All 13 Lords Chamber debates in the Lords on 18th Sep 2023

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House of Lords

Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Monday 18 September 2023
14:30
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chichester.

Armed Forces: Remuneration, Housing and Family Support

Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Question
14:37
Asked by
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of reductions in Ministry of Defence day-to-day spending on remuneration, housing and family support for members of the armed forces.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, we do not accept the premise of the noble Lord’s question. Defence offers substantial support to our Armed Forces, which includes freezes to daily food charges, free wraparound childcare, an effective pay rise of between 9.7% for the most junior ranks and 5.8% for officers of one-star rank, and a doubling of investment into UK service family accommodation since the middle of the last decade.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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That Answer illustrates the lack of understanding about the brave people who defend us. However, to get back to my question, the March Spring Budget confirmed that day-to-day spending in defence is set to decline by £2.1 billion. That is over 6% in real terms between 2021-22 and 2024-25, which means £2 billion less for forces’ pay, recruitment and training, despite the growing security threats. Do the Government not believe that this imbalance will have serious consequences, as revealed by the 2023 attitude survey, or are they happy to ignore them?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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It depends upon which glass we look through; clearly, the noble Lord is looking through a rather half-empty glass, and the facts rather refute his gloomy assessment. In fact, the recent pay award was the biggest percentage uplift in 20 years for service personnel, and this year’s pay award goes way beyond that level—rightly recognising the vital contribution to which the noble Lord refers. As he will be aware, spend for the MoD is likely to be above £50 billion this year, and it is interesting just to look at the detail of where that money is going. It includes significant improvements to accommodation and, as I have already described, to the conditions that surround our service personnel. Interestingly, there is anecdotal evidence from across the department that the 2023 pay award has been well received by service personnel.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton (Con)
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My Lords, there is undoubtedly substandard accommodation within the MoD but, for balance, there is also fantastic new accommodation. I encourage any Member of this House to go to visit the new service family accommodation at Larkhill and Ludgershall, which has been built recently, to see just that. The challenge seems to be that we spend two-thirds of our budget on one-third of our infrastructure. The answer to that was published in the Government’s A Better Defence Estate strategy about six years ago, where the intent was to sell off excess estate and use the capital receipts from that selling off of the estate to invest in our defence infrastructure. It is a grand idea, but it seems to be going a bit slowly. Can my noble friend perhaps encourage the department to get on with it?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes, I can confirm to my noble friend that that initiative is under way. I do not have specific information about the extent to which sales have taken place, but I undertake to get that and I shall write to him. We are working on updating our accommodation offer to deliver the commitments made in the defence accommodation strategy. The Minister for Defence People and Veterans will be making a further announcement with more detail about the new accommodation offer later this month.

Lord Stirrup Portrait Lord Stirrup (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister update the House on the progress with unpicking the disastrous Annington Homes agreement, following the High Court decision in favour of the MoD earlier this year? Does not this sorry saga, in which billions have been lost to defence, illustrate the importance of taking a long-term view of value for money rather than responding to management whims of the moment and engaging in value destruction in response to short-term budgetary pressures?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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The noble and gallant Lord might be surprised to find that I am largely in agreement with his opinion. This is a long-standing arrangement; as he will be aware, it became the subject of judicial proceedings. We have been able to make progress, and I think the department has learned a great deal from that adventure, if you like. The noble and gallant Lord is quite correct that we can do better, and we are now on a much more sustainable footing.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister has made some positive comments about accommodation, yet in the continuous attitude survey of 2023, just 19% of respondents were satisfied with the timeliness or the quality of the repairs of service accommodation. Are His Majesty’s Government satisfied with that result, and what are they doing to improve things?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I would just say to the noble Baroness that 97% of MoD service family accommodation meets or exceeds the Government’s decent homes standard, and only these properties should be allocated to service families. On the continuous attitude survey, the department is focused on addressing the root causes of dissatisfaction with the maintenance of service family accommodation. That began before the Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey questionnaire was distributed to personnel. By the time the results were published on 1 June this year, performance had improved.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, there is a little difference sometimes between a glass half full and burying one’s head in the sand, and there is no doubt at all that there are real problems with personnel. I was down at Raleigh recently, and there was the smallest number I have seen on parade entering the Navy for many years. There are problems across all three services. People are marching with their feet. Does the Minister agree that there are real problems with manning levels and holding on to people? We have to do something to ensure we get this right or, in the Navy’s case, we will not be able to man ships, and, in the Army’s case, it will not even be able to meet the lower level expected in future.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I would say to the noble Lord that the recent pay award has been very positively received, but that is not the sole reason why people go into the Armed Forces. I agree with him that there are recruitment challenges—I do not deny that; we are in a very competitive world—but I can say that all three single services are currently embarked on new and, I think, very vibrant recruiting exercises, which we hope will bear fruit. But the other criteria to which I referred—how we provide careers, how we provide childcare support and how we try to improve accommodation and support personnel—are all part of the overall package.

Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie Portrait Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie (Con)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that, when we are looking at supporting the terms and conditions of our armed services, we must not forget those services that support them? I am thinking in particular of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which provides world-class maritime support to our Royal Navy. Since 2009, its terms and conditions and settlement have been lower than those of any other member of the Armed Forces or comparable emergency service, such as the fire service, the ambulance service and the police. I do not really understand why that is the case. Will the Minister undertake to look into it?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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Yes. I agree with my noble friend that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is an important component of our support. I do not have any details on her specific request, but I will certainly investigate and undertake to write to her.

Earl of Effingham Portrait The Earl of Effingham (Con)
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My Lords, I am proud to say that my father served in the Navy for 37 years. Although remuneration is an important part of the job offer, what other elements does my noble friend the Minister believe influence the attractiveness of a role in the modern-day Armed Forces?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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As a number of your Lordships have indicated, it is important to make clear how we value what we ask our Armed Forces personnel to do across the piece, whether it is pay, accommodation, conditions or tackling some of the challenging maintenance issues that have arisen. We are doing our level best to make sure that there is improvement; there is now clear evidence of that improvement.

I say to my noble friend that I think one of the most exciting things to happen recently has been the Haythornthwaite review, which is an innovatory, robust piece of work that defence is already working on, particularly to introduce flexibility—the zig-zag careers. That may sound like jargon, but it means that we give people in the Armed Forces the option to change paths and move direction: we give them the chance to switch between regular and reserve and we give our Civil Service the chance to switch between the service and industry. That is responding to the modern world in which we live; we are trying to make sure that we are sympathetic to the circumstances that confront each of our Armed Forces families.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Minister’s responses to a pretty specific Question about spending. I notice that at no time have I heard any figures in her responses, which is what you would expect to hear in answer to questions about spending. I repeat: my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe asked her about day-to-day spending on remuneration, housing and family support for members of the Armed Forces. Can she tell us in simple terms—I have an open mind and will listen to her answer—precisely what those figures were a couple of years ago, say, and what they are today?

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord. Let us take the example of service families’ accommodation and look at that investment. Some £337 million was invested there in the financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22 combined, with a further £163 million in the financial year 2022-23. The forecast for 2023-24 is £312 million following the recently published defence Command Paper refresh—which I am sure the noble Lord is an authority on—which announced an additional £400 million of funding over two years; £220 million of that has been received for this financial year. I hope that that gives a flavour of where some of the spend is going.

Hammersmith Bridge

Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:48
Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to expedite the re-opening of Hammersmith Bridge for traffic.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are keen to see Hammersmith Bridge reopen to all road users, including motor vehicles, as soon as is safely possible. In the most recent Transport for London funding settlement, the Government committed to contributing directly up to one-third of the total cost of the project. To date, the Government have provided the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham with almost £10 million of funding for the repair works so far.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his reply, but Hammersmith Bridge is a major arterial way into London and has now been closed for more than four years. Every day, 22,000 cars and buses that used to go over it are diverted to other bridges, with consequences including congestion and inconvenience. The Government sensibly set up a task force to grip this problem three years ago. Can the Minister say how often that task force has met and whether it has any explanation for why so little progress has been made over this very long period?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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To put things in perspective, I say that Hammersmith Bridge is a grade 2 listed suspension bridge that was opened, in its current form, in 1887. Since its opening, the structure’s use has changed dramatically, with the bridge carrying modern motor vehicles until its closure, for safety reasons, in April 2019. The government-led task force was set up by the DfT in September 2020 to work towards the safe reopening of the bridge. It brings together key stakeholders—the local authority, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Transport for London, the Greater London Authority and the Port of London Authority. The current priority for the department is to deliver the stabilisation works and develop a business case for the second stage of the works.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, this is all very well, but it is surely unreasonable for the Government to expect a local authority—the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham—to pay 33% of the total cost of reinstating this wonderful old bridge. Surely it is part of our national heritage; the Government should pay a much larger percentage and make sure that the work goes a bit more quickly, too.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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Ownership of the bridge was transferred to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham as part of the Local Government Act in 1985. The local authority has a legal duty to maintain the highway, and the responsibility to maintain the bridge and make decisions on its repair lies solely with the borough.

Lord Hannan of Kingsclere Portrait Lord Hannan of Kingsclere (Con)
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My Lords, the bridge has now been closed for longer that it took to build. The total cost of that construction between 1884 and 1887 was £82,117—less in equivalent terms than the £10 million grant to which my noble friend the Minister just referred. When did this country become bureaucratically incapable of building anything?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I understand the emotion behind this, but the works to repair Hammersmith Bridge are split into two phases—the stabilisation side, which the Government have been funding, and then the strengthening side. It is not one of these weekend jobs with a few spot welds; it is a question of dismantling the bridge, taking it away, repairing it, bringing it back and putting it together again. It is not quite as straightforward as noble Lords might think.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, in 2009, when floods hit the UK and wiped out a number of bridges across the country, I was in the Department for Transport. Many of those bridges were wholly owned by local authorities. We found the money to initiate repairs rapidly to support both local economies and the national economy. I do not understand why the same approach has not been taken to Hammersmith Bridge which, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said, is a critical part of the network. Will the Minister answer the noble and right reverend Lord’s question about how frequently that task force has met?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I cannot give the House an exact date for when the task force last met. All I can say is that the priority for the department, at the moment, is to deliver the stabilisation works and develop a business case for the second stage of those works. At that point, the task force will meet again.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the task force was due to take two weeks. It has now taken four years, so it would be nice to know how it is going to get this work going. Will the Minister join me in thanking Hammersmith and Fulham Council for the prompt action it took to avert the potentially disastrous collapse of this bridge and for the work it has since done to recruit internationally renowned engineering experts to devise a solution? Will he now outline the Government’s position on the liability on Hammersmith and Fulham Council for the cost of the major works? Will this reflect the proportion levied on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for its works on the Albert Bridge? This was around 10%, whereas 33% is expected of Hammersmith and Fulham, which is the entirety of its annual budget.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I congratulate everybody who is involved in trying to get the bridge open again. As to the contributions, I am not in a position to give details on exact sums of money, but the Government want to do what we can. Under the current scheme, we accept that a third will be contributed by the Government, a third by Transport for London and a third by the local authority.

Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
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My Lords, as a Barnes resident, I have been significantly affected by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to traffic, especially when neighbouring bridges are also closed, as Wandsworth Bridge is at the moment, and local bus services have been reduced. I may be able to help the Government in response to some of the earlier questions; I understand that the task force set up in 2020 last met on 25 November 2021. It has no plans to meet again

“until there is either an issue that requires unblocking … or a significant milestone that needs discussion or celebration”.

Given that the former seems permanent and the latter looks increasingly far off, what can the Government and the Minister now do to ensure that some heads are knocked together and the bridge is actually reopened to traffic, preferably within my lifetime?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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The noble Lord is right; the task force met 16 times between 1 October 2020 and 25 November 2021. Previous Ministers agreed not to call further meetings

“until there is either an issue that requires unblocking between members, or a significant milestone that needs discussion or celebration”.

I can add only that the Government are as keen as anybody to see this completed.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that this has had a considerable impact on river traffic at various times, and that it has been very constrained. When the repair work finally starts—goodness knows when it will be—will the Government bear in mind the impact on not just the tourist-trade craft but also the craft carrying rubbish and that sort of thing up and down the river?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right, and the Port of London Authority is very involved in the decision-making process.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, is it true, as has been asserted, that India sent a spacecraft to the moon for a third of the estimated cost of repairing this vital bridge?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I was not aware of that, no.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I did not think I would ever say this, but I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hannan. This is a totally shambolic situation and is symbolic of the chaos surrounding government infrastructure projects. Can the Minister tell us what assessment has been made of the cost to the economy, both of London and beyond? Does he not think that those costs will far outweigh the actual costs of rebuilding the bridge?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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There is no question but that there is an additional cost to the economy in terms of additional transport. I come back to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, who asked about the passenger situation with the bridge being closed, and say that Transport for London has laid on additional bus services on adjoining bridges to alleviate that problem, but there will be a knock-on effect in additional costs for travellers. That is regrettable, but we are where we are with the bridge, and we are doing as much as we can to get the work done.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, could not a little of the money that is apparently going to be saved on HS2—the most prodigal example of expenditure in British history—be used to make sure that this bridge becomes open again? The Minister says the Government want it to be open; if the Government will the end, let them will the means.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I will take that back to the department and see what it says.

National Health Service: Major Conditions Strategy

Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:58
Asked by
Baroness Wheeler Portrait Baroness Wheeler
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what additional funding is being made available for the implementation of the Department for Health and Social Care’s Major Conditions Strategy.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government are providing additional funding of £3.3 billion in 2023-24 and £3.3 billion in 2024-25 to support the NHS in England. The Government have not committed further additional funding specific to the major conditions strategy. However, as part of the strategy, we will be identifying innovative actions to help alleviate pressure on the NHS and support improvement within the current settlement, such as maximising the use of new technology to screen individuals for conditions.

Baroness Wheeler Portrait Baroness Wheeler (Lab)
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My Lords, the major conditions strategy has been well received in both approach and content, particularly the focus on primary and secondary prevention as part of a life-course approach, and bringing together a strategic framework for the six major conditions that drive over 60% of morbidity in England, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, key stakeholders have warned that, without adequate resources, NHS trusts and other bodies will struggle to deliver, especially given their current and future focus on trying to cope with ever-escalating waiting lists. Do the Government acknowledge this and how will January’s future strategy address it?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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We are investing about 11% of the economy—£160 billion—in the NHS, and the conditions in the major conditions strategy account for 60% of all the causes of death and long-term illness. What we are really talking about is prioritising spend around prevention and personalised care, as the noble Baroness said, and channelling the money we are already investing towards those aims, on which I think the whole House agrees.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, in June, the Government announced a ring-fenced AI diagnostic fund of £21 million to support the major conditions strategy. Will the Minister update the House on progress with the rollout of that fund? What other steps are the Government taking to ensure that NHS patients in all parts of the country can benefit from the latest developments in artificial intelligence?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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AI is a key point. Take stroke, which is one of these conditions. I saw a very good example in the Royal Berkshire the other day of what we all know as the golden hour, and the results from it. The Royal Berkshire has AI scans that go straight to the responsible physician, who can say straightaway whether a thrombectomy, for instance, is needed, the timing of which is critical. That is now being used in that cluster of hospitals and will be one of the six key technologies, the roll out of which we will encourage across the board to others.

Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood (Con)
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My Lords, osteoporosis must surely be included in the major conditions strategy, as fractures are the fourth-worst cause of premature death and disability in the UK, with as many people dying of fracture-related causes as lung cancer and diabetes. Does my noble friend agree that the inclusion of osteoporosis in the strategy would need to be backed up by investment in fracture liaison services to make it effective? Would not a two-year transformation budget of just £54 million to pump-prime universal coverage of FLS in England, which would quickly pay for itself, be a game-changer for patients, the NHS and the taxpayer?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank my noble friend. I think that is covered by musculoskeletal conditions, which is one of the six major conditions we are looking at. Key to pathways is moving treatment away from individual silos to patient-based treatment that looks across the board. We know that 55 year-olds have, on average, at least one condition, and that 80% of those over 85 will have one, two or three of these conditions. We need to ensure that we look at this across the board, rather than in silos.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I understand the rationale for identifying these areas, but how will the Government ensure that integrated care boards do not deprioritise services for other clinical conditions, such as eye health or kidney disease, for which there is huge demand in the NHS, involving many patients?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The strategy tries to provide a road map for how we want to do this. It starts with prevention, which I think we are all agreed on, then early diagnosis, quality treatment and then living or dying well with that condition. It is a philosophy: the idea is that we get it right in these six major areas with 60% morbidity, and then we roll it out across the board in all other areas. It is a way of treatment, really—a way of looking at the whole problem, centred around whole patient needs, that we will roll out to other conditions as well.

Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker (LD)
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My Lords, if this is to become a reality rather than an aspiration it will require a huge increase in the number of community nurses. How do the Government think that will happen when the main incentives and career development for nurses lie within the acute sector?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely correct. That is set out in the long-term workforce plan: a move much more upstream to prevention and primary care, of which community nurses will be a key part. The recruitment is in place for it all. Yes, a lot of people might see the action as being in the acute sector, but a lot of people really enjoy working in the community as part of their lifestyle. The hope and expectation is that it will appeal to a lot of people in those areas as well.

Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
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My Lords, less survivable cancers such as pancreatic cancer are often characterised by vague, non-specific symptoms, making them hard to diagnose. Will the major conditions plan include making funds available for symptoms awareness campaigns to ensure that these signs of deadly cancers are not missed? Will it also cover increased funding for research aimed at increasing survival rates for pancreatic cancer, which is the deadliest common cancer? Survival rates have hardly changed in the past 50 years, whereas for leukaemia there has been a surge in survival rates following an increase in funding for research.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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This is all about prevention—letting people understand when there is something not right within themselves and trusting them to know that. That is why the self-referral part of this is so important, rather than always having a GP as a kind of gateway to it all. Most people know their bodies better than anyone else does. If we can arm them with awareness and give them the ability to self-refer to these centres, we can get them diagnosed that much quicker.

Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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Does the Minister agree that in the broadest sense, this strategy would be aided by the Powers of Attorney Bill that passed in this House last week and will shortly reach the statute book? With the indulgence of the House, I pay tribute to my friend and colleague Stephen Metcalfe, the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock, who steered the Bill through the other place, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, both of whom are in their places, for getting government and opposition support. I thank the officials at the Ministry of Justice who worked for years to make it possible. Does the Minister agree that lasting powers of attorney as applied to health will make a difference to the better?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Absolutely. The Government, and in particular my noble and learned friend Lord Bellamy on behalf of the whole MoJ team, fully support the noble Viscount’s remarks on the Powers of Attorney Bill and warmly thank him, Stephen Metcalfe MP and all the others for their efforts on the Bill.

Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie Portrait Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on concentrating on the importance of person-centred care, particularly for people with long-term conditions. I declare an interest as chief executive of Cerebral Palsy Scotland. Cerebral palsy is a good example of this, because we actually have very good NICE guidelines for the treatment of adults with CP but there seems to be nothing we can do to ensure that integrated care boards around the country follow those guidelines. Can the Minister explain why?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely correct, in that we are setting out the whole emphasis of what we are trying to do here. It is really ingrained in those pathways. It is about culture and behaviour as a whole, rather than a silo-based scheme, looking at the whole patient. Once we have got those pathways set up properly, it is Ministers’ job—I have mentioned before that we each look after six or seven ICBs—to hold them to account and make sure they are following those pathways.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, on that whole- patient approach, in 2021 when the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities was launched, the then Secretary of State said that the Department of Health would be co-ordinating activity across government, looking at the wider drivers of good health—employment, housing, education and environment—lack of which often drives many major conditions. Can the Minister tell me how that co-ordination is going?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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As mentioned, this is about looking at the whole patient, and that is why the ICB role in this, working with local authorities, is key. The environment in which people live is also key, as is tailoring our part of the jigsaw puzzle—health—towards this. One of the major elements that noble Lords have heard me talk about before is mobile lung cancer screening, which goes into neighbourhoods where it is known to be a problem, often the old mining communities or places where there are high levels of smoking and deprivation. That mobile screening technology has meant that instead of reaching only 60% of people by stage four of cancer, we are capturing 75% at stages one and two. This is about working with local authorities on whole health needs to ensure that our efforts are targeted in the right places.

Semiconductors Manufacturing

Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:09
Asked by
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards engagement with the semiconductors manufacturing sector concerning funding to support future manufacturing in the United Kingdom, as set out in the Semiconductor Strategy, published on 19 May.

Viscount Camrose Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (Viscount Camrose) (Con)
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The national semiconductor strategy sets out the Government’s plan to build on the UK’s strengths to grow our sector, increase our resilience and protect our security. We will also announce plans by the autumn to further support the competitiveness of the semiconductor manufacturing sector, which is critical to the UK tech ecosystem and our national security. We have engaged, and continue to engage extensively, with industry. The Government’s new semiconductor advisory panel met last week to inform our approach.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his Answer. I think the concern lies around the rhetoric that has surrounded the May announcement, which very much focused on research and design while coupling that to resilience. As the Minister knows, good design companies and good research get bought and leave the country, and they do not necessarily contribute to resilience, whereas manufacturing does. As the Minister said, we in this country are home to some very innovative, lower-cost, niche manufacturers, but for those investors to have the confidence to further those companies, a strategy needs to be set out. Can the Minister assure your Lordships’ House that his department is putting maximum pressure on the Chancellor so that, when his Autumn Statement comes out, a proper manufacturing strategy for semiconductors in this country will be forthcoming?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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The noble Lord raises, as ever, an interesting point, but to build an advanced silicon fab would, first of all, cost tens of billions of pounds. It would run into not only costs of operation but substantial risks of uncompetitive yields and, as we have seen several times historically, shifts in demand for semiconductors. I remind the House that, although 40% of the value chain of semiconductors is represented by manufacturing, 30% is represented by design. It makes sense that our strategy should build on the country’s strengths, particularly in design.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
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My Lords, may I follow up that point and ask a little more about the detail of who runs this strategy? In addition to the independent regulator, the CMA, there are, as I understand it, three government departments directly involved: the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business and Trade, and DSIT, as represented by the Minister. The focus of the third leg of the national strategy engages with export control, hostile takeovers and mergers. Who is in charge of that, and can the Minister explain it?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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Indeed I can, and I recognise the importance of the question around clarity between these various arms of government. The ownership of the semiconductor strategy sits squarely with DSIT. There is a range of Acts—to do with export controls and protection of investment from states seen to be hostile to us—that of course come under other departments, but overall ownership must sit, and continues to sit, within DSIT.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, is the Minister aware that some 90% of all advanced semiconductors are produced in Taiwan and that 60% of all semiconductors are produced in Taiwan, mostly by one company? Given the urgency that has arisen out of the hostile acts taking place in the South China Sea, can the Minister tell us what we are doing to bolster supply chain resilience and security? Can he tell the House the current position on the future of Newport Wafer Fab, given that a Chinese company attempted to buy it?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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I am of course aware of the overwhelming market position of TSMC in Taiwan. It is a manufacturing foundry for semiconductors, but that is the only slot in the supply chain that it occupies. Having a foundry by itself is nothing without the vast, complex, integrated global supply chain of all other companies. On the second part of the noble Lord’s question, any threat to peace and stability in the strait of Taiwan is a deeply serious concern for the Government. We are looking at all scenarios and contingency planning in preparation for any disruption to that.

Lord Sterling of Plaistow Portrait Lord Sterling of Plaistow (Con)
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My Lords, graphene is the thinnest material known to man. It is about 100 times stronger than steel and has the most exceptional electrical conductivity. I understand that huge research is being done on this throughout the world—billions—but there are some small companies in this country, with the finest brainpower, that are working on this. Do the Minister and his unit feel that the conductive capability of graphene is going to be the future for this world?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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My noble friend reminds me that I had the pleasure of visiting the graphene centre at Manchester University just a couple of weeks ago. I share not only his positive views of the material but his positive estimate of its future uses. It will play a significant role in compound semiconductors of many different kinds, and that is one of the areas of focus for the UK’s semiconductor strategy.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, shall we allow the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, to contribute and then the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones?

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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I am very grateful. I want to continue on the basis of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, regarding the specific Newport Wafer Fab factory. I do not think the Minister got around to answering that fully, and I would be grateful to have his observations on the issue.

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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I apologise to the noble Lord for not having reached that bit. The concern about Newport Wafer Fab was that the ultimate owners of the buyer were Chinese investors; hence, under the NSI Act, that was blocked. I cannot comment any further on that specific case because it is under judicial review.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
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My Lords, the Government may have finally published a strategy on semiconductors, but is investment in our great south Wales compound semiconductor hub going to be encouraged by his ministerial colleague Paul Scully’s remarks about not wanting to recreate Taiwan in south Wales? Also, as has been referred to, there is the very much delayed decision over the future of Newport Wafer Fab.

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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What Minister Scully clearly meant was that there is no point attempting to construct an advanced silicon manufactory at the cost of tens of billions of pounds at considerable risk to both investors and the taxpayer when all those who have tried to mimic TSMC have failed at great expense. It is far better to focus on our strengths and on the compound semiconductor strategy that Minister Scully will have spoken about on that occasion. Again, Newport Wafer Fab is under judicial review and I cannot comment further.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, with regard to semiconductor investment, the US has tabled a package of $50 billion, China a package of $40 billion and India $10 billion, while the UK has put forward just £1 billion, or $1.2 billion, which is 1/13th of the subsidy given to railway companies. Can the Minister explain why the Government show so little ambition? Will he now publish all emails and minutes relating to the national semiconductor strategy document so that we can get some insights into its neglect of this vital field?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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In respect of the first point, as I say, it is a highly risky undertaking to construct advanced silicon fabs in the way that those countries are setting out to do. That is not the right strategy for the UK. With regard to publishing all the emails written by the department, perhaps the noble Lord could write to me and set out his reasons for wanting them and I will be happy to talk to him.

Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Portrait Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom (Con)
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My Lords, can my noble friend estimate what proportion of the semiconductors in our critical national infrastructure comes from countries that do not have our best interests at heart?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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The global integrated supply chain for semiconductors is of a scale and complexity that make any attempt to answer that question for any given semiconductor, given the sheer quantity of them and the number of companies that may or may not have contributed in some way along the supply chain, futile. I do not think any human being—or computer, for that matter—could possibly answer such a question. I am sorry.

Third Reading
15:19
Motion
Moved by
Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann
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That the Bill do now pass.

Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate and thank my honourable friend Jonathan Gullis on initiating this Private Member’s Bill in the other place. I also thank my honourable friend the Pensions Minister, Laura Trott, my noble friend Lord Younger, the Lords Minister, DWP officials and the Bill team, the Public Bill Office, the Lords Library and the Lords clerks.

This Bill reflects the strong cross-party support in both Houses and continued political consensus on auto-enrolment. In that regard, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock and Lady Drake, whose work on the Pensions Commission recommended automatic enrolment, and the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Palmer, for their speeches supporting the Bill, which paves the way for half a million younger people and at least 2.5 million older workers to build bigger pensions, particularly for the low paid. I look forward to the promised early consultation to confirm the details and timing of the regulations, which will see the provisions of the Bill implemented by all employers. I beg to move.

Baroness Sherlock Portrait Baroness Sherlock (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, for piloting the Bill through this House and I share her thanks to the Minister and his team, and all noble Lords who participated. Auto-enrolment is a much-loved child with more than one parent. As the noble Baroness said, the work came from the Pensions Commission, set up by the last Labour Government and on which my noble friend Lady Drake and the noble Lord, Lord Turner, served with such distinction. The coalition Government implemented it in 2012, and there has been a welcome growth as a result in the number of people saving for a pension. We can all celebrate that—but, as we noted at Second Reading, pensions adequacy is still an issue, so we need to look at continually improving auto-enrolment and addressing the question of the gender pensions gap, which remains a matter of serious concern.

This simple, permissive Bill would allow the Government to make progress in fulfilling their commitment by implementing some of the 2017 review measures, namely reducing the lower age limit for being auto-enrolled and removing the lower earnings limit. The Minister confirmed at Second Reading that the Government were still committed to doing that in the mid-2020s. Without wishing to be depressing, as 2023 begins its descent towards the sea, I wonder if the Minister can give us any hint as to whether 2024 might be the year, or is this gently rolling into the grass beyond the election?

The Opposition fully support this Bill. I thank again all those involved in proposing it and look forward to its passage.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Viscount Younger of Leckie) (Con)
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My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Altmann on piloting this excellent Bill to its final stages. As I said at Second Reading, it has the full backing of His Majesty’s Government, and I am pleased to reiterate that support today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, has just said, the 2017 review measures will see hundreds of thousands more young workers brought into workplace pensions for the first time. Alongside this, 2.5 million existing savers will see their pension contributions grow. Removing the lower earnings limit will mean that every worker will be paying pension contributions from their first pound of earnings and benefit from an employer contribution. Overall, an extra £2 billion-worth would be saved a year.

I am grateful for the constructive scrutiny of the Bill from noble Lords on all sides of the House. I acknowledge the thoughtful interventions at Second Reading of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock and Lady Drake, and the noble Lords, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill and Lord Davies of Brixton. If the House agrees to final passage today, the Government will look to play their part by consulting on how to implement the expansion of automatic enrolment at the earliest opportunity, which I hope gives some idea of the timescale to the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. We hope that it could be later this year. We will then report to Parliament about how we intend to proceed in accordance with the provisions in the Bill. I am very pleased that there is cross-party support for my noble friend’s Bill, and I hope that this House will agree to its final passage today.

15:24
Bill passed.

Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill

3rd reading
Monday 18th September 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023 View all Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023 Debates Read Hansard Text Watch Debate
Third Reading
15:24
Motion
Moved by
Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood (Con)
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My Lords, as this Bill relates to advertising, I declare an interest as a director of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance and note my other interests.

I thank all those in this House and beyond who have been involved in the passage of this extremely important piece of animal welfare legislation. It is a world first, and underlines yet again the shining commitment of the UK and this Government to the protection of animals, not just within our own shores but internationally. The Bill started in another place, and I want to record my deep thanks to Angela Richardson MP for stewarding it so effectively there. I am in her debt.

I am also very grateful to my noble friend Lord Benyon, the Minister, for the work he has put into it and for his deep personal commitment. His devotion to the cause of animal welfare is unshakeable, as he has demonstrated throughout the leadership of this Bill. He has been supported by an indomitable team of officials, who have given generously of their time and wisdom to ensure that this Bill reaches safe harbour. They are: Mia Kirby, Annemarie Green, Amina Khatun, Lucy Ovington, Rhian Mewis, Thomas Pryke, Adam Richardson and David Budd. My profound thanks go to them all.

This Bill has enjoyed strong cross-party support in the best traditions of this House. I am indebted to the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman of Ullock and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for the strong backing they have given it, as well as the scrutiny, which is right and proper. Above all, I pay tribute to all the charities which have campaigned so vigorously and effectively to get us to this point. Four Paws, World Animal Protection, the RSPCA and many others have played a huge part. However, I want to single out Save the Asian Elephants and its indefatigable CEO, Duncan McNair, who has campaigned long and hard for this legislation with great skill and energy. Indeed, he devised the original concept of the Bill and has worked tirelessly on it; we would not be here without him. To all those who have been involved and who have campaigned, I say: this is your day, and you deserve it.

As we noted during Second Reading, this Bill currently applies only to England and Northern Ireland. I hope that my noble friend the Minister and his colleagues will continue to do what they can to ensure that the devolved institutions in Scotland and Wales come on board so that we can make this UK-wide legislation.

This legislation is just the starting point in helping to protect those animals that suffer such cruelty in the name of animal tourism, such as Asian elephants, dolphins, whales, tigers and lions, baby monkeys and much marine and avian life. Horrific barbarism, which is inflicted on so many of these defenceless creatures, will not end overnight. But this Bill will, I am certain, be the catalyst for profound change.

Let us not forget that this Bill is also about protecting human life. Never again do we want to see another incident like that involving Andrea Taylor, who was killed by a scarred, scared and terrified elephant, brutalised into submission in the name of tourism, and whose sister, Helen Costigan, has been such a strong supporter of the Bill. We think today of Andrea and Helen and the families of others who have been killed or injured because of this cruelty.

From the moment I arrived here, 13 or so years ago, I believed my role—and I know that so many other noble Lords think likewise—was to represent and protect those who have no voice. By passing the Bill today, we do just that, and we do so in the best traditions of Parliament. We should take great pride in this achievement.

Lord Harlech Portrait Lord Harlech (Con)
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My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, the Northern Ireland Civil Service continues to face a number of challenges in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the subsequent lack of an Executive. For this reason, it has not been possible to engage in the legislative consent process for this or any other Bill.

Given the importance of animal welfare, positive engagement at official level and advice we have received from the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary and that previous animal welfare Ministers expressed support for this Bill, we will proceed to legislate on behalf of Northern Ireland without the formal legislative consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. We will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary to keep them informed throughout this process.

I thank my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood for his hard work in guiding the Bill through this House to this stage and for his commitment to, and passion for, animal welfare. I pay tribute to my honourable friend the Member for Guildford, Angela Richardson, for her success in steering the Bill through the other place with such enthusiasm and eloquence. I also extend my thanks to all the charities involved in this work, including Save the Asian Elephants, the RSPCA, World Animal Protection and Four Paws UK, for their continued support for the Bill.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the Second Reading debate, and pleased that the Bill has been widely supported across the House. Throughout its passage we have heard about the horrific conditions that animals are subjected to in the name of tourism, and I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to debate, discuss and raise awareness of such an important issue. I will not repeat the discussion at Second Reading, but I emphasise that the Bill demonstrates the UK’s commitment to being a global leader in animal welfare standards. I am pleased to reiterate the Government’s support for the Bill, and I look forward to seeing it on the statute book.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall be brief. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Black, for all his work on the Bill. It started out as part of the ill-fated animals abroad Bill, so the fact that he has brought it here from the other place as a Private Member’s Bill and that it has made such good progress is due to his effort and commitment, and we really appreciate the work he has put into it.

As he said, it has had cross-party support and a lot of support from different animal welfare charities. Like him, I particularly single out Duncan McNair and the Save the Asian Elephants charity, which has been absolutely fixated on delivering the Bill through the Chamber. It has done a terrific job of working extremely constructively with all those who care about this issue, as have the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Benyon, the Minister. It is always good to see a Bill passing when we have had success, with lots of constructive work and feedback. I add my thanks to all the people who have worked on the Bill.

I fully endorse the noble Lord’s words about Helen Costigan, her family and her sister. That family has been extraordinary in its efforts to work with us to understand the human impact as well as the animal welfare impact of this legislation. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Black, and I am delighted that the Government support the Bill.

15:32
Bill passed.

Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill

Third Reading
15:32
Motion
Moved by
Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent Portrait Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all those involved in getting the Bill to this stage. I particularly thank Scott Benton MP for steering it through its various stages in the other House; the Bill team, which has been so supportive; and, of course, the Minister and my noble friend Lord Leong.

The successful passage of the Bill will create a new right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern. It will address the unfair imbalance of power that exists between some employers and workers in atypical work, such as workers on zero-hours contracts and temporary workers. Workers will be empowered and encouraged to talk to their employers about their working patterns, safe in the knowledge that starting this conversation will not result in any detriment to the worker. It will give workers additional predictability and security of both hours and income, at a time when many workers with unpredictable or varying levels of income—as well as many others—are struggling with the rising cost of living. Workers will be better able to secure employment that suits their individual circumstances, helping them to feel more satisfied at work.

The Bill does not mean that our work is done in securing employment rights for those who need it most, but it is a crucial step on that journey. I am grateful for all the support for the Bill from all sides of the House. I beg to move.

Lord Leong Portrait Lord Leong (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to support this Bill at its final stage. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Anderson for taking the Bill through the various stages of the process. Of course, I also thank the Conservative MP Scott Benton for his willingness to work collaboratively to achieve this laudable objective. The passage of the Bill is an excellent reminder that good outcomes can be achieved even in politically and economically turbulent times. I am sure that many of us in this House will agree that when workers are treated with dignity, higher levels of well-being can lead to a range of benefits to businesses, especially around productivity, which will frequently be of more benefit to the employers than can be measured in wage costs. We fully support the Bill, which brings us one step closer to the protection of workers, and I look forward to seeing it passed in this House.

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business and Trade and Scotland Office (Lord Offord of Garvel) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, for bringing the Bill through this House and I am delighted to confirm the Government’s ongoing support for the Bill, which will fulfil our 2019 manifesto commitment to introduce a right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern. The Bill will allow workers to request more predictable working arrangements, addressing the issue of one-sided flexibility while ensuring that workers can continue working on a zero-hours contract, another form of non-guaranteed hours contract or, indeed, a temporary contract, if that is the type of contract that suits them. This will allow individuals and businesses to strike the right balance between flexibility and predictability.

This new right will function in a similar way to the existing right to request flexible working. An employer will be able to refuse a request for a more predictable working pattern based on one of six statutory grounds similar to those established for the right to request flexible working. These grounds build in vital flexibility for businesses, ensuring that they are not unfairly burdened by accepting requests that would, for example, generate burdensome additional costs.

In conclusion, I am delighted to see the Bill progress, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, for sponsoring the Bill as it moves through this House and my honourable friend Scott Benton MP for sponsoring it through the other place.

15:37
Bill passed.
Third Reading
15:37
Welsh Legislative Consent granted.
Motion
Moved by
Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Portrait Lord Wolfson of Tredegar (Con)
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My Lords, I assure noble Lords that the shortness of my remarks now does not reflect the importance of the Bill: this is an important, focused Bill and a valuable contribution to the fight against this blight on our society. The genesis of the Bill was a consultation announced to this House by my noble friend the Chief Whip in her previous incarnation. My right honourable friend Greg Clark MP discussed the Bill with me before he introduced it into and steered it through the other place. I am grateful to him and to my noble friend the Minister and his department, both in the other place and here. This Bill has had absolute cross-party support, and therefore I am also grateful to the Opposition Front Bench and other Front Benches. I have received support from all parts of the House and I thank the Clerk of the Parliaments and his staff.

I have benefited, as I am sure other noble Lords have, from reading material sent to me by a number of campaigning groups in this area, but what really brought home the importance of the Bill to me was an email I got out of the blue over the summer from someone I will just call Lauren. When I spoke to her, at some length, she explained to me the appalling behaviour to which she had been repeatedly subjected in a park in the part of the country in which she lives. I hope that the Bill will help her and others in her position.

It will not have escaped noble Lords that although this Bill, with the title it has, applies to men and women, women are overwhelmingly the subjects of this appalling behaviour. This Bill has been taken through both Houses by men. There is nothing wrong with that. I suggest that it is absolutely right, because violence against women and girls is not a matter only for women and girls, but for all of us.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I wholeheartedly endorse the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has summarised the Bill which he has piloted through this House and congratulate him on it. He was right to remind us that its genesis was with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in her previous incarnation and in an earlier Bill. Nevertheless, there has been cross-party support for it, which I am happy to reiterate.

It is worth reminding ourselves that 71% of women of all ages in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. That rises to 86% of all 18 to 24 year-old young women. I have one question which I hope the Minister can comment on when summing up the Government’s position. How will the impact of this Bill be monitored going forward? It is a very specific and quite controversial Bill, even though it has had cross-party support; the Government should see the monitoring of its impact as a proper part of its enactment, so that we can measure its benefit.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, this Bill reminds us of the very real damage caused by public sexual harassment, a terrible crime that is far too widespread. The Bill’s cross-Chamber and cross-party support has been a real indication of our shared determination to make our streets safer for everyone.

I put on record my congratulations to all those involved in the passage of this Bill. First, it is fitting that we pay tribute to its sponsors: Greg Clark MP in the other place for bringing the Bill forward and so ably championing the experience of his constituents on the issue and my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar in this Chamber for picking up the baton to see it through to Royal Assent. I also recognise my ministerial colleagues—in particular my noble friend Lord Evans for his work in responding to the Bill on behalf of the Government—and the officials who supported them in doing so. My thanks also go to all other Members of both Houses who have provided careful scrutiny of the Bill and spoken so thoughtfully and respectfully on this sensitive topic. In doing so, they have not only worked together to make it stronger but played a key part in helping to raise awareness of public sexual harassment.

As with any new criminal justice legislation, an implementation period will be necessary to ensure that all processes, systems and guidance are updated. That includes drawing up the necessary statutory guidance. We therefore cannot give a timescale now for when we expect the offence to be implemented, but we will ensure that the legislation comes into force as quickly as reasonably possible. I think that goes some way to answering the question of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, on how it will be monitored. The guidance needs to be carefully drawn up first, and then I am sure we will return to the subject.

I end on the most important thank you of them all: to those who relentlessly campaigned for this change. The Bill is a testament to the hard work and passion of the organisations and many individuals who bravely shared their experiences. I join my noble friend Lord Wolfson in saying to them that their efforts have made a real difference in the pursuit of making our streets safer for women and girls.

15:43
Bill passed.
Third Reading
15:43
Motion
Moved by
Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton (Con)
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My Lords, I start, of course, by thanking all those who have been involved in ensuring the passage of this Bill. In particular, I thank my friend Robin Millar, who ensured its successful navigation through the House of Commons, my noble friend the Minister for her support, and my noble friend Lord Jackson of Peterborough for his support on Report. Equally, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this Bill during its passage and for ensuring that it has had cross-party consent throughout. I also thank the Minister’s Bill team in the Ministry of Defence, in particular, Gail Wilson and Smita Mehta, who have been so wonderful in supporting me. I of course also thank the Public Bill Office and the Lords Clerk.

I say a couple of words in tribute to the volunteers of the Veterans Advisory Pension Committees, because it is they who have campaigned long and hard for these changes to be made. Indeed, it is nearly seven years since I was first approached by committee members during my time as an MoD Minister; they were frustrated that their terms of reference and mandate limited what they could do to support our veterans on those committees. When they were originally set up, they were allowed only to advise veterans on pensions and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. As noble Lords know, this Bill extends that mandate effectively to mirror all aspects of the Armed Forces Covenant, not only to veterans but to veterans’ families. This is a modest Bill, but another small step in trying to ensure that the United Kingdom is the best place to be a veteran.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, the committees have exceeded their formal brief for a number of years, which has turned out to be a good thing. That has been partly regularised by terms of reference, but the Bill makes the whole thing formal. Since a good thing is being made formal, we are in full support.

Baroness Goldie Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Goldie) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for supporting this important piece of legislation. It will enhance the statutory footing of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committees. It has been a great pleasure to support the Bill through this House. I particularly thank my noble friend Lord Lancaster for bringing the Bill to this stage with his trademark knowledge, expertise and passion.

This Bill delivers on the MoD commitment to strengthen the legislation around the VAPCs, putting them on a more stable basis for the 21st century. The Bill will ensure that the VAPCs can continue to support veterans and their families in a way that aligns with the wider veterans’ welfare support system and enhances the quality of the services that they are offered. The inclusion of the VAPCs in the recently published Independent Review of UK Government Welfare Services for Veterans will ensure clarity on how these committees can evolve to support veterans’ welfare services, underlining the work that these volunteers undertake for veterans all across the UK. The Government’s response to this report will be published later this year.

I echo my noble friend Lord Lancaster in paying tribute to these dedicated volunteers for their commitment to and support for our veterans. I thank your Lordships for the strong cross-party support for the Bill in this place, and to Members of the other place for their similar support. I also place on record my thanks to my honourable friend Robin Millar for expertly steering the Bill through the other place and to my right honourable friend and colleague Andrew Murrison, the Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, who has done so much of the heavy lifting on this Bill.

This Bill sends an important message about the UK Government’s commitment to our Armed Forces and veterans. We are united in our admiration and our desire to support our Armed Forces community, from our current serving personnel to the veterans, whose days of active service may have passed, but whose contribution remains treasured, and to the families, whose unstinting support is the foundation of their success. I pay tribute to all of our Armed Forces and their families. Ultimately, this Bill is for them. I commend this Bill to the House.

15:48
Bill passed.
Third Reading
15:49
Motion
Moved by
Lord Colgrain Portrait Lord Colgrain
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Colgrain Portrait Lord Colgrain (Con)
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My Lords, if your Lordships should pass the Bill today, it will not go back to the Commons but will go straight to His Majesty the King for Royal Assent.

I will be most brief in summarising its contents. It is in two parts. The first will require any person who operates a miniature rifle range to have been granted a firearms certificate by the police—that is not the situation hitherto. It will also restrict the gauge of rifle used to .22 rimfire. The second relates to the composition of ammunition. A round of ammunition comprises four constituent parts, only two of which are governed by current legislation, so the Bill will regulate for the two which are currently omitted. That means that the police will be better able to prosecute cases where criminals are manufacturing ammunition where intent is shown.

I am very grateful to the Government, my noble friend the Minister and all noble Lords from all parties who have, to date, provided cross-party support for the Bill. I especially thank Shaun Bailey MP, who introduced the Bill in the other place, and all those who have been involved in bringing the Bill through the parliamentary process to this point.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Colgrain, on piloting the Bill through this House.

In the House of Commons, the Labour Party moved three amendments, and at the time the Minister said that, given the narrow scope of the Bill, it was not the right place to move them. Nevertheless, I will repeat the three points raised. The first amendment was that social media should be taken into account when considering whether to issue a firearms licence. The second was that family members of a certificate holder who is an operator of a firearms range or shooting gallery should be issued certificates only after they are interviewed as part of a household application process. The third was that any regulations relating to fees or licensing under Section 11 of the Act relating to miniature rifle ranges must require payment equal to the expected cost of issuing the licence. I understand the answer given in the other place to those three amendments, but I ask that the department keeps these issues in mind as the Bill turns to an Act and when any subsequent amendments are considered in the future.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Colgrain for taking his Private Member’s Bill through the House. I welcome the support the Bill has received in this House and the other place; it has received cross-party support from the outset and the Government have wholeheartedly supported it.

The Bill is about addressing two vulnerabilities identified in the existing firearms licensing controls, as my noble friend explained. We are committed to taking action on both issues, following a public consultation conducted on a number of firearms safety issues in late 2020 and early 2021. Both measures received support in that consultation. It was widely acknowledged—by those representing shooting interests, as well as by those who wish to see tightener firearms controls more generally—that these changes will help to strengthen our firearms controls. The Bill will make a valuable contribution to firearms legislation, while making sure that those who wish to continue to engage legitimately in firearms activities can continue to do so, whether that involves target shooting at clubs or activity centres, the legitimate home loading of ammunition or other lawful activities.

I reiterate my thanks to my noble friend Lord Colgrain for bringing his Private Member’s Bill before the House. I join him in also thanking Shaun Bailey MP for initiating the Bill in the other place. I hope to see the Bill receive Royal Assent, as I believe that it will have a significant impact in strengthening our firearms controls still further. I of course commit to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that I will take his remarks back to the department and ensure that his views are kept under review. For now, the Government are in full support of the Bill and the important changes that it will bring.

15:53
Bill passed.
Report (8th Day)
15:54
Relevant documents: 24th, 39th and 41st Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Legislative Consent sought.
Amendment 259
Moved by
259: After Schedule 20, insert the following new Schedule—
“ScheduleUse of non-domestic premises for childcare: registrationIntroductory
1 The Childcare Act 2006 is amended as follows.Early years provision
2 In section 32 (maintenance of the two childcare registers), after subsection (5) insert—“(6) In this section—(a) a reference to persons registered as early years childminders is to be read as a reference to persons registered as early years childminders with domestic premises and to persons registered as early years childminders without domestic premises collectively; (b) a reference to persons registered as later years childminders is to be read as a reference to persons registered as later years childminders with domestic premises and to persons registered as later years childminders without domestic premises collectively;(c) a reference to persons registered as childminders by the Chief Inspector for the purposes of Chapter 4 is to be read as a reference to persons so registered as childminders with domestic premises and to persons so registered as childminders without domestic premises collectively.”3 (1) Section 33 (requirement to register: early years childminders) is amended as follows.(2) In the heading, at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a)—(a) after “England” insert “, where some or all of the childminding is provided on domestic premises,”;(b) after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.4 (1) Section 34 (requirement to register: early years providers) is amended as follows.(2) For subsections (1) and (1ZA) substitute—“(1) A person may not provide early years provision on non-domestic premises in England unless—(a) the person is registered in the early years register as an early years provider other than a childminder (whether or not the provision is or includes early years childminding), or(b) the provision is early years childminding, none of which is provided on domestic premises, and the person is registered as an early years childminder without domestic premises—(i) in the early years register, or(ii) with an early years childminder agency.(1ZA) Subsection (1)(a) does not apply to early years provision in respect of which the person providing it is required to be registered under section 33(1) or under subsection (1A).”(3) In subsection (1A)—(a) after “96(5)” insert “, and some or all of which is provided on domestic premises,”;(b) after “registered” insert “as an early years provider other than a childminder”.5 (1) Section 35 (applications for registration: early years childminders) is amended as follows.(2) In the heading, at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (1)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “as an early years childminder in the early years register” substitute “in the early years register as an early years childminder with domestic premises”;(b) in paragraph (b), at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(4) In subsection (5), in each of paragraphs (aa) and (ab), after “as an early years childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.6 (1) Section 36 (application for registration: other early years providers) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), for the words from “to the Chief” to the end substitute “—“(a) in any case, to the Chief Inspector for registration as an early years provider other than a childminder, or(b) if the early years provision is early years childminding— (i) to the Chief Inspector for registration as an early years childminder without domestic premises, or(ii) to an early years childminder agency for registration with that agency as an early years childminder without domestic premises,(whether or not an application is also made under paragraph (a)).”(3) In each of subsections (3) and (4), for “subsection (1)” substitute “subsection (1)(a) or (b)(i)”.(4) In subsection (4A), after “subsection” insert “(1)(b)(ii) or”.(5) In subsection (5), after paragraph (ab) insert—“(ac) prohibiting the applicant from being registered in the early years register as an early years childminder without domestic premises if the applicant is registered with a childminder agency;(ad) prohibiting the applicant from being registered with an early years childminder agency as an early years childminder without domestic premises if the applicant is registered—(i) with another childminder agency;(ii) in the early years register or the general childcare register;”.7 (1) Section 37 (entry on the register and certificates) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)(a), after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for “36(1)” substitute “36(1)(a)”;(b) in paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “(even if, in the case of an application under section 36(1)(a), the early years provision is or includes early years childminding)”.(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) If an application under section 36(1)(b)(i) is granted, the Chief Inspector must—(a) register the applicant in the early years register as an early years childminder without domestic premises, and(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that the applicant is so registered.”(5) In subsection (3), for “or (2)” substitute “, (2) or (2A)”.8 (1) Section 37A (early years childminder agencies: registers and certificates) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)(a), after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.(3) After subsection (1) insert—“(1A) If an application under section 36(1)(b)(ii) is granted, the early years childminder agency must—(a) register the applicant in the register maintained by the agency as an early years childminder without domestic premises, and(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that the applicant is so registered.”(4) In subsection (3), after “(1)” insert “, (1A)”.Later years provision
9 (1) Section 52 (requirement to register: later years childminders for children under eight) is amended as follows.(2) In the heading, at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a)—(a) after “eight” insert “, where some or all of the childminding is provided on domestic premises,”; (b) after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.10 (1) Section 53 (requirement to register: other later years providers for children under eight) is amended as follows.(2) For subsections (1) and (1ZA) substitute—“(1) A person may not provide, for a child who has not attained the age of eight, later years provision on non-domestic premises in England unless—(a) the person is registered in Part A of the general childcare register as a later years provider other than a childminder (whether or not the provision is or includes later years childminding), or(b) the provision is later years childminding, none of which is provided on domestic premises, and the person is registered as a later years childminder without domestic premises—(i) in Part A of the general childcare register, or(ii) with a later years childminder agency.(1ZA) Subsection (1)(a) does not apply to later years provision in respect of which the person providing it is required to be registered under section 52(1) or under subsection (1A).”(3) In subsection (1A)—(a) after “96(9)” insert “, and some or all of which is provided on domestic premises,”;(b) after “registered” insert “as a later years provider other than a childminder”.11 (1) Section 54 (applications for registration: later years childminders) is amended as follows.(2) In the heading, at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (1)—(a) in paragraph (a), for “as a later years childminder in Part A of the general childcare register” substitute “in Part A of the general childcare register as a later years childminder with domestic premises”;(b) in paragraph (b), at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(4) In subsection (5), in each of paragraphs (aa) and (ab), after “as a later years childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.12 (1) Section 55 (application for registration: other later years providers) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), for the words from “to the Chief” to the end substitute “—“(a) in any case, to the Chief Inspector for registration as a later years provider other than a childminder, or(b) if the later years provision is later years childminding—(i) to the Chief Inspector for registration as a later years childminder without domestic premises, or(ii) to a later years childminder agency for registration with that agency as a later years childminder without domestic premises,(whether or not an application is also made under paragraph (a)).”(3) In each of subsections (3) and (4), for “subsection (1)” substitute “subsection (1)(a) or (b)(i)”.(4) In subsection (4A), after “subsection” insert “(1)(b)(ii) or”.(5) In subsection (5), after paragraph (ab) insert— “(ac) prohibiting the applicant from being registered in Part A of the general childcare register as a later years childminder without domestic premises if the applicant is registered with a childminder agency;(ad) prohibiting the applicant from being registered with a later years childminder agency as a later years childminder without domestic premises if the applicant is registered—(i) with another childminder agency;(ii) in the early years register or the general childcare register;”.13 (1) Section 56 (entry on the register and certificates) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for “55(1)” substitute “55(1)(a)”;(b) in paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “(even if, in the case of an application under section 55(1)(a), the later years provision is or includes later years childminding)”.(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) If an application under section 55(1)(b)(i) is granted, the Chief Inspector must—(a) register the applicant in Part A of the general childcare register as a later years childminder without domestic premises, and(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that the applicant is so registered.”(5) In subsection (3), for “or (2)” substitute “, (2) or (2A)”.14 (1) Section 56A (later years childminder agencies: registers and certificates) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)(a), after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.(3) After subsection (1) insert—“(1A) If an application under section 55(1)(b)(ii) is granted, the later years childminder agency must—(a) register the applicant in the register maintained by the agency as a later years childminder without domestic premises, and(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that the applicant is so registered.”(4) In subsection (3), after “(1)” insert “, (1A)”.15 In section 57 (special procedure for providers registered in the early years register), in subsection (1)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “with or without domestic premises”;(b) in paragraph (a), for “as a later years childminder” substitute “—(i) in the case of an early years childminder with domestic premises, as a later years childminder with domestic premises;(ii) otherwise, as a later years childminder without domestic premises”.16 (1) Section 57A (special procedure for providers registered with early years childminder agencies) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)(a), after “childminder” insert “with or without domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (2)(a), for “as a later years childminder” substitute “—(i) in the case of an early years childminder with domestic premises, as a later years childminder with domestic premises; (ii) otherwise, as a later years childminder without domestic premises”.Voluntary registration
17 (1) Section 62 (applications for registration on the general register: childminders) is amended as follows.(2) In the heading, at the end insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (1), in the words after paragraph (b)—(a) before “may” insert “where some or all of the childminding is (or is to be) provided on domestic premises,”;(b) at the end insert “with domestic premises”.18 In section 63 (applications for registration on the general register: other childcare providers), for subsection (1) substitute—“(A1) Subsection (1) applies to a person who provides or proposes to provide on premises in England—(a) later years provision for a child who has attained the age of eight, or(b) early years provision or later years provision for a child who has not attained that age but in respect of which the person is not required to be registered under Chapter 2 or 3,except where it is provision in respect of which an application for registration may be made under section 62.(1) The person may make an application to the Chief Inspector—(a) in any case, for registration in Part B of the general childcare register as a provider of childcare other than a childminder, or(b) where the provision is early years childminding or later years childminding, for registration in Part B of the general childcare register as a childminder without domestic premises (whether or not an application is also made under paragraph (a)).”19 (1) Section 64 (entry on the register and certificates) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1)(a), after “childminder” insert “with domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (2)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for “63(1)” substitute “63(1)(a)”;(b) in paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “(even if the childcare to be provided is or includes early years or later years childminding)”.(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) If an application under section 63(1)(b) is granted, the Chief Inspector must—(a) register the applicant in Part B of the general childcare register as a childminder without domestic premises, and(b) give the applicant a certificate of registration stating that the applicant is so registered.”(5) In subsection (3), for “or (2)” substitute “, (2) or (2A)”.20 In section 65 (special procedure for persons already registered in a childcare register), in subsection (1)—(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for the words from “a childminder” to “Part A of the general childcare register” substitute “an early years childminder with or without domestic premises in the early years register, or as a later years childminder with or without domestic premises in Part A of the general childcare register,”;(b) in paragraph (a), after “childminder” insert “(as the case may be, with or without domestic premises)”. 21 (1) Section 65A (special procedure for persons already registered with a childminder agency) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a)—(a) after the first “early years childminder” insert “with or without domestic premises”;(b) after the first “later years childminder” insert “with or without domestic premises”.(3) In subsection (2)(a), after “Chapter” insert “(as the case may be, with or without domestic premises)”.Common provisions
22 (1) Section 68 (cancellation of registration in a childcare register: early years and later years providers) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (3), for the words from “as an early years childminder” to the end substitute “—(a) as an early years childminder with domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has not provided early years childminding on domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered;(b) as an early years childminder without domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has not provided early years childminding on non-domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered.”(3) In subsection (4), for the words from “as a later years childminder” to the end substitute “—(a) as a later years childminder with domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has not provided later years childminding on domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered;(b) as a later years childminder without domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has not provided later years childminding on non-domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered.”(4) In subsection (5), for the words from “as a childminder” to the end substitute “—(a) as a childminder with domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has provided neither early years childminding nor later years childminding on domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered;(b) as a childminder without domestic premises if it appears to the Chief Inspector that the person has provided neither early years childminding nor later years childminding on non-domestic premises in England for a period of more than three years during which the person was registered.”23 In section 69 (suspension of registration in a childcare register: early years and later years providers), in each of subsections (3) and (4), after “childminder” insert “with or without domestic premises”.24 (1) Section 98 (interpretation of Part 3) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), in the definition of “domestic premises”, at the end insert “(and references to non-domestic premises are to be construed accordingly)”.(3) After subsection (1A) insert— “(1B) In this Part, references to a person registered—(a) as an early years childminder with domestic premises are to a person registered as such under section 37(1)(a) or 37A(1)(a);(b) as an early years childminder without domestic premises are to a person registered as such under section 37(2A) or 37A(1A);(c) as a later years childminder with domestic premises are to a person registered as such under section 56(1)(a) or 56A(1)(a);(d) as a later years childminder without domestic premises are to a person registered as such under section 56(2A) or 56A(1A).””Member’s explanatory statement
New Clause (Childcare: use of non-domestic premises) tabled in the Minister’s name allows persons to provide early or later years childminding wholly on non-domestic premises. This Schedule contains supplementary provision about registration, and in particular allows persons providing early or later childminding wholly on non-domestic premises a choice of routes to registration.
Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 259, 269, 270, 301, 314 and 316 in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook will give childminders greater flexibility to expand and grow their businesses, and will remove barriers to registration.

Childminders are important because they provide parents with childcare that is more affordable and flexible than other kinds of childcare provision. They follow the same requirements as nurseries to promote the learning and development of all children in their care, and they follow the same requirements for safeguarding children and promoting their welfare. Like nurseries, childminders are routinely inspected, with 97% of Ofsted-registered childminders judged “good” or “outstanding” at their last inspection. However, the number of childminders has more than halved over the past decade, which is reducing choice for parents, and addressing this decline is key to improving choice and affordability for parents.

In March, the Government announced the biggest ever expansion in funded early education from April 2024, with 30 hours of free childcare for every child over the age of nine months with eligible working parents by September 2025. The Office for Budget Responsibility believes that this will have by far the largest impact on potential output in this Budget by increasing labour market participation of parents with young children. By 2027-28, the OBR expects around 60,000 to enter employment, working an average of around 16 hours a week, with an equivalent effect on total hours coming from mothers already in work. This will significantly increase demand for childcare places. Therefore, it is important that we have a vibrant sector where all providers are in a position to expand and grow their businesses to meet that additional demand. As such, it is even more important to maintain the number of existing childminders and increase the number of new childminders coming into the sector. These amendments are part of a suite of measures that the Government are introducing to encourage more people to become childminders and to support existing childminders—childminding is a predominantly female profession—by helping them to expand and to grow their businesses.

Amendment 270 will increase the total number of people who can work together under a childminder’s registration from three to four. Amendments 259 and 269 will allow childminders on domestic premises to spend more of their time working on non-domestic premises, including an option for childminders to operate solely from non-domestic premises, such as a local community centre or village hall, by replacing the existing single childminder category with two new categories: childminders with domestic premises who provide at least some or all of their childminding on domestic premises, and childminders without domestic premises who provide all the childminding on non-domestic premises.

Allowing childminders to work with more people means that they could care for more children, as regulations permit each childminder’s assistant to care for the same number of children as childminders, and thereby increase the number of places available to parents, or they could provide more one-to-one support to children who would benefit from a greater level of help or personal care, such as children with special educational needs or an education, health and care plan.

Allowing childminders to operate from non-domestic premises for more of their time means that they could offer childcare on bigger premises, to work with more people and care for more children, or on premises that better meet the needs of the children whom they care for: for example, more indoor or outdoor space, better disabled access, and dedicated car parking for staff and parents. It would also allow childminders to operate from premises that may be more conveniently located for parents, such as closer to their home or work or close to the school of any older children, particularly if parents want their childminder to provide wraparound care for any of their school-age children too. Allowing a person to register as a childminder without domestic premises will support more people to become childminders by providing applicants with a route into the profession where the availability or suitability of their domestic premises may be their only barrier to entering the childminding profession—for example, where their domestic premises are too small or do not comply with health and safety regulations, such as fire safety and hygiene requirements, or where they cannot obtain permission from their landlord to operate a childminding business from their home.

16:00
We know that there is demand for these amendments, including from childminders, with some saying that without them their businesses will struggle and they may be forced to close. There is also support from other key sector parties, including Ofsted, childminder agencies and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, which represents over 14,000 childminders. Like us, PACEY believes that these amendments can help us to address the rapid decline in childminder numbers, because its members have long called for changes like this, which give them greater choice and flexibility in running their crucial childcare businesses. Furthermore, the recent Education Select Committee report on support for childcare and early years also recommended that the Government work to remove or reduce barriers preventing childminders setting up or continuing in businesses, including allowing them to work in a way that aligns with the scheme in France, whereby up to four childminders can work together on premises outside of their own homes, which these amendments will permit. The scheme in France has seen steady growth, with the number of childminding groups increasing from 160 in 2010 to over 3,700 in 2020.
We know that people register to become a childminder for a variety of reasons. For example, some people may wish to earn money caring for other people’s children while also caring for their own, or because of the flexibility to be able to work from home, or because they previously worked in a nursery setting or worked as an assistant to another childminder and would like the freedom and flexibility to set up and manage their own childcare business. Therefore, it is difficult to quantify how many childminders are likely to take advantage of the additional flexibilities afforded by these amendments, but we estimate that more than 500 existing childminders who already operate with the maximum number of other people permitted by the existing legislation may choose to extend that number further as a result of these amendments; and around 600 existing childminders and childcare on domestic premises businesses that already operate from non-domestic premises for up to half of their time may choose to spend more time operating outside of their homes.
We know that allowing childminders to operate solely from non-domestic premises is a big issue, with one childminding agency citing landlord and local authority objections as among the most common reasons for prospective childminders to drop out of the registration process. However, this issue could be even greater, as many local authorities tend to forewarn prospective childminder applicants that they will need to seek permission from their landlord before applying to register as a childminder. Therefore, there could be many prospective childminders who never even start the application process. As such, these changes could benefit hundreds of existing childminders and support many more prospective childminders to help create thousands of additional places for parents over time.
Amendments 301, 314 and 316 relate to the extent and commencement of the amendments and the Title respectively. Amendment 276 has been tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and would remove any restrictions on local authorities providing childcare. I will listen carefully to her remarks on that. I beg to move.
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, at this stage—the beginning of another day on Report—I remind the House of my relevant interests as a councillor in Kirklees and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, who is standing in today for the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, to whom I wish godspeed and a full recovery.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, said, childcare is facing a crisis of unaffordable provision. Many families are simply unable to bear the cost of full-time care, thus restricting parents to reduce their working hours; that has a knock-on effect on their household budgets and puts pressure on the family finances. The Government are bringing these amendments forward rather late in the day—during Report on the Bill, which we started in January—especially given the crisis in not only affordability but provision; as she said, there have been a large number of closures among childminding providers. Given that, we on these Benches support the government amendments because extending childminding to non-domestic settings would be sensible.

However, I have a proviso here; I wonder whether the noble Baroness can respond to it. She has spoken about the regulations facing childminders being the same as those for nursery providers, but she has not spoken in full about the regulations affecting the building premises that may be used by childminders. Clearly, we want them to be appropriate to the age of the children using them. Children from the age of nine months to the toddler stage certainly need safe facilities and different ones from those for which a non-domestic setting might be built. I want to know from the noble Baroness that there will be clear, enforceable regulations around this.

The great majority of childcare is provided by the private sector. Amendment 276 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would extend that to local authorities. We on these Benches support that extension as it will enable councils to fill the gaps in private provision, which are more likely to be in areas of higher deprivation and in the very communities that the Bill is ostensibly aimed at helping.

With those remarks, we support the Government’s amendments and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly, largely in relation to Labour’s amendment. As the noble Baroness may recall, some of us spoke about the provision of early years facilities in Committee. I want to return to that issue briefly to see whether we can tie up one or two loose ends.

I am most grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott and Lady Barran, for the correspondence and meetings that we have had between Committee and Report. The meeting with the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, had the largest number of advisers in the smallest room that I have ever been in; that would not have been possible under Covid. The new DfE advice to local authorities, Securing Developer Contributions for Education, is a great improvement on its predecessor. It is much clearer and on several occasions makes clear and specific mention of early years provision.

However, the response from the department of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, was slightly less clear. Given her background as an effective head of a local authority, I think she assumes that all local authorities are run as well and professionally as her one was. All I say is that the evidence from a range of local authorities is that their ability to provide early years facilities is not good.

An article last week indicated that local authorities are sitting on a grand total of £3 billion of unused Section 106 money, £420 million of which is for education. It is somewhat disappointing that the LGA spokesman’s response to that said just that doing this is “a complex process” that takes a lot of time. I thought that was local government’s job.

I have four specific questions for the Minister, of which I have given her advance warning. The first is: what we are going to do to monitor whether these funds are being used to expand childcare provision, because there is no central collection of data at the moment. Please can we do something about that?

Secondly, there is an expectation, which is clear in the advice, that existing or new spare primary school capacity will be repurposed for early years services. How will guidance be flexible to ensure that, if there are changes in the birth rate, we do not end up with nurseries closing and have the same problem?

Thirdly, how can we make sure that we are also looking at early years settings that are convenient for people’s work? It is one thing to have early years provision near where you live but, for many working women, it is far more useful and a more efficient use of their time to have early years provision near their place of work. Could the Government say whether they are aware of this potential issue and, if so, what they are doing to try to mitigate it?

Lastly, how will the Government make sure that all local authorities can use this funding on new stand-alone provision if they deem it appropriate, without being reliant on private providers, which may or may not want to operate in the area? This applies to the new infrastructure levy but also to existing sources of funding. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Russell, I should declare my position as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and of the NALC. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I point out that the impact of austerity and the slashing of central government funding to local government left departments utterly eviscerated and a lack of resources to take actions that may be desperate.

I have two reasons for rising. One is to express the strongest possible Green support for the amendment in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman of Ullock and Lady Twycross, to allow local authorities to provide their own childcare services. These are public services in the community; having them under democratic control is surely an extremely good way to proceed.

In noting that, I have a question to put to the Minister, which arises from issues that I have raised with her previously, on the involvement of private equity and the financial sector in childcare provision. It has been described as becoming a “playground for private equity”. In the last four years, investment funds have more than doubled their stake in Ofsted-registered nurseries. Now more than 1,000 are fully or partially owned by investment funds, which is 7.5% of all places—up from 4% in 2018. Those 81,500 places are being run for profit. We know from their involvement in the social care sector that those companies will have stripped out huge sums and introduced massive instability. We think of what happened with the collapse of Southern Cross and Four Seasons Health Care. Financial engineering is so often behind that.

With that in mind, regarding government Amendment 259 on services in wholly non-domestic premises, the Minister talked about local community centres and village halls. Picking up the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, provided that they have the right facilities, I do not believe that anyone would have any objection to those kinds of premises. However, following the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Russell, about places near where people work, I think it is possible to imagine that we might see private equity invest in building or repurposing a facility, so that it is designed for a lot of small groups of childminders to come together, with private equity and the financial sector sucking huge amounts of money out of that. Could the Minister, either now or perhaps in writing later, tell me what the provisions for non-domestic premises actually mean? If someone set up a for-profit setting, what kind of controls will there be to make that that is not exploitative of the childminders or the children and their parents?

Baroness Twycross Portrait Baroness Twycross (Lab)
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My Lords, I will speak to this group and to Amendment 276, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock. I thank the Minister for her time last week in explaining the government position. It was really appreciated, and I hope I can persuade her of the merits of Amendment 276 today.

16:15
On these Benches, we believe local authorities should have an explicit right to establish and run childcare provision themselves—not simply, as is currently allowed, as a provider of last resort but as a principle of the right to devolved decision-making by councils. I am grateful to Members from across the House for supporting this principle, on which I am minded to test the opinion of the House later.
The model for providing childcare in England is broken. The noble Baroness listed the hours of entitlement, and nobody disputes that childcare needs expanding. However, the broken hours system is failing parents, providers and our children. One of the first things Labour would do in government is remove legal barriers to councils opening new childcare facilities, as part of a wide-ranging reform to childcare provision. This is a legal barrier the Government could choose to remove now, but they would rather suggest that, in some senses, councils do not want this, when the truth is actually that the legislation effectively ties their hands.
Over 5,000 childcare providers closed between August 2021 and 2022. It is not clear what the Government are doing to reverse this trend or how; it would be helpful if the Minister could elaborate on what actions she is taking to reverse this trend.
The government amendments are not controversial; the work of childminders is of course an important aspect of provision. However, adding these into the Bill at this point demonstrates the lack of strategy and foresight the Government have in their approach to childcare, and their kitchen-sink approach to this Bill. Although we will not be opposing these changes, they demonstrate the limit of the Government’s ambition when it comes to ensuring the provision Britain’s families want and need. The Government’s continued pursuit of their broken hours model leaves them neglecting the wider structural issues. Can the Minister tell this House when the Government will take coherent measures that will tackle the issues of spiralling costs for parents, a workforce in crisis and collapse in provision?
Labour’s amendment would help enable local authorities to deliver the childcare that families in their areas need and want. Local authorities can play a valuable role in the delivery of childcare through both direct delivery and supporting maintained nursery schools, which are often ranked among the best early years provision in England. Making local authorities able to establish childcare provision only as the provider of last resort is an unnecessary barrier to getting children and families the care they need. Would the Minister explain why the Government want to tie the hands of local government? Why do the Government not trust councils to make their own decision on this matter? It is currently almost impossible for a local authority to meet the requirements of the law. We have the support of the Local Government Association in putting forward this measure for that reason.
With 90% of councils concerned about nursery capacity because of widespread closures, and with councils responsible for directing an expected 80% of childcare places under the government expansion of funding rates, does the Minister agree that the role of local government will become even more critical in managing local provision? Does it not, in that instance, make much more sense to remove barriers to councils to providing delivery themselves? Removing this barrier on local authorities would help enable their delivery of this responsibility and help deliver the increased provision that I think everybody across this House would like to see. The Government have recognised this is a challenge for local authorities, having themselves commissioned a consultancy to deliver Childcare Works to work with local authorities and support them in delivering this statutory responsibility.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister to reconsider and support this amendment. Removing this barrier, so any local authority that is in a position to open new childcare provision and wants to do so can, if they choose to, would support better care for children, create additional choices for families and help build a new modern system that supports families from the end of their parental leave to the end of primary school.
Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I will try to pick up a few of the points raised in relation to the government amendments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, asked what else the Government are doing to support childminders. She will be aware that the Government have made a number of announcements in this regard. We have already boosted the funding rates paid to early years providers because we are keen to try to bolster the workforce ahead of the additional entitlements to working parents coming in. In the autumn, we will launch the childminder start-up grant, which is worth £1,200 for all childminders who have joined the profession since the Spring Budget. In August, we announced plans to consult on reducing registration times to around 10 weeks, and to ensure that childminders are paid monthly by local authorities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, asked about the suitability of premises, particularly for very young children. There will not be any change to the approval that childminders need to get from Ofsted, so they will continue to need to get Ofsted approval, either from Ofsted or their childminder agency, so that they can operate from non-domestic premises. The issues she raised about safety will be addressed by that route.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, raised the issue of private equity. I am not aware of private equity being an issue in the childminder area of the market. I hope the noble Baroness would agree that we need significant investment in this area and to bolster the numbers of childminders. Unlike the noble Baroness, we would hope that childminders can run profitable businesses, otherwise they will not be sustainable.

Before I come to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for giving me sight of his questions. My department has liaised with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and prepared responses. I will provide detailed responses to him in writing.

On the monitoring of developer contributions, the Bill aims to provide a flexible framework to allow infrastructure levy charging authorities to determine what their priorities for spending the levy are in each area. Of course, this can include capital funding for new childcare facilities. We already require local authorities to publish their infrastructure funding statements and set out how they use CIL and Section 106 funds. Under the infrastructure levy that will go further, as I think the noble Lord is aware—maybe we discussed it in the smallest room with the largest number of people. It will require them to set out infrastructure delivery strategies so that local authorities show how they propose to spend the levy revenues, as well as report on them.

On the questions specifically for my department about the expectation as to whether spare school capacity would be repurposed for early years services, I can confirm that there is no government expectation that spare school capacity will be repurposed in this way, although local authorities can, of course, work with schools and academy trusts to consider this as an option and, again, include contingency plans if the space were to be required for school use again in the future.

Many schools already include nurseries, and all new primary schools are expected to include a nursery ancillary to the main use of the site as a school. Developer contributions can be used to expand or create these facilities on school sites when necessary, although it is unlikely that developer contributions would be required for repurposed space within existing schools, as this is utilising existing educational infrastructure rather than creating new facilities. I will set all that out and respond to the noble Lord’s other questions in a letter.

Amendment 276, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would remove any restrictions on local authorities providing childcare. Under the powers contained in the Childcare Act 2006, where local authorities identify a childcare need that cannot be met by other means or they deem more appropriate to provide themselves, they are already able to establish their own provision. As the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, mentioned, we discussed this when we met last week. We have endeavoured to speak to a number of local authorities to try to understand a bit better whether there is a real issue here.

As I am sure the noble Baroness knows, almost 1% of providers overall are local authority-run outside maintained schools in the way that this amendment would allow for. From our conversations with local authorities, we know that this relates to both general—or what you might call universal—daycare and free entitlement provisions, such as is the case in Barking and Dagenham, but also applies where there is a particular need of specialist support for children with special educational needs, disabilities or complex medical needs, and my understanding is that that is the case in Durham. Obviously, we are grateful to all providers for the work that they do in this area. We found examples where both general provision and specialist provision exist.

When we speak to local authorities—which obviously the department does very regularly—they are not telling us that they want to set up their own childcare provision and they are not raising concerns with us about the powers they currently have to do this. We are not aware of any local authorities which want to set up their own provision but have been unable to do so because of the current legislation, so we are really not clear what problem this amendment is seeking to resolve and are not convinced that it would make a material difference to childcare availability, which I know the noble Baronesses opposite and the Government are all concerned about. We do not believe that is the case in either a general sense or in relation to specialist cases, where local authorities play such a critical role in supporting vulnerable children. In addition, some of the most successful local authority-run provisions, such as maintained nursery schools, are unaffected by this legislation.

The noble Baroness suggested that the Government do not trust local authorities, and I think used the words that we are “trying to tie their hands”. I would like to set the record straight: that is absolutely not the Government’s view. We believe that local authorities’ principal role is managing and shaping the overall childcare market in their area. The provisions in the Childcare Act help prevent an actual or perceived conflict of interest for local authorities as both market shapers and direct providers of childcare.

I think the House is in wide agreement that childcare is an incredibly important subject, and that is why we are moving the government amendments today. We want to maintain parental choice by making childminding more attractive to existing childminders, by helping them to expand and grow their businesses, and by supporting more people to become childminders by removing barriers to registration. We have also consulted on changes to the early years foundation-stage framework that aim to reduce known burdens on providers and offer them more flexibility.

Therefore, I wish to press the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, will not move her amendment when reached.

Amendment 259 agreed.
Amendment 260
Moved by
260: After Schedule 20, insert the following new Schedule—
“ScheduleRegulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6: form and scrutinyPart 1Statutory Instruments and statutory Rules1 (1) Any power to make regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6—(a) so far as exercisable by the Secretary of State acting alone or by the Secretary of State acting jointly with a devolved authority, is exercisable by statutory instrument,(b) so far as exercisable by the Welsh Ministers acting alone, is exercisable by statutory instrument, and(c) so far as exercisable by a Northern Ireland department acting alone, is exercisable by statutory rule for the purposes of the Statutory Rules (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 (S.I. 1979/1573 (N.I. 12)) (and not by statutory instrument).(2) For regulations made under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 by the Scottish Ministers acting alone, see also section 27 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 10) (Scottish statutory instruments).Part 2Scrutiny of regulationsScrutiny of regulations made by Secretary of State or devolved authority acting alone
2 (1) This paragraph applies to regulations made by the Secretary of State, or a devolved authority, acting alone which contain provision (whether alone or with other provision) under—(a) section 143 or 144;(b) section 145 other than provision, made on the second or subsequent exercise of a power in that section, for—(i) a description of consent, which is neither category 1 consent nor category 2 consent, to be either category 1 consent or category 2 consent, or(ii) a description of consent which is category 2 consent to be category 1 consent;(c) section 149(2) or 150.(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Secretary of State acting alone may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(3) Regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Scottish Ministers acting alone are subject to the affirmative procedure (see section 29 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 10)). (4) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Welsh Ministers acting alone may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.(5) Regulations to which this paragraph applies of a Northern Ireland department acting alone may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Northern Ireland Assembly.3 (1) This paragraph applies to regulations made by the Secretary of State, or a devolved authority, acting alone which contain provision (whether alone or with other provision) under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 and which do not fall within paragraph 2.(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Secretary of State acting alone is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.(3) Regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Scottish Ministers acting alone are subject to the negative procedure (see section 28 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010).(4) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies of the Welsh Ministers acting alone is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of Senedd Cymru.(5) Regulations to which this paragraph applies of a Northern Ireland department acting alone are subject to negative resolution within the meaning of section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 as if they were a statutory instrument within the meaning of that Act.4 Paragraph 3 does not apply if—(a) a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament;(b) a draft of the Scottish statutory instrument has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the Scottish Parliament;(c) a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru; or(d) a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Northern Ireland Assembly.Scrutiny of regulations made by the Secretary of State and devolved authority acting jointly
5 (1) This paragraph applies to regulations of the Secretary of State acting jointly with a devolved authority which contain provision (whether alone or with other provision) under—(a) section 143 or 144;(b) section 145 other than provision, made on the second or subsequent exercise of a power in that section, for—(i) a description of consent, which is neither category 1 consent nor category 2 consent, to be either category 1 consent or category 2 consent, or(ii) a description of consent which is category 2 consent to be category 1 consent;(c) section 149(2) or 150.(2) The procedure provided for by sub-paragraph (3) applies in relation to regulations to which this paragraph applies as well as any other procedure provided for by this paragraph which is applicable in relation to the regulations concerned. (3) A statutory instrument which contains regulations to which this paragraph applies may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.(4) Regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with the Scottish Ministers are subject to the affirmative procedure.(5) Section 29 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (affirmative procedure) applies in relation to regulations to which sub-paragraph (4) applies as it applies in relation to devolved subordinate legislation (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act) which is subject to the affirmative procedure (but as if references to a Scottish statutory instrument were references to a statutory instrument).(6) Section 32 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (laying) applies in relation to the laying before the Scottish Parliament of a statutory instrument containing regulations to which sub-paragraph (4) applies as it applies in relation to the laying before the Scottish Parliament of a Scottish statutory instrument (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act).(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with the Welsh Ministers may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.(8) Regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with a Northern Ireland department may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Northern Ireland Assembly.6 (1) This paragraph applies to regulations of the Secretary of State acting jointly with a devolved authority which contain provision (whether alone or with other provision) under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 and which do not fall within paragraph 5.(2) The procedure provided for by sub-paragraph (3) applies in relation to regulations to which this paragraph applies as well as any other procedure provided for by this paragraph which is applicable in relation to the regulations concerned.(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.(4) Regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with the Scottish Ministers are subject to the negative procedure.(5) Sections 28(2), (3) and (8) and 31 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 10) (negative procedure etc.) apply in relation to regulations to which sub-paragraph (4) applies and which are subject to the negative procedure as they apply in relation to devolved subordinate legislation (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act) which is subject to the negative procedure (but as if references to a Scottish statutory instrument were references to a statutory instrument).(6) Section 32 of the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (laying) applies in relation to the laying before the Scottish Parliament of a statutory instrument containing regulations to which sub-paragraph (4) applies as it applies in relation to the laying before that Parliament of a Scottish statutory instrument (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act). (7) A statutory instrument containing regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with the Welsh Ministers is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of Senedd Cymru.(8) Regulations to which this paragraph applies which are made jointly with a Northern Ireland department are subject to negative resolution within the meaning of section 41(6) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 as if they were a statutory instrument within the meaning of that Act.(9) If in accordance with this paragraph—(a) either House of Parliament resolves that an address be presented to His Majesty praying that an instrument be annulled, or(b) a relevant devolved legislature resolves that an instrument be annulled,nothing further is to be done under the instrument after the date of the resolution and His Majesty may by Order in Council revoke the instrument.(10) In sub-paragraph (9) “relevant devolved legislature” means—(a) in the case of regulations made jointly with the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament,(b) in the case of regulations made jointly with the Welsh Ministers, Senedd Cymru, and(c) in the case of regulations made jointly with a Northern Ireland department, the Northern Ireland Assembly.(11) Sub-paragraph (9) does not affect the validity of anything previously done under the instrument or prevent the making of a new instrument.(12) Sub-paragraphs (9) to (11) apply in place of provision made by any other enactment about the effect of such a resolution.(13) In this paragraph, “enactment” includes an enactment contained in, or in an instrument made under—(a) an Act of the Scottish Parliament,(b) a Measure or Act of Senedd Cymru, or(c) Northern Ireland legislation.7 Paragraph 6 does not apply if a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.Interpretation
8 In this Schedule “devolved authority” means—(a) the Scottish Ministers,(b) the Welsh Ministers, or(c) a Northern Ireland department.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment inserts a new Schedule (Regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6: form and scrutiny) which contains provision about the form and scrutiny of regulations under Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 made by the Secretary of State or a devolved authority acting alone or by the Secretary of State and a devolved authority acting jointly.
Amendment 260 agreed.
16:30
Amendment 260A
Moved by
260A: After Schedule 20, insert the following new Schedule—
“SCHEDULEBUILDING SAFETY REMEDIATION SCHEMEDuty to establish the scheme
1 (1) The Secretary of State must establish, or make arrangements for the establishment of, a Building Safety Remediation Scheme (“the BSRS”).(2) The purpose of the BSRS must be to ensure that residential blocks of flats with building safety risks are made safe, mortgageable and insurable—(a) in accordance with the building safety remediation principle,(b) speedily, efficiently, effectively and proportionately,(c) without cost to leaseholders or occupiers, and(d) so far as reasonably practicable without recourse to lengthy and expensive legal proceedings.(3) For the purposes of this Schedule “building safety remediation principle” is the principle that—(a) so far as reasonably practicable, remediation costs for relevant buildings with building safety risks arising from defective construction or additional building work should be met by the developer, the principal contractor or both, and(b) where that is not reasonably practicable, or where building safety risks do not arise from defective construction or additional building work, costs should be met by the building industry.Scope of the scheme
2 The BSRS must be framed so as to apply to relevant buildings which—(a) were constructed, or subject to additional building work, on or after 1 June 1992, and(b) present building safety risks.Operation of the scheme
3 (1) The BSRS must provide for persons (including freeholders and leaseholders) to apply—(a) for a building to be recognised as a relevant building, and(b) for a relevant building to be recognised as eligible for grants in respect of the cost of remediation works.(2) The BSRS must provide—(a) for the appointment of persons (“BSRS adjudicators”) with appropriate expertise to determine, on behalf of the Secretary of State, applications under sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b), and(b) for BSRS adjudicators to be required to exercise operational independence in making determinations under the scheme.(3) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2), the BSRS may provide for appointments to be made by the Secretary of State or by one or more persons designated for that purpose by the Secretary of State under the scheme.(4) The BSRS must provide that determinations of BSRS adjudicators in respect of building eligibility for the scheme under paragraph 4 are final (but nothing in this sub-paragraph prevents the exercise by the High Court of its judicial review jurisdiction).Scheme supplementary regulations
4 (1) The Secretary of State must make regulations (“scheme supplementary regulations”) in respect of the BSRS.(2) Scheme supplementary regulations, in particular—(a) may make provision for determining what is to be, or not to be, treated as a relevant building for the purposes of the scheme;(b) may make provision for determining the date on which buildings were constructed or subject to additional building work; (c) may make provision for determining who is entitled to make an application under the scheme in respect of a relevant building;(d) may specify criteria to be applied by BSRS adjudicators in determining whether a relevant building presents building safety risks as a result of defective construction (and the criteria may, in particular, make provision wholly or partly by reference to building regulations or other enactments in force at the time of construction or by reference to specified classes of document);(e) may make provision permitting or requiring BSRS adjudicators to conduct tests, and requiring owners and occupiers of relevant buildings to cooperate with BSRS adjudicators in conducting tests;(f) may make provision permitting BSRS adjudicators to require local authorities or other specified classes of person to provide information or documents, and requiring persons to comply with any requirements imposed;(g) may make provision about the timing of applications and determinations;(h) may make provision about evidence to be adduced in support of an application;(i) may require or permit BSRS adjudicators to operate a rebuttable presumption of defective construction where specified classes of fact have been proved (for which purpose the regulations may make provision similar to, or applying with or without modification, any enactment);(j) may make provision about the making, processing and determination of applications under the scheme;(k) may make provision about the giving of notice to developers and others;(l) may make provision about the payment of awards;(m) may make provision about monitoring expenditure on remediation works;(n) may set a threshold for the estimated or quoted cost of remediation works below which an application for recognition cannot be made;(o) may make provision for determining, having regard in particular to the need for proportionality, the nature and extent of remediation costs which may be funded by the scheme (for which purpose “remediation costs” means any class of expenditure related to building safety risks, including, in particular, repair costs, the costs of interim mitigation or safety measures and reimbursement of or compensation for increases in insurance premiums);(p) may make provision for account to be taken of grants provided in respect of remediation works by any other scheme established by enactment or by a public authority;(q) may make provision for financial assistance provided by any other scheme established by enactment or by a public authority to be repaid out of grants under the remediation scheme;(r) may permit or require the amalgamation of multiple applications in respect of one relevant building, or of applications on behalf of the residents of one or more relevant buildings;(s) may permit or require representative applications on behalf of the residents of one or more relevant buildings;(t) may make provision about the qualifications, appointment, remuneration and conduct of BSRS adjudicators, and the regulations may, in particular—(i) provide for adjudicators to be remunerated from BSRS funds; (ii) provide for indemnities in respect of decisions taken by adjudicators (for which purpose the regulations may apply an enactment (with or without modification));(u) must include provision requiring the maintenance and publication of records of applications and determinations under the BSRS;(v) must confer a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal in respect of determinations as to whether a building safety risk arose from defective construction or additional building work.Scheme funding regulations
5 (1) The Secretary of State must make regulations about the funding of the BSRS and of grants made under it (“scheme funding regulations”).(2) Scheme funding regulations must aim to apply the building safety remediation principle so far as practicable.(3) For that purpose, scheme funding regulations must aim to ensure that a grant awarded under the BSRS is funded—(a) so far as possible where building safety risks arise from defective construction or additional building work, by the developer or principal contractor of the building in respect of which the grant is awarded, and(b) failing that (whether by reason of the dissolution of a developer or principal contractor, insolvency or otherwise), or where building safety risks do not arise from defective construction or additional building work, by money paid into a fund maintained through a levy on the building industry in general, or specified parts of the building industry.(4) For the purposes of achieving the objective in sub-paragraph (3)(a)—(a) the reference to the developer of a building includes a reference to any person who arranged for its construction or additional building work and for the sale of units in the building;(b) the reference to the principal contractor is a reference to the person who was responsible to the developer for the construction of a building or undertaking additional building work;(c) scheme funding regulations must permit a BSRS adjudicator to provide for an award under the scheme to be paid by one or more persons specified by the adjudicator (and awards may, in particular, provide for joint and several liability);(d) scheme funding regulations must confer a right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal;(e) scheme funding regulations may include provision permitting a BSRS adjudicator to permit or require an award for payment by a specified person to be satisfied wholly or partly by a person connected to that person (within the meaning of the regulations, for which purpose the regulations may apply, with or without modification, section 121 of the Building Safety Act 2022 and any enactment relating to joint ventures);(f) scheme funding regulations may include provision about enforcement of liability to satisfy awards, which may, in particular—(i) provide for collection of awards as a statutory debt,(ii) include provision for interest or penalties,(iii) provide for liability to make payments pending appeal or review, and(iv) create criminal offences in connection with evasion.(5) For the purposes of achieving the objective in sub-paragraph (3)(b), scheme funding regulations— (a) must establish one or more levies to be paid by specified businesses or classes of business;(b) must make provision for determining liability to pay the levy;(c) may confer functions on BSRS adjudicators or other specified persons (which may include the Secretary of State) in respect of determination of liability to pay the levy;(d) must confer on a person determined to be liable to pay the levy the right to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal;(e) may provide for different amounts of levy to be paid by different classes of person;(f) may provide for the levy to be paid by way of one-off payments, periodic payments or both;(g) may include provision about enforcement of liability to pay the levy (which may, in particular, provide for collection of the levy as a statutory debt, include provision for interest or penalties and create criminal offences in connection with evasion);(h) must include provision about the administration of the levy by the Secretary of State, including provision as to the maintenance and publication of estimates, accounts and other records;(i) may include supplemental provision about the levy.(6) In making regulations under sub-paragraph (5), and in particular in assessing the proportionality and other fairness of any levy imposed by regulations under sub-paragraph (5), the Secretary of State must—(a) have regard to any other levy or similar imposition that appears to have a similar purpose as a levy under the scheme funding regulations, and(b) must consult persons appearing to him or her to represent the interests of persons affected by other relevant levies and impositions.(7) Scheme funding regulations may include provision about—(a) application of awards, levies and grants, including provision for holding (or return) of surplus funds;(b) the nature and extent of obligations imposed by awards (which may, in particular, provide for payments in money or services or money’s worth);(c) processes and procedures to be applied in determining applications for grants and questions of liability to awards (which may, in particular, include provision for determination wholly, partly, absolutely or contingently by arbitration, mediation or any other kind of process or procedure the Secretary of State thinks appropriate);(d) terms and conditions of awards, levies and grants;(e) appraisals, appeals and enforcement.Apportionment
6 (1) Scheme funding regulations may make provision about apportionment of liability for defective construction.(2) In particular, scheme funding regulations may provide that where a person is required to pay an award under the BSRS, that person may bring proceedings to recover a contribution from one or more persons who share responsibility for the defects in respect of which the award is made.(3) Provision made by virtue of this paragraph may—(a) confer jurisdiction on the First-tier Tribunal or on any other specified court or tribunal;(b) apply (with or without modifications) any enactment about third- party liability.Interim payments
7 (1) The Secretary of State may make interim grants to persons whom the Secretary of State believes are likely to be entitled to benefit from the remediation scheme.(2) Interim grants may be made on such terms and conditions (including as to repayment) as the Secretary of State may specify.(3) Scheme supplementary regulations—(a) may include provision for account to be taken of interim grants under this paragraph, and(b) may include other provision about interim grants under this paragraph (including provision about applications for grants, eligibility for grants and determination of applications for grants).Interpretation
8 For the purposes of this Schedule—“building safety risk” has the meaning given in section 120(5) of the Building Safety Act 2022;“building industry” has the meaning given in section 127(7) of the Building Safety Act 2022;“construction” includes any kind of building work (whether part of the original construction of a building or not) including works of improvement, repair and extension;“class” includes description;“defective construction or other building work” means construction or additional building work that—(a) contravened building regulations or other enactments in force at the time of the construction or additional building work, or(b) satisfies any other criteria specified in the BSRS or in scheme supplementary regulations;“BSRS funding regulations” has the meaning given by paragraph 5;“BSRS scheme” has the meaning given by paragraph 1;“BSRS adjudicator” has the meaning given by paragraph 3;“grant” includes loans and any other form of financial assistance (for which purpose a reference to payment includes a reference to the provision of assistance);“building safety remediation principle” has the meaning given by paragraph 1;“remediation costs” has the meaning given by paragraph 4;“relevant building” means a self-contained building, or self-contained part of a building that contains at least two dwellings;“scheme supplementary regulations” has the meaning given by paragraph 4.Consultation
9 Before making the scheme, the scheme supplementary regulations and the scheme funding regulations, the Secretary of State must consult—(a) persons appearing to represent the interests of freeholders, leaseholders or occupiers of blocks of flats with building safety risks,(b) persons appearing to represent the interests of the construction industry and related industries, and(c) such other persons as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.Regulations
10 (1) Scheme supplementary regulations and scheme funding regulations—(a) may make provision that applies generally or only for specified purposes, (b) may make different provision for different purposes,(c) may confer functions (including discretionary functions) on specified persons or classes of person, and may provide for the Secretary of State to appoint persons to exercise functions under the regulations or the remediation scheme (whether or not on behalf of the Secretary of State), and(d) may include supplemental, consequential or transitional provision.(2) Scheme funding regulations may not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.(3) Scheme supplementary regulations are subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”Member's explanatory statement
This new Schedule would implement a building safety remediation scheme to ensure that buildings with building safety risks are put right without costs to leaseholders.
Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 260A in my name and to speak to Amendments 282J and 315B, which are linked to it. I first express my gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, for her willingness to engage, and I wish her a speedy recovery and restoration to full health. However, I note with regret that a 35 or 40-minute slot is insufficient to cover the ground and that, given that the premise of my amendment has never been accepted, discussion of much of the detail has not been possible.

I make it clear from the outset that I may wish to test the opinion of the House but, before deciding that, I particularly wish to consider and gauge the views of noble Lords on a matter that I believe to be of fundamental importance to the purposes of good government, justice, equality under the law and economic stability. I refer to a crib sheet, if I may call it that, which I submitted to the department. I hope that it reached the attention of the noble Earl, should he be responding to this. I apologise for the fact that it was not sent earlier, as I had intended, which is something to do with the stability of the electrical grid in my part of West Sussex during most of yesterday.

I outlined in Committee the aims of these amendments, which have had the benefit of expert scrutiny by parliamentary counsel and construction councils, construction administrators, conveyancers, academics, property professionals and trade associations. There has been support from all these quarters. I am therefore satisfied that the amendments are technically competent, complementary to the measures already in the Building Safety Act 2022 and capable of implementation. In short, they aim to make the development and construction sector responsible for defects in buildings arising from poor building practices and to prevent the burden falling on innocent leaseholders in their homes or being funded by the taxpayer.

I remind your Lordships of the basics of Amendment 260A; I will not go into detail. First, it is aimed at simplifying establishing initial liability without a lengthy legal process. This asks the question of whether there was a significant critical defect in the original construction and, if so, who was responsible for the works, and their route to compliance. Secondly, it aims to reduce the contested areas to one largely of quantum, via an adjudication process and the First-tier Tribunal. Thirdly, it aims thereby to cut costs and risk barriers to leaseholders in getting redress directly or indirectly. Finally, it provides a backstop levy where the defects are not a result of construction failure, or else where the developer or contractor no longer exists. The intention is that this should be wide and shallow, and encompass materials, manufacturers, warranty providers, approved inspectors, specifiers and so on, as well as contractors.

My amendments mean that DLUHC would have to do things differently, but I weigh that against the current situation of allowing innocent homeowners to bear the brunt. Going forward, the incentive for housebuilders to cut corners must be replaced with an ongoing reminder to meet good construction practice at all times. The amendments also give exceptionally wide discretion to the Secretary of State in implementing proposals, subject to certain core principles. So, it is getting ahead of the process to claim, as some have, that these would not work.

More to the point, my amendments would dismantle much of the complexity the Government have decided to put in place with their own remediation scheme under the BSA. I am returning to this theme because I am not satisfied with the government response I have received to date. My case rests on one of the most fundamental principles of humankind: that if someone does something wrong and it injures another, they should provide restitution. On 13 September last week we discussed amendments to the Bill on nutrient neutrality. There were outstanding speeches from these Benches, not least from the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, and a stellar contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Deben. In response, the Minister stated:

“Another issue brought up by a number of noble Lords is that the developer should pay. The Government agree. It is essential that housebuilders contribute fairly, and we all agree with the principle that the polluter should pay”.—[Official Report, 13/9/23; col. 1060.]


In the context of building safety, however, it appears that the Government do not accept that same principle—or, if they do, they think it stops short of protecting all innocent leaseholders or indeed of making developers and main contractors liable for the mistakes they made at the time of construction, at a point when they had full agency and control over the construction project.

The ill effects, as we see them now, blight hundreds of thousands of leasehold homeowners who bought in good faith. I do not know the numbers but I believe there are more than 200,000, a figure that I have quoted before and the Government have not disputed. These people did not buy a product sold discounted “as seen” from a seconds rack but a full-value home, backed by warranties and certificates of every sort, covering many things that they could not possibly see or inspect for themselves.

I took away from a meeting last week with the Minister and the Bill team that the Government believe it sufficient that the BSA has widened the Defective Premises Act so that leaseholders can better pursue big corporates, via their freeholder, for redress over demonstrable failings to construct buildings to the then regulatory standards. Further, the Government believe they should do so at their own risk and expense, and to bear the consequential costs in the meantime. They also believe it is in order for affected leaseholders who are deemed non-qualified to continue to live in potentially unsafe blocks, in a financial fix and under the cloud of remediation costs.

When we discussed similar amendments to the Building Safety Act in 2022, speaker after speaker expressed a clear wish for focused, timely and effective action. As time goes by, there is a growing tally of enforced building evacuations—I believe there have been 27 since 2017—and a rising tide of leaseholders who are adversely affected. They have written to me in large numbers, some 250 since the middle of March, telling me of waking watch costs, enormous insurance rises, crippling remediation bills, properties that cannot be sold or refinanced, and lives upended. What should have been the security of their homes has turned into a financial and emotional prison. Just recently, some 51,000 people have signed a petition asking for something to be done. This is a problem that has not gone away.

So complicated are the rules under the BSA—developed by our rather process-focused administration—that even lawyers and conveyancers cannot figure them out and are now distancing themselves from handling work involving affected flats. I refer to the rules on leaseholder qualification; landlord certification; estimating remedial costs in times of rapidly rising prices; ascertaining landlord worth; the pitfalls leading to exclusions; the roulette of getting any recovery from original contractors; the programme for remediation; and the sheer arbitrariness and lack of clarity of it all.

My fear is that the financial standing of these assets is next in line. The Government assumed that landlords as building owners had the money and means to protect leaseholders. Some do but their respective interests do not coincide, and it is a moot point whether building owners are any more responsible for the construction defects in their buildings than the occupiers. The Government’s apparent predilection for charging owners with open-ended responsibilities without any clear route to cost recovery looks to me like a less than even-handed application of equality under the law.

It is also perfectly clear to me that many freeholders do not have the assets to enable them to risk taking on contractors, while others may be minded to do a disappearing act or become insolvent. I know that the Government’s proceedings against Railpen in respect of Vista Tower in Stevenage—I am sure that the noble Baroness opposite will be familiar with that one—are still stuck in the courts. In reality, however, no block owner or leaseholder collective could possibly afford to mount such a case.

Last Wednesday in the nutrient debate, if I can call it that, the Minister’s parting shot was that some £18 billion of added value to the economy was at stake, but that is not the only metric. The National Residential Landlords Association estimates—it is the only estimate that I know of—that there are 1.7 million non-qualifying leaseholders in existence. If just 10% of them are in buildings requiring significant remediation, which appears to be the general experience of building owners in terms of a percentage, even taking a well below average remediation and consequential cost per flat of, say, £20,000, that amounts to a staggering £34 billion write-down on the private sector alone, or nearly double what was bothering the Minister on Wednesday. Some observers put the damage north of £50 billion, and I can well believe it. Add in social housing and shared ownership, plus the potential sectoral damage in terms of market sentiment that I believe is now taking root, and potentially it is a lot more still.

DLUHC’s own latest data shows that the building safety fund is still taking ages to process, approve and release funds—typically more than three years, in a time of rapid inflation in construction costs. It reveals that, as at the 14th of this month, there were 2,833 remediation resident registrations in relation to non-ACM—the cladding material—private sector blocks, of which only 49 have had their problems fixed. It seems that in all this the Government are not collecting the data, still less sharing it. I have asked how many properties of 11 metres and below there are which may be affected. The Government do not seem to know this; it follows that the data on impacts is effectively unknown. How then is policy made on this matter?

I think everyone will agree that there has been a lot of time available to sort this out, so the process requires the turbocharging that my amendments would provide. I am aware that the Government’s objections to these amendments are many, but I do not believe they fully address the issues. There is a social evil taking root here, in that innocent consumers are paying heavily for the mistakes of producers. One criticism is that the amendments would require individual building assessments, and that that would slow the whole process—but how else does one identify or assess the essentially random nature of poor construction, other than on a per-building basis? Another is that there is not enough professional inspection capacity, but that applies whatever the total number of defects may be—unless, of course, the intention is simply to ignore some significant defects altogether.

I am also told that it would overstretch limited departmental resources, but it is over six years since the awful tragedy of the Grenfell Tower, and it is the job of government to take necessary action, not to wring their hands. The Government say that my solution is too complex. I say that it is not half as complex as what they have already put in place—and remember, I am not asking for a taxpayer bailout. The levy provided for in these amendments would deal with any shortfalls.

We clearly are not there yet. Conveyancing sources tell me that there is a growing trend at this very moment in contracts for sale of new flats, where there are now inserted clauses placing the entire onus for future defects on the buyer, on a “take it or leave it” basis. Meanwhile, I am not aware of any moves by the Government to remove the unfairness of excluding so many leaseholders from their scheme, or indeed of moves to put anything in place to tackle the building safety problems that I have identified.

16:45
I am going to say very little about the other amendments in this group, because I think it is fair that noble Lords should speak for themselves on them. However, I see there is some backing for Amendment 282ND in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham. Both he and I want effective solutions. I remind the noble Lord that we stood shoulder to shoulder on previous amendments. I was very grateful for his support there, but I think we probably diverge a little here.
As I understand it, under the noble Lord’s amendment, post-remediation qualified status would disappear. If some further defect is found at a later date, the building owner would then impose the cost of sorting it out on all the leaseholders, regardless of their original status—by which time, the original constructor would probably be off the hook. I am not sure if that is what he intends, so I hope he will put my mind at rest. I also ask him whether his amendment deals with minority shared ownerships, of which I believe there are many.
The other amendments in this group seek to mandate progress reports and other types of report, which is fair enough, but I do not believe that that propels us to the more decisive solutions that I wish to see. Recently, one developer executive claimed that it was inappropriate for me, as a chartered surveyor, to be criticising his sector—so be it. I come here not as a chartered surveyor, but as an independent Cross-Bench Peer. I cannot finish without also commenting on an email that I received this morning from a cladding group, soliciting my support for all the amendments in this group, apart from the ones that I am speaking to. There was a complete absence of any reference to my own amendments. As noble Lords can see, as I am standing here, I am perhaps not that easy to airbrush out of the scene. However, I did reach out to a number of these groups early this year and had an online meeting with representatives. At no time since have I had any further feedback from them; they have not suggested a different approach, let alone given any support to the fundamental change that I am advocating for. As far as I am concerned, they have all been silent—or perhaps, in silent opposition. Why? Am I not asking for precisely the same things that they claim to want?
Affected leaseholders may wish to ask why this apparent cancel culture has occurred. I may be a long way from being the most proficient expert on political manoeuvrings in this place, but I come to the House with professional knowledge and experience of property, construction, leasehold, building-defect identification and remediation, valuation and—perhaps most significantly—with complete independence from any person or body, and no motive beyond a biding dislike of injustice. This is not the time for political manoeuvring, and even less for sitting on the fence; it is time for action to protect leaseholders in particular. This may be the last opportunity to do anything for some time. I believe the eyes of many are on us, fervently hoping that we will protect the 1.7 million leaseholders—as indeed we should. I hope noble Lords will therefore understand why I have been so persistent about the scale of problem and the enormity of the damage that has already occurred and may yet come. I invite noble Lords to reaffirm their agreement with the principles that I have set out in moving my amendment or, conversely, to explain why I should not press the matter.
Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, it is pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I pay tribute to him, not just for the professional expertise that he brings to the subject—something that none of us can match—but for his persistence in campaigning to rectify the injustice done to leaseholders.

I shall speak to the amendments in my name but, before doing so, I want to say this: not all our debates in this House on the Bill have had a wide following in the outside world, but this one will. Hundreds of thousands of leaseholders are living in unsafe buildings, and they are looking to your Lordships’ House to deliver on the promises that the Government have made to them but which remain currently unfulfilled and which the amendments in this group seek to rectify. The End Our Cladding Scandal team have done a first-class job in briefing noble Lords.

I compliment the Government on the measures they have taken to help people living in unsafe flats. They introduced the Building Safety Act, protecting many leaseholders from ruinous bills, they took aggressive action against 50 of the country’s biggest developers and secured binding legal commitments worth more than £2 billion to rectify their failings, and they set up the building safety fund to help to pay for remediation for orphan buildings. I welcome this and the patience with which my noble friend Lady Scott listened to my representations on this subject.

But my noble friend the Minister will not expect a speech from me to be an unqualified paean of praise. What promises did the Government make at the outset, and have they been met? In his Statement in the other place on 10 January 2022, the Secretary of State said:

“We will take action to end the scandal and protect leaseholders”.


He went on to say:

“We will make industry pay to fix all of the remaining problems and help to cover the range of costs facing leaseholders”.


He then said there would be “statutory protection”, and he clarified what he meant by this:

“First, we will make sure that we provide leaseholders with statutory protection—that is what we aim to do and we will work with colleagues across the House to ensure that that statutory protection extends to all the work required to make buildings safe”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/1/22; cols. 285-291.]


Note that that commitment extends to all building work, not just cladding, and there was no qualification of the word “leaseholders”.

These broad commitments were confirmed in a letter written to all noble Lords by my noble friend’s predecessor, my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh, on 20 January last year, entitled:

“Introduction of the Building Safety Bill”.


Under a section headed

“Protecting Leaseholders from Unnecessary Costs”,


it said:

“The Secretary of State recently announced that leaseholders living in their homes should be protected from the costs of remediating historic building safety defects”—


not just cladding but “building safety defects”. But the position now is that there are significant exclusions from those commitments: not all buildings are covered, not all building safety defects are covered and, crucially, not all leaseholders are protected. These amendments help to fulfil the Government’s earlier promises.

One specific commitment given to me by the then Minister, no doubt in good faith, has been explicitly and inexcusably broken. During the passage of the Bill, I raised the question of leaseholders who had enfranchised and bought the freehold. I was assured that they would be treated as leaseholders and not as freeholders, and that they would get leaseholder protection under the Bill. My noble friend Lord Greenhalgh said:

“They are effectively leaseholders that have enfranchised as opposed to freeholders. I hope that helps”.—[Official Report, 28/2/22; col. GC 262.]


To avoid doubt, I was asked to read the Minister’s lips. But the Government resisted amendments that would have done just that, and leaseholders who have enfranchised are in a worse position than those who have not. Amendment 282ND addresses that unjustified distinction.

It remains perverse that a Government who are about to introduce legislation to encourage enfranchisement, with the proposal that eventually all blocks should be enfranchised, should at the same time deliberately choose to disadvantage exactly those leaseholders in the Bill. The two principal exclusions from the commitment I referred to a moment ago are leaseholders who live in buildings fewer than 11 metres tall and non-qualifying leaseholders, a category of people that does not exist in Wales, where all leaseholders are qualifying leaseholders and protected.

On buildings under 11 metres, the Government’s position is that residents should be able to leave the building in the case of fire without expensive remediation. This position is at odds with the position of the London Fire Brigade, whose statement said:

“While we understand the approach of starting with tall buildings, LFB have always been clear that using building height as the only measure of risk is too restrictive and believe that there are other high risk buildings with vulnerable occupants that also need to be considered”.


It concluded:

“With regards to the remediation of buildings, we strongly assert that all buildings with serious fire safety defects should be remediated regardless of height”.


That is an unequivocal professional rejection of a distinction made by the Government.

There are countless examples of the problems that have resulted from this exclusion. I give just one. Leaseholders took over the freehold of their five-storey block in London because the developer, who had originally retained the freehold, went into liquidation. They thought that they were doing the right thing but, in their words, “It seems like we are being punished for this now”. The building has combustible insulation, combustible spandrel panels that extend the full height of the building, and vertically aligned timber balconies. Unless every leaseholder in the block can pay, at an estimated cost of over £30,000 per flat, the work cannot take place and leaseholders simply remain trapped in unsafe, unsellable flats. The 2011 fire at the retirement home Gibson Court in Surrey, where 87 year-old Irene Cockerton lost her life, makes very clear why fire safety issues in low-rise blocks can be life-critical, yet many retirement homes remain unremediated.

Defective buildings of any height may require remediation if they have life-critical safety risks and, as Michael Gove himself acknowledged in the House of Commons on 14 March, of fire safety defects in buildings under 11 metres, “some will be life-critical”. Yet there is no requirement for responsible developers to remediate such life-critical safety defects, no access to government funding, no matter how high-risk the building is, and in a recent consultation on the issue DLUHC has even excluded freeholders of such buildings from the duty to try to pursue alternative cost recovery routes before charging leaseholders. These flats are unsaleable. The owners cannot afford to pay for remediation. In the view of the fire brigade, they are unsafe; in the views of insurers, they are uninsurable; and in the view of lenders, they are unmortgageable. This cannot be what the Government intended.

The second exclusion is non-qualifying leaseholders. I have already mentioned enfranchised and resident-run buildings, which are excluded from the Building Safety Act 2022 cost protections. Any costs of remedial works required to those buildings will fall on the leaseholders, although they may be entitled to some help with the costs of cladding removal. The principal exclusions are the approximately 400,000 flats in mid or high-rise buildings owned by a non-qualifying leaseholder who owns or has an interest in three or more properties.

The problem has a ripple effect—in any building that has but one non-qualifying leaseholder who cannot pay, remediation work to make all the homes safe may be delayed or unable to go ahead. The perverse consequence of this is that if you own a manor in the Cotswolds, plus a villa in Italy on Lake Garda and a luxury penthouse in central London worth £1.5 million, you qualify for protections under the Act. Yet if you and your partner own a small, terraced house and three small £100,000 buy-to-let apartments as part of your pension planning, only one of which has non-cladding fire safety issues, you may face bankruptcy. Amendments to change the exclusion of buy-to-let leaseholders were resisted by the Government as the Bill went through. Again, Amendment 282ND puts that right.

The LUHC Committee, with its government majority, rightly noted last year:

“Leaseholders are no more to blame for non-cladding defects than they are for faulty cladding on homes they bought in good faith. Buy-to-let landlords are no more to blame than other leaseholders for historic building safety defects, and landing them with potentially unaffordable bills will only slow down or prevent works to make buildings safe”.


The unintended consequence of the Building Safety Act 2022 has created a two-tier system where leaseholders deemed qualifying will benefit from the protections, whereas those arbitrarily deemed non-qualifying have been left to fend for themselves. Shared-ownership leaseholders face even greater difficulties because of the nature of their leases. Without a truly comprehensive solution to all buildings, of all heights and tenures, uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the residential flat sales market are set to perpetuate. My amendments seek such a solution.

I note in passing that a property’s non-qualifying status remains on the title in perpetuity. That means that any future purchaser—whether a first-time buyer, second-stepper or landlord investor—will be required to take on the risk of unlimited costs to fix safety defects that may not even yet have been identified. This renders non-qualifying leases effectively unsellable, regardless of the existence of known safety defects.

17:00
Finally, I expect the Government to accept Amendment 282C, as it puts right an injustice in the Act. While giving some leaseholders welcome protection against the costs of remediation, the Act inadvertently removed that protection if the leaseholder subsequently extended his lease. It is not at all unusual for leaseholders to extend their lease—indeed, they have a right to do so. The way the Act is drafted means that, if they have done so, they have lost all their protection.
I raised this with my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook at Question Time:
“My Lords, the Building Safety Act has given leaseholders very welcome protection against the costs of making their buildings safe, following the Grenfell tragedy. But the legislation has an important defect, in that if any leaseholder subsequently extends his or her lease, they lose all their protection. I think my noble friend is aware of this oversight in the legislation, but when will she put it right and will it be retrospective?”
My noble friend replied:
“My Lords, we are well aware of the significant issue concerning leaseholder protections where leases are extended or varied. A change to primary legislation is necessary to ensure the continuation of protection. We are looking to bring forward the necessary legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows”.—[Official Report, 17/7/23; col. 2047.]
Here before us on the Order Paper today is the change to primary legislation necessary to ensure the continuation of protection which the Government have said is necessary. What conceivable reason can there be for resisting it?
I strongly believe that the Government have not yet delivered on earlier commitments, putting thousands of leaseholders in an intolerable position, and that the current position is indefensible. We should give the other place the opportunity to think again. I propose to test the opinion of the House on Amendment 282C.
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, building safety remediation comes back again. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for sharing their expert knowledge and understanding of the plight of leaseholders as a consequence of the building safety debacle exposed by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The noble Earl has put a huge amount of time, energy and expertise into seeking an all-encompassing solution to the building safety scandal so tragically exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire six years ago. As has been said, hundreds of thousands of leaseholders have been financially penalised as a result, because the construction sector, developers, materials manufacturers and the Government have failed to take full responsibility for their failings. It is clear that leaseholders and tenants are the innocent victims. They must not be expected to pay. Yet despite the progress made by the Building Safety Act, that is what is happening to many leaseholders. They are paying eye-watering, vastly increased insurance bills, have waking watch requirements and are unable to sell and move. All that is on hold because of the omissions in the Building Safety Act.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who reminded us that, right at the start of this, the Secretary of State promised that there would be full protection for leaseholders. Unfortunately, that has not happened. We have before us, from both noble Lords, alternate ways of fulfilling that commitment made by the Government. The first is to go back to square one, which is basically the proposal from the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and fulfil the polluter pays objective that no leaseholder or tenant, regardless of where they are or their circumstances—enfranchised tenant, tenant or leaseholder—should pay. That is morally right. There is debate on various aspects of the building safety scandal but that is what I have said from the start: innocent leaseholders and tenants should not be subject to payment for the failings of others. The second argument, from the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham—and I have added my name to his amendments—is that making step-by-step improvements to the Building Safety Act may be more acceptable to the Government.

In the end, the decision is not ours. The decision is the Government’s, and if we can persuade them to take another step forward to protect another group of leaseholders, that seems to me to be the practical way forward—as much as I admire what the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has done.

I move to Amendment 282NF in my name. There is a large group of leaseholders who were specifically excluded: those who live in blocks of under 11 metres. One of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, seeks to include leaseholders in blocks of under 11 metres. However, I wanted it to be specifically drawn to the attention of the House, because it was wrong to exclude them on the grounds that the risk is less. Fire services across the country, not just the London fire service, say that the risk is unacceptable. These flats are covered with flammable cladding that was put there knowingly by materials manufacturers that knew it was flammable and that a fire in those flats would become enormous, as was the case at Grenfell, where it was minutes before the fire reached the top of the high block of flats. I want to draw attention to the plight of this particular group.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, who unfortunately is not well, for the meetings that I have had with her to discuss the plight of leaseholders who live in these blocks of under 11 metres. I thank the civil servants who accepted that there is a problem here. The trouble is that nothing has happened, and we need action to help these leaseholders.

Insurance agents for the blocks under 11 metres still say that there is a risk, and insurance bills are therefore unacceptably high and unaffordable. We still hear from estate agents that the blocks will be more difficult to sell because of the risks of fire due to the cladding material. So my amendment asks for those blocks to be covered by the responsible actors scheme.

Here we are again debating the building safety scandal. I ask that the Government accept Amendment 282C in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, as one more step towards dealing with the issues blighting the lives of many thousands of leaseholders. They cannot afford the bills that they are presented with and are unable to pay for the remediation—which is not theirs to pay. They do not even own the right to the bricks and mortar, yet they are being expected to pay for it—that in itself is wrong, but it will have to be covered by another Bill that we await from this Government. This is about whether we make another step in the right direction or go back to square one and try a big, all-encompassing solution to this situation.

What we must do is give hope that all leaseholders who have been adversely affected by the building safety scandal will have their issues addressed by the Government, as the Secretary of State promised at the very outset of our debates on this problem. That is necessary, and the amendments today seek, in different ways, to deal with that. I want to hear from the Minister that the Government intend to deal with every leaseholder’s issues. It is not the leaseholders’ responsibility, and it was not of their doing; they have done everything right and nothing wrong, and should not be expected to pay.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests in the register as a serving councillor on Stevenage Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council, a vice-president of the LGA and a vice-chair of the District Councils’ Network. I ask the Minister to convey our wishes too to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook; we wish her well for a speedy recovery. Her patience and willingness to collaborate on the Bill have been outstanding.

With this Bill, we have an opportunity to put right some of the very difficult issues that have emerged from the awful tragedy of the Grenfell fire. In the six years since Grenfell, we have seen people left in the most dreadful limbo on this issue. The stress, fear and harm they have lived with on a daily basis are incalculable. They are not able to sleep for fear that their buildings are not safe; they are living in fear of the exorbitant costs of mediation measures; and they are unable to sell their properties or move away. For some, that has impacted their physical and mental health. In the most serious cases, leaseholders have faced bankruptcy. Their dreams of owning their own homes have transformed into the stuff of nightmares.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, mentioned the case of Vista Tower in Stevenage, which I know well. That demonstrates so many of the issues arising from the remediation we are talking about. I remind your Lordships’ House that nearly two-thirds of high-rise flats and a third of mid-rise flats still require an external wall safety form before any mortgages are even considered, so the issue is certainly far from being fixed.

We welcome the comprehensive and detailed Amendment 260A from the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, particularly his strong focus on “polluter pays”—a principle that has had much attention during the passage of the Bill. As ever, he has a very thorough and conscientious approach in setting out a complete building safety remediation scheme. We acknowledge that his knowledge and expertise on and experience of such issues are recognised throughout your Lordships’ House, and I hope that, as we go through the following processes of remediation, the Government will continue to work with him and the cladding groups to advise on improving the remediation scheme that will comprehensively cover the remediation that people need.

17:15
However, our fear about the noble Earl’s specific amendment is that it would do two things. First, it would mean a danger that progress already made on this issue would have to be halted or slowed while a whole new scheme was consulted on and implemented—the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, himself outlined some of the reasons why that might happen. Secondly, we have concerns that it would bring down on the Government a rain of litigation that may delay progress even further.
The three amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Young, are helpful, sensible and in line with our long-standing position that all leaseholders should be protected, including non-qualifying leaseholders not covered by the protections in the Act—for example, in buildings under 11 metres with multiple properties. As Amendment 282C and its consequential Amendment 315A seek to rectify the situation that occurred inadvertently when the Building Safety Act removed the protection that leaseholders get under the Bill if they subsequently renew their lease, we hope that the Minister will accept this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, has already acknowledged that this is a gap in the Building Safety Act 2022. If the Minister does not do so, and the noble Lord, Lord Young, chooses to divide the House on this, he will have our support.
Similarly, we believe that Amendment 282ND in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young, to which I added my name, is vital as it would extend leaseholder protections in the Building Safety Act to all types of leaseholders, including in relation to the £10,000 cap on costs outside London and the £15,000 cap inside London. I hope that the Minister will be able to accept this amendment as it is simply inequitable for different classes of leaseholders to be treated differently.
We completely recognise the importance of the urgent consideration of the situation relating to remediation for buildings under 11 metres—the subject of both Amendment 309A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young, and Amendment 282NF in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. We would not want other work held up while this was introduced, so we hope the Minister can provide some reassurance that the Government take the issue of these 11-metre buildings as seriously as we all do, and take account of the view of both the London Fire Brigade and, apparently, the Secretary of State, about those buildings, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Young.
To conclude my remarks on this section of the Bill, this has been going on far too long. We want it to move forward quickly now, and I do not think there is any division in the House about how urgent it is to get these things put right. We hope that the amendments that are there to move things forward quickly will be supported by the House, and we look forward to hearing the noble Earl’s comments on what has been said this afternoon.
Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Scott said in Committee when the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, brought forward his now-rebranded “polluter pays” amendments, these issues have already been debated at length in this House—I address here Amendments 260A, 282J and 315B. I agree that too many developers and landlords are being too slow to remediate buildings for which they are responsible. However, the Government have not been idle in this space; blocks of flats are being made safer as we speak. Under the regulatory regime that the noble Earl wishes to scrap and replace, 96% of all high-rise buildings with unsafe “Grenfell-style” ACM cladding have been remediated or have remedial work under way.

The leaseholder protections are showing real promise on the ground, so it would seem folly to scrap them and start again from scratch. Indeed, accepting these amendments would set back the progress of remediation by over a year as industry and leaseholders work to understand another new system, just as they are getting to grips with the Building Safety Act—the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, was quite right to express her doubts on that score. At various points, the noble Earl has talked about his scheme sitting alongside the existing protections, but I argue strongly to your Lordships that that would be a recipe for chaos and confusion. Please do not let us land ourselves with that.

Secondly, many of your Lordships will have already taken part in debates on the regulations to give effect to our responsible actors scheme. That scheme, alongside our developer remediation contracts, requires eligible developers to fix the problems they have caused—I emphasise that clause: to fix the problems they have caused. Eligible developers who do not join the scheme and comply with its conditions will face prohibitions.

In response to the concerns of the noble Earl that the non-qualifying leaseholders are stuck in unsafe flats, as I think he put it, that is simply not true. All principal residences over 11 metres are covered by the protections. Following on from that, he expressed concern that the leaseholder protections do not protect every leaseholder. I just remind him that the direct protections that we have put in place are only part of the Government’s overall scheme. I have already referred to the responsible actors scheme and the developer remediation contracts, and I also point to the more than £5 billion set aside to replace cladding. The new powers in the Act to seek remediation contribution orders against developers, or to pursue them under the Defective Premises Act, also provide valuable indirect protection. Non-qualifying leaseholders are able to seek a remediation contribution order from the tribunal against a developer or contractor in exactly the same way as qualifying leaseholders. Let us remember that, where a developer has signed the developer remediation contract, it will fund all necessary remediation work—both cladding and non-cladding-related—irrespective of whether individual leases in those buildings qualify. Those on the current list of developers are only the first to be pursued; we have committed to expanding that list now that the regulations have been brought forward.

I make one further point. The noble Earl was concerned that the protections under the Building Safety Act remediation scheme will not apply to future buildings. The leaseholder protections address problems with buildings built poorly in the past. Part 3 of the Act raises standards for future buildings; we do not need a remediation scheme to reach into the future. All in all, I hope that, on reflection, the noble Earl will see fit to withdraw Amendment 260A and not move Amendments 282J or 315B.

I turn next to Amendments 282C, 282ND and 315A in the name of my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. I must tell my noble friend—at the risk of him heaving a sigh—that that these issues are legally complex. What is more, unfortunately, his amendments will not address all those complexities. I can none the less reassure him and your Lordships that officials are working on producing a fix for the lease extension issue and that we will bring forward legislation as soon as possible. We are also considering carefully how we might address any unfairness produced by the issue of jointly owned properties, which my noble friend’s Amendment 282ND seeks to address. I am therefore not delivering a rebuff to my noble friend; I am simply urging him to understand that this is a set of issues that requires very careful legal dissection and working through, and that is what we are doing.

Finally, Amendment 282NF, from the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and Amendment 309A in the names of my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, would require government to report on progress in remediating buildings under 11 metres and resident-owned buildings and to outline plans to expand the Cladding Safety Scheme. I listened to the views of the London Fire Brigade as reported by my noble friend; however, it is generally accepted that the life safety risk is proportional to the height of buildings. Lower-cost mitigations are usually more appropriate in low-rise buildings.

Given the small number of buildings under 11 metres that are likely to need remediation, our assessment remains that extending the protections for leaseholders in the Building Safety Act or our remediation funds to buildings below 11 metres is neither necessary nor proportionate. Where work is necessary, we would always expect freeholders to seek to recover costs from those who were responsible for building unsafe homes, not innocent leaseholders. Therefore, we do not intend to expand the Cladding Safety Scheme to incorporate these buildings, nor will it be possible to report on progress.

That said, I can assure the House that any resident whose landlord or building owner is proposing costly building safety remediation for a building under 11 metres should raise the matter with my department immediately, and we will investigate. Separately, the reporting that is already in place on the Responsible Actors Scheme will include progress made on all buildings in scope of that scheme, including any that are resident-owned. My noble friend Lord Young stated that resident-run buildings are excluded from the protections. They are not; the only buildings that are excluded from the protections as a class are those that are enfranchised, not those managed by residents. We have committed to consider this further and will bring proposals forward shortly.

I hope that what I have said has demonstrated to noble Lords that there are misunderstandings running through the amendments in this group. I have tried to provide reassurance, which I hope will be sufficient for the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, to withdraw his amendment. I also hope that my noble friend Lord Young and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, will not see fit to press their amendments when they are reached.

Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords who spoke in our debate on these amendments. It has certainly given me considerable food for thought. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who went through all the promises that have been made but have not yet been dealt with one by one.

I believe that the exclusions are down to the funding assumptions that the Government have made from inception. I go back to something called the consolidated advice note, which, as noble Lords may recall, rather put the cat among the pigeons in terms of how extensive the problem was. Then there was a subsequent attempt to row back, as it were, on the worst effect of that by virtue of the independent expert statement, which itself came 11 months after a disastrous fire concerning Richmond House in the London Borough of Merton. I think we can all see that a process of risk management and managing political exposure is involved here. Unfortunately, that does not cut the mustard for a lot of people will still be stuck, for what seems to me to be an indefinite period, with the problems that they have.

17:30
The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, referred to a two-tier market. He actually means a three-tier market: those who are protected, those who are partially protected and those who are unqualified and unprotected. All three may be in the same block. This seems crazy to me.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, pointed fairly to the more radical solution that I have been trying to take forward and the less radical one proposed by other amendments in this group, in what might be a step-by-step process. For all too many leaseholders, there are too few steps and they are too hesitant in what they achieve. Whether the matter is more acceptable to Government or not, I expect a rising tide of dissent will be created here. As we approach what is expected to be an election year, I can say only that there will be a lot of things said.
The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, referred to how current progress would largely be halted if my amendment were agreed. I note what she has said, but I was at pains to discuss this matter with those who have been advising me, including some acknowledged experts, who did not feel that this was the case. I agree with the noble Baroness that there is an overriding need to move forward urgently.
I am very grateful to the Minister for his comments, but he does not give me much cause for hope. He refers to the 96% of high-rises with ACM that either has been remediated or is in the course of remediation. I wonder how many of those are complete because, as far as I am aware, 1.7% of non-ACM remediation has been processed so far. One does not need to be a mathematician to know, at that rate, how long this will take and what the ill effects will be in the meantime.
The Minister also referred to how my amendments are “a recipe for chaos”. I thought that we had already arrived at chaos. He referred to the subsections on developers not signing up to the responsible actors scheme; where does that leave leaseholders in affected blocks? I am still not clear that the promises of expanding the list and progressively rolling out the package of measures to which the Minister referred will take us very far.
I was interested in the point that the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Young, are “legally complex”. I think that the whole remediation scheme, as it is at the moment under the Building Safety Act 2022, is complexity without comparison. That is certainly what practitioners are encountering.
I have the impression that noble Lords are in no mood to accompany me into the Lobby on a matter as radical as my amendments. I accept the reality of that, but the situation does not end here, because pressure for change will only increase. As no noble Lord has suggested that I should take up the House’s time by dividing it, I will live to fight another day on this matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 260A withdrawn.
Clause 220: Historic environment records
Amendments 261 to 263 not moved.
Clause 222: Marine licensing
Amendments 263A to 263M
Moved by
263A: Clause 222, page 264, line 11, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name make provision for the Scottish Ministers to charge fees in connection with certain functions as the appropriate licensing authority under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
263B: Clause 222, page 264, line 14, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name make provision for the Scottish Ministers to charge fees in connection with certain functions as the appropriate licensing authority under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
263C: Clause 222, page 264, line 18, leave out “Where the Secretary of State is the licensing authority” and insert “Where the licensing authority is the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14 and 31) in the Minister’s name make provision for the Scottish Ministers to charge fees in connection with certain functions as the appropriate licensing authority under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
263D: Clause 222, page 264, line 31, leave out “where the Secretary of State is the licensing authority” and insert “where the licensing authority is the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the amendments to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14 and 18) in the Minister’s name make provision for the Scottish Ministers to charge fees in connection with certain functions as the appropriate licensing authority under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
263E: Clause 222, page 264, line 40, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263F: Clause 222, page 265, line 2, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263G: Clause 222, page 265, line 5, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263H: Clause 222, page 265, line 8, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263J: Clause 222, page 265, line 10, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263K: Clause 222, page 265, line 12, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263L: Clause 222, page 265, line 14, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
263M: Clause 222, page 265, line 16, after “State” insert “, the Scottish Ministers”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendments made to Clause 222 (page 264: lines 11, 14, 18 and 31) in the Minister’s name.
Amendments 263A to 263M agreed.
Clause 223: Power to replace Health and Safety Executive as building safety regulator
Amendment 264
Moved by
264: Clause 223, page 265, line 36, leave out “new functions on, or modifying existing functions of,” and insert “the functions of the Health and Safety Executive as the building safety regulator on to”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides that the functions that may be conferred on the new regulator under regulations under Clause 223 are the functions of the Health and Safety Executive as the building safety regulator.
Baroness Swinburne Portrait Baroness Swinburne (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move government Amendment 264 and will speak to Amendments 265 and 266, which the Government have tabled. They respond to the concerns raised about Clauses 223 and 224, which provide powers to replace the Health and Safety Executive as the building safety regulator.

When the Government made the decision to locate the building safety regulator in the Health and Safety Executive in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, this was rightly because of its outstanding reputation in ensuring rigorous safety standards. We continue to work closely with the Health and Safety Executive, and I take this opportunity to thank HSE colleagues for what they have already done to bring this regime to life.

As we await the findings of the Grenfell inquiry, the Government recognise that we must provide a stronger, wider stewardship role to ensure that we regulate effectively across the whole built environment, with consideration and management of sustainability and quality sitting alongside the safety of buildings. The Government believe that these powers are a key part of ensuring that oversight of the built environment is delivered appropriately.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, who has tabled Amendments 265A, 267 and 268, and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its scrutiny of the Bill. In response to the concerns raised by the committee and in earlier debate, the Government are making a number of changes to improve these measures.

Amendment 264 restricts the powers in Clauses 223 and 224, so that they can be used only to transfer existing functions of the Health and Safety Executive in its role of building safety regulator, and specifically cannot be used to create additional functions or to amend the building safety functions as defined in the Building Safety Act 2022. I hope that this principle of the preservation of existing powers provides the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, with reassurance on the intentions of the Government.

Amendment 265 limits the provision that can be amended, repealed or revoked by regulations under this clause to provision made by or under listed Acts, namely: the Building Safety Act 2022, the Building Act 1984, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Amendment 266 removes the ability to extend the sunsetting of the power to create a new regulator. These measures do not affect the timeline for the regulator’s important work. We expect the regime to be fully operational by April 2024, and are determined not to impact on that programme. Finally, I remind noble Lords that the powers in Clause 223 are all affirmative and so any future use will be subject to the consideration of Parliament. I beg to move.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to address the amendments in my name, Amendments 264A and 264B. These amendments raise an aspect of electricity supply which involves potentially dangerous network faults. I first declare an interest as probably the most out-of-date chartered engineer in Parliament, having been here full-time for 49 years, and a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. I still pay my subs after more than 60 years, and skim the technical journals.

In April, I read in Engineering & Technology about concerns relating to the risks of neutral current diversion, known as NCD. The author was investigative journalist, Conor McGlone, who wrote of experts expressing concerns of the real risk of deadly gas explosions and fires in the UK due to a common fault on the electrical system. They claim that the fault is neither acknowledged by distribution network operators or the Health and Safety Executive. In short, and keeping off the detailed techy stuff, a neutral current diversion can occur when the combined protective earthing and neutral conductor fails. The current is then diverted by making a circuit via exposed metal workings on buildings including gas, water and oil pipes. In other words, electricity can flow through gas meters in these circumstances.

NCDs are causing gas explosions. Gas meters are not designed to carry electricity and, if a current is diverted, creating heat due to the high resistance, an explosion can follow. The fault is such that, when changing gas meters, engineers attach jump leads between pipes because neutral current diversions are so prevalent and sparks can be created. After an explosion, of which there have been more in recent years, we are simply told: “possible gas leak”. In fact, a house in the Kingstanding part of my former constituency disappeared in such an explosion last year.

One example given by Conor McGlone was when Gordon Mackenzie, formerly of SP Energy Networks, became aware of a resident’s coat falling on a gas meter and catching fire. He detected a 35-amp current flowing through the metallic gas service pipe entering the property, affecting 72 houses. There was nothing whatever to indicate a problem: no flickering lights, nothing.

Neutral current diversions are not routinely considered after an explosion. Having read this, I therefore tabled some Written Questions, answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, on 2 May. I was informed that

“no additional action is required by the regulator”—

the Health and Safety Executive—

“to manage this risk of neutral current diversion at the present time”.

In other words: “We’ll keep it under review”.

Now these can cause fires in ordinary domestic appliances due to the high resistance. Voltage surges occurred in properties without a gas supply. As a result of the Hansard reports of the Written Answers, I was contacted about the wider problem of safety checks and weaknesses in electrical regulation. I am informed that the charity Electrical Safety First and certification giant Bureau Veritas have both expressed more concern than the Health and Safety Executive, whose approach has been described as

“nothing to see, move on”.

17:45
My attention was then drawn to the Grenfell Tower inquiry website. No one knows how the fire in the flat started, and indeed the inquiry is not looking into this. The contractor, Rydon Maintenance, which subcontracted work to RJ Electrics Ltd to carry out electrical tests, appears to believe the inquiry is examining the cause of the fire. That is the excuse for not answering questions about electrical safety checks.
The interesting thing here, which is very unusual, is that the inquiry website is publicly available and contains the electrical installation works certificates relating to flats in Grenfell Tower. An analysis of the certification of the fixed wiring installations shows inconsistencies, dangerous oversights and a failure to comply with the IET Wiring Regulations, British Standard 7671. These certificates show that proper testing was not taking place. Indeed, there was a substandard level of testing of the hard wiring.
Unlike gas engineers, who are named as specific competent people, in electrical testing, the system is such that an employee, who may or may not be an electrician, conducts the testing and a competent body scheme supplies, at a cost, a qualified supervisor meant to ensure that the employee is competent and supervised for the work they undertake. There is more than one competent body, but the competent body we got in Grenfell is the well-known NICEIC—we see it on all the banners. I will not list all the examples, but will give a flavour of the list. I have read all the certificates relating to Grenfell, which have the NICEIC logo and are all serial numbered. The figures that follow have been assessed by experts.
The certificates show that 38 of 120 flats had electrical installations put into service without residual circuit breaker testing. This is crucial to protect equipment from shorting and maybe causing a fire. Nine flats had installations put into services with known deficiencies declared on the certificates. There are 13 certificates which do not have the date that the qualified supervisors signed off the work of the tester. For the majority of certificates, the dates between the tester doing the work and the qualified supervisor reviewing the work is more than 25 days.
There are 10 minor electrical installation works certificates for six different flats, recorded as completed on the same day in August 2015 by the same person. Experts tell me that it is highly unlikely that the testing was done correctly. I am deliberately avoiding referring specifically to any numbered flats, because the certificates obviously contain the numbers of all the flats, because I do not want to be confused about the flat where the fire actually started. It is the result of all the testing.
The experts say that it is quite clear that the testing was not done correctly. This is a result of a race to the bottom during a price war started by the introduction of the electrical safety standards in the private rented sector. The scheme, which appears to be not fit for purpose, is about to cover the social rented sector. It is clearly open to price-cutting, abuse and incompetence, and should be remodelled to the same standards as gas testing.
After I looked at comments from other engineers, it crossed my mind to ask about all the residential tower blocks where cladding needs to be replaced. I asked, via Written Questions, about electrical safety checks, records of voltage surges, the potential for improving the system in these tower blocks, where tens of thousands of families—the figure I have seen is 660,000—are living with similar external cladding to Grenfell, and whether the testing regime could be changed. The answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook—I fully accept she is not present and I send my best wishes—said:
“All buildings should meet existing safety standards. We do not hold records of voltage surges or numbers of extra electrical safety checks … The Building Safety Regulator will be undertaking a cost benefit analysis of making regular inspections and testing of electrical installations in relevant buildings”.
Somebody must hold the electrical testing certificates for these properties. I do not expect the Government to hold them but somebody does. My question in these circumstances is: have the Government asked who holds them? The tragedy of Grenfell is that, because of the inquiry’s website, all the certificates are public; we can see them, but we cannot see them for the other blocks. Somebody is paying for the testing. The certificates have been issued and logged. Where are they, and has anybody checked? Are they being done to the same incompetent level as they clearly were at Grenfell, from the figures I have shown?
The term “will be” in the answer is worrying, but “cost benefit analysis” beggars belief in the circumstances. Inquiries that engineers and journalists have made show that the regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, clearly does not want to know. Many organisations refused to respond to repeated requests from Conor McGlone on behalf of Engineering & Technology. In 2022, the IET published a standardised way of testing for NCDs in its Guidance Note 3, so there is no excuse whatever. We should all be very concerned.
I therefore ask the Minister to ask within government not only why people remain at risk due to the cladding, which previous debates have shown, but why the inadequate electrical safety checking procedures cannot be upgraded to the better-qualified gas testing system. We need to do that, based on the evidence we now have from the inquiry’s website. I would be amazed if someone in the department had not asked about this or read the certificates. Somebody must have done; they are now publicly available. It will be too late after another event.
Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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My Lords, I first need to declare that I am shortly going to become a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I hope that will not distort my judgment too much. I welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Swinburne, said on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook. I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, a speedy recovery. I thank her and her officials for the help they gave in discussions over the last week or so.

I welcome the Government’s amendments, but my welcome is muted. They cut back on the overreach of ministerial powers which was so endemic in the original proposition, but they do nothing to remedy the serious problems that remain with the provisions as they are at the moment. That is why the three amendments in my name have been tabled and are up for consideration in this group.

The first serious problem is the impact this new legislation will have on the work of the Health and Safety Executive in bringing into force the new regime established only 12 months ago by the Building Safety Act 2022, which we are in the process of amending. That Act mandates the Health and Safety Executive to conduct the biggest shake-up of building safety in my lifetime, and the HSE has made a huge investment in new procedures, training and staffing to make the high-rise construction sector safe for the future. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Swinburne, referenced that. The main features of that building safety regime go live next month and, as she quite rightly said, are being introduced over the course of the next 12 or 15 months. It has not been an easy job and it has needed the full weight and heft of the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that progress was maintained and will be delivered on time—or almost on time; it has been delayed even so.

The Minister’s explanation of the Government’s policy intentions, which is basically business as usual, just not with HSE, rather undermines the case for taking action now. It seems, from what she said and from what the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, said in her briefing to me last week, that it really is the case that we are not going to change the reach, functions or structure of the regulator. If nothing can be added or subtracted without more primary legislation being enacted that is not in this legislation, what exactly are we trying to achieve by doing this? Is it just a change of brand name? That is what it seems to come down to. The HSE is much more than a trusted brand. It is a much-feared enforcer in the construction industry. It can prosecute firms and send bosses to prison. When the HSE says jump, they jump.

It seems a strange moment for the Government to recommend to the House that it gives Whitehall the power to rebadge the regulator but say not to worry as everything else is being left unchanged. If you cast doubt on the continuing role and viability of the Health and Safety Executive when it comes to standards and enforcements, you will give the laggards of the construction industry the toehold they are looking for. They were lobbying for a slowdown before, and we can see what it will be like once the HSE is taken out of the equation.

This proposal poses a real risk to the smooth and effective start-up to the vital new buildings safety regime, despite the assurances the noble Baroness gave a few moments ago. It will give a foothold for the naysayers and, dare I say it, the big donors to begin their fightback against the regulation and enforcement of this new regime.

The second big problem is that it appears the Minister still has no idea what would replace the Health and Safety Executive. This legislation invites us to change horses in midstream, but there is no second horse. The one thing we know is that it will not be called the HSE. Maybe it could be called Tesco, or maybe a highly trusted brand of “Made in Whitehall” will be established to replace it. Whatever it is, we will not be able to see, measure, evaluate or amend it until a new regulator, yet to be imagined by Ministers, is delivered to us to sign off via the affirmative procedure. That is not good enough. It will give the lobbyists another slice of the cake as Ministers go through the process of drawing such a scheme up.

The third serious issue is that, despite what the Minister said, Clause 223 allows Ministers to change fundamentally how the new regulator is structured and organised and can change the task currently entrusted to the Health and Safety Executive and its statutory committees that are a core part of its work. It specifically states that the Secretary of State can amend

“governing procedures and arrangements (including the role and membership of committees and sub-committees)”

It is absolutely not the case that the amendments the Government have brought forward today prevent that happening.

18:00
My Amendment 256A ensures that those wider powers are constrained by preventing them being used to undo the valuable work that noble Lords did during the passage of the Building Safety Act only 12 months ago. That is important, not least because many noble Lords argued strongly during the passage of that Act last year for an immediate extension of building regulations to include electrical fire safety. I associate myself with the concerns and remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and his amendments in that respect. There were also strong voices raised—and indeed amendments passed—on the safety of staircases and ramps, safe escape from buildings for people with mobility issues and for an investigation of fire suppression systems such as sprinklers. The outcome of that was Clause 21 of the Building Safety Act, which requires the regulator within three years to carry out a review for the case of regulation in each of those areas, to report back to the Government and for there to be a formal government response to the Health and Safety Executive’s recommendations. My amendments, if passed, will ensure that the Government’s replacement regulator retains those duties. Despite the good intentions of the noble Baronesses, Lady Bybrook and Lady Swinburne, the amendments that they have brought forward do not prevent Ministers taking those safeguards out and perhaps officials advising Ministers to do so.
Other parts of my amendments safeguard the existence and purpose of the three statutory committees that the Health and Safety Executive has set up: the Building Advisory Committee, the Industry Competence Committee and the Residents’ Panel. They were strengthened when they were debated during the passage of Building Safety Bill so that they would be more effective. The Building Advisory Committee is the whistleblowing, technical and professional body tasked with providing advice to Whitehall on the adequacy of new and existing regulations. Its reports are made in public and must be responded to in public. Section 12(2) of the Act provides that any changes made to those committees can be made by the Secretary of State only in response to a proposal from the regulator, not by just pulling a bright idea out of a special adviser’s kit.
If the Government genuinely want to safeguard the whole of the apparatus of the current regulatory regime, I urge the Minister to accept my amendment to make sure that they are safeguarding those three vital committees and reinforcing the obligations for those long-awaited safety studies to be made by the regulator, published and formally responded to by Ministers on the three-year timescale currently in legislation. If the Minister is not able to do so, then in due course I will wish to test the opinion of the House.
I have also made it plain that I do not see any reason for this untimely, rushed and ill-considered proposal to take the Building Safety Regulator away from the Health and Safety Executive in the first place, and that is why I also have Amendments 267 and 268. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for his support on that. The amendments seek to remove the two offending clauses from the Bill, thereby making it a better and shorter Bill. We will come to that in due course.
Earl of Lytton Portrait The Earl of Lytton (CB)
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My Lords, I added my name to Amendments 267 and 268 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell. I think perhaps I should also have added it to Amendment 265A which he so ably introduced. There is very little that I can add to what he has said, so I will be brief.

As the noble Lord said, this is do with reputation, the disruption of potential reorganisation, a loss of momentum—which I might call continuity—and, finally, whether this lays open the opportunity for diluting the process which we agreed in the Building Safety Act and which one believes is still important today.

There are two things that I would like to point to. Part of the justification for what the Government seek to do seems to be a need to keep their options open, if I can put it that way, in relation to the awaited second Grenfell inquiry. Of course, we do not know when that will come in, but the fear seems to be that it will make recommendations that the Government will need to move resolutely to deal with. However, to try to foretell, forestall and provide for that by the process of taking the Building Safety Regulator function out of HSE and putting it in a place as yet unknown or undefined seems entirely premature. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, in the sense that does not aid the cohesion of the Building Safety Regulator function going forward.

The second thing that concerns me is that we already have two standards for dealing with what might be described as a defect. One is specified in the Building Safety Act and the other, which is not worded the same, is the standard of remediation under the pledge that constructors will sign up to. There are concerns, in particular because, under remediation schemes to which a lot of firms have signed up, they will still be using their own approved inspectors to sign off that work. We know what has happened since approved inspectors were brought in under the Building Act 1984. It amounts to marking their own homework. While I am sure that in many instances that is being done diligently, we would not be where we are now had that been done effectively, conscientiously and objectively. There are concerns that the Government’s proposals here leave too much wiggle room. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, on all three of his amendments, which I think afford valuable safeguards that we should take real notice of.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, before commenting on the specific amendments in this group, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, for responding so thoroughly to questions that were raised on this issue following our previous debate on this subject and the debate in July on the statutory instrument on the Building Safety Act.

Amendment 264 clarifies that the functions of the new regulator are those of the Health and Safety Executive. This was one of the points on which we requested clarification. I hope the Minister can clarify in response to the points made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, what the new regulator will look like.

My noble friend Lord Rooker’s amendments would introduce a requirement on the new regulator to report on electrical safety for tower blocks awaiting remediation. That seems a very reasonable step in the light of previous discussions, and we hope the Minister will confirm that this falls into the remit of the regulator.

My noble friend also suggested, in his further amendment to Clause 223, that a new electrical safe register be introduced and, in particular, that electrical installations and testing be subject to the same level of rigour as gas installations. I cannot think of any reason why that should not be the case. I hope that, should she not clarify it today, the Minister will take that back to her department to be discussed with the new regulator.

Concerns expressed in Amendments 265A, 267 and 268 are that provisions made under the Bill could be revoked by regulation. Amendments 265 and 266 perhaps deal partially with that, but they may not be strong enough to deal with the concerns about provisions in the Building Safety Act. We note Amendment 265A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, relating particularly to the potential for government to use regulations to amend the provisions of the Building Safety Act. We would be seriously concerned about that, so, if the noble Lord chooses to test the opinion of the House on that topic, he will have our support.

Baroness Swinburne Portrait Baroness Swinburne (Con)
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My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the points raised during the debate. I shall first address the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in relation to Clauses 223 and 224.

I want to make a clear and unequivocal commitment: this Government have no intention of using the powers in the Bill to amend the statutory committees set up under Sections 9 to 11 of the Building Safety Act 2022. The Building Safety Act already provides full and appropriate powers for the Secretary of State to make changes to those statutory committees, if needed, on the basis of a recommendation from the building safety regulator. It would be unnecessary for this Government or a future Government to attempt to use the powers under this Bill to alter or repeal the regulator’s statutory committees when good and appropriate powers exist for just that purpose. Any Minister not using these powers correctly could rightly expect to be asked to justify their use.

I turn to Amendments 264A and 264B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, which raise the important matter of electrical safety. The Government take the issue of electrical safety very seriously, and we have already legislated to mandate electrical safety checks to protect residents in the private rented sector. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations came into force in 2020. They require private landlords to have their electrical installations inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at least every five years. As noted, we have already consulted on extending these requirements to the social housing sector, and have asked for evidence and views on whether owner-occupied leasehold properties within social housing blocks would also benefit from mandatory electrical installation checks.

I am advised that the level of risk involved between gas and electrical work is not the same. With the benefit of circuit breakers and protective devices, an electrical system can be designed to shut down in milliseconds. An automated interruption of supply can disconnect an electric current and protect users from the risk of electric shock or fire.

With regard to Section 21 of the Building Safety Act 2022, which the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, raised, I shall make some further comments. Specifically on Amendment 264A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, I ask the noble Lord to note that, under Section 21 of the Act, the regulator has a statutory duty to

“carry out a cost-benefit analysis of making regular inspections of, and testing and reporting on, the condition of electrical installations in relevant buildings”.

Our focus so far has been on the competence and supervision of the person carrying out electrical work as the appropriate way forward. I note the extensive technical analysis raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, relating to electrical safety. We will write to him once we have had an opportunity to consider this.

18:15
Before pressing and moving these amendments, I refer to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, regarding Section 21 of the Building Safety Act. The statutory duties set out in Section 21 are delivered as part of the functions of the regulator under Section 5 of the Act, so would be protected from change by our Amendment 264. I commend the amendments tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Scott of Bybrook, and I hope that the others will not be moved.
Amendment 264 agreed.
Amendments 264A and 264B not moved.
Amendment 265
Moved by
265: Clause 223, page 266, line 6, leave out “an Act” and insert “—
(a) The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974;(b) The Building Act 1984;(c) TCPA 1990; (d) section 54 of PCPA 2004;(e) The Building Safety Act 2022.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment limits the provision which can be amended, repealed or revoked by regulations under Clause 223 to provision made by or under the listed Acts.
Amendment 265 agreed.
Amendment 265A
Moved by
265A: Clause 223, page 266, line 6, at end insert “(subject to subsection (4A)).
(4A) Regulations under this section may not amend or repeal—(a) sections 9, 10 and 11,(b) section 12(2), or(c) section 21of the Building Safety Act 2022.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would prevent regulations from amending provisions in the Building Safety Act relating to the building safety committees, and building safety reporting in relation to the condition of electrical installations, stairs and ramps, emergency egress for disabled people and automatic water fire suppression systems in relevant buildings.
Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell (LD)
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My Lords, I have been by no means persuaded by the Minister, who is contradicted by the words in the Government’s own Act and amendment. I seek leave to test the opinion of the House.

18:17

Division 1

Ayes: 192


Labour: 112
Liberal Democrat: 54
Crossbench: 17
Independent: 4
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Green Party: 2

Noes: 161


Conservative: 150
Crossbench: 9
Labour: 1
Independent: 1

18:28
Amendment 266
Moved by
266: Clause 223, page 266, line 11, leave out paragraph (b)
Member's explanatory statement
This amendment removes the power of the Secretary of State to extend the sunset for the making of regulations under Clause 223.
Amendment 266 agreed.
Amendment 267 not moved.
Clause 224: Transfer schemes in connection with regulations under section 223
Amendment 268 not moved.
Amendment 269
Moved by
269: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Childcare: use of non-domestic premises(1) In section 96 of the Childcare Act 2006 (meaning of early years and later years provision etc), in each of subsections (4) and (8) omit “, where at least half of the provision is on domestic premises”.(2) Schedule (Use of non-domestic premises for childcare: registration) amends the Childcare Act 2006 to make provision relating to the registration of persons providing childminding wholly on non-domestic premises.”Member's explanatory statement
This new clause would have the effect that, for the purposes of Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, childcare that is provided to any extent on non-domestic premises may be “early years childminding” or “later years childminding”. It also introduces the proposed Schedule relating to registration.
Amendment 269 agreed.
Amendments 270 and 271
Moved by
270: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Childcare: number of providersIn section 96 of the Childcare Act 2006 (meaning of early years and later years provision etc), in each of subsections (5) and (9), for “three” substitute “four”.”Member's explanatory statement
This new clause would have the effect that, for the purposes of Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, the maximum number of persons who may work together to provide “early years childminding” or “later years childminding” is increased from three to four.
271: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Amendments of Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006(1) Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006 (general restrictions on legislative competence of Senedd Cymru) is amended as follows.(2) In paragraph 9(8)(b) (exceptions to restrictions relating to reserved authorities)—(a) omit the “or” at the end of paragraph (vi); (b) after paragraph (vii) insert “; or(viii) Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.”(3) In paragraph 11(6)(b) (exceptions to restrictions relating to Ministers of the Crown)—(a) omit the “or” at the end of the first paragraph (ix);(b) for the second paragraph (ix) substitute—“(x) the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Act 2023; or(xi) Chapter 1 of Part 3 or Part 6 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.””Member's explanatory statement
This amendment inserts a new Clause which removes the restrictions on the Senedd in relation to concurrent powers that are contained in the Government of Wales Act 2006 by adding the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill to the list of enactments in paragraphs 9(8)(b) and 11(6)(b) of Schedule 7B to that Act.
Amendments 270 and 271 agreed.
Amendment 271A
Moved by
271A: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Blue plaques in EnglandIn paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Local Government Act 1985 (Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Ancient Monuments), for “Greater London” substitute “any area in England”.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment would have the effect of extending the express statutory power of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England to provide and erect blue plaques in Greater London to the whole of England.
Amendment 271A agreed.
Amendments 272 to 275 not moved.
Amendment 276
Moved by
276: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Powers of local authority in relation to the provision of childcareIn section 8 of the Childcare Act 2006 (powers of local authority in relation to the provision of childcare), omit subsections (3) to (5).”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment allows local authorities to open their own childcare provision.
Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I seem to have a lot of paperwork on my lap but I will talk very briefly to Amendment 276. I thank the Minister, who is no longer in her place, for her response but, having listened to what she said, I am afraid that I would still like to test the opinion of the House on this matter.

18:30

Division 2

Ayes: 198


Labour: 110
Liberal Democrat: 56
Crossbench: 24
Independent: 4
Green Party: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 2

Noes: 158


Conservative: 152
Crossbench: 5
Labour: 1

18:41
Amendment 277
Moved by
277: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Levelling-up and the Vagrancy Act 1824Within 90 days of this Act receiving Royal Assent, a Minister of the Crown must publish an assessment of the impact of the enforcement of sections 3 (persons committing certain offences how to be punished) and 4 (persons committing certain offences to be deemed rogues and vagabonds) of the Vagrancy Act 1824 on levelling-up and regeneration.”Member's explanatory statement
This means that a Minister must publish an assessment of the impact of the enforcement of sections of the Vagrancy Act 1824 on levelling-up and regeneration.
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, the Vagrancy Act 1824 was initially intended to deal with injured ex-servicemen who had become homeless after the Napoleonic Wars. What was their crime after serving their country? I will quote from the Act. It was

“endeavouring by the Exposure of Wounds or Deformities to obtain or gather Alms … or … procure charitable Contributions of any Nature of Kind, under any false or fraudulent Pretence”.

This essentially means that ex-soldiers were begging, and the Act was brought in to stop it.

The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, committed to repealing the Vagrancy Act 1824 within 18 months in March 2022. In the debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in 2022, he said:

“The Government agree that the Act is antiquated and no longer fit for purpose. That is why we have brought forward amendments in lieu to consign this outdated Hanoverian statute to history”—[Official Report, 22/3/22; col. 764.]


“Hear, hear”, we all thought.

My noble friend, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, noted in May this year that this Act, which refers to the homeless as

“an idle and disorderly Person … deemed a Rogue and Vagabond”

to be committed to the “House of Correction”, is still being used to criminalise “more than 1,000” homeless people a year. We are told that the 200 year-old Act cannot be repealed because there is nothing to take its place and that it is a slow and complex process to bring an alternative forward. I quote the Minister again from 2022. He said that

“we must balance our role in providing essential support for the vulnerable with making sure that we do not weaken the ability of the police to protect communities who play an important role in local partnership approaches to reducing rough sleeping. We must ensure that the police have the tools that they need to effectively respond to behaviour that impacts negatively on communities and to protect all individuals”.—[Official Report, 22/3/22; col. 764.]

I had a quick check on the College of Policing website. It shows more than 15 pieces of legislation which give police and councils the powers they need to tackle anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging. This includes the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, community protection notices, public space protection orders, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, rapid intervention for PSPOs and dispersal powers. In relation to begging, there is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and the Public Order Act 1986. So, frankly, it is incredibly disappointing that, in spite of amendments put before the House to this Bill, the Government have refused to use the levelling-up Bill to confine the Vagrancy Act to history, where it belongs, before its 200th birthday.

Fundamentally, this is a levelling-up Bill, and the treatment of vagrancy in our communities is a levelling-up issue. It is an issue that should not be the subject of legislation made nearly 200 years ago when the world, its values and our country were very different places. Incidentally, that was the year when New York’s Fifth Avenue opened for business and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony had its premiere in Vienna. Why do we still have on our statute book an Act that seeks to penalise the homeless against the measure of an Act forged in what was another world?

Our Amendment 277 and its consequential Amendment 304A require a Minister to publish an impact assessment of the enforcements permitted in the Vagrancy Act against the Bill’s stated ambitions for levelling up. We hope that this will concentrate the Government’s mind on ensuring that street homeless people in Great Britain in 2023 will be treated with compassion and given the help they need to tackle the underlying issues that have led to their homelessness, and not confined to the punishment regime of an Act which has no place in modern Britain.

18:45
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, has raised a fundamental issue of human rights and dignity. I am really surprised that the Government have so far failed to repeal the Vagrancy Act. It just needs to be deleted from the statute book. Perhaps the Minister can give us the assurance that it will be. If he cannot, and if the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, wishes to press her amendment to a vote, we will certainly be supporting it.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Sharpe of Epsom) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their comments. I am pretty sure that that will be the only time I am mentioned in the same speech with Beethoven.

In response to Amendment 277 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Stevenage, I am still clear, as are the Government, that the Vagrancy Act is antiquated and not fit for purpose. I am happy to reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Taylor, that we will repeal the Vagrancy Act at the earliest opportunity, once suitable replacement legislation has been brought forward. Given that we remain committed to repealing the Vagrancy Act, there is little value in carrying out an assessment of the kind described in the amendment. The House will have ample opportunity to debate the matter when further details on any new legislation are set out.

Amendment 304A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, is on the timing of the statement of levelling-up missions. We have committed within the Bill to publish this within one month of Part 1 of the Act coming into force, which will be two months after Royal Assent. This is already an appropriate and prompt timescale, which includes time to collate materials and data across government departments before the publication and laying of the report. Reducing that time would be unnecessary and may undermine the purpose of the missions: to ensure focus on long-term policy goals. I hope that provides reassurance for the noble Baronesses and that Amendment 277 can be withdrawn, and the other amendment not moved.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, for his response, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for her comments. The Minister repeated the assertion that the Vagrancy Act will be repealed at the earliest opportunity. I do not know quite what “earliest” means in the Government’s mind, but it is certainly longer than the amount of time it has taken since the original commitment to repeal the Act.

The fact is that this Act is still being used to penalise homeless people every day in this country. I am not convinced that this is going to move quickly enough without some further steps being taken, so I would like to test the opinion of the House.

18:48

Division 3

Ayes: 177


Labour: 101
Liberal Democrat: 55
Crossbench: 14
Independent: 3
Green Party: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 2

Noes: 152


Conservative: 146
Crossbench: 4
Labour: 1
Independent: 1

18:58
Amendment 278
Moved by
278: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to produce a land use framework(1) The Secretary of State must, no later than one year following the passing of this Act, lay a land use framework for England before Parliament.(2) The framework must—(a) outline government objectives and principles in relation to the multifunctional use of land;(b) be based on the principle of multifunctional land use and take account of the whole range of land uses, including agriculture, climate change, biodiversity, access, development, housing, infrastructure, water, energy, natural capital and ecosystem services;(c) promote collaboration and integration across the statutory organisations impacting on land use;(d) provide guidance on the application of the framework to enable decision making at national, regional and local levels and to assist individual landowner decision;(e) provide accessible data on land use to support decision makers at national, regional and local levels, including the decisions of individual landowners.(3) Before laying the framework before Parliament, the Secretary of State must publish a draft framework and consult with such bodies as have relevant interests in land use and also with the general public.(4) Subsections (2) and (3) apply to a revised framework as they apply to a framework laid under subsection (1).”Member’s explanatory statement
The new Clause would require government to consult widely upon and publish a land use framework for England to improve the ability of decision makers at all levels, including individual landowners and managers, to reconcile conflicting land use pressures, make better decisions about conflicting land uses and enable scarce land resources to be used to deliver for multiple objectives.
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be brief. Amendment 278 is in my name and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Randall, neither of whom are able to be with us this evening. I declare an interest as a commissioner on the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and as chair of the Woodland Trust.

We are all waiting with bated breath for the land use framework that the Government say will burst forth in October or November. I use the words “burst forth” advisedly because we hear that there has been consultation across government but little consultation with anyone else, including the 140,000 people in this country who actually own the land. That is strange for a land use framework.

19:00
The whole point of a land use framework is that it should engage all stakeholders with an interest in land, across all the multiple purposes that are currently putting pressure on land. It should start the conversations—nationally, at regional level and locally—that will mean much more effective use of land and that the right decisions will be made about this pressurised resource.
Although there has been consultation between government departments, including DLUHC and the Department for Transport, I am anxious that, with Defra as the lead department, it will nevertheless focus overmuch on Defra issues—food, farming, carbon and biodiversity—rather than also helping with decisions on the use of land for development, infrastructure and transport.
We hear that this land use framework will be a high-level affair: it will focus on high-level principles and will not have a spatial element. That is a pity because it ignores the splendid spatial database that the Geospatial Commission launched in early summer and that provides an admirable set of data—a huge range of spatial levels—that could help these conversations about more effective decisions.
I have grave doubts that the principles-based document will be linked to effective practical tools to aid land use decision-making and land use change. Tools like ELMS and the planning system are the levers for change, and we need the land use framework to use them effectively and to be joined up with them. I am sure that the Minister will wax lyrical about the land use framework having links with local nature recovery strategies, but these are what they say on the tin: they are about nature, not the whole range of competing land uses.
My amendment remedies all these potential deficiencies and sets a statutory deadline of a year, which would allow adequate time for essential consultation and engagement. I beg to move.
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is absolutely right to raise this as an important issue. Currently, planning, in the sense of local authority planning services and applications, depends on landowners bringing forward sites for housing or business use for inclusion in the local authority local plan; councils then make the decision as to which of those sites are in fact acceptable. That is not a strategic approach, which is exactly why she has brought this amendment forward. It draws attention to sites that are allegedly appropriate for development but it excludes the importance of nature recovery, ELMS and all the other issues—we discussed ancient woodlands at our last sitting on Report. It also fails to draw attention to the importance of watercourses as part of a planning process, which is of course why we had the debate on the previous day on Report on nutrient neutrality.

The noble Baroness is right to draw our attention to this as an issue to which we ought to have a strategic approach. I will wait to hear the Minister’s response, but the Government ought to consider having an overview of how they expect land to be used, rather than just leave it to landowners to determine whether they have sites they wish to put forward for development.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone for introducing her amendment and for bringing it back at this stage. Her Land Use in England Committee wrote an excellent report on this, Making the Most out of England’s Land, with a number of recommendations for the Government. As she said, the Government have said that they will look at this. The question is: when and how is that actually going to happen? She made a very important point about the fact that the Government are looking to focus very much from a Defra point of view, whereas actually, if we are to address the wider aspect of land use and tackle many of the conflicting priorities, it has to be done across parties and across departments to be genuinely effective. We have to work across the House and across all departments to come out with something that will actually make a difference.

I confirm our full support for what my noble friend is trying to achieve with this, and I will be grateful if the Minister confirms that the Government are treating this as a priority, that we will see something sooner rather than later, and that the Government are also intending to work right across all departments and to work constructively across the House.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has once again highlighted the important issue of land use, and I am grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to set out the Government’s plans in this area. First, the Government agree with the intention behind the amendment. Major influences on the use of land must be considered in the round—that is completely accepted and indeed it is why Defra has been working closely with a number of other departments to develop the content of the land use framework for England, which will be published this year. The framework will provide a long-term perspective and, to pick up the point the noble Baroness made, it is supported by the latest advances in spatial data science. We have developed the evidence base needed to ensure that policy can make a virtue of the diversity of natural capital across the landscapes of England.

That said, the Government’s view is that it is neither necessary nor sensible to specify the framework’s scope and purpose in legislation at this stage. There is a very simple reason for that: our work on the framework needs to be open to the latest evidence and insights and indeed, if necessary, to change as our understanding continues to develop. However, I reassure the noble Baroness that the principles she has highlighted are very much in our minds as we approach this important task and that we look forward to engaging with her, and indeed everyone else with an interest, in due course. I hope that, with those reassurances, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his answer. I am delighted to hear that the framework will emerge before the end of the year—I will hold him to that. We all wait to see what the Government come up with. My anxiety is that a set of principles launched on everybody is going to set up antibodies among landowners big and small, because they will not have been consulted on it and that is not the right foot to get off on, no matter how much consultation then follows. I look forward to seeing what the Government produce, and at this point I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 278 withdrawn.
Amendments 279 and 280 not moved.
Amendment 281
Moved by
281: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Regeneration of schools and hospitals: register of serious disrepair(1) Within one month of the day on which this Act is passed the Secretary of State must establish a register of schools and hospitals in England in serious disrepair.(2) The register must comprise a list of—(a) schools that have been partially or fully closed on a temporary or permanent basis because one or more school building was deemed unsafe for staff or pupils,(b) schools that have classrooms or buildings on site that are closed due to disrepair and details of those classrooms or buildings,(c) schools that require major rebuilding or refurbishment,(d) hospitals that have been partially or fully closed on a temporary or permanent basis because one or more hospital building was deemed unsafe for staff or patients,(e) hospitals that have rooms, wards or buildings on site that are closed due to disrepair and details of those rooms, wards or buildings, and(f) hospitals that require major rebuilding or refurbishment.(3) The register must be reviewed every three months to ensure it contains up-to-date information.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Government to keep a register of schools and hospitals in serious disrepair, and ensure the register is regularly updated.
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, I tabled a version of this amendment in Committee—which seems a very long time ago; I think it was in March—on the need for a register of school and hospital buildings which are in a state of disrepair, so that local residents know what the issues are and can hold the Government to account for putting right those buildings that they have to use.

Little did I know at that stage about the huge, urgent issue that has emerged this summer around reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete—concrete with air bubbles in it, as far as I can make out. According to the Department for Education, at least 147 schools in England have been affected by RAAC, but this number may grow as investigations continue. At least 27 NHS sites have been confirmed to have aerated concrete and I understand the NHS is conducting an urgent inquiry into the safety of the buildings. Thousands of patients and pupils are facing disruption as a result of this aerated concrete coming to the end of its life, which apparently means it could break and collapse the building at any moment. Very fortunately, so far no serious injuries have resulted from such collapses.

We know the Department for Education was aware of the use of RAAC in schools that were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Its report from 2018 showed that as many as 400 schools per year could need their buildings repaired as a result of the use of this material. The 2021 spending review provided funding for just 50 of those per year. At the end of 2022, the Department for Education listed building failures as one of six key risks in its annual report. Similarly, as an FoI request from my party has shown, hospitals across the country are facing huge repair costs from chemical leaks and broken fire alarms—in one hospital, raw sewage was in patient areas. In my view, sewage seeping anywhere in a hospital is totally unacceptable. This followed on from a report from November last year that the repair bill for NHS hospitals in England alone has hit £10 billion.

My amendment seeks, as a first step in tackling these issues, to get the information into the public domain. I will give one example of why this is important. School admission authorities are already being asked by parents having to choose a school for their children whether their preferred school is affected by a need for critical repairs which could disrupt their children’s education. School admissions are likely not to know, so it is really important that parents, in the case of schools, have the information to make choices about their children’s education. In the same way, NHS trusts should be able to make available similar information to patients where there is an ability to choose where an operation will take place.

19:15
Amendment 281 in my name is intended simply to persuade the Government that it is important to provide this information to the public and to enable accountability of the Government for the state of very important public buildings. I beg to move.
Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con)
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My Lords, I have Amendment 282NE in this rather miscellaneous group. It is one of the joys of England that we have a lot of towns with houses that have no driveways but front gardens. We need to take care of that in the context of our policy for making everyone drive electric. As we have set things up at the moment, we have introduced an imperative that people should pave over their front garden and use it to park their car. If they do so, they will have a dedicated parking space and can charge from their own house, at the rate they are buying electricity in a deal they have made themselves rather than from some organisation doing it in the street. They also pay VAT at 5% rather than 15%. Zoopla says that, if you do that, you will increase the value of your house by at least 10%.

It is both for people’s convenience and a necessity. If you get an electric car and rely on very thinly provided street parking, you may find that you have to park some long distance from your house and cannot be sure of being able to charge your car when you need to do so. We are creating an environment that will result, if we are not very careful, in our towns becoming much less charming and beautiful places because of our good ambition that more people have electric cars.

I ask my noble friend to make it clear to local authorities that they can do something about this and do not have to give permission for a dropped kerb or paving over front gardens. They can wind this into an organised rollout of on-street charging and not let desecration happen by default.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I will introduce my noble friend Lady Bennett’s Amendment 282NC, as she has been called away to “Gardeners’ Question Time”. Of course, I will vote to support Amendment 281.

I will be very brief. This is a quite simple amendment based on a report from the New Economics Foundation entitled Losing Altitude: The Economics of Air Transport in Great Britain. It takes on the Conservatives, on their own ground, on questions of growth and economics. There are still arguments that airport facilities are needed for business travel, but it has declined by 50% in the past decades.

All the infuriating by-products of air travel—the noise, disruption and pollution—are not actually worth while. The sector is one of the poorest job creators in the economy per pound of revenue. Automation and efficiency savings have meant that the rapid rise in passenger numbers between 2015 and 2019 was not enough to restore direct employment to its peak in 2007, plus wages are significantly lower in real terms than they were in 2006. That is obviously not for the top jobs; this is for the bulk of workers. Quite honestly, air travel just cannot be justified on any grounds anymore.

The amendment proposed a review to examine the costs and benefits of planned expansion of the UK air transport sector. Quite honestly, it is not worth it.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I will talk briefly to Amendment 282F which is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and to which I have put my name. It is on the subject of allowing communities access to small areas of land that are available only on a temporary basis to foster schemes for growing vegetables, plants and flowers, not only to produce local food but to give multiple benefits to people’s health and mental health, and to community cohesion and engagement.

In her absence, I thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for her session with me and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, last week. We were disappointed that she saw this as a local and not a national issue. The problem with having this lodged at a local level is that these small, ad hoc community initiatives are, in many cases, very informal, and do not have a lot of oomph behind them in an understanding of how local government works or of who to talk to at local authority level. Indeed, there often is no one at local authority level for whom this would be a job. They falter, and then the lawyers get involved with the lease issue, if it gets to that point, at which stage these small community organisations collapse totally under the bureaucracy and strain of not having lawyers of similar firepower to the local authority.

I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talk about “Gardeners’ Question Time”, which is taking place in the House this evening. A very famous television gardener tried to get one of these schemes going in Birmingham, with a very determined national public servant. After three years, even they could not make it happen.

This simple amendment would require local authorities to identify those patches of land that they have, either in their own ownership or others that they know about, that are available for a defined short or medium term; people can grow a few things on them, have a good time and become cohesive communities. It would be a splendid idea if the Government were to accept this.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised an interesting issue. I will briefly comment on it because, to me, it seems that the fundamental issue is not just a visual aspect; it is also the fact that by using paving on front gardens you greatly increase the risk of flooding, because the run-off from paved-over front gardens is a serious addition to flooding problems. The issue here is not just whether you have pretty flowers in your front garden. There are complex issues, such as those which the noble Lord referred to around access to home charging, which will be very important in the future. There are excellent porous products that can be used instead of hardstanding. If local authorities are to have a role, it ought to be in specifying to ensure that porous products are used, not just in front gardens but in the creation of any car parks, because they work perfectly well.

I will briefly refer to the issue of aviation and the provision of airports. The concentration of so many large airports in the south-east of England is one of the most obvious manifestations of inequality in the UK, as well as making it extremely difficult to build modern public transport links to those airports to reduce their impact on the environment. The UK is generously supplied with airports, in comparison to most other countries. Many of them have spare capacity. I would urge that what needs to be done is to take these two factors together. Therefore, there is no justification for the expansion of airports in the south-east, and, in particular, no justification for expanding Heathrow for a third runway.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, there are a number of quite disparate amendments in this group, so I will speak briefly to them.

The first is Amendment 281 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, to which I added my name, on a register of disrepair in schools and hospitals. This raises a very serious issue. She introduced it very clearly and in detail, so I will not repeat what she said other than to endorse her remarks. We are completely behind her amendment and what she is trying to achieve with it. If the noble Baroness wants to test the opinion of the House, she will have our strong support.

Turning to the other amendments, I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, is now in his place. His amendment, around creating a new partnership model for town centre investment zones, has not really been mentioned. We had quite a discussion about this in Committee, in which we expressed our support. I express that support again and urge the Government to work with the noble Lord on how this approach can be taken forward. We need to do something to support many of our town centres, and his suggestions are worth exploring.

My noble friend Lady Young spoke to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, around local authorities publishing a list of publicly owned land which is suitable for community cultivation and environmental improvement. I totally support the principle of this; it seems like a sensible way forward to improve local growing and the environmental purposes of land.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, introduced the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, around reviewing the air transport sector. We must really think about our approach to this when we look at climate change. Obviously, we must support this important part of our economy. However, there is so much more to consider. I come back to this over and again: why is it so much cheaper to fly than it is to go by train? This has got to be at the core of how we approach this, particularly if you look at what the French Government have done regarding internal flights. It is something we must take a much stronger look at.

Finally, I was going to make the same point as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about surface water flooding. If we are going to pave over more of our towns and cities, we are going to have more of a problem with surface water flooding—it is just a matter of fact. I support the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, to see what we can do to stop so many of the gardens in our towns and cities being paved over. It is not just about the aesthetics—although, obviously, they are lovely; there is a practical reason to consider this more carefully.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 281 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, considers the important issue of school and hospital safety. It would require the Government to keep a register of schools and hospitals in serious disrepair. Nothing is more important than the safety of pupils, patients and staff in schools and hospitals. That is, I am sure, common ground between us across the House; however, it is our belief that the amendment is unnecessary. Furthermore, we think that it would not, in practice, have the effect that the noble Baroness intends. The Government provide significant funding and support for the upkeep of schools and hospitals, including additional support where there are issues that cannot be fully managed locally.

19:30
We already collect and make available extensive data on the condition of both schools and hospitals. Moreover, we are concerned that the amendment could add significant burdens on these sectors. Indeed, at worst, it could serve to undermine safety by moving our focus and resources away from providing targeted support for serious issues, such as RAAC, to instead spend time with schools and hospitals on minor issues that may close spaces temporarily but are easily managed locally.
The school estate consists of more than 22,000 schools and sixth-form colleges, with around 64,000 blocks. Of course, condition varies across the estate and a number of buildings are reaching the end of their useful life. While local authorities, academy trusts and other bodies are directly responsible for school buildings, we support them by allocating significant capital funding each year, delivering major rebuilding programmes and providing guidance on effective estate management. That is why we have a 10-year rebuilding programme prioritising those with the most significant issues. We have allocated more than £15 billion to improve the condition of the estate since 2015, including £1.8 billion for 2023-24.
The local knowledge that responsible bodies have of their estates, and how they are used, makes them best placed to ensure that school and college buildings are kept safe, compliant with regulations and in good working order. There is no requirement on schools to report temporary closures of buildings to the Department for Education, but the department always stands ready to provide additional support on a case-by-case basis if it is alerted to a safety issue by those responsible bodies.
The noble Baroness made specific reference to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. The department is taking a more proactive and targeted approach to address the issue of RAAC, which affects a number of responsible bodies, and extensive work and support are in train to manage it. As she said, the issue of RAAC has spanned successive Governments since the 1990s. The Department for Education issued a warning notice in 2018 and published guidance in 2021, which has been regularly updated. Last year the Government took a more direct approach, asking responsible bodies to inform the department of any buildings where they think RAAC may be present. In those cases, the DfE sends a professional surveyor to assess whether RAAC is present. In line with the technical advice, spaces where RAAC was graded critical were closed until appropriate mitigations were put in place.
The department has acted decisively on new evidence and has now changed the guidance so that all school buildings with RAAC are taken out of use until suitable mitigations are implemented. It is worth emphasising for the record that the vast majority of schools are not affected at all. We will continue to support all schools with confirmed RAAC in whatever way we can to minimise any disruption to education, whether through teams of dedicated caseworkers or through capital funding to put mitigations in place.
On 6 September, the Department for Education published details of confirmed schools and colleges with RAAC as of 30 August; it has committed to updating that in due course. As I set out, any expectation or requirement for schools to report all building issues and closures would place an unnecessary burden on the sector and not, in practice, lead to better outcomes. It would mean that the department focuses finite resource on following up with schools that may have to close buildings or single classrooms for a short period and for relatively minor issues. As a rule, those issues are quickly resolved locally—for example, minor maintenance issues, burst pipes or boilers needing repair. It is more effective and efficient for the safety of the school estate if central government continues to focus our efforts on schools that may have serious issues with buildings that cannot be managed by responsible bodies locally and need additional support, such as our targeted work on RAAC.
However, as I mentioned, the department collects consistent data on the condition of schools. The condition data collection programme, which sent qualified surveyors into nearly every school in England from 2017 to 2019, helps the Department for Education understand the condition of schools to inform capital funding policy and programmes. Individual reports were shared with schools and their responsible bodies during the course of the programme, and a summary of findings has been published. On 20 July, in advance of the Summer Recess, detailed condition data on individual schools was deposited in the House Library; it is available on the Parliament website. A new condition data collection is in train to provide updated information on the condition of schools in England by 2026.
I turn now to health. As set out in the Health Infrastructure Plan and the NHS planning guidance, individual NHS organisations are legally responsible for maintaining their estates. We recognise that backlog maintenance can pose challenges to the efficiency, safety and quality of NHS services, and we also recognise the challenge for providers in maintaining their existing estates and investing in new facilities. To support that, we are investing to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so that staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care for patients, including £4.2 billion this year and an additional £4.2 billion next year.
In addition, the NHS also has well-established data publications. It annually publishes the Estates Return Information Collection, which already provides detailed information on the levels of backlog maintenance across the estate and in individual NHS trusts. Duplication would waste significant resources and place additional burdens on front-line services. For example, moving to a three-monthly review process would represent a quadrupling in the reporting burden that currently falls on NHS trusts. That is not an acceptable or proportionate position to take in the context of the challenges that our hard-working NHS estates teams are managing at individual hospital sites.
Amendment 282E in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, would create town centre investment zones, where the local authority could provide business rates discounts and where partnership working is incentivised. That is another area where we can agree on the general intent, but I must disagree that even more legislation is needed.
We all want to see our high streets and town centres adapt and thrive and, to that end, from October the Government will begin a pilot of high street accelerators, which are partnership working groups to support the high street. My officials have consulted with the British Property Federation on the policy design. The initial pilot will gather evidence to test the effectiveness of that type of intervention, and a decision will then be taken about how best to take things forward, including deciding whether that form of intervention could be strengthened, establishing the benefits of introducing accelerators to more places, or deciding whether other interventions offer greater value to achieve high street regeneration.
The Government are already providing a generous package of business rate support to high street businesses with a retail, leisure and hospitality scheme worth an estimated £2.4 billion in 2023-24, providing eligible businesses with 75% of their bill up to a maximum of £110,000 per business. Furthermore, local authorities already have powers in statute to offer business rates relief support in their local areas. It is important that we see this work through and draw conclusions about the effectiveness of place-based partnership models rather than legislating for a specific model, which may not be the most effective approach.
On Amendments 282F and 295A, which relate to community cultivation, there were lively debates in Committee on this issue, and I appreciate the time taken by the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Young of Old Scone, to discuss this important matter further with us in recent meetings. The Localism Act 2011 requires district and unitary councils to maintain a list of assets of community value, which can be either land or buildings, and which have been nominated by local community groups or parish councils. Local communities have the right to nominate the spaces and places that matter most to them. Alongside this, our national planning policy is clear about the importance of identifying and providing green spaces for community use, including allotment land.
I could not agree more that it is important for government to consult stakeholders as we consider appropriate steps to support local communities to grow locally produced food in their area. However, given the mechanisms which already exist to identify and bring suitable land forward, I feel strongly that we should avoid placing additional and overlapping duties on local authorities.
On Amendment 282NE, tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas, as he knows, permitted development rights are a well-established part of the planning system, and an existing right allows homeowners to install hard surfacing in their front gardens. However, just to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on a point she raised, mentioned too by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the right requires that where more than five square metres of hard surfacing is proposed, it must either be made of porous materials or run-off water must be directed to a permeable or porous surface within the curtilage of the house. If those conditions are not met, homeowners must submit a planning application to install hard surfacing in their front gardens, where greater than five square metres. However, the point I stress to my noble friend in the context of his amendment is that local authorities already have powers to remove this permitted development right through an article 4 direction where it is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of an area. Therefore, I suggest that his amendment is not necessary.
On Amendment 282NC, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, statutory requirements and processes are already in place to ensure that the impacts of airport expansions are properly assessed and consistency with wider government policy is considered. Local planning authorities are responsible for plan-making and decision-taking, including planning proposals involving airports, and they are the bodies accountable to local communities for the decisions they make. For nationally significant proposals such as the airports national policy statement, there is already a robust review process in place which is designated by statute under the Planning Act 2008. Therefore, on reflection, I hope that the noble Baroness will see that that would not be helpful. As I mentioned, there is already a review power under the Planning Act 2008, and separately there is also a review timetable, which is set out in the Government’s jet zero strategy.
I hope that provides sufficient assurance to the noble Baroness that the powers and processes that she is essentially advocating are already provided for. More generally, I hope that I have sufficiently assured the House that we are already taking action to address the issues raised in this group, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his extremely long, detailed and careful response to the issues I raised about the repair of schools and hospitals. I remind the noble Earl that the amendment refers only to setting up a register for buildings that suffer from serious disrepair, so it would not cover emergency water leaks or the like. The importance of a public open register is to enable transparency for all those who work in or use those buildings—patients, parents, pupils and all the staff who work in those buildings. Then, of course, it also enables accountability to those bodies responsible—in the end, the Government—for having full and timely repair processes for those public buildings. I am afraid that unfortunately, the noble Earl has not convinced me of the Government’s approach to school and hospital buildings that are in serious disrepair, so I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

19:46

Division 4

Ayes: 178


Labour: 98
Liberal Democrat: 54
Crossbench: 16
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Independent: 3
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 143


Conservative: 140
Crossbench: 2
Labour: 1

19:56
Amendment 282
Moved by
282: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—
“Control of Pollution Act 1974: publication of notices and consentsIn the Control of Pollution Act 1974—(a) in section 60(2) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the requirements in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the requirements promptly and permanently on its planning website”;(b) in section 61(6) for “may if it thinks fit publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, in such way as appears to the local authority to be appropriate” substitute “must publish notice of the consent, and of the works to which it relates, promptly and permanently on its planning website”.”