3 Baroness Meacher debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Mon 13th Jul 2020
Business and Planning Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Housing: Accessibility Standards

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Monday 5th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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I emphasise that local planning authorities should already assess the housing needs of different groups, including accessibility needs, in their local areas and reflect these in their policies and decisions. As I say, guidance has been issued to councils to help them implement this policy and we have updated the National Planning Policy Framework to reflect some of the issues raised today, but there is also further work that we need to do.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, what environmental standards do the Government require of all new homes, as they would benefit everybody and the planet?

Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a good point. We should look at these standards in the context of a raft of new building safety regulations and standards that have been taken forward in recent years, and the need for housebuilders to adapt to them. There was a significant uplift to the environmental standards in 2021 and we have just launched a consultation on the future homes standard, which will be brought in by 2025 and ensure that all new housing is effectively net-zero ready.

Voter Identification

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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It is the turn of the Liberal Democrat Front Bench.

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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Many people do not see an urgency to apply if there are no upcoming polls. Only 50% of the country will be polling in May when we first use this process. Any voter can apply for one of these certificates within six working days of the poll itself. If they apply within six days of the poll, that is time enough to get their certificate printed and sent out to them for it to be used. There is a huge advertising campaign from the Electoral Commission and local authorities. I have even heard in London that some local authorities are putting leaflets through doors about this, and they are not even polling in this May election. A lot of work is going on to make sure people are aware of it and apply in time. As always, there will be people who do not want to vote who will not register, and therefore will not look for identification.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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I understand from my noble friend that the Constitution Committee will look at this issue shortly. The idea that certain communities or people will fail, or be unable, to vote if these certificates are introduced is a serious matter in a democracy. I am not saying that we should not do it; I am saying that, because it is so serious, it feels correct that the Constitution Committee should look at it in detail and examine what the benefits and costs or downsides would be. Let us then have a much more informed debate about whether this should go ahead. I hope that the Minister will agree.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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We have had this informed debate; we had very long debates on this subject, and the Bill was passed and is now an Act. So it is in legislation, and it will happen in 50% of the country in May this year. It is good that it is happening in 50%, because the electoral officers for the other 50% will help if there are any issues with getting those ID cards to people on time, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, mentioned. Let us get back to the fact that 98% of people in this country already have those forms of identification. I quite agree about people with protected characteristics, and we are working with them: we have engaged with over 70 civil society organisations about this change in electoral law. The Minister responsible in DLUHC, Minister Rowley, is working and continuing to meet all sorts of organisations to make sure that we have everything in place so that those particular vulnerable people have every opportunity to vote.

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Baroness Verma Portrait Baroness Verma (Con)
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My Lords, I would like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, where she gets her information from. I am with minority communities day in, day out, and we discuss voting and elections because I want more people from my community to be engaged. I am afraid that this ruse, which I hear in this Chamber over and over again, that they will not want to contribute and participate is a load of rubbish.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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I think I need to respond to that accusation, if I may—

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Order!

Business and Planning Bill

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 13th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Business and Planning Act 2020 View all Business and Planning Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 119-I Marshalled list for Committee - (8 Jul 2020)
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I too shall be brief. I support what my noble friend Lord Balfe said about the House getting back to work. Indeed, I encourage my noble friend to come and join us in the Chamber, where he will find a warm welcome awaiting him.

I hope that he was wrong when he said that he was expecting Divisions on Report. We have to get this Bill on to the statute book as soon as possible. I hope we will not lose sight of the fact that these are temporary relaxations designed to help get the economy working again. Many of the issues raised are problems of normal times; we are not in normal times and we should not judge the relaxation proposals in the Bill by the issues we encounter in normal times. The important thing is to give the benefit of the doubt to premises that want to get going again. There are provisions in the Bill which allow licences to be revoked at a later stage if it does not work out. The most important thing is that we embrace the liberalisation encompassed in the Bill and do not hold it back by trying to make the application process more difficult or by putting more barriers in the way of our economy getting going again.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I need to explain at the outset that, although I am down to talk about this group of amendments, I should be addressing a later group. I hope your Lordships will forgive me; it is probably my fault—I am not sure—but I certainly should be speaking later on. I welcome the pavement licence provisions and have no problem with most of the clauses—apart from Clause 11, on which I should be speaking.

I shall speak to Amendment 26 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and to Amendments 27 and 29. All these amendments restrict off-sales of alcohol to a time limit of 11 pm—an amendment with a 10 pm limit would be even better. I fear that the off-sales provisions are a bit of a panic response by the Government which will cause more problems than they solve. The Government defend the move by pointing out that changes can be made through an expedited review process if there are problems of crime and disorder, public nuisance or public safety—and of course, we can be sure that there will be. They also point out that the police have the power under Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to issue a closure notice if needed. When eventually the correct group of amendments comes along, can the Minister tell the House what the police’s reaction has been to the proposal to extend the time limit for off-sales? Presumably, they anticipate a lot more trouble.

The other problem pointed out by local authorities is that the powers do not work at all where there are several premises together, as is the case in most towns and cities. However, the extraordinary point about Clause 11 is that it encourages the excessive use of one of the most dangerous of all recreational drugs: alcohol. As we know, alcohol kills 7,000 to 8,000 people each year; it is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the UK. Some 7.8 million people binge on alcohol on their favourite night out—or favourite night for drinking—no doubt causing problems for their liver. Is it really the Government’s job to encourage the consumption of this dangerous and addictive drug? I cannot help also pointing out the illogicality and cruelty of government policy—not just of this Government; I am making a non-party-political point—with respect to a drug which has none of the dangers associated with alcohol. How can the Government on the one hand tell people to take the alcohol drug late into the night—the more the better; yes, it is dangerous, highly addictive and kills people, but never mind—and at the same time criminalise those who are very sick and take an entirely safe drug, cannabis medicine, which is well-balanced and harms nobody?

I know that the Minister understands these issues extremely well and I do not like to ask an awkward question, but how can she possibly justify these contradictory approaches to alcohol and cannabis? It is high time that all political parties aligned their drug policies with a scientific assessment of the risks of individual drugs. Clause 11 of this Bill is just one more ill-judged drug policy.

Lord Sheikh Portrait Lord Sheikh (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 11 in the name of my noble friend Lord Balfe. Clause 3(2) states:

“Before making a determination in respect of the application”


for a pavement licence,

“the local authority must … take into account any representation made to it … consult the highway authority … and other persons as the local authority may consider appropriate.”

I support having input from the people and organisations stated, but I feel that it is necessary for the local police to be consulted in making a determination.

To reiterate what I said at Second Reading, I welcome the Bill, which will trigger the revitalisation of our businesses and help the well-being of the people. As a businessman, I would like the economy to pick up and create employment for all the people who have been idle for the last few months. However, my concern is the safety of staff and the nuisances and disturbances caused on pavements and streets and in neighbourhoods. Before the pandemic, we saw young men and women misbehaving and fighting in the streets on Friday and Saturday nights. I used to see this happening when driving through towns at night. My concern is that people have been frustrated over the last few months and that the relaxation of the rules will lead to social problems.

When the problems of anti-social behaviour arise, they will be dealt with by the police on the spot. Local police know the hot spots in their areas where problems are likely to flare up. To alleviate the issues and possible problems, we need consultation and input from local police when an application is made for a pavement licence. I appreciate that the police have powers to issue closure notices, but this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. It is therefore important that the police are consulted before the problems arise.