Lord Duncan of Springbank debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 15th May 2023
Wed 3rd Mar 2021
Financial Services Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Lords Hansard
Thu 26th Nov 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 15th Sep 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Fri 17th Jul 2020
Finance Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & Committee negatived & 2nd reading (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee negatived (Hansard) & Committee negatived (Hansard): House of Lords

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
The point about consumer confidence is vital, and it plays into the point mentioned in the amendment, which is that we need to maintain our international obligations, including the Aarhus convention, which guarantees people a fundamental right to environmental justice, and others, such as the Berne convention, and I am sure that other noble Lords, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will talk to those points. Keeping to our international agreements and reassuring the public that our environment is now in safe hands is more important than ever, and this amendment does that.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank (Con)
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My Lords, I realise that the hour is late and I do not intend to detain your Lordships long. I speak to Amendment 48. It is a cross-party amendment and this morning, when I began to consider this, I typed up some notes, which I have—but I do not have my glasses and I typed in a font far too small. I feel I am now a speaking metaphor for what the amendment represents. We have to be careful that we are looking not just at the fuzziness of the whole issue but at the detail. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, ably set out why it is important.

This is a non-regression amendment. We are where we are right now, and we are content with that—if anything, we should be going further, but let there be no step backwards. The important statements in this amendment are very clear: let us accept what we are able to achieve, look at the international standards by which we must be judged and consider how to do that correctly.

I am pleased to see the Minister before us. It is not my intention or desire to vote against the Government, but these things occasionally happen. I think he can give us some words of comfort this evening about how we might help us to be able to understand the non-regression element of each of the matters we have touched on so far.

I will speak no further, other than simply to say that the amendment establishes and stabilises what we are about. We are a nation with clear ambition in this area, and we have done good work. Let us not let that be lost; let us not regress.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, having attached my name to Amendment 47 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, I shall make just a couple of points on that. I stress Amendment 48, to which the Green group would have attached our names had there been space, and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that this is writing into the Bill what the Government tell us again and again, as they have for years, they want to achieve. It is simply delivering the Government’s expressed desire.

I want to make just three points on Amendment 47. There is some important terminology, with which I suspect the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, may have had something to do. That refers to the methodological quality of the evidence. There is increasing awareness in the scientific community of the need to look at the problem of publication bias: the probability that a scientific study is published is not independent of its results. That is just one way in which we have real problems with the methodology of what has been published and the Government have considered in the past, to which the amendment is to some degree addressed.

Proposed new subsection (5) mentions

“a sufficiently wide view of the ecological impacts”.

I will take a case study of this. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the combined cocktail impact of pesticides, plastics and pharmaceuticals together in the environment. I point the Minister to a European report by the CHEM Trust, Chemical Cocktails: The Neglected Threat of Toxic Mixtures and How to Fix It and, independently occurring, a launch this month in the UK of a report from the Wildlife and Countryside Link with the Rivers Trust and UK Youth for Nature, Chemical Cocktails: How Can We Reduce the Toxic Burden on Our Rivers? The scientific view taking that overall wide ecological view is increasingly being recognised as crucial, and massively understudied.

The final point I want to make is that Amendment 47 is reflective of something that I am increasingly finding: groups of scientists—including established scientists whom you might expect that have a very good route into the Government—are coming to me and saying, “Please advise us on how we can get through to the Government to make sure that our scientific advice and discoveries are acted on”. There is real feeling in the scientific community that there has been a breakdown in communication and consideration from the Government in terms of the current science. This amendment seeks to address those issues.

Functioning of Government

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed.

Overseas Development Assistance

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 14th July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I apologise to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, that the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed. We will take a moment or two for people to escape the Chamber before we move on to the next business.

Northern Ireland Protocol: Grace Period

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Frost Portrait Lord Frost (Con)
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My Lords, there were already challenges in the operation of the protocol in early January this year and they were already having a direct and disproportionate impact on citizens in Northern Ireland. The EU’s decision to invoke Article 16 compounded the difficulties and undermined cross-community confidence. Our actions have been aimed at restoring confidence and minimising disruption to the everyday life of people in Northern Ireland. That is what this Government will work to ensure.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid that the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed. My apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann.

I am going to take a moment or two to allow the Chamber to clear a bit before we move on to the next business. There is a moment or two for you to shuffle out.

I think everyone has now shuffled. We now come to the Motion in the name of the Senior Deputy Speaker.

Financial Services Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am still going—I have a number of other amendments. Is the Committee not hearing me?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Please continue—sorry. It was a pregnant pause.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas (Con) [V]
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Amendment 62 looks at joint debt situations, for instance between a wealthy husband and an impoverished wife where it is the wife who has the breathing space moratorium. Under those circumstances, it is not obvious that the wealthy husband should have the benefit. The amendment therefore asks whether, under some circumstances, the moratorium should not apply to all parties to a debt.

Amendments 63 and 64 are really just opportunities to ask the Government whether this scheme is ready to go. A lot of pressure has been placed on the Insolvency Service and the courts in the course of Covid. Are we actually in a position to launch a working system? If not, should there not be some arrangement to allow delay to ensure that, when the launch comes, it is successful?

Amendment 65 looks at situations where a debtor gets the benefit of a breathing space but then just does nothing and does not engage with the breathing space process in any way. It asks: should there not, under those circumstances, be some incentive—something that the debtor loses by not engaging with the process?

Amendment 66 looks at the situation of a creditor that has taken its debt to the point of commencing legal action and then faces a breathing space process. That is fine, but should not the position that the creditor has got into be finalised so that things can be picked up again afterwards if they need to be, rather than having to be started again at considerable expense to the creditor? Should not the system recognise—[Inaudible.]

I appreciate that these are complicated and detailed amendments. As I said, I would entirely accept written correspondence, and I shall be grateful for anything the Minister says today. However, they reflect an industry that is looking to make a success of both sides of the breathing space initiative but is concerned that some details are not provided for in the regulations as they exist at the moment.

Now I have finished.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Thank you for the clarification. I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I counted at least three occasions when I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, had finished his incredibly thoughtful speech as he moved from one group to another. That is not a criticism by any stretch of the imagination, by the way. I will be extremely brief.

My name is on only a couple of amendments: Amendments 52 and 67. I have nothing new to say from what I said at Second Reading. I simply wanted to get my name on the amendments to show the widespread support for the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. The key amendment in her name—Amendment 67—might be thought to be far too reasonable. If I were the Minister—and I have been in that position—I would accept it, I must say. I would go back and tell the boss that I had to accept it because it would have been made worse on Report—it may well do with another amendment with another date on it—and it would save everybody a lot of time. I did that more than once as a Minister, and it usually turned out okay.

I am very grateful for the work of the Money Advice Trust. This amendment affects what could be millions of people. We are talking about some really serious problems. I was taken by the examples given earlier in the debate on this group by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. I fully support the amendment and cannot see why it cannot be accepted now just to tidy everything up so that we do not have to spend more time on it on Report. I am not saying that it is not important but it is likely that, on Report, Ministers will be faced with a different date. I would accept this amendment and run with it. Everyone will be grateful if the Minister does so.

Finally, the Government deserve great thanks for Clause 34. I want to give credit where it is due. I have finished.

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Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, along with StepChange and many others working in the debt field, I welcome Clause 34, which I hope will provide some support and protection for vulnerable people with problem debts. I also very much welcome the amendments in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Coussins and Lady Morgan. I will not speak to those amendments, because all the main points have been extremely well made by the two Baronesses. However, I have the permission of the Government Whips Office—

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Baroness Meacher, forgive me, we are about to go into a Division, so if you will allow us to have an Adjournment for five minutes then we will return to your speech.

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Amendments 53 and 54 not moved.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 55.

Amendment 55

Moved by
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Amendments 72 and 73 not moved.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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That concludes the work of the Committee this evening. The Committee stands adjourned. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

Committee adjourned at 7.24 pm.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 26th November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 View all Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 151-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons reasons - (24 Nov 2020)
Noble Lords know as well as I do that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our society, particularly on elderly people, too many of whom have died, but also right across the piece. The pandemic has also had a particularly devastating effect on young people. Many will lose their jobs, as has been said. Many will be from black and minority ethnic communities, who are disproportionately losing their jobs. Given that they are dramatically affected, it is incumbent on us to give them the tools to put things right. That cannot happen unless they have a political voice to make demands on us. As parliamentarians, it is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to play a role in our society—including through registering to vote and voting—by forging a future pathway that will give them the opportunities that they deserve.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, the following Members in the Chamber have indicated that they wish to speak: the noble Lords, Lord Rennard, Lord Beith and Lord Lexden. I will call each in turn, then if anyone else in the Chamber wishes to speak, they too can be called—[Interruption.] I beg noble Lords’ pardon; they are quite right. The noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Blencathra, both told me that they wished to speak; I just left them off the list because I did not write it down properly. I will call each noble Lord in turn then I will seek any other speakers in the Chamber. To begin with, I call the noble Lord, Lord Rennard.

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Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford. Like him and other noble Lords on all sides of the House, I deeply regret that the amendment cannot be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, who so effectively made the case for action to get more young people on the electoral registers just a few weeks ago on Report. Lord Shutt of Greetland will be remembered vividly and affectionately by all his colleagues, of whom I was one, who worked with him on the all-party Select Committee that considered the state of our country’s electoral system in detail, seven years after the passage of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013. It would be a fine tribute to his memory if what might be termed the Shutt-Woolley amendment was incorporated in the Bill. If it is not, I hope that something like it wins parliamentary approval before too long.

When I spoke on the earlier Shutt amendment, I asked Members of the House to bear in mind that it provided two alternative routes by which tomorrow’s voters could be brought on to the electoral registers, at the ages of 16 and 17, in readiness to cast their votes when they turn 18. The first, as we have heard, proposed automatic registration if electoral registration officers were satisfied of their eligibility when national insurance numbers were issued. The Shutt amendment offered a second way to the goal, which all supporters of democracy surely must share—that of ending the grave under- participation of young people aged 18 and over in our country’s elections. The second method, as we have heard, involved no more than providing them with information about the process by which the precious right to vote can be acquired.

In responding to the amendment, the Government chose to ignore the second part altogether. Not one word was said about it from the Government Front Bench. Its supporters were called on to vote against it, on the grounds that automatic registration was objectionable in principle—an objection that many Conservatives do not share. The same thing happened when the Shutt amendment was debated in the Commons.

The new version before us omits the provision for automatic registration on which the Government based their entire opposition to the original amendment. The amendment proposes, in modest terms, that it should be permissible for young people, on whom the future success of our country depends, to be notified of what they should do to gain the right to cast a vote and play their part in our democracy. Can there really be a serious argument for not informing our country’s youngsters, who stand at the gateway of democracy, about what they need to do to pass through it, when information can be supplied to them readily and at very little cost as a result of today’s electronic miracles?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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For noble Lords’ information, the next three speakers will be the noble Lords, Lord Adonis, Lord Blencathra and Lord Cormack.

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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, also said that he would not put his amendment to the Motion to the vote. However, he raised a very important point on which we should all reflect at some length. The Lord Chancellor is now not really a judicial figure at all, but a political one. The Lord Chief Justice is not. The fundamental point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, made at some length and with great eloquence is valid and should be taken on board. However, for today, we should move on.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Are there any noble Lords present who were here at the beginning of this debate who would like to take part at this stage? No? In which case, I return to the list and call the noble Lord, Lord Tyler.

Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler (LD) [V]
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My Lords, before I concentrate on the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, I will make some general comments about the Bill. The Government’s response to the improvements made by your Lordships to the Bill, with large majorities, has been profoundly disappointing. However, my disappointment will pale into insignificance when many Conservative MPs discover in a couple of years’ time just how they have been fooled into thinking that their seats will be unaffected by boundary changes. The most careful independent analysis has demonstrated that the Government’s insistence on sticking to the narrow 5% variance in the electoral quota means that some two-thirds of all seats will be changed—all for no real correction of the perceived imbalance. Those MPs will not merely be disappointed; hundreds of Conservative MPs and their constituents will suffer unnecessary disruption. Even more significantly, there will be many blue-on-blue contests for the more winnable new seats in the mid-term of the Parliament, just when the Government is least popular.

As my noble friend Lord Rennard pointed out, Mr Rees-Mogg made no reference to that when, during an inevitably sparsely attended debate, he managed to overturn the improvements passed with large cross-party majorities in your Lordships House. It will be interesting to witness the reaction of his fellow MPs when they realise what he has let them in for. There would be an element of wry amusement for the rest of us if it were not for the avoidable impact on historic, natural and well-established communities. All being well, the political integrity of Cornwall will be protected, but such a desirable outcome will not be guaranteed elsewhere.

This was perhaps the major issue during our debates on the Bill. However, removing some of the other improvements may in due course also be recognised as counterproductive and constitutionally defective. I fear we may live to regret that the House could not endorse the proper concerns expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and my noble friend Lord Beith.

I and my colleagues are especially pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, from the Cross Benches, has tabled his amendment to the Motion on the vital issue of electoral registration. Had this been at a different stage of the Bill, a quartet of senior Members from all parts of the House would have signed it. This is underlined by the strength of supporting speeches on all sides this afternoon. It is particularly appropriate that the noble Lord should lead on this. He has been a powerful champion and campaigner in non-party efforts to get more young people—especially from BAME communities and through Operation Black Vote—to take up their civic responsibilities and rights by registering. He gave evidence on the registration issue to the Select Committee of this House, chaired by our much-missed colleague Lord Shutt of Greetland.

At this point I should say how much I and my noble friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches appreciate the tributes to David from all sides during the Commons debate and again this afternoon in your Lordships’ House. After a lifetime of principled devotion to this cause, his sincerity and clear advocacy of these practical steps towards a more comprehensive democracy shone through during his successful speech on Report.

As the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, and others have emphasised, this modest proposal would give practical effect to the aims to which Ministers have committed themselves. Without this kind of simple administrative adjustment, there is a real danger that the missing millions of unregistered young citizens will remain outside the system.

Ministers have reminded us that registering to vote is a civic duty. Unlike voting, which is entirely voluntary in Britain, co-operating with the registration process is a legal obligation unless the eligible citizen has a specific reason to be exempted. As my noble friend Lord Rennard reminded the House, the register is used to select for jury service. That is an important civic responsibility, which is not entirely voluntary. Failure to co-operate can lead to a fine of £1,000.

This proposal is not a form of automatic registration. Despite the support of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, it is not on the table for decision today. However, if the Government continue to block sensible ways to maximise registration, it could be argued that they are in a sense condoning law-breaking.

It has been clearly indicated that many of your Lordships on all sides of House wish to support this simple improvement. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, is not able to move his Motion E1 to propose Amendment 8B in lieu, I should be happy to do so and to seek the opinion of the House at the appropriate moment.

I again pay tribute to all who have helped to ensure that your Lordships’ House has fulfilled its proper scrutiny function. This includes the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord True. As I have said previously, that is the fundamental right and responsibility of this House, not least when MPs and the governing party may need the corrective of relatively dispassionate, non-partisan and independent scrutiny on electoral law. We do not have the same special interests to declare as they have, which could take them into very unfortunate realm of special pleading, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, made apparent.

Finally, I put on record on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, particularly all those who have worked on the Bill, our thanks and admiration for all those who have assisted the House, not least our excellent legislation adviser, Sarah Pughe. I thank the two Ministers and their team, the Public Bill Office and other officials of the House, as well as Members from all sides who value the integrity of the democratic process. I add thanks to those academic experts who gave us all such well-researched, non-partisan advice through all stages of the Bill.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 View all Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 126-III Third marshalled list for Grand Committee - (10 Sep 2020)
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the case made for respecting communities by implementing the principle of equalisation in a fair and sensible way, as my noble friend Lord Hain put it, is pretty convincing. As I stressed at Second Reading and in Committee, MPs represent and need to know and understand the communities in their patch if they are to be able to speak on behalf of individual constituencies as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, described. The better MPs know the schools, clubs, local authorities, head teachers, councillors, GPs, hospitals, charities and churches in their area, the better equipped they are not just to understand but to sort out the problems brought to them, hence the need to permit the Boundary Commissions, as they set about their work, to respect community ties.

It is obviously writ large in the case of Wales. One part of my family from one valley was Welsh speaking and the other from not many miles away as the crow flies—although a long way by road—was largely English speaking. As the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said in an earlier debate, we do not want Welsh MPs to have to go up to the Heads of the Valleys, across and then down to the bottom of the next valley in the same seat, a point emphasised today by my noble friend Lord Hain. As has been mentioned, Scotland’s special geography has been recognised in its two preserved seats, as has Ynys Môn, or Anglesey, in this Bill. I used to live in Anglesey. Believe me, it is much faster to cross the Menai Bridge than to travel from one valley to another in the south.

I recognise that I have not served in the Commons and neither has the Minister, but I think we both have enough colleagues who did to know a fair amount about the work of MPs. The amendments in front of us now are partly to help constituents to be well served and partly to help MPs represent those constituencies. They are partly to recognise the importance of communities and partly to give a proper voice to all parts of the union. They are important, and I hope that the Minister will hear what is behind them and be able to respond accordingly.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I do not believe that we have been able to recover the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, so on that basis, I call the Minister.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, perhaps I should open by congratulating the son of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, on his great achievement in the channel. I think many noble Lords know that I am descended from generations of fisherfolk, and genetically the greatest horror I can imagine is finding myself swimming in the open sea, miles from land. I congratulate the team on their extraordinary achievement.

Moving on to the serious business of the amendments, I strongly disagree with the repeated tenor of the remarks made in your Lordships’ Committee that the proposal for a Boundary Commission with permission to have a plus or minus 5%—that is, 10%—tolerance in the size of seats sweeps away, as someone put it, all local ties. I say with respect that that is exaggerated talk. In discussion of the Bill, my noble friend Lord Hayward and I have made no secret of the fact that we believe that having broadly equally sized constituencies is pre-eminent, but there remains an allowance for recognising local ties and geography and so on, and it is to caricature the nature of the Bill or the Government’s objectives to say that it will sweep away local ties.

Without being in any way critical, because I know it is a long-held aspiration of many in your Lordships’ House, I can say only that as we have listened to the debates over the past three days some of these very arguments about local ties have come from people who for many years have argued for massive, multi-member constituencies in the name of proportional representation. There are difficulties in arguing on the one hand that small local ties are important, as I would argue and the Government recognise, while on the other saying that all these constituencies should be swept away and rolled together. I respect everything that everybody says in your Lordships’ Committee, but I note with interest that outside this Committee many of the self-same people have spent many years calling for massive multi-member constituencies.

We have talked on many occasions about tolerance. It is an important issue. There must be some degree of tolerance. There is disagreement in your Lordships’ Committee about what that might be, and that is reflected in the amendments before us. I will come on specifically to the points on Wales, which we have already discussed in this Committee, but it is an extremely important issue. It is not true to say that this Government do not respect Wales or that they are playing fast and loose with the union. Political comment and knockabout are fair enough, but this Government are passionately attached to the concept of our great union and all of us who speak about it should not feed the impression that we think otherwise. I will come back in detail to those points.

Starting with Amendment 18 and the idea that the Boundary Commission should have the ability to ignore the tolerance range wherever, in its opinion, local ties demand a more flexible approach, here the same arguments that we made during our previous discussion of the benefits of limiting the discretion of the Boundary Commission apply. Like many of us, I sympathise with what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said. He knows very well that if he tugs at the issue of local government, he certainly tugs at my heartstrings, which perhaps shows what a sad individual I am, but he is absolutely right about the importance of local government. Many of us here in your Lordships’ Committee will have had the privilege of serving either a constituency in Parliament or a local authority ward and, whether we have or not, we have all come from a local community. Several of us, including the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and I, have recognised that somewhere that we represented in our titles. Like every citizen, we feel strongly about those places and about what defines them: their geography, community and particular cultures, as my noble friend Lord Hayward said. I am a historian by training and vocation, and I could never be blind to those issues. These are our local ties; they are important and our experience is rich with them.

However, this amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, would place an obligation on the Boundary Commission to judge the respective merits of different local ties and to reward those deemed particularly strong with special treatment by relaxing the rules, but what of the neighbouring constituency where no special treatment applies? Perhaps in the neighbour’s case, the community might fit neatly into the constituency proposed and all within it will be content, but that will not always be the case. It is inevitable that some local communities where ordinary tolerance rules will apply will feel that if only the Boundary Commission understood their character fully, they too could have a different, more appropriate and more generously drawn constituency.

These are the essential ingredients of dispute and challenge, the kind of process that my noble friend Lord Blencathra described for us and that the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, drew our attention to in talking of the importance of clarity. They bring a potential to undermine in some ways, and certainly make more difficult, the work of the Boundary Commissions. I repeat that the Bill allows respect for local ties and the Government believe that what is in it is sufficient and the Boundary Commission will respect that.

Amendment 22 seeks to allow the Boundary Commission for Wales to use a tolerance range of 30%—plus or minus 15%. As was powerfully argued by the noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Wigley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, the intention is to provide more flexibility to the Boundary Commission for Wales in how it responds to the particular geography of Wales, which in parts is rural and sparsely populated. I do not accept that Wales has been treated, to repeat a phrase that was used, punitively. My noble friend Lord Hayward addressed this point. I and the Government do not believe that equal representation in our Parliament is punitive; it is equal representation, which should apply across England, Wales and Scotland. We all have an equal stake in our union and should be equally represented. Wales, of course, has the great benefit, which England does not, of having its Senedd.

I cannot accept the amendment. As with the other amendments we have discussed, we cannot accept an amendment that will allow a greater degree of variation in the size of considerable numbers of constituencies, in this case only in Wales. We cannot prejudge how the Boundary Commission for Wales might apply this proposed tolerance range, but the result could be that, as was pointed out today, more urban constituencies—for example in Cardiff or Swansea—would have considerably more electors than more rural, less populated constituencies. That variability in electorate size means one thing: voting of differing strengths for the people of different parts of Wales and the people in different parts of the union. Therefore we cannot accept the amendment before the Committee.

I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and supported by my noble friend Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth. “Shall Trelawney die?”—in my day at school we used to sing these good old songs. I am fully aware of the passion—the word has been used by others—that is rightly held for the history and spirit of Cornwall and Devon. The noble Lord’s amendment looking at Devon and Cornwall seeks to erect inviolable borders around each of those two counties. I am sure this will find great favour in parts of the south-west. In effect, the amendment treats Devon and Cornwall separately, with their own allocation of constituencies, just like the nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Once the allocation for Devon and for Cornwall had been set, presumably using the same method as for the four nations—consequential amendments would be needed to establish this, but I will not go into the technicalities of amendments as we are arguing the issue—it would be for the Boundary Commission for England to propose the boundaries of those constituencies within the boundaries of Devon and Cornwall.

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If we wish to achieve one thing with this Bill, it is 650 equal and updated single-Member constituencies providing the electors of the United Kingdom with the confidence that their votes in those constituencies are of equal strength. The tolerance range of 10% and a logical, fair and cautious approach to exemptions are the tools by which we achieve our goals. I repeat that the current tolerance range has previously been agreed by Parliament and that approval has been recently renewed in the other, elected, House. These tools are sufficient and should stand.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I have received one request to speak after the Minister. I call the noble Lord, Lord Hain.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his moderate and reasoned response. However, I appeal to him again to look at Amendment 22. By the way, I have never favoured multi-member PR seats; I have always been in favour of the single member alternative vote system, which is fairer. I urge him to listen and read again the excellent contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and her point about fuelling separatist nationalism. We had a Secretary of State for Wales in the 1990s called John Redwood; he was a perfectly nice man personally but he behaved in an arrogant fashion. A lot of people in Wales, despite the moderation the Minister showed in his response, will see this as a punitive measure because Wales has been hit harder than anybody else.

We are not asking for the moon in Amendment 22. It is a moderate, constructive amendment. I and those who have backed it are not seeking to overturn this legislation, whatever our feelings about it or the motivation for it. We are asking the Government to give this to the Boundary Commission for Wales because of the unique circumstances of Wales which have historically always been recognised by Parliament. This is making a break with tradition and history, and the Minister should explain why the universal principle of equalisation, which has applied over the changes in boundary reviews for a long time, has been put on a rigid, straitjacketed altar that affects Wales so uniquely and badly.

There should be a 15% variation for Wales as opposed to 5%. Yes, there will be knock-on implications for England, but it has hundreds of seats—more than 500—whereas Wales has 40, so it will be a bit of impact for everybody as opposed to a massive impact for a few in Wales. I urge the Minister to reconsider this. Otherwise, his Government will reap a bitter harvest in Wales, as happened in 1997 when they lost every single MP because they were perceived as behaving in an arrogant way towards Wales. I do not accuse him of that personally, but I appeal to him to look again before Report at this moderate, constructive amendment proposing a 15% variation as opposed to a much more rigid 5% and see whether he can support it.

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Clause 6 agreed.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to Amendment 21. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Clause 7: Protected constituencies

Amendment 21

Moved by
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Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, we will now resume the debate on Amendment 21. However, before we do, I will explain what has happened for the benefit of those who have been joining remotely. In the building, the Division Bells alerted us to a Division, and I adjourned the proceedings. Unfortunately, however, my adjournment was not heard and, as a consequence, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was not informed that it had happened and he continued with his remarks, for which we owe him an apology. We therefore invite him to repeat his remarks so that we may hear them. Although they were still being spoken, they were drowned out by the bell and various other elements. Therefore, if the broadcast hub can return us to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, we will invite him to repeat his remarks.

Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler (LD) [V]
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I am very grateful. It was in fact a complete mystery to me that the House was voting, because in preparation for my speech I had, correctly, turned off my iPhone, so there was absolutely no way I could have known that a Division was taking place. If any Members of the Grand Committee have already heard anything of what I have said, I apologise most sincerely. The repetition will probably be quite different, because I was seeking to respond to the debate that had taken place, rather than just to read some prepared remarks.

I know the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency quite well. My brother has lived there for more than 60 years. I went there on a number of occasions to support Richard Livsey and Roger Williams, distinguished Members of Parliament there. I spent a lot of time with local farmers there, understanding only something of what they were saying, because my Welsh is non-existent, and I found it extremely important to know something of the communities to which other Members have referred.

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The noble Lord, Lord True, referred again to the Conservative manifesto this afternoon. The manifesto makes no reference to any percentage, certainly not to 5%, so the idea that somehow the country has voted to limit the variance to 5% is simply unacceptable. Even in current circumstances, when manifesto commitments in other directions are being torn up, there is no commitment here to tear up, so I hope that it will be possible for the Government, and the Minister in particular, to look again at the very powerful and persuasive arguments that have been put forward in Grand Committee and by so many Members at Second Reading that 5% is simply too limited and too inflexible and should be removed.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, for his understanding. If something is worth saying, it is worth saying twice. I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab) [V]
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I am not sure whether the Deputy Chairman is inviting me to say everything I am about to say twice, but I will try to refrain from doing so.

I welcome this debate. It illustrates the fallacy of trying to achieve arithmetic equivalence with no recognition of geography, travel habits, infrastructure, community or even the work of an MP in representing her or his constituents and constituency—I make that distinction between the two. We are talking here of a constituency of 3,000 square kilometres—it is larger than Luxembourg—so representing it is already a challenge, not just for the MP who has a 60-mile drive between meetings but for political parties which need to function along constituency lines. Brecon and Radnorshire may have a small number of voters, but it is very big not just in its heart but in geography, as its MP said, from my home town of Ystrad in the south to Knighton in the north-east, much of it with scant access to public transport. I have never done it myself, but my noble friend Lady Gale says it is about a 300-mile round trip. I hope she was not enjoying our views too much when she was driving at that time. So it is very different from my present home in Hackney where it is still possible to beat the bounds, albeit I do it on a bicycle these days—a mode of transport that now defeats me in Wales.

It is already difficult, as we have heard, for the MP to serve this constituency as it is. A larger one would not only be more challenging travel-wise but would break the pattern of travel, which, as we have heard, is currently up and down the valleys and not across mountains. Organising meetings with constituents, interest groups, local councillors and Senedd Members—or organising elections—would be near impossible, with simply no public transport reaching across the constituency.

As I said earlier today and emphasised at Second Reading, MPs do not just represent constituents but communities. An expansion which took the constituency into different places of work with different schools, served by different local authority areas with different histories and even different dominant languages would make relating to all the relevant interest groups and organisations really hard to achieve—particularly when involving different local authorities and a greater spread of elected representatives. Understanding the community, its rhythms, employments, schools, charities, welfare clubs—where we come from it is choirs—is as vital a part of MPs’ work as the casework they turn to every weekend. That is partly because, as I said earlier, dealing with that casework means you need to know the organisations in your constituency.

It is a very rural area, as we have heard, and has a low population. To achieve the quota, even if it were amended, it would have to cover very different areas, possibly Montgomery, as was suggested last time.

As has been said by others, it has been accepted that islands are a special case and that constituencies should not cross water. I have to say, mountains are as high as rivers are deep, and communities have been built up along valleys, not across hills. I look forward to hearing from the Minister—I wonder whether she will take up the suggestion to come and visit the place—how an even larger constituency will serve the needs of the good people of Brecon and Radnorshire.

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Baroness Scott of Bybrook Portrait Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their comments this afternoon on Wales in general and on Brecon and Radnorshire in particular. As I have already stressed, I understand how strongly your Lordships feel about particular parts of the country and about protecting the voices of the communities that dwell there.

Having spent 25 years in local government and gone through many boundary changes in my divisions, I understand how difficult it is. I also understand that there are opportunities to explain to the Boundary Commissions about local priorities, communities and transport links, and I understand that they listen. Not all is lost. Every MP and councillor will think that their particular constituency or division is unique.

The idea of the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, responds to the geography and rurality of mid-Wales by proposing a protected constituency covering the area currently covered by the existing constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. Here, the tolerance rules would not apply. I have heard the passion for this constituency from almost every noble Lord. Interestingly enough, I also know this area very well. I have sold many sheep—Black Welsh Mountain, torddus and torwens—in Builth Wells over a number of years. I have also spent many very happy weekends at the Royal Welsh Show in this constituency. I know how rural it is and how difficult it is to get around there. I was particularly moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, saying “I love thee”. That is how many of us feel about the places we grow up in and live for the rest of our lives.

Just like many other rural parts of the UK, the rural character of parts of Wales can generate a small number of larger constituencies in places, and Brecon and Radnorshire is currently the largest. This amendment would remove that constituency from the tolerance regime and fix it at its current electoral size, which is approximately 55,000. That is over 15,000 less than the UK average.

There is no doubt that rural constituencies present their own challenges, particularly in terms of travel for constituents—we have heard a lot of that from noble Lords, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Gale —and their MPs, but that truth would also apply elsewhere, in East Yorkshire or North Antrim, for example. It also applies to Montgomeryshire, right next door. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, the size of some of the constituencies in Scotland is far, far greater.

I remind your Lordships that the Government’s manifesto commitment is to deliver updated and equal constituencies. We have heard that many times in this Committee. There are some unique geographical locations where tolerance cannot reasonably be applied and where a protected constituency is merited, but there are only five of them. They are all islands with considerable populations. Ynys Môn is an island, but it is also of sufficient size. These islands are separated from the mainland by sea and with the accessibility challenges that come with that.

To ensure equality for the electors of the United Kingdom, our approach to protected constituencies must be a sparing one. If we were now to add Brecon and Radnorshire to that short list of protected island constituencies, we would not have to wait very long for several other rural constituencies of a similar size in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to join the queue, and with good cause. Much of the debate of this amendment has gone back to the tolerance levels. However, I think my noble friend Lord True answered these queries in the debates on previous amendments extremely well and I do not intend to repeat his arguments.

The Government believe strongly that equal constituencies and equal votes are important to our democracy. This is not a queue that we wish to form, and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We have had no requests to speak after the Minister so I call on the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey.

Lord Lipsey Portrait Lord Lipsey (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and particularly those who have spoken twice. I will make one point. The Minister expressed her support for the existing exceptional constituencies and said that Ynys Môn was of sufficient size. Not only is it a quarter of the size of Brecon and Radnorshire in geographical area, it has 51,925 electors as opposed to Brecon and Radnorshire’s 55,490. If Ynys Môn is of sufficient size, so is Brecon and Radnorshire.

This may have been an oversight by the Minister, but I did say that I and the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire would like to have a further conversation before Report. It would be extremely kind if the Minister were able to give an assurance that that request will be seriously and positively considered. Subject to that, I wish to withdraw my amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Does the Minister wish to come back on that point?

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Amendment 21 withdrawn.
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Bill reported without amendment.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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That concludes the Committee’s proceedings on the Bill. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room. Thank you.

Committee adjourned at 5.16 pm.

Finance Bill

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Friday 17th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Read Full debate Finance Act 2020 View all Finance Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 2 July 2020 - (2 Jul 2020)
Lord Greaves Portrait Lord Greaves (LD)
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What a lot of good sense, my Lords.

The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, is in Leicester, which is having difficulties, and asked if there is any money left in the local authority coffers. I rise to tell her that there is not, and to talk about local government. I declare my interests, having been a local councillor in the Pendle area for most of the last half-century. Pendle is now working hard to avoid imposing a Leicester-type lockdown.

The Local Government Association estimates that the cost to local government of coronavirus will be about £7 billion. That is the shortfall after all the grants so far announced by the Government. One of the real problems is that the Government are not fully funding lost income. For the council in Pendle, of which I am a member, the overall cost for that small district is about £3 million, of which the Government have so far provided about £1 million, leaving a shortfall of £2 million. That may not sound a lot, but that is on this year’s budget of about £13.5 million, and so is a very substantial amount on top of all the cuts made in the last few years, which have cut council finances to the bone.

There are two specific grouses as far as we are concerned. The test and trace funding is going only to upper-tier local authorities in a shire county such as ours, whereas a lot of the hard work has to be done by the people on the ground: the district council environmental health officers and the public health staff, with the expertise and the local knowledge. In Lancashire, the money for the hubs which were set up to help people who could not afford food and other essentials during the worst of the lockdown goes to the county but is being spent by the district.

Finally, the cost to parish and town councils, particularly the big ones that provide leisure services and so on, has been very substantial. They are being left out altogether. Local government needs the shortfall of £7 billion to be addressed. The Government promised that they would provide whatever was needed. We are still waiting.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I am sure the House will join me in wishing a very happy birthday to the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab) [V]
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I draw attention to my interests as declared in the register. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rooker on manufacturing—he made a persuasive and positive case for a change of policy. A number of noble Lords have commented on the Government’s package of support for the arts and culture, but can the Minister say at the end of the debate when the Government will make a similar announcement in relation to sport and physical recreation, which have been damaged across the country at voluntary, local and professional elite level?

I want to focus the rest of my remarks on the strategy moving forward. As a number of noble Lords have said, we need to build back better. There are two issues in particular to which the Government should give a lot of thought over the coming weeks as they prepare the comprehensive spending review that will follow this Finance Bill and Budget. The first is the future prospects of young people in our country. In the 1980s, a generation was left aside as mass unemployment wreaked havoc in communities. It will be vital to build on the initiatives already announced by the Government to ensure that education and job creation in the private sector provide real opportunities for our young people over the coming years, and that those opportunities are not limited by the economic disaster of the past few months.

Secondly, I had a fascinating meeting yesterday with a couple of dozen of the UK’s top companies, all of which not only endorsed the sustainable development goals but are building them into their forward planning as they prepare to build back better. The Government are way behind the private sector in this area, despite signing up to the goals in 2015. Each Budget and comprehensive spending review since then has made no reference to those cross-government departmental goals. It is time to change that. Given our departure from the European Union and the recession that might follow this pandemic, an opportunity now exists to ensure that the Government’s policies align with those goals, and that we truly build back better both at home and abroad.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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My Lords, before I call the next speaker, I must announce that we will take a short adjournment after the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville.

EU: Trade and Security Partnership

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Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True [V]
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My Lords, the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee next meets on 12 June. I repeat that the Government do not consider an extension of the transition necessary or desirable. It will not happen from a UK Government point of view. The political declaration sets out the potential scope of our future relationship. We and the EU signed up to it, but any agreement based on it must be balanced and represent a balance of benefits to both sides.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard? No? Lord West of Spithead.

Lord West of Spithead Portrait Lord West of Spithead (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, a lightning rod for EU seriousness on defence and security co-operation is Project Galileo. Is it still the intention to have scientific, technological and industrial UK involvement in this project, despite lack of access to the classified output of the system?

Northern Ireland Protocol

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Thursday 21st May 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords. I had noted down to say that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, had always been constructive in his responses, but I was a bit disappointed when he opened by accusing the Government of duplicity. The Government have been clear from the start that they will stand by their obligations under the protocol. The fundamental issue here is that the protocol exists to ensure that the progress the people of Northern Ireland have made in the 22 years since the Good Friday Agreement, which we all support, is safeguarded and maintained. That means, as both contributors from the Front Benches opposite acknowledged, that this matter must be dealt with delicately, recognising the interests of both groupings within Northern Ireland and addressing both the lawful and reasonable desire of the European Union to protect the single market and the UK’s requirement to protect our own internal market and the inalienable place of Northern Ireland as part of the UK customs territory.

I will try to answer some of the questions raised. I do not want to be diverted by the role of the outstanding Sherpa, Mr Frost. I repeat my comment about the criticism made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, of his role, which she acknowledged and repeated today. Mr Frost is the appointed representative of the Prime Minister in these negotiations. I understand that he will come with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster next week to give evidence and be accountable to your Lordships’ House.

I think it would be fair to say, diplomatically, that the response was not entirely enthusiastic from the parties opposite. The noble Baroness spoke about border checks. We are in the business not of border checks, but of light-touch administrative arrangements that will enable and facilitate trade. It is in the interests of both parties in this negotiation. It is a negotiation and discussion on how we will implement the protocol, not how we will renegotiate it. It is not in the interests of anybody to see a heavy-handed system. Indeed, Monsieur Barnier himself said that it is important that the procedures of the protocol should be as easy as possible and not too burdensome, in particular for smaller businesses. I agree with that and I am sure that noble Lords opposite do.

The noble Baroness rightly asked about business. Many businesses want clarity. I assure her that there have been extensive discussions and consultation with business, but as she will know, the Government are now moving forward as we go into this stage of discussion to establish a business engagement forum on the protocol. We will set out details shortly, but it is obviously important as it goes forward that we draw on the experience of businesses in sectors right across Northern Ireland. The interests of business are fundamental. Again, I hope that the European Union and the United Kingdom would agree in implementing this that the burdens on business should be as light as possible and that neither party should demand excessive burdens.

The noble Baroness asked about unfettered access. I assure her that there will be unfettered access. That is the objective and intention of Her Majesty’s Government and we intend to legislate to achieve that for goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom.

As far as smuggling and abuse of the system is concerned, such practices go on at present. They are normally addressed by market surveillance and effective, targeted action. I am sure that market surveillance will continue in the unlikely circumstance that the noble Baroness posits of some mass attempt to subvert legitimate trade.

We intend this to be a light-touch approach. The noble Baroness and the noble Lord were both sceptical on this matter. The forms that the noble Baroness referred to will be processes administered electronically and will be light-touch in action. We will be negotiating and discussing how those matters will be implemented in the joint committee and specialised committee, which were set up under the protocol to provide just these sorts of discussions.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, referred to the Government setting great store by the matter being temporary. A provision for consent was agreed by both sides and in consultation with parties on both sides of the border in the original protocol. The capability exists for the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to alter the situation in four years if they wish to do so, but that matter is entirely for the Northern Ireland Executive and is not being pressed, as was implied in the Statement. Time will see. I hope that we will find an effective way of operating. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory and that bureaucracy will be kept to a minimum.

The noble Lord asked about the idea of an EU office in Belfast. Without wishing to be contrary, I have pointed out in this House that, in the context of wishing to maintain and protect the Good Friday agreement, a physical building of that sort might not be the most light-touch operation, but the British Government of course acknowledge their responsibilities within the protocol to satisfy everyone that the protocol is being complied with. If I might say so, the Belfast office is becoming a little bit of a totem on the side of those who wish to say that Britain is not acceding to its responsibilities. I remind your Lordships that such an office was not provided for in Article 12 of the protocol. How matters are implemented will continue, I hope, to be discussed constructively in the joint committee.

The Government are very grateful for the positive response—rather more positive than we have heard so far—from many people in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Executive, our friends within Europe and many in the Republic of Ireland. They see the Government’s document as a reasonable, sensible and measured one, on the basis of which we wish to seek a sensible, balanced, workable and practical way forward. It is in that spirit that we will pursue discussions in the next few weeks.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, I will be on the virtual Woolsack for the remainder of this session. We now come to the 30 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers. I call on the first speaker this evening, the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding.

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Lord True Portrait Lord True
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My Lords, I always try to be honest: I have human frailty, as does everyone else, but I seek to tell the truth. The noble Lord has confirmed what I just said about the content of the protocol. It does not require cement, but it requires the United Kingdom Government—who will themselves, as I underlined, administer these arrangements—to be ready to facilitate methods of assurance by the other party. Those methods of assurance do not need a heavy touch. I do not think that is envisaged by the European Union; certainly it is not by the United Kingdom Government. The United Kingdom Government’s desire is to build on this agreement and persuade all parties, including the European Union, that this kind of approach satisfies the interests of all parties and does so in a way that puts the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, and the peace agreement, first. I hope we can all unite on that.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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My Lords, the day’s Virtual Proceedings are now complete and are adjourned.

Virtual Proceeding adjourned at 6.37 pm.