All 18 Parliamentary debates in the Lords on 6th Feb 2024

Grand Committee

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Tuesday 6 February 2024

Arrangement of Business

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Announcement
15:45
Lord Ashton of Hyde Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ashton of Hyde) (Con)
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My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.

Medical Devices (In Vitro Diagnostic Devices etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Considered in Grand Committee
15:45
Moved by
Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Medical Devices (In Vitro Diagnostic Devices etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2023.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to be here today to debate these important regulations. Before I begin, I draw the attention of noble Lords to my entry in the register of interests regarding my shareholding in a company which conducts private sector health screening.

To discuss this SI effectively, I must first set out some context. The provisions in the instrument concern in vitro diagnostic—IVD—devices. These are medical devices that test samples taken from the human body to monitor a person’s overall health or to treat and prevent diseases. Examples of IVD devices include blood tests to detect HIV or hepatitis, tests for cancer biomarkers and more commonly known tests such as pregnancy tests. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency—MHRA—is the UK regulator for medical devices, including IVD devices.

This SI is necessary first and foremost because it enables the MHRA effectively to enforce regulations in Northern Ireland, protecting patient safety. Without this SI, the MHRA will lack important powers equivalent to those in place across the rest of the UK.

Secondly, the SI is particularly beneficial given that life sciences and medical technology are major growth sectors in Northern Ireland, and this Government are committed to making Northern Ireland thrive. The SI will unblock UK-wide clinical studies of medical devices and IVD devices that include Northern Ireland locations. Northern Ireland has a unique regulatory position under the Windsor Framework, including access to the EU single market. By providing for a stable regulatory environment in Northern Ireland, this SI will further enable the whole of the UK to remain an attractive market for research and development of medical technologies.

In May 2022, the EU replaced its regulatory framework for IVD devices with a new regulation, the EU in vitro diagnostic regulation, which I will refer to as the EU IVDR. The EU IVDR has automatically applied in Northern Ireland since 2022 under the terms of the Windsor Framework. The Command Paper published last week reaffirms our commitment to unfettered access. This SI facilitates consistency in the operation of device regulations in Northern Ireland and GB, where beneficial to Northern Ireland, and reflects the unfettered access of Northern Ireland IVD devices to the GB market.

I will now take a moment to summarise the key provisions this instrument introduces. The SI lays down proportionate penalties and gives the MHRA powers to serve compliance notices for breaches of the EU IVDR in Northern Ireland. Although the MHRA previously had the necessary tools to respond to safety concerns, the statutory instrument further strengthens this toolkit. It gives the MHRA powers to designate and monitor notified bodies in relation to the EU IVDR and charge fees related to these activities. Notified bodies in the UK can carry out the technical conformity assessment of IVD devices for EU regulatory compliance, allowing the manufacturer to affix the “CE” and “UK(NI)” marks for placing their devices on the market across the UK.

Sponsors of performance studies for new IVD devices in Northern Ireland will need to apply to an ethics committee in the UK for an ethical review and hold sufficient insurance to meet any potential financial liability in the event of injury or death from participation in the study. The instrument also creates an arbitration procedure for refused performance study applications. It allows studies of IVD devices and clinical investigations of medical devices taking place in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain to require only a contact person to be established in Northern Ireland, rather than a legal representative, supported by a sponsor or legal representative established in Great Britain. This reduces the burden on businesses and makes it straightforward for studies and investigations to include sites across the whole of the UK. It will enable more studies and investigations to go ahead in Northern Ireland.

The SI allows a coronavirus test that complies with the EU IVDR and the new EU common specifications to be placed on the Northern Ireland market without needing to obtain separate approval from the MHRA, as is the current UK requirement. This will reduce burdens and avoid duplication of costs for Northern Ireland businesses wanting to place Covid tests on the market across the whole UK.

The SI includes specific provisions to ensure unfettered access of qualifying Northern Ireland IVD devices to the Great Britain market with no additional barriers or burdens to Northern Ireland traders. This product-specific legislation sits alongside general protections for Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the rest of the UK under the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020.

These provisions allow us to honour our current commitments under the Windsor Framework and will strengthen the regulation of IVD devices in Northern Ireland, to the benefit of patients and businesses. For these reasons, I am content to bring forward this legislation today. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I should declare that my son is a cardiologist and founder of Rhythm AI and Echopoint Medical—I think those medical devices do not completely fall within the scope of this, but I declare it anyway just in case.

It is notable that the medical devices road map from the MHRA, which set a future regulatory framework for devices and was published on 9 January, talks about four statutory instruments. Does this form part of those four? Are others due to come, and if so, when?

Despite the Government’s warm words about us being an attractive market, the problem is that the UK is becoming an increasingly less attractive market because our application-to-approval time has extended beyond that of other countries such as the US and Australia and, I think, Japan. Clinical trials in general are not being brought to the UK. During the pandemic, we showed that MHRA approval could allow us to be the fastest in the world with vaccine development and, more recently, with treatment of sickle cell disease. However, low numbers of patients are now enrolled in studies. For the life sciences to develop, trial and test new technologies, they need to be able to do so rapidly. How will the MHRA have adequate workforce to deal with an increased workload from Northern Ireland? Has that been factored in?

How will the risk assessment be set? It is important to recognise that some developments will fail and fall by the wayside. A realistic risk assessment recognises that a whole population needs to be studied. That is best done with post-market surveillance, which is key to evaluating the implementation of any new technology in the real world.

There is a view that our regulations have become tighter, making it too hard and burdensome for device development to be brought to the NHS; as the UK market is small, we need to make it particularly attractive for innovation. The eventual market, being small, would allow us to keep our innovations and market them abroad once they had gone through full approval processes. What steps are in place for mutual recognition agreements to be taken forward?

A paper from Birmingham Health Partners, Alternative Routes to Market for Medical Devices, suggests there are three routes. I gather that Switzerland has now undertaken to adopt the Food and Drug Administration approval systems from the US, registering the file—for us, it could be registered with the MHRA—with a post-market surveillance plan in place. Of course, the initial safety standards must be met, but it is in the real world that benefits and risks are revealed.

For our deficits and gaps in the NHS, there are problems that we need to solve by pulling new technology and diagnostics in. But the golden age of innovation will happen only if there is fast approval to evaluate, with good surveillance so that those innovations with problems are rapidly dropped and those with promise and better patient outcomes continue to be developed. This innovation has to happen across primary and community care as well as hospital specialty services. It requires the recognition of intrinsic risk by adjusting the risk threshold, including that not to innovate is also a risk.

The public understands the need to innovate. In the related areas of clinical trials, which I think is an important but salutary comparator, we have dropped from being fourth in the world to being 10th in the world, which is much to the loss of our NHS and our patients, as well as, obviously, innovation business. Our time for the regulatory review is greater, so we are slower than many other countries. How will these regulations strip out unnecessary processes and bureaucracy and speed up processes to make us attractive to innovators? Northern Ireland being in the unique position that it is now in could be a very important market for innovation, with its fast and easy access and attractions for those developing in vitro devices.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, I was grateful to the Minister for his description of in vitro devices, which is not necessarily obvious from the regulations. I hope that he can confirm that the “in vitro” bit is misleading; we are talking about lots of tests that are done in plastic and no longer glass, so it is a Latin hangover. I think that I am right in thinking that this applies to everything, whether it is a stick test or whatever device it is; it applies to any kind of diagnostic test.

On the regulations, I shall offer a one-sentence Brexit whinge, which is just to say: “Oven-ready, ha ha ha!” Looking at these regulations, we are now in legislative spaghetti territory, where to do something quite small and simple requires pages and pages of legislation to enact it. We are in a very messy regulatory situation, and it is only going to multiply over time. That was the first point that I wanted to raise.

It would be helpful if the Minister could say, for the health area for which he is responsible, the extent to which the Government have assessed how far there will now be divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in the relevant health areas. There are two different scenarios. In one, the UK stands still, but the EU moves on, which is effectively what has happened here: the EU has updated its law, and we are now having to respond, because it will apply in Northern Ireland. So even if we do nothing, there will be change, and we should be reasonably capable of extrapolating that by looking at past behaviour and the EU’s legislative programme. Of course, the other scenario is where we actively diverge from the EU.

I hope that, in both scenarios, the Minister will be able to confirm that there is somebody—or a team somewhere in DHSC—who has all this mapped out. It may not have been possible before Brexit, when we were still living in la-la land—but, since we have had the experience of the retained EU law Bill, where the number of laws that we found tripled from the first exercise to the current iteration, it is important for businesses out there that we understand how much retained EU law there is in the health area, how much of it will be relevant and how much will require this kind of statutory instrument to ensure that we can respect both the Northern Ireland and the Great Britain settlement.

I am also curious: the Minister referred to the fact that the EU’s updated law was implemented as a regulation, which of course applies directly, rather than a directive, which needs transposition. He said that it applied from May 2022, but we are regulating only now. I am genuinely curious as to what happened in the intervening period. Is it the case that if somebody had been selling non-conforming devices, they would get away with it for that period because the law did not catch up? I am curious to hear what the Government’s intention is. Presumably, this scenario is going to be repeated: there will be new bits of EU law and we have to follow on and make sure that they are implemented for Northern Ireland. I am genuinely interested in the Minister’s comments on the Government’s strategy: are they concerned at all that there may be these gaps, or is it something we just have to live with now?

16:00
The third area I want the Minister to comment on is how this will work for manufacturers of the testing devices we are talking about. I was struck that the Explanatory Memorandum said that there are “roughly 19” in Northern Ireland, which is great; it should be “roughly 20” or “exactly 19”, so “roughly 19” is a really curious framing. So, there is a small number in Northern Ireland, but we have really got four different constituencies or three different constituencies and then a twist: we have manufacturers in Northern Ireland who wants to sell only in Northern Ireland; we have manufacturers in Northern Ireland who also want to sell to GB, and the Minister indicated that the Government have certainly made it a priority to not get in the way of that; we have manufacturers in GB who want to sell to Northern Ireland; and then we have any of the above who might want to sell to the EU as well as to the domestic markets. My understanding from ploughing through some of the documentation is that, if you have a certificate of conformance in the EU—a “CE” mark—that will be valid until the sooner of either the expiry of the current certificate or 30 June 2030. So, my understanding is that, for a manufacturer at the moment who wants to sell to any of those markets—Northern Ireland, UK or EU—the simplest thing is to go with the “CE” mark. That would allow you access to all those markets at least until 2030, and maybe you want to start worrying about the UK mark as you get nearer to that date. It would be really helpful to hear that confirmed.
I am also really curious about this notion of “notified bodies”, which the statutory instrument says the Secretary of State will be responsible for now. The Minister talked about the MHRA and “CE” marks. Again, I read some of the literature on this, which seems to suggest that the MHRA is no longer a notified body for the granting of “CE” marks and, if you follow the trail, it takes you to something called an “approved body”, which the MHRA is. I am, again, genuinely curious: if I produce a new diagnostic test within the scope of the statutory instrument, can the MHRA give me a “CE” mark, or is it the case that the Secretary of State will be notifying other regulators to give “CE” marks to GB or Northern Ireland manufacturers who want one? As I say, I am a little confused. Reading everything, my understanding is that the MHRA can no longer give “CE” marks, but I stand to be corrected if that is the case. Again, from a manufacturers point of view, it is really important and it might be helpful if there were some kind of grid that says, “You are making this kind of device, you want to sell it in these places—GB, Northern Ireland, EU—here are the three marks that you need”. There is an NI mark as well, and I am, again, curious about that one. You might need a “UKCA” mark, a “UK(NI)” mark and a “CE” mark, and my very simple question is: who can give me which, and which covers which markets?
As I say, I did my best, ploughing through lots of literature—certainly, the SI does not tell us anything; we would be completely lost if we read this. I do not know whether the Government have in train something like that which helps people understand, very simply, which notified/approved body can hand out which and which you need, depending on your situation within those scenarios. I hope those are helpful comments for the Minister in trying to unpick what is a very complex piece of legislation for something actually quite small.
Just to return to my opening remarks, I am somewhat concerned, and I think we should all be concerned, about, over the years, the size of the body of law we are going to build up for really quite small regulatory matters. Particularly if we end up, frankly, with our device and the EU standards being identical, we will end up with a large body of law to do very little. I know it is not something the Minister can control, but I feel it is worth putting on the record each time we come across a statutory instrument in this area.
Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, I also thank the Minister for setting out the provisions in the regulations and for trying to unravel the many pages before us. This seems to be one of those innocuous measures that are needed just because that is where we are, but I very much take on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Allan, which are worth wider government consideration.

Clearly, these regulations are needed to support the implementation of new EU regulations that came into operation in Northern Ireland in May last year. They are important in that we have to secure continuity of supply and trade in medical devices within the UK and the EU, and the draft regulations affect a diverse range of equipment and systems to examine specimens in vitro, including items such as blood grouping reagents, pregnancy test kits and hepatitis B test kits, to give just a few examples.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, it is important that we support innovation. The medtech sector provides a huge contribution to our health service and our vibrant life sciences sector, from catching killer diseases early all the way through to preventing infections. The products we are talking about are found in doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and our own homes. They are part of our daily lives. We certainly know from the pandemic how difficult it can be to replace them if supply is disrupted, so we are here to ensure that supply disruption does not happen.

As has been said, the Explanatory Memorandum sets out that these regulations should affect only some 19 businesses in Northern Ireland and cost less than £5 million to implement, but it is important to acknowledge and put on record that they are a valuable part of the UK medtech ecosystem. On these Benches, we certainly support the regulations, which we believe will secure unfettered access to the British market for Northern Ireland businesses and ensure continuity of supply.

I also have a few questions that I hope will be helpful for the Minister. It is welcome that the previous fee structure is being retained to reduce disruption for Northern Ireland operators, but could he say what assessment has been made of any impact on the MHRA’s responsibilities as a regulator? Could he also confirm that it will be resourced to fulfil those responsibilities?

Previously, Ministers have talked about future realignment of regulations on medical devices following our departure from the EU, including consideration of alternate routes to the British market. Can the Minister say a bit more about what opportunities there might be in this area? What is the timeline for the future regulatory regime that the Government want to bring into force? As the Government have not yet set out their proposals, is there a timeline for doing so?

I note that medical devices did not receive attention in the Windsor deal, which was understandably disappointing to some suppliers, which cited the complexity of navigating the current system. Is the Minister considering adding other product classes, such as other devices, to its scope? Will he also clarify the status of devices on which a conformity assessment has been performed by a UK notified body? Following on from the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Allan, in this regard, will it be possible to place devices bearing a “CE” conformity mark, as well as the EU Northern Ireland mark, on to the EU market? Is it the case that no UK notified body has been appointed? If that is the case, when will this be dealt with and what is the delay down to?

In summary, we are pleased to support these amendments to the regulations to secure continuity of supply for the critical medtech sector. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions and the spirit in which they were made in terms of helpfulness and trying to make the market as open and productive as possible.

I shall try to answer the questions in turn. To the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, I say, yes, this is part of the four SIs.

On the noble Baroness’s whole question about making the UK market attractive to innovation, that is exactly what this is all about. On her point about clinical trials, my understanding is that there was a period when we slipped down the league on timings. I am told that a lot of that was because we were trying to prioritise Covid issues but, as I understand it today, we are now back within the timeframes. While we slipped down to 10th place in the league, the understanding from recent business coming in is that we think that we are making our way back up into the champions league spots, for want of a better phrase. I am assured that we have seen quite an improvement in the time taken in clinical trials.

On the noble Baroness’s question about what this means for the MHRA—the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, asked a similar question—we do not believe that this should have a significant impact. At the same time, I am totally with the sentiment that we do not want the MHRA to be a bottleneck, not just in this area but generally because speed to market is important here. In the last Budget, we agreed quite an increase in the MHRA’s budget, exactly so that it is able to pass such things through more quickly.

On the points about mutual recognition, it is absolutely our direction of travel. We are looking to do that with other authorities. Again—this also goes to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Allan—we are recognising the “CE” marks until 2030. That is probably a good example of mutual recognition.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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The “CE” mark recognition is an example of one-way recognition, not mutual recognition, because it does not go the other way.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Absolutely. Clearly, we would like it both ways, for obvious reasons. There are a number of areas where we are still being open about our rules—not just to the EU but to other countries as well, with the hope that there is some reciprocation down the line. That is definitely the intention. Talking to the regulators, I know that the situation is crazy. We know that the Australian, Canadian or Singapore regulators are top-notch, so we should be satisfied with their work in many cases. The feeling often is that stage one towards that recognition is that, while we might have slightly different standards, recognising that where they have conducted tests, rather than reconducting those tests, we should at least recognise that each other has done the tests correctly. We should take that data and that should speed things up.

In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Allan, we are talking about any type of diagnostic test—

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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May I intervene before the Minister moves off the subject of mutual recognition? Perhaps I may clarify whether he envisages this being similar to the Orbis project for drug approval recognition, particularly regarding oncology and cancer drugs, where FDA approval is recognised. There are different levels, so that things can come through to clinical application quickly. What is the position as regards us recognising FDA approval for development? Do the Government intend for that to be adopted by the MHRA, rather than devices having to go through all of our processes as well? Will we recognise the FDA system, with increased focus on post-marketing surveillance?

16:15
Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I am probably not qualified to speak specifically about the Orbis project read-across but, at the general level, that is definitely the direction of travel, if you speak to the MHRA. As I said, there are almost two levels to it. The complete level is where you just take it lock, stock and barrel. That is the slightly harder one, but at least the preliminary step towards that is recognising when they have done a batch of tests. I know from a previous life—during Covid, for instance, when a lot of tests were about—that you have to do a number of samples, test them against a control group and see where they come out against that. Those were internationally recognised tests, so if the US, Canada or Australia have done tests on those devices, rather than doing our own tests, let us at least accept them. Those are the two stages of that.

On the point about divergence, this SI tries to make sure that the GB and Northern Ireland markets are as similar as possible. My understanding of how we used to regulate EU “CE” devices was that we would take the “CE” marks and then often tweak them slightly to make them relevant for the domestic market. Apparently, France, Germany and all the countries do that. With this SI, as I mentioned, we are recognising “CE” marks generally until 2030 on a voluntary basis—so, obviously, we can tweak them as much as we like. Northern Ireland generally has to accept those devices because of the Windsor agreement, but it still has that tweaking ability, for want of a better word, that we always used to have when we were in the EU. The idea behind this SI is to allow us to tweak it from both ends—the GB end and the Northern Ireland end—so that it is common, and we have read-across so that the product will work under the “CE” mark in both Northern Ireland and across in GB.

This was explained to me this morning, so my officials can tell me later whether I have been a decent student. For general clarity, as ever, I will happily write this all down, but I hope that makes sense.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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It does; that was a helpful and clear explanation. However, if somebody has tweaked their test for Northern Ireland and they also want to sell to the EU, are they able to do so? For example, can they send it south of the border into the EU? Or would that require an untweaked “CE” mark, and, if so, who gives them that? That is really the heart of it.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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My understanding of all this—again, I will tell the noble Lord to the best of my knowledge and correct it if I am wrong—is that we always used to tweak it when we were part of the EU. It was generally accepted that we would tweak a bit, and so would France and Germany. That did not stop products being sold across, so I do not believe that they will need to untweak it, for want of a better word. Again, if I am wrong about any of that, I will clarify it.

On the question of what happens between March 2022 and now, I will let the noble Lord know in writing about what happens during that period.

My understanding is that the MHRA is neither a notified body nor an approved body. It does not set “CE” marks or “UKCA” marks itself; it tests them and looks at the conformity, but it does not establish any, for want of a better word.

On the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, that I did not pick up on before, we do not think the fee structure will have much impact on the MHRA.

The noble Baroness also asked what the opportunities are and what kinds of visions will come from this. I freely admit that this is a complicated space. However, one area where I have seen an opportunity is around the precision medicine space. For example, for the next set of cancer treatments, it will be possible to take a sample of the malignant tissue or cells and adjust the messenger RNA to, effectively, get your own body to attack those cells. The problem is that each one of those medicines you produce is individual to you, so it becomes difficult to regulate each individual medicine under the regulatory framework, as it would take ages and destroy the point of the exercise. The MHRA, however, has developed an umbrella mechanism, allowing it to treat all the individual medicines as regulated and approved. That is a major opportunity. My understanding is that the EU has not managed to be quite as fleet of foot, so it is not there yet. That is just one example I have seen; it is very important, as it allows us to charge ahead in terms of the precision medicine space. Moving forward, that will help us establish ourselves in the clinical trials and life sciences fields. I understand the points the noble Lord makes about all the complications due to some of these post-Brexit situations, but, actually, this is one area that is very positive. It will be a huge benefit for us going forward.

On the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, about the future vision, I think it is sensible to agree a baseline based upon what we see in reputable countries with standards—such as Canada and Australia —making it as easy as possible to regulate. It would not be ideal if that meant we had to do it just one way, as we would prefer to do it both ways. However, it would still make us attractive as it would be possible to do clinical trials for our products here and know that it will work. However, where we can forge ahead in areas such as precision medicine, where you need tailored and expert help, let us really try and do that. So I think there are some really exciting possibilities.

I hope that gives a flavour of our vision and how we are trying to progress matters in this space. I realise I have not answered every question, but it has been quite a useful debate. I have definitely found it useful to tease out the details. If I may, I will go back to my notes.

I trust that I have provided sufficient answers to the questions and, as I said, I will write to follow up. I hope and trust that I have demonstrated the necessity of these regulations to honour our current commitments under the Windsor Framework agreement. With that, I commend this instrument to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere and the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:25
Moved by
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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That the Grand Committee do consider the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere and the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023.

Relevant document: 8th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, this order will allow the European Space Agency’s senior officials to fulfil their roles in the UK by bringing the headquarters agreement the UK signed with the agency in 2013 into domestic law. It will enable the smooth operations of the agency’s facility at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. It will also foster closer collaboration between the agency and the UK Government and support the development of the space industry, stimulated by the facility at Harwell. The order was laid in draft before Parliament on 18 December, in accordance with the International Organisations Act 1968. It is subject to the affirmative procedure and will be made once it is approved by both Houses.

The purpose of this order is to amend the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1978. This will be achieved through an amendment to the 2018 order, which sought to amend the 1978 order but did so incorrectly. I apologise to the Committee for that mistake and, indeed, the delay, which, although exceptional, in the sense that it was not something we would expect to happen, is nevertheless unacceptable. This order has been subject to multiple reviews internally and was discussed with the counsel to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments before it was cleared and laid.

The order amends the 2018 order clearly and coherently, and in doing so creates a stand-alone article for the head of the Harwell centre and high-ranking staff in the 1978 order. In doing so, it will correctly reflect the privileges and immunities set out in the 2013 headquarters agreement. This agreement provides for the establishment and operation of a facility by the agency at Harwell.

To be clear, the 2018 order failed to correctly provide the agency’s head of the Harwell centre and up to seven high-ranking staff with the

“immunity from suit and legal process”

and the “inviolability” of their residences in the UK under the International Organisations Act, thus failing to correctly implement the terms of the headquarters agreement into UK domestic law. Because of these errors, neither the headquarters agreement nor the 2018 order were brought into force. In practice, this means that the head of the Harwell centre and the seven high-ranking staff members were underprotected. Their privileges and immunities were equivalent to the functional immunities provided to European Space Agency officials under Article 16 of the 1978 order. I assure noble Lords that no negative consequences have been identified as a result.

This order corrects those omissions and affords the head of the Harwell centre and up to seven high-ranking staff members the same privileges and immunities which a head of a diplomatic mission and diplomatic agents of a diplomatic mission established in the UK are entitled to. This change is a prerequisite for the 2013 headquarters agreement to enter into force. Additionally, the 1978 order has been amended also to include an exemption from the legal suit and process immunity in the case of a motor traffic offence or damage caused by a motor vehicle.

The Government consider these privileges and immunities both necessary and appropriate to deliver on the interests and commitments that the UK has towards the agency. The privileges and immunities conferred enable its head and high-ranking staff to operate effectively in the UK. They are within the scope of the International Organisations Act and in line with UK precedents.

The agency’s other officials are subject only to official act immunities. By making this amendment, the other provisions of the 2018 order can also be brought into force. These cover entry into the UK, and customs provisions and immunity from legal processes within the scope of official activities. Importantly, the provisions also cover the inviolability of official documents and correspondence; the inviolability of the agency’s premises; statutory meetings; foreign currency exchange; functional immunity for officials; and an immunity waiver.

16:30
To conclude, the support for the agency’s facility in Harwell ensured through this order is a unique opportunity to showcase UK leadership in the space industry on a global stage. Through the agency, the UK can continue to undertake missions which no European nation alone can deliver, facilitating scientific collaborations with international partners that raise the profile of the UK’s science, technology and inspirational achievements in space.
The agency’s growth in Harwell is more important than ever when we consider how our reliance on space missions and technology has evolved in recent years. Global telecommunications, cutting edge technologies, and the way that space exploration can inspire young people to study STEM disciplines, mean that we need to foster close relationships with domestic and international space communities. The European Space Agency is key to that work, and I assure noble Lords that the UK remains committed to the organisation as it develops its headquarters in the UK. I commend the order to the Committee.
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, that apology was delivered with the sincerity and clarity which one has come to expect from the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in dealing with this place. In some ways, I feel rather guilty. I put my name down for this debate because I am interested in the space industry, but I feel a little bit guilty that a Minister who is usually working for us in some of the tightest spots in the world is delivering an apology for a drafting cock-up from some five or six years ago. However, it gives me great pleasure to work together on this with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, again. Over 10 years ago, we were together in the coalition Government. Since then, as I said, his contribution, particularly in our foreign affairs in some of the most difficult and dangerous positions for a Minister, has done great credit to this House.

The instrument corrects an error. It will bring the provision of UK domestic law in line with the headquarters agreement. Most of all, as the Explanatory Memorandum says:

“It is important that the European Space Agency … has a solid presence within the United Kingdom with an identity that is aligned with the strengths of the United Kingdom space sector”.


That is really why I wanted to speak. I thought that whoever replied could reaffirm this Government’s commitment to a space programme. There are not many times that I stand to speak in praise of Boris Johnson, but as Prime Minister he certainly gave real leadership to the space programme and real encouragement to the departments working on it. I hope that, in welcoming this order, and playing host to and participating in these organisations, we are reaffirming our commitment to space exploration.

I grew up in the 1950s, reading that famous comic, the Eagle. I draw noble Lords attention to that because the adventures of Dan Dare, who was the great spaceman in that comic, were set in 1985. In the 1950s, it was assumed that we would be flying to Venus and that we would have settlements on the moon and all kinds of things. Yet it is now 50 years since a man walked on the moon. The need to recommit ourselves to space is very important.

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere has an establishment in Chile, which is home to the very large telescope, known to its friends as the VLT, and the extremely large telescope, known as the ELT. It is quite simply unparalleled in terrestrial astronomy and totally deserving of our participation. I saw a television documentary on it; it is amazing what they are doing there.

I suppose the first thing we have to convince the Government of is that the European Space Agency is not an EU body, so we are not frightening the horses in this case. It is a major player in space, and it is vital that we continue with its work as part of a national policy to support the future growth and viability of the sector. The UK is the largest destination for space investment after the USA, and it is projected to take up some 10% of the global space market—a market already valued at £400 billion in 2022. Space technology already underpins key functions in communications, navigation, climate and weather forecasting, as well as in financial transactions and services.

As I said, it is 50 years since a man last walked on the moon, but the real exploration of space is only just beginning. The agencies cited in this order will be essential in ensuring that we receive all the benefits of the new space age.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his contribution and his apology, which I too think was well meant. We fully understand the reasons for it. I normally congratulate the Minister on his longevity in post. Of course, this is only the second time he has addressed this statutory instrument; I have had the fortune to address it three times. It is quite a horrendous story that an important protection that we are required to give under international conventions has been so difficult to implement. I ran into the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, last night; she introduced the original SI, and when she responded the first time it was presented she said that the road had been a difficult one, full of potholes and a lot of stumbling. I think that is true.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said:

“Although that 2018 version was made … it still did not implement all the immunities correctly … the treaty has not been ratified. FCDO told us that the error was identified in mid-2018 but its correction was delayed by the requirement to prioritise other legislation for Brexit, COVID-19, and then sanctions connected with the conflict in the Ukraine. Although FCDO says that there has been no actual detriment to the seven individuals involved, this unfortunate series of events casts doubt on FCDO’s competence in drafting effective legislation.”


I hear what the Minister said about double-checking that, but we need a very clear response from him about the impact this may have. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, the siting of this headquarters and bringing it into the UK has a positive economic effect. It is something that we should be encouraging more of, so when we make this sort of mistake it has an impact, as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee specified, and we need to address it.

The Explanatory Memorandum says that the presence at Harwell

“is attracting businesses and research organisations to locate near to the cluster to enable them to easily access facilities, services and funding that the cluster offers”.

That is a good thing, and it really is a shame that we have not been able to properly implement those protections for the leadership of that cluster. What is the estimated economic benefit of this facility? How much have we been able to attract in locally to benefit that community?

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee received assurances from the department that there has been no detriment to the individuals. I find that difficult to understand, but anyway, that is what it says. However, the Explanatory Note says:

“An Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this Order as no, or no significant, impact is foreseen on the private, voluntary or public sectors in the United Kingdom”.


Here we have an organisation whose leadership has been impacted by this. Have they suffered a detriment? The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said there has been no detriment, but we need to have an assurance that some form of assessment was conducted about the potential impacts on the individuals, the organisation and, as the committee said, on our reputation of being able to facilitate these sorts of arrangements under international conventions.

Obviously, I read the debate on the SI in the other place. My honourable friend Stephen Doughty made it clear that we welcome this statutory instrument, its provisions and the facility in Harwell, so I do not want to pour scorn on this. It is a positive move and a good thing. The Minister said that the Government are taking action to ensure this does not happen again, but there must be some sort of reputational damage to us, particularly if we are to try to be a centre and to bring other international organisations into the United Kingdom. I apologise for being a little bit negative about this, but I accept that the Minister has given an apology and that we are putting something right. That is the most important thing.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate for their acknowledgement of the fact that what we have in front of us is a correction rather than a substantive order. I think the intent was very clear. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, talked about 2018, and I will come on to that in a moment, but I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who, as he stated, I was able to call my noble friend for at least five years of my ministerial career. He is a friend in every sense, and it is a real privilege to be picking up on some of his questions.

I must admit that, as he spoke about the Eagle, I googled it—the wonders of technology; I suppose we live in this kind of era. It provided that kind of insight for that generation. As he was speaking he reminded me of something that happened recently. Over the Christmas period, my younger son, who is only nine, suddenly became a real fan of “Star Wars”. In my time, there were only three films; there are now about 11, and then there are sub-strands. He asked me, “When did you first watch it?” I realised that in 1978 I was the same age he is now, so there was some connection there—although he started his question by saying, “Daddy, when you watched it in the ancient times, did they have this technology?” so I am reminded that things move very quickly in the ever-expanding space that is space. Perhaps in future we will have an FCDO Minister not just for the Commonwealth, south Asia, Middle East and north Africa but for Mars, Venus and who knows what else. We look forward to that.

I acknowledge the insights that the noble Lord provided, and the support of the noble Lord, Lord Collins. As I said in my comments introducing this correction, it is important that, when Governments do not get something right first time around, we acknowledge and correct it.

16:45
On the issues raised about the European Space Agency, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is of course correct: the UK was a founding member of the European Space Agency back in 1975, and it is a key delivery route for UK space objectives. It provides a mechanism to undertake missions that neither the UK nor any other European nation can do alone. It is an inter- governmental organisation which is, as the noble Lord said, independent of the EU. It has 22 members, including EU and non-EU countries such as the UK, Norway and Switzerland, and Canada is an associate member. It recognises the importance of the equities different countries bring to space exploration. One hopes that we can lever it for opportunities that we can all benefit from as a global community in the years and decades ahead.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, rightly asked about the delay in these errors being picked up. When I first looked at this, I asked the same question: why? I have been reassured by officials that the first draft order went past not just a first but a second and indeed a third pair of eyes to check internally, and it was also discussed in detail with the counsel to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. The noble Lord mentioned Covid. That, along with the whole issue of the sanctions policy as we left the EU, meant that resources had to be focused on certain priorities. Of course, no one expected Covid. But I pay tribute to our officials. I asked the direct question: how long did the process take to ensure this review? I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that, once it was picked up formally again to ensure all the missions were covered, it was a 12-month process before bringing this statutory instrument today.
On the question of whether there was any negative impact from this amendment not being made sooner, as I said, the head of the Harwell centre and the seven high-ranking officials were underprotected. I asked what happened or what would have happened in the meantime. Their P&Is were derived directly from Article 16 of the 1978 order, which provides functional immunity and other P&I in respect of permanent members of staff of the ESA. The 1978 order also contains exemption from immunity for vehicle offences or incidents, which I mentioned. However, as I said, I fully accept that this should not have happened, and mitigations have been put in place to prevent such an error occurring again. In front of us is a clearer and more coherent order, and the high-ranking staff are now included in their own stand-alone article to ensure that it is understood more easily. The drafting has gone through scrutiny and I am confident: it is important that such incidents do not occur again.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, raised the commitment that we have benefited from. We are also collaborating with the US and Japan. For the UK, we are talking about benefits of over $450 million annually. UK space industry income grew 5.1% to £17.5 billion in 2021. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, rightly asked what this has meant to the local community. Direct employment grew to 48,800 jobs in 2020/21 from 47,000 in 2019/20, supporting a total of over 126,800 jobs across the supply chain. There is a real benefit economically to the community, to us as a nation, to Europe as a continent and, importantly, to the world, as we explore space.
I thank both noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Collins, for their support of this SI. I commend it to the Committee.
Motion agreed.

Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
16:51
Moved by
Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024.

Relevant document: 8th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

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 was pleased to note the positive debates last year, when the Carer’s Leave Bill received cross-party support in both Houses. The Carer’s Leave Act, under which these regulations are being brought forward, obtained Royal Assent on 24 May 2023. The Carer’s Leave Regulations were laid on 11 December 2023. I should start by thanking Wendy Chamberlain MP and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for their work in getting us to this stage. I want again to thank everyone who participated in relation to this significant matter in both Houses last year. I am delighted to be here today for this debate on these draft regulations.

I should also take this opportunity to flag a correction slip in relation to page 2 of the SI. Regulation 5(1), line 1 stated:

“is entitled one week”,

but now reads,

“is entitled to one week”.

The context of these regulations is to recognise the importance of unpaid carers. This Government appreciate the time dedicated by unpaid carers to help those dependants who rely on them for their everyday needs. These regulations will provide valuable additional flexibility to support all unpaid carers who are in employment across the country.

Statistics from the Family Resources Survey 2021-22 show that there are 4.9 million adult informal carers in the UK. Just over half of those are also holding down a job. Around 2.5 million people are trying to balance work with their caring responsibilities, which is a significant proportion of the workforce. We know that an additional leave right is important for them. A survey published by Carers UK in 2022 found that 75% of the unpaid carers who responded worry about continuing to juggle work and care, two-thirds have given up opportunities at work because of caring and a quarter said they needed better support to return to or maintain paid work, while a quarter said they need unpaid carer’s leave to do so.

In addition to the new entitlement to carer’s leave, it is also the case that having flexibility with start and finish times at work, or working from home where this is possible, can make it easier for carers to balance work and their caring needs. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which also comes into force in April 2024, will increase the number of requests an employee can make in a 12-month period and reduce the time allowed to administer requests. Separate regulations, also expected to come into force in April 2024, will remove the continuity of service requirement for the right to request flexible working. Therefore, employees will be able to request flexible working arrangements from the first day of their employment. These changes will also support the ability of carers to remain in, and progress in, work.

I turn to the regulations, which will fulfil our 2019 manifesto commitment to introduce one week of leave for unpaid carers. I shall set out briefly what they do. The first key element is that the carer’s leave entitlement will be a day one right for employees, so it will be available from the first day of employment. It can be used for providing care or making arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant with a long-term care need. These definitions have purposefully been kept broad to encompass a range of different care needs and circumstances. Flexibility is key: no two care dependants have the same care needs—and the circumstances of the carer’s employment will be different, too.

Employed carers can take the leave flexibly, from half a day at a time up to a block of one week. This ensures that carers can use their carer’s leave in a proportionate way that suits their needs. For example, they could accompany their dependants to an appointment or visit a potential care home and get back to work on the same day. If necessary, they could care for their dependant for a whole week—for example, if they are recovering from a major medical procedure. These are just examples to illustrate how the leave may be used. In claiming the leave, there will be no evidential requirement to demonstrate how the leave will be used or who it is used for. The purpose of this approach is to remove undue stress for the employee, including any concerns that they may have about providing potentially sensitive information about a third party. It will also minimise the administrative burden for employers and reduce bureaucratic obstacles.

The regulations put in place a minimum notice period requirement, which is similar to the existing annual leave entitlement. This will mean that employed carers must give notice of twice the length of time being requested plus one day, subject to a three-day minimum notice period. Furthermore, the notice can be given in multiple forms, whether that is via email, verbally or through an existing application within the workplace. We also recognise that there may be circumstances in which granting the leave may be difficult for the employer, such as during a busy week for an urgent deadline. The regulations will give employers the power to postpone the leave, but they may not deny it completely. It will be down to the employer and employee to come to an alternative arrangement that works best for both parties. Lastly, employees taking carer’s leave will have the same employment protections associated with other forms of family-related leave, including protection from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken the leave.

In conclusion, these measures will provide invaluable support to unpaid carers balancing work with their caring responsibilities. Employees and employers are set to benefit from this Act. Employees will receive an extra bit of flexibility. By providing that extra flexibility, employers will be able to retain valuable staff members who would otherwise have struggled to remain in work. The Government are very pleased to have supported the Private Member’s Bill and be delivering these regulations.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
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My Lords, I rise briefly, primarily to say how delighted I am that this legislation will come into force on 6 April. As the Minister said, there was strong cross-party support for the Bill when it had its passage through the House. I thank those who were involved in drawing up the regulations, as they have done a good job of it. I have been involved in this area for some time now, and in previous attempts to get legislation of this type on the statute book that were not successful, and that is why I am delighted that this one was successful. However, I have not been involved for anywhere near as long as my noble friend—and I think of her very much as my noble friend—the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, who has tirelessly campaigned in this area for many decades.

This is landmark moment and one we should celebrate. For the very first time, those juggling paid work and unpaid care are going to have dedicated rights in the workplace. It will provide them with more flexibility, and it will make a very real difference to the quality of those carers’ lives. It has been estimated that at least 2 million people will be able to take advantage of the provisions in this legislation, which is going to provide real support to help people, particularly women, to stay in work. I emphasise that point, because we know that it is women who are more likely to be juggling work and care and are more likely to be in part-time than full-time work. Also, we know that women in their 50s are more likely to leave the labour market—more likely than men—to provide unpaid care for family members. I am hoping that this is something that will mean that fewer women will have to leave the labour market.

I have one question for the Minister. Thinking back to our previous debates, I think the provisions of this Act will also apply to parents who have children with a long-term disability. That is an important point. What sort of steps are the Government thinking of taking to make sure that those parents are aware that this applies to them and not only to carers of adults with disabilities or older relatives?

This is an incredibly important milestone. I hope that we can build on this important first step, which will benefit the labour market as well as individuals, so that in future we can move to having a paid leave provision.

17:00
Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister and his officials. I declare an interest as vice-president of Carers UK. As my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler has said, I have been working on this issue for many decades. I first put forward the idea of a carer’s leave Bill in 1990. When I am at my most pessimistic, I ask whether all I have achieved in 30-odd years is five days’ unpaid leave for carers. When you look at it like that, it ain’t much—but it is a very important step, as the noble Baroness said. When I am feeling optimistic—mostly, I am a glass-half-full person— I recognise what an important step this is in looking at the needs of working carers. Their need is not only for finance, although many of them are struggling with the cost of living; they need extra money now, so they need to keep on working in their jobs. If they do not, they build up future poverty for themselves for the future, because they cannot contribute to pensions. That causes a problem for society down the line. It is also of tremendous psychological import and benefit to carers to remain in the workplace as long as they can. This will help them do it.

The carers’ movement has always been opportunistic. I see this very much as a stepping stone. We now have unpaid leave—the next step is paid carer’s leave. Believe me, we will not give up on that. This is a very good time to be doing this, as we have elections coming up and manifestos to be written in which we might think about paid carer’s leave.

When thinking about new employers who will look through this legislation, we should remember the excellent employers who already do this. Employers for Carers, an organisation convened by Carers UK, has many wonderful examples of employers who already recognise carers without the need for legislation and recognise that a small change in working practices—the kind of flexibility that the Minister mentioned—makes a very big change to carers’ lives. Sometimes just allowing a carers’ group in the workplace will provide a very adequate method of support.

Those employers have recognised that carers are among the most dedicated people in their workforce and that retaining them and enabling them to continue their paid work will save a fortune in recruitment and retention. These employers and the new ones who will come into the fold following this legislation and the regulations will very much be beneficiaries, as carers will be, of this Act. They will understand that making carers the subject of this Act and giving them these extra rights makes sound economic sense. We are not just making a moral case for carers; there is a very sound economic case for keeping 2 million carers in work longer than they would otherwise be. As I always remind your Lordships, carers save the nation £162 billion every year, the cost of another health service, through their unpaid work.

I too was going to raise the issue of parent carers with the Minister, but my friend the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, has already done it. Do the Government have any plans for an awareness campaign to ensure that carers, who are often isolated, will have the opportunity of working with the voluntary organisations in the field? Carers must be made aware of this new and very welcome right.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, so much of life on these Benches feels a little like pushing water up a hill. If you will excuse me for mixing the medium, this was like pushing an open door; it really has been a delight. I feel very lucky because, as both the previous speakers pointed out, they have been operating in this field for decades whereas I, in a sense, picked this Bill up by luck. My friend, Wendy Chamberlain, in the Commons, won the ballot and chose this Bill to bring forward. As I am representing that particular department, I got the good fortune of sponsoring the Bill. I am very pleased, but also humbled, as I came late to this piece.

This is also, I think, the third Minister we have had during the course of the Bill. This, of course, allows me to repeat all the speeches I made to the previous Ministers as a novelty. The Minister’s explanation of the effects of the Bill were excellent. We all, in our different ways, understand the impact it will have on people’s lives and on employees’ lives.

The point I emphasise, though, is that it creates a conversation that carers can safely have with their employer for the first time on this subject. It means that carers who have been in the workplace can come out as carers in the workplace—because they have previously had to worry about whether it would affect their relationship with their employer. The Bill allows them to have a conversation where they can be safe to have that conversation in the place they are.

The points made about the benefits to the economy and the employer are huge. During the run up to this Bill, we talked to a number of large, medium and small employers that were already doing it voluntarily. They found that the benefits far outweighed the very small expense they had to stump up. Simply having to recruit someone is an extremely expensive exercise. We know there is a shortage of skills anyway, but to lose an employee because they have to stay at home and care for someone is a very expensive loss to a business, if the employee is a long-standing and well-established person.

The point about communication is vital. It is not just about communicating to the carers, who need to know this is available to them; it is also about communicating to the employers that it is now on the statute. I am sure the department has a plan, but it would be interesting to hear something about it, either today or in writing. For example, Make UK, which used to be the EEF, has a strong HR support division. It is one of their businesses and what they do. Part of the service that businesses get from being affiliated to Make UK is HR support, and legal and regulatory support. That organisation should be hit really hard with the information on the Bill—if it has not been already—so that it understands the role of employers in not just allowing it but promoting it across their workforce.

There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of getting the information out there. It should not just be employees demanding it—employers should be fully aware of what is now available. So who is going to be accountable for the communication process? In the end, that is going to be the success, of otherwise, of this measure. If people have to find it out through the ether, there is going to be a very slow take up. I am sure that Carers UK will put it out there, but there is a lot of extra work to do.

Once again, I thank the Government for supporting it. It has been a pleasure to help the Government to meet one of the things in their manifesto, although I doubt I will be making a habit of it. For this one, however, thanks to the Government and His Majesty’s loyal Opposition. Most of all, I thank the campaigners who got us this far. The reason we were able to do this is because it was unpaid; it cut out all of the small print that would have been in the legislation, but it establishes a point. I take the point made by the noble Baroness and I hope, in future, that we will be able to take that and move it forward to a bigger and better thing—but we should not diminish the significance of this particular provision.

Lord Leong Portrait Lord Leong (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for setting out these regulations and the correction. Correct me if I am wrong, but is it now two weeks instead of one week?

Lord Leong Portrait Lord Leong (Lab)
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It is one week—okay.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken: the noble Lord, Lord Fox, the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, whom I thank for her 30 years of campaigning—I do not think I will last 30 years in this House, but I thank her for her dogged perseverance and congratulate her on getting this on the statute book. We support this instrument to establish a statutory entitlement to carer’s leave from 6 April this year and ensure leave is available for employees caring for a dependant with long-term needs in England, Scotland and Wales.

With the introduction of this additional legislation, we will be providing a little more support, albeit limited and unpaid, to around half of the 4.2 million people across the UK who are trying to square the circle of holding down a job while providing unpaid care for elderly or disabled loved ones. The majority of these carers are women over 50. As my noble friend Lady Blake said at Second Reading, some more enlightened employers already have provisions to support workers who are carers, removing the silent shame that sometimes exists for those who provide care while working.

This instrument ensures that all workers become legally entitled to take unpaid leave for caring responsibilities from day one of their employment for up to one week in any 12-month period. This may be taken in increments of half or full days, so long as eligibility for carer’s leave is met. Employees will not be required to provide evidence in relation to their request, and they will be able to use carer’s leave specifically for foreseen and long-term care needs, rather than solely for emergency caring situations. This should enable better planning for employers and employees alike, with the minimum of bureaucracy. In addition, carer’s leave will be available for a wider range of caring situations, excluding general childcare, which better suits those caring for dependants over 18, who fall outside the scope of parental leave legislation.

I am struck by a sense of déjà vu. Last week, I spoke in this Room in support of another statutory instrument, on which noble Lords were broadly agreed, which supported workers who were pregnant or on maternity or parental leave when their employer was considering redundancies. As in this case, the legislation had come through a Private Member’s Bill from this side of the House. As in this case, we were adding legislation that improved the situation for workers, predominantly women, to protect those affected by particular family responsibilities. Once again, I feel compelled to ask the Minister why the Government seem to place such a low priority on such important legislation, as evidenced by the complete absence of an employment Bill despite more than 20 pledges to introduce one.

The Government seem to recognise the importance to our economy of encouraging the cohort of around 5 million people who could work but are not working back into employment, yet they seem to be relying on Private Members’ Bills to identify the problems and bring forward legislation that recognises the realities of the workforce: that many people have family responsibilities which some employers see as barriers to employment. I am afraid it is simply not good enough for them to point to the fact that we have 33 million people in work when, with a growing and ageing population, we are underutilising the skills and talents of millions. These are people who would be contributing to the economy and to the Exchequer if they were better supported to enter or re-enter the workforce.

To turn back to the instrument before us, is the Minister aware that half of all young carers in the UK are carers for their brothers and sisters? However, the definition of dependant does not include siblings by default, unless they live in the same household or come under some vague definition. Although a broader definition is welcome, the room for interpretation of “reasonably rely on” will inevitably leave gaps or create conflict with employers. What consideration have the Government given to this? Furthermore, has any consideration been given to the unlikely but not impossible case where somebody has more than one dependant? Can the Minister clarify whether the one week of carer’s leave entitlement over 12 months is calculated per employee or per dependant?

17:15
Given that the legislation comes into effect in just two months’ time, can the Minister inform the Committee whether, if somebody has recently taken annual leave for caring purposes, there is provision for it be taken as carer’s leave in retrospect after 6 April, particularly if annual leave in that employment is allocated on a calendar basis, and so will have already started?
The notice for carer’s leave does not need to be in writing, as the Minister mentioned. How will these regulations ensure that a record of the notice is kept if the notice was given verbally?
Finally, can the Minister assure us that this new employment right, which will improve the situation of hundreds of thousands of workers, will be communicated to those who may benefit from it, as well as employers, so that the onus and responsibility does not fall on those already juggling complex situations to alert their employers to these changes, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley mentioned? I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their observations and questions. The great thing about this topic is that we all have consensus about the way forward and why we are doing this.

A number of points have been raised. To take them in a certain amount of order, to answer the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler and Lady Pitkeathley, the characteristics of the carers being referred to cover 2 million to 2.5 million people, especially women, and especially older women. When we think about the characteristics of those folks, these are, by definition, some of the most conscientious people we have in our communities and are, on the whole, very good employees. It is interesting how, post Covid, employers have worked out that the most important resource they have is the labour force and that they have to work hard to keep the labour force together. It is interesting that, although this is unpaid leave, a number of employers who advertise themselves as Employers for Carers allow this to take place without it being unpaid. We might see more of that as employers begin to understand that this is a very important part of their workforce.

The noble Baronesses both raised the issue of childcare. This SI does not specifically relate to childcare because many regulations are in place specifically for childcare, but I can confirm that carer’s leave can be used for a child where it falls within the definition—the definition being caring for a child with a disability.

The communication of this is interesting. In preparing for this I came across a number of other child provisions, one of which I did not know about. For example, if you have more than a year’s continuous employment with an employer you are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child up to the child’s 18th birthday, which could be one week a year. I am not aware that many people know about that. That makes the point really well about comms, which will be a key part of this. The Government need to work with a number of agencies to do that.

To be fair, the Government will be promoting this largely through the business channels, the business stake- holder groups for employers, and then through the voluntary organisations such as Care UK. Picking up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, about the comms and the awareness campaign, a number of pieces of legislation are coming through on carer’s leave—the one we have today—on flexible working, on redundancy protection, and on parental leave, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Leong. They all need to be promoted as those Private Members’ Bills go through, so that together we are able to present the improvements for employees in the workplace,

I turn to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Fox. I thank him, and particularly his colleague, Wendy Chamberlain MP, in the other place—a very effective MP. This relates to safe conversations and the comms to employers. I am confident that good employers will want to promote this measure but, again, it is down to us to make sure that the awareness campaign is raised and is effective. The economic case mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, can be made. It should not necessarily be the only case but it certainly helps with the arguments.

Finally, turning to the noble Lord, Lord Leong, I guess we understand why there was no employment Bill, putting aside the fact that perhaps Covid got in the way of parliamentary time. Philosophically, also, there is a feeling within the Government that we are in a situation where progressive legislation has been put through by many Governments to get UK labour and employment law into a pretty good place. That is evidenced by the fact that there are a record 33 million people working out of 66 million—a record number for the UK. In particular, the noble Lord highlights that 5 million adults are not in work. They are not classified as unemployed but they are not in work and many of them are long-term sick and have lost the pathway back to work. A lot of effort now needs to go into helping them. There is a lot of talent there, which employers can employ. Therefore, the Government are turning our attention to that. However, as far as the overall programme of employment regulations is concerned, these Private Members’ Bills have come in on specific rifle-shot issues, reflecting, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, said, long-term campaigning from many of the groups involved. They have been very specific in a number of the areas that we mentioned and have, therefore, created improvement to the rights of employees in the UK.

In closing, I thank all noble Lords for participating in the debate. It is a pleasure to be involved in legislation that brings all parties together. I hope that this new leave right will make it easier for carers to balance their work commitments and their caring duties. Finally, I thank again the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his previous work in taking the Act forward: without that, we would not be here today. This is an important piece of legislation and I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) Rules 2023

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Considered in Grand Committee
17:25
Moved by
Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait Lord Stewart of Dirleton
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) Rules 2023.

Relevant document: 8th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Stewart of Dirleton) (Con)
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My Lords, this instrument amends the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to provide a closed material procedure for court proceedings relating to prevention and investigation measures. I will refer to these as STPIMs —state threat prevention and investigation measures—to distinguish them from the familiar acronym TPIMs, or terrorism prevention and investigation measures. I am pleased to report that the Government have announced the appointment of Jonathan Hall KC as the independent reviewer of state threats legislation. As part of that role, he will have oversight of the STPIM regime.

STPIMs are new measures established under provisions in Part 2 of the National Security Act 2023 which closely replicate the provisions for TPIMs in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. STPIMs provide a suite of restrictive measures which can be used, where necessary and proportionate, to prevent, restrict and disrupt an individual’s further involvement in state threats activity, where prosecution and other disruptive actions are not possible. STPIMs will be used sparingly and as a measure of last resort to mitigate the immediate threat an individual poses while they continue to be investigated by the authorities.

STPIMs require a specific procedural provision to be workable. This instrument, while not establishing STPIMs, makes that procedural provision to enable their operation. The imposition of STPIMs requires the Secretary of State’s approval and the permission and review of the High Court. It also contains a procedure for appeal by the STPIM subject. This statutory instrument amends the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 to provide the court with a bespoke closed material procedure for proceedings relating to STPIMs. The procedure includes, in particular, application by the Secretary of State for permission to impose measures, directions for a review hearing after the imposition of the STPIM, appeal against the imposition of the measure or any other determination in connection with the STPIM. Both the review hearing and any appeal hearing will be determined on judicial review principles.

These cases will inevitably involve sensitive material. This instrument therefore sets out a procedure to enable sensitive material to be relied on by the Government and for the evidence against the STPIM subject to be tested by the court through a closed procedure which will ensure that it can be adequately protected, in the public interest. This rule change is effected by amending Part 80 of the Civil Procedure Rules, which contains rules relating to TPIM proceedings, so that they cover the equivalent STPIM proceedings.

The Government have committed publicly to provide operational partners with the tools needed to combat state threats. STPIMs are important measures within this toolkit and this instrument is vital in ensuring that they are a usable tool which can be fully defended and justified in our courts through both open and closed proceedings. Given the sensitivity of the evidence, which will be a key component in the reason why an individual cannot be prosecuted and why the use of an STPIM is necessary, it would fundamentally undermine the scheme if closed proceedings, where sensitive intelligence and national security arguments can be made, were not available.

17:30
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, in what is plainly a crowded Committee, I shall be brief. The Minister referred to STPIMs. I shall also refer to Part 2 notices, in acknowledgement of the fact that the Explanatory Note uses that phrase, while the Explanatory Memorandum uses the STPIMs formula. I say at the outset that we are delighted to hear that Jonathan Hall KC has been appointed the reviewer of STPIMs. His work in this field is well known and widely admired, and it is very welcome that he is going to take on this burden as well.

The Minister explained the nature of STPIMs and of the conditions on which they are to be implemented, and that this SI in effect amends Part 80 of the CPR to enable rules concerning hearings relating to TPIMs to be applied with all necessary changes to Part 2 notices concerning STPIMs. It is plainly sensible that that should be done. I have read Part 80 and there is no material need for any distinction between the procedures applicable for hearings relating to TPIMs and the new hearings relating to Part 2 notices.

That said, I have a couple of questions. Broadly speaking, this statutory instrument plainly follows the need for a statutory instrument to introduce a procedure for the new orders. This is the right procedure, so we welcome the statutory instrument to that extent. Of course, in a volatile world and volatile conditions relating to terrorism, I cannot at this stage ask the Minister to predict how often STPIMs will be necessary because we cannot tell, but my questions concern the use of the urgent procedure under Schedule 8 to the National Security Act, which provides that the Secretary of State may impose STPIMs in urgent cases without court permission. The Minister referred to court permission being required in the general case. We hope that that is the general case and that it is only cases of real urgency that will give rise to the imposition of these measures.

The schedule gives power for the Secretary of State to impose the measures without permission if he or she thinks that the urgency of the case so requires. In such a case, the Secretary of State must then refer the case to the court for confirmation of the measures after they have been imposed, first for a directions hearing within seven days and then for substantive review. I therefore ask the Minister to indicate, in so far as he is able to do so, how often he would expect the urgent cases procedure to be used as a proportion of the overall number of STPIMs. That is important in the context of orders that have no warning, effectively, whereas when the application for permission is made the person against whom they are going to be made knows something about them.

I also seek an answer from the Minister, as far as he is able to give it, as to how long he would expect confirmation proceedings to take after the directions hearing. We recognise that closed proceedings will very often be involved and that the use of a special advocate, which is envisaged in the Act and the statutory instrument, carries with it its own complications in respect of the late appointment of a special advocate to represent the interests—in so far as he does so—of the person against whom the measures are to be taken. If the Minister can give us some indication of how he would expect a Secretary of State to approach those issues, and how he would expect a court to respond, it would be helpful. Apart from that, we welcome the instrument.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, for introducing this SI. We support it, as we did in the House of Commons. I open by noting the sad irony that the Minister who introduced it in the other place has signalled he will stand down from Parliament in due course. I know he is currently still a Minister, but he is standing down for fears for his personal safety.

17:36
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
17:43
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, when the Minister introduced this SI, he explained the nature of the STPIMs and how they relate to TPIMs and said it is natural that this SI amends the Civil Procedure Rules 1998. Although I have plenty of briefing on the background of the reason for this, I want to reiterate the two questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, and add a third question of my own.

First, the noble Lord asked how often STPIMs will be necessary. The Minister can probably not put a number on that, but perhaps he will be able to give a figure for the proportion of the overall STPIMs in which the urgent procedure will be necessary and the procedure will be followed without court permission. I am not quite sure whether court permission is provided retrospectively if the urgent procedure is used. Secondly, the noble Lord asked how long after a court direction the proceedings will take place. His questions were really about the management of the proceedings.

I was just recollecting that these proceedings are difficult to explain and understand, although they have been in place for probably 10 years or more and are dealing with some of the most intractable problems that we see in our country, terrorism threats. What should and must underpin this is that there is a fair trial underlying all these proceedings, however complex and difficult they are—that we as the British state, if I can put it like that, and the Government, believe that the underlying process is fair. It is almost a philosophical question for the Minister. How do the Government review the processes, assess what the judges do, and listen to the judges who oversee those processes, to have confidence that the underlying process is fair, even though it is not disclosed to the people who are subject to it?

As I said in my introduction, it casts a slight pall over the whole thing that Mike Freer has announced his intention to resign from Parliament, or not to stand again in due course. We in the Opposition support these measures, but there are fundamental questions which we must continue to ask ourselves. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Stewart of Dirleton Portrait Lord Stewart of Dirleton (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, pointed out, it is scarcely a packed Committee; none the less, the contributions from the noble Lord and from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, have been of a thoughtful character and, indeed, merit the label “philosophical”, which the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, attached to his closing submission.

I am grateful for those contributions and for the broad indication that, while neither of the noble Lords who spoke began to approach the idea of giving His Majesty’s Government a blank cheque in relation to these provisions, and they demanded further scrutiny, none the less, they are broadly speaking in support of the measures in this statutory instrument.

I shall address the questions that were put to me. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, asked—and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, echoed the question—about the frequency with which the urgent procedure will be used. I start from the proposition that, as the Committee is aware and has heard, these provisions relating to STPIMs substantially reflect the provisions relating to TPIMs. To a certain extent we can extrapolate from the use of TPIMs some predictions, although the noble Lord, Lord Marks, accepts that it would be a very difficult task to estimate how many. But we can extrapolate from the TPIM experience something which I hope will address the Committee’s concerns. That allows me to say that we expect that the urgent procedure will be used very rarely. It has not been used in relation to TPIMs since the TPIM Act came into force in 2011. As I say, we would expect that the experience in relation to STPIMs would broadly reflect that.

Identifying a case as being urgent would not be a matter of seeking to avoid scrutiny. An urgent case will be one in which notice is sought; that notice must contain justification for the approach and the matter must be referred immediately to the court, which must consider the case within seven days of the notice being imposed. The court will apply exactly the same principles as if it had been consulted in advance and will have the power to quash the notice, or any of the measures specified in it.

I can advise the Committee that, while the experience of TPIMs has been that none has been overturned altogether, the courts none the less have acted anxiously and vigilantly to observe the manner in which they are to be applied and have adjusted, from time to time, certain of the terms of orders that have been made. The individual has a right to a full, automatic High Court review of the case, and a directions hearing in relation to that must take place within seven days of the court confirming the imposition of measures.

Reference to directions hearings allows me to digress for a moment to offer the Committee an assurance that, while that procedure and this statutory instrument apply to the Civil Procedure Rules applicable to England and Wales, equivalent measures will none the less be introduced by our equivalents in the devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Communication has been made with the relevant rules bodies in those jurisdictions.

Further questions posed by noble Lords related to the matter of volume. Again, if we can be permitted extrapolation from the TPIM experience, it is anticipated that the volume of these measures will be low and used only as a last resort. As I said on an earlier point, the courts will be able to review all closed material and will have the opportunity to challenge the imposition of an order before it is made. Furthermore, through the automatic review, the court could quash the order or remove specific measures. As I said, it has done so in the context of TPIMs.

In terms of transparency, there will be independent oversight by the independent reviewer of state threat legislation, Jonathan Hall KC, who has accepted that post. He will publish an annual report on the use of these powers.

The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, posed the philosophical question, given the necessary degree of confidentiality that will attach to these measures, about how the Government can be satisfied that the measures are working properly, and that the provisions intended to protect the interests of individuals made subject to these measures, notwithstanding the fact that they will not be placed before those persons or their instructed legal representatives, are effective. I can rely with confidence on the integrity of the legal profession in the jurisdictions of this kingdom and the independence that it has always shown, on the independence of our judiciary, and on the special advocate procedure itself, which confers these responsibilities on counsel. They are usually members of the Bar, but this would potentially be open to those with extended rights of audience as solicitor advocates, with the training and vetting they would receive before appointment.

I can take from the submissions heard by the Committee that it is persuaded that the statutory instrument is necessary for the effective operation of STPIMs, slotting in, as it does, into the Civil Procedure Rules and simply adding provisions referring to the governing Act.

Motion agreed.
Committee adjourned at 5.54 pm.

House of Lords

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Tuesday 6 February 2024
14:30
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Bristol.

Lord Speaker’s Statement

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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14:37
Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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My Lords, I know we were all sorry to hear the news of His Majesty the King’s illness. I am sure the thoughts of the House are with the King and his family, and we look forward to His Majesty’s full return to public duties in due course.

Allied Health Professionals: Prescribing Responsibilities

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:37
Asked by
Lord Bradley Portrait Lord Bradley
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made on extending prescribing responsibilities to more allied health professionals.

Lord Bradley Portrait Lord Bradley (Lab)
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I beg leave to ask the Question in my name on the Order Paper and declare my interests as listed in the register.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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In September 2023, we completed two consultations to amend the Human Medicines Regulations to enable dental therapists, dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians to supply and administer medicines without the need for a prescription. We aim to publish the consultation response in the next few weeks. In December 2023, the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 were amended to enable independent prescriber paramedics and therapeutic radiographers to prescribe certain controlled drugs.

Lord Bradley Portrait Lord Bradley (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for that response, but primary and community health services, particularly general practice, are under great work- force pressure and waiting times for patients are unacceptably long. Although the plan to extend pharmacy prescribing is welcome, an important next step must be to extend appropriate independent prescribing and referral rights to a wide range of allied health professionals, including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, diagnostic radiographers and many more similar professions.

As the Minister will know, the Lords Integration of Primary and Community Care Committee’s recent report supported this, and there was previously an unpublished NHS scoping report. Will the Minister now publish that report and act on the Lords committee’s recommendations to quickly implement the benefits for speedy and integrated patient care?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his question and absolutely agree with the direction of travel. We are keen that every clinician should work at the top of their profession, and to bring in people with allied skills who can supplement that and prescribe as well. We need to be careful, because there is obviously a danger of overprescribing. But in general, we totally agree and want to extend this as far as possible.

Lord Butler of Brockwell Portrait Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on fulfilling their promise, made in reply to a Question for Short Debate in this House, to extend prescribing rights to paramedics by the end of last year. However, that was no fewer than four years after the extension had been approved by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Why did it take so long? Will the Minister undertake that future properly approved extensions will be implemented more quickly?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, because the noble Lord is correct: it should not take so long. We all agree with the approach. So noble Lords understand, there is a two-step process. First, the body to which we are trying to extend this needs to be agreed by a review of the Commission on Human Medicines; then, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs need to take a look at it. We are all aware of the dangers of anti-microbial resistance, which is why we need to be careful about things such as antibiotic prescribing. But in general, we want to do this as fast as possible.

Lord Grade of Yarmouth Portrait Lord Grade of Yarmouth (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am sure that most people will welcome the extension of prescribing facilities to pharmacies. Does the Minister understand that the rate of closure of independent pharmacies in the UK—these vital community facilities —is absolutely accelerating? Will he undertake to look at the rate of closure and understand why these small, independent businesses, which are the pillars of communities, are closing at such a rate? They are just financially unsustainable.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend that not only are they the pillar of communities, but they are the front line in a lot of health services. This is about trying to put more business and activity their way to increase their viability, both in terms of paying for treatments such as these and increasing footfall generally. I completely agree with my noble friend that we want as many of these small businesses thriving in their own right, but also as a vital part of the health ecosystem.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, increasing the range of health professionals who can prescribe is welcome, but does the Minister agree that this makes it even more important that people are able to see their entire medical record in one place, as the Times Health Commission has proposed? What does the Minister make of that proposal, and what are the Government doing to ensure that, wherever you get a prescription, that record is located in one central point?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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It will not surprise noble Lords to know that I am totally in favour of the digital project and having this information available in one source. With Pharmacy First, in a matter of a few months we will have a system whereby everything it does will automatically update the GP records. That is important because once we have done it for pharmacies, we can do it for all other groups. We are absolutely moving in that direction.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, to return to speech therapy, the Minister will be aware that the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists wrote to the Secretary of State last November highlighting how independent prescribing responsibilities would help, for instance, patients with quite potent cases of head and neck cancer. Can the Minister be a little more specific and give a timeline for when speech and language therapists will be able to undertake independent prescribing training, so that these people can really have some help?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I will need to get back to the noble Baroness on the precise timeline. We have an SI debate taking place shortly on physician associates, and a key step is that first, you have to be part of a legally regulated body. Once you are, the formal reviews can take place, along with the training. I will write giving the details, but we are keen to allow speech therapists and others to prescribe as well.

Baroness Browning Portrait Baroness Browning (Con)
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My Lords, people on the autistic spectrum who need prescribed drugs for their condition and associated reasons have to have a psychiatrist prescribe them because psychologists cannot do so. I am not for one minute suggesting that all psychologists should be allowed to prescribe, because they are quite a range of people. However, in parts of the country where there is no psychiatrist—I speak from personal experience—who can prescribe to autistic patients, can we see whether certain psychologists with a knowledge of autism could be trained to fill that gap?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, I will happily undertake to do that. There are a couple of mechanisms we can use. We can give them an independent prescribing ability, or we can give patient group directions on a certain number of items. That is what we are doing with Pharmacy First, for instance, in respect of the seven conditions. Clearly, we could look at doing that with the relevant autism drugs.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, the steps so far taken by the Government to delegate prescribing to pharmacists seem pretty sensible. However, can the Minister assure the House that, bearing in mind that correct prescribing requires correct diagnosis, the Government will be extremely reluctant to delegate out the roles of doctors to healthcare professionals who do not have the benefit of a doctor’s training?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I suspect that we are starting to get on to the debate we will have shortly on physician and anaesthetist associates. In both cases there is definitely a role for them, because we want to support doctors in the surgery and allow them to train and teach at the top of their profession. Clearly, however, we need to be sure of what such people can do and where they need extra supervision, and that is what we are setting out.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, further to the Minister’s reply to my noble friend Lord Bradley, what is the Government’s plan to increase and integrate the number of independent prescribers being trained as part of the long-term workforce plan? Given that community pharmacists are already trained to vaccinate against Covid-19 and flu, will the Government be expanding the service to include the delivery of MMR jabs, in order to help address recent measles outbreaks?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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First, on the long-term workforce plan, yes, we want to increase the number of allied health professionals by 25% by 2030. We see a lot of that group—some 20%—coming through via apprenticeships. It has been proven just how well pharmacies managed to supplement MMR vaccinations in the Covid and flu space, so it is a good idea. I will need to take that idea back to the department, rather than agreeing to it on the hoof, but I will come back on it because it is an excellent one.

Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the Minister will know that the Health and Care Professions Council has suggested three times that sports therapists should be statutorily regulated and could also take part in prescribing. Can the Minister say when this might be likely to get legal agreement?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I apologise: I am not quite sure what kind of therapists the noble Baroness is referring to.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, this very much applies to sports, and it goes to the whole social prescribing space and the role of physios. I know that physios are listed in the 15 professional groups we are looking to expand this out to. I will provide the details on the exact timing.

Met Office: 2023 Temperatures

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:48
Asked by
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what additional measures they are planning in response to the news that the Met Office believes that 2023 was the second hottest year on record.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Douglas-Miller) (Con)
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My Lords, adapting to our changing climate is vital to strengthen our national security, provide resilience in food production and protect the economy from higher costs in the future. In July last year, we published the third national adaptation programme, NAP3, which set out our ambitious programme of action for the five years to 2028. This marked a step change in the Government’s approach to climate change adaptation to address the climate crisis.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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Those are fine words, but we have to keep acting fast. I am sure the Government know that there have been recent discussions about developing a new category of hurricanes because of their increasing severity. That means that we will see more encroachment of coastlines, and that we ought to start worrying about flooding here in Britain and the Thames Barrier. In view of all those things, what are the Government’s plans for acting a little faster and sitting less on their hands?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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As I said, NAP3 marks a step change in the Government’s work on climate adaptation, moving from planning to decisive action and delivery over the next five years. A key element of NAP3 is a much greater focus on monitoring, evaluation and learning than we have ever had before. Government departments will monitor the success of their actions throughout the programme, which will allow us to continually increase ambition in areas where risk reduction is insufficient.

Earl Russell Portrait Earl Russell (LD)
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My Lords, there were 44,000 wildfires last year, an increase of 72% on the previous year. In the words of the Fire Brigades Union, the UK is “woefully unprepared” for the impact of climate change on wildfires. Does the Minister support the Fire Brigades Union’s call for a national wildfire strategy? What investments are being made in people, better equipment and training to fight against the increased risks of wildfires?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I thank the noble Earl for his question; it is extremely relevant in the current climate crisis. Wildfire represents a serious threat to large parts of the UK—not just England but the whole of the UK—and the Government are extremely supportive of any measures to address the issue. I will come back to him in writing on his specific question.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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Does my noble friend the Minister accept that, if heather is allowed to grow out and become woody and large, we will have more wildfires destroying peat and so forth? The answer is to regularly burn heather. What plans does my noble friend have for this?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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Heather burning is quite a niche area, but I know a little about it. I am conscious that there is a balance between mitigation and adaptation, and heather burning fits neatly into that space. The science is developing in this area, and at the moment it is a little ambiguous and unclear on precisely what we should do. We should allow ourselves a little more time and conduct a little more science, and use that evidence to lead us down the appropriate route.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, the meeting of the All-Party Group for Africa last night was addressed by the Africa Minister, the right honourable Andrew Mitchell MP. He described the almost catastrophic drought that is likely to affect the people of the Horn of Africa, where there are currently 20 million people facing food insecurity. This is the worst drought in 40 years. Can the Minister tell the House how we are responding to that crisis? There are shrivelled crops, starving livestock, chronic hunger and widespread water insecurity, and 8 million animals, including livestock, died over the course of the last year. If he cannot give the answer now, can he agree to place a letter in the Library of your Lordships’ House setting out the Government’s response?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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This is a heartbreaking story and situation that is causing a lot of pain and suffering. The Government’s international leadership on climate change has been demonstrated over the last few years in a consistent way. We continue to provide that leadership. I do not have the specific answers to the noble Lord’s question here and now, but I will endeavour to write to him very shortly to lay out the Government’s position.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, can the Minister explain how the Government will square the circle of announcing their stated ambition on tackling climate change, while at the same time awarding new licences for oil and gas extraction and approving a new coal mine?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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The noble Baroness raises an interesting question. This demonstrates very clearly the transition that we are going through, from fossil fuels to renewable energy. She will know that the Government have a clear policy of moving to renewable energy. It is a transition, during which we will still need oil and—I hope to a much lesser extent—coal to get us from A to Z. I appreciate that it is a complex area, but that is the Government’s position.

Lord Trefgarne Portrait Lord Trefgarne (Con)
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My Lords, who is the Minister responsible for the Met Office? I am sorry to say that it used to be me.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I believe that it is a Defra responsibility.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that, with the changes in weather patterns—intense heat followed by very short, sharp but intense showers—surface water has been identified as an increasing problem since 2007? Will he address the issue of highways authorities not having responsibility for surface water run off? This is one of the greatest causes of pollution in our rivers and it needs to be addressed where it joins with combined sewers and enters people’s homes and our rivers.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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It would probably be best if I wrote to my noble friend about this. She has raised a range of issues which I do not have time to go into today. I will write to her in due course.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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My Lords, rising temperatures obviously go hand in hand with rising sea levels and coastal erosion. The latter is having a particularly serious impact on parts of the Norfolk coast. Can the Minister confirm to the House that a previous policy of managed decline is no longer in place and that we will do all we can to help the communities affected by the impact of such events?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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My noble friend will be aware that the Government have committed north of £5 billion for flooding and coastal erosion. We are now half way through that programme. I will write to my noble friend specifically about the Norfolk coast.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
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My Lords, does that Minister agree that, with the need to cut emissions and the growth in the amount of power that our nation requires, there is a real need to speed up the provision of nuclear power to ensure that we have green energy?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I entirely agree with the noble Lord.

Lord Bishop of Bristol Portrait The Lord Bishop of Bristol
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My Lords, as the Minister will know, net zero is impossible without decarbonising heating. The clean heat market mechanism is a crucial part of that. Does he recognise its importance? Will he refute media speculation that the Government are considering a U-turn on it? Will he make representations to boiler manufacturers that are unfairly passing these costs on to consumers?

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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Again, I will write to the right reverend Prelate in due course. I am doing rather a lot of writing today, am I not? This is a broad subject which I am slowly getting my head around.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, further to the question from the right reverend Prelate, is it not important that everyone realises that passing on the cost to consumers is not unfair—this is what is going to happen? In pursuing our policy, we have to be aware of this cost and phase it in over time. It is completely irresponsible to move ahead of people’s ability to pay.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I entirely agree with my noble friend. The communication on this transition has not been entirely well presented. A transition to a green energy future is going to cost a significant amount of money. I concur with my noble friend’s view on this.

Premature Deaths: Heart and Circulatory Conditions

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
14:59
Asked by
Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the increasing numbers of premature deaths from heart and circulatory conditions since 2020.

Lord Markham Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Markham) (Con)
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The Government are committed to reducing premature deaths from cardiovascular disease. The NHS long-term plan aims to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases by 2029, as well as preventing up to 23,000 premature deaths and 50,000 acute admissions over 10 years. The major conditions strategy will look at how best to tackle the key drivers of ill health and increase the healthy years of life for people with major conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities reports a persistently high number of excess deaths involving cardiovascular disease since the beginning of the pandemic, avoidably cutting short more than 100,000 lives in England alone. What are the urgent plans for treating the thousands who are waiting for healthcare? How will the Government extend the roles and joined-up working of a range of healthcare professionals beyond GPs to support the millions who are living with an undiagnosed risk of high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, diabetes and obesity?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness and draw attention to my register of interests: I am a shareholder in a small health company that does high-end heart tests for the private sector.

It is fitting that February is Heart Month. The concern that the noble Baroness raises is exactly the one that noble Lords will have heard me speak about. This is precisely the concern that Chris Whitty, our Chief Medical Officer, was worried about during Covid, with missed appointments because people stopped going to see their doctor meaning that we missed things such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To tackle the problem urgently, as the noble Baroness suggests, we have put 7,500 blood pressure checkers in pharmacies. They have done 2 million checks to date. We have sent 270,000 blood pressure monitors to houses and have instigated mid-life NHS health checks to look specifically at early heart indicators so that we can try to tackle the problem that the pandemic caused.

Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB)
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My Lords, we have had lots of plans and initiatives for reducing deaths from heart disease. Despite that, variation in both preventive care and outcomes have persisted for years now. They are exaggerated by deprivation and ethnicity.

Let me give two examples. First, 40% of people with high blood pressure have failed to be diagnosed— I know that the Government have an initiative for pharmacies checking blood pressure—and, even when they are diagnosed, 10% of them do not get the appropriate medication. Secondly, there are examples of people suffering from atrial fibrillation not getting the appropriate anti-coagulation treatment; we then find that 60% of the strokes that occur in these patients are because they have not been properly medicated.

It is these variations in care and prevention that we need to tackle. It is disappointing to see that some of the ICB plans do not take on the need to reduce this variation, particularly in deprived areas.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord. We violently agree that it is all about early detection. That is why we have not just put it in pharmacies but have had mobile units going to leisure centres and high streets: so that we can catch people early, whatever their background or ethnicity, because that is the key starting point.

Digital is the way of the future in this. We are introducing digital health checks from the spring. Again, these will open it up to a wider bunch of people. Early detection is key.

Lord Allan of Hallam Portrait Lord Allan of Hallam (LD)
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My Lords, the relationship between cardiovascular disease and poverty is clear and well documented. What specific steps are the Government taking to encourage take-up of the new screening programmes, which the Minister talked about, in poorer communities where people are at higher risk? Will the Minister commit to publishing data so that we can understand whether the screening programmes are reaching everyone or just people in wealthier communities?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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First, I am happy to commit on the data front, because data and giving results always shine a light and will always help in these situations. On outreach to all these communities, the noble Lord might be aware that, on top of the pharmacies and leisure centres, we have been incentivising GPs. As an example, being in the right age group I have numerous texts and messages from my GP about getting those check-ups done. It is those sorts of measures that we are trying to use.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us strongly support his efforts to deter youngsters from starting to smoke because of the adverse effect it has on the circulatory system?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes. I thank my noble friend. Prevention is absolutely key, as is tackling things such as smoking—the smoke-free legislation will do this for a new generation—obesity, and high levels of sugar and fat in foods. These are all key parts of our armoury.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I declare that I was a member of the Times Health Commission, which today published a report in which we highlight that a large proportion of disease is lived with silently, long before it presents. Therefore, prevention for cardio- vascular problems needs to start right from school age; simply screening people later in life is already too late. When people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest—I think there are about 30,000 a year—they have only a one in 10 chance of surviving. Will the Government undertake to work much earlier with schools and universities and young people to help them identify whether they are at particular risk through smoking, inappropriate alcohol use, living with obesity, inappropriate diets and so on, which will stack up problems into the future?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes. Those are all key measures that we need to take and, I like to think, are making progress on. I thank the noble Baroness for her work and all the noble Lords who have been working on the Times Health Commission, which is a valuable contribution to this debate. I mentioned digital health checks. I have seen technology where holding your phone up in front of you can test your blood pressure and your heart rate. We need to verify that, but I think that is definitely the way of the future as well.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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Can the Minister say why the Government are refusing to review the regulations governing children’s meals? We know that the sugar content in them is too high and that our children are eating too much sugar. This needs to change, yet the Government refuse to look at the regulations and enforce them properly.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I am not quite sure that I agree with the word “refuse”, but I agree with the noble Lord that healthy food in all environments is a good thing. I know that the delay happened because it was originally planned for 2020 or 2021, I think, and then the pandemic got in the way. I freely accept that the review now needs to take place. We are not refusing to do it, because it is an important part of the armoury.

Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB)
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My Lords, many noble Lords have mentioned the importance of early years interventions, not smoking, diet and so on. Does the Minister agree about the importance of exercise and of cultivating the habit of exercise, not just in early years but ongoing throughout later years?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Absolutely. These are all key parts of a good, healthy lifestyle for mind and body—for mental health as well. Social prescribing is important for all this as well.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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My Lords, following the appointment last year of Professor John Deanfield as the champion for personalised care, can my noble friend the Minister please update the House on the progress of his report on radical approaches to prevent life-threatening cardio- vascular disease?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I will need to come back in writing to my noble friend on this. I take this opportunity to thank him for his work on the Times Health Commission and for generally pushing forward the whole prevention agenda.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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My Lords, following on from the Times Health Commission today, the Food Foundation has also produced a report on childhood obesity. The single biggest factor for preventing childhood obesity and thus adult obesity is breastfeeding. It reduces it by a figure of 25%, as the WHO has found from a worldwide study. To put that into context, all the reformulation of soft drinks has achieved only an 8.3% reduction in obesity in 11 year-olds. This is massive, yet as a country we have the lowest breastfeeding rate because we give the lowest amount of support to women when they have given birth. Not only do we get not that much time off work but there is very little support. My daughter has recently had twins, and the comparison between now and when I had her 40 years ago is really shocking.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness. I am sure we all agree that breastfeeding is a really healthy start to life. I think the family hubs are trying to address these sorts of matters. Clearly, this is a point for education as well.

Local Authority Finances

Tuesday 6th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Question
15:09
Asked by
Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the state of the finances of local authorities.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name and declare my interest, as set out in the register, as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

Baroness Penn Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (Baroness Penn) (Con)
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We have listened carefully to local authorities about the pressure that they are facing. That is why we have announced that the final local government finance settlement for 2024-25 will now make available £64.7 billion, an increase of 7.5% in cash terms on last year and above inflation. The department continually monitors the local government sector through data and direct engagement with individual councils. This includes considering the impact of inflation and wider economic circumstances.

Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on that 7.5% increase for the local financial settlement for the coming year. However, council leaders also say that what makes planning very difficult is that they do not get much warning of these final settlements and increasingly spend more and more of their budgets on the statutory obligations. They are spending a much-reduced amount on the preventive measures, despite the evidence of the social and financial benefits of prevention. Can His Majesty’s Government commit to producing a medium-term financial strategy to help local authorities to plan the effectiveness and impact of their spending much more effectively?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, in recent years we have tried to give more clarity around elements of the settlement on a multi-year basis. We will continue to do this for the next spending review and beyond.

Lord Bird Portrait Lord Bird (CB)
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My Lords, one of the big problems that local authorities have is dealing with more and more homeless people. Section 21 on no-fault evictions is still on the statute book and causing more problems for the local authorities that have to deal with a mass increase in homelessness.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I reassure the noble Lord that the Government are committed to abolishing Section 21 evictions. That is what the Renters (Reform) Bill, currently being considered by the House of Commons, will do. Additionally, we have put wider support in place to tackle housing pressures, through building more affordable homes and, for example, increasing the level of the local housing allowance.

Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister regret that the parlous state of local government finances is having a terrible effect on the provision of services by charities and not-for-profit organisations? We are hearing of closures of vital services such as Citizens Advice and Age UK, but there are also the very small charities which have great preventive work and enable a lot of pressure to be taken off the National Health Service and other social services.

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise the pressures that local government is facing. That is why we have announced such a substantive increase into the funding for councils this year. We recognise that the voluntary sector is often an important delivery partner for local authorities in the work that they do. They will benefit from the settlement that we have announced. My department also works carefully with, for example, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which leads on the voluntary sector, to ensure that we understand the impact on the voluntary sector and the interplay with local government.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, local authorities are no longer run by Derek Hatton, Ken Livingstone and Ted Knight, the bogeymen of 40 years ago, but the legislation which they provoked is still with us—rate capping. As a result, many well-run upper-tier local authorities struggle to provide good-quality adult and children’s services despite the increase and are looking at Section 114 notices. Against a background of devolution and promotion of local accountability, has the time not come to review the rate-capping policy?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, we are committed to broader reform of local government finance, but we have said, in recognition of the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, that this will be something for the next Parliament. We have also set out ambitious proposals when it comes to devolution of greater powers and greater financial decision-making to local government. That starts with the trail-blazer authorities in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands but will be on offer more widely across the country.

Baroness Taylor of Stevenage Portrait Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Lab)
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My Lords, whenever there are questions about local government funding in your Lordships’ House, we consistently hear Ministers tell us how much more funding has been granted, but I cannot help wondering if someone in DLUHC needs a new battery for their calculator. The data from the House of Commons Library reveals that there will be a £5.8 billion shortfall in the coming financial year, when prices are adjusted for inflation. Every council bar one—the Greater London Authority —is expected to experience a real-terms cut in funding, with 218 authorities, which is more than two-thirds, experiencing a reduction of more than 30%. We heard the Minister’s figures again today, but what would she say to the leader of Plymouth City Council, whose funding has reduced from £110 million in 2010 to £12 million in 2024?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, I do not recognise the figures that the noble Baroness has put forward. The settlement, which we announced in its final form, represents a real-terms increase for councils compared to last year. There is also a funding floor in place to ensure that, before decisions on council tax are taken into account, councils across the board have certainty. I would be interested to know what additional finance the party on the Benches opposite is planning to put into local government.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD)
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My Lords, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. The Minister said a moment ago that the Government have listened carefully to local government, so she will know that local government thinks it needs £4 billion to restore its finances, yet there was an allocation of only £600 million to meet the crisis in funding local public services. Could she explain why that sum was so low?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, I disagree that the amount was low. It was an additional amount on top of the provisional settlement, which sees the core spending power for local government rising from £60.2 billion this year to £64.7 billion next year—both a real-terms increase and a 7.5% cash increase. That is substantial. When we look at local government funding, we engage across the sector and look at wider economic pressures. We take it all into account when reaching a settlement.

Lord Laming Portrait Lord Laming (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that cuts in local government funding started in 2010 after the banking crisis and have accumulated, in real terms, year on year? That being so, many non-statutory services have been withdrawn, particularly in family support, and statutory services have been reduced to crisis intervention in many authorities. Is there any real hope that the Government will recognise that there is a severe problem in local government finance?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, of course I acknowledge that, in 2010, difficult decisions had to be made about public finances both centrally and in local government. However, in recent years, we have seen real-terms increases in the finances going towards local authorities. I also recognise the pressure that they face on issues such as adult and children’s social care and special educational needs provision. We have seen real increases in demand. Alongside additional funding, we need to look carefully at the right reforms to put in place to help manage that demand, without just putting in more and more funding.

Lord Swire Portrait Lord Swire (Con)
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Is there any appetite within the Government to look at the existing structures of local government? It seems increasingly difficult to justify having parish councils, town councils, district councils, county councils and unitary authorities. Is it not time to review the value for money we get from these different tiers and possibly to rationalise them?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, the levelling-up White Paper set out our ambition for every part of the country that wanted a devolution deal in place to have one. As I referred to earlier, we are seeing trail-blazers of greater devolution in mayoral combined authorities, where we can put power back into the hands of local communities.

Lord Sahota Portrait Lord Sahota (Lab)
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My Lords, I recently read an article in the Financial Times on the state of our local authorities. It states that, due to all the budget cuts over the last 14 years, to make ends meet they are resorting to

“Asset stripping the public realm”.


The symbols of our civic identities are being sold off, which is diminishing our towns and cities and undermining our civil cohesion. Does the Minister agree with that assessment?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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No, I do not agree with that assessment at all. We have put in additional funding to local government—not just this year, but in many recent years. In addition, we have put in significant funding, for example through the levelling up funds, to invest in local community assets that will build pride of place and develop local economies.

Finance Bill

First Reading
15:20
The Bill was brought from the Commons, endorsed as a money Bill, and read a first time.
Third Reading
15:21
Motion
Moved by
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Davies of Gower) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the consideration of the Bill. Your Lordships’ invaluable insights, careful consideration and scrutiny have helped guide government amendments and resulted in a Bill that is not only in excellent shape but is one which I am confident we are sending to the other place with a consensus from your Lordships’ House.

As I mentioned at Second Reading, the Government have been committed to bringing forward this legislation when parliamentary time allowed. I am pleased to have had the privilege of taking this small but very important Bill through the House, and that your Lordships have been united in supporting the principle behind the Bill—namely, addressing the legal anomaly concerning London’s pedicabs.

Before I move on to my thanks, I will first draw noble Lords’ attention to an update following Report last week. My department published guidance on 1 February relating to the safe use of batteries in e-cycles and e-scooters. This matter has been raised consistently throughout the Bill’s passage through this House.

The guidance will raise awareness for owners on how to safely purchase an e-cycle or e-scooter and ensure that these meet manufacturing requirements and are bought only from reputable sellers. Other matters covered by the guidance included safe storage and charging, the warning signs for fire risk and how to address them, and how to dispose of batteries responsibly. I hope your Lordships consider this a helpful development and, as I mentioned in my comments on Report, the Office for Product Safety & Standards, and Defra, are in the process of reviewing the position with regard to batteries.

I now commence my thanks by recognising the critical role of my honourable friend Nickie Aiken, the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster, in raising awareness of the issue of pedicab regulation in London. She has been a tireless campaigner and shown commitment and determination in ensuring the legislation be brought before Parliament.

I am also most grateful for the constructive way the Opposition Front Benches have engaged with the Bill. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Tunnicliffe and Lord Liddle, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their thoughtful contributions both on the Floor of the House and outside. I thank all the other noble Lords who have contributed with such clarity; playing their part in ensuring that the Bill we send to the other place is in great shape. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, who has been a prominent supporter of my honourable friend Nickie Aiken’s campaign.

I hope noble Lords will join me in thanking all the policy officials and lawyers in both the Department for Transport and across government, whose efforts have contributed to making the Bill happen. I thank in particular the Bill team, Kenny Way, Chris and Donelle, and Adam Lawless in my private office. I also extend my gratitude to—I apologise for not having their surnames—Diggory and Douglas, the drafters in the Office for Parliamentary Counsel, who have prepared the Bill and its amendments during its passage.

Finally, I thank Transport for London for its engagement and support in bringing the Bill forward. The Bill will ensure that TfL has the tools it needs to effectively regulate pedicabs for the first time, and the Government look forward to a regulatory regime being implemented. As we send the Bill to the other place, I am confident that it will need very little, if any, amending. The Bill will make London’s roads safer and address the anti-social nuisance caused by rogue pedicabs.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, I, too, thank the officials who have worked on this Bill and the Minister’s private office for the work they have put in. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for taking due account of the points that we made in the passage of the Bill. On the main question of how this regulation is going to be conducted, we have reached an acceptable consensus, and I thank him very much for that. I also welcome his statement today about the battery issue, which I think is a real public health and safety hazard. I am glad to see the Government recognising that and doing something about it.

This Bill, while not the most important piece of legislation we have ever seen—indeed, I think I may have remarked before that it basically affects two wards of a single London borough—is nonetheless tackling something that has been a considerable nuisance by ensuring that the pedicab sector is properly regulated and does not damage London’s reputation as an attractive tourist centre, which I think is very important. So we support the Third Reading of this Bill and look forward to its quick passage in the other place.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, stated, this Bill is limited in its scope. Indeed, it probably receives virtually no recognition beyond a couple of miles from this place—but it has been wanted for decades because of an increasing problem. Now this Bill is being passed in this House and sent down the Corridor, perhaps we can look forward to pedicabs becoming an asset to London’s tourism.

I add my thanks to the Minister and his team. They have been exceptionally generous with their time and exceptionally constructive in their approach. As a result, this is a much better Bill than when it came to this House. The devolution of powers over pedicabs to Transport for London is an issue of basic common sense. We have achieved that, and I thank the Minister for that and, finally, for his statement about batteries today. I had written a piece in preparation saying they are an unresolved issue and urging the Minister to keep working on it, but I can now thank the Minister very much indeed for his statement. It is not all that campaigners want—far from it—but it is a step forward. We are making progress, and I thank him for that.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I add my thanks to those of other noble Lords. Getting this Bill through your Lordships’ House has been very interesting process. There must have been a record number of people who went to see the clerks in the Public Bill Office and said they would like to add something about scooters and batteries, how you should ride scooters and that you should not do it on the pavement. We were all told—quite rightly—go away because it was outside scope. Now, at least the Minister has said that he and his department are looking at that and will also look at batteries, which are a very important part of it. One day, perhaps with this Government or probably the next Government, we might see something about riding bikes, electric or otherwise, and scooters where they are supposed to be, which is on the road, not on the pavement.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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My Lords, I have nothing further to add. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.
Report
Relevant document: 9th Report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Scottish and Welsh legislative consent sought.
15:31
Clause 1: Basic concepts
Amendment 1
Moved by
1: Clause 1, page 2, line 5, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
“(7) For the purposes of this Part, a vehicle that travels autonomously does so “safely and legally” if a human driver, who drove in the same manner while undertaking a practical test of driving skills and behaviour in accordance with the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, would pass that test with no faults recorded by the examiner.(7A) The Secretary of State may by statutory instrument replace the definition of “safely and legally” in subsection (7) with a quantified measure of the risk per mile travelled of relevant incidents as defined in section 39, taking account of data gathered through the performance of the duties mentioned in sections 38 (general monitoring duty) and 39 (duty with respect to incidents with potential regulatory consequences).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment replaces the definition of “safely and legally” for the purpose of the self-driving test with a requirement that an autonomous vehicle should drive to a standard such that a human would pass the test with no faults recorded. It also allows for this definition to be replaced once suitable data becomes available as a result of sections 38 and 39.
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, these amendments are all about road safety. Of course, it is a very important subject, which we discussed at length at Committee. Many of the comments made by noble Lords will have been reflected in what I am about to say and in what the Minister said. The Minister has some amendments and I have a couple of amendments in this grouping.

We are all struggling to come up with a definition of “road safety”—which will probably stand for many years—that will enable us to avoid the fear that automatic vehicles will by definition be less safe because they will run into more people. It is a very difficult and challenging subject. My view, and I am very grateful to Cycling UK and other groups for helping with this work, is that we need a step change in road safety. The risks of death or injury on our roads are significantly higher than for life in general, or indeed for other types of transport networks, such as rail. Particularly, pedestrians, people who cycle and other non-motorised road users bear a disproportionate brunt of this risk. I think that this will be a worry all the way through.

I was very interested to hear from Cycling UK and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety that they tried to follow up the work the Law Commission did in this regard—and did it very well. They came up with two options for trying to improve the definition. The first defined the standard required in terms of what would be required for a human driver to pass a driving test with no faults recorded by the examiner. The second was to quantify the risk of a collision or traffic infraction, possibly per something like 1 billion kilometres travelled.

I came to the conclusion that the first one was probably better, which is what is in my Amendment 1. This says basically that the vehicle should be driven—remotely, but driven—

“in the same manner while undertaking a practical test of driving skills and behaviour in accordance with the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, would pass that test with no faults”.

I think that is quite a good one. It would allow the Secretary of State to change it by statutory instrument if he or she thought that was a good idea.

The Minister will speak to his amendment, which I think is an improvement. It is a question of having a debate on these things. Although I do not think we will finish it today, I hope we can make some progress on the right way forward to make sure that road safety is not reduced; in other words, it needs to be improved.

There are two other amendments that go with this. First, Amendment 2 in my name relates to the types of locations or circumstances where these criteria are met. It is very different being on a motorway from being on a road in a congested town or in the countryside, and it is important that the principles that are applied should have the option of being different for each one.

Secondly, Amendment 4 says simply that we should aim for something a lot better than “better”. Whether

“significantly better for all road users”

is the right wording is something that we can debate. I think “significantly” is important, and it is really important that it applies to all road users, which includes pedestrians, cyclists, children, older people, disabled people, and so on.

With that short introduction to the road safety issue in the Bill, I beg to move.

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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My Lords, I repeat the declarations of interest that I have made in the past.

I applaud the principles behind the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. However, there is a difficulty in coming up with new regulations that are different from elsewhere in the world, and I am afraid that “significantly” falls into that trap. It would make it a lot harder for international companies to work out exactly what was meant by these words. There is no established case law on these matters.

We all know that there are problems with existing human drivers, and we should expect that all autonomous vehicles turn out to be dramatically better than human beings. We should not look for circumstances where humans monitor computers but rather the other way around; computers will be better than humans at this. A lot of people suggest that car insurance will actually reduce when the number of autonomous vehicles increases. So I am afraid that I can only applaud the amendment produced by my noble friend the Minister and reject those proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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I hope the House will forgive me, but these various amendments on safety prompt me to ask the Minister about something that has not featured much in our discussions: the issue of hacking into self-driving vehicles—SDVs. It was touched on peripherally during the debate on data protection in Committee but not really highlighted as a major safety concern, which is why I thought I would bring it up now.

I sat on the House’s Science and Technology Committee when it produced its report on automated vehicles some five or six years ago—I am afraid the doldrums of Covid blur my account of time. I remember that during that committee’s investigation, we spent some time discussing in detail the question of hacking into these vehicles, and I felt it only right that it should feature in our discussions on safety today.

We all know how easy it is for someone, or some group of someones, to hack into our computers from a distance, and it could be a criminals or, worse, an enemy state. Why should it not be the same with an SDV? I raised this subject with Waymo and others, but I have to say that I was not convinced by its assurances that it could not happen. We all know that both at Microsoft and here in Parliament it takes a team of experts, sometimes working around the clock, to keep all our devices free from hackers, and an SDV will just be another device.

I was going to bring this matter up when the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who is not in his place, had an excellent amendment on the obvious necessity for our emergency services to be able to talk to or even control SDVs in certain circumstances. Sadly, however, I could not be here on the 10 January. I was going to say that if it is too easy for a policeman, an ambulance driver or a fireman to get sufficient access to control an SDV, I feel sure that it will not be impossible for someone with malicious intent to get hold of whatever device or code that makes this possible. Could it be that stealing a car will become easier, and that a suicide bomber will now no longer need to commit suicide but just hack into someone else’s car or an SDV for hire and drive it into a crowd or the gates of Parliament, for example? Or maybe you could commit murder by getting control of a car and driving it into your intended victim. It is also entirely possible that no one would know who had done it, because it had been done from a considerable distance—maybe from the other side of the world.

I do not know whether any of your Lordships have seen a series called “Vigil”, one of these television thriller fictions, in which an armed remote-control drone was captured remotely and used to create death, destruction and mayhem on British soil. However, no one knew who was controlling it, which was the essence of the whodunnit plot. Incidentally, it turned out that it was being controlled all the way from the Middle East. I am afraid my thoughts leapt—rather melodramatically, I admit—from that fiction to the reality of what we are trying to achieve here with the Bill.

I am sure there are technical solutions to all these issues, and the whiz-kids on either side of the good-versus-evil divide will continuously compete with one other to win the war of control. It occurred to me, for instance, that perhaps all policemen should be issued with a zapper that brings to a dead halt any SDV that appears to be behaving dangerously. That may be too drastic a solution but, believe me, we will need some solution. My point is that we are entering a brave new world, and we need to properly think through all the problems we are going to encounter. We particularly need to ensure that SDVs become an accepted and safe reality.

I did not want our debate on the safety of these vehicles or the future to pass without a serious commitment from government to being always on the alert to controlling or at least minimising this safety problem. Therefore, by way of a question, I would like reassurance from the Minister that before companies can be licensed to produce SDVs, there will be checks, monitoring and even the holding of emergency real-life exercises with the police to test against what they would do if a dangerous hacker got control of a vehicle.

Will the Government commit to ongoing vigilance over the licensing process, the manufacturers, the operators, the car hire companies, the taxi services and the so-called Uber 2s, and so on, to minimise the dangers from malicious hackers? I realise, of course, that all this vigilance will not eradicate the danger of hacking into such self-driving devices. It is clear that we are unlikely to ever see the end of people trying to get into our other devices, our banking services and the like, but I hope that ongoing vigilance will at least minimise this particular safety risk.

15:45
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, following on from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, I remind the House that I raised national security and people hacking into the system at Second Reading. Group 5 today deals with data protection issues; careful control of data is one way in which to make it more difficult for outside forces to hack into it. However, if you present a complete picture of every road and road sign in Britain to people who are able to drive around the UK, then you are opening a very big picture to the world. There will be people who want to take advantage of that in a way which could be hugely damaging.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his amendments. We had a vigorous debate in Committee about issues of safety. I do not know whether the definition produced in government Amendment 3 is absolutely the last word on the topic, but the Government have moved a long way. I thank the Minister for that amendment, which is an advance and improvement on the original. As the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, said, we need to take into account issues associated with international definitions. Government Amendment 7 is also important as a step forward, because it gives this House an important role at a key point when that statement of safety principles is issued.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I took his advice and went to visit Wayve in King’s Cross. Wayve is a local company which is developing a driverless car—an automated vehicle. I went for quite a long drive around the streets of King’s Cross and can report that I found it surprisingly relaxing. I did not expect to be relaxed but I was. I mention this because one key point was made to me during that drive, as we overtook a cyclist very carefully. The key point was that these cars will always be programmed to drive legally; that is a great deal better than you and me as, from time to time, we lapse from the highest standards. Some people out there drive in a way which does not follow the law—they wilfully drive too fast or inconsiderately, and so on.

Another point was made to me, because during that drive, first, we had a very indecisive elderly lady wondering whether she was going to cross at a zebra crossing and, secondly, we had that cyclist. Of course, those users are always going to be there, because even when we have totally driverless cars, which will be decades on, we are still going to have human nature intervening, so this is a very complex issue.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his contribution. I also thank the Minister for the steps forward that we have made in improving the definition and the role of this House in the statement of safety principles.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I think this group has two subgroups. There is the subgroup of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s subgroup. I am afraid to tell my noble friend that we will support the Davies subgroup and not the Berkeley subgroup.

There are many reasons for this, ending with a very pragmatic one. First, the proposals from the noble Lord, Lord Davies, are structurally sound as they separate the roles of Clause 1 and Clause 2. Clause 1, as it will stand after these amendments, in essence says, among other things, that there shall be a safety standard. The clause is headed “Basic concepts”. Clause 2 attempts to address what that safety standard shall be.

We believe that government Amendment 3 is right. It is a very sound definition of “safe enough”. It is built around the well-crafted concept of

“careful and competent human drivers”.

It is today’s standard at its best. It is today’s standard after, as is set out in the commissioners’ report, eliminating the distracted, the drowsy, the drunk, the drugged and the disqualified. It is a high standard but not an infinite standard. It recognises that there has to be a limitation, otherwise the whole pursuit of a standard that is not defined becomes impossible.

It passes what I consider to be the death test. One of these vehicles is going to kill somebody. It is inevitable; the sheer volume of events will mean that something will go wrong. It is at that moment that you have to be able to respond to public opinion, have a standard that is easy for people to understand and defend it. I know this because I have been in that position when running a railway. The 1974 Act that applies to railways demands a standard: that the risk is as low as reasonably practical. It is one of the most brilliant pieces of legislation ever passed. Its impact on safety in this country has been enormous. Its impact on construction and railways, and its crossover impact on nuclear, have served this country well. I believe that this standard, which involves being as safe as a careful and competent driver, is the natural equivalent.

I also note that the law commissions produced three answers. Since they took three years or something to come to these three answers, it seems a pretty good idea to pick one of them. They were options A, B and C. Option C is, in my view, clearly rejected by these amendments. That option was to be

“overall, safer than the average human driver”.

The average human driver includes this wonderful list of distracted, drowsy, drunk, drugged and disqualified drivers. The world is a better place for eliminating them. Option B was

“as safe as a human driver who does not cause a fault accident”.

That is so ill defined that even the law commissions gave up on it. Option A is this one:

“as safe as a competent and careful human driver”.

It passes that test in a way that, when the experts set about turning this into regulations, I believe it will be feasible for them to achieve.

We also support government Amendment 7, which is a compromise. It ensures that Parliament—the importance of Parliament is very much brought out in the supporting documentation—has a positive involvement with the initial statement of safety principles. It also assures us that there will be a negative involvement with subsequent revisions. That is a balance, and we can support that.

I am afraid that government Amendments 3 and 7 have a rather unique advantage that we should not ignore: the name on them is the Minister’s, that of the noble Lord, Lord Davies. But, with the greatest respect to him, if you rub out “Lord Davies” and look under that name, you see “His Majesty’s Government”. Their majority in the other place means that these two amendments will become law—a piece of law that will guide this industry well.

I turn to an issue that is not so directly involved but needs to be there to tidy things up: the principles relating to equality and fairness. What does this mean in this environment? This too is set out in the law commissions’ report. In essence it means that an autonomous vehicle does not come at the expense of any particular group of road users. The policy scoping notes say:

“Government is likely to include a safety principle relating to equality and fairness”.


That is not there at the moment, but I am delighted to be advised by the Minister that this will be changed from “likely to include” to “will include”. This emphasis is particularly important for pedestrians, who must not be sacrificed to achieve the introduction of automated vehicles.

Lord Hampton Portrait Lord Hampton (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendments 1 and 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We dealt with safety a lot in Committee, and it is paramount. This is the most important part of the Bill. I became an enthusiast about automated vehicles because I turned up to a briefing. Most people you talk to are ambivalent at best, and there is a sort of dystopian “Blade Runner” worry about faceless terminator drones.

Safety needs to be beyond reproach when bad things happen. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, bad things will happen—deaths will happen. We need to be able to face people and say that we did the best we possibly could. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said this needs to be easy to understand and define; that is absolutely right, but it needs to be equivalent to, or better than, a driver who does the best in a driving test. That does not sound too high to me.

Amendment 4 mentions “significantly” improving road safety. The noble Lord, Lord Borwick, said that we should expect all autonomous vehicles to be better than human drivers, but what if they are not? We need to hold them to account. This would make the whole thing easier to sell to a sceptical public, as opposed to the government amendment. I am not a lawyer, but I do not see why trying to make things significantly better would deter players from joining the market. The industry will spend money on this only when it sees a momentum shift in public opinion, which is why safety is so important and why these amendments are so important.

16:00
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Davies of Gower) (Con)
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My Lords, we begin once again with the question of safety. I am grateful to colleagues across the House for their constructive engagement on this issue. The Government’s position remains that the safety standard is best articulated in statutory guidance, with the benefit of consultation. This is the most appropriate way of assessing the public’s attitude to risk, which in turn is the only objective answer to the question of “How safe is safe enough?”. This rationale was set out by the law commissions and is not one from which we intend to deviate.

Nevertheless, I have reflected on our discussions in recent weeks and recognise the strength of feeling on this subject. This is a novel area, with an uncertain future. It is therefore reasonable that Parliament should expect to set the parameters within which the safety standard will be defined. To that end, I have tabled government Amendments 3 and 7. This will establish the “careful and competent driver” standard as the minimum level of road safety that the statement of safety principles should look to achieve—in effect, cementing our safety ambition into law. It will also guarantee a substantive debate in Parliament on the first iteration of those principles.

As I have said previously, the “careful and competent” standard is considerably higher than that of the average driver. This means the objective of a significant improvement in road safety is now baked in from the beginning. Further, I recognise the desire to clarify that this improvement in safety applies to all road users. I can therefore confirm that the statement of safety principles will include an explicit principle on equality and fairness. This could include, for example, a declaration that overall safety benefits should not come at the expense of any particular group of road users. Further detail could then specify that training datasets must be representative of different sectors of society. The exact framing will of course be shaped by consultation.

More broadly, I reiterate the point I made in Committee that references in the Bill to “road safety” do indeed already apply to all road users. This is also the case in existing road safety legislation, where offences such as dangerous driving are concerned with the safety of all road users; this includes, but is not limited to, pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and disabled people.

For these reasons, I believe the intent of Amendment 4 is now provided for. Indeed, our proposed Amendment 3 achieves this without the ambiguity created by relative terms such as “significantly better”.

Regarding Amendment 2, Clause 1(3) already establishes that safety is to be assessed in relation to location and circumstances. The safety considerations and appropriate assessment methodologies will vary depending on the location, circumstances, use case and road users in question. It is more appropriate that these details be defined in approval and authorisation requirements, rather than the statement of safety principles.

The first part of Amendment 1 would effectively apply a minimum safety standard equivalent to that of a novice human driver who has just passed their test. The practical limitations of human driving tests constrain the monitoring and assessment of each new driver’s performance to a short time window. These limitations do not apply to self-driving vehicles. We can assess performance in multitudes of situations, including rare ones, and across thousands of miles of driving. We therefore believe safety is best assessed by a combination of real-world, track and virtual testing.

More pertinently, the amendment looks to redefine the phrase “safely and legally” in purely statistical terms. Doing so would contradict the law commissions’ basic principle that these concepts are ultimately defined by public acceptance and public confidence. As I said at the outset, we do not believe it wise to deviate from this principle. I hope that, with the additional assurances of government Amendments 3 and 7, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, will agree with me on that point.

Before I conclude, I will briefly address the security point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. Cyber and national security sit at the very heart of our plans to bring self-driving vehicles to UK roads. Vehicles with automatic systems will be subject to detailed technical cybersecurity assessment as part of the well-established type approval process. This will include assessment to ensure vehicles continue to be cyber resilient throughout their lifetime. Before a company can be authorised as a self-driving entity, it must meet requirements relating to good repute, which will include consideration for cybersecurity. We will, of course, be working with the police and the security services to enable this.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. It has been a very interesting series of contributions on the subject of safety, which we will go on debating for a very long time. The Minister, as we know, has moved and made improvements. I will study carefully what he said in his response, because I detect some further studies that may come in future guidance, or something like that. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Statement of safety principles
Amendment 2 not moved.
Amendment 3
Moved by
3: Clause 2, page 2, line 16, after “that” insert “—
(a) authorised automated vehicles will achieve a level of safety equivalent to, or higher than, that of careful and competent human drivers, andMember’s explanatory statement
This amendment embodies the standard of a careful and competent driver in the statement of safety principles that will guide the operation of the automated vehicle authorisation scheme.
Amendment 3 agreed.
Amendment 4 not moved.
Amendment 5
Moved by
5: Clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out “such representative organisations as the Secretary of State thinks fit” and insert “representatives of road user groups and other groups whose safety or other interests may be affected by the application of the principles”
Member's explanatory statement
This would require the Secretary of State, when preparing a statement of safety principles, to consult representatives of road user groups and other groups whose safety or other interests may be affected by the application of those principles.
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, this is a group that somebody has decided to call “operations”, which is fine. I have two short amendments in this group. Amendment 5 relates to the consultation requirements. Your Lordships regularly debate the question of who should be consulted and on what basis. My worry here is that the Government are suggesting that the right definition of who should be consulted are those whom the Secretary of State thinks fit. It would be more appropriate to have wording, as I suggest in the amendment, to make sure that it includes not only road users but other groups whose safety

“may be affected by the application of the principles.”

There is a worry here, which also comes out in my Amendment 34 in this group, about the weighting of persuasion and the weighting of firepower, or whatever one likes to call it, between the average uninsured road user—who might be a pedestrian or a cyclist, or perhaps eventually a scooter rider—and the companies that have invested a large amount of money in setting up the systems that the vehicles are using. Whether the pedestrians or cyclists should or should not be insured is another matter for debate, but the fact remains that most of them are not insured at the moment. If something goes wrong, there will be a tendency for Ministers to say, “Well, we need to hear the opinion of the company”, and somehow that will be given more weight than the opinion of those who might be affected. I hope I am wrong there, but it happens in other walks of life that occasionally your Lordships debate. For me, it is right, through Amendment 5, to look at the groups whose safety or other interests might be affected by this.

I turn to Amendment 34, which is much the same. If there is an accident or incident—whatever we want to call it—between a pedestrian and an insured AV, who decides who is at fault, if there is any fault? The vehicle will have insurance and the insurance company will work hard to make sure that its client is given the right advice and that it supports them where necessary. The amendment suggests that, if there was nobody in the vehicle,

“it will be assumed for the purpose of this section that the authorised automated vehicle caused the accident unless proved otherwise”.

That is very radical, but we do not have a better solution. If we do not have something that recognises the lack of balance between a pedestrian or an uninsured cyclist and an AV being driven legally with the right insurance behind it, we will have trouble in the future. I am not sure that this is the solution—I look forward to noble Lords’ comments on it—but something must redress the balance between what we might call the little person on the street and the big companies investing a lot of money in this. They will want to make sure that they look after their clients, if we can call them that. I beg to move.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, we have a great deal of sympathy with the points that my noble friend Lord Berkeley made, particularly on his Amendment 34 dealing with insurance. That is a very complicated question; people have written to me about it, and I have difficulty understanding it, to be quite honest. The Government should give further thought to the question that Amendment 34 asks, for when the Bill goes to the Commons. We do not intend to press this in any way now, but it matters and deserves further consideration by Ministers.

Having said that, I turn to the amendments in my name. We will not press Amendment 9 to a vote, but it concerns another issue about which we hope the Government will have a good think before the Bill is presented to the Commons. We have been approached by people in the business of delivery robots that use pavements, and there is legal confusion. Because a pavement is legally defined as part of the road, this question is within the scope of the Bill; yet, clearly, the regulation of vehicles that primarily use the pavement must be different from those that use the roads. We think of the obvious case of mobility scooters, which are mainly intended to be used on pavements.

Amendment 9 does not direct anything. It gives the Government the power to make regulations about delivery robots which are designed to use pavements. This is not a trivial issue. There is a lot of potential in the delivery robot principle. It deals with the final mile from where the lorry drops off its load to how the parcel gets to the individual dwelling. Doing this with electric robots has the potential to make a big contribution to our net-zero commitments, rather than it being done by diesel vans as happens at the moment. This is an important question which we would like the Government to think about.

16:15
We attach a great deal of importance to Amendment 28. It proposes to establish a permanent statutory advisory council to examine the development of automated vehicles. We intend to test the opinion of the House on this because it is a matter of considerable importance.
Automated vehicles are a transport revolution in the making. No one is quite sure how they will evolve or what the problems are going to be. We are a bit in the dark, but we have to find a legislative framework for it—which this Bill does. We also have to find a mechanism for carrying the public with us as this revolution takes its course. During our debates on the Bill, we have made considerable progress on safety. This should be of paramount importance. We have a definition which we think is tight and can be implemented in time as a high-quality safety standard.
The advent of automated vehicles is not just a question of safety. It has implications for many aspects of daily life, such as the future of public transport, delivery robots—as we have just been saying—how we shop, and how we deliver care to the vulnerable and housebound. The Government recognise this and the need for officials and Ministers to consult extensively with the relevant groups. If the Government recognise that they need a process of continuous consultation, I find it difficult to understand why they object to this proposal for an advisory council.
Let me put the case for something to be formalised. First, we on this side of the House think it very important that employee representatives—trade unions—should have a formal role in the development of this sector in some way. It is going to affect the jobs of an awful lot of people—bus drivers, lorry drivers and goodness knows who else. We all have a choice in life. Do we just take these technologies and try to impose them, or do we try to work in partnership in order that they can be introduced in a way that is acceptable to the workforce? The latter is much the better course of action.
Indeed, again, I cannot see what problem the Government have with this because, when I raised this point in Committee, the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower—said that the Government would
“bring in the views of the public, academia, trade unions and other representative bodies”.—[Official Report, 10/1/24; col. 81.]
So why can we not formalise that commitment in the way this amendment proposes?
There are big advantages in having a formalised advisory council. The risk with all these new technologies is that, in essence, their regulation becomes governed by the producer interest—that is, by the people who are putting money into their development. Of course, one wants innovation and enterprise. One wants producers to make their views clear as to what framework suits them. But, at the same time, there must be a proper mechanism for giving equal weight to the views of other road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, as well as those of groups in wider society that have a stake in the wider economic changes that automated vehicles will bring.
I will mention my experience of working at the European Commission. The trade commissioner had every three months to appear before something called the Social Forum, which represented a wide group of interests concerned with trade—including, for instance, NGOs such as Oxfam and War on Want and other such people. It is important to have a formal structure where the Minister, the politician, sits and listens to a wide range of views and does not just read the briefs produced by the producer interests. In my view, that is the way you get good policy. For that reason, I hope that the Government will think about supporting our Amendment 28.
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, the amendments in this group deal mainly with consultation. Given that the Bill is a framework in large part, with the detail still to be developed, ensuring that the right people are consulted is obviously a key issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred to various groups that might be part of this advisory council. It is clearly essential that other road users and those who will be affected by automated vehicles—cyclists, disabled people and so on, as well as the trade unions—are consulted. We would pick out the emergency services, too; it is absolutely essential that they are included in the group of people to be consulted.

There is an element of overlap with Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, which I have signed. It suggests that various powers be given to the Office of Rail and Road. Before I signed the amendment, I looked at the scope of the ORR’s powers; indeed, I spoke to ORR to see whether it felt it was an organisation that could take on this role. The issue is that, currently, the Bill is much too vague. It is far too unspecific about how the Government will consult and how they will develop and impose the regulations. Later in our debates, we will come on to Amendment 10 and I am sure that, at that point, the noble Lord will explain our thinking behind that.

In Amendment 6 the Minister has provided some detail, but it is not specific enough. Amendment 28 is much more precise. I want to mention Amendment 9, which I have signed, along with the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. I signed it because I remain concerned at the very narrow scope of this Bill. It is ironic that this Bill is looking ahead so far, trying to second-guess how things will develop, but it does not have the scope to allow us to deal with applications of automation that exist now and are a potential problem now. Indeed, those engaged in that sort of activity are keen for a legal framework within which they can operate safely.

I have mentioned in this Chamber before the ongoing activities of Starship, and when I visited Wayve I was shown a vehicle that is being used to trial automated deliveries in partnership with Asda. This is not something that we can look at in the future; we should be looking at now. I urge the Minister to talk to his colleagues in the other place and in the Department for Transport with a view to bringing forward the kind of precision we need on these issues.

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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My Lords, the only comment I will make is on Amendment 34 from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. In the event of an accident, the conventional problem the police face is competing descriptions honestly held by two different people about what actually happened: “I did this; he did that”. The thing about an autonomous vehicle accident is that there will be at least half a dozen cameras recording every factor in the accident, as there have been in the various accidents that have taken place in San Francisco. There will be far more information in the event of an accident involving an autonomous vehicle. So to suggest that it is automatically assumed that the authorised automated vehicle caused the accident unless proved otherwise is moving the burden of proof completely on to the autonomous vehicle. I think this is a very bad idea, because the press will immediately assume—backed up by this amendment —that it is the fault of the autonomous vehicle when the facts will be available on the television cameras. So I really think that it is a thoroughly dangerous new suggestion to assume the guilt of an autonomous vehicle because it is autonomous.

16:30
Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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My Lords, this group covers the general functioning and underlying mechanics of the regulatory framework. It includes government Amendments 11, 25 and 26, which correct minor and technical drafting issues. It also includes government Amendment 33, which applies the affirmative procedure to regulations setting the maximum penalties that can be levied against regulated bodies. Following careful reflection, we agree with the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that it would be inappropriate to leave these regulations entirely to the negative procedure. I am grateful to the Committee for its considered recommendations and hope that this provides sufficient reassurance.

I will begin with the subject of consultation. I know that there have been calls for specific groups to be named in the Bill. Government Amendment 6 therefore creates an explicit obligation to consult the three groups with the greatest interest in the safe operation of the system: road users, road safety groups and businesses in the industry. However, this list is not exhaustive. It is the Government’s intention to ensure that anyone who feels that they are affected can feed into the development of the statement of safety principles. The consultation will be public and therefore open to all, including trade unions.

Amendment 5 looks to include

“other groups whose safety or other interests may be affected by the application of the principles”.

As drafted, this would add little to the existing requirement in Clause 2 to consult representative organisations. Amendment 28, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, instead proposes an overarching advisory council. The requirements he proposes are very broad, explicitly mandating representation from, at the very least, 11 different groups and sub-groups. The noble Lord proposes that the council advise and review evidence from government, as well as reporting regularly to Parliament on

“any related matters relevant to … self-driving vehicles and associated public policy”.

This is an extremely wide remit which could not be carried out by a group of this size without extensive co-ordination, expert input and supporting staff, which would create unnecessary bureaucracy and carry additional administrative costs. I completely understand the noble Lord’s interest in ensuring appropriate independent scrutiny of the regulatory framework. However, in the Government’s view, this is a role for Parliament and the statutory inspectors, both of which are free to consult any group they deem necessary in carrying out their respective functions.

Turning to Amendment 34, the Bill does not look to change the insurance provisions set out in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act. The Law Commission considered the Act and concluded that it would be premature to change its application now. It determined that change need be considered only if real-world use-cases encounter challenges in settling claims. However, I recognise the points noble Lords have made and assure them that we are working closely with the insurance industry to anticipate potential issues of this kind. My colleague, Mr Browne, is due to meet with the Association of British Insurers imminently as part of this engagement.

The amendment would apply a presumption of liability to authorised automated vehicles regardless of whether the self-driving feature was active at the time of the incident. This would be disproportionate and potentially unfair. Consider, for example, the implications for a human driver who uses their vehicle without ever activating its self-driving features. Further, such a change could lead to risk-taking behaviour. We would not wish to encourage the perception that the safety of self-driving vehicles somehow reduces obligations on other road users.

Moving, finally, to Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the Long Title of the Bill states that it is to regulate the use of self-driving road vehicles on roads and in other public places. To be clear, this means that driveways and other non-road locations to which the public have access are already within the scope of the Bill. Pavements are also covered, as they are included in the definition of “roads”. Clause 4(4) also creates the flexibility to regulate use-cases in which a road vehicle uses both public roads and private land. Therefore, as drafted, the amendment would have little to no effect.

However, I recognise the broader point being made about pavement use and accessibility. Ensuring that pedestrians and other vulnerable road users have safe and accessible spaces, including the pavement, is essential to road safety. That is why there are existing restrictions on the use of road vehicles in these spaces. This question goes well beyond the safety of self-driving technologies. It was therefore not considered by the Law Commission, and any potential future changes would need to be subject to careful consultation.

I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to withdraw Amendment 5.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this group. I was particularly interested in the comments on my Amendment 34, which I thought would bring some interesting views. I said that I did not think it was a solution, but I am pleased that the Minister is at least looking at this issue with the insurance industry, because there has to be a solution that everybody accepts.

I am particularly grateful to my noble friend, who may or may not divide the House on his amendment on not a supervisory board but a consultation board. I think it is a rather good idea. It is separate from my Amendments 9A and 9B, which I will speak to in a later group, but I certainly support my noble friend’s amendment. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 5.

Amendment 5 withdrawn.
Amendments 6 and 7
Moved by
6: Clause 2, page 2, line 20, at end insert—
“(3A) Those organisations must include organisations appearing to the Secretary of State to represent—(a) the interests of businesses involved, or likely to be involved, in the manufacture or operation of mechanically propelled road vehicles designed to travel autonomously,(b) the interests of road users, and(c) the cause of road safety.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment provides details of the types of organisation that will have to be consulted on the statement of safety principles.
7: Clause 2, page 2, line 22, leave out subsections (5) to (8) and insert—
“(5) The statement takes effect if both Houses of Parliament resolve that it should.(6) The Secretary of State may revise or replace the statement that has effect under this section; and subsections (2) to (4) apply to a revision or replacement.(7) A revision or replacement takes effect at the end of the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which it is laid, unless either House resolves before then that it should not.(8) For the purposes of subsection (7)—(a) where a revision or replacement is laid before each House on different days, the later day is to be taken to be the day on which it was laid before both Houses, and(b) in counting any period of 40 days, no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment imposes a positive requirement for both Houses to approve the proposed statement of safety principles, instead of the current power to prevent it from taking effect (which will however still apply to any subsequent revision or replacement).
Amendments 6 and 7 agreed.
Amendment 8
Moved by
8: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Statement of accessibility principles(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a statement of the principles that they propose to apply in assessing, for the purposes of this Part, whether an automated vehicle meets the required level of accessibility. (2) The principles must make provision for the accessibility of—(a) physical features and structures of the automated vehicle,(b) computer and software systems used in the automated vehicle, and(c) where relevant, booking platforms and other interactive digital services and systems used prior to, during and after using an automated vehicle, including through underpinning such services and systems with mechanisms to allow human intervention if required.(3) In preparing the statement under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult such persons they consider appropriate, in particular disabled people.(4) The statement under subsection (1) should include consideration of the accessibility of infrastructure with which automated vehicles must interact, such as pavements, kerbs, drop off and parking points.”
Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak to this group of amendments. In doing so, I declare my interests as set out in the register, not least my technology interest as an adviser to Boston Limited. In moving Amendment 8 I will also speak to Amendments 18 to 24 and 27. I thank all noble Lords who have shown an interest in these amendments, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, who has put her name to all of them.

I will briefly take a step back. The major difficulty with the tone and tenor of this Bill on accessibility is that it takes a particularly utilitarian view—the greatest good for the greatest number. In this instance, accessibility is not even in the vehicle’s back seat. Similarly, it suggests that a disabled person should wait, and let innovation take its course and come to them. This is not only unacceptable but not pro-innovation. The whole point of accessibility, inclusive by design from the outset, is that it does not only enable and empower disabled people; it enables, empowers and benefits all people.

Similarly, there is a hint throughout the Bill that regulation is, again, anti-innovation. It can be—we have all seen examples of that—but in no sense is that inevitable just because it is regulation. Right-sized regulation can, indeed must, be pro-innovation. Plenty of good examples in our recent past, from various sectors, prove that.

Amendment 8 in my name is a resubmission of one of my major amendments from Committee. We heard in the previous group about the statement of safety principles. It seems perfectly logical, indeed thoroughly positive, to have a statement of accessibility principles in the Bill. If the Minister is unable to accept this amendment in its current form, will he commit, when he winds up, to the principles set out in this statement of accessibility?

Amendments 18 to 20, in various ways, ensure the accessibility of the vehicles themselves, in various parts of the Bill as drafted. Amendment 21 would require that disabled people be consulted on the granting of permits. This could be structured in such a way that disabled people would not need to be consulted at the micro level, on every permit; a structure could be put in place to ensure meaningful and effective consultation of disabled people throughout that high-level process.

Amendment 22 seeks to move a “may” to a “will”, to guarantee the intent of the Bill. Again, “may” is obviously conditional, and this would show, in a small example, the sense that this is wider than the voluntary or advisory “may”. It is an important amendment—changing to “will” would guarantee this sense. Similarly, Amendment 23 would assure this level of accessibility throughout.

Amendment 24, on the reporting requirement, seeks a minor but important change to the Bill. As currently drafted, the Bill sets out reporting requirements for those involved in automated vehicles. This amendment simply suggests that the first of these reports should be published before any of these vehicles are deployed—a small but important change.

Finally, Amendment 27 would put an obligation on the Secretary of State to commission and pay due regard to research around all elements of accessibility, including the vehicle, software systems and platforms, to ensure not just that the vehicle is accessible but that the whole experience and system are accessible and inclusive by design.

We are talking not only about inclusive by design but about a set of amendments that would make a real, material difference, not just to disabled people but to all users. Are they necessary? Just look at the situation we are currently in, with accessibility and inclusive design not being present at the beginning of the whole process of the development of automated vehicles. This is a clear indicator of the necessity of these amendments. Inclusion and innovation are important, but, more than that, inclusion for innovation is the thread that we should see shining through so many of our statutes: inclusion for innovation and not just for business. We must make it all our business. That is what these amendments are about. I beg to move.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, for his work in setting out such an effective group of amendments on this topic. I also thank the Minister for the very helpful round-table meeting we had a few days ago, in which we went through in detail many of the concerns that I, the noble Lord and others had.

I will not repeat the detail of the amendments that the noble Lord has outlined. I start from a slightly different perspective. When we started debating the Bill, back at Second Reading, the Minister told us that we did not need to worry about this because the regulatory authorities would be required to obey the public sector equality duty. I pointed out that the House of Lords Select Committee on disability was very concerned that there are holes in the PSED that the Government said they would look at two years ago and have not as yet, and so to rely on that would give us real cause for concern.

The Equality Act refers to “reasonable adjustments”, and it was prayed in aid that there can always be reasonable adjustments. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, is in his place. I am reminded of his Private Member’s Bill—which I think he called the “10 kilogram cement bag” Private Member’s Bill. It would have made lots of small shops accessible to disabled people, particularly those in wheelchairs. That is a “reasonable adjustment”, but we are not in that position. We are talking about the technology of the future. It is really important to acknowledge that the millions of disabled people—over 10 million, or even more if you count the elderly—will require automated vehicles that take account of the full range of disability. To not start designing that in from the very start would be a short-sighted approach.

16:45
Those of us who use wheelchairs know from experience that vehicles that have been adjusted with ramps are not only expensive but not particularly effective. To have a car that is built that way right from scratch, so that you do not have to move the exhaust pipe or the batteries, reduces the cost but also means that the car is more effective. It is even more important with this technology of the future that all these things are designed in from the start.
In Committee, I said that one of the things that we disabled people chant on a regular basis is that there should be nothing about us without us, so I am grateful for the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, that would ensure that disabled people will be part of the continuing review in future, particularly with the reports that he is proposing. If we do not have disabled people involved in design right from the start, and if we do not design accessibility in right from the start, the automated vehicle of the future will not include millions of disabled or elderly passengers.
Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
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My Lords, I support all the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond on disabled access, except Amendment 8. I should say that I added my name to the amendments, but belatedly. I think my name is on them in the online list but not in the printed listed today.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that I think my disabled access Bill is number 14 or 15 in the Private Members’ ballot yet again. It is a simple little measure that says that if a step is less than 12 inches, it should have a ramp for disabled access. Of course, it will not get anywhere; the equality department will block it, as it has blocked it every single time, because it no longer gives a damn about disabled people.

On automated vehicles generally, I am afraid that I trust no one on their safety—not the manufacturers and not the Department for Transport. The only person I trust on them is Jeremy Clarkson. I remember when he said to the chief of Audi, who was boasting about his new automated vehicle, “If you sit in the back, let your vehicle drive the Bolivian highway of death and come out the other side, then I’ll buy one”. That is my view on automated vehicles.

However, my concern today is about automated vehicles for hire as cabs. I have never used Uber in my life. I believe it is a disreputable company which does not pay its drivers properly. Its untrained drivers do not have a clue where they are going, and, if I may say so carefully, many seem to be recent arrivals in this country; they cannot find their way to the end of the street without a satnav, and then they stop wherever the satnav tells them to stop or pick up, such as on zebra crossings or in the middle of the road—the dropped kerb that wheelchair users use is one of their favourites. My main concern is that if black cabs in London, or converted Peugeots or Fiat Doblòs in the rest of the country, are wiped out by Uber’s Toyota Priuses, we in wheelchairs will never get a cab again. I do not rate Uber Access as credible if you want to hire a car this decade.

Has my noble friend the Minister heard of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee? It is part of his department. I have in my hand a piece of paper produced by the department. It says that taxi services must be fully accessible for all disabled persons. It calls for WAVs—wheelchair accessible vehicles—for all, and commends London cabs, 100% of which are wheelchair accessible. It goes on to say that, in the country as a whole, only 58% of taxies are wheelchair accessible vehicles, as are only 2% of private hire vehicles. I shall quote verbatim one paragraph from the department’s wheelchair accessible committee:

“Concerningly, the situation seems to be deteriorating. The launch of Uber and other app-based systems for booking PHVs has resulted in an increase of over 4% in the number of licensed vehicles. But they are nearly all PHVs and, in London, there has been a reduction in the number of licensed taxis which has resulted in an overall fall in the number of WAVs on the road”.


That is what will happen throughout the country if the Government permit all automated vehicles to become PHVs or taxis without building in a wheelchair accessible requirement.

Just look at the chaos in California and San Francisco in particular. Have noble Lords seen on the news a single wheelchair accessible cab there among the thousands of lovely dinky cars, such as Ford Focuses and Toyota Priuses? The Prius and the Focus are marvellous little town cars—great runabouts—but I cannot get my dodgy legs in the back of them, even when I am not trying to get a wheelchair into them.

I say to my noble friend that I do not support Amendment 8. I hope he will not push it, because it would apply to all cars and that is wrong. People must have the right to buy any vehicle they choose, even if you cannot swing a cat in the back of it. Before Cats Protection issues a fatwa, let me make it clear that I am referring to the cat-o’-nine-tails, not pussycats.

I hope the Government will insist that any new automated taxis are wheelchair accessible. If they make that clear in law now, vehicle manufacturers will design them—not that there is much to design; it has already been done. The new London black cabs are absolutely fantastic. They have excellent wheelchair ramps, there is lots of space and, for the first time, they seem to have added springs to them. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Borwick on making that happen. So we can just stick the automated computer thingy on to those cabs, or the converted Peugeots I found in other parts of the country. The Peugeot Tepee, they are calling it—what a ghastly name that is. There are Mercedes Vitos, Citroën Berlingos and Fiat Doblòs. All have wheelchair access. So with automated vehicles it is a simple matter of sticking a computer thing on to the vehicles that are there already. I do not want the Government saying, “Oh, this is going to be disproportionate cost and it is a burden on the industry”. It is not.

We were slowly getting more and more wheelchair-accessible vehicles across the country. The Government must ensure that the new technology of automated vehicles does not set that into reverse, as is likely to happen unless some of these amendments are made—but not Amendment 8.

Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I might add a word for the very large number of people who are not in wheelchairs but who depend, like I do, on a stick. When pavements are so awful in this country, they need a lot of consideration. They walk around at their peril, often due to the irresponsible use of scooters, which are insufficiently regulated by the department.

Lord Hampton Portrait Lord Hampton (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 8, 18 to 20, and 27, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, to which I have added my name. In Committee, I was struck by the powerful speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, whom we have often heard in your Lordships’ House talking so powerfully about her lived experiences.

This is not a once-in-a-generation nor a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it is a new, unique opportunity for disabled people to be front and centre of the development of a transport system. A great friend of mine is blind and when we first met, he had a clunky old phone with Braille on it. As soon as the iPhone came out, he had a phone with perfect accessibility built in. There was nothing new there. He has the same iPhone as everybody else. It just has the features to work for him, and I think this is what we can do with automated vehicles.

Elderly or disabled people, who have never dreamed of owning a car, can now look to the near future and see that this is a possibility—but only if they are included in all stages. As a design and technology teacher, I am all over inclusive design. This is not a bolt-on. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said he wanted this bolted on to existing stuff, I want this designed from the ground up. It is a unique—and I mean unique—opportunity to give disabled people a level playing field. It must not be squandered. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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My Lords, while I support the general principle of these comments—indeed, I personally made great changes to the taxi industry to get there—the particular circumstances that enabled me to do that a long time ago were very unusual.

The current situation with autonomous vehicles is that there are many manufacturers that are converting existing vehicles. They cannot change their donor vehicles to make them accessible for disabled people, however desirable that might be. Tesla, Waymo, Cruise, Wayve, Oxa and, indeed, Mercedes are all working on autonomous vehicles, but they are not likely or able to change their vehicles to make them accessible because they must be accessible from the original design. Automotive history goes back 120 or even 150 years. We are not able to change existing vehicles, however desirable that is.

What these clauses would do is stop disabled people being helped by autonomous vehicles coming along. I am thinking particularly of people disabled by a severe learning difficulty who would not be able to learn to drive, or safely drive, a normal vehicle who would not be able to drive as a passenger. I am afraid the clauses would prevent these manufacturers from coming into this market. They would rather go to a market where they could use their existing vehicles than make the changes.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, for outlining the current commercial position, but there are models of vehicle currently on the market that can be used for wheelchairs. I fail to understand why, if an entire nation’s rules say that that is the model that has to be followed, manufacturers would not swiftly follow suit. There might be a transition period—does he understand that?—but all the images that we see of autonomous vehicles in the future show a completely different style from even 10 years ago, let alone 100 years ago. Would he agree with that?

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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I agree with the noble Baroness, but the question for a manufacturer is whether or not to come into the British market. That is the trouble, as I see it. Much as it would be desirable that they redesigned their vehicles, or indeed designed them from the very beginning to be accessible, the reality is that we are talking about regulating a future market based on an existing product. I find it a great shame that that is the position we are in, but that is where we are.

Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD)
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My Lords, frequently during the passage of the Bill we have all discussed the fact that the entire Bill is regulating for the future. It seems that it is acceptable to regulate for the future of everything —except disability access and proper accessibility.

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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I find it distressing to disagree with the noble Baroness, but I am talking about the reality of the position. Even though I wish the world were different, I cannot agree that we can regulate to make it different in this one Bill.

I thank my noble friend Lord Blencathra for his comments. I am afraid I left the London taxi business a long time ago so I am not actually responsible for the current vehicles, but still I thank him. They are better in all respects than the ones I produced, which are still in business.

It is distressing that so few taxis around the country outside London are not accessible; the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, had her own problems in Watford, as I understand it. It would be so much easier to organise that all taxis all over the country were as wheelchair accessible as the ones in London. I would find that a much more useful use of our time than making these amendments, much as I support the general principle behind them.

17:00
Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, because I think he underestimates the market that will be created. I do not for one minute think that EU countries with high social standards, for example, or the United States of America, will not have a reasonably sized market of people who are elderly and disabled, and that there will not be a demand for vehicles of this sort. The vehicles will be created, and the market will be there as well as here. We are talking about enlarging the market. Instead of diminishing the market, so that it is only for people who are physically able-bodied, we are enlarging it to include a lot of other people, who will be very dependent on vehicles of this sort.

We are gazing into the future. It will not be fundamental if we get some aspects of this wrong, because we will be able to put it right in future legislation. But if we get this aspect of the Bill wrong, it will prove very costly to change course on the design of vehicles, which will have been conceived and built the wrong way. We will then face costs of adjustment as well as huge social costs, because we will have a generation of people who are stuck at home rather than being able to use vehicles as they should be able to.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I will not take up the House’s time. We have nothing to add to this debate, although it has been very interesting. I have to deliver our judgment, which is that we are pretty sympathetic to this group. Much will depend on what the Minister says, and the extent to which he is able to give assurances may cause our view to change, but we are broadly sympathetic and will listen carefully to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, particularly those who joined me for a detailed discussion following Committee.

The Government want all parts of society, including those with disabilities, to be able to reap the benefits of self-driving technology; I see no disagreement between us on that point. The question at hand is not one of ambition but rather the most appropriate form and timing of intervention.

It bears repeating that we are all dealing with an industry in its infancy. It is not clear what kinds of services will ultimately come forward, and therefore what kind of accessibility provisions are appropriate. What is clear, however, is that if we try to compensate for that uncertainty with unnecessarily broad requirements, the greatest risk is that the industry simply does not develop at all.

If we want self-driving technology to serve the needs of disabled people, we must have a viable self-driving industry in the first place. That is why we have anchored our approach in the recommendations put forward by the law commissions. Their central conclusion on this issue was that our focus should be on gathering evidence and gaining experience. On their recommendation we have built reporting on accessibility into the new passenger permit scheme and have committed to using this learning to develop national accessibility standards for permits. Although we will do so in a more flexible, non-statutory form, it is on their recommendation that we are establishing an accessibility advisory panel to inform that process. We will of course also draw on the deep and hugely valuable expertise of our existing statutory Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

Alongside this, the Government will continue to support the development of accessible self-driving vehicle designs. This investment has already helped five separate projects to deploy accessible vehicles, and there will be further opportunities as part of our £150 million CAM pathfinder fund, announced last year.

Beginning with Amendment 8, the authorisation process exists to ensure that self-driving vehicles operate safely. It is not designed to regulate the physical construction of vehicles. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Borwick points out, most developers are currently working to incorporate self-driving systems into existing, mass-produced models, not creating new vehicles from scratch.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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That is not actually what is happening in the marketplace. General Motors has developed the Wayve vehicle, which is now being used in San Francisco. If the regulation is there, the market is already ready and large companies such as General Motors are already making the provision.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I hear what the noble Lord says and am not going to argue with him on that at this point. Where there are overlaps between safety and accessibility, for example in the training of human detection systems, these will be addressed as part of the statement of safety principles. Beyond this, accessibility provisions are best made at the service level, of which vehicle design is just one part.

That is why our approach focuses on understanding how services can best be delivered for disabled users, which can then inform standard permit requirements. As drafted, the amendment would also apply these accessibility principles to any vehicle authorised as self-driving. That would include everything from private cars to vans, HGVs and even tractors. This would be disproportionate and out of step with the way we regulate conventional vehicle designs.

While Amendments 18 and 20 focus on passenger service provision, they could impose design requirements that are simply too sweeping to be workable. Requiring that every automated passenger service vehicle be “accessible to disabled people” would likely require adaptions, including full wheelchair accessibility. Imposing this requirement on the full self-driving passenger service fleet would be disproportionate, and not something we require of conventional taxis and private hire vehicles. This would make the UK market unviable, to the detriment of all users, including those with disabilities. As colleagues have noted, the needs of disabled people are broad and diverse. I note that even vehicles that claim to be 100% wheelchair accessible frequently cannot accommodate the full range of motorised and larger chairs.

Amendment 19 looks to apply the accessibility requirements of existing taxi, private hire and public service vehicle legislation to the passenger permitting scheme. This would not have the desired effect, as these requirements are largely imposed on the human driver. Furthermore, novel automated services may not fit neatly into these traditional modal schemes. Indeed, this is the very challenge that the law commissions were looking to tackle when they recommended the approach we are now taking. Nevertheless, I recognise the points that my noble friend makes and undertake to reflect on how we can best align our standard permitting conditions with the spirit of the Equality Act. These will also reflect the Bill’s specific requirements to consider the needs of older and disabled people before any permit can be issued.

I turn now to some details of the permitting system. Amendment 22 places an unnecessarily high burden on issuing authorities to guarantee that permits enable learning and improve understanding. The Bill already requires that authorities consider the likelihood of this. A more stringent standard would be impractical and add little value. Applicants will naturally be required to provide evidence of their plans for accessibility reporting as part of their permit application. Pre-deployment reports of the kind proposed by Amendment 24 would therefore be redundant.

The reporting process is outcome focused, requiring providers to explain what they are doing to meet the needs of disabled users. Vehicle accessibility could naturally be one of the many inputs that help to do this. I contend that a separate reference, as proposed by Amendment 23, is therefore also unnecessary.

Amendment 21 would require that relevant disability groups be consulted before each permit was issued. Consultation with such groups will naturally form part of developing the national minimum standards for permits. To require separate consultation for each individual permit would be excessively onerous and there would be considerable ambiguity as to which groups would be relevant in each case. Both these issues could severely inhibit the growth of new services.

Amendment 27 would require the Government to annually commission and pay due regard to research on self-driving vehicles’ accessibility. I have already described some of the work that we are undertaking in this space, which will of course continue. However, the wording of this requirement is too general to be effectively implemented and enforced.

I wholly appreciate the strength of feeling on these issues. By explaining the position taken by the Government and the law commissions, I hope that I have been able to offer at least some assurances.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, and the Minister and his officials for their engagement between Committee and Report.

I will take a couple of points that my noble friend Lord Borwick raised as I entirely understand where he is coming from. The difficulty is that, if one is talking about logic, everything that currently is in place would need to necessarily remain as it is until it ceases to be, and then we could start again in terms of accessibility and inclusion. The Palace of Westminster is not perfect, but it is pretty accessible. Changes were made and compromises had to be given—and it is a grade 1 listed palace.

I say to all the businesses currently involved in this that I see the argument that the choice of vehicle—described as a donor vehicle—has not been able to be made accessible. One would assume that all the systems, software and platforms used, as they have been built from scratch, are fully accessible to blind, learning disabled and older people—indeed all people whose needs must be catered for. If those platforms and software systems are not accessible, that tells rather a large truth about what we are considering.

It is desperately disappointing that we find ourselves in this situation, when the promise of automated vehicles is accessible mobility for all, enabled through human-led technology. It is pretty clear that we are not quite there yet. I hope there will be greater changes and much more thought and reflection, potentially between Report and Third Reading. There is so much that needs to be done on access and inclusion. It is hard for me to make this decision but, having considered this deeply, sadly I find myself in the position of withdrawing my amendment at this stage.

Amendment 8 withdrawn.
Clause 3: Power to authorise
Amendment 9 not moved.
Clause 38: General monitoring duty
Amendment 9A
Moved by
9A: Clause 38, page 25, line 31, at end insert—
“(2A) The Office of Rail and Road must comply with every reasonable requirement of the Secretary of State—(a) to provide information or advice in relation to arrangements for monitoring and assessing the general performance of authorised automated vehicles on roads and other public places in Great Britain;(b) to provide information or advice about a matter relevant to the general performance of authorised automated vehicles on roads and other public places in Great Britain;(c) otherwise to provide the Secretary of State with assistance in relation to a matter that is connected with such a function or activity or is relevant to those purposes.”
Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 9A and 9B, which are in my name—these are manuscript amendments—as well as Amendment 10. I will explain to noble Lords why I felt the need to table this manuscript amendment. I apologise; I hope noble Lords have copies of it. The amendment came out like this because of an unfortunate timing issue: I was able to meet the Minister only yesterday. I am grateful to him for sparing the time, with his officials, to talk about the structure of bodies operating, supervising, developing, et cetera this whole system, and about my amendment in Committee on the Office of Rail and Road. Amendments 9A and 9B resulted from that meeting, because I was accompanied by the chief executive of the Office of Rail and Road, John Larkinson. I am grateful for the Minister sparing his time, with half a dozen of his officials, who were probably responsible for all the different elements of the Bill. In jest, I asked them whether they ever talk to each other, and they said, “Yes, we do”—and I am sure they do. It was a very useful meeting.

17:15
In these amendments, I thought it useful to explore whether, with all the new ideas rightly being brought forward in the Bill, there is a need for an independent body to keep an eye on what is being done. At the moment, all these things—the DVSA, the Vehicle Certification Agency and inspectors, which are in the Bill—are run by the Department for Transport. In Clause 38, there is a “General monitoring duty”, and my noble friend Lord Liddle has proposed an advisory council, which I said I support.
Something is missing here. If the Government, in the shape of the Department for Transport, are in charge of everything that goes on in this whole AV structure, there probably needs to be more than one independent body with the power and resources to occasionally say, “Look, have you thought about this? Have you got it wrong?” I take the Office of Rail and Road as an example, partly because I am quite familiar with dealing with it, but this is not unique to it. On the railways and roads —I will not go back and explain what I said about smart motorways in Committee, but that comment obviously applies—there is an argument for having a body that is impartial, independent and transparent, and that has the assurance of being able to act. It would have to be funded by the industry, or by someone, but the importance is that it would look at the risks, interfaces and, of course, safety. The basis for it doing this is our old favourite, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, which we all probably know quite a lot about. It has been around for a long time. It is the basis on which the railways are regulated for safety, and, in my view, it should be the basis on which the roads are regulated —but that is beyond the scope of these amendments.
Noble Lords may well say, “We don’t need that because we have the accident investigation and inspectors”. Again, other sectors have this: there is the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the marine one. They all do a good job, and they are independent. Ministers told me at a meeting yesterday that they also have an independent advisory panel, and that is good too—you cannot have too many of them.
My worry is that, at some stage in the future, the political pressure on the Department for Transport—whoever the Ministers are and whoever is running it—will become so great that they end up doing something they might regret, as I mentioned in Committee with the Office of Rail and Road. Therefore, although I am certainly not going to divide the House on this this evening, I thought it would be useful to explore with the Minister what the options were. He met the ORR and I hope that we can have further discussions about it. Whether he wants to bring it back at Third Reading is up to him.
However, there is a need for a body that is independent and can deal with these things away from the Department for Transport. If you ask people what they think about the ORR, some people in the railway industry think it is lousy and stops you doing things you want to do. To that, the ORR might say, “Well, d’you want to have an accident next week?” There is going to be a debate about this, but it is important to debate whether an independent body—such as the ORR—would be helpful in developing the ideas that are there at the moment, as they come to fruition.
I am not going speak in any great detail to all the other amendments in this group—although they are linked to it—except to say that we, somehow, need to get some independence into this. It is not consultants; it is something that has a statutory function. It is on that basis that I beg to move Amendment 9A and, again, apologise for being very late with it.
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I only spoke at Second Reading and was unable to take part in Committee. I think the House knows that I come from the world of aviation and, in terms of aviation, there is some similarity in the context that the noble Lord has covered this afternoon.

This is frontier technology. It happens to be on the ground, but those of us who have flown for Her Majesty’s Forces or flown privately can still take a great interest, in particular, in aviation. There is a need for those who are knowledgeable and not biased and are able to take time. One of the great problems in our society at the moment is time. When I look at what the Department for Trade and the Department for Transport are having to do, there may well be an argument for another body that is knowledgeable about what has been happening in the past and where things are going.

I thank the noble Lord opposite, and I hope my noble friend on the Front Bench will recognise that we are not having a Division on this—I assume—but that there ought to be further discussions on whether this is something we should look at more closely.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I added my name to Amendment 10, which relates to the ORR, because there are too many loose ends in the Bill in terms of the powers being granted to the Secretary of State and it is not specified where it goes after that.

We are dealing with some issues that are very closely aligned with those in Amendment 28: how the Government exercise the considerable power that they will have in relation to the development of this market.

To be totally frank, we do not need Department for Transport micromanagement. What we need is an independent body, with dedicated expertise, that will operate with safety considerations actually at the fore, because the development of this market will be badly compromised if there are huge safety issues that arise. It is important—really essential—that the development of this technology is rolled out with safety at its heart. As the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, stated, the CAA is an excellent example. It can be replicated by expanding the role of the ORR to take this under its wing and by looking closely at what the ORR does at the moment. It has the foundations that we need for something that can be developed pretty rapidly. I say to the Minister that I hope that the Government take this seriously and give it consideration. If it is not possible to give precision by Third Reading, hopefully it might be possible to do so by the time the Bill reaches the other place.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for raising these issues. I am afraid that my consideration of these things comes to the conclusion that it is a mess. There are various bodies in the Department for Transport that have various responsibilities in various other forms of transport. There is the road safety investigation branch; I cannot for the life of me see why we are going to have a road safety investigation branch. If we are, I am not quite clear in my mind how that will add value. Some clarification from the Minister would be welcome. We probably need a sensible internal review in the Department for Transport to see to what extent we need all these bodies or whether they have sufficient common themes to be brought together, thereby bringing together the expertise. All in all, I think this is a challenge for the Government, and I hope they rise to it.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking the time to meet me yesterday to discuss these issues in more detail. I absolutely agree with him on the importance of independent input into the system, and I have already touched on where the Government see these key functions lying. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned, this is central to the purpose of the independent statutory inspectors, whose role is established in Part 3, Chapter 2 of the Bill. They will have complete independence and all the necessary powers to investigate incidents involving self-driving vehicles and make public recommendations to improve the safety of the system. They are functionally the same as their marine, air and rail equivalents. All these bodies are part of the department, but nonetheless maintain their independence.

Separately, the Government will continue to be held to account in Parliament on their administration of the self-driving system—both at the Dispatch Box and by the Transport Select Committee. Indeed, government Amendment 7 will enable even greater scrutiny in this House of the first iteration of our statement of safety principles. Finally, we will continue to receive independent advice from our expert advisory panel, featuring representatives from the RAC Foundation, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, and a selection of academics and engineers.

I will begin with Amendments 12 to 17, which look to change the role and purpose of the statutory inspectors to cover vehicle technologies that were never designed to meet the self-driving test. Our focus in this piece of legislation is on delivering the recommendations of the law commissions. Recommendation 32 of their report specifically calls for independent incident investigation to form part of the self-driving vehicle safety framework.

Our view is therefore that the inspectors’ role should be focused explicitly on incidents involving self-driving vehicles. This will require specific skills and expertise, and close working with the other arms of the self-driving safety framework. I recognise the noble Lord’s desire to see the remit expanded. While I fear that we disagree on that point, I assure him that the Bill permits flexibility to make sure that edge cases are not excluded. For example, the inspectors’ powers extend to vehicles that have at any point been authorised as self-driving, including those that, for whatever reason, have had their authorisation revoked or otherwise called into question. Further, provided an incident involves at least one self-driving vehicle, inspectors will be able to investigate all vehicles involved, self-driving or otherwise.

17:30
The noble Lord’s remaining amendments explore the potential role of the Office of Rail and Road in the self-driving safety framework. I know that the ORR currently does excellent work in regulating our rail industry and monitoring the performance of our strategic highways company operating in England. I recognise that this includes a focus on road safety on our motorways and major A roads. Indeed, officials in the department are already working with colleagues in the ORR to understand potential areas of interaction with the self-driving safety framework that we are establishing. In particular, we are exploring where there may be interfaces with the role of the statutory inspectors.
However, Amendment 10 as worded would make the ORR responsible for licensing operators of no-user-in-charge vehicles. We do not believe that this is the right place for this function; it is more suited to the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, which has existing expertise and enforcement powers for operator licensing. The Bill also already includes powers to delegate operator licensing to the independent traffic commissioners, who are responsible for issuing freight operator licences for conventional vehicles. To delegate these responsibilities to the ORR could lead to inconsistencies, and I contend that it would be unnecessary.
Amendments 9A and 9B look to establish a potential role for the ORR in providing advice to the Secretary of State in support of the general monitoring duty in Clause 38. Given its focus on motorways and major A roads in England, the ORR is not currently set up to monitor safety performance across the whole road network or the whole of Great Britain. Adding the duties suggested in the amendment would be a significant expansion of its remit. In its existing monitoring remit, the ORR will already need to consider the impact of self-driving vehicles on the safety performance of the strategic road network. We therefore do not consider the amendment to be necessary. Once again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for sharing his expertise on these points and hope that my explanation offers sufficient clarification of the position.
Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down, will he do me a personal favour and put me out of my agony? What has happened to the road safety investigation branch?

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Lord Davies of Gower (Con)
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I am not sure that I completely understand, so I am unable to give an answer. As far as I understand, it still exists.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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It does not exist.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and for the support I have received from many colleagues. My noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe hit the nail on the head when he said that because so many different organisations are getting involved in this, it might be confusing. I will leave aside the road safety investigation branch he just mentioned.

There is benefit in reflecting on what everybody has said today. I hope the Minister will be prepared for some of us to meet him in the near future—although probably not before Third Reading—to look at the overall structure, taking into account the words I used earlier: impartiality, independence, transparency and assurance. I am not trying to suggest that any of the existing activities being done very well by the department should be taken over, but it might be very useful to have something independent for a venture as new as this. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 9A withdrawn.
Amendment 9B not moved.
Amendment 10 not moved.
Clause 42: Protection of information
Amendment 11
Moved by
11: Clause 42, page 29, line 3, leave out from “liable” to end of line 4 and insert “—
(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to a fine;(b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum;(c) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that a fine for an offence under clause 42(4) imposed in summary proceedings in Scotland may not exceed the maximum fine generally available in such proceedings.
Amendment 11 agreed.
Clause 60: The role of inspector
Amendment 12 not moved.
Clause 62: General power to investigate certain incidents
Amendments 13 to 16 not moved.
Clause 77: Interpretation
Amendment 17 not moved.
Clause 82: Power to grant permits
Amendment 18 not moved.
Clause 83: Disapplication of taxi, private hire vehicle and bus legislation
Amendment 19 not moved.
Clause 86: Consent requirement for services resembling buses
Amendment 20 not moved.
Clause 87: Further requirements
Amendments 21 to 24 not moved.
Clause 88: Collection, sharing and protection of information
Amendments 25 and 26
Moved by
25: Clause 88, page 62, line 1, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “appropriate national authority”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment corrects a drafting mistake, enabling the devolved administrations to make regulations about information-sharing in relation to passenger services within their competence.
26: Clause 88, page 62, line 19, leave out from “liable” to end of line 20 and insert “—
(a) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to a fine;(b) on summary conviction in Scotland, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum;(c) on conviction on indictment, to a fine.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies that a fine for an offence under clause 88(6) imposed in summary proceedings in Scotland may not exceed the maximum fine generally available in such proceedings.
Amendments 25 and 26 agreed.
Amendment 27 not moved.
Amendment 28
Moved by
28: After Clause 93, insert the following new Clause—
“Advisory Council(1) Within six months of the passing of this Act the Secretary of State must establish a council to advise on the implementation of this Act, and the roll out of self-driving vehicles.(2) The Advisory Council must include organisations appearing to the Secretary of State to represent—(a) the interests of road users, including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists;(b) the cause of road safety;(c) the cause of accessibility, and the impact of the roll out of self-driving vehicles on disabled road users;(e) trade unions and the interests of relevant employees including delivery providers and public transport workers;(f) the interests of businesses involved, or likely to be involved in, the manufacture, operation and insurance of mechanically propelled road vehicles designed to travel autonomously;(g) the police and other emergency services;(h) highway authorities.(3) The Secretary of State must designate a relevant officer of the Department to send reports to the Advisory Council on the roll out of self driving vehicles and any issues of public policy that arise. (4) The Advisory Council must report regularly to Parliament on the advice it has provided, and any related matters relevant to the roll out of self driving vehicles and associated public policy.”
Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 28 on the establishment of a statutory advisory council, which would enable better progress with self-driving vehicles and automated vehicles than not having it. I would like to test the opinion of the House.

17:36

Division 1

Ayes: 200


Labour: 112
Liberal Democrat: 63
Crossbench: 20
Non-affiliated: 4
Green Party: 1

Noes: 204


Conservative: 184
Crossbench: 13
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Non-affiliated: 3
Independent: 1

17:47
Clause 95: Disclosure of information: interaction with external constraints
Amendment 29
Moved by
29: Clause 95, page 68, line 33, leave out “does” and insert “must”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to change a presumption that a provision relating to information disclosure does not contravene data protection legislation into an active requirement that it should not.
Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD)
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My Lords, I have tabled four amendments which constitute this group. There are two interacting issues: public interest and commercial interest. It is clear that where safety, human lives or participation are at risk, that has to win over commercial interest. This is what we are dealing with in these amendments. I have made some suggestions because I do not really understand what the legislation is saying. Instead of a speech, and because my voice is dodgy, I am just going to read out the subsection and explain what I do not understand.

Clause 95(2) says:

“The provision does not require or authorise any disclosure, obtaining or use of information that … contravenes data protection”


or is prohibited under something to do with the Investigatory Powers Act. What does “the provision does not” mean? I have changed it to say that the provision —which would come forward from regulations—“must” not authorise things that would contravene data protection legislation. This might be similar to what we used to call a “notwithstanding” clause—notwithstanding what the provision says, it actually means something else, or it does not mean what it says. I think it would be better if it said “must”.

If it is a contravening provision—a notwithstanding type—meaning that the regulation might say one thing but that thing is not allowed because it is forbidden in another piece of legislation, at what point does this come to light in the request for information? Is the requester of the information obliged to make it clear: “Oh well, we do not need this bit”, or does the person who is requested to give the information have to plead: “Oh, I do not have to answer that”? I do not know the answer to those questions. I do not know whether this is a notwithstanding clause or whether the constraint will be clear at the point at which the evidence or information is being sought. I wait to hear what the Minister tells me it means.

Amendment 30 would add intellectual property rights to the list of legislation which must not be contravened. As Clause 95 deals quite a lot with commercial rights and the use of data and things that can be asked for under investigatory powers, why can we not put in intellectual property rights, which is another part of the family, if you like? I am still having some interesting discussions with the officials as to whether or not it is needed. I think it is, they think it is not. Maybe we can get some clarity by Third Reading. That is the basis of my second amendment.

My third amendment is to Clause 95(3), which says:

“But the provision is to be taken into account in determining whether the disclosure, obtaining or use of information would contravene the data protection legislation”.


I