Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist debates involving the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 17th Apr 2023
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 2
Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Thu 9th Mar 2023
Thu 2nd Mar 2023

Advanced Modular Reactors: Criticality Tests

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Tuesday 19th March 2024

(1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is great to see that Labour now supports new nuclear projects, because that was not always the case for previous Governments. As I said to my noble friend Lord Howell, we want to see them in production by the early 2030s.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the acquisition of Wylfa, which is hugely significant for both the generation of nuclear power and the people of north-west Wales. But why are they supporting only high-temperature gas reactor technologies in the AMR RD&D programme?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for her question and her positive advocacy of Wales and the Welsh nuclear programmes. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, was going to ask me something similar —he may well still do so. The Government selected HTGRs for research and development purposes in the AMR R&D programme following analysis by the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office of the responses to a call for evidence. This analysis suggested that HTGRs are the most promising AMR technology for decarbonisation due to their ability to generate high-temperature heat and their high technology readiness levels.

Civil Nuclear Road Map

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Monday 15th January 2024

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I welcome the noble Lord’s comments. We recognise the substantial contributions that many communities in Wales have made over the years towards our nuclear policy in the UK and all the energy that we have received. Part of the consultation is a check on the siting of new nuclear plants, and community support, the existence of existing grid connections and so on will play important roles in future siting policies. The plants that he mentions score very well in that regard.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my nuclear interests as outlined in the register. I wholeheartedly welcome this report—and its earlier cousin, Towards Fusion Energy—particularly its emphasis on the cross-Whitehall endeavour to build the skilled workforce that the industry needs, which we all know will be a challenge. But back to Wales. Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Jones said, can my noble friend the Minister reassure me that, in deciding sites for a further large-scale and small modular reactor, sufficient weight will be given to the levelling-up needs of north-west Wales, where the creation of a nuclear cluster, including gigawatt generation at Wylfa and both SMR and medical radioisotope production at Trawsfynydd, would indeed be transformative?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I know from many conversations that I have had with my noble friend her absolute commitment to pursuing the cause of Wales and the contribution that it can make to our nuclear renaissance. I give her the absolute reassurance, building on the reply that I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Jones, that the communities she has mentioned are very well placed to benefit from the new nuclear policies that we have announced. On her other point, my noble friend is correct to say that we need to build a skilled nuclear workforce to ensure that we have the people we need to power this future nuclear renaissance.

Climate Change Policies

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer to the noble Baroness’s first question is no. With regard to the OBR, I am not quite sure why the OBR has a role in this. We obviously have our Climate Change Committee which gives the Government advice, but, to be frank, lots of other external organisations send me more advice on this subject every day, so we are not short of helpful academic advice on all the topics under consideration. As I said, we are looking towards the future. The Government are still committed to our legally binding climate change targets. That means sticking to the legally binding carbon budgets that we have overdelivered on, and we are on track to deliver on the next one.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, it was Nuclear Week in Parliament last week, which showcased a myriad of gigawatt and small, advanced and microgenerating nuclear power. Can my noble friend the Minister reassure me not only that the Government are still committed to investing in nuclear but that they understand the urgency of doing so if the UK is to benefit from both the supply chain and the employment possibilities in areas of the country that desperately need levelling up, such as north Wales?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness has been resolute in her support for nuclear and does a fantastic job in advocating for it. I am very happy to give her the reassurance that she is looking for. Of course, again, the nuclear industry was left to decay under the last Labour Government. We have resumed it through building Hinkley Point, and we are about to take a final investment decision on Sizewell. I know the noble Baroness is particularly keen on the announcement of Great British Nuclear. These are all contributing towards our climate change goals. Nuclear will provide us with cost-effective, CO-free power for many years into the future.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Moved by
62: Clause 24, page 24, line 27, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (1A),”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the Minister’s other amendment to Clause 24 ensure that any amendment, repeal or revocation made by the Bill has the same extent within the United Kingdom as the provision to which it relates.
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, government Amendments 62 and 63 to Clause 24 provide a clarification, setting out that any amendments, repeals or revocations in the Bill have the same territorial extent as the provisions they are acting on. The Bill is intended to apply UK-wide. The purpose of Clause 24 is to set out the territorial extent of the Bill, which covers England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The purpose of government Amendments 62 and 63 is to set out in unambiguous terms that, while the Bill extends to the whole of the UK, any amendments, revocations and repeals by the Bill extend so far as the provision they are acting on. The amendments are minor and technical in nature and will not alter the policy of the Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment 62 agreed.
Moved by
63: Clause 24, page 24, line 27, at end insert—
“(1A) Any amendment, repeal or revocation made by this Act has the same extent within the United Kingdom as the provision to which it relates.”Member’s explanatory statement
See the statement about the Minister’s other amendment to Clause 24.
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Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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“Shut up”?—well done. I am just saying: let us get on with the Bill seriously rather than keeping on blaming each other. That was my point in the first place. Drop the smug tone.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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Perhaps I can remind the House that we have been incredibly patient but noble Lords should stick to debating the amendments rather than general points. Perhaps we can get on and make some progress.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, this group of amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, my noble friend Lord Whitty and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, consider the circumstances of some of the vulnerable customers in the energy market, and the actions the Government might take to protect them from the vagaries of the market. Such actions range from a social tariff through to inhibiting the exploitation of current prepayment meter customers and a prohibition on the installation of prepayment meters unless specifically requested by a customer. These amendments would collectively offer protection for these customers, who are often regarded as problems by billing companies.

As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, Ofgem recently announced a stop to companies forcing their way into premises to fit prepayment meters. This practice was commonplace and saw such customers paying more in energy costs as companies passed on the costs associated with the fitting and maintenance of prepayment meters. The ban was originally due to last until the end of March and has now been made indefinite.

The call for a social tariff has been advocated by Citizens Advice and is supported by the Social Market Foundation. It comes in a report that follows a long period of consultation with industry leaders, civil society and the general public. Last year, National Energy Action also argued for a social tariff for low-income households, highlighting the double bind of energy costs and rising bills coupled with paying more due to the poverty premium. A targeted social tariff would limit the impact of these circumstances, as well as help accelerate a fair transition towards net zero. I repeat the question asked by my noble friend Lord Whitty: are the Government able to give an indication that they might review the current tariff structure with a view to making it fairer, in favour of vulnerable customers, including prepayment meter customers?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, this group covers amendments tabled regarding support and protections for the most vulnerable energy consumers. First, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their amendment to introduce a social tariff for vulnerable energy customers.

I am all too aware of the context for the noble Lords’ amendments, as energy bills have dramatically increased for all households over the past 18 months. This, coupled with the wider cost of living, has put the budgets of vulnerable households under considerable pressure. Noble Lords will be aware that the Chancellor set out in the Autumn Statement that the Government would work with consumer groups and industry to explore the best approach for consumer protection from April 2024. He also said that the Government would assess options, including a social tariff. These discussions are already well under way and are ongoing.

As set out in Powering Up Britain: Energy Security Plan, the Government have committed to consult this summer on options to provide better targeted support for those who need it most. In addition, the Chancellor announced in the Spring Budget that the energy price guarantee will be extended at £2,500 for an additional three months to the end of June 2023. This is in addition to the expanded warm home discount scheme, which has been extended until 2026 and which provides £475 million in support per year in 2020 prices.

The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, relate to the smart prepayment meter rollout and the restriction of the use of prepayment meters. The Government want to see the highest possible levels of smart meter coverage across the country, including for prepayment. Energy suppliers are each being set annual minimum installation targets and large suppliers are required to publish their performance against those targets, broken down by credit and prepayment.

This amendment would go further, effectively mandating the replacement of legacy prepayment meters by the end of 2025. This would present significant logistical challenges, including the need for energy suppliers to obtain warrants to enter consumers’ homes. I think we can all agree that that would not be a satisfactory outcome. Prioritising the replacement of legacy prepayment meters may have the unintended consequence of creating disincentives for suppliers to install smart meters for vulnerable credit customers. Data from Ofgem indicates that around 70% of those with disabilities pay by direct debit and may therefore benefit from the automated readings which smart meters deliver.

I understand the sentiment that lies behind the noble Lord’s calls for measures aimed at ending self-disconnections, such as a social tariff. However, his amendment is not the way to achieve this. The best way is through the work under way to explore the best approach for consumer protection, which I outlined earlier.

Regarding the noble Lord’s second amendment, the Government agree that the recent findings in the Times in relation to customers of British Gas having prepayment meters forcibly installed were both shocking and unacceptable. It is critical that our most vulnerable energy users are protected, and that is why the Government acted quickly to tackle this issue of inappropriate prepayment meter use. The Secretary of State wrote to energy suppliers insisting they revise their practices and improve their action to support vulnerable households.

Following that, all domestic energy suppliers have agreed to cease the forced installation of prepayment meters, and the remote switching of smart meters to prepayment mode, while Ofgem and industry agree and implement a code of practice to improve consumer safeguards. Ofgem will then start a formal statutory consultation process to modify suppliers’ licence conditions in line with the code, which will allow Ofgem to use its full enforcement powers to enforce compliance with the code.

I am pleased that the Chancellor has acted through the Budget to remove the premium paid by prepayment meter customers. That will happen from July initially, through the energy price guarantee, with Ofgem bringing forward options for longer-term solutions to be implemented by April 2024.

Prepayment meters can continue to play an important role in the market. They are a useful tool for some customers to prevent debt building up, and a complete ban on prepayment meters would likely see a move to using debt enforcement via the courts and bailiffs, which is not a desirable outcome. However, it is important that the rules around their use are sufficient and properly enforced. That is why Ofgem is undertaking a review to consider how prepayment meters are handled across the market. The Government will continue to review progress to ensure that these processes lead to positive changes for vulnerable consumers.

Amendment 74 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, relates to protecting heat network consumers. Robust consumer protection rules are of paramount importance, which is the primary reason that the Government are regulating the heat network sector. Schedule 16 provides for regulations to make the regulator’s principal objective to protect the interests of existing and future heat network consumers. That mirrors Ofgem’s principal objectives regarding existing and future gas and electricity consumers.

I would like to provide more detail on what that principal objective will mean in practice. It will ensure that the regulator prioritises enforcing rules that ensure that heat network consumers receive fair prices and reliable supplies of heat. The regulator will have powers to investigate and intervene where prices appear unfair or are significantly higher than comparable heating systems. The regulator will also introduce heat supply standards of performance, including adequate compensation for consumers who experience outages. That will ensure that heat network consumers receive comparable standards to gas and electricity consumers.

We are introducing these measures through secondary legislation and authorisation conditions, as with gas and electricity consumer protections, to ensure that rules can be updated more easily as the market matures and decarbonises. The Government will consult on the specific consumer standards that need to be met, and I encourage the noble Lord to consider that consultation once it is published later this year.

I hope that noble Lords are reassured by this explanation and feel able not to press their amendments.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that considered reply and the recognition in her remarks that there is still a serious problem. She referred to Ofgem coming up with something in relation to the way in which prepayment meters operate. In this new era, with a new structure following the Bill, it would be useful if Ofgem and the Government looked at the totality of structures for all forms of supply of energy, and particularly at the impact on more vulnerable consumers—Ofgem would need to take the lead, I guess. I hope the issues that I raised on the structure of tariffs in relation to the priority service register and the impact on vulnerable consumers would be included. I am watching this space. The noble Baroness has moved some way towards recognising that there is an issue.

I refrained from commenting in detail on heat networks because my voice was going. There is a problem. I very much welcome the fact that this is one bit of consumer protection in the Bill; it has been extended to the users of district heating. District heating has been convenient and is usually quite cheap but is now faced with real problems. I hope that the consultation will cover it.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I will briefly thank my noble friend Lord Berkeley for this amendment, which is asking the Government to introduce renewable liquid heating fuel obligations that mirror the renewable transport fuel obligations as a choice available for decarbonising heating. I do not know—perhaps the Government know—whether there is any reason why they cannot accept this proposal, given that these fuels can be produced and distributed using industrial facilities that seem to already exist, and in turn using local raw materials, making it possible to diversify the energy base of the country in order to keep moving forward and achieve energy independence. Would it work? If so, why not give it the go-ahead?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his amendment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale and Lord Teverson, for their contributions to this debate. Decarbonising buildings off the gas grid—and I should perhaps declare an interest in that I, too, live in a house that is off the gas grid—using fossil-fuel heating is a key priority for the Government, as they use some of the most polluting fuels. Action on these buildings will help us to reduce our dependence on imported oil and protect consumers from high and volatile energy prices, while keeping us on track for net zero.

In 2021, we consulted on a policy of phasing out the installation of fossil-fuel heating systems in homes, businesses and public buildings in England off the gas grid during the 2020s. We will issue the government responses to these consultations in due course, setting out our plans regarding these policies. I am afraid that I cannot be more specific than that on the timing.

The noble Lord’s amendment seeks to impose new obligations on heating fuel suppliers, to encourage the supply and use of renewable liquid heating fuels. I appreciate his intent to increase the role of renewable liquid fuels in heating to help with the transition to clean heat off the gas grid. However, a number of questions must be answered before we can make decisions on what role renewable liquid heating fuels should play in the future heating mix and develop the policy framework which would support such a role. As he will be aware, sustainable biomass is a limited resource. We will need to prioritise its use in sectors that have the fewest options for decarbonisation and the most potential for emissions reductions. Indeed, the Climate Change Committee argues that the use of biofuels in heat should be minimised as far as possible to enable best use of biomass across the whole economy. Overcommitting in heating risks having effects in other sectors, such as transport, or driving up the prices paid for these fuels. The forthcoming biomass strategy will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and will then consider how this resource could be best used across the economy to achieve net zero. Policy decisions on the role of renewable liquid fuels will need to reflect this strategy.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Moved by
22: Clause 67, page 59, line 29, at end insert—
“(4A) Provision made by virtue of subsection (3)(d) for the imposition of a financial penalty must include provision for a right of appeal against the imposition of the penalty.”Member's explanatory statement
This amendment requires regulations under Clause 67(3)(d) (functions of hydrogen levy administrator) that make provision for the imposition of financial penalties to include provision for a right of appeal.
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendments standing in the name of my noble friend, which address recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Energy Bill. We are grateful to the committee for its detailed scrutiny of the provisions in the Bill. The committee provided a range of comments and recommendations which the Government have carefully considered. The Minister was pleased to confirm in his response to the committee that the Government have accepted nine recommendations. He also provided further clarification, as requested, in response to the majority of the committee’s other comments. These amendments address the recommendations the Government have accepted, and I hope they will be welcomed by noble Lords.

Turning first to Amendments 22, 34, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 55, 64, 76, 77, 92, 93, 99 to 103, 105 and 106, the committee highlighted that certain clauses of the Bill confer powers to make provision for the imposition of civil penalties without mandating a requirement for the regulations to provide for a right of appeal. While it was absolutely the Government’s intention that regulations under such clauses would provide for a right to appeal, we have taken on board the committee’s comments.

These amendments clarify this point and ensure that regulations made under these clauses, which make provision for a civil or financial penalty, must also include provision for a right of appeal to a court or tribunal against the imposition of such a penalty. The committee’s recommendations referred to three specific instances in the Bill. To ensure consistency across the Bill, we have tabled similar amendments to a number of other clauses which make provision for a civil or financial penalty.

Amendments 73, 80 to 90, 96, 107 to 123 and 139 to 142 address the committee’s recommendations relating to changing the procedure to which regulations made under powers in the Bill are subject. The Government agree with the committee on the importance of parliamentary scrutiny. As such, we have tabled amendments to address the committee’s recommendations relating to changing the parliamentary procedure. These amendments will facilitate detailed scrutiny of the powers, when used.

Amendment 91 responds to the committee’s recommendation regarding subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 180, on heat network zoning. The committee had concerns that these provisions would confer powers allowing non-statutory documents to make requirements in relation to the methodology for identifying areas as potential heat network zones. We welcome the committee’s comments, and this amendment will ensure that any non-statutory documents do not have legislative effect. The amendment omits from Clause 180 subsection (3), which provides for the heat network zones authority to publish documents elaborating on one or more aspects of the zoning methodology. It also omits from the same clause subsection (4), which provides that regulations may require the authority and zone co-ordinators to comply with any requirements set out in these documents.

I reiterate my thanks to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its engagement and reports on the Bill, and I hope its members will be pleased with the amendments discussed today. I beg to move Amendment 22.

Lord McLoughlin Portrait Lord McLoughlin (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of the committee, I thank the Government for responding favourably to the report. I hope this is something that other departments will follow through in their subsequent considerations.

Energy Bill [HL]

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Baroness Blake of Leeds Portrait Baroness Blake of Leeds (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord for bringing this information to our attention. Some interesting reports documenting the risks are available, and I refer particularly to the report from the Institution of Fire Engineers on solar power fire risk and to batteryfiresafety.co.uk.

I have a couple of points to add to the comments already made as to whether it would be worth directing information about the storage of the batteries. It should be highlighted in particular that batteries are often stored in garages next to parked cars, which can have similar battery systems, and will not always be easily accessible.

The risks of lithium ion batteries from a fire safety perspective apparently have been well documented. However, the other element is that the risk with lithium ion batteries is not just fire. Once the battery fails—I think the term is “runs away”—the cells usually start to give off smoke. Thermal runaway is the chemical process within the battery which produces heat, as well as flammable toxic chemical gases, very quickly, often before any flames arise.

I think it is fair to say that, although the information is out there, it has not been properly documented. I wonder whether the health and safety considerations of the increasing use of these batteries and solar panels have been taken on board. Does the Minister think that there is a problem and, if the answer is yes, what does she propose to do about it?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his amendment on requesting a report into the fire risks of photovoltaic panels, lithium ion battery storage facilities and similar technologies. I was delighted to hear of his welcome in the Budget for the VAT exemptions.

First, I reassure the noble Lord that the health and safety regimes surrounding net-zero technologies are a priority for the Government. All electrical equipment requires safe installation and use. The Government recognise the importance of net-zero technologies such as electricity storage and solar PV in their ability to help us to use energy more flexibly and decarbonise our electricity system cost-effectively.

The data collected so far indicates that the risk from solar PV fires is low. However, it is right that we work with the industry to understand why any incidents happen and help to stop future occurrences. Over a three-year period and an overall cost of £135,000, the Government commissioned the Building Research Establishment to develop new guidelines for PV system installers, designers and the fire services, with the aim of making solar PV even safer. In February this year, the RISC Authority, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and Solar Energy UK published an updated joint code of practice on recommendations for fire risk prevention in UK solar systems. Grid-scale lithium ion battery energy storage systems are covered by a robust regulatory framework, which requires manufacturers to ensure that products are safe before they are placed on the market and installed correctly, and that any safety issues found after products are on the market or after installations are dealt with.

In 2018, the Government set up an industry-led electricity storage health and safety governance group, which is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate, robust and future-proofed health and safety framework is sustained as the industry develops and electricity storage deployment increases. The Government are currently working with the group to support the development of a product and installation publicly available standard for domestic small-scale battery storage and guidance for grid-scale storage. They will both be published this year.

Most of the specific issues of e-scooters and bicycles fall within the remit of the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, and I shall ask it to write to the noble Lord. I can also confirm that Defra will soon publish a consultation on battery recycling.

I do not believe that a specific report on fire risk of photovoltaic panels, lithium ion battery storage facilities and similar technologies mandated by the Secretary of State is necessary. While I welcome the noble Lord’s intention, we believe that working alongside industry and the fire services to manage specific risks is the appropriate way forward. It ensures that these vital technologies are installed, operated and decommissioned in a safe way, while still delivering the best outcomes for consumers. I hope that the noble Lord can recognise the Government’s sustained commitment to enabling the deployment of net-zero technologies in a safe and sustainable way.

In addition, on the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, about lithium ion batteries and their ability to combust, I visited last week a very clever packaging firm called Tri-Wall in Monmouth, which has developed packaging specifically for lithium ion batteries to be transported by air safely. The packaging itself will detect any change in heat in the batteries that it contains and change the structure of the packaging into water that will put the fire out before it even gets out of the packaging. Very clever technologies are being developed specifically around lithium ion battery transport and storage.

I hope that, with those few reassuring remarks, we can ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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My Lords, the time is late; I shall be very quick indeed. I was well aware, of course, of the work that has been done looking at the package of arrangements around solar panels and their batteries. I really wanted to use it as a peg on which to hang the wider issue of all forms of lithium batteries, in particular. I am pleased to hear about the 2018 established group. It would be very helpful if we could see some of the output of that. I am grateful, too, to hear that there are going to be new standards, but the truth is very simple: you can have all the standards you like, and the products may be okay, but if they are not used appropriately and not decommissioned appropriately, then real problems exist, and that is what is happening. There are a huge number of fires in our landfill sites because people are not doing what they are meant to do in disposing of batteries. We have to find a way forward. That is why I wanted a report. I am disappointed that the Minister is not prepared to go further, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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I appreciate the noble Lord drawing that to my attention. I have not had the opportunity to read the email, so maybe I will be jumping back up when the Minister responds and I have been able to read it.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their amendments. Amendments 14, 19 and 49 relate to devolved matters, either via devolved Governments or local government. Amendment 14 seeks to require the consent of elected mayors before minimum service levels could be set in an area for which an elected mayor is responsible. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is right to point out that this is unworkable. Consultations have been published on minimum service levels for ambulance, fire and rail services, and we welcome the engagement of elected mayors on those consultations. Similarly, Amendment 19 seeks to require consultation with Scottish and Welsh Ministers before minimum service level regulations are made in Scotland or Wales, with a view to reaching an agreement. Amendment 49 seeks to limit the territorial extent of the Bill to England.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised concerns about the impact of this legislation on devolution, and this is an important issue. However, employment rights and duties and industrial relations are reserved in Scotland and Wales. That said, I reassure her and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, that my noble friend the Minister met both the Welsh and Scottish Governments to discuss the Bill.

The Government have a duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens across the United Kingdom. The disproportionate impacts that strikes can have on the public are no less severe on people in Scotland and Wales or on those living in areas with elected mayors. They have every right to expect the Government to act to ensure that they can continue to access vital public services during strikes.

The Government therefore resist these amendments. However, as I said earlier, nothing in the Bill requires an employer, which might include a devolved Government or an elected mayor, to issue a work notice. That would include the example of Cardiff Airport that the noble Baroness cited.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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On that point, which is repeatedly coming up, would the noble Baroness be able to assure the Committee that we can have a clause in the Bill—because courts sometimes interpret “may” as meaning “shall”—that makes it very clear that no legal obligation whatever rests on any person whatever to implement the minimum standards set out in the Bill, unless the employer decides to implement a notice? If the case the Government are making is that the Bill has no effect unless the employer does something, that needs to be spelled out with crystal clarity. If the Ministers would like, I will have a go at drafting a clause to save the overburdened so-called parliamentary counsel.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I repeat at the Dispatch Box that under the Bill it is a statutory discretion and not a statutory duty for employers as to whether to issue a work notice. It is a matter for the employer to consider any contractual or other legal obligations it has in taking this decision.

We of course hope that all employers will want to apply minimum service levels where they are needed. In reference to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, I say that, before making minimum service level regulations, government departments need to consult on the appropriate minimum service for their sectors. This will enable detailed evidence to inform the development of minimum service levels in specific services. This includes understanding the differences between services in each sector across Great Britain and the implications for setting minimum service levels. We will continue to engage with the devolved Governments on the geographical scope of the regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, is correct that of course we would rather have a negotiated agreement on minimum service levels. I also reiterate, in response to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on why my noble friend was shaking his head, that we think there has been a misunderstanding. There is no statutory duty but, as I said, rather a statutory discretion under the Bill for employers to issue work notices.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab)
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Does the Minister understand the concern and the problem? “May” can become “must” if someone sues an employer for not having issued work notices, on the basis that the Secretary of State took the view that a minimum service level requirement should be there but the employer chose not to issue work notices but to carry on negotiating, et cetera, and a third party then challenges that discretion and the more gentle decision made under it. That is how “may” can become “must”, and that means litigation, cost and more aggravation. I believe that this is the concern that was expressed by the noble Lord on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench last time and put so eloquently today by the noble and learned Lord.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I hear and understand the noble Baroness’s concerns, but I default to the Government’s position: the Bill gives only a statutory discretion, not a statutory duty, to the employer on whether to issue a work notice.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I will pursue this “may/must” argument from a slightly different direction. One of the arguments made in the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Markham, is that the unsatisfactory nature of the current situation is that the Government were unable to secure a national agreement from the ambulance services on the level of cover. The Minister will be aware that we do not have a national ambulance service; we have a series of ambulance services across the country. Under the “may/must” doctrine that the Minister set out, it is perfectly possible that one ambulance service in one area “must”, while another one chooses not to; in other words, we would still have a patchy service across the United Kingdom and the Government would have failed to achieve the objective that the noble Lord, Lord Markham, set out in his letter. So, given the good faith that I put in the Minister’s comments, I do not understand what problem this solves, because the compulsion—or lack of it—within the Bill means that we still do not have a national agreement on service levels.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The Government’s position is that we would rather have a voluntary agreement than a compulsion to issue notices. Of course, we would hope that each employer would choose to accept minimum service levels, because the Government are here to protect the level of service available to all UK citizens, not just those in England.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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The noble Baroness has set up a whole new stream of thought because now she is saying that there is an ability for government to compel the employer to give a notice. We all hope that there will be voluntary agreement—that is where we are now, and it is what the Bill seeks to undermine.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I do not accept the noble Lord’s points at all, but I will continue my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Collins. Of course, we would rather have a negotiated agreement on minimum service levels, but the Government resist these amendments. I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords—I feel I have not entirely—on “may” versus “must” and the compulsion, the statutory discretion or the statutory duty. With those comments, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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I thank the Minister and all who took part in this useful debate. We started with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, who pinpointed the persistent erosion of devolution. He called the Bill “Henry VIII on stilts”, and the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, called it “Gis a power”—I think both phrases will stick in our memories. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said that of course the devolved Administrations will be consulted, but the problem is that, persistently, they have not been consulted at the right levels and the right point in time. There has been a thin façade of last-minute, low-level consultation, and this has not worked—it is not consultation in the proper sense of that word. The Minister did not reassure me when she said that it was complete nonsense that elected mayors should need to give consent—that shows a lack of understanding of the concept of proper consultation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bryan, gave us a useful long list of recent Bills that have undermined devolution—I will copy it out when I read Hansard so that I remember each one. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, took the points further by raising the fear that UK Ministers would use powers in the Bill for political ends. The truth is that this is a heavily political issue and, in England, the wrong sort of political interference has created problems in industrial relations that have not existed in Scotland and Wales to the same extent, because industrial relations have been handled with more sensitivity there. I have no doubt that the UK Government have their own reasons for wishing to sharpen relations with the unions, but that is nevertheless a political issue.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Finally, can the Minister give us a straight answer on how on earth these draconian proposals are expected to work in devolved Governments, when health is a devolved matter? For example, Wales is very proud of its social partnership commitments and approach. The Westminster Government’s authoritarian proposals in this Bill stand in direct opposition to the approach Wales has taken. What happens when nations withhold their consent? Railroading through these proposals without proper parliamentary scrutiny and without devolved government consent is a recipe for chaos and conflict. I beg to move.
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, this is a convenient time to have a break.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 2.45 pm.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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My Lords, this is a complete mess. I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said, and I could not identify a speech with which I disagreed. There are two principal problems with the Government’s approach: first, a lack of respect for the devolved Administrations, and, secondly, a chronic case of overconfidence on the part of Ministers.

It is difficult to know exactly where to start; I have so many notes. Which of these particular criticisms is the most important? I will allow the Minister to decide when she responds. It is clear that the dashboard has not been getting updated properly in partnership with the devolved Administrations. The sunset cannot be extended by devolved Administrations on their own, even if they feel that they cannot deal with the burden of the work imposed on them in time. Can the Minister write to update us on the work being done with the devolved Administrations on the dashboard, because it seems that that really underlies some of the concerns we have? From Wales and Scotland, we are picking up a deep dissatisfaction with how this work has taken place.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made the really important point that the Government have had time between the Bill being debated in the other place and arriving here today to finesse their approach, shall we say, but I do not think that much has changed. This is a particular concern, as noble Lords have said, given the commitment made earlier this week by the Prime Minister, when he revealed the Windsor Framework, which we were all very pleased to see. We are very glad that the agreement announced earlier in the week has taken place; we were very concerned about the approach that the Government had taken prior to that, so we welcome it very much. If the measures are not dealt with by the dashboard and they fall, we could end up in a situation where we have divergence, not through a matter of policy or intent by the Government, but as a consequence of inaction and, in effect, by mistake. There may be consequences of that, which perhaps could be more pronounced for Northern Ireland than for elsewhere in the United Kingdom. I was very taken by the way that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, put this—as there being horrible loose ends. That is a very good way of describing it.

These are very practical concerns and a number of noble Lords, in particular my noble friend Lady Andrews, have highlighted them. Like her, I completely support common frameworks. I remember when we debated them at length as part of the Brexit process. We tabled amendments to strength them, to make sure we had good oversight of them, and that there was proper engagement by the Ministers in the devolved Administrations. I think we did okay on some of that. Obviously, this is still relatively young, and we had all hoped, I think, that that process would become smoother and a little more relaxed, and that there could be more shared decision-making. I am particularly concerned about this, given my ambition—which I think is shared by many Ministers on the Government side, too—to see more devolution in England. So we really want this approach to improve as the years go on; it is not a surprise that there are shaky moments in the early years.

The Bill, perhaps more than any other we have seen, shows a complete disrespect to the devolved Administrations, and this lack of trust and respect is becoming more and more pronounced. There have been some sharp examples in recent months, and we need to get away from them. With this process, there is an opportunity to change our approach and to demonstrate that we want to work differently—and there is a real benefit to be gained from that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, drew our attention to the lack of political engagement, as he put it, with the devolved Administrations, which is deeply concerning. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, as is his habit, is shaking his head from a sedentary position. If what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said is not true—as the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has just suggested—perhaps the Minister could write to us to explain what form that political engagement is taking, what is being discussed and what progress has been made.

Trust matters, and I am afraid that it is in very short supply at the moment. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for his speech, because he developed a point that we were trying to make in the debates on previous groups about the risk of things being missed from the dashboard. There were points in our previous discussion where I felt that the Minister was almost saying, “Look, you are worrying unnecessarily—our civil servants know what they are doing, and we will have a very thorough look at this”. The noble and learned Lord described it as legal archaeology; I am a trained archaeologist, and I know very well how easy it is to miss things or to look at a site with a particular priority in mind. You can find very different conclusions looking at something today than you would have done looking at it 20 years ago, because your understanding develops all the time. That is one of the reasons that children are very good at archaeology: they spot absolutely everything.

The point that the noble and learned Lord was making is that things will be missed. Even the Government acknowledge that; they do not claim that the dashboard is comprehensive, or that it ever will be. That was clear from the letter that the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, sent us before the last Committee debate. I would not be surprised if she would want to withdraw that letter but, as she has not done so yet, it is the basis for our discussions. It is very clear from that that the dashboard will not be a comprehensive assessment of all retained EU law.

The request from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for an explanation of the search methods is very good idea. We were told—with some pride—that one of the search methods was a key word search for “Europe” at the National Archives.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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The Ministers are saying that it is one search method, but that was the example given to us when we probed this at the roundtable meeting. That was the choice made by Ministers’ officials as an example intended to reassure us—but we are not reassured. The suggestion from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, for a fuller explanation is very good and helpful; it might provide the reassurance that Ministers were attempting to demonstrate earlier in the week.

While discussing the issue of devolution, I shall ask the Minister a question on something I do not quite follow—and Committee stage is about asking questions about things we do not quite follow. Perhaps she might write to me about it, but I draw her attention to paragraph 11(3) of Schedule 4, under Part 3, which describes the process that the Government want Welsh Ministers to undertake when they are tackling regulations. Can she explain this process? It says that Welsh Ministers will have to make a statement of their opinion on a particular measure; they will have to provide

“a draft of the instrument, and … a memorandum setting out the statement and the reasons for the Welsh Ministers’ opinion.”

That seems slightly different to the process we are undertaking here. In principle, there is nothing necessarily wrong with there being a difference, but I would like to understand what that is about and how the Government came to that. Was that something that came out of dialogue with the Welsh Government, or has it grown up through the department? Why is that happening?

There is no way that this will not come back on Report. I would be happy to support any of the amendments tabled in this group. We on these Benches would be very happy to work with noble Lords from across the House on arriving at an amendment that we think would achieve our aims most effectively. I look forward to doing that, but the preference would be that the Government had some further thought on this and brought back their own amendment, which would treat the devolved Administrations with far more respect and deal with the issues of overconfidence and the fact that measures are, likely if not certain, to be missed.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a very full and comprehensive debate—I did not expect anything less, given the subject matter. Amendments 29, 33, 34, 35, 36, 49, 55 and 147 seek to amend the sunset clause and the territorial scope of the Bill for the devolved Governments. I can but reiterate that the UK Government remain fully committed to the Sewel convention, committed to devolution and committed to working collaboratively and constructively with the devolved Governments. We have been proactively engaging with the devolved Governments, at both ministerial and official level, on the progress of the Bill and the wider retained EU law reform programme. The former Business Secretary engaged with the devolved Governments following the introduction of the Bill and, indeed, I have personally engaged with the Welsh Government to assure them of our respect and willingness to co-operate over legislative matters in general going forward.

In response to the noble Baronesses, Lady Randerson, Lady Hayman and Lady Chapman, I reassure the Committee that we are committed to working with the devolved Governments as we update the dashboard. We have established regular intergovernmental meetings intended to support devolved Government counterparts with the identification of which REUL is devolved or reserved as part of the REUL reform programme. The majority of the powers in the Bill are conferred concurrently on the devolved Governments, including the power to preserve retained EU law. This will enable them to make active decisions about the REUL within the devolved competence and decide which REUL they wish to preserve and assimilate, and which retained EU law they wish to allow to sunset. We remain committed to continuing discussions with the devolved Governments throughout the Bill’s passage over the use of concurrent powers within the Bill to ensure that they work for all parts of the UK. It is our expectation that the department will follow standard procedures regarding consultation and engagement with the devolved Governments during policy development.

I turn to Amendments 34, 35 and 36. These would exempt legislation relating to common frameworks from the sunset, restricting the sunset and preventing it delivering its objective to incentivise genuine reform across the United Kingdom. Among the proposed conditions is a proposal for a process to be agreed between the UK and devolved Governments for retained EU law within the scope of the common frameworks. We believe that common frameworks are integral to managing regulatory divergence in the areas they cover and provide a flexible governance tool for both the UK and devolved Governments. REUL is in scope of the common frameworks. This includes not just REUL operating within devolved competence but that same REUL operating in England. In some cases, this REUL will be UK-wide.

We believe it is simply not necessary to carve out REUL in scope of common frameworks. These are designed to manage divergence, including that which may result from the sunset. Both the UK and devolved Governments agree that, where common frameworks are operating, they are the right mechanism for discussing REUL reform in the areas they cover. To reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, who raised concerns about regulatory divergence, the Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Governments to manage intra-UK divergence, including through existing collaborative mechanisms, such as the common frameworks programme, which has been developed with the devolved Governments to enable joint working in devolved areas. The Government are committed to following common framework processes where they apply, to allow for a collaborative discussion of REUL reform.

Similar to previous amendments, Amendment 55 seeks to change the sunset date for legislation relating to the common frameworks to the end of 2026. That is likely to include devolved REUL, and also REUL in other UK jurisdictions corresponding to a devolved area. However, this amendment, tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, would amend the extension power in Clause 2, rather than just the sunset in Clause 1. While it is of course not appropriate to change the sunset date through Clause 2 alone, I reiterate that we simply do not believe there is a need to do so for retained EU law in scope of common frameworks. Moreover, pushing back the sunset for this legislation would remove the impetus for devolved Governments and relevant departments to review this legislation. Clause 2 already contains an extension mechanism capable of pushing the sunset back to 2026 for specified instruments or descriptions of legislation. We will work closely with the devolved authorities to ensure that selected legislation, including that within scope of common frameworks, is subject to an extended sunset where appropriate.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, what the Minister said about common frameworks is very encouraging and I absolutely understand what she has been saying in her description of the system. But is the procedure in Clause 2 capable of, let us say, exempting a particular common framework from the sunset in Clause 1? Does it fall within the formula set out in Clause 2, so that we could take, for example, the common framework on animal health, labelling or the ozone layer, and specify a common framework to be excluded? It would be encouraging if that were the case.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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We can, indeed, exclude a specific category of law from the REUL exclusions if it relates to a specific area such as animal health, or a particular category of common framework.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab)
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If that is the case, the logic is that all the common frameworks could be exempt. Is that not the case? If we can exempt one SI on animal welfare, there are 50 SIs on animal welfare; what would stop us exempting the whole of that tranche of SIs?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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While we will have the power to exempt, the whole point about the sunset date is to retain the rigour of going through the REUL legislation that we have—but we do still retain the ability, in Clause 2, to exempt certain categories from sunset.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab)
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Does the noble Baroness think that common frameworks will be a specific category?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I thought we were still discussing exemptions. Will the noble Baroness repeat her question?

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab)
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I am asking whether there is the power to exempt a whole category, because we have not heard that before. Would not common frameworks, because they are discrete and have an integrity of their own, serving specific purposes, constitute a specific category?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think the answer is, not in their entirety, but a specific category that falls within common frameworks could indeed be excluded.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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Will the noble Baroness point us to where in the Bill we can find the definition of a category?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I will have to send that sort of detail out in writing, along with the other letters we are going to be writing in response to other questions.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise for intervening. I think what I heard is that Clause 2 gives the Government the power to do this; I did not hear from the noble Baroness that the Government have any inclination to actually use that power. Will she explain what criteria the Government would use to actually apply the power that she has just revealed to the Committee?

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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We will bear that in mind, but I cannot give specific criteria: we want to retain the ability to exclude specific pieces of legislation, as I have said, within a specific category.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think I have taken enough interventions and I would like to make progress, please.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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I just make the point that, by definition, to be included in a common framework, the legislation concerned has been extensively examined by all the Governments concerned in the last couple of years. Therefore, it will not be subject to the sorts of anomalies that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, referred to in our last debate.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I take the noble Baroness’s point.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB)
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I have tried not to intervene so far, but I listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness has just said: does this mean that, if an application is made to a Minister to extend the sunset for a category or description of legislation, in accordance with Clause 2, and the Minister refuses, it will be “open sesame” for judicial review by those who regard such a decision as disproportionate and could render the whole of this legislation into something that will be litigated in the courts for years to come?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I acknowledge the noble Lord’s intervention but I cannot possibly respond at this stage. We must make progress.

Amendment 29 proposes exempting REUL within the competence of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the sunset. This would remove the devolved Governments’ incentive to review legislation on their statute books and hinders the sunset’s intention to bring about genuine reform. A sunset is the quickest and most effective way to accelerate the review of REUL on the UK statute book by a specific date in the near future. This will incentivise genuine REUL reform in a way that will work best for all parts of the UK. The territorial scope of the Bill will be UK-wide, and it is constitutionally appropriate that the sunset applies across all parts of the UK. However, the sunset does not affect the devolution settlements, nor is it intended to restrict the competence of either the devolved legislatures or the devolved Governments. Rather, this will enable the devolved Governments to make active—

Baroness Crawley Portrait Baroness Crawley (Lab)
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The noble Baroness may well be coming to this, and she should tell me if she is. If the sunset brings rigour, as she has said, to the devolved Administrations—and to us, of course—does that mean that the Government accept our arguments about the lack of resources for the devolved Administrations and the lack of capacity of civil servants, because there are so few of them going through all this retained EU law throughout the devolved Administrations?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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We do not accept that. We know that there are capacity restraints within the devolved Governments, but the UK Government are also helping them go through the whole body of retained law. That work will progress and is an ongoing project as we go through this year. I may come on to more detail for the noble Baroness.

In relation to the noble Baroness’s specific comments on Northern Ireland, the Windsor Framework has no impact on the Bill. She can also rest assured that we have already committed to making sure that the necessary legislation is in place to uphold the UK’s international obligations—

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think we need to make progress.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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The Minister is answering a different question.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I know, but we do need to make progress. This is the 10th intervention, and I am on paragraph 17. I think there is a limit to the number of interventions I need to take—but I will take the noble Baroness’s, because she is on the Front Bench.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Baroness Chapman of Darlington (Lab)
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I am sorry, but my understanding is that there is not a limit on the number of interventions the Minister can take. Progress would probably be better if we had a better Bill in front of us. She answered a question by saying that the Windsor agreement has no impact on the Bill, but my question was whether the Bill could have an impact on the Windsor agreement, which is a very different thing.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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It has no impact on the Windsor agreement. I am assured by my colleagues and my briefing here that it has no impact.

Amendment 49, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, seeks to ensure that the UK Government have a complete understanding of their catalogue of REUL by allowing a Minister of the Crown to request that the devolved Governments identify REUL in areas of devolved competence within the scope of the sunset. While I concur with the sentiment of this amendment, again, the Government do not believe it is necessary but recognise the importance of having a shared and single understanding of reserved and devolved REUL across the UK Government and the devolved Governments.

We have established regular intergovernmental meetings intended to support devolved government counterparts with the identification of which REUL is devolved or reserved, as part of the REUL reform programme. Departments are also actively engaging directly with their devolved government counterparts as part of their business-as-usual engagement on the devolved status of REUL and their plans for REUL reform. On the point about pre-1999 legislation, where the legislation is devolved, the decision should be for devolved government Ministers, just like any other piece of devolved REUL. We will set out in writing the methodology for identifying REUL on the dashboard, as already committed by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe in the session on Tuesday.

Amendment 33, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, would exempt from the sunset legislation relating to human rights, equality or environmental protection to the extent that the legislation has effect in Northern Ireland, including legislation within scope of Article 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol. We fully intend to maintain the UK’s leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights, equality, the rule of law and environmental protections. We are proud of our long and diverse history of freedoms and are committed to ensuring that the necessary legislation is in place to uphold the UK’s international obligations, including the withdrawal agreement, the Northern Ireland protocol, and the trade and co-operation agreement after the sunset date.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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It was my noble friend Lady Randerson.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I am sorry. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that there was no Machiavellian intent; rather, that date provides a ceiling for the presence of retained EU law on the UK’s statute book and gives adequate time to complete reform of the most ambitious nature in all areas. The 10th anniversary of the referendum vote served this purpose and offers a full-circle moment by which the UK can proudly proclaim that it has regained its sovereignty and has a fully independent domestic statute book—

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I am unfamiliar with modern parlance. Could the Minister please define a “full-circle moment”?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think it is just a way of describing the 10-year anniversary of the referendum vote. It is just vernacular—

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The process is finally complete, as my noble friend suggests.

On impact assessments, properly assessing the impact of government policy is an important principle of good governance, and the Government will continue to be committed to the appraisal of any regulatory changes relating to retained EU law. The nature of this appraisal will depend on the type of changes the departments make and the expected significance of the impacts. Where measures are being revoked, departments will be expected to undertake proportionate analytical appraisal, and we are exploring the appropriate steps we can take to appraise the resulting impacts.

I am fully conscious that a number of other specific points were raised, but I undertake that we will write back, particularly on methodology and definitions. However, for the reasons I have outlined, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and offered their support to the devolved Administrations and recognised their very legitimate concerns regarding their devolved settlements.

Many of us might not like the Bill, but in this Committee we have seen this House at its very best. We have heard a number of speeches today that could be described as masterclasses, and it has been a pleasure and an honour to listen to them.

I will not comment on the noble Baroness’s reply other than to say that I appreciated her statement that the Government are committed to the Sewel convention. However, over the last few years, actions have spoken louder than words, so she will forgive me if I do not hold my breath.

I also welcome the commitment from the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, to work across the House on amendments on Report; we on these Benches commit to that process.

We have been debating this for two hours and five minutes, and if everybody else is like me, lunchtime is calling. Therefore I will just say that the noble Baroness’s response will have given food for thought to those of us in this Chamber today, and we will doubtless want to renew our deliberations on Report. In light of that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.