing “clean and reliable” water supplies, underpinning our food security and bolstering our resilience to climate change: these constitute numerous examples of how we can deploy nature-based solutions to support our infrastructure and provide social, economic and environmental benefits. There is also an ever-increasing recognition of the key role that nature can play in solving climate change, nature being our biggest asset with which to fight it. Nature-based solutions also provide significant co-benefits, such as jobs and good health and well-being outcomes, with considerable economic advantages.
I welcome that the UK is leading on the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, but there is an average $700 billion funding gap for protecting and restoring nature globally, and evidence that more needs to be done to help market participants mainstream and scale these products alongside growing investor demand. This simple addition to the definition of infrastructure in the Bill sends a strong signal to the markets that the UK recognises this and the Government are serious about taking action to help build and develop this nascent market. It also provides certainty to the bank, which recognises that it has a role in developing capacity towards a pipeline of investable projects and is poised to act. It will encourage others to do the same and further develop the UK finance sector’s position as a leader in this important emerging new market.
As I said, I am very grateful to the Minister and her officials for the support they have given and the resolution that I think we have reached.
I support the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, in her proposed amendment and congratulate her on her tenacity in pursuing this issue. She has achieved something notable, and I thank her very much indeed. Account being taken of nature-based solutions improves the Bill and, on that basis, I also congratulate the Minister. My noble friend has proved herself to be a listening Minister, and the Government have taken a very common-sense approach, which improves the Bill. It was previously a good Bill, and it is now a better Bill after changes made in this House and the approach of the Minister and the Government.
I do not propose to detain the House, except to say that I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said in Committee and at Second Reading. I regret that we have not gone a bit further, but at least we have an improvement in this legislation. On that basis, I once again congratulate the Government.
My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who is both a force for nature and a force of nature in your Lordships’ House. I thank everyone else who has joined in getting this progress on nature-based solutions, although we should not look at those solutions as an alternative to cutting our carbon emissions. Both those things have to be done.
I was not going to speak but, given something the Minister said in her introduction, I feel forced to ask her a question. In justifying the exclusion of “circular economy” in the Commons amendment, she said that it was “not a precise term”. Does the Treasury understand the term “circular economy” and its essential nature in delivering the sustainable society we need? If the Minister wants a source for this, I point to a government paper entitled, Circular Economy Package policy statement, from 30 July 2020, which was put out jointly with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and which defined “circular economy” as
“keeping resources in use as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them, minimizing waste and promoting resource efficiency”.
Will the Minister confirm that the Treasury recognises that the circular economy is an acknowledged term and is urgently needed?
My Lords, I wanted to thank the Government and to associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I thank them for their constructive engagement, which has allowed us to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
However, I thank the Government for listening in relation to a couple of other places. First, during the progress of the Bill through this House we had a lot of discussions about the position of the devolved Administrations and how they should be involved. While they have not gone as far as I should have liked, I welcome the amendments that have now been included and the constructive engagement that has obviously taken place with the devolved Administrations. That is a nice change from some of the things that we have seen with other legislation in the past.
Secondly, Amendment 8 is identical to an amendment that I tabled on Report, which shortens the reporting cycle to five years. My amendment was not accepted by the Government at that time. When I tabled it, it led to what I think was a unique achievement of being co-signed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. That has not been achieved before or since. I said at the time that such a unique and powerful alliance should make the Government take that amendment seriously, so I am delighted and grateful that they have done so.
My Lords, I have to admit, although I should not, that when I saw the Bill appear on Forthcoming Business I thought that it had received Royal Assent about a year ago, that it had gone and that everyone was happy. Clearly, the other place was not quite happy, so we are debating the Bill today. I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, here because this morning I was at a meeting of the Green Investment Group—the privatised Green Investment Bank—as a watchdog on its purposes after privatisation. I hope that this infrastructure bank will not also be privatised in the next couple of years and we have to do the same for it.
I welcome the House of Commons amendment around water companies, moved by my honourable friend Richard Foord MP. Although the noble Baroness the Minister has circumscribed the effect of that amendment, I am delighted that the Government have accepted it. We all understand that water companies are under extreme scrutiny, mainly for their lack of investment and focus on environmental concerns under their custody. Equally, I welcome the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and I too join the congratulations on her tenacity in getting it accepted by the Government.
However, I also thank the Minister for her persuasive powers. I have said to her in the past that I should prefer her to be in another portfolio that I deal with even more, on which this House seems to be less persuasive on occasions. Yet she manages to persuade the Treasury, which is probably an even harder task, that sometimes this House can make some useful changes to the legislation before it.
I will not detain the House further, except to welcome these amendments, and hope that we can put the Bill to bed and that the UK Infrastructure Bank can get on and do what we all want it to do—invest in the future infrastructure of this economy in the wider sense, including the circular economy. I am grateful for the mention from the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and I understand from the Minister that most of the circular economy will indeed be accessible by the bank. I look forward to that as well.
My Lords, I thank the Minister, both for her introduction today and for a helpful briefing held last week. When your Lordships’ House considered the Bill in the first half of last year, we were told that passing it should be a mere formality. The UK Infrastructure Bank was already operating, having made its first handful of investment decisions. The Bill was therefore essentially a technical exercise to give the organisation statutory underpinning. The Government resisted several sensible amendments, including one on worker representation on the bank’s board, partly on the basis that this legislation needed to be on the statute book quickly. I pause to note that the inclusion of a non-executive director at least moves in that direction. I thank the Minister, as I do for everywhere in the Bill where she has persuaded the Government to seek compromise.
However, in reality, it took some time for the Bill to get through the other place. The legislation having been introduced last July, Second Reading did not take place until November and Report not until last month. The delay was presumably the result of the Conservative Party’s summer of chaos, with a succession of Prime Ministers and Chancellors of the Exchequer, and—if I remember correctly—a short period when the noble Baroness was not a Minister on this subject. We are back to our familiar form. The extra time has seemingly allowed Ministers to reflect, in some areas at least, as evidenced by the various Commons amendments that we are debating today.
We welcome the clarifications around the definition of “public authorities” and the importance of costed plans should UKIB funds be used to support the work of water companies. The devolved provisions, which have facilitated the passing of legislative consent Motions—something of a novelty in recent years—are also welcome. We are also glad that the Minister and the Bill team have been persuaded of the merits of including nature-based solutions in the definition of infrastructure.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, made a persuasive argument but, as we have often seen, that does not always lead to the Government making a concession. I pause again, however, to note, as happens with so many Bills, the extent to which she and her supporters are making incremental progress in embracing the green thrust. Even now, I have a bit of optimism that we might move quickly enough to save at least some of the planet that we now enjoy. It is good to see that thrust building on both sides of the House. I hope that in a couple of years the sides will change but, if one has that general direction in the membership and on the Front Benches, it is possible that we will get there. In another two years we may be passing green amendments that will amaze us when we look back five years, at when some official or other said, “You can’t put green in there because it is nothing to do with the Bill”. We have put green in here and have persuaded people that it is something to do with the Bill.
I understand the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, with regard to the circular economy, but that concept will become ever more apparent and he will no doubt have other opportunities to promote it.
I regret that the Government have overturned my amendment. Colleagues may think, “You would say that, wouldn’t you?”, but I remain unconvinced of the Government’s reasoning for removing their own levelling- up mission from the Bill. I reluctantly accept the offer to make changes to the bank’s framework document and articles of association after the Bill receives Royal Assent. It is not exactly where we want to be but it is a small step in the right direction.
Finally, we gladly accept the reduction of the interval between reports on the bank’s effectiveness. I was somewhat amused by this, as we were previously told that an interval of five years was simply not practical and could even somehow undermine the bank’s work.
Overall, while the Bill is a short, technical piece of legislation, the UK Infrastructure Bank could make a significant contribution to some of the big challenges that we face. We fully support the bank and, while there may be cause to revisit its mandate in the future, we wish it well in its work. Again we thank the Minister for her co-operation in bringing us to this consensus position.
My Lords, the Bill is mercifully short, so I shall also keep my remarks brief. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken today and who contributed when we took the Bill through its substantive stages in this House a while back. I reassure them that the time it has taken for the Bill to progress is not unusual: I was working on the skills Bill in this House, went off on maternity leave and was back in time for ping-pong, so it is not necessarily an unusual passage for a Bill in Parliament.
I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that the Government are committed to moving towards a more circular economy which will see us keeping resources in use as long as possible, extracting maximum value from them, minimising waste and promoting resource efficiency. I hope I made that clear in my opening remarks. When it came to including a legal definition of “infrastructure” in the Bill, that is where my remarks about the potentially imprecise nature of the terms lay, but it does not reflect a broader lack of understanding or commitment by the Government to that agenda.
I also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that His Majesty’s Treasury is very much committed to ensuring that nature and climate change are on the agenda for the Government and that we meet our global goals, committed to both in terms of Paris alignment and the new framework agreed at COP 15 in Montreal at the end of last year. He knows better than most that we published the Dasgupta review that looked at the role of nature in our economy. We have had an amendment to the Bill today, and that commitment will be ongoing.
Most noble Lords were very kind in not replaying my words on the review period for the bank. All I can say is that it is always a pleasure to listen to the contributions of noble Lords and be persuaded of the art of the possible. I am pleased with the changes that we have been able to make to the Bill; I think these have shown how effective Parliament can be in scrutinising our legislation. The UK Infrastructure Bank has transformative potential, which I know is recognised and supported on all sides of the House. I beg to move.
Motion on Amendments 1 and 2 agreed.
Motion on Amendment 3
3B: Clause 2, page 1, line 23, leave out “structures underpinning the circular economy, and””
Amendment to the Motion on Amendment 3 agreed.
Motion on Amendments 4 to 11
Motion on Amendments 4 to 11 agreed.
Bill returned to the Commons with an amendment.
Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill
Clause 1: Power to implement government procurement Chapters
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 15, at end insert—
“(3A) Regulations under subsection (1) may not be made before completion of a review by the Trade and Agriculture Commission of the potential impact of the procurement Chapters on industry in the United Kingdom.”Member’s explanatory statement
Requires a review by the TAC before regulations implementing the procurement Chapters can be made.
My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, Amendments 1 and 6. I was thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, would be here, but maybe the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will cover for him in his absence—he may arrive while I am speaking, who knows?
I begin by thanking the Minister both for being available between Committee and Report and for facilitating a meeting with Mr Phil Goff, the New Zealand high commissioner in the UK earlier in the Bill’s passage; both were very helpful indeed. Amendment 1 would require a review by the Trade and Agriculture Commission, the TAC, before regulations implementing the procurement chapters can be made. The TAC, as we know, is the independent committee of expert specialists in a number of fields—animal and plant health; animal welfare; environmental standards and so on. Its role is to scrutinise a new free trade agreement once it is signed and to inform Parliament whether measures in the new free trade agreement are consistent with UK levels of statutory protection. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has arrived.
Last year, the then Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, received confirmation that the Australia and New Zealand trade deals were indeed within that consistency, so one might wonder why we are putting down this amendment. It is not to score political points, or to attack the Government, but to ask TAC to consider the procurement chapters of these two free trade agreements. The TAC would need to be fine-tuned to do this by importing necessary expertise. In Committee in the other place, representatives of TAC agreed that it is only as strong or as weak as the parliamentary scrutiny process around it. We can see no reason to limit it to the agricultural aspects of agreements and not to extend TAC to look at procurement as well. Incidentally, it is regrettable that TAC’s role is limited to post the signing of deals, but that is not the concern of this amendment.
Amendment 6 would require an impact assessment of regulations made under Schedule 1 within 12 months, and every three years thereafter. These trade deals are not short-term, one-off deals: while predictions can be made in advance, they are generally vague or broad and wide of the mark, so impact assessments would consider what the actual situation is after time has passed, to better inform the future, and on a rolling basis. This would provide insight into the effect of these deals and help us learn lessons for the future. Whether the Government like it or not—I think they do not like it—these agreements set precedents for future trade deals. A number of concerns have been raised about these deals and it would be sensible to keep them under formal review and readjust expectations as we gain more knowledge. For example, on employment rights, the TUC has commented that the agreements do not contain commitments to ILO core conventions, and an obligation for both parties to ratify and respect those agreements.
On climate change, it is deeply concerning that vital commitments made to this House on climate change in regard to the Australian deal are not being upheld. Alok Sharma MP, COP 26 president, said on 1 December 2021, that the Australia deal
“reaffirms both parties’ commitments to upholding our obligations under the Paris agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5°.”—[Official Report, Commons, 1/12/21; col. 903]
This final agreement does not uphold that important commitment. In other areas too—the NHS, small businesses, regions and particularly animal welfare, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, will speak about in a minute—there are further problems. So, an impact assessment set against these concerns would be very helpful to assess the deals and prepare the UK for future negotiations. I beg to move.
I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, and I shall speak to Amendment 3 in my name. I congratulate my noble friend the Minister for the close interest he has taken in listening to my concerns—most recently in a phone call on Sunday evening. I apologise for intruding on his weekend.
My concerns in the background, and my reason for tabling Amendment 3 at this stage, are twofold. One, as the noble Lord opposite alluded to, is the need for an impact assessment, particularly looking at the impact of implementing the procurement chapters of these free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand. What will the impact be on farmers, and indeed on the market for food within the United Kingdom, particularly in relation to lamb and beef? Secondly, in relation to the impact on the market for food, the impact assessment I am calling for must consider the production and food safety standards.
I am trying to impress upon my noble friend and the Government the plight of upland hill farmers, many of whom are tenanted farmers. I am most familiar with those based in North Yorkshire, where I had the honour to represent two different constituencies for a total of 18 years; I grew up in the Pennines in County Durham. Peculiar to those areas of the north of England is that perhaps 50% of the farms are tenanted. They also have very poor land but it does lend itself to grazing, and over the years they have done this extremely well. Therefore, they have thrived through our membership of the European Union and, most recently, the Basic Payment Scheme, through spring lambs and fat-store cattle.
I was particularly concerned to see in an article dated 5 March that it is estimated that in this financial year alone, the typical grazing livestock farm in the English uplands faces a drop in farm business net profit income of almost two thirds, to approximately £16,300. I would like to pay tribute to the work of Julia Aglionby, professor of practice at the University of Cumbria’s Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas. She predicts that the income will recover slightly to almost £23,000 over two years, before slumping back to £16,700. The ballpark figure is going to be between £16,300 and £16,700.
On that basis, the NFU fears that it is not going to be cost effective, as we move from the Basic Payment Scheme to payments for environmental and public goods, for farmers to farm in the uplands, certainly in the north of England, with which I am most familiar. So, they face a drop in farm income. Coupled with that is what I see as unfair competition and the lack of a level playing field. My noble friend Lord Inglewood will remember from our days in the European Parliament this elusive level playing field that we thought we would obtain at some stage in the European Union; it never happened, but I see it becoming more and more elusive as we go forward.
So, the purpose of this amendment is to look at how we can ensure, through proposed new subsection (2) of Amendment 3, that our standards of food production and safety will be met going forward. The NFU is concerned that there are no enduring safeguard mechanisms —that the mechanisms in place are for up to a maximum of 15 years.
I would like my noble friend the Minister to acknowledge when he sums up that, in its impact assessments for the two agreements, the Department for Business and Trade has modelled agriculture, forestry, fishing and semi-processed foods, which include the beef and sheep meat sectors, and these are estimated to see a fall of 0.35% in one agreement, and a minus 1.16% reduction in gross value added, respectively, relative to the base line, over the long run as a result of the FTA. We have to accept that some farmers will take the view that we are doing a deal with the devil.
Australia and New Zealand are very good producers of food. They have large tracts of land on which to produce their food, and they are going to come after our markets very aggressively. Regarding my noble friend’s department’s impact assessment, I accept there may be other areas under these agreements that may benefit, such as automobiles and whisky—which is close to my heart, coming as I do from Scotland—but I am here to argue for the plight of the hill farmer and the upland farmer, who are feeling very beleaguered as we speak.
Another source of concern that I hope my noble friend will address is how these imports are going to meet my test under proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 3. I have had a note from the Food Standards Agency concerning the percentage of food coming into the UK from third countries, including EU countries, as “checked at port or point of entry”. As we will recall, imports from the EU, which may include Brazilian, Australian and New Zealand imports, have been temporarily suspended at our borders; I think they are due to be phased in toward the end of this year. But imports from Australia and New Zealand through the EU are not being checked at our borders at the moment.
What is concerning me more is that all imported high-risk food and feed from non-EU countries is subject to control at our borders. This includes 100% documentary checks to ensure that the consignment originates from both a country and establishments that are approved to export to this country, and food and feed safety assurances contained with the Export Health Certificate have been correctly completed, meeting our safety requirements. Additional identity and physical checks will be carried out, and the frequency of such checks vary between—if the figures are correct—1% and 30%.
The FSA says that typically, meat and dairy products fall into the 30% frequency, while fish and fish products fall into the 15% frequency, and highly refined products of animal origin fall into the 1% frequency. Lamb and beef fall within the 30% checks, so we are taking an awful lot on trust at our borders from non-EU countries —an example being Australian and New Zealand meat imports—under the terms of a free trade agreement.
The final thought I would like to leave my noble friend with is that the checks undertaken by local authorities in England are a sort of last-chance saloon; at the moment they are patchy, and I hope that enough resources will be made available to them. Those are my main concerns. This is yet another agreement which is asymmetrical in nature, and we are doing a deal which is going to be far more in the interests of Australian and New Zealand farmers than our own. Unlike other free trade agreements, it does not allow for a safeguard measure, so it is putting our own producers of meat, particularly lamb and beef, at risk. It also lays us open, both as domestic producers and consumers, to substandard foods coming in.
Those are the concerns that lie behind Amendment 3, and I very much look forward to hearing some reassurance from my noble friend when he comes to respond.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments 4 and 5, in the name of my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed, to which I have added my name. It is clear that the Government are extremely keen to foster trade deals with any number of non-EU countries. It is also clear that this could be very beneficial to our British farmers if they are able to export their excellent world-class produce to new markets—provided that they are not bogged down with unnecessary and exhaustive paperwork.
However, Australian and New Zealand exporters will in fact gain far more than our UK counterparts. The main tariff reductions are on the UK side. Trade with the UK is likely to be a very small proportion of Australia and New Zealand’s trade; they have other trading nations much closer to their shores. Their animal welfare standards are not as high as those in the UK, and there are no safeguards against Australian imports after 15 years—sugar after eight years, and dairy after six years. Even the previous Secretary of State admitted that the current deal sold UK farmers short.
Regarding tariff quotas, in year 1 Australia will access 35,000 tonnes of beef quota with no duty. This is an estimated 10% of the UK’s total import requirements. This will rise to 30% of total import requirements by year 10, which will be more than 12% of total UK production. It appears that the Government’s aim is to reduce the profitability and viability of our beef farmers, who produce some of the very best beef in the world.
The Government have agreed to eliminate tariffs on New Zealand imports, although some products will be subject to phasing out. However, New Zealand lamb will be imported with no tariff at all after 15 years. Our hill farmers across the country, including those producing excellent Welsh lamb, feel that they are being undercut. This is already an area of agriculture that does not produce large rewards for farmers.
Amendment 4 would ensure that impact assessments are carried out for all types of farmers, especially upland, tenant and family farmers. It will be not the large conglomerate farmers who suffer from imports of cheaper, poorer-quality produce but the much smaller farmer, who is currently surviving on the edge of viability but who works disturbingly long hours, seven days a week.
The Government have pushed this and other trade deals with insufficient thought for the effects on our farmers. Amendment 4 would ensure that impact assessments are carried out on a regular basis. These impact assessments will be essential when the Government come to negotiate further trade deals with Canada and Mexico—a very different prospect from far-away Australia and New Zealand.
Amendment 5 would ensure that impact assessments for environmental standards, food standards, animal welfare standards and biodiversity are carried out and published regularly. Ensuring that these four key themes, featured in both the Environment Act and the Agriculture Act, are enshrined in the Bill is absolutely crucial.
Minette Batters, the president of the NFU, finished her speech to the recent NFU conference with a number of issues that she wanted the Government to address, including committing to promoting domestic food production, putting farmers and growers at the heart of our trade policy, guaranteeing our food security and backing British farmers and British food. It is time for the Government to do just this and add these amendments to the Bill to show that they do indeed support British farmers.
My Lords, I will intervene briefly. We had a substantial debate in Committee on precisely these issues and I will not repeat the remarks I made then. I remind the House that my sister-in-law is a sheep and beef farmer in north Wales.
For these purposes, I draw attention to the fact that each of these amendments refers to the impact of the procurement chapters—on industry in Amendment 1, on farmers in Amendment 3, and so on. This allows the amendments to come within the Bill’s scope, because the Bill is about only the procurement chapters of the two trade agreements. But because the amendments are within scope and relate only to the procurement chapters, they essentially are pointless, since they do not allow for an impact assessment of the impact on farming; as far as I can tell, the procurement chapters do not impact on farming.
I looked at those chapters; I was a member of the International Agreements Committee, which looked carefully at these two agreements and reported to the House on them. Where New Zealand is concerned, the benefit of the procurement chapter in the short run is modest and principally relates to housing and access to procurement of national parks in New Zealand. Where Australia is concerned, the agreement essentially enables us to access procurements at a sub-federal level, but given the thresholds I am unaware of any likelihood of any significant impact on UK agricultural exports to Australia or vice versa, since these are not necessarily public procurements. The question is whether farmers and agricultural produce from Australia and New Zealand have access to the UK market more generally. All these amendments are pointless in this context since they relate only to the procurement chapters.
I hope we get on with this. When we last spoke, I said that I hoped we might have completed the passage of the Bill by early March. The whole point of the Bill is to enable these chapters to be brought into our domestic legislation and to allow the free trade agreements to be ratified and brought fully into force. I had hoped that we would have done it earlier than this, but thus far we have not.
I have one point on impact assessments, since the purpose is to try to get impact assessments. I still do not understand why those who are asking for these assessments to be made have not recognised that the Trade and Agriculture Commission produced reports last year on each of these free trade agreements. The International Agreements Committee and the International Trade Committee in the other place had commitments from Ministers that there would be a monitoring report every two years and a comprehensive evaluation of the free trade agreement after five years. That seems a perfectly reasonable proposition, so I cannot see that these amendments have either procedural or substantial merit.
My Lords, I think your Lordships must agree that I am a very fortunate Member of your Lordships’ House, because with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, everyone has been speaking on my account as a Cumbrian hill farmer. I should declare that interest, and that I am president of the National Sheep Association and of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association.
The fundamental concern of agriculture about this seems to go back to the fact that when you have a carcass it is not really very clear whether it has been nurtured under benign environmental conditions or malignant ones. Equally, you cannot necessarily tell very easily, because of complicated scientific aspects that I had explained to me but do not entirely understand, whether it has had hormones introduced into it, and so on and so forth.
As I understand the law, under the international agreements, lamb in particular and beef from the two countries that we are talking about can be imported into our country. The legal impediment rests not there but with the fact that we are, under the WTO rules, allowed under certain circumstances to use welfare and environmental standards, as part of our domestic consumer protection legislation, to prohibit such products being placed on the market.
Against that background, what is needed in the context of the wider concerns that we have been touching on seems to be some kind of mechanism so that the British consumer and the British farmer know whether carcasses that might come into this country actually adhere to the appropriate standards. Speaking for myself as a Cumbrian hill farmer, I have no problems about competing with animals that have been reared in accordance with the standards that apply here. My worry is that you might in theory be undercut by products that come in from outside that do not adhere to those standards, for the simple reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, gave about the level playing field. The difficulty in theory is establishing whether that is the case.
Therefore, the question I put to the Minister—if he cannot answer me now, I ask him to do so by letter—is whether the Australian and New Zealand Governments will have proper farm assurance schemes in place to enable the traceability of the carcasses so that they can be identified. That seems to me, and to a number of other people who have been thinking about this, probably the most effective way of ensuring that this provision is properly adhered to in terms of our own domestic production. That would go a very long way towards allaying a lot of the concerns that have been expressed.
My Lords, I rise briefly to offer general support for the direction of all the amendments in this group. I am sure that the Front-Benchers will have more to say. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, I note that the commitment from the Minister to offer regular impact assessments is not the same as something written into the Bill. The Procurement Bill contains increasing promises from the Government for more local and national public procurement for schools, hospitals, prisons, et cetera. I am not quite sure of the timing or how this interacts with the nature of the procurement in this Bill.
I want to pick up on a point from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. She noted concerns about ongoing negotiations with Canada and Mexico. These amendments can also be taken as a broader expression of concern about the potential impact of opening up our markets to agricultural products from around the world, produced under far worse environmental, animal welfare and public health conditions than the standards we have been used to under EU membership and those of our own producers.
For anyone who has not seen it, there is a very interesting report on Politico reflecting on discussion around the potential CPTPP membership in which Canada is pushing with Mexico to have the same market access for agriculture as Australia and New Zealand have won under their deals with the UK. If we look at Mexico’s production conditions, we see that its beef imports have very high carbon emissions. Canada uses farrowing crates, tail docking, teeth trimming and lots of other practices that we would regard as wholly unacceptable in the pigmeat industry.
These amendments are to be taken together as a real expression of concern about what kind of food we will potentially see on our plates and the environmental impact of the food our farmers will be producing.
My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for missing the first minute of his contribution.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about why at this stage of the Bill we are seeking to raise some of the concerns that have already been expressed. It is not just we who have been raising issues about these agreements in particular. I can quote from a website that says we know that farmers are concerned by some of the trade deals we have struck, including with Australia:
“A Rishi Sunak-led Government will make farmers a priority in all future trade deals.”
That website is Ready for Rishi. As part of that commitment, he said that as Prime Minister he would introduce a new “Buy Local” campaign. He would also:
“Introduce a new target for public sector organisations to buy 50% of their food locally, to back British farmers and improve sustainability.”
The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, raised this in Committee. In discussing procurement, we are justified in trying to find out how that target from the new Prime Minister of 50% of public sector procurement through buying local will be implemented, especially since that same Prime Minister has recognised the concerns about these agreements we are debating.
It is also worth noting that there have been significant concerns among not only farmers in England but those in Scotland, to which I will refer, and Wales. Today’s Order Paper notes that Welsh legislative consent has been withheld. We should take seriously why the Welsh Government and Parliament have not been able to provide legislative consent in these areas. We also know the concerns of the Scottish Government.
Before I progress, I thank the Minister for his proactive engagement. I support his commitment to seeking opportunities to promote British exporters. The level of engagement he has shown to the Front Benches and others is to his credit and that of his office. I appreciate his willingness and engagement. He and others, such as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, are keen to see this agreement put in place. From these Benches, I wish to see agreements where there are opportunities for UK exports, especially in rural procurement. As my noble friend Lady Bakewell has indicated, we will not be shy in raising concerns about what the impacts may be, especially where the Government say when it suits them that these either are gateway agreements for CPTPP or will set precedents. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, about this. It is right that we test the impact on our domestic industries.
Our amendments seek specific reference to the impact on tenant and family farmers in particular, as well as on biodiversity. These are vital issues. The Government’s own impact assessment says that the cumulative effect of the Australia agreement will be a decline of 3% for beef and 5% of sheepmeat as a result of this liberalisation. As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, indicated, this is one-way liberalisation. In many respects, we have already had the market access. The question is: what is the impact on that new market access for those within the UK?
I know that the Minister will probably repeat the reassurances he gave in Committee. I respect him for doing so. I hope he will allow me to give another indication of the significance of this and why we are so concerned. I was in Scotland at the weekend, as I normally am. I was in Dundee, speaking to producers. The impact on energy costs and the shortage of labour, as well as the potential for increased competition—which is not based on a level playing field—in the dairy, egg, chicken, potato and vegetable sectors, were brought home to me. At the moment, many are making very difficult decisions about whether they will be able to carry on with production. It is right to raise these concerns and to link these agreements with the debates we are having on food security and our rural economies. The energy costs and labour shortages in dairy and in lamb and beef production are of significant concern. A much more targeted impact assessment on what are very vulnerable sectors—not simply a review of the agreement overall—is now vital.
It is also relevant to refer to some of the press reporting about South American meat, which has allegedly been put on the UK market labelled as “best British beef”. I understand that a major investigation is under way by the National Food Crime Unit—part of the Food Standards Agency—into what could have been a significant mislabelling of products. Can the Minister comment as to when we may see the conclusion of this investigation? If he cannot say so today, will he write to me? Issues about standards, mislabelling, mis-selling and the impact on our rural economies are not theoretical but real. The fact that there could potentially be hundreds of thousands of products where British consumers thought they were buying British, but that were actually from other sources, is of significant concern.
I respect the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the TAC. In Committee, I said that I had read the report and that I respect the work it does, but I do not think it is fair to say simply that because the TAC has made a report on the agreement, we should not seek further reassurances on the impact. If there are to be means by which we trigger mechanisms in the agreement to protect those sectors which may face unfair competition, we need the evidence base to make that decision. Therefore, seeking an opportunity to raise issues about enforcement of the commitments in the agreement is valid.
Next, I will refer to precedent. On some agreements, the Government say that there is no precedent in any agreement, because each agreement is negotiated afresh. That may be factually the case, but we know, as the noble Baroness indicated, that the Government are negotiating in real time with Mexico and Canada, and we seem to be close to an accession to CPTPP. If other reports are true, we have given considerable concessions on palm oil to Malaysia as part of the CPTPP accession talks. Reports in the Financial Times indicate that we have accepted a demand from Malaysia to cut tariffs on palm oil to zero immediately on accession, whereas the EU has a de facto ban. That will create significant concerns about the UK’s commitments on anti-deforestation and biodiversity. Ultimately, because we have insufficient means to properly scrutinise government negotiating objectives, it is right, even at the late stage of Bills, that we consider them closely.
On CPTPP, the Government have been very clear. The Minister said at Second Reading and in Committee that the Government consider these agreements as a gateway to the accession, so it is right that we link them together. Alan Beattie of the Financial Times highlighted the potential of the CPTPP accession to be just 0.08% of growth in gross domestic product. He says:
“To express economic growth in decibel form, the UK joining the deal in its current form is a cat sneezing three rooms away.”
The Government’s rhetoric on some of these agreements is not matched by reality when we know what the direct impact will be. Even at this late stage, therefore, I hope that the Minister will be able to offer some reassurance to our sector.
Going back for a moment to the point the noble Lord made earlier about the sale of food to public bodies and these procurement chapters, does he recognise that the purchase of food locally by schools, hospitals and the like will almost certainly not be, as I judge it, within the definition of covered procurement and not above the threshold; and, therefore, the procurement chapters, in so far as they extend procurement opportunities to Australia and New Zealand providers under this Bill—and under the Procurement Bill—really would not be relevant to that local provision of food?
I am grateful to the noble Lord; he knows I respect his work on this area very much. I would like the Minister to confirm that that will be the case, because I am not convinced. I see the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, in her place. She was kind enough to have a meeting with me about it. I am not yet convinced, because of the elements within the Procurement Bill which will require there to be no discrimination for any of the treaty countries for public procurement in this country, that what he is arguing for, which is effectively a carve-out, will in fact be the case. My understanding is that under the Procurement Bill, we are unable to discriminate against any of the treaty suppliers. I am not sure that a public body in this country would be able to discriminate. I hope the Minister will be able to clarify that point.
The reason this is relevant and why I quoted the then candidate for leader of the Conservative Party’s commitment to 50% of public procurement in this country being local is that I do not know how that squares with what will be the legal requirement under the Procurement Bill that we are then unable to discriminate against Australian and New Zealand produce which will enter the market. I do not know how that squares.
I am simply asking the questions, because we have not had more meat on the bone, if that is not too inappropriate an analogy, about what has been published as a government commitment and is in the Procurement Bill. If the noble Lord has any other answers, I am happy for him to intervene on me. I do not know how he knows how this might be squared. I do not at this moment. That is why part of our agriculture sector is also questioning how these two commitments will come together. The different sequencing of this Bill and the Procurement Bill is relevant. Because it also sets the precedent for Canada and Mexico, with new produce coming in, and if these are gateway agreements for CPTPP, we are looking at potential competition with all CPTPP members for public procurement of produce. If you are a public body in the UK looking at cost-effective procurement of food for schools or hospitals and you are unable under the Procurement Bill to discriminate against Australian or New Zealand produce or that from any CPTPP country and state that there is local producing, similarly, I do not know that it is matched.
I hope that, at this late stage, the Minister can offer some reassurance. I hope that he is able to explain how these commitments to 50% of procurement can be matched, as well as give further reassurances, specifically on the impact on tenant farmers and biodiversity. There are genuine concerns here, I do not think they will go away and we need to offer that reassurance to these sectors, which are so vital to our rural economy.
My Lords, I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests, although I do not believe there is any conflict relating to our debate today. I am also grateful for the apology of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for being slightly late. I was fractionally late for Questions this afternoon, and was called on to resign, among other things. I hope the House does not mind that I have not taken that too seriously.
I am delighted to be speaking on Report of this very important Bill. If it is appropriate to make a personal comment, I have deeply appreciated the high level of engagement with the Opposition Front Benches, my noble friends and noble Lords across the House. I do not want to put words into people’s mouths, but I think we agree that it is a fundamentally good thing to do a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand. I was watching the news yesterday and seeing the extraordinary advances we have made in collaboration, particularly with Australia, in our defence. It will benefit the economy in many areas in the north-west of this country, among other parts of this nation. The sheer sincerity of the brotherhood between our nations should be expressed very clearly. I very much hope that if the high commissioner of either Australia or New Zealand—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for engaging with Phil Goff recently—is watching this debate, they know that the fundamental spirit of the House is for a successful conclusion of this process and a good and successful trade deal with Australia and New Zealand.
At the same time, I am very aware of the issues that trade deals create. I am certainly not triumphal in any way about trade liberalisation or the effects that this trade deal will have on individuals and farming communities. I have been very sensitive to those discussions over the past few months and take this very seriously. I express my personal view that we must support our farming community, and this is unquestionably the view of this Government as well. It is important to have that on the record.
I would like to deviate slightly from the prepared text that is often given to Ministers on these occasions and actually try to answer the questions that have been raised, if that is not too procedural. Of the three groups of amendments, this one probably requires the most attention; I hope that the next group can be quite swiftly dealt with and the third relatively quickly as well.
Noble Lords have raised the important points that have come from this debate, and I greatly appreciate my noble friend Lord Lansley’s commentary. This procurement Bill, which I have in my hand, is a very specific and technical Bill, and to attach specific riders to it would not really make sense. If one is looking for assessment of the impact of the Bill on procurement, in the sense of the changing of the thresholds, the advertising and the termination concepts, I cannot really see how we can judge the impact of this specific legislation. That does not change the fact that I am keen to answer the questions and concerns that are raised, because clearly, it is called the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, as a result of which it is absolutely justified to ensure that we assess the specific points that the overall treaty raises. However, when it comes to the technical points in the amendments proposed, it would be unusual and unnecessarily cumbersome to attach any rider to them except for that in Amendment 2, which I will propose myself.
I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for his comments on what the Trade and Agriculture Commission could achieve in terms of further assessment and analysis. The TAC produced a significant and deep report on the proposed ramifications of trade treaties with both Australia and New Zealand. It was valuable in providing this House with the right level of evidence and, in my view—I read it very carefully—a high degree of comfort that the ramifications in many of the areas where there are concerns, such as animal welfare and the derogation of our standards, which has been a matter for debate for some time, would be well managed and contained in a way that should not cause alarm, long-term concern or significant distortion to the markets.
On whether the TAC should consider procurement, I am quite intrigued by that. It is not for me to make pledges at the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has already suggested that such pledges are not worth a great deal—I know one noble Lord may have mentioned that; perhaps it was the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—but still, they are important statements. Even so, it is not for me to make prescriptions as to the direction of the TAC. However, as we evolve our trade plan, it is perfectly reasonable to investigate what additional areas the TAC may look at, although I advise that in this instance the commission should look specifically at the effects of the imports on the farming community. It may be worth looking at how we can assess further procurements. I would be happy to entertain that, if that is the right word.
The core point of these amendments is the impact assessment. We have already done a detailed impact assessment; in fact it has been raised. The very fact that it has demonstrated some long-term or medium-term effects on the farming community in its honesty is to be congratulated. It has allowed us to have a serious debate and to ensure that, when we create these agreements, we build in protections and safeguards, as we have, in order that there can be a steady five, 10 and 15-year transition. When it comes to assessing areas of risk, such as poultry and pork imports, the agreement is very different on that in terms of not liberalising those markets.
We have had the impact assessment, and we will have, after two years, a monitoring report. I have quite a lot of detail here in terms of after five years, which I think is the right time for a full assessment of the effects of these trade deals. That is what we want. The Government want to know what has happened. In our conversation with the New Zealand high commissioner, we learnt that New Zealand expected its deal with China to increase trade for New Zealand by 3 billion dollars a year, and it ended up being 30 billion dollars a year in five years. We are hoping for significant magnitudes of trade between our nations to enrich us. Two years, however, will give us enough time to monitor the activities of the trade deals in the respective countries, and after five years a full report will be presented. I believe that the five-year report will be presented to Parliament; if that is wrong, I will certainly correct that.
On top of that—and we discussed this in the last debate—there are numerous committees and structures within the agreement to make sure that they are functioning according to how we would like them to function. I welcome input from all Members of this House on areas where they think greater scrutiny is required, and where they think there are issues. Clearly, in relation to agriculture, we will have a constant dialogue as we go through the process,
In specific fact, as a legislative Act—I hope noble Lords will forgive me; I am relatively new to this House, so perhaps they can correct me—adding riders to this Bill would seem to be difficult to do in terms of trying to get the outcomes we want. Philosophically in practice, the Government have conducted an impact assessment initially, which I think has been well received and has been extremely valuable in informing this debate. We have committed to a two-year monitoring report—I am very pleased to have discussions on what should be included in that to make it useful—and then there will be a five-year full assessment of the trade deals, as I believe we have committed to for all trade deals going through the House.
Points have been raised by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about the precedent that this trade deal sets. I want to stress—this is extremely important from my point of view—that no single treaty sets a precedent for the next treaty. That is relevant; it is why there are negotiations with Canada, Mexico and the other countries in the CPTPP. Both those countries are in the CPTPP and we are negotiating different things with them while at the same time negotiating on CPTPP—I want to stress that. I can assure noble Lords that as someone who is in the Department for Business and Trade I see—admittedly one step removed from the negotiations—a huge effort to make sure that we get the right deal for this country, that it is measured and appropriate, and that we take the right time to conclude these deals in the best interests of the United Kingdom. They are separate, and I am very happy to have a separate debate, as we will—I hope soon—on the opportunities that will be presented to us by a plethora of other deals, but they will be stand-alone. I would expect the same degree of scrutiny as we have had for these two countries’ trade deals in this Bill.
The issue of animal welfare has been raised. That is extremely relevant and very dear to my heart personally; it is important to people in this country that our values in this area are not diluted in any way. We have done a lot of work to assess the impact on animal welfare. Looking at the TAC report, the impact assessment and other reports, we feel comfortable that animal welfare standards are comparable between Australia and New Zealand and the UK. Before noble Lords intervene—which I discourage, simply for the sake of the speed of the debate—let me say that there are differences in how animal husbandry operates in Australia and New Zealand, and some people might suggest that in some instances it is better in terms of the amount of space that animals have while in others they suggest that is worse. We are aware, clearly—which is not relevant for imports into the UK—of reports over the weekend on the movement of live animals and so on. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to speak to—
I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. It is not my plan in this debate to be triumphal or to score points or whatever in terms of coming backwards and forwards. I have done a great deal of work in order to satisfy myself that when it comes to mulesing, the reports suggest that a tiny percentage of meats that would appear in this country—I am only going on the reports that I have been given—would be at risk of being from that practice. I have also been encouraged by reports that I have read about changing practices and standards in Australia. In particular, farmers who come under the Australian farm assurance programme certainly insist on anaesthetising before mulesing. I do not want to go down an alleyway, but the point is that great efforts have been made to ensure that, broadly speaking, our standards are aligned.
I have two more important points. The New Zealand Government have introduced a significant upgrade to their animal welfare standards. I cannot recall the name of the Bill, but if noble Lords wish to look, they will see that they are introducing a whole raft of new animal welfare standards and general environmental standards for farming, which will have enormous ramifications for their production and align them even further, if not go even further than we do. I spoke yesterday, specifically ahead of this debate, to the Australian high commissioner and raised this issue again, as I did with the Trade and Agriculture Minister who I met a few months ago. This has been my main issue, particularly when speaking directly to interlocutors about animal welfare standards.
They have confirmed to me that they are doing further work, which is very important. The Government of Australia have announced the banning of other practices, not associated with our exports but relating to live animal exports and so on. The direction of travel is very positive. We have not celebrated enough that our work in negotiating these trade deals has helped to drive up standards in both countries. I applaud our negotiating team for doing that, and applaud the debates that we have, with leadership from individuals such as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, ensuring that these areas are properly highlighted and that we can draw attention to our interlocutors and set standards, and that our negotiating partners know that we have these standards and that we wish to be aligned on them.
I have only a few more points to make. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made some very relevant references to the Food Standards Agency. I wrote to her and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Lennie, covering some of the questions raised in the last debate. This issue was raised. I have interviewed staff there to ensure that they carry out physical checks at the border for Australian and New Zealand products. They do not check every container, and frankly it is quite right that they do not. It would be an extreme impediment to trade, especially for food produce. However, they take a very proactive approach to ensuring that our standards—which, to reinforce the point, are not derogated in any way by these trade Bills—are upheld.
On top of that, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, raised a point about whether we can be comfortable of certification on the ground. In my recent call with the Food Standards Authority, I particularly covered the topic of Australia, which has a local assurance system, as do we. To be eligible to export, a farmer must sign up to the federal export assurance scheme; I cannot recall its name, but your Lordships will know what I mean. Therefore, vets who are under obligation to perform their duties—
I was just coming to that. I may have taken a bit too long to get there but I am trying to reassure noble Lords by describing in detail the lengthy process of assurance that Australia provides us with. It is part of the global trading system and not necessarily unique to Australia. We must do the same, as I understand. If I am wrong, I will ensure that this is corrected, but we must do the same with any agricultural or meat exports that we send to Australia.
Are we confident that Australia is upholding their system and managing it properly? The answer is yes. I have been impressed with the calls that I have had around this subject. It is a detailed and complicated process of assurance that ensures that we are comfortable that what we receive is indeed what is advertised. I do not want to be called back here if there is a case where that does not happen, because clearly that is not my intention, but on whether we are confident about the processes in place, the short answer is yes.
Regarding South American beef being passed off under British beef titles, I understand that this was only from one retailer, and the National Food Crime Unit is investigating. This struck me as an isolated case. Forgive me that I do not have all the details, but the major supermarket retailers have all denied any knowledge of this and it has not affected them. This is a unique case. I am happy to have someone write to the noble Lord because it would be interesting to find out a bit more about this, but it is not relevant in this instance. It does not seem to be widespread, but is specific. That it has been caught and is being investigated is very important.
I come to a conclusion—
Can the Minister address the commitment that the now Prime Minister made for 50% of public sector procurement to be sourced locally? Is that government policy? How does that interact with the legal requirements in the Procurement Bill that a public body in this country would not be able to choose a local producer over a treaty supplier producer, on that basis?
I appreciate the noble Lord’s comments and was about to come on to that when I said “conclusion”. Sadly, my conclusions can run to several topics, the noble Lord’s being one of them.
It is correct that the procurement legislation prohibits a nationalist tilt towards procurement, which is what we want. When it comes to government procurement, we want the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices, and I would like to think that they will be British products. It will reassure this House to know that 81% of all beef sold in this country is under British brand labels. Only 19% international beef is sold in this country in the first place. The assumption is that you are already looking at a very high level of local procurement. A 50% threshold would be logical for something such as beef, which already fits into that.
There is a further question and further investigation regarding whether procurement can be assessed in terms of other relevant factors. I am happy to have a further debate about that in general. It can apply to a wide range of concepts. It could even apply to how energy is sourced and supplied. There is always work defining what concepts such as sustainability or relevance to the environment could be in terms of transportation distances and so on. They are discussions to have. I have been having discussions in other areas, for reasons not linked to these trade discussions, on whether these factors can be brought to bear in procurement. We are very wary of introducing anything other than straightforward procurement rules, but I assure the noble Lord that—as with beef, where 81% is already UK beef—it would seem logical that a very high proportion of produce is sourced locally.
At the risk of delaying us on this point, the access that is given through these procurement chapters and for treaty state suppliers under the Procurement Bill is to cover procurement, which means procurements larger than the threshold amounts set out in the schedule to the Procurement Bill. For example, for local food production for a set of schools, this would have to be a procurement over £213,000. In truth, the issue is not whether there is an Australian company that is likely to bid for such a procurement, because these procurements will be smaller than that. It is whether beef from Australia is in this country and in circulation in their market which might then be used by local suppliers—but then they are a local supplier to the school.
I have appreciated my noble friend’s extremely positive interventions and applaud wholeheartedly his phrase, “Let’s get on with it.” He has also been extremely helpful in pointing out the specifics of the Bill and the difficulty of attaching these sorts of amendments to it, although I am very sympathetic to the overall philosophy of the desire for proper impact assessments, which we have had and agree to wholeheartedly in terms of the two-year and the five-year monitoring report. I stress again that this treaty does not create a precedent. However, it does create a model. I am very impressed and support wholeheartedly the flexibility of this agreement because it will allow us and allow noble Lords to call Ministers to account on a constant and rolling basis concerning the effectiveness of these trade treaties.
I believe that I have covered most of the points raised. I am very happy to continue a dialogue around these and any other measures that may not have been covered on this important piece of legislation. We believe, and I believe passionately, that this trade Bill is a good thing for this country. It will be of huge benefit to our citizens and our consumers. It will give us enormous additional security and allow us to have a closer relationship with two nations that have been, since their founding, sister nations of this country.
I am continually being asked by the representatives of Australia and New Zealand when this treaty will come into force because, as soon as it does, and only then, their businesses and citizens, and ours, will be able to take advantage of it. I call on this House to support the Government in this mission. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, to withdraw his amendment, and for the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, not to move theirs.