Debates between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 20th Jul 2023
Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 4th Jul 2023
Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Thu 8th Jun 2023
Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 15th May 2023
Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Thu 23rd Mar 2023
Thu 9th Mar 2023
Thu 2nd Mar 2023
Thu 23rd Feb 2023
Wed 11th Jan 2023
Tue 22nd Nov 2022
Mon 13th Jun 2022
Mon 16th May 2022
Tue 22nd Mar 2022
Subsidy Control Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Mon 14th Mar 2022
Mon 14th Mar 2022
Wed 9th Mar 2022
Wed 9th Mar 2022
Wed 9th Feb 2022
Mon 7th Feb 2022
Wed 2nd Feb 2022
Mon 31st Jan 2022
Subsidy Control Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Mon 10th Jan 2022
Wed 17th Nov 2021
Tue 2nd Nov 2021
Thu 10th Jun 2021
Thu 15th Apr 2021
Tue 2nd Mar 2021
National Security and Investment Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage & Lords Hansard
Tue 26th Jan 2021
Mon 14th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 9th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 4th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 2nd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 28th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 26th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 14th Oct 2020
Thu 17th Sep 2020
Wed 8th Jul 2020
Tue 23rd Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Tue 23rd Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Tue 9th Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Wed 15th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lords, Lord Hendy and Lord Collins, and I completely associate myself with their critical process and legal analysis of this Bill. From the outset, this was a political Bill and I make no apology at the end of this process for making a political comment.

It may have escaped your Lordships’ notice, but there are three by-elections going on today across different parts of the country. In knocking on those doors, the number one or number two concern of the people in those houses in those communities is the delivery of the health service in this country. I refer to this Bill and the challenge that this Government have in dealing with the industrial disputes going on within the health service. It is quite clear that this Bill will do nothing to bring those disputes to an end and, if it is deployed, it would exacerbate them. Those people answering their doors and talking to politicians as they are being canvassed would love to have a minimum service level every day of the week. The Government need to solve this industrial issue as well as the service delivery within the health service, and this Bill when it becomes an Act will do nothing towards doing that.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all three noble Lords who have contributed to today’s debate. The Government always listen carefully to the views of this House.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, I have seen the letter from the European TUC, which I read with interest. I am sure the noble Lord will accept that it is hardly an impartial referee on these matters. It is also fair to say that it had nothing new to say. We have been over all this ground many times before and have provided explanations of the type it has sought.

It is also fair to point out that, in our view, this legislation is compatible with the ILO convention, and I am sure the noble Lord will accept that there are many other ILO states that already have minimum service levels as part of their domestic legislation. We will, of course, ensure that any secondary legislation is also in compliance with all our international obligations.

I can also confirm in response to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that the Government will launch a consultation on the draft code this summer, following consultation with ACAS. The code will be put to both Houses for approval in line with the procedure set out in Section 204 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, and we will consult for an appropriate period.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to support the amendment, as set out so thoroughly and excellently by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. I have very little to say; I will make just three points.

First, noble Lords who have been observing will remember that on a number of occasions I have proposed amendments that try to give Parliament more say on what is going on. Having got to where we are, I am happy to subsume that objective within the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has set forward, but it remains an important and missing element in the Bill. We should not forget that.

The noble Lord also set a lot of store by the recent ILO announcement. He is right to do so, but this amendment is necessary with or without it. The announcement makes it clear to us on these Benches that the Commons should be given another chance to reassess the Bill in the light of the details coming in from the ILO.

Finally, the Minister talks about delay. The first iteration of this Bill was drafted and laid before Parliament about a year ago. If the Government really are that breathless about getting this on the statute book, they could have moved a little quicker. This is about politics, not actually doing anything real out there. The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, is right in that concern. Because of that, we will certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Collins, if he chooses to put this to a vote.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, as I said in my opening remarks, we have had a very similar debate a number of times, so I can keep my response brief. I have responded to these points previously, but I will make one point on the ILO report in response to the noble Lords, Lord Collins, Lord Pannick and Lord Fox.

The ILO did not say that this legislation did not comply with the convention; it simply said that it should and that we should ensure that it does. In my view it does, as our response to the Parliamentary Question rightly said. I have made the point many times in this House that the ILO has been clear over many years that minimum service levels can be appropriate in public services of fundamental public importance. That is why many other countries in Europe and around the world that are signatories to the ILO have had minimum service levels in place for many years. The Liberal Democrats and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, normally urge us to go the way of Europe and follow what EU countries are doing. In this case, we are doing precisely that.

I therefore hope, although without a great deal of optimism, that noble Lords will cede to the wishes of the elected House and agree to the Government’s Motions, which would then bring this Bill’s passage to a close.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I was so enjoying the debate on Motion A1 that I failed to stand up and speak to Motion B1 in my name. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for not providing him with sufficient up-to-date quotations, but he seemed to manage. We have spent so much time on the Bill together that we probably know how each other thinks.

We are in familiar territory, and indeed were too with Motion A1, because this is a long-repeated trope of this Government. They seek to override not only the devolved authorities but our own Parliament here. Bill after Bill has measures that take powers that should rightfully be vested in Parliament and lodge them firmly with the Executive, with very little or negligible recourse. This amendment seeks to regain that balance.

We have had similar discussions many times. I will not go over all these, but I will remind the House very briefly why, in this case, it is very important. The centrepiece of this legislation is a system of predetermined minimum service levels which may be used by employers to determine the minimum manning levels in the event of a strike. If a strike is called, specific work orders have to be or may be issued, requiring named individuals to ignore the strike and go to work. If they do not, as the Bill stands, they can be sacked.

The scale of the minimum service level is key. The nearer it is to 100% of normal service, the smaller the number of people who can legitimately and legally strike becomes—to the point that it becomes almost zero, or zero, and strikes are banned. This is not an abstract argument: if you look at certain areas of emergency care or issues such as rail track signalling, it is clear that a very high level of presenteeism will be required to run those services. In effect, those people on that work order will therefore have their right to strike banned. Speaking as a Liberal, I say that this is a libertarian issue that we find very important.

The setting of these minimum services levels is a vital part of how this Bill will operate. As the Minister has said, some non-binding consultation is under way but as things stand, to all intents and purposes the scale of the minimum service levels is the Secretary of State’s decision and theirs alone. We find that unacceptable.

The Commons declined our last amendment on the grounds that there is “adequate consultation”. We think that there is not and would like to ask the Commons to revisit that process. This amendment would require that consultation takes place and is reviewed by a committee of each House of Parliament prior to regulations being made. That consultation would be more formal and set out in some detail compared to the informal and ad hoc nature of the consultation that is going on. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, when he was quoting me, those consulted will include the relevant unions, employers and other interested parties and would include an assessment of the impact on the rights of those workers.

The Minister talked about time and how this would wrap up the process into indefinite time. I remind your Lordships that the original Bill from which this Bill is generated started about a year ago. That Bill of course referred to what was in the Conservative Party manifesto, unlike this one, which has been broadened way beyond the scope of what was in the manifesto. The Government have shown themselves very adept at setting up time for such things to be debated, yesterday being an example. I am sure that time is not the issue—“won’t” rather than “can’t” is what we are dealing with here.

In short, we seek through this Motion to regularise the consultation process and give a mandatory role for Parliament that is far more than we see. With most Governments, this might not be controversial but with this one there has been a pattern and it is systematic, so here we seek to reassert the role of parliamentary democracy. My noble friend talked about there being the potential for a constitutional crisis around the treatment of government and the devolved authorities, I think we are already heading in the same direction with the treatment by this Government of our Parliament.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all those who have contributed. The House will be pleased to know that I do not intend to detain noble Lords for very long. We have debated these matters extensively on a number of occasions in a very rigorous manner, so I do not intend to repeat all the arguments. But, let me just say very briefly, particularly in response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that we are certain that the minimum service levels are a reserved matter. They are reserved because they obviously apply only when there are strikes, which fall within employment rights and industrial relations. This is clearly a reserved matter under each of the devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales. Put another way, the Bill amends the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, the subject of which is specifically reserved under each of these settlements. I always hesitate to disagree with distinguished lawyers on matters of law but I am afraid that we just have a different opinion on this.

I addressed the points from the noble Lord, Lord Fox, in my opening remarks and will not repeat that. I acknowledge all those who have spoken. I understand the strength of opinion in the House on this but once again I point the House towards the other place—the elected place—and the clear will it has expressed on these matters. I urge the House not to prolong this matter unnecessarily and, while it looks as though we are going to vote on the Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Fox, I am grateful that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, indicated that he would not be dividing the House.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Nevertheless, the contributions are appreciated.

The Government have of course sought to address the concerns raised, notably around the sunset and courts provisions. We listened to the points made in the House and addressed those concerns via the amendments that we brought forward on Report. I hope that the House recognises how significant a move this was from the Government and takes that movement in the spirit in which it was intended. We really did try to alter the Bill to take account of many of the concerns that were addressed.

The House has also made its views known on some other areas of the Bill on which the Government do not agree, including the reform and repeal powers we believe are crucial to the ambitions we have in this space. Our work in producing the retained EU law dashboard highlighted that there are many defunct laws on our statute book relating to activities that the UK does not conduct, such as my famous example of regulating reindeer herdsmen in Lapland. Now that we have taken back control of our statute book, it is appropriate to update it by amending, repealing or replacing REUL that is no longer fit for the UK.

I do not think there is much argument on all sides of the House about the list of measures we have produced that deserve to be repealed. This will allow us to create new pro-growth, high-standard regulatory frameworks that give businesses the opportunities and confidence to innovate, invest and ultimately to create jobs. This Bill delivers, in addition to providing clarity and certainty. It provides the powers for the Government to make legislative changes that will benefit all of us in the United Kingdom. With that, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his speech. His answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, indicates why what I will call the Hope-Hamilton amendments are so important. I hope it is clear to the Minister that your Lordships’ House considers these to be very important and that they should be retained rather than reversed when they head to the other place.

Any Commons reversal of Amendment 48 will be seen as a show of intention by the Conservative Party on environmental legislation. Again, it would not be wise, given the very good reassurance we have had from the noble Lords, Lord Benyon and Lord Callanan, on retaining that legislation. Pushing out Amendment 48 would be moving things in the opposite direction.

Overall, the work of this House has achieved a major change and a U-turn. As I said before, it has achieved a reverse in the polarity of this Bill, and noble Lords should be very proud of that. It has been a fraught debate at times. I owe a mea culpa to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox. In the hubbub I misrepresented her use of the term “blob”, and I am happy to put the record straight—so apologies there. During that debate there was also a to and fro, which was very important. The Minister is right to say that that is the role of this House.

I thank the Ministers—the noble Baronesses, Lady Bloomfield and Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lords, Lord Benyon and Lord Bellamy—for their hard work in trying to bring us along; they have not often or always succeeded, of course. The Bill team, when we have met, have always been very helpful and courteous; they are a credit to their service. I hope that, for those of the team who want to visit the Cheshire salt mines, I have in some way helped them head that direction.

His Majesty’s Opposition have been a pleasure to work with: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and of course the team in their Whips’ Office. Many Cross-Benchers and other noble Lords across the House have participated fully. It would be difficult to mention them all, but for his virtuoso display during Report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, deserves the full gratitude of your Lordships’ House.

Quite a few Liberal Democrats have participated in the Bill, not least those who were mobilised over the weekend to try to review 600 laws and work out what they did. I am not going to name them all, but I thank them for their support. I will name my noble friend Lady Ludford, who unfortunately cannot be here; she has been able company for me on the Front Bench. Finally, I thank Elizabeth Plummer in our Whips’ Office, whose grasp of this Bill has been beyond compare.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are on Report. We do not need to wait until the next stage; I can tell the noble Lord now that there is a power in the amendments to allow exactly that. He does not need to have any further concerns about it.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I say that the UK remains committed to international agreements on air pollution, to which we are an independent signatory. We set new, legally binding targets under the Environment Act and the environmental improvement plan to halt and to reverse nature’s decline. The stretching targets mean that any reform to retained EU law must deliver positive environmental outcomes, and nothing in this schedule alters those commitments. I hope that reassures the noble Baroness.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and his famous salt mine example, I am sorry to tell him that he is wrong. The National Archives found its pieces of retained EU law in its EU legislation database, which is now online. The noble Lord might want to consult the internet next time, rather than crawling down his salt mine. One of my officials said that she would have loved to have gone down a salt mine—it would have been a very interesting experience—but she did not need to.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I think the Minister should check that.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I can absolutely assure him: she would have been delighted to go down a salt mine. I will not name her, but she messaged me to say that she was very keen to do so. Perhaps the noble Lord would want to arrange it for her.

The noble Lord also mentioned several regulations which are good examples of EU-inherited provisions that we may no longer need. He may not realise it, but some regulations perform multiple functions—we want to revoke some and to keep or reform others. To update and improve the regulations, we of course need to keep them for now, so that we can make those changes.

I had a feeling that the noble Lord might ask me about the famous reindeer regulation. Indeed, Regulation 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council includes provisions on reindeer, which we want to revoke because, the last time I looked, there were not many in the United Kingdom for which we need to have responsibility—perhaps even the noble Lord could agree with that. But there are other aspects of the regulation that we want to keep; therefore, in due course, there will be a reform programme which will alter that regulation. Of course, the House will get to see that through a statutory instrument at the time. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will want to engage with the Defra Minister in a meaningful debate on how important it is for the Liberal Democrats to preserve the preservation of reindeer in Lapland.

Finally, I turn to the issue of interpretative effects. My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked again for clarity on the Government’s intention. I assure her that the Government’s intentions have not changed in this regard. As she will be aware, the House agreed to Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, on Monday, which seeks to replace the sunset of Section 4 of the EU withdrawal Act at the end of each year with a requirement for the Secretary of State to make a statement on the Section 4 rights and obligations which will be sunsetted at the end of this year. The House can be assured that the Government will address that.

Clauses 5 and 6, which relate to the ending of the principle of supremacy, including the principle of consistent interpretation or indirect effect and ending the application of general principles of EU law, will stand part of the Bill, as agreed by the House.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I find myself standing here bathed in sunlight; I am not sure whether that is a sign.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not require the noble Lord’s advice on this.

I will start with Amendment 2 from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, which requires that legislation listed in the revocation schedule be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses and be considered by the committee for a period of at least 30 sitting days. Should the Joint Committee consider that the revocation of the legislation listed would substantially alter UK law, a Minister of the Crown must ensure that the revocation be debated and voted on by both Houses prior to 31 December.

I start by reassuring noble Lords that it is the Government’s view that this amendment is unnecessary. Every piece of retained EU law in the schedule has been thoroughly reviewed, and will be reviewed and debated alongside Amendment 64, which has been tabled. I am confident that the changes to Clause 1 that we have introduced have alleviated the substantial concerns raised by Members across this House during the passage of the Bill and provided the legal clarity and certainty that has been called for.

Although I know that a number of noble Lords have not yet had the chance to see it, today we have published an extensive schedule explainer—again, responding to the concerns that many Members have raised; officials have been working hard on this all weekend—which explains, line by line, why each of the, in total, 587 pieces of legislation has been deemed suitable for inclusion on the schedule. That has been sent to every Member in advance of the debate on Wednesday. I hope that this will alleviate the concerns raised in this debate, including by my noble friend Lord Hodgson and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and other noble Lords, about the amount of information that has now been made publicly available.

In addition, the preservation power in Clause 1 will enable relevant national authorities to preserve legislation on the revocation schedule where they deem it necessary and where the relevant procedures and timescales have been adhered to. This provides a proportionate safeguard against unforeseen consequences of legislation listed on the schedule being revoked. The purpose of our amendment is to provide that legal certainty and clarity as efficiently as possible. To require yet further referrals and debates, and approvals to the list which can be scrutinised during the Bill’s passage, is unnecessary.

On Amendment 4, I have introduced changes to the Bill that I hope will reassure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead—I think they have done—that his proposed changes to the functioning of the Bill are not necessary. Indeed, the revocation schedule I have laid guarantees that only a set amount of retained EU law will be revoked, which is clearly set out in the Bill. This is very similar to the mechanism proposed in this amendment that would see instruments or provisions expressly listed in a ministerial Statement. However, for a number of reasons, I believe that my proposed revocation schedule is better equipped to deliver this amendment’s desired outcome.

For similar reasons I am opposed to Amendment 6. This amendment would introduce changes to Clause 1 that are reflective of those already introduced by the Government. Indeed, the revocation schedule in Amendments 1 and 5 seeks to accomplish similar goals to Amendment 6 but in a more comprehensive way. This amendment would require a list to be compiled in order to be revoked and would open the door for multiple such lists being laid over the coming months. Again, the proposed revocation schedule is already drafted, has been vetted and is ready, and I believe it is a more appropriate solution. Finally, the amendment has unclear timelines and does not offer as much certainty as the revocation schedule, which is clear about when the revocation of pieces of retained EU law would occur and works in step with other timings in the Bill, such as the expiry of the powers on 23 June 2026.

I was going to refer to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, but he said that he will not press it.

Amendment 8 attempts to exempt any pieces of legislation from the sunset should they be identified after the end of 2023. As I already outlined, this amendment is now unnecessary.

Amendments 10, 11 and 12 all concern the devolved Administrations and their preservation power in what was Clause 3. However, given that under my proposal Clauses 1 and 2 have been removed from the Bill and a revocation schedule has replaced the sunset, these three amendments are defunct and we ask that they are not pressed.

Amendment 16 seeks to oblige the Secretary of State to publish a health and safety impact assessment for any retained EU law which is to be revoked, at least 90 days before the revocation. All legislation listed on the revocation schedule has been considered by the relevant departments and checked by the relevant teams. As such, a health and safety impact assessment is not needed, given the depth of the work that has already been carried out.

We have introduced this Bill to help us realise the opportunities of Brexit. I reassure my noble friend Lord Jackson and other noble Lords that the Government remain committed to a reform programme. Legislation that has been identified on this schedule had already been identified and would have been allowed to sunset anyway. We are still committed to making the opportunities of the reform programme, and we retain the ambition and fundamental purpose behind this work.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment and that other noble Lords will not press theirs and will support the government amendments.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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It is the Minister’s turn.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Thank you; I did not get up because I thought the Opposition Front Bench was going to speak. I reject Amendments 3, 36, 38 and 42 to 44, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh.

I will deal with the point raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and give an explanation to my noble friend Lord Hamilton. A notion seems to be springing up that the Government and departments somehow did not know what legislation they actually had responsibility for. They knew very well what legislation they had; what was sometimes unclear was whether that legislation was as a result of an EU obligation and therefore was retained EU law. This was because, over the 40-odd years of our membership, different Governments had different policies. Only a small part of EU legislation was introduced through the so-called Section 2(2) pipeline of the European Communities Act. If it is those regulations, that is very obvious—people know where that has come from—but Governments often did not want to say that legislation was introduced as a result of an EU obligation. It was therefore introduced under various instruments, under either domestic legislation or normal domestic secondary legislation. Therefore, the difficulty that departments faced was identifying what was an EU obligation. It is not that they did not know what legislation they were responsible for, were somehow finding legislation down the back of the sofa or anything else. That has been the issue: the definition of what was retained EU law. I hope that explanation is helpful.

Amendment 3 seeks to change the sunset date, pushing it back to the end of 2028. Given the amendments to the Bill that we have already discussed and the significant changes to the operation of the sunset, I hope my noble friend recognises that it is therefore not necessary to also change the sunset date. The current scope of the sunset in Clause 1 will no longer be relevant, as it will be replaced with a schedule to the Bill. The schedule will list retained EU law that departments have identified for removal. This is the only legislation that will be revoked on 31 December 2023.

Similarly, Amendments 36 and 38 seek to change the date of the powers to restate under Clauses 13 and 14. Amendment 36 would mean that Clause 13 was capable of acting on retained EU law until 31 December 2028. Pieces of retained EU law that are not included in the revocation schedule will, of course, not be revoked on 31 December 2023, but they will be stripped of their EU interpretative effects and assimilated in domestic legislation.

Consequently, those pieces of legislation will no longer be retained EU law. They will be assimilated law as part of the normal law of the United Kingdom, and the status of retained EU law on the UK statute book will come to an end. There will be no more REUL after 31 December. As retained EU law will end as a legal category at the end of this year, it is right that this power, which is capable of acting only on REUL, expires then. I am not clear why my noble friend wants to extend the sunset date of a power that will no longer be required.

Amendment 38 seeks to change the date on which the power to restate assimilated law under Clause 14 will expire from 23 June 2026 to 31 December 2028. It is in my view entirely right and appropriate that this power should be available for a time-limited window up to 23 June 2026. This is consistent with the powers to revoke or replace in Clause 16. I am confident that the time window currently set out in Clause 14 will provide sufficient time for the power to be exercised on all the necessary legislation.

Amendment 42 changes the date on which the powers to revoke or replace within Clause 16 are capable of acting on REUL from 23 June 2026 to 31 December 2028. Similarly, Amendment 43 changes the date that the powers to revoke or replace can act on assimilated law to 31 December 2028. Amendment 44 changes the date in Clause 16(11) from the end of 2023 to the end of 2028 so that the references to retained EU law in Clause 16(8) can be read as a reference to assimilated law until 31 December 2028. Again, this group of amendments is no longer necessary due to the revocation schedule. There is more than adequate time for the use of the powers on assimilated law within the timescales provided for in the Bill. The powers to revoke or replace will enable UK and devolved Ministers to remove those regulations that are no longer fit for purpose and replace them with regulations that are more tailored to the UK within a timely manner, and the Government are committed to achieving these much-needed reforms by 2026. That is why the powers are restricted in their use and available only for a time-limited window, up to 23 June 2026. I hope that, with the explanations I have been able to provide, my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for keeping the House waiting for the start of the debate; the previous business finished much earlier than everyone expected.

I am grateful to those who have contributed to this debate, although clearly we have repeated a lot of what was discussed in previous debates. The House will be unsurprised to hear that my position is similar to what it was in Committee. As I did then, I resist this amendment relating to consultation requirements, parliamentary scrutiny and assessment of impacts of the legislation.

As I made clear in Committee, it is my firm view that sufficient checks and balances are already built into the legislation before regulations can be made. This includes the need to carry out consultations—indeed, we are undergoing consultations at the moment on some draft regulations—which, of course, relevant parliamentary committees are able to and almost certainly will contribute to, as well as the requirement that regulations must be approved by both Houses before they can be made. Impact assessments will also be published for all subsequent regulations on minimum service levels.

Key stakeholders, including employers, employees, members of the public, trade unions and their members are all encouraged to participate in the consultations—some of which, as I said, are live even now—and have their say in the setting of the appropriate minimum service levels, and all that will happen before the minimum service levels come into effect, and only then if they have been approved by Parliament.

I am therefore of the view that this approach is both appropriate and in line with the normal way in which secondary legislation is made. As such, the Government believe that the amendment adds unnecessary duplication into the process, and therefore I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their support for this amendment. The Minister is right that much of this debate has been had before in Committee. He is also right when he describes this as the normal way. I am afraid it has become the normal way that this Government operate to shunt as much power as possible to the Secretary of State and marginalise Parliament as often and as broadly as they can. This is a highly skeletal Bill—it is almost impossible to get one that is smaller. For that reason, I would like to test the will of the House.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 2 in my name. The House will know that the Government were clear at the introduction of the Bill that employers must not have regard to a person’s trade union status when producing a work notice. Employers should identify the workers who are best placed and most appropriate for each role, so that that minimum service level can be achieved. In our view, a person’s trade union status has no place in this process.

I thank the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its report on the Bill and for its feedback, as well as feedback from the debates in Committee on protections from trade union discrimination in relation to work notices—including from the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, who was particularly vocal on this point. I hope the noble Lord will agree that this amendment addresses his concerns in full.

Through this amendment, employers must not have regard to whether a person has or has not taken part in trade union activities, made use of their services or had issues raised by a trade union on their behalf. Employers must also not have regard to whether a person is part of a particular trade union or a particular branch or section of a trade union. This also ensures a greater level of consistency with existing sections within the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, such as Sections 146 and 152.

As I said in Committee, the activity or services that a trade union member may have been involved in are connected to whether they are a trade union member, and therefore, even under the clause as it stood, an employer must not have regard to such matters when producing a work notice. While I still believe this to be true, I hope that the amendment provides further reassurance to the House, in addition to trade unions and workers, putting the issue of trade union discrimination in relation to work notices beyond doubt. I beg to move.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, very briefly, it is appreciated that the Minister has done this and that the Government have understood that there was ambiguity. In a sense, it is a shame that the Minister has not taken all our advice, but we thank the Government for taking this particular piece.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I have two points. In answering the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the Minister used the ambulance service as an example of the Government having to use the power. I understood that it was the employer that used the power, and in the case of ambulance workers the Government are not the employer. Can the Minister perhaps square that language?

In a rather less difficult answer, in dismissing one of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, the Minister said that the process of publishing information at parliamentary level would take too much time. It is on the record that a recent former Transport Secretary of State said that the Bill will not solve the current problems. What is the Government’s time target for this, given we know that the Minister thinks one of the amendments would take too much time? What is sufficient time? When do the Government expect the Bill to be in place, all other things being equal, and what is the hurry?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s first question, as he well knows, it is the Government’s job—or duty, if we get the legislation through—to make the regulations, and then it will be at the discretion of employers whether they use the powers that are given to issue work notices. We have debated this many times.

With regard to the timetable, these things are beyond my authority level. It depends how quickly the Bill goes through Parliament, how many amendments there are, how long ping-pong takes, and the scheduling of the legislation by the usual channels. I hope we will get the legislation through as quickly as possible. Of course, I hope that we never need to use it, as I have said before, but we think it is appropriate that the power should be there as a backstop.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I fully expect the Minister to stand up and tell us that none of these amendments, which have been put so well by noble Lords, is necessary. I expect him to say that there is no possibility of the Bill, once it becomes an Act, breaking or impairing our relationship with the international organisations that noble Lords have mentioned. I wonder how he will be able to say that, given the nature of the Bill.

We come back to its skeletal nature and the answer which nobody seems to know to the question “What is a minimum service level?” Until we know, we do not know whether the Bill breaks any agreements that we have with organisations in this country or around the world. I refer your Lordships to our previous debate in Committee, in which we discussed correspondence with the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe, in which he represented the issues around the fire and rescue services. I remind noble Lords that, after I prompted him on why the consultation had raised the issue of the Grenfell Tower fire and the Manchester Arena bombing, the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Callanan—said that one thing the consultation sought to probe was that the minimum service level would include the ability to cope with issues on that scale. He did not disagree with me when I came back and said that that implied that 100% of the fire and rescue services in an area would need to have been named in the work order under a minimum service level. In effect, that would ban striking.

In the event of such a minimum service level, that calls into question our relationships with the ILO, the EU under the TCA and others, because it is a de facto ban on striking. It may or may not upset those relationships, but I want the Minister to be able to say what minimum service level is being modelled when he tells us that we do not need to worry.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I sometimes wonder when I listen to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, whether I need to bother replying to these debates, because he has written my speeches before I get up. For the benefit of the House, I will go through this anyway.

Amendments 18A, 18B, 32B and 36C all relate to the UK’s international obligations. Before I deal with the amendments in detail, it is worth reiterating, as I have previously and as we debated last time round with the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that the Government firmly believe that the Bill is compatible with our convention rights and complies with all international conventions that the UK is signed up to. I signed a statement to that effect.

Amendment 18A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, looks to ensure that the Bill does not prevent people from taking strike action and cannot be used to create an offence. I oppose this amendment because its effect would be to prevent any minimum service levels from being implemented at all. He will understand my reservations, given how the Bill is drafted in respect of the operation of work notices and where an employee would lose their automatic protection from unfair dismissal for industrial action if they participated in a strike while being named on a work notice. To be clear, our Bill does not prohibit strikes or other industrial action, but it does enable employers to continue to deliver a minimum service level to their users and stakeholders during and notwithstanding that action.

The Bill is about balancing the ability to strike with the rights and freedoms of others. Preventing minimum service levels being implemented does not strike a balance; it would merely maintain the current disproportionate impacts that strikes can have on the public—although I expect that that is a cause of legitimate disagreement between us.

Amendment 18B would ensure that the regulations did not compromise our obligations under the trade and co-operation agreement. However, given the reiteration I made earlier, we believe that this amendment is duplicative and unnecessary. The Government remain committed to our international obligation and respect the process of the respective governing bodies in providing any rulings that are required concerning compliance. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, has a desire for relevant international conventions and treaties, and their associated governing bodies, to have a greater role in respect to minimum service levels in Great Britain. But my argument here is that incorporating decisions by supervisory committees into domestic primary legislation, as this amendment seeks to do, goes way too far.

Amendment 32B, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, seeks similarly to prevent minimum service regulations being made where they could be said to be within scope of the trade and co-operation agreement and other international obligations. As I stated at the outset, the Government firmly believe that we are entitled to bring forward this legislation—many other European countries already have similar legislation—which I remain satisfied is compatible with all the international conventions the UK is signed up to. The noble Baroness will, of course, be aware that there are existing mechanisms for monitoring adherence to the trade and co-operation agreement—if indeed there are concerns from EU member states or the European Commission, although I do not believe there will be.

In any case, I am surprised if anybody thinks that ensuring that the public are able to access some level of service in key sectors, including emergency services, during strike action goes to the heart of the TCA, not least because many EU member states already have minimum service level arrangements in place. Indeed, in some of the services we have mentioned, some member states ban strike action completely in those areas. As drafted—and perhaps not intentionally—this amendment would prevent minimum service levels regulations being made at all, which, given that is the purpose of the Bill, we clearly cannot accept.

Finally, on Amendment 36C from the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and to respond to the points the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, made, as I have stated previously, the Government firmly believe that the Bill is compliant with convention rights and international conventions. The Bill also enables regulations to be made in a way that is compliant with the convention rights, and on making those regulations, Secretaries of State will need to carefully consider the relevant articles of the ECHR, alongside international conventions, if they choose to suggest minimum service regulations to Parliament. So they will also have to make similar statements.

I highlight that this amendment seeks to restrict minimum service levels so that they can be made only where they are necessary to provide protection for the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. While the protection of life and health are indeed important aims of minimum service levels in areas such as healthcare—

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Let me outline the procedure for the benefit of the noble Baroness. The work notice will not be a public document. The Bill makes it clear that current data protection legislation applies, while allowing the employer to provide the work notice to a trade union so that the Bill can be effective. Under the Bill, trade unions are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that their members who are identified in the work notice comply with that work notice. The trade union therefore of course needs to see the work notice and to know which union members may be named, in order to enable it to take those reasonable steps. Unions will otherwise be bound by data protection law in the usual way. Additionally, while those named on a work notice will be notified about that regarding themselves only, they will not be issued the work notice itself. Naming individuals to work in advance of the strike day helps to provide clarity to the workers, to unions and to employers regarding arrangements for that working day as well as the strike.

If the Committee will now permit me to move on and answer the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, that may provide some clarity on the Government’s thinking in this respect. The first question the noble Baroness asked was whether Secretaries of State have a say in who is identified in a work notice. Fundamentally, the work notice is a matter for the employer, so there is no way that Secretaries of State can influence who is identified on a work notice.

Secondly, the noble Baroness asked whether a worker would be in breach of a work notice if they were sick on the relevant strike day. Workers should of course be supported if they are unwell and cannot work, and it remains the case that if a worker is too unwell to work, they are not obliged to work under a work notice. I hope that provides the clarity the Committee is seeking on this point, and I therefore hope that the noble Lord can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, this debate has revealed—or rather, not revealed—more than I expected. I am grateful to the Minister for imaginatively making things up as he goes along, which is what this seems to be. We have a Bill in which none of the details is included, and we are relying on the Minister to flesh out from the Dispatch Box how the Bill will work. [Interruption.] I am not talking about what the Bill is, but how it will work.

At least two misapprehensions are driving that interpretation of how the Bill will work—not what it says in law, but what it will do. The first is that the nature of the service sectors the Bill has identified is such that they are politicised. The Minister’s description of the interplay between employer and employee is an unrestrained free-market description, but we know—and this is why I was talking in the last group about using the current dispute as a model—that this is not a pure-play employee/employer relationship. There are three parties in this dispute, and the third party is the Government. By experience, behind the scenes and sometimes in front of the scenes, the Government have been part of the process of progression of these disputes, and in the end, they have been the arbiter of whether or not they were settled. So the Minister’s description of the nature of the dispute in which these minimum service levels and work orders would be used is an inaccurate model for us to consider.

The Minister speaks of the unions and the workforce as if they are two separate entities. We have to understand what the Minister thinks a union is. In large part, the union is the workforce, so keeping the work order secret from the workers by giving it to the union is an interesting concept.

The second misapprehension is that the Minister is expecting the union to oversee the work order, which is a list of names. We know from the Bill, because it specifically says so, that the names on that list could and should be either union members or non-union members. How does the union deal with the non-union members? Is it fair for the non-union members to have their names on the union’s list? These are the sort of practical details we do not have to hand because we do not have a description of work orders and minimum service levels. That is the problem the Minister is having to deal with and is working very hard to do so.

I will look very hard at Hansard because I find it very difficult to understand how the Minister sees the unions and the workforce operating independently in a workplace. Leaving that to one side, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 21.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I will speak very briefly to this group of amendments; I will make no attempt to emulate the speeches from either the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, or the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, who have great experience in the union movement.

In the Bill, there is a specific requirement for the unions “to take reasonable steps” to implement work orders. On these Benches, there is still no understanding of what “reasonable steps” actually means and what legal jeopardy unions would be in if they did, or did not do, particular activities. However, I characterise this collection of amendments as causing the employers to take reasonable steps not to victimise members of the union as a result of this legislation. Therefore, it adds a mirror to the reasonable steps that the unions have to observe, so that the employers should similarly observe the same steps—and I support the spirit in which the amendments have been delivered.

The noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, mentioned private sector deliverers. Having read the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Markham, my reading is that he rules providers such as Amazon out of the remit of this legislation. It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm whether my interpretation is correct. I credit the noble Lord, Lord Markham, with coming to your Lordships’ House and participating in Committee. We had no such benefit of a Transport Minister, and we still do not know the position of private sector suppliers of services in the transport industry. While we seem to have an explicit ruling out of private sector deliverers in the health service, we have no such ruling out in the transport sector. Will the Minister, in responding to or confirming my interpretation of the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Markham, also tell us whether the similar and other deliverers of private sector services, which are crucial to the railway industry, will be included in the remit of the Bill, or, as in the health service, not included?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this short debate: the noble Lords, Lord Collins, Lord Hendy, Lord Woodley and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady.

Amendments 22 and 24 to 31 all relate to placing additional requirements on the process of issuing our famous work notice. It is the view of the Government that the current requirements in the Bill strike the right balance between the views and perspectives of employers and unions to enable a reasonable and fair work notice to be issued. The Bill explicitly requires that employers must consult a relevant trade union, and have regard to their views, before issuing a work notice. Additionally, work notices must not include more persons than are reasonably necessary to meet the minimum service level and employers, as I said earlier, must not have regard to whether a worker is or is not a member of a trade union when producing that work notice.

I respond, first, to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, who waxed lyrical about Amazon warehouses. While it is possible for a private business to be in the scope of minimum service level regulations, if they provide a relevant service as specified within the regulations, I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness that the Government have no plans or intentions to apply minimum service levels to Amazon.

Amendment 22 tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Hendy, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, would limit the issuing of work notices to recognised trade unions only. However, it is of course possible that strikes can be called by recognised and unrecognised trade unions, which can lead to disproportionate impacts on the public. It is therefore our view that MSLs must be able to be applied where a union, recognised or not, provides a strike notice to an employer.

I move on to Amendments 24 to 31 from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady. Amendment 24 looks to ensure that employers cannot name more persons than necessary to secure the minimum level of service. However, it is already recognised that employers should not roster more people than are needed to achieve a minimum service level, so that some workers can continue to take strike action if they wish to—that is the whole principle of the Bill. That is why the Bill already requires employers not to identify more persons than are reasonably necessary. This enables the employer some limited flexibility in providing for contingency to respond on the day to any operational incidents, sickness or other types of absence. In our view, the existing approach strikes the right balance and provides sufficient safeguards for workers. To go further would limit or eliminate an employer’s flexibility, which could then mean that minimum service levels—the whole point of the legislation—would not be achieved.

Amendments 25 and 26 both look to ensure that each individual is able to go on strike for at least part of the period of the strike, notwithstanding any work notice. The Government resist these amendments for three reasons. First, the number of days on a strike notice could be substantial across both short and long periods for which the union has a mandate to strike. It is therefore reasonable that some workers may need to work more than 50% of those strike days, especially if their colleagues are off sick, on leave or attending training. Secondly, these amendments would cap the minimum service level and reduce the influence of the consultation, and those who respond to it, in the setting of the minimum service level. Thirdly, Amendment 26 appears to prevent any work notice being given where there is only one day given on a strike notice, which therefore creates a loophole which could be exploited—that may have been the purpose of the amendment.

Amendments 27 and 28 look to require the employer to ignore a person’s trade union activities or use of trade union services in deciding whether to identify a person in a work notice. However, we believe the Bill already sufficiently protects against any discrimination regarding a worker’s union status when employers are preparing their work notices. The trade union activity or services that a union member may have been involved in are connected to whether they are a union member, which, as we have already said, the employer must not have regard to.

Additionally, existing legislation—Section 146 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992—already provides a remedy for workers who are discriminated against on union grounds, and that section will continue to be applicable here. Therefore, we believe the amendment is duplicative in nature.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. At the risk of provoking further interventions, I will start by replying to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. I do not know the legal definition of victimisation, but her understanding of it is clearly different from mine. I would define it as something like “subjecting an individual to degrading, unfair treatment”. In effect, a work notice says to an employee, “You fulfil your contract, as has been previously agreed, as normal. You come into work, do your normal contracted job and get paid for it.” In any definition that I understand, that is not victimisation. Obviously she has an alternative view, but I do not believe that it would come under the definition.

I will directly address the point by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady. I have said it before and will say it again: this legislation is not about sacking key workers. Let me be very clear about that. She inquired about the outline of the Bill: it is about protecting the lives and livelihoods of the public by enabling minimum service levels to be applied on a strike day. If people comply with the legislation, then there is no question of anybody being sacked on the basis of it.

This group of amendments seeks to ensure that no detrimental action could be taken by an employer against persons who are named on, but then fail to comply with, a work notice. There would be no consequences for participating in a strike despite being named on a work notice. The whole intention of these amendments is not to achieve a balance between the ability to strike and the rights and freedoms of the rest of us to go about our normal daily business—to get an ambulance, to attend the health service or to have a firefighter come to put out a fire in my property. This is about ensuring that strike action can continue with no consequence whatever and with no regard as to whether a minimum service level will be achieved. That fundamentally cannot be accepted by the Government.

For a minimum service level to be achieved, it strikes me as obvious that enough people need to attend work and therefore workers need to be appropriately incentivised to do that. The legislation achieves this by removing the automatic protection from unfair dismissal where employees participate in strike action despite being named on a work notice. While it is at the discretion of employers rather than the Government as to what, if any, action is then taken against employees in those circumstances, we think it vital that the Bill equips employers to manage instances of non-compliance, just as they would in any other case of unauthorised absence, to enable them to achieve that minimum service level. As my noble friend Lady Noakes observed, employees retain all their existing protections against discrimination—a very good point that further reinforces why these amendments are not required.

Overall, we believe that the approach in this legislation is fair and reasonable and ensures that there is the balance, which we have talked about so often, between the ability to strike and the rights and freedoms of everyone else to go about their daily business and use essential public services. Removing the ability for there to be any consequences whatever for failing to comply with a work notice would likely lead to strikes being more disruptive, as we have seen, when compared with the level of service that employers would be able to provide by applying a minimum service level that allows for these consequences.

Finally, there is a point of detail. Amendments 32 and 32A, if implemented, would cause a significant legal conflict with Part 2 of the Schedule, which makes amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to make clear that there is no automatic protection from unfair dismissal for an employee who is identified in a valid work notice but participates in the strike contrary to that work notice.

In conclusion, I resist these amendments on the grounds that they seek to sustain or increase the disproportionate impact that strikes in these key areas can have on the public as a continuation of the status quo, a continuation of the public being disproportionately impacted by strikes and a continuation of lives and livelihoods being put at risk by those strikes. Therefore, I cannot accept these amendments.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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With each group of amendments that passes, I get the impression that the area of carpet between me and the Minister is getting larger. The differences are getting larger rather than smaller, which is disappointing because sometimes in Committee they can be narrowed, but I do not get that sense. In describing the change in a person’s contract so that on one day they are able to strike with legal protections and on the next day that contract is unilaterally changed, I do not have to use the word “victimisation”. I can use some other word, perhaps “unfair” or “wrong”. That is the fundamental difference between me and the Minister, and that is what is causing the carpet to expand. Acknowledging that this was a probing amendment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, as I set out in the previous group, which the noble Lord, Lord Fox, described as the amuse-bouche grouping, there are already sufficient checks and balances built into the legislation before any regulations can be made. These include the need to carry out consultations with key stakeholders, including employers, employees, relevant trade unions and their members, who are all encouraged to participate in the consultations—we have some of the regulations out for consultation at the moment—and have their say in setting minimum service levels before they come into effect.

Parliament, including Select Committees, will also have an opportunity to contribute to the consultation and scrutinise the regulations. The Government firmly believe that this is the right approach. It ensures that a wide range of views can be gathered. Parliament can scrutinise regulations without significantly delaying the implementation of MSLs and therefore extending the disproportionate impact that strikes can have on the public.

Amendments 42 to 48 all seek to amend the provisions to make consequential amendments. The Government resist these amendments on the grounds that Clause 3 is a fairly standard clause, used regularly in primary legislation. Let me explain to the Committee what it is for. The power to amend primary legislation within the clause is a standard power with standard wording. Perhaps it will be helpful to give some examples of where it is on the statute book already. It is in Section 182 of the Health and Care Act 2022, Section 47 of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, Section 23 of the Bus Services Act 2017—I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is not here to hear that—and Section 66 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. This power is not unique to legislation introduced under a Conservative Government. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that Section 51 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 also includes the same power. Additionally, the report, The Legislative Process: the Delegation of Powers, published by the Lords Select Committee on the Constitution in 2018, states:

“Delegating power to make provision for minor and technical matters is a necessary part of the legislative process … Delegated legislation, which is subject to less parliamentary scrutiny, should only be used to fill in the details.”


That is exactly what this power is intended for.

I remind noble Lords that the DPRRC did not draw attention to or raise concerns about this delegated power in its report published on 2 February. I know that it did on others, but it did not with this one. The power may be used only to make amendments to other legislation that are genuinely consequential on this Bill. It is there purely to ensure that the legal provisions within this Bill can be maintained after they have received Royal Assent. Therefore, the Committee will understand why I cannot support these amendments.

Amendment 48 seeks to remove the power for the Secretary of State to make consequential amendments to primary legislation made by the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd. The Government again resist this amendment on the grounds that the provisions of this Act will extend to England and Wales and Scotland. Employment rights and duties and industrial relations are reserved in respect of Scotland and Wales. Therefore, it is right that the Secretary of State has the power to make consequential amendments to primary legislation made by the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd, if required to ensure that the new legal framework operates in a coherent way across the entirety of Great Britain.

The disproportionate impacts that strikes can have are no less severe on people in Scotland or Wales than they are in England. 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 will of course engage with the devolved Administrations as appropriate. I have met devolved Ministers to discuss the Bill. Obviously, we will engage further if any consequential amendments are required to Acts of the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly. As this clause is completely standard and has been introduced in several pieces of legislation, including by a previous Labour Government, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or not move their unnecessary amendments.

Turning to Amendments 45 and 46, I believe that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is to delay the commencement of regulations providing for minimum services until the Government have assessed the Bill’s impact on recruitment and retention in the public and private sectors, and the impact on those with protected characteristics. However, the amendments as drafted are to Clause 3, which provides a power to the Secretary of State to make consequential provision. Therefore, the amendments would delay commencement of regulations which make consequential amendments to other legislation.

Speaking to what I believe is the intended purpose of the amendment, I say that the Government resist it. As I have already set out in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, the Secretary of State must consult on regulations, and they must be approved by both Houses before they can be made.

Impact assessments will be published for all subsequent regulations on minimum service levels and will, as always, contain a public sector equality duty assessment. I also draw noble Lords’ attention to the already published impact assessments for the Bill and currently ongoing consultations on establishing minimum service levels in ambulance, fire and rescue, and rail services, all of which contain public sector equality duty assessments. I hope that I have convinced noble Lords to withdraw and not move their amendments.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate on this group. I am particularly grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for painting a picture of King Henry VIII strutting across the Field of the Cloth of Gold on a pair of stilts.

Carbon Budgets: Methane Flaring

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 9th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very good point. The finest minds in the Civil Service have been devoted to deciding the acronym for the new department. “Deznez” seems to be the favourite, though I should say that my Secretary of State rightly points out that no one has any idea what all these acronyms stand for so we should use its full title, which is the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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In answer to my noble friend’s Question, the Minister said that there are reasons why this is technically difficult. It would help noble Lords if the Minister could explain what those technical difficulties are. I can understand it when new wells are being tested, but this is established production over the long term. What exactly are the technical difficulties?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to arrange a briefing with officials for the noble Lord if he would like, but the technical difficulties are, first, technological, in that it requires a lot of new infrastructure and pipework to be installed, and some of the facilities that flare are oil platforms that do not have facilities to pipe the gas to shore. Secondly, there are huge economic costs associated with it; obviously, some of the infrastructure goes back to the 1970s.

Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think that comes down to the essence of the political disagreement, and maybe I was not exposing myself correctly, but certainly the Opposition disagree with the minimum service levels legislation. I accept that in some areas the noble Lord might believe in minimum service levels but, as I have said, if voluntary negotiations are in place in certain sectors, that is preferable to the heavy hand of legislation, and we accept that. However, in the case of ambulances, some unions in some areas have agreed minimum service levels and others have not, so we think it is right to have the back-up of legislation in case we need to reach for it, but we hope that we do not need to use it.

As I was saying in response to the intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, this is about the essential political balance and what services should be included. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, makes a good case that policing services should be included, and I will get him a full reply on that. That is the essential political judgment that the Government took when we were drafting this legislation about what services should be included, but I accept that there is political difference of opinion. Some people think they are too broadly drawn, some people think they are not widely enough drawn and some Members think additional services should be included. I can present only the legislation and view that the Government took on this at the time.

With that, I have concluded my remarks in response to the group, so I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, will feel able to withdraw the amendment he moved on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their comments and speeches on this group. I think we are beginning to draw the lines a little more clearly. First, I am delighted that the Minister has come out as a bulwark against legal ambiguity. I will clean up our legal ambiguity by withdrawing Amendment 2 shortly, if he clears up his legal ambiguity by withdrawing the Bill.

Looking at the rest of the debate, I think I am beginning to see the problem, which is the difference between minimum service levels and emergency cover. Some of the services highlighted in this Bill are emergency services; they are services that you need in extremis. Some of them are in the Bill, and some of the ones that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, mentioned are not. Some of them, particularly transport, are not generally services that you need in extremis. In that case, minimum service level is an appropriate term.

For the others, emergency cover is covered in the Civil Contingencies Act, and the trade union Acts of 1996 and 2002 are more appropriate. In reverting to the language of minimum service level when referring to services that are required in extremis, the Minister is accidentally or deliberately missing the point. I think we will come back to this on a number of occasions, so it would be helpful if the Minister can be persuaded to understand it, even if not to agree with it. On the basis of trying to bring us all together, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 2.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I know that many noble Lords want to make the point that, somehow, major pieces of retained EU law will suddenly just accidentally disappear from the statute book. We have conducted a very authoritative process of assessing what is retained EU law and what is not, and we are very satisfied that departments know exactly the legislation for which they are responsible.

It is not entirely clear—this goes back to a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, made the other day, with which I agree—because successive Governments over the years have used different processes to assimilate what was an EU obligation into UK law. Even if departments know what law they are responsible for, they do not necessarily know the process by which it was introduced, or whether that law was as a result of an EU obligation or not. The Government introduced earlier amendments to remove any legal risk of an SI being quashed if it contained a provision preserved as REUL that later turned out not to be one. Our advice to departments is that where they are not sure, it should be preserved.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Can I explain this point please, and then I will take the intervention from the noble Lord?

We are satisfied that departments know the law for which they are responsible. They do not yet know whether it is a retained EU law—in other words, whether it was done in respect of an EU obligation or not. The default position that we are suggesting is that it should be retained if they are not sure, but we have tabled an SI to put that position beyond doubt. I will take one more intervention on this.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I apologise for my enthusiasm causing a truncation of the Minister’s response. Does he at least understand, if he does not accept, that as long as the Government resist suggestions such as come through in these amendments, whereby a list of the laws that are covered by the Bill is laid before Parliament and officially and definitively made available—not a catalogue, as we have been promised but a definitive and complete list, of the sort of laws that not only the noble Baroness but all of us feel passionately about—we are bound to be fuelled by distrust?

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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Before the Minister replies, I add that what the Minister is saying now directly contradicts the letter we had the other day from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, which we discussed. The distinction is made by the Government between an authoritative catalogue and a comprehensive list. The Government admit that the dashboard is not comprehensive, so how can each department possibly know all the EU law it is responsible for? As anyone can, I can give examples—and I am grateful to the organisation Justice, of which I should declare I am a vice-president, for giving two examples of direct effect treaty articles and directive clauses which are not on the dashboard, which cites only 28 in that category. That is Article 157 of the treaty and a clause of the habitats directive. They are not on the dashboard, so how are we meant to believe that departments know exactly what law they are dealing with?

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think I have already taken two interventions from the noble Lord, Lord Fox, but I will take one more.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank the Minister; I appreciate it. I thought he dealt with the democracy issue, to some extent, and cited that it was inconvenient to have to have primary law. The Minister used the Procurement Bill as his paradigm. Sitting next to him is the Lord Privy Seal, who, in a previous guise, brought forward the Procurement Bill—along with the 350-plus government amendments that accompanied it, because it was so badly drafted. If that Bill is a paradigm for anything, it is a paradigm for this Bill and the poor drafting of legislation.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not think I ever used the word “inconvenient”, but reforming all this by primary legislation, whatever view you take of it, would take many years, if not decades.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Case law is being retained. Case law is not being abolished, it will still exist, and courts will still be able to take account of it. Removing the complex and opaque legal gloss associated with Section 4 of the 2018 Act will improve the clarity of our domestic law. It would be, in our view, inappropriate, to leave these provisions on our statute book, and we wish to end them as soon as reasonably practicable. We consequently also oppose Amendment 137, which specifies that any regulation made under the power conferred by Amendment 62 would be subject to the draft affirmative procedure.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I think the Minister is departing from Clause 3. This sounds like small beer compared to some of the issues that colleagues have raised, but I asked a specific question about the difference in approach to the extension of sunsetting between Clauses 1 and 3, and I hoped the Minister would address that—if he was intending to.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I have some more remarks on Clause 3. Let me come to the end of them and, if the noble Lord does not feel that he has got an answer, we can talk about that further then.

I was going to move on to the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, who tabled notice of her intention to oppose Clause 3 stand part of the Bill. For the reasons set out, the repeal of Section 4 of the 2018 Act is, in our view, a crucial part of the Government’s agenda to take back control of our statute book and improve legal clarity. I completely agree with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, about the Windsor Framework. We do not think this Bill has any effect on the agreements made. Of course, we will examine the text of that very closely, but it goes without saying that the Government are completely committed to the agreement and we would not wish to do anything in either this or future legislation to impinge on what I view as a fantastic agreement.

Moving on, Clause 4 abolishes the principle of the supremacy of EU law. I do not think that I have any notes to address the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, so let me say that we will include that in the general write-around about—well, I will not refer to them as legal technicalities because the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, will tell me that they are extremely important legal principles. I will seek legal advice and get a proper answer for the Committee.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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That is fair enough; it was a slightly gratuitous point. I actually agree with the noble Baroness—we want the law to be as clear and accessible as possible. That is why we do not believe that the general principles of EU law, which of course were developed by the CJEU for use primarily by EU institutions and member states, should be relevant to the UK now that we are an independent nation, whatever our differences of opinion might have been on that.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I think I failed to explain why I think that they are relevant. They are relevant because of the EU retained law part of the Minister’s mishmash, which gets assimilated into UK law. The interpretation of that EU part, which is now UK law, somehow loses the basis upon which the interpretation was made. I explained that I understood why the Government wanted to do this, but the fact that they become separated is an issue. I suggested a way for those interpretations to be ported across, specifically and explicitly for each one. If that is not the way it will be done and the Minister says that somehow this is going to happen, then at some point in this debate we need to understand. If it is not in the letter, then it needs to be later in this debate.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I made the point earlier that, when departments are reviewing their legislation and any modifications they might need to make to statutory instruments, they will of course want to take account of the fact that the general principles of EU law will no longer apply in the UK and make any modifications that would be required.

I move on to the somewhat related point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady. Let me be clear that retained case law—this comes back to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman—is not and cannot be directly sunsetted, as it consists of judges’ judgments, which are essentially statements of historical fact. Where general principles and other interpretive effects are removed by the Bill in Clauses 3 to 5, it would be expected that courts would continue to consider relevant case law where it is clear from the restatement that that is the intention.

Amendment 67 would introduce an extension power for the removal of general principles of EU law, as well as the abolition of supremacy and the repeal of Section 4 of the 2018 Act, as I have already set out. Removing these complex legal glosses will, in my view, satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and improve the clarity of our domestic law. It is imperative that we end them as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everybody who has contributed. I suppose we had to have the debate in principle at some stage, and we have had it on Clause 1. I will attempt to provide some reassurance to noble Lords. I suspect that those who think that somehow the Government have malign intentions will not be convinced, but let me try my arguments anyway.

As my noble friend Lord Frost made clear, this is of course an enabling Bill. The measures in it, including the sunset, will provide for UK and devolved Ministers to make decisions to review, amend or repeal retained EU law as they see fit. I agree with my noble friend Lord Frost’s point. I understand that the Opposition will want to portray all EU law as perfect and ideally suited for the UK’s circumstances, but most of my time in the European Parliament was spent during the period of the last Labour Government. There were numerous occasions when UK Ministers, and civil servant at the behest of UK Ministers, came to give me examples of where the regulations were not suited to the UK and not in the UK’s interests. Many times, as a Conservative, I agreed with them, and we did our best to change or amend them. Often, we were not successful. This legislation gives us the opportunity—

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will let the noble Lord come back in a moment, but let me make a little progress—I might answer some of his points, you never know.

Let us not pretend that it is all perfect. I accept that the Opposition have a principled difference with us on how we go about this process, but at least let us have the debate and, I hope, make some progress. The sunset is not intended to restrict decision-making; rather, it will accelerate the review of retained EU law across all sectors, as my noble friend Lord Hamilton made clear. The Bill will allow for additional flexibility and discretion to make decisions in the best interests of this country.

I start with Amendment 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Fox. I take this opportunity, as I have done many times in this Chamber before, to reassure him and the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, and the Committee, that the repeal of maternity rights is not and never has been the UK Government’s policy. As I have said many times before, our higher standards in this area were never dependent on our membership of the European Union. Indeed, the UK provides stronger protection for workers than is required by EU law. I have made this point many times, and the opposition parties do not seem to want to accept it.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am going to make this point and then I will allow the noble Lord to intervene.

Our high standards were never dependent on our membership of the European Union. We provide stronger protection for workers than is required by EU law, both under previous Governments and under this Government. Let me give the Committee some examples. We have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe. On 1 April this year, the Government will increase the national living wage by 9.7% to £10.42—higher than most other European countries. UK workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave, compared with the EU requirement of four weeks. We provide a year of maternity leave, with the option to convert to shared parental leave to enable parents to share care, whereas EU maternity leave is just 14 weeks. The right to request flexible working for all employees was introduced in the UK in the early 2000s; the EU agreed rules only recently and will offer the right to parents and carers only. The UK introduced two weeks of paid paternity leave in 2003; the EU has legislated for this only recently. Let there be no doubt about the commitment of this Government to enhancing and providing for workers’ rights.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I am afraid I can wait no longer. I am somewhat surprised that I still do not really understand what the Minister is saying. We did not put on the dashboard the regulations and laws set out so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and by my noble friend and others; the Government put them on the dashboard. If the Minister is saying that these do not affect British employment regulations, how can that be true? It is simply not true. What the Minister is saying is wrong. They are on the dashboard and they will sunset if nothing is done. They affect day-to-day employee rights, and therefore the Bill potentially affects those employee rights because these regulations are on the Government’s dashboard.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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They are on the dashboard if they are retained EU law. I noticed that, in all the statements and speeches from Members opposite, the words “if” and “could” were doing an awful lot of heavy lifting. I accept that there is no trust from the Opposition in the intentions of the Government and that they want to make their political attacks. The reason I outlined UK employment rights and standards was to demonstrate the commitment of this Government to those rights. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, made earlier is essentially correct: while we have some very high standards, of which we are proud and will maintain, there is a complicated mishmash of laws in this area between some elements of EU and domestic law.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thought I had given the noble Baroness a serious response. Within the area of devolved competence, the devolved Administrations have the same rights as the UK Government to amend, repeal or replace retained EU law.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I am assuming the Minister has now sat down. He touched on the interpretive effects that I raised in the set of amendments, but I do not think the answer was as full as we need. I think there will be other opportunities for the Minister to come back, and I will certainly press them. In the end, my assumption is that it will be up to the courts to decide which cases are in and which are out; it will be up to the courts and the lawyers who are pressing the courts to reinterpret or allow interpretations to continue. We need to know from the Government what is their assessment of the effect of that on this body of law and others across the spectrum we are discussing.

All Governments have to make choices, and the day-to-day push and pull of government can throw up many difficult dilemmas and severely stretch the national bandwidth for decision-making, but with this Bill, the Government are giving themselves 4,000 more choices they did not need to make. In opting to make these choices alone, without debate, discussion or consensus, each of these choices is bound to become a battleground, and each will be down to a Secretary of State—decisions that will call down attention from every corner of civil, legal, commercial and social society. So good luck with that, Minister.

The first amendment in the group illustrates some of the places where these battles will be fought across the country. No matter how close to their chest the Government play this, the arguments will not go away; indeed, the more secrecy and circumspection, the more suspicion will rise. The right reverend Prelate spoke about using the specifics to test the general, and this was an opportunity for the Minister to be more specific so that we could judge the general better. I do not think he has yet achieved that; however, we have six groups in very much in the same vein, so perhaps the Minister can work on his performance. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend asks what she can say to women. She can tell them that they have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe as a result of the policies of this Government, that they are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave compared with an EU requirement of four weeks, and that they are entitled to a year of maternity leave in the UK whereas the EU minimum is only 14 weeks—that is what she can say to women workers.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I believe I owe the Committee an apology. In withdrawing my previous amendment I said there were 4,000 unnecessary decisions facing the Government. I am afraid I was wrong. I have listened to the Minister and I understand now that it is 4,700 unnecessary decisions, on which the Government will be using important legislative and administrative bandwidth. I believe there are better things to be doing than this process, and perhaps in one of his other comments the Minister can explain why all this time is being wasted if, as he says, nothing will change—and that is our point.

When it comes to the question of interpretative effects, it is strike two. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, and indeed the Minister himself, set out this intermingling of UK-derived, EU-derived and case law, and the fact that if we start pulling one piece of string there is a very great chance of it unravelling. The Minister has acknowledged there are interpretative effects, but we need a more detailed assessment of how the Government expect those to pan out as the courts get their teeth into the post-2023 situation. When I ask this in the next group, it might be better if the Minister undertakes to write a very detailed letter—possibly assisted by the department’s lawyers—that explains the legal view on how this is going to work. That is perhaps a way of avoiding me asking the question another few times.

At the end of the previous group, there was a very interesting intervention from the Minister’s own Benches on Clause 15(5), and how changes to the wording of that clause could begin to draw the sting of some of the arguments that we have heard so far and will hear later. The Minister might take to heart the advice that came from his own Benches.

We heard in the debate about the disproportionate effect that the stifling of this legislation could have on women, minorities, the creative industries and a wide group of people. That is why it was important to have this amendment in a separate group. However, given the nature of the debate, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 2.

Manufacturing Post Brexit

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes an important point. The Inflation Reduction Act in the US is clearly going to have big effects on the UK and Europe. We need to work together with our friends and partners in engaging with the US to try and convince them that a rise in global protectionism is really not the way to go.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, if you talk to the trade associations—Make UK for example—they will also tell you that their members and the manufacturing industry are facing massive headwinds: increased costs, broken supply chains, increased paperwork when they try to export to the EU, a shortage of skilled people and a rising cost of capital. They look over the fence to other countries: they see Governments in the European Union and in the US that are seeking to work out plans to help their industries. Then they look here and see empty words and press releases, but nothing behind them. So when are we going to have actual plans, real road maps and proper support?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord obviously wrote his question before I gave the earlier answer, because the figures that I quoted on increased manufacturing investment—more than half of manufacturers plan to increase investment in people and industry—were from Make UK, so the noble Lord is painting an unnecessarily gloomy picture.

REUL Bill: Trade Unions and Workers’ Rights

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are of course continuing to do detailed work on this matter. There will be an opportunity to debate that in full in the House in the near future, and I am sure that the noble Earl will want to make his contribution on that. We will update the dashboard shortly.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I will follow on from the question from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. How many members of the Minister’s team are currently out there working on this Bill? How many of them are looking for the lost legislation that seems to be appearing every day? How many members of his department are being used for that purpose rather than working on industrial strategy, which is what it is there to do?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not have a precise number but there are of course a number of civil servants working on the legislation that is before Parliament and has been discussed extensively in the House of Commons. Every department is engaged in looking through its EU legislation to see what is there. Obviously most of the main pieces have been identified, but sometimes there are obscure Acts and regulations that they are still discovering.

Electric Vehicle Battery Production

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I know that my noble friend has personal experience of problems with his keys, and I hope they are resolved. That is not intended as an obscure comment—his is a genuine complaint, and I know it will be resolved. Of course, it is always regrettable if manufacturing is outsourced overseas, but the UK car industry has been successful in the past, and we have one of the biggest car industries in Europe. A massive programme of transformation is required in the industry as we move towards more electric vehicles, but I am sure that the industry will rise to the challenge.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister, given his intimate knowledge of the trade and co-operation agreement, will know that there is an important clause relevant to this. In 2024, the rules of origin for electric vehicles change, increasing the need for local content. Because batteries make up so much of electric cars, we cannot achieve that local content without batteries being built in this country. Will the Minister tell the House whether his department speaking to the other relevant departments in government to reopen this negotiation? Is it this Government’s intention to push back the commencement date of this clause, because without doing so, we have a really serious problem here?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Like the noble Lord, I am familiar with the rules of origin provisions of the TCA. There was a lot of debate about this at the time, and we continue to keep an eye on it. Of course, there are discussions across government. One of the reasons for setting up the automotive transformation fund was to attempt to get more of these gigafactories into the UK, and we stand ready to talk to any other prospective investors to do that.

Industrial Action

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Wednesday 11th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for taking questions on the Statement and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, on his contribution. I will try to focus my questions and comments on how the Minister expects this to work.

The coming Bill is interesting because it introduces the concept of a minimum service level. Of course, in the Bill, the actual levels of service are not defined—true to form, this Government will come back with secondary legislation to do that. Can the Minister give your Lordships’ House at least an idea of what criteria will be used to come up with the minimum service levels? Will they be the same right across the country or will, for example, rural and urban areas have different minimum service levels? These are important issues.

There is, however, a wider issue around service levels. Taking yesterday as an example—when there were no strikes, as far as I am aware—can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House whether the tens of thousands of people waiting weeks to see their GP were getting a minimum service level? Were the people across Britain waiting sometimes tens of hours for ambulances getting a minimum service level? Were the people trying desperately to travel by train from Manchester to London experiencing a minimum service level? This is the baseline from which this legislation is working, and it is clearly not good enough. The public expect and deserve higher minimum standards than they are getting today, and on every day when there are no strikes.

Instead of addressing this issue, which I would define as the Government’s duty of care, the Bill passes the onus on to individual workers in these sectors. It is not the Ministers, the bosses or indeed the union leaders who will be sacked if the Government’s standards are not met; it is individual workers. I want briefly to illustrate this. If the Bill is enacted, the Secretary of State will impose a minimum service level. In the event of a strike, employers will be required to identify named employees who will be mandated to work via a work notice. At that point, these individuals are deprived of their right to strike on pain of probable dismissal. That does not square with the Secretary of State’s statement that this does not infringe the right to strike.

I know the Minister, and I am sure that, in his heart, he knows that a different approach is needed to deliver the service levels we need in this country. First, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, we need to plug the huge hole in our public sector workforce. We literally need hundreds of thousands of new people in order to deliver the basic service levels we require. A serious Government would be working with everyone in every part of these vital sectors. Can the minister tell your Lordships’ House one thing in this legislation that will help to build a bigger, better workforce in this country? Of course, a necessary first step is sorting out the pay disputes.

Turning to the NHS, the Government have absented themselves from negotiating the pay round, citing the inviolability of the pay review body. This position would have more credibility had not the Government suspended the body as recently as 2018, instead negotiating directly to deliver the 2018-21 pay agreement. What has changed since 2018 that means the Government will no longer directly negotiate with workers on this issue?

The original Bill, over the summer, targeted only rail. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, the impact assessment identifies more than a dozen risks and unintended consequences—not least, I hasten to add, the proliferation of sub-strike action such as overtime bans, which would cripple the NHS and is already crippling our rail services. The current Bill steps beyond the Government’s manifesto commitment and adds five more sectors. Given the differences between the two Bills, when will the Government publish an updated impact assessment?

Finally, I am sure it is extremely frustrating running a public service in the United Kingdom, but can the Minister tell us how many bosses actually asked His Majesty’s Government for this legislation? Can he point to any appetite for this beyond the Back Benches of his own party? As I said, we will take a practical approach to scrutinising this legislation when it comes to your Lordships’ House.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Fox, for their contributions. I start by placing on record the Government’s thanks to public sector workers, especially those working in the NHS. Their work is greatly valued and I know that all noble Lords here today are very grateful for the work they do.

Let me say in response to the noble Lords that while the pressure on the public sector is of course recognised—there are unprecedented strains, particularly on the health service at the moment—it is regrettable that multiple unions have taken the decision to strike. The public are understandably worried about access to emergency care and they are tired of the ongoing chaos on many parts of our public transport network. The Government want to resolve these disputes where that is possible and Ministers across government have been meeting union representatives this week to find meaningful ways forward that are fair and reasonable to the taxpayer. While these conversations continue, it is sensible and reasonable for the Government to take steps to reduce the disproportionate impact that strikes can have on the wider public and on our economy, and that is why we have taken the decision to introduce this legislation.

Let me be clear: we hope that in many cases we will not have to use the powers the Bill gives us. Where unions reach voluntary agreements—as is the case with the nursing unions at the moment—to provide adequate minimum levels of service that keep people safe and help the economy and society to function, we will not regulate those sectors. However, it is absolutely right that the Government have the power to act in key services where that does not happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, raised the issue of international compatibility, particularly with the ILO. I can reassure noble Lords that as part of the introduction of this legislation, the Secretary of State signed a statement of compatibility with the ECHR, and a memorandum to this effect has been published. I will place a copy of that memorandum, in addition to the delegated powers memorandum, in the Libraries of the House. Since the noble Lord quoted the ILO, let me quote the ILO back to him. The ILO itself states that minimum service levels can be a proportionate way of balancing the right to strike with the right to protect the wider public, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Let me address head on the issue raised by both noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Fox, with their fairly alarmist statements about it somehow being the Government’s policy to sack workers as part of this legislation. I clarify for the record and for noble Lords that that is not the case. It is a ridiculous exaggeration. When it comes to the position of this Government on the number of key workers, we are in favour of increasing them, not sacking them.

Both noble Lords referred to other European countries. There is a certain irony in this, because normally, both noble Lords press me to adopt what other European countries are already doing—they normally quote it, particularly the Liberal Democrats, as an example of what we should be doing in this country. It is the case, although noble Lords might not like it, that many European countries and other global democracies have minimum service levels. They are facing precisely the same challenges and protecting the wider public from disproportionate impacts of strikes. In fact, many of those countries ban strikes completely in blue light and border security areas. Of course, we are not proposing to do that. This legislation does not ban the right to strike. The Government will always defend workers’ ability to withdraw their labour, but in line with what the Liberal Democrats normally ask us to do, this legislation actually brings us into line with what many other modern European countries already do.

Both noble Lords asked me about implementation and the detail of how these would work in practice. We will consult on how they will be applied to rail, ambulances and the services. These consultations will outline the proposed approaches for MSLs in each service—they will differ across different services, of course—and I will endeavour to have published during the passage of this legislation each consultation expected to be published. I look forward to engaging with noble Lords on this issue in more detail during the passage of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, suggested that the Government should focus on resolving the disputes with the unions and do away with this legislation. As the Prime Minister promised last week, we are building a better future for the country by halving inflation this year, growing the economy and getting our national debt down. If we met all the inflation-busting demands of the unions, we would be shooting the economy in the foot and making life harder for other workers up and down the country. The answer to his point is that we are doing both. Of course, we will continue to talk and negotiate with the unions, but it is right that we take action to make sure that the public are protected where necessary.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I welcome the noble Lord saying that he regrets the strike action—I think that is the first time I have heard anybody from the Opposition say that they regret the inconvenience that has been caused to the public. I take in good heart his other comments; of course we will proceed with care and caution, and with full consultation. However, we are very clear that this action needs to be taken in some sectors, because the public are getting tired of the disruption caused by the actions of one or two unions to their ability to go about their daily business.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I will follow up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke. It is quite clear that the Government will not be setting the personnel levels that companies will need to deliver the service levels that the Government are setting. It will be up to local management to decide how many people they need. The point that the noble Lord made was not addressed by the Minister; perhaps Second Reading will be a chance to go through that in more detail.

The Minister will have to address the point about sanctions. What happens if named individuals on work orders refuse to work? He says, “We have no intention to sack people” but essentially, if someone refuses to do something, that is grounds for sacking. There are two sides to this, and when we come to Second Reading, the Minister will have to be able to answer these sorts of questions on the operational detail that I was talking about. Can he undertake to come back on Second Reading with that level of detail so that we can move forward sensibly on this legislation?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said in my short remarks, the overall minimum service level will be determined in regulations approved by Parliament, and the noble Lord is right that the implementation of that—in other words, how many workers will need to turn up to deliver that service level, plus, presumably, a few for reserve, et cetera, for those who might be sick on the day—will need to be set by individual employers on the ground in response to the different circumstances that will apply. The ultimate sanction is the same as for anybody who does not turn up to work now: they are in breach of their contracts and they will lose their right to unfair dismissal protection.

Prime Minister: Trade Unions

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 19th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It will not surprise the noble Lord to know that I do not agree with him. The reason we have independent pay review bodies is to try to take the politics out of these settlements. The Government have said that we will accept those recommendations in full. Frankly, some of the increases that are being asked for are unaffordable.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, over the weekend several senior government spokespeople have justified not increasing the offer on public sector pay because it would fuel inflation. I believe that the Minister here is more economically literate than those spokesmen, because he knows well that public sector pay does not fuel inflation, neither is it driving private sector pay—you have only to look at the discontinuity now. Will the Minister please disabuse his colleagues of this specious argument? Will he urge them to sit down with the nurses and settle this dispute?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we want to see the action ended and the dispute brought to an end, but it remains the case that, if above-inflation pay rises are accepted, that will mean less money for the services that everybody wants to see expanded. There is a limited pot of money that can go only so far.

Employment Policies

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Tuesday 6th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will be unsurprised to know that I completely disagree with him. The Government are confident that all our measures are in full compliance with our international obligations. We remain in full compliance with ILO conventions. We are trying to balance the understandable right to strike, which I know that the noble Lord is very proud of—but I also want to support the right of people to go to work, if they wish to do so.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, there is another area that the Minister could address for your Lordships’ House. I had a meeting this morning with about 20 representatives of manufacturing businesses, and one thing that they were anxious to highlight was the failure of the apprenticeship levy. When the levy was brought in, 150,000 young people were going in to become apprentices; that number is now below 50,000. The first way in which to solve a problem is to admit that you have a problem. Will the Minister admit that there is a problem, and will he undertake to solve it?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his question. It is slightly unrelated to the point under discussion, but I would be happy to get back to him in writing.

Newport Wafer Fab

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Tuesday 22nd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, obviously, there is a limit to what I can say about this, but I will endeavour to be as helpful to the House as possible. I certainly can confirm to the noble Lord that the review did take place and was one of the factors that the Secretary of State took into consideration when he made his decision. It was made in a quasi-judicial manner and the Secretary of State considered that a risk to national security had arisen from the trigger event, which is why he made the order that he has.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I think we welcome this decision. When it comes to the National Security and Investment Act, the Minister is the best authority because, while Secretaries of State have come and gone, the Minister took it through this House and he is still here. Perhaps he can add some perspective, because at the outset of this case the Minister stood up and said that the technology in Newport Wafer Fab was not worthy of being called in through the National Security and Investment Act. Over time, that has evolved, so what has changed? Is it the Government’s view of Newport Wafer Fab or the Government’s view of China?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am not sure that I said that, but I will certainly look back through the record. This has been going on for a long period. The Secretary of State has taken into account all the relevant factors, as he is obliged to do under the legislation. The noble Lord is right; we debated it extensively, but this decision has been taken purely on the grounds of national security. That is what the Secretary of State is required to do. That is what he has done, taking all the relevant factors into consideration, and he has made a final order in this case.

Government Departments: Communication with Industry and Commerce

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to agree with the noble Lord. The CBI was one of the organisations that my right honourable friend the Business Secretary met only last week.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, in his Answer, the Minister used “consistent”. However, if you talk to businesses, that is not a word that they use. They use “inconsistent”. There has been a rotating door of Business Secretaries, a rotating door of Prime Ministers, and an ever-changing policy landscape. How does the Minister expect businesses to know where to invest and how to invest when there is no consistent policy from the Government?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is wrong. There is consistent policy from the Government. In a whole range of areas of policy, life continues as it did. There are of course unique challenges facing us at the moment—the headwinds of Covid, the energy crisis, et cetera—but this Government have the solutions and will carry on implementing them.

Employers: Fire and Rehire

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 3rd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, many across this House joined together to condemn P&O Ferries for its appalling behaviour towards its employees. Does the Minister agree that, in the long run, it seems to have got away with it and that this indicates the weakness of employment law?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As the noble Lord will be aware, the Government are bringing forward legislation to stop those kinds of practices and extend minimum wage provisions to seafarers. The DfT is progressing that.

Workforce: Trades Union Congress

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Wednesday 19th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are always looking for helpful suggestions to improve supply chains. In fact, Frances O’Grady was in a BEIS meeting with one of my ministerial colleagues in August. We remain open to constructive meetings with trade unions where it is required.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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The noble Lord talked about opportunities for the supply chain. The biggest barrier to growth and prosperity in this country is a shortage of skills, so will the Minister take back the comment that the Government, trade unions and employers must work together to deliver the skills we need? Can the Minister tell us what new initiatives the Government are now bringing in place to deliver the skills that we so badly need?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Skills is an important part of the Government’s agenda; we are spending some £2.5 billion, directed through the Department for Education, on building up skills provision across the economy. We remain open to working with trade unions, employers and whoever has good proposals for the future.

Four-Day Working Week

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, that is all well and good, but Jacob Rees-Mogg recently said that he wanted to crack down on flexitime, and he has also been very hard on working from home. I agree with the Minister’s point that it should be up to individual employers to assess the benefits of flexible working and, indeed, working from home. The Government are the employer of hundreds of thousands of people, so what is their assessment of flexible working and working from home when it comes to operational effectiveness, skills and recruitment and employee well-being? What data is being gathered and when can we see it?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The right to request flexible working applies as much in the public sector as in the private sector. Civil servants already have very good working conditions and many do work flexibly—there are, for instance, many job-share arrangements in my department. So we think it is a good thing, but it very much depends on the circumstances of individual organisations.

Strikes: Cover by Agency Workers

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will not be surprised to know that I do not agree with him. We did consult the trade unions; in fact, the TUC submitted a petition of 25,000 names against the proposals, so they clearly had a chance to comment. We will of course consult Parliament when the regulations are debated.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, there is a huge workforce crisis across the United Kingdom and a shortage of people. Does the Minister not believe that, rather than using agencies to cross picket lines, he should be working with agencies and other groups to try to plug the hole in Britain’s workforce?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am not sure of the point the noble Lord is making. We want to work with all the appropriate agencies to, as the noble Lord says, plug the hole in the workforce.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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This is not specifically targeted at the current rail strikes. The regulations will apply to all sectors of the economy, not just the rail sector.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, mentioned the letter that the heads of the major agencies wrote to the Secretary of State. In that letter they said:

“we can only see these proposals inflaming strikes—not ending them.”

Will the Government take the advice of these experts in employment and back down from this measure?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If agencies do not wish to take part in the freedoms offered by these regulations then it is entirely their right not to do so.

Fuel Poverty

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very good point. Heat networks are another of the difficult areas we need to address as part of the consultation we are doing. I also point out that we are, of course, taking powers to regulate heat networks, which are currently unregulated, in the forthcoming energy Bill, because it is an area that we need to expand in this country and there is no protection for those residents currently on heat networks, either in housing associations or in the private sector.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister knows that, in fact, as he stated, very little of our gas, for example, comes from the world market, yet it is the world market price for gas that is driving up the cost of fuel and energy, in terms of electricity, for our citizens. Is there not a case for reviewing how the basket of electricity is costed, so that it actually reflects the cost of generation more effectively in this country, rather than it being driven by the highest marginal cost of gas?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is partially right. Of course, 40% of our gas supplies come from our own domestic production. We get quite a bit from the world market through Norway and quite a bit from LNG as well, so we are, of course, subject to world market fluctuations. But there is a lot of validity in the points that he has made.

Construction Contracts (England) Exclusion Order 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, these are specific to a unique procurement model which is being trialled and which we think will be appropriate in the water and sewerage sector. We therefore think it appropriate to exempt these particular, very large contracts to enable the model which effectively, as far as the companies are concerned, delivers the construction, management, maintenance, et cetera of very large construction projects. It is a unique procurement mechanism which we think has the potential to benefit customers in the future, so in this very limited case it was deemed appropriate by the Secretary of State to exempt them from the regulations.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I shall further demonstrate my confusion on this statutory instrument. I think I heard the Minister say that payment to the tier-one supplier could be delayed until the point at which the service has been delivered, but that payments to those lower down the supply chain would not be delayed. If that is the case, there is a significant cash flow issue for the tier-one suppliers who are not necessarily robust in cash, as we have seen in other projects. Has the department carried out an impact assessment in cash terms on the tier-one suppliers who would potentially be taking a knock here?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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In essence, the noble Lord is right. The regulation exemption will apply to the main, overall contract, but the separate contracts that will exist lower down the supply chain with SMEs will still be subject to the provisions of the construction Act. I suppose the answer to the noble Lord’s question is ultimately it is for the main supplier to price in the risk. Of course, if it wants to be paid, it needs to deliver on the contract and on the service that it is being contracted to provide. As in all these things, it is about providing the right incentives and fair value for the taxpayer or, in this case, the water bill payer, and for the main contractor to deliver the project as efficiently as possible. Ultimately contracts between the lower-tier levels and smaller SMEs are still subject to the provisions and they will need to be paid in any case.

In response to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, this instrument is limited to a specific procurement model that Ofwat wants to use in the regulated water and sewerage sector. He referred to the consultation. That was held through individual and group meetings with the relevant construction industry and with water sector stakeholders and was undertaken over a two-month period.

I was asked a question on pay when paid.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I apologise for labouring this point. First, an observation on the Minister’s answer to my last question is that, if I were a tier 1 contractor factoring in the risk to my cash flow, it would increase rather than decrease my price, because I would be taking some sort of insurance or loan to finance the flow of cash through my business. So I do not quite get the idea that competitiveness would work in the way the Minister is depicting.

I am struggling with why, and why now. Are there historic issues with delivery that have caused the department and the Government to want to push this model through this statutory instrument? We cannot simply point to the construction Act being there; the construction Act is there, but projects have been going on. What specifically has caused this to happen now? I still do not get that.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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While Ofwat’s regulatory regime has been successful at challenging the performance and efficiency of what are ultimately monopoly companies, in some areas, such as the delivery of major infrastructure projects, we believe that competition can deliver greater benefits for consumers. That is why, with advice from the regulator and the appropriate consultations, we think that these procurement models will deliver better value with a greater competition benefit for consumers—which is why we are introducing them. I hope I have satisfied the noble Lord’s question and I therefore commend these draft—

Queen’s Speech

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 16th May 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are funding a number of innovative projects—from memory, I think that there was one in the Scottish islands—helping to explore the potential for wave as well as tidal power. I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness with more details on that.

I turn to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on the financial capacity of the infrastructure bank compared to the European Investment Bank, which used to invest around £5 billion a year in the UK. However, the EIB has a broader focus than the UK Infrastructure Bank, which is not a direct replacement for it.

The noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, asked why the Government chose to privatise the green finance bank. The bank had a targeted mandate to mobilise private finance, and, when it did so, it was sold. However, as I said, the UK Infrastructure Bank has a broader mandate, spanning both investment in green technologies and infrastructure projects needed to tackle climate change and support economic growth across the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale—I do not see him in his place—asked me about carbon reporting. The UK’s economy-wide sustainability disclosure requirements regime will require businesses and investment products to report on their impact on the climate and the environment. Legislation introducing these changes will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows. I apologise; I can see the noble Lord now.

Moving on to the environment, we know that we live on one interconnected planet and that it is our duty to guard it for the next generation. I welcome my noble friend Lord Harlech’s contribution to the debate on rural issues. His father was a champion of the countryside, and I am glad that he continues to speak passionately about rural issues. I am sure that he, my noble friend Lord Smith and the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, have already acquainted themselves with the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill introduced to the other place last week, and I encourage their contributions when that Bill makes its way to this House.

We also want to ensure that there is enough food for everyone, even as the climate changes. That is why we are positioning the country to become a world leader in precision breeding technologies such as genetic editing. I welcome the recognition from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that this can be of huge benefit to the country.

Alongside this, leaving the EU has enabled us to improve our animal welfare standards. The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill delivers on three government manifesto commitments on animal welfare and is a high priority for the Government.

I reassure my noble friend Lady McIntosh that the Government are committed to securing free trade agreements that are tailored to British firms and the economy, and, of course, are not compromising our environmental, food and animal welfare standards. We are also working hand-in-hand with farmers on our plans for a renewed agricultural sector, which will transform the way we support farmers in the UK.

In conclusion, I thank all noble Lords for some excellent contributions. I apologise that, with almost 60 speakers, I was not able to address all the points made in the time I have available; in fact, I am already over my allotted time. However, we covered from financial services to farming, economic crime and energy security. The Queen’s Speech we have debated this evening will help to strengthen our country after a turbulent few years.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I appreciate the Minister giving way and the time constraints. I asked some specific questions on ARIA. I am sure the Minister has the answers in his head, but if he could write to me with them, I would be very appreciative.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will be happy to write to the noble Lord, as always. I seem to write lots of letters to the noble Lord at the moment, but I will be happy to write another one.

We will continue to stand by workers and businesses while boosting economic growth the length and breadth of the UK. As always, I look forward to working closely—as do all Ministers—with every Member of this House as these Bills come to fruition and pass through the legislative process.

Amendment to the Motion

Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 25th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am sorry but a number of assumptions behind the noble Baroness’s question are wrong. First, this is a private company that sold off its facilities to a very successful US manufacturer that produced virtually all the Moderna vaccine, with great success. The vast majority of the vaccines that we have used and successfully deployed were also rolled out by private companies. All the employees who work there are being guaranteed their jobs, on the same terms and conditions, and indeed the facility will be expanded. She needs to rethink her questions on this.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I think that everyone across the House agrees that we were ill prepared when this pandemic arrived, and planning for future pandemics is very important. The security and investment Bill was intended to secure private facilities that might be needed to secure the future of this country. Was that legislation applied, and was this sale evaluated by the unit in the Minister’s department? If not, why not?

Newport Wafer Fab

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 7th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their position regarding the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned technology company Nexperia.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Government are considering the case and no decisions have been made. I am unable to comment on the details of businesses’ commercial transactions or on national security assessments. The Government always stand ready to act, where necessary, to protect the UK’s national security.

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

My Lords, the problem here is that we seem to be looking at this issue in a vacuum. The Minister has said in the past that there are no specialist technologies at Newport Wafer Fab, but that ignores the need for industrial capacity to build technology. The Minister will say, and has said, that the factories will not move, so why should we care who owns them? I do care. There is a crippling shortage of microprocessors around the world that is hampering manufacturing. To combat that, the EU and the US have strategies. We seem to be waiting and seeing. So, to put this acquisition into context, can the Minister tell us when will we have a plan? Will he undertake not to allow this business to be sold until such a plan is forthcoming?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I cannot comment on the details of that particular transaction, which is still under consideration, but I can tell the noble Lord that DCMS is working on a semiconductor strategy that will also be published shortly.

Energy Security Strategy

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 7th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Both the cases highlighted by my noble friend show the difficulties of proceeding in this environment, because we are a democratic society; we have strict planning rules and we have to try to proceed with these things with care and the support of local communities. I have outlined the position a number of times in relation to onshore wind. With regard to fracking for shale gas, my noble friend will be aware that the Business Secretary commissioned the British Geological Survey to do a further study to see if extraction of shale gas can take place without the unfortunate seismic events that occurred the last time it was tried. We will continue to be guided by the science in this respect.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords—

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

I appreciate that, and I thank the noble Lord for giving way. As your Lordships’ House knows, the financial risk of funding future nuclear is falling to consumers through the RAB model. Can the Minister tell us when consumers will see their bills go up, and by how much? When will they see the fruits of that investment—in nuclear electricity—coming down their pipes? How long will they have to wait and how much will they have to invest before that electricity comes on stream?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We debated these matters extensively during the passage of the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act. The impact on consumer bills under the RAB model is relatively small. I would be happy to let the noble Lord have the figures that we used during the progress of the Bill. As I suspect he is well aware, new nuclear projects take a number of years to come on stream. This is about the UK’s long-term energy security policy; a mix of policies will be required, which I have outlined at great length. Of course, it will be a number of years before new nuclear comes on stream.

Returning to the question I think the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was about to ask me when the strategy will be published. The answer is today.

Energy Storage Capacity

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Tuesday 5th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I responded to my noble friend earlier, more storage is not the answer to high prices at the moment. It benefits the system in the longer term. Sadly, in energy policy, nothing happens in the near future and everything is long term. The noble Lord is aware of the £9.1 billion package of support that the Chancellor announced to try to mitigate the effect of high prices at the moment.

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

My Lords, the success of offshore wind was driven by the contracts for difference structure that has caused private money to pour into the sector. The Government have recently passed the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act, which looks at the RAB model. What models are they now looking at to finance storage because, without companies knowing how they will make money from building storage facilities, they will not build them. It is really important that the Government step forward now to explain how this will work financially. What are the plans to deliver a structure that will finance this?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct and, as I said earlier in response to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, we had a call for evidence last year and we will announce our analysis and the results of that shortly.

Exports: Support for Businesses

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 31st March 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am obviously very sorry to hear of my noble friend’s experience. I will certainly take that back to the department to see what we can do to alleviate those difficulties. There is clearly some disruption at some ports, et cetera, and we are attempting to smooth the flows of paperwork and export requirements needed to trade with the EU at the moment. I know that a lot of colleagues across government are working to try to reduce those delays.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that businesses in areas such as conference organisation, music and theatre, which rely on people travelling from this country to countries in the European Union, are suffering great confusion and difficulty in moving their people to the right place in time. Having agreed with that, can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what the Government are doing to smooth the path for what are mostly small and medium-sized businesses that rely on moving their people efficiently and friction-free across Europe?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am of course aware—we have discussed this before—that there were difficulties for travelling musicians and others, which principally revolved around the different visa requirements of different EU member states, but I know that DCMS in particular has been heavily engaged in working with member states to work out exactly what the visa requirements are and to publish them on the UK government website to provide support to businesses that are struggling, exactly as the noble Lord says. I think that the situation is a lot easier than it was last year.

Subsidy Control Bill

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise to the Minister and thank him for giving way. I am struggling a little with why the Government want to hoard the right to create streamlined subsidies to central government. I can assume only that it is because it gives the Government the ability to parachute schemes into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—which might not be seen by those devolved Administrations as something they would have—and, because they are streamlined schemes, they cannot be challenged. Is that the reason the Government are not prepared to let devolved authorities have streamlined subsidy schemes for themselves?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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No, I think the noble Lord is being unfair; the operation of these schemes is entirely optional. We will consult the devolved Administrations closely before making any such schemes. I only just said that we will seek to involve DA officials and others in expert working groups for each of the routes we are developing.

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

I am sorry to prolong this, but is the Minister now saying that, for a streamlined scheme that is presented by central government and could be taken up by, for example, organisations and companies in Scotland, the Scottish Government have the option of not allowing that to happen? That, I think, is what the Minister just said.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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They could choose not to use the scheme if they wished, but it would be a UK-wide scheme. They would be consulted on the development and involved in the expert groups that put them together.

I will move on to Amendment 58, also tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. This amendment sets out a new route for subsidies given in devolved primary legislation to be considered by the courts, by allowing the relevant law officer to refer the question of whether a Bill is compatible with the principles in Chapter 1 of Part 2 to the Supreme Court. It also removes the requirement for the promoter of the legislation to consider the subsidy control principles and other requirements, and the ability of the courts to consider whether the provisions of Parts 1 and 2 of Chapter 2 have been properly applied, thereby removing the ability of an interested party to challenge the subsidy in the general courts on that basis.

I am of course very grateful for the interest taken by the noble and learned Lord in this clause and for his engagement on it with me and my officials. I believe that both he and I share an objective to ensure that these provisions reflect our constitutional and legal institutions, as well as our obligations under international law. Schedule 3, as it stands in the Bill, accomplishes those objectives.

It is important that the subsidy control requirements apply to subsidies in devolved primary legislation, and that these subsidies are not immune from challenge by interested parties. This is both for consistency with other subsidies and to ensure compliance with our international obligations, particularly under the trade and co-operation agreement with the EU. However, it is also important that the unique constitutional status of the devolved legislatures is respected. That is why we have tailored the provisions in Schedule 3 specifically, and there is no mandatory referral to the subsidy advice unit for these subsidies.

I must therefore reject the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord for two reasons. First, it would not meet our international obligations under the TCA, which requires us to make available a route to challenge in a court or tribunal for interested parties, on grounds of compliance with the substantive subsidy control requirements. This amendment would, effectively, remove that route.

In response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on the intention of paragraphs 6 and 7, it is those interested parties that may challenge, for example, another public authority or another business, as long as they meet the test set out in Clause 70. The promoter would normally be the government Minister, or the person making an amendment to the Bill, and this is defined in paragraph 2 of Schedule 3.

The second problem with the amendment is that it would have the effect of asking the Supreme Court to consider questions of fact. It is my understanding that the High Court or Court of Session is the appropriate forum to consider these questions in the first instance, followed by the relevant appeals court, and, as relevant, the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter for questions of law. Creating a route for the law officers to refer a question to the Supreme Court implies that any challenge to a subsidy in devolved primary legislation would be a constitutional question, as it is comparable to the route for referring devolution issues under the devolution settlements. While the Bill affects the exercise of responsibilities of all public authorities in the UK, I do not consider that this is a constitutional question.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. It has been a good discussion, both tonight and in the previous discussions we have had on the regime as a whole and the subsidy advice unit. I particularly enjoyed the contribution from the spokesman for my noble friend Lord Lamont. This is a trend that should perhaps continue on other subjects on which my noble friend feels strongly.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Have I been fired as the Minister’s speechwriter?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If the noble Lord is going to write my speeches, he might as well write them for my noble friend Lord Lamont, as well. The answer to the question of my noble friend Lord Lamont, through his spokesman, is the Green Book and Managing Public Money guidelines; I suspect as an ex-Chancellor he knows that very well indeed—probably better than we do.

Government Amendments 52 and 53 to Clause 65 have been tabled to address your Lordships’ concerns regarding the frequency of the CMA’s monitoring reports under Clause 65. Instead of mandating a report within five years of the implementation of the regime, the amendments require an initial report after only three years, subsequently followed up by a further report after another three years. Subsequent reporting will then revert to a five-year cycle.

I hope noble Lords will agree that the publication of these two initial reports will be sufficient to keep Parliament and the public informed of how the new subsidy control regime is functioning, and to assist in setting best practice going forward. As a result of these changes, I have also tabled two consequential amendments to clarify how these new initial reports will interact with other provisions in the Bill. These are Amendments 54 and 63.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course, we are constantly looking at these matters. The Treasury is implicitly engaged in pursuing crackdowns on the so-called enablers that the noble Lord has mentioned, and the anti-money laundering regulations exist. This register, which is a transparency measure, is designed to provide information to the public, HMRC and other law enforcement agencies that can then take the appropriate action under the other provisions. However—before the noble Lord, Lord Fox, gets up—I totally agree with the noble Lord that we need to look again at whether the anti-money laundering statutes are appropriate. It is not for this legislation, but I am sure it is something we will want to look at in detail before we get to the next Bill, because it is a complicated area of law. If we do not, I am sure the noble Lord will wish to table his amendments again then.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Each time the Minister speaks on this, I do not hear him acknowledge that there is a problem. In order for there to be a solution, there has to be an acknowledgement that there is a problem. So, does the Minister agree with me that there is a problem with unscrupulous enablers currently operating in the City and the United Kingdom? Unless the Minister agrees, I do not think that we can have much hope of a solution.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to agree with the noble Lord. If there is one firm of accountants or one legal practice that is turning a blind eye to these provisions, there is a problem with which we need to deal. Nobody wants to see that; we want to give the UK a reputation as the best place in the world to do business and to crack down on the small minority of the legal profession that are abusing their position and facilities—of course we would want to do that.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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It did indeed, and I am glad that the noble Lord has had the opportunity to speak.

Once again, we have a huge number of varied amendments lumped into the same group, which I think is a side-effect of the process we are travelling through. I am going to focus on two themes. I am not going to interpose myself between lawyers on the subject of Amendment 92, but I look forward to the Minister’s response to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and my noble friend Lady Kramer.

I will turn to Amendments 56, 61, 80 and 83 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and signed by myself. I will be brief because I do not think we have to speak for very long on this. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, has been eloquent in this vein already in the unfortunate absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman.

During Second Reading we heard a chorus of disapproval on the six-month transition period, and there is a good reason for that. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, was clear on those reasons, as were other speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Sikka. We have to focus on what the Government are seeking to achieve and how they are going to achieve it. While that number is very important, the second number, introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, may be even more important, and it is the one covered by Amendment 97 in my name. It seeks to bring commencement forward to the First Reading of this Bill in the Commons. When I tabled that amendment, I was thinking of the National Security and Investment Act, which did just that.

In one of the meetings that the Minister kindly invited me to, he set out a number of reasons why that commencement date is, in Government’s view, not popular. The longer the Minister’s explanations were, the more alarmed I became, because it is clear now that the commencement date is subject to the pace of the slowest moving IT project. That is a matter of great concern, and certainly should be to your Lordships’ House.

In looking at the six-month transition period, we cannot isolate it from the commencement period, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, wisely stated. What the Minister has to think about and convince your Lordships of is how these two times work together. Can they be concurrent? Indeed, can commencement start without the whole system being in place? In other words, can there be some flexibility in how parts of the Bill come in? That would be controlled through statutory instruments, which the Government have control over.

Commencement is one thing, statutory instruments are another and the transition period is a third. They all add up to either a long time or a medium amount of time. The Minister needs to explain the formula the Government have in mind, because at the moment it seems to be a blank number. We do not really know when the terms of this Bill will be in place.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am mindful that several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman of Darlington, and the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Sikka, have tabled a number of amendments in this group. I will start with Amendment 34 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who I see is not in his place. I will speak to it alongside Amendments 58 and 67 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sikka, as they cover the same subject of retrospectivity and the subject the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised earlier.

These amendments seek to extend the scope of the definition of overseas entities registered as the proprietor of a relevant interest in land by removing the registration dates currently stated in the Bill. This has obviously been an area of interest in both Houses. The Government, of course, agree that the register should be as comprehensive as possible. However, there is no benefit to be gained from removing the dates as suggested, as I explained to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, earlier. Doing so would instead create legal uncertainty. Due to the way information was collected prior to those dates, the land registries would have no way of reliably and consistently identifying properties owned by overseas entities and those that are not. It was not compulsory in England and Wales, for example, to register the jurisdiction of ownership before 1 January 1999. As such, the Land Registry would have this information only where the overseas entity had voluntarily supplied the information itself.

The amendment would result in inconsistent application, as the information needed to enter restrictions on disposition on to relevant titles is not readily available before these dates. They were not just dreamt up arbitrarily; these dates are put in for good reason. The result of removing the reference to the registration dates would be that only those entities that could be identified as being overseas entities could be brought properly into scope. Others that could not be so identified would not be.

This situation would also introduce significant uncertainty for buyers. There would be no way of providing absolute legal certainty as to whether an entity should or should not be in scope for those properties registered before 1999 in England and Wales, and before 2014 in Scotland. Third parties who were in the process of or considering purchasing a piece of land in the UK registered before those dates could not be sure whether they were engaging with an overseas entity that was in scope of the Bill, and which could become non-compliant at any time. The existing clauses are therefore essential for the register to be effective and operable, and to provide certainty as to which overseas entities are actually in scope of the requirement to register once the register goes live.

Finally, I remind the House that the agents who support property transactions are, as we have said earlier, all covered by the provisions of the anti-money laundering regulations. If there are properties with titles held by overseas entities going back further in time, when those entities next come to sell or lease those properties, the agents involved will be obliged to conduct appropriate checks for money laundering.

I turn now to Amendments 56, 57, 61, 62, 80 and 83 on the transition period. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Sikka, for their amendments to shorten the transition period as proposed. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, has just said, I am aware that speed of implementation of the register and of the transition period has been the focus of much debate in both Houses so far. The Government have already reduced the transition period from the initially proposed 18 months to six months.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will know from his time in Government that the law officers provide confidential legal advice to Ministers. I can only say to him that I am personally satisfied that this six-month period is appropriate. We are taking a severe step with this legislation; we are retrospectively interfering with property rights. Whether the legislation has been flagged in advance—I think David Cameron first promised it in 2015—does not, as I understand it, alter the legal case that somebody who wished to purchase expensive legal help to challenge the legislation would be able to do so under the Human Rights Act. I can do no more than assure the noble Lord that the officials and I are acting under the legal advice that we have received about the appropriate period. I can assure him that I wish to bring this in as quickly as I can. He will be aware that the Government originally proposed a period of 18 months. Following fairly significant political pressure, we have taken further advice and have managed to reduce it to six months. I am seriously concerned that, if we reduced it further, we could be subject to legal challenge. I am happy to speak to him outside the House.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, has had the answer he required. To come back to implementation and commencement, it is not clear what the trigger for commencement would be. Can the Minister be clear on what the trigger for commencement will be and, having stated that, can he perhaps undertake to maintain a dialogue with your Lordships’ House on how reaching that trigger is getting along and when we might expect the commencement of this Bill?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I totally understand the point the noble Lord is making. I cannot give him a precise date; all I can say is that I am keen to commence this legislation as quickly as possible, but there are number of steps that we need to take. We need to publish and implement a number of statutory instruments on the back of this. Companies House needs to put the systems in place; it has already been given the funding for that. The computer systems need to be set up and the register needs to be activated. I am very happy to maintain a dialogue and keep the House informed, but the ultimate answer to the question of when the legislation will be commenced is: as soon as we possibly can.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Given that your Lordships’ House has demonstrated that it can process statutory instruments at an insatiable rate, my point that the rate-determining step is an IT system in Companies House is entirely correct. Would the Minister confirm that?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is a number of different things. There are administrative procedures to be put in place; the IT system is of course important—I am hesitant to give assurances on when a government IT system might operate. It is not a hugely complicated system, but it needs to be done and to be put in place. Of course, we also need to go on to the next step, namely the economic crime Bill which will follow this one and will give Companies House the right to query the information that has been provided, as I outlined to noble Lords earlier. However, I am very happy to keep the House informed as to commencement dates. I am sure a lot of people will be writing to me about it and will be using the devices of the House to table Questions to ensure that my feet are held to the fire on this one.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, Amendment 43 is also signed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. During Second Reading, I spoke at length on this issue, so noble Lords will be pleased to know that that allows me to be brief in Committee. The amendment is clear, but I shall briefly explain its purpose. Frankly, it is one of the simpler amendments we have before us.

Clause 18 deals with exemptions. Subsection (1) gives the Secretary of State the power to write to a person to exempt them from this part of the Bill if said Secretary of State is satisfied that one of three conditions is fulfilled:

“(a) in the interests of national security … (c) for the purposes of preventing or detecting serious crime”—


I do not think any of your Lordships would find that an unacceptable condition—but

“(b) in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom”.


First, what does that mean, and secondly, why is it there?

The Minister heard not just my words but the compelling words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, my noble friend Lady Kramer and others who explained—and I hope the Minister understood—why Clause 18(1)(b) is the wrong message to be sending, particularly at this time. I explained this issue to some members of the general public—people who do not actively engage in the sport of politics—and asked them what they thought. Their reply was, “Isn’t that the approach that got us into this trouble in the first place?” Quite. That is the message that the clause is sending.

This part of the Bill is designed to deliver transparent information that can be used by authorities, potential business partners and others to avoid trading with kleptocrats, thieves and money launderers. Hiding that information unnecessarily cannot be good for the economy. Why would a Secretary of State want to do that in these conditions? Amendment 43 removes that power from the Bill, and I beg to move.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, it might be helpful for the Committee, before it debates this amendment, if I set out that of course I am aware of the strength of feeling on this issue and am very grateful for the engagement with the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Fox, and others on it over the weekend and the past few days.

As I indicated earlier, we are keen to progress this vital legislation collaboratively and swiftly, and I again pay tribute to the Opposition for helping us to do that. Therefore, if I tell the House that the Government are prepared to accept Amendment 43 tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Coaker, should they wish to re-table it on Report, perhaps that would enable a more speedy consideration of this group.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to say a few things about this group of amendments, and in particular to speak to my Amendment 62. As the Minister knows, we are generally supportive of the amendments in this group. The Government, to be fair, have moved in several areas, and that is to their credit. Once again, I thank the Minister and his ministerial colleagues for their engagement over the course of these last few days with respect to this Bill. It has been most helpful.

Earlier today, the Minister outlined several reasons for opposing a reduction in the transition period from six months to 28 days. In the spirit of compromise, we therefore tabled an alternative provision of 90 days for the transition period, and that is the subject of my Amendment 62. He will also know that this amendment is supported by the body representing accountants, which has said that it believes three months is a reasonable figure for the transition period. I shall not go over all the arguments on the length of the transition period that we have had today and at Second Reading, as the Minister will be very well aware of them. Noble Lords are worried that this will allow people to avoid the new rules and regulations and be able to circumvent them.

Furthermore, given the potential lengthy process that needs to be followedbefore Part 1 of the Bill can be formally commenced, we believe that there is also a case for accelerating the registration period. As I again said to the Minister, the commencement period is subject to the Secretary of State’s decision for Part 1, so there is no clarity as to when that will actually start. If there is a six-month transition period and six months until it is commenced, that will be a year. Therefore, we seek clarity from the Minister, even at this late stage, about the implementation of the measures in the Bill, not only with respect to the commencement date, but to some of the other issues. Can the Minister say anything further?

We would, of course, be delighted if the Minister were able to accept the amendment, but if he is to hold firm, would he be able to make certain commitments so that we would be clear on the steps that the Government are taking to ensure Parliament is appraised of the progress between this Bill receiving Royal Assent and the next, more substantial piece of legislation to be introduced—namely the Bill that has become known as economic crime Bill 2? We want to know something about the effectiveness of the measures within this Bill and the way forward to the next Bill.

Can the Minister confirm the scope of the next Bill? Will that be broad, and will there be an opportunity to amend some of the measures in this Bill as we move forward to the next Bill? As we know, many noble Lords have raised the issues within this Bill of the fact that there has not been proper scrutiny. It may well be that many of the points that noble Lords have raised will actually come to fruition, but we need some assessment of that from the Government so that we can then inform our deliberations with respect to the economic crime Bill 2.

Also, as I say, there is a general belief that, although we are allowing the Bill to pass because of the emergency we face, there are still significant weaknesses and omissions within it. There is, therefore, a need for the next Bill to be brought as soon as possible—that is absolutely crucial—rather than at some time in the future. Can the Minister give any assurances to the House as to when he expects the next economic crime Bill to come before your Lordships in order to discuss that? There are a number of questions for the Minister, and I look forward to hearing the answers to them to determine whether we wish to test the opinion of the House or not.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Very briefly, my Lords, we thank the noble Lord and congratulate him on tabling this amendment. We on these Benches still remain concerned about the cumulative delay of transition and commencement—or the potential cumulative delay—so we are pleased that the Minister has another chance to respond to that particular concern. We also share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about the speed with which ECB 2 arrives in your Lordships’ House.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank both the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Fox, for their extremely constructive engagement over the course of the weekend and over the course of a number of meetings and chats today. I really am very grateful for their constructive attitude and for their willingness to be open to the arguments that we have deployed in why we genuinely do not think that reducing the transition period further is a runner, for a whole variety of reasons we have discussed—I will not go into detail now. But I am grateful—I want to put that on record—for the support of the Opposition parties in accepting this as emergency legislation that we want to get through as swiftly as possible and passed down to the other place.

I also note their interest in seeing a rapid introduction of the measures of this Bill and their focus on ensuring its effective implementation—and also their interest in a wider range of issues that can be covered in the Bill. The forthcoming legislation on economic crime will, as I have said previously, provide for significant reform of the powers of the Companies House registrar. These will directly interact with the provisions of this Bill, enhancing further its effectiveness—for instance, by providing greater powers to query and act on the information on the register. I would be happy, therefore, to commit the Government that this House will have the opportunity to review the effectiveness of the current legislation in that wider context of our discussion on the new powers. I am also committed to the rapid implementation of the measures in this Bill, and I would also be happy to commit to updating the House on the Government’s progress on this within six weeks of this measure achieving Royal Assent.

I can reassure noble Lords that the further economic crime Bill that the Government intend to introduce in the next Session will be a broad one. We will, of course, consider and carefully examine any amendments put forward in either House which serve to strengthen our frameworks for tackling economic crime. As my honourable friend the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets—who I am pleased to see at the Bar of the House—said in the other place last week, we are committed to bringing forward the next economic crime Bill early in the next Session.

I hope that has provided sufficient reassurance for the noble Lord and that, therefore, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the arguments have all been made in the previous stage, when the Minister stood up and said that the Government were prepared to accept what was then Amendment 43; I was delighted. It is now Amendment 27, which I beg to move.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I am happy to confirm and accept the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Fox, also signed by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which was originally Amendment 43. It removes an exemption from reporting where this is in the interests of the economic well-being for the UK. As I said in Committee, I have listened carefully and we have engaged on this. In reflection of this and, as has been said, in the interests of working together to progress this vital legislation collaboratively and swiftly, the Government are happy to support this amendment.

Horizon Europe

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Wednesday 9th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I agree with the noble Viscount; it is indeed very disappointing that the EU is refusing to abide by the agreement we made with it. I am sure that some of the EU’s supporters in this House will want to urge it to press ahead with this agreement. The UK stands willing and able to associate. We have an agreement to that effect, and we hope the EU will also abide by its commitments. The noble Viscount will be aware that the spending review allocated funding for full association to EU programmes. In the event that the UK is unable to associate, the full funding allocated will go to UK programmes; £5.6 billion was set aside over the spending review period.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the head of policy at the Wellcome Trust is quoted as saying:

“There is a real prospect that bright young scientists will decide it will be best … if they leave the UK.”


Meanwhile, recruitment of postgraduates in some of our elite universities is reported to be seeing a huge drop in candidates. This is because young researchers fear for the future progression of their careers. The Minister said we were seeking to resolve this at the earliest possible opportunity, and I take him at his word. However, these people are making decisions now—the brain drain is already happening. In the meantime, what is the plan to attract and retain the talent we need in this country?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I reiterate the point: we want to associate with Horizon Europe. It is not the UK that is holding up association but the EU. We want to do that at the earliest possible opportunity. If the funding we have set aside is not used for Horizon Europe, we intend to spend equivalent sums on a UK programme, co-operating with other third countries if necessary. Hopefully that will attract the talent the noble Lord refers to.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Let me come back to the noble Lord on that. I certainly commit to full scrutiny of the Bill when it is ready, which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, also asked me about. It will not be emergency legislation; we expect it to have the full scrutiny of this House. I think that pre-legislative scrutiny would probably be a bit time-consuming; it is probably better just to bring the legislation forward, then it will get its full scrutiny. However, as I say, we are getting it drafted as quickly as possible. It is something like 150 pages of legislation so it will be substantial.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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About that: with many other Bills, the Government go out for consultation for six or eight months, redraft the Bill, then have two more White Papers. Then, sometime after three Christmases, we get the Bill. So, does “as quickly as possible” mean a few months or weeks? Are we looking at the latter half of the next Session, or are we looking at it being one of the first Bills to come out in the next Session?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I cannot win on this one: if I give too much time to pre-legislative scrutiny, for consultation et cetera, I will be criticised. I cannot give the noble Lord, a definitive time because, of course, it is not purely in my hands; it depends on parliamentary time, on the Whips, on the usual channels and on the availability of the House of Commons. It is certainly my intention to get it in front of noble Lords in a matter of months but I cannot be more specific than that. It will depend on when it gets drafted and when we can get parliamentary time. It is a firm commitment that we will bring it forward in the next Session—ideally towards the start of the next Session, if that helps the noble Lord.

I welcome the support from across the House, particularly from the Opposition Front-Benchers—I thank them very much. As I just said, I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, and the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, that the economic crime Bill will progress under normal procedures. I am sure there will be a full and detailed discussion about it. I will speak later to some of the points of the noble Baroness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, also raised the subject of the Crown dependencies. I can tell her that I spoke to the Crown dependency Ministers earlier today, just before I came in for this debate, and they are also fully on board with these measures, looking to help wherever they can and to progress similar measures in their own jurisdictions.

Moving on, many noble Lords, including my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Lords, Lord Rooker and Lord Faulks, raised the legitimate question of why it has taken the Government so long to introduce the legislation. I can assure them it is not for the want of trying on my part; it is purely about the pressure on the legislative programme. They, as well as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, stressed the importance, and I totally agree, of stopping dirty money flowing from Russia and, indeed, other countries. This is not just about Russia. It benefits us in terms of Russia but, frankly, this reform is long overdue and it will also help us in the fight against money laundering from other jurisdictions. What matters is that, despite the long delay, we are now urgently bringing this legislation forward. We were planning to put this in the wider economic crime Bill but we decided to introduce these measures earlier, to put them into effect shortly. I am grateful for the support of the Opposition in doing that, and the wider economic crime Bill measures will follow in due course.

I take the opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Faulks again, for all his work to develop the legislation and for some of the powerful points he made today. I reassure him that since we took the measure thorough pre-legislative scrutiny, we have been able to improve the legislation to reflect some of the pre-legislative scrutiny committees’ recommendations and to align it with the broader reform of Companies House, which I completely agree we need to do, to make the measure effective. I think the legislation as a whole will be more effective as a result of the scrutiny that has taken place. This has been central to ensuring the new requirements are workable and proportionate and that the register strikes the right balance between improving transparency and minimising burdens on legitimate economic and commercial activity.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Vaux, and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier for their points on the transition period. I think the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Fox, made similar points. Let me explain our logic on this. We have already reduced the transition period from 18 months to six months. I understand the importance that noble Lords attach to this, but it is important to remember that the majority of properties held via overseas entities will be owned by entirely law-abiding businesses and people. To give noble Lords an idea of the scale, we are talking about roughly 95,000 properties in England and Wales owned by some 32,000 overseas entities. It is a fact that only a tiny fraction of these are likely to be held by criminal or corrupt interests.

The transition period is an important protection for the rights of those legitimate owners of property and we have to be careful about interfering with individuals’ property rights, interference that could not reasonably have been expected when those rights over the properties within scope of the register were originally acquired. This legislation has considerable retrospective effects. We have to ensure that we are respecting those rights in a way that cannot be challenged—not least under human rights legislation. No doubt, those who wish to avoid these requirements and are able to afford expensive legal teams will take advantage of any opportunity to do so.

Many of the ultimate owners will be law-abiding British companies that have adopted these structures for legitimate commercial reasons. They could include real estate investment trusts, which are public companies whose core business is to manage and own properties that generate income, or particular pension schemes that hold land and properties. Others will be British nationals who have adopted the arrangements for legitimate reasons of privacy—a point made from the Cross Benches but I forget who made it. That may involve, for instance, celebrities who do not want their address to be known publicly.

As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, observed, I am aware of the strength of feeling expressed that corrupt people must not be allowed to sell up and escape the transparency that the register will bring. The Government see merit in requiring all those selling property to submit a declaration of their details at the point of transfer of land title during the transition period. This would mean that a zero-day transition period to provide certain information immediately would be given to anyone selling. They would have to register ownership if selling, and that way we either get their ownership details immediately or, if they do not sell, we get it at the end of the transition period but in a way that still protects legitimate owners. We are urgently looking at this idea and giving it some serious consideration, but we need to get the drafting right and legally watertight, so that it is workable, effective and achieves what we want to achieve. Officials are working on this at the moment and I hope to get the proposal to noble Lords for consideration before we reach Committee.

Although the register will not be operational immediately, we expect the measures to have an immediate dissuasive effect on those who are intending to buy UK property with illicit funds. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, that work on implementing the new register will begin as soon as we have achieved Royal Assent, and we will look to have the new register in place as soon as practicably possible—as soon as this House is able to consider and pass the relevant statutory instruments, and when some of the other measures are put in place. I should also add in response to many of the comments that all conveyancers and estate agents are already required to assess transactions for money-laundering risks and to alert authorities about suspicious activity.

I turn to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, on the retrospective application of the register. It will apply retrospectively, thereby compelling overseas entities to register if they have property bought since January 1999 in England and Wales and December 2014 in Scotland. Those dates have been selected because they relate to when jurisdiction of incorporation was originally required by Her Majesty’s Land Registry and the Registers of Scotland when registering title documents for land. This information has never been recorded by the Northern Ireland land registry, so we are unable to make any retrospection apply there.

As set out in the Bill, if a foreign company does not comply with the new obligations, every officer in default can face criminal sanctions, including fines of up to £2,500 per day or a prison sentence of up to five years. We have also included a power to make secondary legislation that can allow the registrar to impose financial penalties for non-compliance without the need for criminal prosecution. Critically, non-compliant overseas entities will face significant restrictions over dealing with their land. That is important because by their very nature, it might be difficult to impose criminal penalties on people who are overseas. But a restriction on them being able to deal with and dispose of their land will be particularly important because that will in effect prevent sales and render the property worthless.

I thank noble Lords and others who have made insightful and important points on the importance of robust supervision and the need to tackle the so-called professional enablers. Those noble Lords include the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, the noble Lords, Lord Londesborough and Lord Cromwell, the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, the noble Lords, Lord Faulks, Lord Carlile, Lord Thomas and Lord Rooker, and others.

The UK supervisory regime is comprehensive. The UK regulates and supervises all businesses most at risk of facilitating money laundering, including accountants, estate and letting agents, high-value dealers, trust or company service providers, the art market and so on. We strengthened the money laundering regulations in June 2017, thereby bringing UK legislation in line with the latest international standards. This includes requiring estate agents to carry out due diligence on both buyers and sellers of property.



To be very clear to the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, any money obtained through corruption or criminality is not welcome in the United Kingdom, including that linked to Russia or other countries. That is why we are at the forefront of global action, spanning the operational, policy and diplomatic communities to target the money launderers and enablers who underpin corrupt elites and serious and organised crime.

Russian Oil and Gas Imports

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Monday 7th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are looking at this seriously and decisions will be announced shortly but it is important to bear in mind that, while we would all love there to be quick and easy solutions, the building, construction and implementation of energy infrastructure takes many years, sometimes even decades. I am afraid there are no quick solutions to any of this.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the remarkable spike in gas prices today indicates a real challenge ahead for gas distribution in this country. To date, the big companies have absorbed the customers of the smaller companies that have gone bankrupt. As things stand, those big companies will themselves come under huge pressure with forward contracts that they cannot cover. What is the department doing, in consultation with the gas companies in this country, to maintain security of supply for the consumers of Great Britain?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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A number of companies are indeed under pressure and, unfortunately, we have seen a number exiting the market. I assure the noble Lord that we are in regular contact with all the gas and electricity supply companies; my right honourable friend the Secretary of State meets them regularly. This is indeed an unprecedented crisis but we are closely following events and I can say that, while there is obviously a problem with the price, there is no problem with security of supply.

Post Office: Horizon

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 24th February 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his excellent questions. On this, I agree with many of the points he made. Regarding the 555, who he rightly highlighted, as I said, they have been pioneers in this area. My honourable friend the Minister for Small Business is working at speed on this issue. They exposed the scandal by taking the Post Office to the High Court. They performed a huge public service by doing so, and I know that many noble Lords will support the Select Committee’s view that it is unfair that they have received less compensation than those who were not part of the case. I know that my honourable friend shares that view, and he has said that resolving that is the most important issue he currently faces. It is important to recognise that this is a legally complex issue because the case was settled in the High Court, but I know that officials and my honourable friend are working at pace to try to resolve it.

With regard to the historical shortfall scheme, things are slightly better than the noble Lord suggested; we are now up to 38% of the cases having been resolved. The Post Office’s best current estimate is that the scheme will cost £153 million across about 2,300 claims. It is important that we work through them as quickly as possible. Some of them are complex but they need to be worked through and resolved.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I know the Minister has been working hard on this issue and he should be commended by all sides of the House on the effort that he is putting into it. The Statement says the Government are stepping in and that that is unwelcome. We should remember that the genesis of this problem came with faulty software and a system that did not work; it was made worse by the events that followed. We should also remember that Fujitsu, the company that provided that software, had revenues last year of over £20 billion, and we calculate that since 2013 the Government have awarded it a further £3 billion in contracts. Does the Minister share my surprise and indeed incredulity that Fujitsu has not been asked to provide some of the money that the Government are now unfortunately having to step up and pay?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his praise for me, but it is slightly unjust; it is the Minister for Small Business who is responsible for the Post Office and is putting in the hard yards on this issue, and I will certainly pass on the noble Lord’s commendations.

I have considerable sympathy for the view that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, outlines. A public inquiry is taking place and that is the proper place for blame to be apportioned. We all have our suspicions and views, but let us wait for the outcome of the inquiry to see exactly where fault lies—whether with Ministers, officials, Post Office executives, Fujitsu or whoever—and then we can take the appropriate action.

North Sea Oil and Gas

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Fox
Thursday 10th February 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her question. She is right: we intend to introduce a climate-compatibility checkpoint for all new licences, which will be used to assess whether any future licensing rounds remain in keeping with our climate goals.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, in Q3 of last year, which is the last time for which data is available, exports from the UK North Sea were double those of the period in the previous year. At the same time, Ministers were reported to be scrabbling to Kuwait to secure extra supplies of LNG to the UK to meet the energy crisis. This is very counterintuitive. Does the Minister agree that shipping expensive—in environmental terms—LNG from the Middle East, rather than using gas that comes from our doorstep, is not sensible or good for the planet? Will he tell your Lordships’ House how the Government will turn that around and make better use of the resources we already have and are already producing?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, I agree with the noble Lord that it is much more sensible to use our own domestic resources, rather than LNG. However, the reality is that, throughout this period, the UK remains a net importer of oil and gas. Therefore, it makes no sense to pursue the operations he is proposing. We do not produce enough of our own domestic energy. We are expanding our renewable capacity massively and have the largest developments of offshore wind in the world. We need to go further and faster, but it makes no sense to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and cut off imports and exports.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think that speaks for itself. I stand by those words.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank the Minister for giving way. Perhaps that is why we asked him to stop—so that we could start again today. His answer to my noble friend Lord Purvis is intriguing. He seems to be saying that no matter how much a subsidy affects the UK internal market—I will wait for the Minister to finish his conversation—it can never be within the purview of the internal market Act. Is that what he just said?