Lord Duncan of Springbank debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

There have been 47 exchanges involving Lord Duncan of Springbank and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Tue 8th December 2020 Prohibition on Quantitative Restrictions (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (Grand Committee) 1 interactions (21 words)
Wed 18th November 2020 United Kingdom Internal Market Bill (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (162 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (34 words)
Wed 20th May 2020 Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Definitions of “Metre” and “Kilogram”) (Amendment) Order 2020 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (28 words)
Mon 10th February 2020 Smart Meters (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (596 words)
Fri 7th February 2020 Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (1,701 words)
Thu 6th February 2020 Climate Change (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (2,568 words)
Wed 5th February 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (681 words)
Tue 4th February 2020 Post Office: Prosecution Powers (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (672 words)
Tue 28th January 2020 Business Confidence (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (401 words)
Mon 27th January 2020 Horizon 2020 (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (628 words)
Wed 22nd January 2020 Gift Vouchers (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (693 words)
Mon 20th January 2020 European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (3,749 words)
Thu 16th January 2020 Northern Ireland Executive Formation (Lords Chamber) 24 interactions (2,729 words)
Wed 15th January 2020 Climate Change: COP 26 and Civil Society (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (630 words)
Tue 14th January 2020 Nuclear Power: Emissions (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (666 words)
Tue 14th January 2020 European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (2,560 words)
Thu 9th January 2020 Fracking (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (710 words)
Wed 8th January 2020 Creative Industries: Research and Development (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (534 words)
Tue 7th January 2020 Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019: Section 3(5) (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (3,264 words)
Tue 5th November 2019 Thomas Cook (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (2,483 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Extinction Rebellion (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (603 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Northern Ireland Budget Bill (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (2,400 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Northern Ireland (Extension of Period for Executive Formation) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (688 words)
Thu 31st October 2019 Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (372 words)
Tue 29th October 2019 Net Zero Carbon Emissions (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (646 words)
Tue 29th October 2019 Brexit: Workers’ Rights (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,030 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Northern Ireland: Devolved Government (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (463 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (1,909 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019: Section 3(5) (Lords Chamber) 8 interactions (2,137 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 Freedom of Establishment and Free Movement of Services (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 30 interactions (3,426 words)
Wed 23rd October 2019 Electricity Supplier Obligations (Excluded Electricity) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 7 interactions (1,157 words)
Tue 22nd October 2019 Post Offices: Cash Withdrawal Services (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (426 words)
Mon 21st October 2019 Frequent Flyer Airmiles Schemes (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (572 words)
Thu 17th October 2019 Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019: Section 3(5) (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (3,241 words)
Mon 7th October 2019 Product Safety, Metrology and Mutual Recognition Agreement (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (2,041 words)
Tue 1st October 2019 Irish Border: Checks and Customs Arrangements (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (973 words)
Mon 30th September 2019 Insolvency (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No 2) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (1,391 words)
Thu 26th September 2019 Gas Tariffs Code (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (1,546 words)
Thu 26th September 2019 Statutory Auditors, Third Country Auditors and International Accounts Standards (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 9 interactions (1,392 words)
Thu 26th September 2019 International Climate Action (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (3,584 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Spending Round 2019 (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,070 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Spending Round 2019 (Lords Chamber) 4 interactions (3,144 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Nuclear Power Stations (Lords Chamber) 22 interactions (843 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointment Functions) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (1,024 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Report Pursuant to Sections 3(1), 3(6), 3(7), 3(8), 3(9) and 3(10) the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (6,316 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Report Pursuant to Section 3(11) of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (Lords Chamber) 1 interactions (22 words)

Prohibition on Quantitative Restrictions (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Tuesday 8th December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The Grand Committee stands adjourned until 4.30 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I have received only a single request to speak after the Minister, so I am going to call the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, to ask a short question of elucidation.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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The Minister cast doubt on warnings about the impact on devolution. Has he looked at opinion polls in Wales tracking support for independence? That is a country that only 20 years ago very narrowly accepted devolution. It is a country that voted for Brexit, and one that is governed by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition—two unionist parties. You can see in that country the clear feeling about the way in which this Government are behaving.

Break in Debate

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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[Inaudible.]—perspectives have offered support to what these amendments seek to do. Picking up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—sitting on my own in my little room, participating virtually—I too very much regret that it has not been possible for us all to join together in the Chamber. I see the value of the points he was making about introducing some more lively spirit among those in the Chamber, so there could be a real atmosphere of debate, which even remotely we would be able to enjoy.

I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord True, said. He expressed his position, as always, very clearly in careful language. I think, on a fair reading, that the clauses in Parts 1 and 2 are more absolute in their effect than he was making out, and I do not accept the criticisms that he makes of the amendments’ effect. Of course, I do not claim that the amendment I have put forward is a final solution; there was always an option open to the Government. If they thought the amendments could be improved upon or altered to meet some of the points that the Minister made, that could have been done—but there was no such offer forthcoming from him, for reasons that I understand.

The question was whether the devolved nations should continue to be free to develop and apply market policies within their devolution mandate which have secured agreement under the common frameworks process, or whether that freedom should simply be brushed aside, as the Bill really seeks to do. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this Government regard devolution as an inconvenience that can simply be ignored when they want to. I regret that very much indeed. I am a unionist and I believe in the union and all that it stands for, and all the values that I hope it will continue to give us in future. But I am afraid we see here an uncompromising, careless and centralist style of government, which divides our United Kingdom into pieces at a time when harmony is most needed. That has no place in our democracy.

I know that the Minister will reflect very carefully on what has been said today, and I hope that he will do his best to persuade those at the heart of government to think again, but what he has said in his reply leaves me with no alternative. I seek to test the opinion of the House on my amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once, and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

I should inform the House that, if Amendment 2 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments 3 or 4. In that case, the debate on the group beginning with Amendment 3 will take place with Amendment 8 or 9, as called. The debate on Amendment 4 will take place with Amendment 5, with the same list of speakers. I hope that that is all clear.

Clause 3: Relevant requirements for the purposes of section 2

Amendment 2

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 17th June 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for rearranging his diary to enable us to complete Committee stage so quickly, the Whips Office for similarly reorganising things so that we can get on with it and, last but not least, the staff of the House for the work they have undertaken, particularly since we kept them here rather later than should have been the case yesterday evening. I am very grateful to them all, particularly my noble friend the Minister, who sat patiently and courteously through a very long and quite testing time yesterday.

I ask my noble friend the Minister’s help in just one thing, which concerns my blood pressure: could he possibly ask his Bill team, when they prepare his speaking notes, not to say, “The Bill is needed because of the pandemic”? The Bill is not needed because of the pandemic. Half the Bill is needed because of the pandemic, and if we were dealing only with that half, we would have been done and dusted and home in time for tea yesterday. As we unpicked and unpacked the Bill yesterday afternoon, we saw how much consideration still needed to be given to the bit of the Bill that has nothing to do with the pandemic. If he could just make that change to his speaking notes, it would do wonders for my blood pressure and, I suspect, for that of many other Members of your Lordships’ House.

Amendment 57 is designed to remedy a gap in the oversight and regulation of pre-packs. I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, for her support on this amendment. I know that my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, whom we will hear from later, probed in a similar way with Amendment 60, which we touched on yesterday afternoon.

During that debate, my noble friend the Minister said that pre-packs were a valuable tool in the insolvency toolkit. He is right that they are valuable but they are open to abuse, which is why I pressed for the House to have a chance to debate pre-packs in a separate group of amendments. First, the treatment and regulation of pre-packs is a loose end in insolvency law and practice. It has been so for 20 years; indeed, it has been a very loose end for the past six years. Secondly, at the margin, if pre-packs continue to grow unregulated, it will undermine the use of moratoriums, which are a much more carefully controlled and regulated way of dealing with company insolvency. Why go through all that if you can go to a pre-pack and therefore, in that sense, undermine the purposes of this Bill?

For those who have come late to the party, I have a few sentences on how pre-packs work, using an example of how the position can be abused. Directors decide that a company is no longer able to trade solvently and will shortly become insolvent. The probable reason is because the company has taken on a lot of debt from previous bad decisions. There are too many creditors and the bank is owed a great deal of money. However, within the company, there is an operational piece that the directors think can be salvaged, so they decide that they will make an offer for that operational piece, without the debts. They approach an administrator and say, “This is what we’d like to do.” They make a nominal offer—maybe only £1 or a similarly trivial sum.

The administrator then takes it on. He or she must decide that this is a fair offer, so it is usually advertised in the paper—usually on a Monday in the Financial Times. If noble Lords look at the Financial Times on a Monday, they will see businesses for sale; those are mostly pre-pack transactions. If no competing offer has been made by the Thursday, the administrator has tested the market and this is therefore the best available offer. The pre-pack can then be completed and the business rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the old, often being run by the same people who got it into trouble in the first place—but, of course, without all the creditors, who have been sloughed off along the way.

As a concept, pre-packs have considerable political appeal. Governments, local Members of Parliament and councillors can trumpet the fact that their actions have saved, say, 200 jobs. However, no one counts the jobs lost or the financial damage done to suppliers, to other firms locally or, indeed, to the Pension Protection Fund, whose position and role was carefully debated yesterday afternoon in relation to moratoriums. Indeed, the Minister kindly sent us an email this morning indicating that the Pension Protection Fund will have a particular place in moratoriums. So what we have is a superficially attractive mechanism but one that, in many cases, because of counterfactual information that you cannot gather, causes more harm than good.

For a number of years, other Members of your Lordships’ House and I pressed Governments of all political persuasions not to be seduced by the attractions of unregulated pre-packs. To their credit, the coalition Government under Vince Cable recognised the problems and set up a review, which was carried out by Teresa Graham and backed by research from the University of Wolverhampton. Six years ago, her 2014 report was accepted by the Government.

Among the report’s recommendations was the establishment of what is known as Pre-Pack Pool Ltd, a company with access to a pool of experienced businessmen who could give a view on whether a proposed pre-pack was fair. They could reach one of only three conclusions: that a proposed transaction was reasonable; that it would be reasonable if changes were made; or that it was unreasonable. The pre-pack pool was established and remains self-funded through charging £800 for each opinion it gives. However—this is the critical weakness in the edifice—reference to it was optional. The results have therefore been entirely predictable. Who wants to pay £800 if they do not have to? The more ruthless and one-sided your proposed pre-pack is, the less likely it is that you will want to refer it to the pool. This device therefore rewards the good guys and does not catch the bad ones.

Now the pre-pack pool is on the edge of collapse. It had only 10 referrals this year, according to an article in the Times. If it collapses, the last vestiges of independent third-party regulation of pre-packs will disappear. Amendment 57 seeks to remedy this problem by making it compulsory to obtain an opinion from the pre-pack pool that a proposed pre-pack is not unreasonable. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe pointed out in her remarks yesterday, the Government had the power to make referrals mandatory under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 but that power has now lapsed. I imagine that she will wish to use her Amendment 60 to review that decision and see what else can be done to reinstate that power.

Finally, I referred in my opening remarks to the possible damage to the flagship change in this Bill: the moratorium. No one—but no one—will prefer to undertake a highly regulated mortarium if they can get away with a virtually unregulated pre-pack.

The potential abuses of pre-packs have long been identified. They were reported on by an inquiry set up by the Government and solutions from that inquiry were accepted by the Government six years ago, yet still nothing has been done. By contrast, we are now rushing through a series of entirely new, untested and potentially controversial changes to our insolvency laws while leaving this loophole unblocked. My amendment closes the loophole and provides for proper regulation in this area.

My noble friend the Minister has an open goal. I hope that he will put the ball in the back of the net. If not—somehow I suspect that he will not—will he tell the House whether the Government are prepared to see the pre-pack pool collapse? No ifs, no buts; if the Government are to bring forward legislation at some point in the future, as is the hallowed phrase, what will we do about the pool in the meantime? I urge him to give a yes or no answer so that we can have some confidence in the way this matter is being tackled through the department’s policies. I beg to move.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, we are aware of a technical problem meaning that those Members who are joining us remotely can hear us but not see us. We are working vigorously to bring about a resolution.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden Portrait Lord Vaux of Harrowden (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I metaphorically rise to support Amendment 57 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and to speak to my very similar Amendment 61. Both relate to pre-packs.

The Minister said yesterday that pre-packs are

“a useful tool that allows businesses and jobs to be saved.”—[Official Report, 16/6/20; col. 2092.]

I do not think that anyone disagrees with that. Equally, few disagree that pre-pack deals with related parties involve clear conflicts of interest and raise serious transparency concerns—speaking of which, I can now see noble Lords, which is a great benefit. Indeed, at Second Reading the Minister directly recognised these concerns.

The 2014 Graham report, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, very clearly set out its findings that related party pre-packs often involve limited, if any, marketing and on average achieve worse outcomes for creditors. There is truth in the perception of creditors being dumped while directors sail on unharmed with their phoenix company.

The Pre Pack Pool was created in 2015 to introduce an element of independent review into connected party pre-packs. The hope was that this could be a voluntary process, but, sadly, this has not worked; only around 10% of pre-packs have been referred. I am afraid this confirms my slightly cynical view of how the insolvency industry works in practice. The Government had the power to fix this, as we have heard, under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, pointed out, this expired two or three weeks ago.

I was initially tempted by her approach, as set out in Amendment 60—which, incidentally, should have been in this group—simply to reinstate the power to regulate. However, the Government did not use that power for five years, so I have limited confidence that they would do so in another year. Anyway, as we debated yesterday, this Bill already has more than enough powers to regulate.

The Minister said at Second Reading that:

“If strengthening of professional standards and the existing regulation do not deliver increased creditor confidence in connected pre-pack sales, the Government will look to bring forward further legislation.”—[Official Report, 9/6/20; col. 1728.]

That was very welcome, but fixing this issue is more urgent than that, given the current situation, and, frankly, it is already clear that professional standards and existing regulations are not working. Yesterday, the Minister praised the ethical and professional standards of the insolvency industry, saying that we should rely on those for independence and so on. That is touchingly naive—that might be the first time anyone has described the Minister in those terms.

Just last week, there were three high-profile pre-packs to related parties, which attracted a high degree of negative publicity. Only one was referred to the pool. Sadly, there are likely to be many more in coming months. Surely the Minister agrees that we should make sure these happen more transparently? As the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has pointed out, we may lose the Pre Pack Pool altogether if we do not take action. It wrote to the Minister to say that it is not sustainable under the current voluntary approach. The industry is also in favour; R3 has said that it would like to see action.

Making referral of connected pre-pack sales to the Pre Pack Pool mandatory in this Bill seems the obvious solution. It is very simple and could start working immediately; no new bodies need to be created and there are no material costs involved. Everything needed already exists. The Pre Pack Pool takes a very light-touch approach and can act quickly, so I strongly urge the Minister to include a clause to this effect in the Bill. It may not be enough in the longer term and we should continue to monitor pre-packs, but making referral mandatory would at least improve transparency with no material cost or complication. It would be very helpful if the Minister could give us his views on the usefulness of the Pre Pack Pool—whether he agrees it is unsustainable on a voluntary basis and whether he thinks it matters if it ceases to exist.

There is one subtle difference between my Amendment 61 and Amendment 57 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson; mine says simply that a connected pre-pack deal cannot go ahead until it has been referred and the Pre Pack Pool has reported. The noble Lord’s amendment is more robust, saying that the report must also be positive. I would be happy with either approach. We need to improve transparency to prevent creditors being unfairly dumped, however we do it.

Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Definitions of “Metre” and “Kilogram”) (Amendment) Order 2020

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle
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Of course I will. I suggest that he writes to them and explains that the great brouhaha about EU bullying was so much nonsense.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, it may be worth remembering that the time recommended for each contribution is three minutes. On that basis, I now call the noble Lord, Lord Wei.

Lord Wei Portrait Lord Wei (Con)
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My Lords, I also thank the Minister for the clarity of his opening remarks. I welcome this change. I am going to disagree with the previous speaker and some of the others, because I believe that there is an interesting nuance to this measure and its context that goes way beyond the debate around the metric system versus imperial.

In fact, it is true to say that Britain and British scientists and thinkers have played a key role in developing the metric system, with the likes of Kelvin and, more recently, Kibble, who developed some of the techniques that have led to the current definitions that we are discussing today. Undoubtedly, in future the accuracy that this change will bring will be of great benefit in many fields: astronomy, quantum physics, computing and telecommunications, as well as more generally in business.

To me, this measure starts to potentially exemplify a positive trend towards decentralising control. No longer will we need to reference a lump of metal in Paris; we can actually develop our own understanding of these measures in laboratories in Britain. I am therefore saddened that the Explanatory Note says that we have to align with Europe in order to develop these standards. We were part of developing this system, so I do not think we necessarily need to reference any other country. In my view, we need to be able to make our own decisions, especially with Brexit, sovereignly about what measures we want to move forwards, and if our choice is to align with international standards then that should be our choice.

I have a question for the Minister: until recently there were apparently only two laboratories in this country that had the instruments to do these measurements. I would be keen to know whether there are more labs that have been equipped, resourced and encouraged to make these measurements on a regular basis around the country, so that we can decentralise even away from London or wherever we take our national standard from, and local communities, local scientists and manufacturers of weight and measurement instruments can actually develop these standards in accordance with the natural norms of the Planck measurement and so on.

I welcome this move and, while I would not say that it is necessarily about internationalism, although it is good to have common standards for trade, I would encourage the Government to give us clarity in the coming months and years on how we will develop our own sovereign decision-making on this. For example, will future decisions on changes are made to this system and others fall under the purview of chief scientists?

Smart Meters

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many smart meters have been installed to date; and whether the installation programme is on target.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, more than 19.3 million smart and advanced meters have been installed in Great Britain as of September 2019. The programme is making progress, with more than 1 million smart meters installed every quarter in 2018 and 2019.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con)
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My Lords, anecdotally at least, the system does not seem to be working as well as originally envisaged, particularly with connections to suppliers and moving smart meters when changing suppliers. Given that we are all paying for this with a supplement to our energy bills, could my noble friend assure us that we are getting value for money?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Baroness is correct to state that there have been some challenges in the rollout of the smart meter programme. I will say no more on that particular point, but there is a recognition that smart meters are vital if we are to meet net zero by 2050. They will remove some 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2034 if they work well, thus also bringing about substantial savings for customers and the nation.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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The Minister’s predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, wrote to me about this in July 2019. He said that the 13 largest energy suppliers had submitted plans to cover the rollout for 2019-20 and that,

“underpinned by a strong evidence base, plans are now in place and define binding milestones that those suppliers will be held to account against in 2019 and 2020.”

Just 18 months since the legislation was passed and seven months since I received that letter, the binding milestones that were in place seem to have gone off again and the target they would have to reach by the end of 2020 has been delayed by four years to the end of 2024. Does the Minister agree that public confidence in the smart meters programme has been badly damaged by the delays and failure of government policy? Can he say what the Government’s current estimate is of how much each household will benefit if and when they get a smart meter 2 that works and is operable? Finally, on a scale of one to 10—popular in the Labour Party these days—how confident is he that households and businesses will have a properly functioning smart meter installed by the end of 2024?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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In order, the answers are no, £175 per year and 10—but I think the noble Lord will want a bit more detail than that, so I will give him that. The important thing is that once smart meters are installed they make a significant difference. People begin to understand what they are consuming in electricity and gas and they see it in pounds and pence, not in kilowatt hours, which are more challenging. The rollout has been difficult, because Great Britain’s housing stock is wide and diverse, as is its topography. That has been a challenge as well. We have been trying to ensure that we learn lessons as we go. We will end up by the end of 2020 with some 27 million smart meters working in households. That will be critical.

Lord Oates Portrait Lord Oates (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that many energy customers discover, on switching energy providers, that their smart meter no longer works with their new provider. Will the Minister tell the House what measures the Government have taken to require energy providers to replace existing non-compatible smart meters, which they seem very reluctant to do? What proportion of installed smart meters are currently estimated to be non-functioning as a result of lack of compatibility?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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We need to recognise that when a smart meter stops being smart, it does not stop being a meter. It still records the consumption of gas and electricity, but it stops being able to tell you what exactly is going on.

Break in Debate

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Sometimes the answer is slightly amusing, I am afraid. In answer to the question about how many such meters exist, out of the current 19.3 million the figure is way too high at 3.1 million. So, moving from SMETS 1 meters, which were the first installed meters, to SMETS 2 is a priority in those areas, and, going forward, the rollout of the second generation, not the first generation, is critical. The key thing, again, is that we are making that progress and we have the commitments to deliver against the targets.

Baroness Browning Portrait Baroness Browning (Con)
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I hope that my noble friend is not losing too much sleep over this, because the prefix “smart”, as far as government policy is concerned, is being questioned across the nation. For example, on reading meters, if we have not educated the last three generations to be able to do a simple multiplication calculation to work out what something times something will mean every quarter, we have seriously failed. Does my noble friend agree that, if people do not understand that to save electricity and gas in their household they simply have to wash on low temperatures and turn the light off when they leave the room, the better policy would have been to have installed slot meters? There is nothing like that to concentrate the mind if you think the electricity is going to go off.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Yes, I agree with all of those things. The smart meter gives you a very visual sign of what you are consuming, and it should be able to highlight when you are consuming at the most expensive part of the day. So, if you are clever and are able to put the two things together, you can reach the point where you make savings as well as reducing carbon emissions.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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Is the Minister aware that, although I am not as smart as I used to be, I am still very suspicious of companies whose main aim is to make profits for their shareholders, when they phone or send messages telling you that you are going to save a lot of money by doing what they are doing? Is it not the case that, in almost everything they do when they say that, they are trying to tie you down so that you do not move to another supplier?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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A sensible supplier will keep a hold of customers by offering the best quality of service. If they do not, I have no doubt that a smart man such as the noble Lord would move quickly to one that is better for him. The reality remains that there are good commercial enterprises and bad commercial enterprises. Bad ones should suffer and good ones should prosper.

Lord Aberdare Portrait Lord Aberdare (CB)
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My Lords, I have tried to have smart meters installed both in London and in Wales. In both cases, when the installers arrived, they found that the combination of the meter’s design and the layout of the space made it impossible to install. Would it be possible to consider whether meters could be not just smart but flexible?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I am sorry to heart that unfortunate news about the meters. There should be a pre-screening stage when you fill in a series of questions regarding your house, the thickness of your walls, the location of your meters and so on. That should give the company an indication of whether it can ultimately install them. However, I will look at that again. If it is not working, it should. That is key to making the process of installation work well.

Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill [HL]

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for securing today’s debate.

This Wednesday, the charity National Energy Action held the Nation’s Biggest Housewarming. While many noble Lords will have attended enjoyable housewarming parties over the years, this event was a bit different; it aimed to highlight all those living in fuel poverty and the importance of having access to a warm, dry, safe home, something I am sure all noble Lords believe in. Therefore, I welcome the Bill’s timely Second Reading, which allows us to shine a light on the NEA’s work and the important issue of fuel poverty. By creating energy-efficient homes, we can tackle both this and the climate crisis.

The noble Lord, Lord Foster, rightly stated that it is all well and good setting high standards for new homes, but improving the energy efficiency of existing homes and housing stock must take priority. I think we all share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that homes being built today will not surpass the energy efficiency and future net-zero targets that are only a decade and a half away. That seems bizarre. My noble friend Lord Whitty clearly outlined the three factors that lead to fuel poverty: household income, expensive bills or tariffs, and the fabric of the building. As he said, we must aim to solve all three factors together.

With a few weeks left of winter, it is shocking to think of how many people remain cold in their own homes up and down the country. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, talked about the choice to wear a jumper. To be fair, he was not talking about fuel poverty but about the properties of people in his area and their choice to put on a jumper, but for many it is not a choice. They cannot afford to heat their homes. They do not choose to put on a jumper or jacket to stop damp coming into the house; they have to do it to stay warm.

According to uSwitch, around 3.5 million UK households live in fuel poverty and are unable to adequately heat their homes. It also found that 1.6 million of these households choose between warming their homes and putting food on the table. The picture is particularly bad in Scotland. Last month, the Scottish Government published figures which showed that 619,000 homes were in fuel poverty in 2018. One in 10 was in extreme fuel poverty. Clearly, this is one of the many areas where the SNP has failed, and its new target of eradicating fuel poverty in 20 years is not nearly ambitious enough.

The worst consequence of this is winter deaths, on which the UK has one of the worst rates in Europe. According to a 2018 study by the NEA, 36,000 deaths over the previous five years could be attributed to conditions relating to living in a cold home. A further 17,000 people are estimated to have died as a direct result of fuel poverty. The NEA has called these deaths “preventable and shameful”, and I could not agree more. Fuel poverty can and must end; it should be addressed together with moving towards net zero.

Turning to energy efficiency, as we have heard, decarbonising heat is a massive challenge for any Government, but it is one we must meet if we are to keep global heating way below the two-degree increase. According to the Committee on Climate Change

“It will be extraordinarily difficult to hit 2050”

net zero

“without a plan in place for heat very quickly.”

Most homes have natural gas-powered boilers, which need to be replaced by electric or hydrogen boilers. Better insulation and more efficient appliances are other avenues to cut emissions and cut bills. The UK FIRES’ report Absolute Zero also stresses how real investment in heat pumps is needed. These are already well established in many other countries, yet heat pump installation remains at very low levels in the UK. Do the Government propose any significant expansion in that area?

The broad aims of the Bill are therefore welcome—I say “broad aims” for the very reason that the noble Lord, Lord Foster, mentioned: the Bill’s reasonableness. It would ensure that the properties of those living in fuel poverty have a minimum EPC band C rating by the end of 2030, and would force the Government to publish and implement a strategy to deliver on these targets. The Bill would enable the Secretary of State to require mortgage lenders to provide information on the energy performance of properties and new requirements concerning the energy efficiency of new heating systems installed in existing properties. As well as this, the Bill would make it a legal requirement for the Government to ensure that as many homes as possible are improved to EPC band C by 2035. However, Labour has called for us to move faster, and for almost all the UK’s 27 million homes to have the highest energy efficiency standards by 2030.

Ultimately, we are discussing this Private Member’s Bill because the Government are not doing enough on fuel poverty. Astonishingly, fuel poverty was not mentioned once in either the Conservative manifesto or the Queen’s Speech. That is despite the Government’s welcome consultation on the fuel poverty strategy, which closed last September. When will a response from the Government be published, and when will they publish their energy White Paper?

The Government have committed to spending £3.8 billion on insulating 2 million social homes, and £2.5 billion on retrofitting 200,000 fuel-poor households. While this is welcome, the spending commitment for social homes is far less than what is needed to fully retrofit a property, and a full retrofit will be offered to only a small fraction of the 3.5 million households in the UK living in fuel poverty. There is also no additional funding for most households. How do the Government plan to cut emissions and bills for the many? Labour has called for the Government to fully fund the retrofit of every low-income property in the country and provide interest-free loans to enable able-to-pay households to do that. We would also introduce a zero-carbon homes standard for all new homes.

In conclusion, everyone has the right to live in a warm and safe home but, sadly, this is not reflected in reality. Both the UK Government and the Scottish Government need to do more to alleviate and get rid of fuel poverty. Excuse the pun, but a lot more energy needs to be put in to eradicate both climate problems and fuel poverty.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting and important discussion on a Bill that addresses an issue which I believe we all care very much about. As we look at the challenges facing the country in ensuring that all are able to live in a warm home, there is no doubt in my mind right now that that is a simple statement of ambition for everyone here.

The Government remain committed to delivering on a heat policy road map, and they will do so very soon indeed. It will look at how to both reduce emissions on buildings and address energy efficiency and will come as part of a series of announcements that we will make as we approach COP 26 in Glasgow in November. That heat policy road map is imminent. However, it cannot come alone; it must come alongside a fuel poverty strategy for England—I cannot on this occasion speak for Scotland. Again, that strategy will come very soon. These two combined policies will set out the series of steps which will be taken to bring us toward taking the necessary step to ensure that we have eliminated fuel poverty and addressed the energy efficiency of buildings in good time on our approach to our ambitious net zero target by 2050.

The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, asked when the White Paper is coming. It will necessarily come first, setting each of these policies and a wider range of policies into a broader context. Again, that is also part of our ambitious complete statement ahead of the Glasgow climate change conference.

On the question of ongoing investment in addressing the quality and durability of homes, we continue to invest some £2.5 billion in capital funding to improve the homes of those on lower incomes, and we are seeking to improve the warm home discount and energy company obligation. Each of these will be necessary.

A great deal has changed since the earlier incarnation of the Bill was introduced in the other place, not least that there has been an election, which is one of the reasons why that Bill did not make progress. In that election, the party of government, to which I belong, made a number of serious commitments in its manifesto, and it is worth while rehearsing what they are. There will be £6.3 billion-worth of upgrade for those in fuel-poor homes, particularly in social housing. We will consult on raising minimum energy performance standards in private rentals—again, as a number of noble Lords mentioned today, private rentals are perhaps the most difficult to reach of all properties, since they are in the hands of a large number of individuals. We will consult on setting requirements for lenders to improve the energy performance, which, again, should help us move in the right direction. Finally, we will consult on phasing out the installation of fossil fuel heating systems in off-gas grid properties—again, trying to get to that hard-to-reach final point in moving this forward.

We are putting forward a number of other policies, some of which touch on issues raised by noble Lords today. On the question of insulation, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, he is quite right. You can have the best insulation, badly installed, and you achieve literally nothing. The problem with that is that if your kitemarked process does not recognise the installation, you could theoretically have a high quality and yet a low reality, and you might never know that, because there is no way to monitor it traditionally inside your own home. Therefore, we are instituting a new trust mark scheme, which should allow us to examine things such as cavity wall insulation to ensure that it is up to standard regarding not just the materials but the installation itself. That should go some of the way forward. We are also putting £5 million into the green home finance innovation to look at other ways in which we can address some of the issues inside homes, and £10 million to examine how best to retrofit.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Errol, questioned how we are able to look at some houses which are listed beyond the ability to address them. To be frank, it is a hornets’ nest to try to look at the whole listing process, but that will need to be done. We are sitting in a Chamber that is surrounded by glass held in by pieces of lead. As this building goes through its retrofit, we have to ask ourselves how it shall achieve the highest possible standard, and what it can expect to achieve in that regard.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked why the number of people who seem to be stuck in fuel poverty does not seem to change year on year. He is right to ask that, and the answer is a more straightforward one, as it is a relative metric. It is always looking at the bottom 10% to 12%, so we will always get a similar sort of figure. However, because what we are measuring inside that will change but the numbers themselves may not, to measure progress within it we need to look at the fuel poverty gap, which is the difference in bills between fuel-poor and not fuel-poor households. The fuel poverty gap fell from £873 million in 2010 to £812 million in 2017—the most recent statistics that we have. I do not think that is enough, if I am being honest, but it is a move in the right direction. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also asked about the renewable heat incentive. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has committed to a replacement for that, but I do not yet know what that replacement will be, so I cannot give him any more detail on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, made a number of serious points. His chairmanship of the Committee on Climate Change is welcome and his contribution is welcome in that regard. Our future home standards will be introduced by 2025. I know that he will quickly say that that is too late, and I understand why he would, but it will require new-build homes to be future-proofed, with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency. As it happens, we are consulting on it right now, and consultation on that particular proposal closes today, so I fear those who have not yet put their thoughts on paper may be a little too late.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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Will my noble friend give way on that point? Can he assure me that in 2025, the new standards will come into operation on any house that is under construction, and not wait for people to have fulfilled their planning period; otherwise, it will not be 2025—as history tells us, it will be 2029?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I will give that commitment; I think I can do that. This may not be in the consultation, but I think that would make perfect sense. We need dates to be meaningful, and 2025 is the meaningful date we are talking about here. If a piece of paper whistles towards me from the Box, noble Lords will realise that I have gone beyond my brief, but I think that at this point that commitment is something I can make—I hope. Yes, I have reassurance from over my shoulder.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked about the radio programme he heard this morning and what tax issue will come forward. I suspect that it is true to say that all of this area is being examined. The Treasury works in mysterious ways: I cannot tell noble Lords exactly what it is thinking about at this moment, but I am sure it is thinking very big thoughts. When it tells us what they are, I shall be very interested to hear them, much the same as the noble Lord.

What I have to come round to, and have been skirting around just now, is that although the Bill itself is welcome in so far as it facilitates this discussion and our debate today, we cannot support it. I appreciate that a number of noble Lords will be disappointed in that regard, but let me explain some of the reasons why we cannot do that today.

The first is that we have strategies coming which will examine this. I thought that was a piece of paper whistling toward me—good, it was not. I am sorry about that; I am distracting myself. The policies that we will be putting out in a matter of a few months will set the strategic direction and set in place within a road map how we will achieve it. The Bill before us would cut across that and reduce our flexibility when that comes forward.

The other aspect of the Bill is that it gives us no new powers or levers. It does not actually help us achieve the ends; it would simply set the framework within which we are to achieve them. Those dates will be contained within the strategies I mentioned. It will be important to ensure that the strategies have clear dates, and we have a road map with commitments which fit into a legal framework to ensure the certainty which underpins the purpose behind the Bill: to allow the building sector to understand what it is up against, what it has to commit to, and, frankly, what it should be exceeding. These should be setting minimum standards, there should not be any limit on their ambitions to move beyond that point.

I do not doubt that the noble Lord will be disappointed to hear that we do not support the Bill, but I can give assurances that in the development of the strategies to come, I would welcome his involvement and that of all Members of the House who have taken an interest in the Bill today. I would also welcome the involvement of Mr Bailey; I was disappointed to hear that he was ill, but would welcome his involvement in this process as the strategies become more robust. I think elements of the Bill will find a new home in the strategy as it manifests itself as a more solid approach.

I appreciate that that is not the outcome many here would have wished for, but I hope that noble Lords will understand why I am saying that. We are in no way seeking to be less than absolutely ambitious in this area, and we will seek to work with all to ensure that our strategy delivers, as this Bill itself would have delivered.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting and informative debate. Inevitably, many of the issues raised are in a sense outwith the Bill, but will have to be addressed if the Bill is to go forward. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Best, raised the need for financial carrots to deal with issues in the private rented sector. He rightly raised the importance of rural-proofing, an issue he knows I am very passionate about following the work we were able to do in your Lordships’ Rural Economy Select Committee. Of course, it is wonderful to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Deben. The House may recall that about two years ago, he spoke after me in a debate and began his contribution by saying how great it was to follow the noble Lord, Lord Foster, who always reminded him why he is not a Liberal Democrat. I am delighted that on this occasion, I have his full support.

He rightly raised, as did other noble Lords, issues about not just existing housing stock, which the Bill deals with, but the vital importance of getting it right for new housebuilding and the need, as others, including my noble friend Lord Teverson, said, to address Part L of the building regulations. I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that his history is slightly wrong in respect of zero-carbon homes. In fact, the policy was introduced—I played a small part in it as a Minister—during the coalition. It was George Osborne and the Conservative Government who removed that policy in 2016. Let us hope that in the strategy referred to by the Minister, zero-carbon homes will be coming back in.

Issues to do with listed buildings were raised, as was the need to revise the EPC, and the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, and others talked about the fuel poor. Various charities are doing excellent work to help them, but we need, above everything, for the Government to be doing far more. It is worth reflecting, as it was mentioned, that if we are to move to low-carbon electricity, if no support is given, the average house bill will go up by £200 per annum, placing an even bigger burden on the fuel poor in particular, so that needs to be addressed.

Of course, I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. I am delighted that the Government will have a clear road map and that there will be a set of strategies to deal with the various issues in the road map. But, frankly, it seems to me that nothing in the Bill can be cutting across what the Government plan to do. It provides in statute legally binding dates by which certain things should be achieved—things that the Minister has admitted are exactly what will be in the strategy. The difference with not putting that in legislation is that it does not provide your Lordships’ House and the other place with the means to hold this and future Governments to account in achieving what noble Lords have demonstrated we desperately want.

I say to the Minister that I am bitterly disappointed and warn him that in that light, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, will be, as she said, nagging him for a very long time to come—a fate that I suspect he would not wish. Nevertheless, I beg to move.

Climate Change

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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This has been an excellent debate on the imperatives of climate change. I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Browne of Ladyton for initiating the debate and throwing down the challenge with the report entitled Absolute Zero by UK FIRES, a research collaboration of five British universities. I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Oates, to his party’s Front Bench.

The report is an excellent critique, with a fresh look at what must be achieved to reverse climate change, set against the parameters outlined by the Committee on Climate Change in its advice to government on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The vast span of these reports is reflected in the number of speakers today, and I thank all contributors for their thoughtful remarks.

It is also interesting to reflect on a third report called Zero Carbon Britain, recently published by the Centre for Alternative Technology, an educational charity dedicated to researching and communicating positive studies for environmental change.

The obvious realisation is how far behind the pace the Conservative Government are. They need to move forward from standing on the shoulders of the giants of the climate change transition movement, especially when they have reversed policies, cut programmes and cancelled projects in the 10 years they have been in unfettered power. Back in May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change reported:

“Current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets.”

That refers to the target of reducing emissions to 80% below the baseline of 1990 by 2050. The committee repeatedly points out that the Government are not even on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

The pace of climate change is quickening. The policy reports from the IPCC and others are piling up, and the Government are dithering. The UK now has the challenge of a net-zero target by 2050. The Government are yet to set policies to achieve this. They have secured COP 26 in Glasgow and are waking up to how vital it is for the international community to begin to make rapid progress on climate change action, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said in their remarks.

The Government must reset the dial after the weekend’s debacle and demonstrate determination by getting on with the agenda, publishing the long-overdue White Paper and the road map across all technologies and sectors of the economy. A wonderful achievement would be for the world leaders to sign up to announcements at the conference to bring international aviation and shipping within the scope of measures to combat climate change.

The international aspects and politics of climate change were reflected in the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and my noble friends Lord Lipsey and Lord Soley. New disasters can trigger conflicts in fragile settings, while climate-related disasters already displace 25 million people annually.

The importance of this report, so ably introduced my noble friend Lord Browne, is that it suggests a further, more ultimate objective. Over time, as progress is made, new horizons, possibilities and imperatives for further progress materialise. If the Government’s pace of response does not speed up, more will have to be achieved with more urgency. It will be a huge challenge even to meet the necessary parameters of the new net-zero legislation, which must be interpreted as a mere staging-post that will have to be replaced with better horizons even before these targets can be reached.

The second message of this report is that plans should build on existing and experienced technologies to be reliable, rather than expecting untried, theoretical technologies to come to the rescue. My noble friend Lord Browne calls this mindset “techno-optimism”. As advised by the CCC, the Government cannot reliably build on carbon capture utilisation and storage as achievable in time when they have not set up any trials or projects that could get the technology going.

That does not mean that the Government should not embark on this and other technologies: all will be needed to power past milestones set by targets such as net zero. The energy mix will change and advance. For example, the UK, a coastal state, has yet to make much progress on tidal power.

The comparison of net zero and the absolute zero of this report, coupled with realistic assessments of timing achievements, is startling. While it calls for incremental change, the report challenges the Government, business and the general public to make strategic change a priority. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, told us, the Stock Exchange and the CBI are already responding to investments set by environmental, societal and governance goals. Further returns to companies, pension funds and investors are being shown to be consistent with this new measure.

All sectors of the economy are assessing their future risk registers with climate change in mind. This includes their employees. As members of the public, they too want to be able to add their contributions through supporting renewable schemes. In this regard, I congratulate the Government on introducing the smart export guarantee scheme for solar PV and other technologies last month.

All speakers highlighted the extent of the challenge that societal changes will make to people’s everyday lives. It was hugely disappointing that the Conservative Government scrapped Labour’s zero-carbon homes. Energy efficiency of homes still remains a huge challenge after the failure of the Green Deal. Citizens Advice said that 92% of survey respondents would be happy to make their homes more energy-efficient to ensure that the UK meets its net zero targets, and 60% of them suggested that they would need support to do this. Some 79% said that they would be happy to change the way they heat their homes; of these, 76% also suggested that they would need some help. This is 60% of all homes—that is, 17 million households.

Still requiring insulation, improved lighting efficiency and a ramping up of the introduction of heat pumps, buildings account for roughly 34% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. My noble friend Lord Whitty reminded us that the Government have all the powers of persuasion through incentives and the tax system, as well as the stick of regulation. In this regard, mayors, local government and councils also have their roles to play. All needs to be bold on the huge challenge of decarbonising heat—a once-in-a-generation challenge, perhaps the biggest since North Sea gas.

While the UK has made progress on adapting and changing sources of power generation, especially through renewables and nuclear, it is way behind on transport, currently the largest source of emissions, which regrettably rose between 2013 and 2017. The Absolute Zero report argues that all transport must either be electrified or phased out. The report also sensibly calls on the Government to focus on scalable technologies and stop giving out mixed messages with contradictory actions. All forms of transport are still works in progress, including aviation and shipping.

To the public, Britain’s railways have been a shambles since the Government’s privatisation agenda, yet the challenge is to integrate not just the UK’s disparate rail network but that of the continent. There is no reason why rail journeys cannot replace all flights where journey times are less than five or six hours, including check-in and other time-consuming activities; travellers can already reach their destinations by rail and cut out these polluting flights. This is a new perspective on the requirement for high-speed rail.

The breadth of topics and areas covered by this report is extensive. It is impossible to do justice in the time available to all the important points drawn out by our speakers today. Climate change sets the parameters within which the Government need to keep up with policies that focus on reducing this one global threat. My noble friend Lord Reid set out the responsibilities of government. The Government need to make headway; they need to respond with ambition, tenacity and encouragement, and this cannot be soon enough. The challenge is to stop polluting the planet. No one can pretend that it will be easy.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, as expected, this has been a wide-ranging debate, covering a great many aspects of energy.

I have before me a big lump of coal, which I picked up on the beach of St Andrews when I was studying geology there many years ago. This has powered a revolution, changed the world and brought poverty under control. It has also begun to create the very issues that we are dealing with right now—some of the most serious issues this planet will ever have to deal with. It sits as a bookend on my desk. I put this piece of coal before me as a reminder that, back in 2015, we said that we would phase out coal by 2025. Today, in 2020, we are going through several weeks at a time with no coal whatever in our electricity generation. Setting a target further away does not mean that you wait until that date arrives; it means that you set your ambition and try to achieve it before then. There is every possibility now that we will reach a situation in which no coal is used in our electricity generation at all, nearly five years ahead of that scheduled date.

I have tried to think of a way of summarising the report. It is like fashion in the 1970s: good in parts, shocking in parts, and in some other bits, not so good at all. The reality is that the things we see in it shock us. They are a reminder that we cannot be complacent. A number of noble Lords today have spoken of their fear of our complacency. A number of others have said that we cannot rely on these breakthrough technologies because—goodness me—they will take so long to reach that point at which the reality of what they can deliver will be manifest. But we have to recognise, as we have with offshore wind and some of the other technologies that we are seeing now ,that we do seem to move them forward faster than expected. I appreciate the challenge in aviation, but I note that the distance between the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and having significant fleets that could cross the Atlantic was far less than 30 years. We are finding that we can see technologies moving faster than expected.

We are not talking about breakthrough technologies. The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, reminded us that, as we look at something such as carbon capture and storage, the real question is often one of scalability. The elements of the technology are in place; what is required now is commitment to deliver against them. If we start looking at bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, we begin to see the movement we might even make towards the negative emissions world. This will not be easy, and it will require investment. Right now, our Government are committed to investing in carbon capture and storage; we have to do that as part of the solution. Look again at the IPPC’s report: it says that carbon capture and storage will be part of the solution. This country is slightly guilty, having put forward £1 billion to address this, but then no one took it up and the £1 billion disappeared. You might therefore think the UK was particularly bad but, as a former MEP, I can tell you that a significant sum of money was put forward for carbon capture and storage across Europe—and no country took it forward. We missed a trick some time ago, but we cannot miss it again and will not do so. This Government are committed to making sure that carbon capture and storage is a significant part of what we do.

Equally, when we look at the emergent technologies within nuclear, it is easy to talk, as many do, of fusion as always being over the horizon. However, we can start looking at different sorts of nuclear now: the small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors. We are putting substantial amounts of money into them, and there is a remembrance that doing so can also begin to change the paradigm. If we set off with the assumption that we cannot do it with these particular technologies, then the report may well be accurate; but the problem is that it is not accurate if these technologies can be developed at scale. We have to grasp that with both hands, particularly in the year of COP 26 in Glasgow. I am struck by how important that event will be for us here in this country to send a message elsewhere.

I was also struck by some of the words of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He is right to remind us of the question of social justice across the globe. It is easy for us here, who dug out the coal and hewed it from the pits to build an Industrial Revolution, to look across the globe at those who still have those resources but will not be able to take them out without the climate experiencing problems. Look at Africa: Botswana sits atop one of the largest untapped coal reserves in the world. Can we tell them “Leave it in the ground”, and that their electricity must therefore come from other sources? Bear in mind that, right now, most of their electricity comes from over the border. It does not even get generated inside that country. The reality is that most of that country does not have electricity at all; people create their energy by burning wood. We have to recognise that there needs to be a fair transition and a just transition.

We in this country have not just talked the talk; we have walked the walk. Since 1990, we have seen a 42% reduction in our emissions. It may be argued that these are low- hanging fruits, but we have still done more than anybody else, alongside a 73% increase in our GDP. That is the message India wants to hear: that they can have economic development and growth by decoupling from emissions. What they do not want to hear is that they will have to put a depressant upon their ability to grow. One of the most frightening things to have in the developing world is for this nation or others to say, “You shall go no further; you must rest where your development is now, because that is what we dictate it must be”. We cannot do that. It will not surprise your Lordships to realise that no country will follow our lead if that is what we say. We must be able to show how to decouple our energy and emissions from our ability to generate economic growth. If we can do that, we will make significant progress.

As we look at the calendar year ahead, this Government will be making statements about the way forward that will take us towards net zero by 2050. I say again net zero, not absolute zero, based upon what the Committee on Climate Change says. That committee was established to advise the Government—whichever party happens to occupy the Government—and we rely upon it to give us the advice that we will go forward with. We will have a number of strategies.

In housing, we will look at the domestic decarbonisation approach and our strategy to deliver this. We will need to do so in tandem with fuel poverty; again, there is no point in decarbonising while making people cold and sick. We need to make sure we go hand-in-hand with that just transition for all the people.

We need to look at a decarbonising strategy inside transport. There, we have a challenge that will not be easy to meet because, in truth, most people do not have an electric car, and we are nowhere near the tipping point where that car will become affordable. Again, we need to find that tipping point and we have a strategy coming out in order to help us deliver that.

There will be an overarching energy White Paper that will look at the bigger decisions that we have to take. Decarbonising domestic heating will be a real challenge. Shall we electrify the entire grid? If we do so, bearing in mind that electricity tends to be more expensive, we need to address fuel poverty head on if that is the case. Or are we looking at putting hydrogen into the grid in a hybrid or pure form? We will resolve that question this year. We will make a decision to determine that and to support the way forward. It will not be an easy transition, however. Underpinning all the things that we have spoken about today is the question of who will pay. The answer is that we will all pay. Either as consumers or taxpayers, the same individuals will pay, whether through the tax code or ultimately through bills. We need to recognise that.

Also this year we will have to address the issue of agriculture. My noble friend Lord Caithness was very clear. He basically asked what message we were seeking to send to our own farmers. If the message as we approach the distant point of 2050 and have not met the target is simply that there will be no more sheep on the hillsides and no cattle at all, we are not sending a message that helps them build and grow. So, again, we must look at what the EU will do and what the UK will do. There needs to be a support structure in place to help our farmers address the emission challenges. We need to recognise that that will not be straightforward. It will not be easy and there will be a cost that will need to be met. But we have to encourage them to do that. Again, the Agriculture Bill coming forward will be necessary to do that.

There will need to be a peatlands strategy. The last thing we want in Scotland, Wales or the north of England is our peatlands drying out. We sometimes forget how important the carbon sinks are. A number of noble Lords spoke about that. If we find ourselves in a situation where that is possible, we need to find a way of addressing it. There will be an English tree strategy—which sounds slightly niche, but it is about not just one tree but a whole, wide forest. The Government have made a commitment to plant the Northumberland forest.

Some may say that forests are a little like the notion in the Catholic Church of someone praying for your sins on your behalf—I look to the right reverend Prelate on that, although I am not suggesting that it is perpetuating it. But we have to recognise that afforestation will have a significant part to play, not just in the sequestration of carbon but in biodiversity. Restoring quality forest will matter—not just plantation forests. That could make a significant difference.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that we were sometimes guilty of not speaking enough about Italy. Of course, we are co-hosts of COP this year and it is important to stress that we are working in collaboration with Italy. We will be doing significant events with Italy, whose focus this year will be on Africa and youth. We are working in collaboration with Italy to ensure that COP 26 going forward recognises both those things.

The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, posed a question about ice and seeing the end of ice. The albedo effect is absolutely critical in the way that we address warming and we need to ensure that we do all we can to preserve the ice structures that we presently have. That will perhaps be the biggest test that we have, and some will say that it might be beyond our ability because of the systems inherent in the ice itself. I do not believe that that is necessarily true.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was very helpful with a number of the points that he raised. He was supportive of the Government. I am not sure his Chief Whip will be smiling at him, but I none the less recognise that the statements he made were helpful. The Government have done a significant amount, particularly in relation to companies and the register at Companies House, to ensure that people are now on track to record the wider question of energy usage. He asked whether that could be done electronically. I see no reason why it cannot, so I will give a tentative commitment to say that I will explore that as strongly as I can to see if we can do it. I am sure that I will quickly receive a letter from the Box if I am wrong, but I happily commit to that in the short term.

The noble Lord, Lord Reid, is often very specific in the way that he puts his points. He spoke about the dislocate between what a scientist might say and what an economist might say. I remember an old joke. When different people on a desert island were asked how they would escape, the scientist explained how he would build a boat. When asked the same question, the economist said, “First, assume you have a boat”. The problem with economists is that often they have a very different way of looking at things. We need to be talking about science, and the Government’s policy needs to rest on science. It cannot rest on the idea that economics will drive this forward. There needs to be a balance between them.

I have been told that I have one minute to finish, which seems a limited amount. I will say two things to end: the net-zero approach is important and we are a global leader in that. The challenge will be to get others to come alongside in this year of climate action, not least the European Union to join us in the same endeavour—that will be important. We need to be able to show that our technologies are scalable at home and deliverable abroad. They need to be available to the rest of the globe, so that the globe can enjoy the benefits of our technological achievements and scientific advances. If we can do that, we can make progress.

The important point—the Banquo’s ghost of this discussion—is that finance will be at the heart of decarbonising the globe. In doubling our commitment to the International Climate Fund to £11.7 billion, we are making a substantial commitment. We invite other countries to do the same. That money will be used for mitigation and adaptation, in order to address the climate and also climate consequences. We need more money to do that going forward, otherwise it will be a very different world a lot sooner than 2050, because we are living through real change now.

I fear that I have not been able to answer all the questions that have been put today, but I am against a tighter timetable than I had anticipated. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I have not. I am happy to commit to writing at any point in answer to these questions. I will give the rest of the time to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, whom I thank for bringing the debate before us. It has been a useful discussion and I hope that he will be able to use the time I can give him to complete his journey.

Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton
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My Lords, I knew when I secured this debate that it would be a good one. It is a privilege to be a Member of this House, where so many noble Lords know so much and are so willing to share that knowledge. It has been a pleasure to listen to so many interesting and informative speeches and I have learned from them. In thanking all noble Lords who have contributed, including the Minister, whom I will come back to in a moment, I hope they will forgive me if I do not engage with individual points; I intend to reflect on the debate.

At the outset, I said that I hoped to generate a debate. I will be true to that. I have the benefit in UK FIRES of some of the best minds in the country to reflect on what was said and to advise me. To some degree, because of reactions that I would not have had otherwise to the debate, they can fact-check some of the things that have been said. I will respond in detail and encourage UK FIRES to publish that on its website. It has an open-portal website that invites conversations. If I cannot persuade Parliament to open such portals, I will continue this debate in that way, if noble Lords will permit me, and they can engage further.

I thank the Minister, who did not let me down. He made a spirited defence of techno-optimism. He gave us comprehensive lists, which he will be held to, of the Government’s aspirations—the things they will do and the challenges that, if not met, will have bad consequences that will have to be engaged with. I will do my best to keep him to them and he will thank me for it.

I will try to encourage the scientists to have a wee bit more political sensitivity. It is important that they have a bit of political sensitivity, but I shall say, “Everything that I want you to do, I want you to do against the standard that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has challenged his diocesan parishioners with.” I will ask them not to worry about us and not to worry about the difficulties that other people will have in living up to what they need to do. I will ask them just to place care for the earth at the top of their agenda.

Motion agreed.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to publish their policies to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 ahead of the United Nations Climate Change conference to be held in Glasgow in November.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, 2020 will be a vital year for climate action and we will set out our ambitious plans in the run-up to COP 26 through a number of sectoral strategies, including the transport decarbonisation plan, the energy White Paper and the building strategy.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. I have Claire O’Neill’s letter here and, quite honestly, it is such a rich source of information on the process so far that I do not really know where to start. I just say that so far I have seen nothing from this Government in terms of vision or strength of purpose that will actually deliver what they are promising by November. I wonder where they are going to get those ideas and vision from.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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We have the vision. This year, significant steps will have to be declared. There will be an energy White Paper in a matter of weeks. Following thereafter will be a transportation decarbonisation plan, a heat policy road map, an English tree strategy, an aviation consultation, a net-zero consultation and a building strategy, as well as a fuel poverty strategy. These will fit into the timeline taking us toward COP 26 in Glasgow. The important thing for the noble Baroness and all here is the opportunity to discuss this further. I commit my department to meet regularly to discuss the emerging policies on the road to COP 26.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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Is it not important that the Government set out a clear plan? For example, in the motor industry, people need a long lead time for production. To suddenly discover that hybrids will not be allowed and that the date has been brought forward makes things extremely difficult. Surely the Government have to work with manufacturers and give clarity, because these things cannot be achieved overnight.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is of course absolutely right. There will be clarity and, needfully, ambition. We need to be more ambitious than we have been to date to hit the targets of net zero by 2050.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, there have been some reports that the Government are considering moving the conference away from Glasgow. Can the Minister confirm that that is not the case?

Break in Debate

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Never will it be moved away, not that I will never confirm.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, COP 15 back in 2009 was organised by the Danish Government in Copenhagen. It was chaotic and Denmark suffered humiliation globally—I must put it as strongly as that. We do not know who is leading for our country, there are question marks about the location and we are supposed to be chairing the conference partly with Italy, so there are many unknowns. My question is simple: do the Government understand that if they do not get this right and the conference is chaotic, this country will be humiliated on the global stage?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The stakes could not be higher. The question of who is to lead on this issue is simple: the Prime Minister will set the direction and the pace. The question of who delivers that has yet to be put in place, but the important thing to recognise is that there are fewer than 7,000 hours until we reach that point. The strategy we put in place will deliver, but equally we must ensure that other nations are able to step up to the plate and deliver alongside us. Even if we reach net zero tomorrow, the problem will remain. We must do more to bring others alongside.

Lord Broers Portrait Lord Broers (CB)
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My Lords, I have a straightforward question. We have made good progress on decarbonising our electricity, but 50% is still generated using methods that produce carbon dioxide. While we are doing that, everything using electricity, including of course electric cars, will still emit carbon dioxide. When do the Government plan to completely decarbonise electricity generation, what combination of nuclear and renewables will be used, and can they give us a guarantee that the lights will not go out when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I come from Scotland; the sun does not shine very often but the wind does indeed blow. It is important to stress that we have powered past coal and it is no longer a vital part of our electricity generation. As we begin to decarbonise domestic heating and our transport fleet, the real challenge is that the demand for electricity will grow so we will need to find innovations. We are already a world leader in offshore wind, but we will need to look at nuclear and decarbonising hydrocarbons through carbon capture, utilisation and storage. However, the lights will not go off.

Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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My Lords, as we move from heating by gas to heating by electricity, will my noble friend bear something in mind? As you move north, it gets colder, heating bills are higher and incomes are lower, so those bills make up a higher proportion of people’s incomes. Heating by electricity costs four times as much per thermal unit as heating by gas. Does he think that people in the red wall voted to quadruple their heating bills?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is right to remind us that the challenge we face as we move to decarbonise our domestic heating is real. The question of whether we move towards full electrification or whether we move towards hydrogen or a hybrid option is yet to be determined. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that we cannot increase fuel poverty as a consequence of the choices we make. This Government are not about making people poorer in order to reduce carbon dioxide levels.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
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My Lords, given that millions of homes, schools, hospitals and factories in this country are heated by gas and discharge carbon dioxide, what timescale have the Government set for the necessary changes to be made, and who is going to foot the bill?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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There are three elements to that. The first is that we need to decarbonise domestic heating, which is a real challenge. Most people still heat their homes by gas; I include myself. We need to make a choice between electricity or a potential hydrogen hybrid. The second element is that we must try to be more efficient in the way that we use our electricity. Finally, on the question of who will ultimately pay for this, I am afraid that there is no easy answer. Ultimately, it will be the people of Great Britain. We need to recognise that, to ensure that those affected by fuel poverty do not bear the brunt of the costs.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that the devolved Administrations will be officially represented at the conference in Glasgow? Can he also give us some idea of when a chairman will be designated? My noble friend would be an admirable candidate, as would my noble friend Lord Goldsmith.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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We await the call. Who knows? My noble friend is right to ask when there will be a new COP chairman. I suspect that the Prime Minister will look at that as part of the wider re-examination of Government. Our relationships with the devolved Administrations are absolutely vital, as is our relationship with the great city of Glasgow itself. It is a great city in which to conduct this climate change conference.

Post Office: Prosecution Powers

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Portrait Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent assessment they have made of the Post Office’s powers to conduct prosecutions.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, the Post Office’s powers to bring a private prosecution, which fall under Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, are not specific to that company. It has the same right as any other person, whether an individual or a company, to bring a private prosecution.

Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Portrait Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Last year, the Post Office had to settle litigation brought by 555 sub-postmasters at a cost to it of nearly £60 million. The Court of Appeal described the Post Office as treating sub-postmasters

“in capricious or arbitrary ways which would not be unfamiliar to a mid-Victorian factory-owner.”

The judge at first instance held that a Post Office director had set out to mislead him. How can such an organisation possibly conduct its own prosecutions when it cannot command the trust of the courts or, indeed, of the country?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend raises challenging points. I must stress that the leadership of the Post Office got it badly wrong and, as a consequence of those actions, people have experienced unfortunate situations. That has changed. There has been a change in culture, a new chief executive and a new recognition that the old ways of doing things cannot go on. That is why the Minister responsible in my department, Kelly Tolhurst, now has quarterly meetings with the National Federation of SubPostmasters as a way of ensuring a better relationship with those who are at the sharp end of the Post Office.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD)
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My Lords, this is far more than “unfortunate”; it is a shocking story of obfuscation, cover-ups and downright abuse of sub-postmasters—the face of arguably the most trusted brand in this country—by the most senior people running it, yet they were able to do this because they had the power to conduct their own prosecutions with no independent assessment of the case for the defence or the prosecution. Can I therefore I join the sub-postmasters in asking the Government to review this and other issues that this sorry case has thrown up through a full, independent public inquiry?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The individuals affected are indeed the face of the Post Office in towns and villages up and down the land. The situation which arose was unacceptable and the courts have shown that. There needs to be manifest change in the way the Post Office does business and a recognition that that way is not acceptable going forward. We will be doing things differently; we will bring in a new national framework to ensure that the past situation cannot be repeated. This is the time for us to bring about the real change which is required right now.

Lord Morris of Aberavon Portrait Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab)
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My Lords, when I was a law officer, we brought most governmental and quasi-governmental organisations which did prosecute under the supervision of the Attorney-General. Would that be appropriate in this case?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I suspect that it will be quite some time before the Post Office embarks upon another adventure of this sort, for many obvious reasons. We need to recognise that a number of manifest failures led to this situation. These need to be understood, and they are being by the new culture inside the Post Office. The reality remains that the Post Office got it wrong. For that, there needs to be a serious change, and at the heart of it must be not just profits but recognising the role of the sub-postmasters themselves.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, as the Minister responsible at the time, I was uneasy because it involved claims of dishonesty by apparently honest citizens. I therefore advised the Post Office to take outside legal counsel to try and get at the truth. Now that we have reached the present stage, what arrangements for compensation have been, are still being or will be made for those affected?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is right to draw attention to this. As my noble friend Lord Arbuthnot said at the outset, there will be a settlement of nearly £60 million for those who brought the class action itself. There will also need to be individual criminal examination for those who have experienced the sharpest end of the law. I cannot comment on these matters, but I recognise how important they are to bring about the justice required.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, there are a number of points to pick up on, but I will focus on the £60 million. How much of that will the sub-postmasters themselves receive? My understanding is that, unlike in many other cases, the legal fees have to come out of that £60 million, which is one of the reasons for the settlement. Some clarification of how much the sub-postmasters themselves will receive would be welcomed by all.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The simple answer to that question is: not enough. The reality is that perhaps only a fraction of the money which has been won in this court case—around £12 million of the £60 million—will end up in the pockets of the sub-postmasters. That is a shocking realisation but it is, unfortunately, the answer to the noble Lord’s question.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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My Lords, what action are the Government going to take against the people who were running the Post Office when all this was going on? Have they just been moved to another job and got promotion, or will some action be taken against them? As other noble Lords have said, people have died, committed suicide and lost their businesses.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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There is a new chief executive and a new regime is in place. I cannot comment on the individuals who were in positions of power during that time because I simply do not have the answer. I recognise the anger the noble Lord brings to his question, and that it is shared by the House today.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
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My Lords, the department has a representative on the board of directors. What is his exact role?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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We have a non-executive director who is responsible for representing the department and the Government. His role has evolved from a perhaps more passive approach to a much more active one going forward. We have to have a much stronger view about how we manage this area, through the chief executive, the chairman and the non-executive director with responsibility for governance and clear adherence to the responsibilities of the board itself.

Lord Bichard Portrait Lord Bichard (CB)
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My Lords, a large corporate organisation such as the Post Office can always point to the fact that it has changed its ways and things will be better in future. Some of these people have lost their lives; £12 million compensation does not seem enough. In fact, no financial compensation would seem enough. Is the Minister satisfied that these people are getting due recompense?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Those who have lost their lives could not possibly get due recompense throughout this process, no matter what the answer might have been. The situation is clear: during a significant period in the history of the Post Office, wrongdoing took place. It has admitted that it got it wrong and it is bringing about change now. I do not believe you can compensate adequately for those who have lost their lives.

Business Confidence

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Confederation of British Industry’s Quarterly Industrial Trends Survey, published on 22 January, and its findings on business confidence.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention to the latest survey by the CBI, which shows a sharp increase in business optimism from minus 44% to plus 23%, the largest increase on record. Although we should always be careful not to overinterpret a single survey result, this brings business confidence back to its highest level since April 2014. It coincides with the recent withdrawal agreement, providing the clarity that businesses needed during the transition period until December 2020.

Lord Borwick Portrait Lord Borwick (Con)
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Does my noble friend the Minister agree that such a dramatic increase in business confidence would normally be expected to be followed by an increase in capital investment in those businesses, an increase in employment and general improvement in the standards of the economy?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord will not be surprised to know that I agree with him on those points. It is important to stress, as Dr Johnson once said:

“Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”

Now that we have a situation where that confidence can grow, we are already in a good place. We already have record levels of employment and record levels of unemployment; we already have faster growth anticipated in our country than in Germany, Japan or Italy; we already see the signs whereby we can begin those great undertakings.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
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My Lords, it is not all sweetness and light, as the noble Lord would wish us to see. The report to which the Question refers also carries a health warning, which the Government should listen to. I am sure the Minister will have read it carefully and will have a response, but can he give specific answers to the core points raised later in the report, which goes on to state:

“the sector is not yet out of the woods in terms of performance, which means that this optimism could prove to be short-lived unless the government … help address underlying issues holding back manufacturers”?

The list is long, but it includes addressing skills shortages and improving productivity. We have been told to expect government action on sustainability and climate change—indeed, we are anxiously waiting for that—but what practical steps will the Government take to address skills shortages and to increase productivity, which is now more than 30% behind that in the US and around 10% to 15% behind that in Germany?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The first thing to note is that the report is positive, and the CBI has not always been the most positive in its analysis of the Government’s activities. Secondly, we have anticipated a number of the issues which the report has flagged up, not least productivity and investment in SMEs. In the calendar year ahead, we shall look at how to move these areas from where they are now to help them grow. I am tempted to cite Chauncey Gardiner on the notion that as long as the roots are still in the soil then all will be well in the garden. That might be a little optimistic because the year ahead will be a challenge, but the same thing is true: we have opportunities ahead which will do us well.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister is right to be slightly more cautious than the questioner on the status of this data, because I am sure that he knows that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, for example, will publish its monthly statistics on Thursday. Undoubtedly, although we do not know what the numbers will be, they will be massively less than the record numbers for what they were able to build in this country some time earlier. Given what the Chancellor has said about regulatory alignment, how much confidence or optimism can the automotive industry have that its supply chains will still be operating this time next year?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I do have confidence. I am wearing my summer suit right now, but I also have an umbrella. Looking to the year ahead, it is important to recognise that some serious negotiations are to be done to ensure that the supply chains work. That will be part of the approach in the ongoing negotiations which will benefit both sides.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that this news from the CBI is very welcome and proof positive that it has been consistently wrong in its predictions of gloom and doom arising from our decision to leave the European Union? Is it not the case that that confidence has come because of the leadership provided by the Prime Minister?

Break in Debate

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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Is it not also the case that the questions and jeering from the other side of the House, with its continuing sniping, are not in the interests of this country, and that it is time we all pulled together in the interests of UK Ltd?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is of course entirely correct. As long as we are all pulling on the rope in the same direction, we can achieve great things. Even the CBI appears occasionally to be pulling on the same rope.

Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler)
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The noble Lord seems to have silenced the whole House. We now come to a series of First Readings.

Horizon 2020

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to continue participation in the Horizon 2020 programme beyond the Brexit transition period.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, the terms of the withdrawal agreement mean that the UK will continue to participate in EU programmes financed by the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework until their closure. UK scientists, researchers and businesses can continue to participate in these programmes and receive EU grant funding until the end of 2020 and for the lifetime of individual projects.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am slightly disappointed by the Minister’s response. Given the Government’s correct ambition to double R&D spend by 2027, in a post-Brexit UK would he agree that we should seek an association agreement with Horizon Europe? Given that the withdrawal agreement has been signed, can he outline the negotiation timetable for our participation in the Horizon programme so that universities can begin to plan research for 2021 and beyond?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord makes an interesting point. He will recall that when Horizon 2020 was being negotiated this time seven years ago a significant effort was made by the EU to cut the funding in order to put more money into agriculture. One of my colleagues, Vicky Ford, now an MP, managed to stop that cut being so significant. We are at that delicate stage now. Horizon Europe has not yet been determined and we cannot therefore be sure exactly what it will look like or how we can engage with it until the EU has completed those operations.

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

My Lords, the Minister has made clear the position on Horizon 2020, but the position on Horizon Europe is exercising the minds of researchers in this country. The proposed budget is about €100 billion. Can the Minister guarantee that, whether or not we are inside that deal, research organisations in this country which would have benefited will continue to benefit by at least as much as the share they would have got from Horizon Europe?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The important thing to stress is that the EU has not yet determined Horizon Europe and the most important sticking point remains the budget. It is the Government’s commitment to have an association agreement to ensure that scientists and all within that area going forward are able to participate fully and are able to get full value for money, just as the EU will get full value from us through such an association agreement.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend may be anticipating that Horizon Europe’s budget, as it is discussed in the year ahead of us, may well be less than €100 billion. There are many stories suggesting that it will be in the region of €88 billion to €90 billion. The question then is whether in the course of the months ahead we should be seeking participation in Horizon Europe on the basis that the funds that we provide—I think we have provided about 11% of the funds of Horizon 2020—would be additional to what the European Union commits from its own budget, thereby getting Horizon Europe potentially back to €100 billion in total.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is absolutely right. We have been a vital participant in the Horizon programmes and their predecessor framework programmes. There is no doubt that going forward our participation will make them work better, and the negotiations must therefore deliver against that objective.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, will the Minister give a really clear assurance that, when the negotiations on the next relationship between the UK and the EU start in March, the British Government will put on the table their desire to co-operate with the Horizon programme and their proposals for doing so? The new programme may not yet have been funded but you can bet it has been negotiated.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is absolutely right. We have been very clear thus far that we wish to participate going forward. The nature of the association agreement will be subject to those ongoing negotiations, but for scientists on both sides of the channel and of the Irish Sea, our collaboration is as vital now as it has ever been.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Britain pays about 11% into this programme but it gets a lot more out. How much extra benefit is derived from the extra resources that we get from Europe?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is right. The fund is based on excellence. British scientists are excellent and we therefore get significant benefit from the programme. We collaborate at the highest possible level and are able to deliver science at the highest possible level, and that is therefore a benefit to our university system and more broadly. It is very difficult to quantify but I do not think that there is a single scientist in our universities who would not applaud and recognise that.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
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My Lords, British scientists are indeed excellent but that is partly because they can collaborate with European scientists. What assurances can the noble Lord give that those collaborations will continue after we leave the EU?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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It is difficult to comment on specific collaborations but I stress that British scientists and academics and our university system are all excellent. Collaboration is therefore of mutual benefit to both sides of this issue.

Baroness Kramer Portrait Baroness Kramer (LD)
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My Lords, to the best of my understanding, British scientists and institutions frequently lead on these collaborations. There has been a significant concern that, although those institutions might be allowed to participate in the future, their opportunities to lead will be greatly diminished. That means that leading scientists who always want to be part of the lead group will seek other opportunities.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I always believe that those best equipped to lead should lead, whether that be within the EU or across the wider globe. There has been a decline in our participation, and that is a measure of what we have been going through of late, but the excellence remains and the leadership should remain with the excellent.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con)
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Has my noble friend noticed that a lot of the perfectly reasonable questions that he has addressed have been trying to second-guess what will happen in the negotiations. Surely, now that we are leaving the EU, we will be able to co-operate with our friends and neighbours across the channel on all these programmes, including Horizon.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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This Government intend to continue with an association agreement. Science is vital and it must therefore be worked on with the best possible collaboration. That is our ambition. It is what we will seek to deliver in the negotiations and we will be judged accordingly.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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Quite rightly, we hear a lot about the importance of collaboration with our European friends. I have not done the calculation but there must be about 150 countries that are not within the European Union. How do we manage to collaborate on scientific and other matters with those countries?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is correct. In a number of areas the UK is a global leader; in others it is the US. We have a number of the leading journals on science and other subjects. In terms of excellence, more universities in the top 20 are in Scotland than in the rest of the EU. We are an excellent nation and we have excellent universities, and we are collaborating across a wide range of the globe.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, one reason for our strong science base is our life sciences. The Minister will know that part of that depends on the interrelationship with the pharmaceutical industry and the investment that it puts into R&D. If we are to be non-aligned with the EU, many new drug developments in the UK will be at risk, because no company will want a licence in the UK before obtaining a European licence. Is that being factored into the discussions in relation to the European Medicines Agency and our own MHRA?

Gift Vouchers

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Baroness Hollins Portrait Baroness Hollins
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for (1) prohibiting expiry dates on gift vouchers, (2) requiring retailers to notify purchasers of any expiry dates, and (3) requiring retailers to publish the proportion of vouchers sold that are not redeemed.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government strongly encourage businesses to be transparent with consumers over voucher expiry dates. This is backed by legislation which enables consumers to challenge unfair terms. Many retailers offer vouchers which do not expire and, where expiry dates are used, we strongly encourage businesses to stipulate at least two years. There are no plans for further legislation.

Baroness Hollins Portrait Baroness Hollins (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful Answer. How many noble Lords are aware of people with date-expired gift cards at home, people whom the Competition and Markets Authority defines as vulnerable consumers, perhaps elderly or with learning difficulties? Will the Government consider emulating Ireland’s Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Act 2019? That mandates a minimum five-year expiry date for all gift vouchers, and for the expiry date to be clearly communicated to the consumer on the voucher, not just in small print on the receipt, which is usually held by the purchaser.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Baroness was kind enough to meet me yesterday. I now appreciate more fully the issues she raises regarding vulnerability, the elderly and those with learning disabilities. We have in the past worked with the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association. After this discussion, if the noble Baroness is willing, I will put the Hansard record of this Question to it, to encourage it again to strengthen the information which it puts on the cards and consider how to address this quite complicated but none the less important issue.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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Is my noble friend aware that for those of us who are grandparents, gift vouchers are a very useful gift which the receiver can choose what they do with? Would it not be impossible for the retailer to indicate to the consumer when they buy the gift voucher exactly when it expires? I declare an interest, having a daughter who runs a very successful cookware shop. I cannot see how, when she is serving customers, she would have the time to emphasise on each occasion a gift voucher is purchased that it has an expiry date.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I must admit that since my grandparents passed away, I have not received a postal order. I am aware that the challenge is that the gift voucher is often given but the details are held by the purchaser. There is a dislocation between what is on the voucher and what is on its receipt. That is why, in working with the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association, I would like there to be a stronger connection between the voucher itself and the information about it, which should be readily determined. I strongly encourage the association to ensure this.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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My Lords, given that it is possible to make changes so that there can be clearer identification regarding the voucher, the purchaser and the person who receives it, is it not possible to develop a system in which we can try to persuade better corporate responsibility, so that if in fact a voucher is not redeemed its cash equivalent is paid to a charity?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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That is an interesting idea. I will take it away and give it further thought.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD)
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My Lords, although unexpired and unused, my One4all gift card that was originally worth £40 is now worth only £25.60. I discovered in the small print that each month after 18 months an inactive balance charge of 90p is deducted from the card. Other owners of the cards have described this as a scam and, not surprisingly, 68% of users have given them the lowest possible rating on Trustpilot. I am not asking for the Minister’s sympathy, but can he at least tell us who makes the rules that enable that to happen and say whether they should be changed?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I do indeed offer sympathy to the noble Lord for his heartfelt pain in this regard. He is correct: certain voucher providers will, through inactivity, seek to deduct money from the value. There is a recognition that a card can be part of the bottom line of a company only once it has been redeemed or the expiry date has passed, so there is a logic there. However, the very act of penalising somebody for not using their card sounds both pernicious and unpleasant.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, why should there be any limit whatever on a voucher? After someone has passed their money over to a shopkeeper and the shopkeeper has given them a receipt for goods to buy at a later date, why should they not be able to use it whenever they want?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The logic seems to be there but the reality is that the provider of the voucher cannot add the value to their bottom line—they cannot redeem its value—until either after the expiry date or the voucher is used. Large companies can often extend the expiry period for five to 10 years, but smaller companies would struggle to do so as they would simply lose the money and not be able to recoup it in due course.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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As a former retailer, I remember debates about the accounting treatment of these vouchers. However, I want to make a different point concerning competitiveness. Often vouchers are for British stores, but a modern move is to give people vouchers for major US internet retailers. I worry that, if we were to bring in new regulation, that trend might be encouraged and some of our smaller retailers that we try to shop at would be affected.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is correct. It is a challenge when we live in an internet age that connects the global marketplace in a competitive sense with smaller businesses on the high street, so we need to be cautious. However, I hope that any rules in this regard would be of the highest possible standard to ensure that people who received gift vouchers did not find themselves penalised by holding them.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, I looked in my wallet before coming to this debate and noticed that I had two gift vouchers from Christmas. I am not quite sure what they say about me: one is for Greggs, the bakers, and one is for Waterstones. Nitecrest has estimated that 98.6% of gift vouchers are spent within the first year, but since the market for gift vouchers is worth around £6 billion, that means that about £84 million is not spent within the first year. Do the Government know what proportion of people who fail to spend their gift vouchers come from low-income households? If they have the answer to that, what measures, if any, are they looking to take to help support consumers and customers?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord clearly has kind friends who give him Greggs vouchers and Waterstones vouchers: food for the heart and for the mind. At present, some £300 million in gift vouchers per year is unclaimed out of a £6 billion retail offering. Quite often they are lost—they have not been redeemed because they have simply been misplaced. I do not have the figures, and I do not believe the figures have been gathered, on those who come from low-income families, but I recognise that this is still 5% of the overall market, which is way too high. We need to find a way to ensure that the value of these products is not lost, particularly when low-income households are affected.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
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My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. Has the Minister considered the position when vouchers are purchased in good faith from organisations that promise experiences of various sorts, but when the recipients of those vouchers try to redeem them they find there are specific circumstances in which the experience has to take place, be it skydiving—not something that I personally wish to indulge in, in consideration of the security of everyone below—or whatever bizarre thing people might wish to do? Has the Minister considered whether there should be some expectation on those selling these vouchers that they are genuinely redeemable?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Part of the problem with the experience voucher is that it is often specific and limited within a given season or period. I suspect that skydiving is more limited to the summer months so, should noble Lords wish to experience that, their time is yet to come. I recognise that the experiences need to be much more transparent to ensure that those vouchers can be redeemed within the allotted time and those experiences are fully enjoyed—even for those underneath the skydivers.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Monday 20th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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My Lords, I have an apology to make to start with: I am so sorry that Wales sent Henry VII and Henry VIII through to Westminster to impose the sorts of powers that are now being used in the way they are. Henry VIII was also responsible for the Acts of Union, and I am sorry about that as well.

With regard to Wales, quite clearly these powers are being drawn up in a way that is, at best, cack-handed and, at worst, causing immense reaction in the National Assembly. It is no overstatement to say that Members across party divides in the National Assembly are seething about these powers being brought forward. It follows two years of discussion and debate about fears of a power grab, with powers being taken away from the National Assembly, and indeed possibly from the Scottish Parliament—no doubt Scottish Members of this Chamber can speak up for themselves on the situation there, although I must admit that I have heard very few Scottish voices in these debates. However, as far as Wales is concerned, there is real fear that, in areas such as agriculture and on the question of the single market and the purchasing power of the Assembly, powers may be taken back. That might be done on the pretext of their being necessary for the UK single market, or possibly for other reasons.

Given that there has been co-operation in Wales across party boundaries to make sure that the settlement we have is worked out in a sensible way and progressive additional powers have been given, and, by and large, that successive Governments in Wales have worked in collaboration with Governments in London, for this clause to be put forward in this way is, frankly, not acceptable. The Government of Wales Act could itself be amended, or even overturned. How on earth can these powers be necessary when there are other ways of achieving the objectives the Government may have in the context of international treaties, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, mentioned a few moments ago?

I beg the Government to look again at this. They are stoking up unnecessary conflict between Cardiff and Westminster. There may well be areas where we will have conflict and differences of opinion, so, for goodness’ sake, do not do it gratuitously. I ask the Minister to look seriously at this again and, if he cannot accept these amendments, to bring forward amendments on Third Reading to deal with this situation.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Forgive me, my Lords—I was too premature in eating my Polo Mints; I will save them for later.

As expected, this has been quite a technical debate, and I will do what I can to offer further details on some of the elements I have spoken of. The first thing I should stress to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is that the letter was sent to his Whips for onward distribution; it would have gone there on Thursday of last week, and I believe that the same is true for those on the Labour Benches. The letter has been sent out and made available. I am very happy to resend it, so that he can have the details, and I will not belabour the House by reading it out again.

At issue in this debate is the question of the scope and depth of the powers, and we have heard much reference to Henry VIII. I emphasise that Clauses 21 and 22 are required to enable both the UK and the devolved Administrations to fully implement the Northern Ireland protocol. Secondary legislation will be needed to further implement certain elements of that protocol before December 2020, which is the end of the implementation period. As a number of noble Lords noted, failure to do so could affect the ultimate agreement between the EU and the UK, with negotiations being conducted in the light of the UK not fulfilling its obligations under the withdrawal Act. What we are saying is that, in the calendar year ahead, there is much to be done and much is still uncertain, because it will emerge from the negotiations that take place between the UK and the EU. It is important to stress also that, where the issue affects the Northern Ireland protocol, the Northern Ireland Executive will have a role and be involved.

The powers we seek are broad, but they are constrained. First, they are Northern Ireland protocol-specific and can be exercised only to implement the protocol, to supplement it within domestic law or to deal with matters arising out of, or related to, the protocol. Regulations beyond this scope are ultra vires. It is important to stress that, as it limits what these powers can be used to do. A number of noble Lords have suggested that they could be wide-ranging and could up-end or repeal the fundamental devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales. In fact, because they are so specific, that is not a possibility.

Further, any use of the power in Clause 21 that seeks to amend primary legislation, including the fundamental devolution statutes, will be subject to the affirmative procedure. There is no suggestion whatever that this will be done in secret, or in any attempt to blind-side this or the other place. The purpose is to ensure that there is full scrutiny by all the authorities within these Houses. The procedure attached to the use of this power means that there are no circumstances where the Government could change or amend the devolution statutes without the full involvement and scrutiny of both Houses. It affords the fundamental opportunity, according to custom and practice, for this and the other place to be engaged. On the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Scotland Act 1998, the Bill grants no vires for wholesale repeal of any of the devolution statutes—and I repeat “any”.

I turn to the specific points raised in the amendments. On Amendment 3, the powers are necessary to align Northern Ireland with certain elements of EU law. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the power in Clause 21 can be used to amend the withdrawal Act to ensure that the arrangements required in the protocol are operational and the statute book does not contain uncertainty. That is to happen in the time we have spoken of—by the end of this year.

The power will not be used to repeal any substantive provision in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked why the Government would wish to amend the withdrawal Act. I assure the noble Baroness that the Government have included the power with due consideration. If the statute book is not clear and in legal conformity with elements of the withdrawal Act, confusion and uncertainty could well result. Again, I reinforce that the Government cannot use this power to make changes to the 2018 Act for any purposes beyond those required for the full implementation of the protocol. It is the protocol itself that gains the ascendancy and restricts the onward actions in a wider sense.

The limits in Amendment 4 risk preventing the United Kingdom fulfilling its international obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. The proposed restrictions create problems. Several details of the protocol require further decisions in the UK-EU joint committee to become fully operational. The Government have committed that representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to form part of the UK delegation in any joint committee meetings where Northern Ireland-specific matters are discussed, and where the Northern Ireland Government are present. This is evidence that the UK places significant importance on maintaining Northern Ireland’s unique place in the union. It is important that, after a very long absence, we now have an Assembly and an Executive in Northern Ireland.

The Government will not use these powers to repeal the devolution statutes wholesale. Indeed, they are wholly incapable of doing so because of the inherent limitations of the power, which I have already touched on. It is the Government’s firm intention to fully engage with the devolved Administrations, and it will be important to do so with regard the withdrawal agreement, and to ensure that the protocol itself is correct and delivered in the right manner.

On Amendment 7, the power is necessary to implement certain elements of the protocol that are within devolved competence. Any modification of the Government of Wales Act 2006 by way of the power in Clause 22 could in practice occur only with the agreement of the Welsh Government; it is only with their full participation that Clause 22 could be delivered. The amendment could impede the Welsh Government in exercising their own legitimate power when implementing the protocol in areas of devolved competence in a manner that they deem appropriate. So, again, the clause, if amended in that way, would cause the Welsh Government a problem in the natural fulfilment of their powers.

The Government fully seek and intend to proceed in the spirit of engagement and co-operation with the devolved Administrations, and that will include the Joint Ministerial Committee. We should bear in mind that that committee has two strata that we are concerned with. The first is one with which the officials themselves are fully engaged; a lot of the issues that we are talking about regarding the Northern Ireland protocol are technical issues that will be dealt with primarily at official level. The second is the ministerial level at which decisions can be taken. The powers themselves are deemed to be essential and are required to implement the protocol.

I will try now to address some of the specific points raised by noble Lords today. The first, which is the most important, is the question of why the Government do not seek to use a Section 109 Order in Council. A number of Peers raised this point, suggesting that it is the correct way. I too was curious and sought specific advice on this. A Section 109 order can be used where appropriate to make amendments to Schedules 7A or 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006. It would work in those areas. However, if amendments outside the scope of a Section 109 order were required, as updates to the protocol might require, it would not be possible to rely on a Section 109 order to make them. It is important to stress as we look at that that the Section 109 order would be adequate in only certain circumstances, not in all circumstances. Therefore, we cannot rely on that method to move forward.

There was also a question about other means that could be used. A question was raised by a number of noble Lords about whether powers to direct Welsh Ministers could be used to deliver this. Powers to direct are to compel acts in areas of devolved competence. Section 82 of the Government of Wales Act, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, referred to, does not allow for amendment of the devolution statutes, which might be needed to implement the protocol. So, again, this route is not available to the Government to address the matters that might result from the ongoing negotiation between the EU and the UK.

I am being corrected, so I will put this on the record. On the joint committee, I should have said that for meetings discussing NI-specific matters and where the Irish—not the Northern Ireland—Government are present, representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive will be invited. Let me be clear on that.

The difficulty we face in this regard is that we now have before us several elements that we need to keep focused on. We will need powers to change the elements required for the Northern Ireland protocol itself. On the question of the concomitant impact on the Scotland Act or the Wales Act, the reason we have been so clear on this is that they will potentially be affected as elements of the negotiations unfold. That is why there needs to be an opportunity for them to be amended in the focused area, as required by the Northern Ireland protocol. They cannot be amended in a wholesale manner, whereby they could be repealed, revoked or amended beyond their constitutional necessity. That is why I was very clear in a letter that I wrote that the important point to take here is that these themselves can be addressed only via the need to institute the elements of the Northern Ireland protocol.

I am fully aware that this is an important issue and that people in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are looking at this with some interest. The reality is that over the next few months we will have a serious negotiation on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, particularly on the Northern Ireland protocol. That will impact on the whole of the United Kingdom and all its manifest elements. However, I am also aware that I might not have fully satisfied your Lordships. If I have not, your Lordships might wish to take the mood of the House, because I will not be able to return to this matter at a later stage.

Lord Howarth of Newport Portrait Lord Howarth of Newport
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Before the Minister sits down, will he explain why the very extensive and potentially arbitrary powers the Government propose to take under Clause 41 are not subject to the affirmative procedure?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I had a note on that. I will have to write to the noble Lord, because I am not sure that I can put my hands on that particular matter at this second. If he will allow me, I will come back to him on that. The point is that the amendments we are talking about concern Clauses 21 and 22, not Clause 41, which would not be amended by these particular amendments.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, could he possibly give some illustration of the kind of provisions for which he and his officials feel it would be necessary to use these very extensive powers that cannot be done under the various sections of, for example, the Government of Wales Act, to which we have referred? Can he give some assurance about what they are? Are they merely technical issues or are they further? It seems extraordinary that, when there are these detailed powers and it is asserted that they are insufficient, no illustration can be given as to why they are necessary.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
- Hansard - -

The noble and learned Lord raises a point that needs to be addressed head-on. The point is that we know that the existing powers whereby we can direct Welsh Ministers, or by using a Section 109 order, might well be inadequate for certain elements of the types of negotiations we anticipate. The problem we would have is that, if we place in the Bill all those aspects that we anticipate, we will run into some difficulty. They are primarily technical in nature, as might be expected in a negotiation of this complexity. The purpose of the powers is therefore to ensure the technical alignment of the various elements as we go forward to implement the Northern Ireland protocol. The ambition to do so will be done using the various instruments already available to us, including the Joint Ministerial Committee, which is primarily a method whereby we can examine the technicalities. The negotiations that will unfold will be technical and it might well be that out of that will emerge no elements in which we will need to invoke these powers—but, if we do need to do so, in areas where we anticipate that the current means to do so are not available, we would need to have these additional powers to move this matter forward.

Lord Morris of Aberavon Portrait Lord Morris of Aberavon
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I might be a slow learner, but, following the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, I would like to know which specific points cannot be dealt with by a Section 109 order.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I cannot give the noble and learned Lord the answer to that question, but I can give him the assurance, from speaking to my legal advisers, that in the negotiations that will unfold there will be areas that we think will be under discussion that might stand outside those areas I have touched on regarding Section 109 and the ability to direct Welsh Ministers.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before we finish this, I understand that the Minister cannot foresee all the issues that might arise, but what mechanism is there to ensure that, the moment something comes up that will clearly involve the specific competencies, responsibilities and regulations held by the Government of Wales, the Welsh Government will be involved from the outset—however much behind the scenes—and will have early warning that something might be coming down the road and that the Henry VIII powers might be used? The track record to date is not very reassuring.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
- Hansard - -

The noble Baroness is right to draw this to our attention. It is not the Government’s plan in any way to seek to surprise any of the devolved Administrations on these matters. It will be necessary, as matters arise from the negotiation’s focus on the Northern Ireland protocol that have an impact on Wales or Scotland, to ensure full dialogue with the Welsh, the Scots and the wider Northern Ireland community to ensure that they are fully aware of why these matters are necessary.

The structure that we have traditionally used is the Joint Ministerial Committee. As I said a few moments ago, our purpose is to ensure that the technical discussions are dealt with primarily at the level of technicians, to enable us to find the correct way to ensure we are in full conformity with our international obligations in good time within calendar year 2020. On that part, the Government will fully commit early and engage often on these matters to ensure there is neither a surprise nor a disappointment in these matters. Again, I stress that these are elements that will be required to deliver the Northern Ireland protocol itself. It will not be in any way an endeavour to try to reach beyond, into the current statutes within the Wales Act or the Scotland Act. That is not their purpose, and indeed they cannot do that.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister, but he is struggling. I have three points to make.

First, this is political. The Minister knows jolly well that he should be making these amendments, and No. 10 is telling him that he cannot. He must have heard from across the House that there are serious concerns about two elements. One is regulation-making powers, and the other is this very important one concerning Wales in particular, as we have heard from the Welsh accents today. A Government who had not been told by No. 10 to make no changes would have made some changes, and I regret that the Minister finds himself in that position. His answers are, frankly, inadequate. He says that this is all going to happen in 2020, but if I am right—and I look to be reassured that I am—there is no sunset clause on these powers, so we are not just talking about this year. We are talking about powers going well into the future.

As the Minister has heard, there is deep concern in your Lordships’ House about the Henry VIII powers and the ability to amend an Act and bring matters such as criminal offences or setting up public bodies which otherwise could be done only by an Act of Parliament. We have heard concern from the noble Lords, Lord Tyler and Lord Howarth, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who used the word “unacceptable.” She said that there are no curbs on these powers. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, took us back to Magna Carta—before my time—and the importance of things such as taxation not being done by ministerial fiat; and that is what we are being asked to give here. That is one side of it. As the noble Lord, Lord Beith, said, keeping that boundary between what Parliament can do and what a Minister can do is key.

The second aspect is Wales. Maybe it is because the Minister is Minister for Northern Ireland and Scotland but not for Wales—or, he is indicating, for only a little bit of Wales—that he does not understand. He has the father of Welsh devolution here, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris. It is worth hearing about how it was implemented and about the trust, or lack of trust, at the moment. Here we are, a day before the Government ask Wales to give its legislative consent to this Bill, being told that the Government want to do things without the consent of Wales because of some spurious things that Section 109 does not go far enough on— although we have not heard examples—or because the international direction is not covered, even though the protocol is an international obligation. The most regrettable thing is that the Minister is saying, “Take me out: do this by a vote,” because he will not bring back an amendment at Third Reading. That is the sign of a closed mind. I regret that.

I am not, sadly, going to test the opinion of the House, but I leave the Minister with the words of warning from, I think, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge: test us on this, and we will vote down those affirmatives. That would be much more serious in the long term for the way government works, and I really do not advise that. But for the moment, I beg leave, with great sadness, to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, it has been a very good debate, not least because this is the first time in decades that we have heard in this Chamber from both nationalist and unionist representatives in the House of Lords. It is also many years since they have agreed—and that is good. I am delighted to say that we will support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, because it sums up the position of unanimity in Northern Ireland. It sums up the point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, that every single business organisation, commercial organisation, trade union and politician in Northern Ireland believes that the substance of these amendments is correct.

It is a matter of mere hours since the Northern Ireland Assembly—happily back again this week—this afternoon passed a Motion declining legislative consent to this Bill, largely because of the issues that we are now debating. That is very unfortunate. On the points made by noble Lords regarding the decision of the Prime Minister and the Government not to accept any amendments at all, I suspect that this has caused the Northern Ireland Assembly to do what it has done. I am sure that that is not the Minister’s view, but he has to do what he has to do. The Government have a majority of 80 and the power to do what they want; but whether they have the right to do that is quite another thing, certainly with regard to Northern Ireland.

However, should we find that the amendment is not agreed to, Annexe A to the New Decade, New Approach agreement published last week says that the British Government commits that

“we will legislate to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market, and ensure that this legislation is in force for 1 January 2021. The government will engage in detail with a restored Executive on measures to protect and strengthen the UK internal market.”

So, we hope that the Government will revisit this. We will look at the strength of feeling in Northern Ireland. We will be able to look again in the course of the next nine months or more; indeed, when the trade deal is being negotiated, we will look very carefully at the implications for Northern Ireland as they have been outlined today.

Before concluding, I will make one final point in relation to the previous debate on devolution. We now have three functioning devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom. I am not convinced that the Government have understood the significance of that change in the political landscape. Yes, of course we have to implement this Bill, because the people have agreed by referendum, and now by election, for it to happen. But, at the same time, the Government should do this in co-operation with the devolved Administrations and Parliaments.

There is no evidence that this is happening. Worse, if the Welsh Senedd, or Assembly, decides soon not to give legislative consent to this Bill, as is likely, then Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast will all have declined to support it. That is not good. It is not good for democracy or for our leaving of the European Union. So I look forward to some interesting comments from the Minister on how he can assuage the concerns that have been raised at this afternoon. This is one of the most important issues affecting Northern Ireland—its economic, commercial and business future. We all look forward to listening to him.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My Lords, noble Lords may be looking forward to hearing my response rather more than I am looking forward to giving it, if that helps. I will try to address some of the specific points raised but will also make some of the more generic points that I must make; that is something I need to be clear on.

I will start by saying where I believe we are in agreement. We do not want to see a hard border on the island of Ireland; we are in clear agreement on that. We also recognise that Northern Ireland is, and must remain, an integral part of the UK internal market. It is important to stress that this means that there shall be no impediments to the trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked about fishermen, and gave the example of Northern Irish fishermen fishing in British waters, landing on the coast of England and then returning to Northern Ireland. There should be no tariffs at all at any one of those process stages; it is important for me to stress that. If the noble Baroness permits, I would be very happy to sit down with representatives of the fishermen of Northern Ireland to discuss this further. I will reach out to Alan McCulla of the ANIFPO body to try to make that happen. I should say “I or my successor,” depending on the outcome of the reshuffle.

It is important to recognise also that there is a new kid on the block; that is true. There is now an Assembly in Northern Ireland and an Executive. It will be important in the calendar year ahead that the voices there are heard loud and clear in the ongoing negotiations that will take place under the arrangements with the joint committee. That will be absolutely essential.

I am also very aware that the business bodies that have written have come together across almost every aspect of the wider economic sectors of Northern Ireland to write as one. It is important that we do not lose sight of what that means. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked when we would be engaging with these bodies. To a large degree, we have been doing so under a different guise, because there were different elements pre last weekend. But it is now time to say that we need to turbocharge that dialogue. There needs to be a serious dialogue with everybody affected by this reality going forward. It should be not a one-off chat but a dialogue that recognises the evolving situation in the ongoing negotiations as they impact on Northern Ireland.

The important thing to stress in this instance is that our commitment as a Government to Northern Ireland’s place in the union is absolutely unwavering. As I said the last time that I addressed these matters, both the manifesto of my party, which was endorsed by the people, and the personal remarks of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, have given a very strong commitment that we shall ensure unfettered access in the calendar year ahead. It is important also—

Lord Reid of Cardowan Portrait Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab)
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With the leave of the House—as I was called away just after the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and therefore missed part of the debate—I want to put a simple question to the Minister. Does he not yet realise that he is the unfortunate victim of the Prime Minister’s propensity to promise people that they can have their cake and eat it? In short, he promised that there would be unfettered access between the British mainland and Northern Ireland and that there would be unfettered access between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It does not take a genius to work out that that promise means that there will be unfettered access between the United Kingdom and Europe—which is impossible to achieve if we leave Europe. Would it not be better now to admit that, however hard they try, this will not happen? Otherwise, the disappointment in Northern Ireland will grow into disillusion and the disillusion will grow to bitterness, and that is where our problems will start.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I welcome the noble Lord’s introduction where he said he was making a simple point. In a sense, he has made a very specific point. The commitments that we have made to the internal market of the UK are strong, and the ongoing negotiations that will deliver the reality of both our free-trade arrangement with the EU and, specifically, the protocol for its delivery are yet to be had. What will be important is that the negotiation is conducted in good faith and, I hope, delivered as the expectations have been set out. If it is not so delivered then I think there will be disappointment and disillusionment, but I have faith and confidence that we will deliver them as we have said we will try to, and that is important to stress.

The noble Baroness who moved her amendment asked about the timetable of what will happen and how it will be done. It is important to stress that this will be done not by Orders in Council but by regulation. It is also important to stress that the—I almost used the word “backstop”; let us not use that word—end point in this scenario, which will be the end of this year, sets the point at which we must have on our statute book each of the functioning elements in order to deliver this particular commitment. Again, in this place and the other place there will be full engagement in those elements to deliver that particular legislative commitment and there will be full scrutiny, using all the normal procedures to achieve that.

I am aware, as I look at the reality, that I need to go into more detail about the specifics of the amendments. I need to stress the purpose here. That is difficult, in the light of the speeches made today and last week by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, because it is very easy to get caught up in the technicalities. While my speech is not quite warm words and elegant waffle—although I admire the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Hain, put the word “elegant” into the waffle description; that was very much welcomed—there are some technical parts that we have to emphasise in this regard to ensure that the protocol and the issue that we are discussing actually work in practice. However, to return to the noble and right reverend Lord’s notion of the reality of reassurance, I am also aware that there is a reason why technocrats do not write poetry. When you are trying to talk about technical issues, it is very difficult to in any way soar to the heights of explaining a noble cause or a noble adventure. It is almost impossible for me to do that today, and I am quite sad that I cannot, but the notion of the reality of reassurance will be vital.

I will briefly interject a small aside: the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, mentioned “The Nutcracker”, one of my favourite ballets. The story has been described thus:

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale.”

I am trying to work out whether I am the nutcracker or the nut. I have a suspicion that I am probably the nut in this analogy.

The challenge that we face is therefore to move forward on the specifics, so I am afraid I will have to divorce myself from any of the poetry available to me in order to look at that. First, Article 1 states that its provisions do not undermine the constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the UK. That goes to the point raised by the noble Lords, Lord McCrea and Lord Morrow. Article 4 is explicit that Northern Ireland remains within the customs territory. It is important to emphasise that Article 6 makes it clear that

“Nothing in the Protocol shall prevent the United Kingdom from ensuring unfettered market access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom’s internal market.”

Importantly, New Decade, New Approach, which the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, referred to, sets in place the timescale, timetable and dates by which we must be able to legislate to guarantee the delivery—again, 1 January 2021. The protocol itself also contains the outstanding decisions that the UK/EU joint committee will need to take. I touched on this in the earlier discussion that I had: although we can set out in some regards what we intend to achieve, it is a negotiation and it will be required to move forward on that basis.

As I said previously, it will be vital that the Northern Ireland Executive are invited to be part of the UK delegation in any meetings of the UK/EU specialised or joint committees discussing Northern Ireland-specific matters that are also being attended by the Irish Government as part of the EU’s delegation. That is to ensure not just that the voice of the UK Government is heard there in a loud and booming tone but that the people who are affected by this are part of that open dialogue and discussion. It will be important for businesses in Northern Ireland to have trust not just in the UK Government in that process but in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Northern Ireland Executive Formation

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Thursday 16th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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With the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the other place:

“Mr Speaker, prior to Christmas the UK Government initiated a period of political talks to get Stormont back up and running in Northern Ireland. Following nine months of negotiation and nearly four weeks of intensive discussions over the Christmas period, last week the Tánaiste and I tabled a draft text to all parties and made that text available to the public. The document, entitled New Decade, New Approach, sets out what we assessed to be a fair and balanced deal based on all the discussions between ourselves and the parties and what the parties told us would represent the right deal for Northern Ireland.

I am delighted to tell the House that all five of Northern Ireland’s main parties accepted this deal as a basis to re-enter devolved government. Ministers have been appointed, an Executive have been formed and the Assembly is open for business. Devolution is restored in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister visited the Assembly and met with the Executive on Monday to mark the positive moment of restored devolved government.

I know the whole House will join with me in welcoming and celebrating the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland, and will join me in congratulating party leaders on their confident decision to make this happen. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my team and the UK Civil Service for the months of work to make this deal happen. I would also like to put on record the debt that I owe to my two predecessors: my right honourable friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands, Karen Bradley, and my right honourable friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, James Brokenshire.

The Good Friday agreement, signed over 20 years ago, brought with it an unprecedented period of peace, prosperity and growth for Northern Ireland. That progress, however, always has and always will be underpinned by the institutions that it created. Now that those institutions have been restored to full working order, we can carry on with the important business of moving Northern Ireland forward and bringing the people of Northern Ireland together. The institutions for north/south and east/west co-operation can work again as intended.

The New Decade, New Approach deal sets out a range of commitments for the Executive, the UK Government and the Irish Government. It commits a new Executive to addressing the immediate challenges facing the health service, reforming the education and justice systems, growing the economy, promoting opportunity and tackling deprivation. The deal does not seek to restore the Executive for its own sake; it offers real reforms aimed at making it more sustainable and transparent, so that the institutions can begin to rebuild trust and confidence with the public. The deal also gives the Executive a seat at the table when we discuss the Northern Ireland protocol with the EU. It solves outstanding cases which have been causing real concern to families, so that all people of Northern Ireland are treated in the same way when bringing family members to this country, akin to Irish citizens in Great Britain.

Yesterday, the Government also announced that we will provide the restored Executive with a £2 billion financial package that will deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and support delivery of the deal. The UK Government’s financial commitment represents the biggest injection of new money in a Northern Ireland talks deal in well over a decade. The funding has already allowed the Executive to pledge to deliver pay parity for nurses in Northern Ireland—the first such intervention in a devolved area—and it will continue to support the Executive to deliver on the priorities for the people of Northern Ireland.

Provided over five years, it will include a guarantee of at least £1 billion of Barnett-based funding to turbocharge infrastructure investment, alongside £1 billion of new resource and capital spending. This will include significant new funding of around £245 million of support for the transformation of public services, including transformation across health, education and justice, and a rapid injection of £550 million to put the Executive’s finances on a sustainable footing, including £200 million over three years to help resolve the nurses pay dispute immediately and deliver pay parity.

Alongside this, the UK Government will ring-fence £45 million of capital and provide resource funding to deliver a Northern Ireland graduate entry medical school in Derry/Londonderry, subject to executive approval. The UK Government will also provide £50 million over two years to support the rollout of ultra low emission public transport, and the agreement will also provide £140 million to address Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances. The money will help to strengthen our union and will support the four key areas set out in New Decade, New Approach.

I hope the whole House will join me in welcoming this announcement. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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This is a great and considerable achievement, and I place on record the Opposition’s congratulations, in particular to the Secretary of State, Julian Smith, who has done a fabulous job. He has worked at this extremely hard and in great detail. He really is to be commended for the energy and commitment he has put into achieving this. I also congratulate the Tánaiste and Foreign Minister of Ireland, Simon Coveney. After all, the two Governments brokered this deal with the others whom we must congratulate: the political parties in Northern Ireland, together with the civil servants, headed by Sir Jonathan Stephens, and the others who have made this a reality.

I have personal experience of talks in Northern Ireland. They are never easy. Over the past three years, I and others have been taunting the Minister about the slowness of progress in Northern Ireland, but the Statement brings us great hope. As I said, I congratulate him and his Secretary of State on it.

Some questions arising from the Statement still need to be answered. On the financial settlement, the Minister will be aware that the Deputy First Minister and the First Minister have both written to the Prime Minister with some questions on the £2 billion that the Minister mentioned. He knows, of course, that £1 billion of that is a result of Barnett consequentials that would have come to Northern Ireland anyway. Of the remaining £1 billion, I think that £250 million was planned to come as a result of the deal between the DUP and the previous Government. Can the Minister tell us whether, in his view, all the commitments in the settlement will be dealt with by that £2 billion?

A rather novel institution is also being created: a joint board between the Northern Ireland Executive and the United Kingdom Government. I have not seen this at all in 20 years of devolution, where spending has been subject, if that is what the case is, to a board that represents the reserved powers of the Government here in Westminster and, in this case, in Belfast. Perhaps the Minister could elaborate on that.

We have of course been discussing Brexit in this House for some days. Only yesterday morning, we looked at the issue of Brexit and devolution. I am glad that there will now be a Northern Ireland Executive at the table dealing with the negotiations over our leaving the European Union. However, I hope that, bearing in mind that debate yesterday, that presence at the table will be meaningful and that the Government will actually listen to the Northern Ireland Executive, as I hope they will listen to the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government as well.

One of the central parts of this agreement, of course, is cultural and linguistic matters. I am sure that the Minister would agree, being a Scotsman, that the Scottish and Welsh Governments would be more than happy to help the new commissioners in their jobs to ensure that we deal with these issues.

One thing that really is pleasing in the agreement is that there is now a constitutional and legal mechanism, which I hope will be dealt with pretty quickly, that means an Assembly and Government cannot collapse in the same way they did three years ago. This mechanism will ensure a greater guarantee of stability for those institutions in Northern Ireland.

Despite the questions I posed to the Minister, I congratulate him and the Government on a really great breakthrough.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD)
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My Lords, we on these Benches certainly welcome the Statement and the fact that the Assembly is up and running and that a new Executive have been formed. It has been a long time coming, but it is welcome. I guess that a buzz of activity will now return to the corridors of Stormont.

There can be little doubt that last year’s elections, for local government and the European Parliament and the general election, have contributed to this outcome. The people of Northern Ireland have made it clear, not only in switching votes away from the two largest parties but in what they told candidates of all parties, that they were fed up with the failure and intransigence of their elected politicians and wanted them to get back to work. They will now need to do so. However, it surely behoves all the parties to give priority to making up for lost time, commitment and resources on the fundamental issues in Northern Ireland.

For example, the figures for the health service in Northern Ireland are truly shocking and would be utterly intolerable if they were apparent on the mainland. The fact that nurses have been reduced to striking because of the of absence of a pay settlement—a strike that is unprecedented—is surely a demonstration of how dangerous the state of things has become. So it is welcome that priority has been given in the Statement to resolving the dispute and delivering pay parity. But I am sure that people, especially those in need of treatment, will want to see a rapid improvement in the delivery of healthcare.

The crisis in education is also serious. Most schools are in deficit and are having to appeal to parents for funds to provide the most basic of services and equipment, including such things as toilet rolls. On a positive note, having visited the Magee campus of the University of Ulster, I very much welcome the £45 million ring-fenced capital resource funding for a graduate-entry medical school and hope that, with agreement, this will go ahead. The university has said consistently that it is poised and ready to do so.

For us, it is particularly good to see our Alliance colleague Naomi Long take up the post of Justice Minister in the Executive. We offer her our heartfelt congratulations. Naomi has been a Member of the House of Commons and a staunch defender of the rule of law. She has often put her personal safety at risk to stand up to criminal and paramilitary elements in Northern Ireland. She will be a committed and effective Minister, and we wish her the very best in her new role.

I particularly welcome the news that integrated schools, such as Cliftonville Integrated Primary School and Glencraig Primary School, will receive a share of the £45 million school enhancement programme that has been announced. The community in Northern Ireland benefits greatly from educating children together. These are great examples of schools where children of different religions, traditions and cultures are welcomed and treated equally. I have visited integrated schools and can see the positive environment they create. Can the Government provide more information on steps that will be taken to improve community relations in Northern Ireland and how they will work with the parties to ensure there is a genuine shared future for all? The Secretary of State made clear that this was not just about getting the Assembly back but trying to move forward to a more positive future.

As the Northern Ireland protocol unfolds and Brexit moves into a detail phase, it is of course welcome that the people of Northern Ireland will have a voice and a seat at the table. But the challenges are immense, new funding is essential and we must avoid backsliding into the old ways. Can the Minister explain how the proposed UK Government-Northern Ireland joint board referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, will operate, who will be on it and what its authority will be?

In conclusion, we all welcome a fresh start. We do not underestimate the challenges of restoring normality or dealing with Brexit but sincerely hope that, rather than just a “New Decade, New Approach”, this will stick and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland and the UK for the long term, and that we will not face the prospect of a collapse of the Executive and Assembly again.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My Lords, I welcome the supportive comments of both parties sitting opposite. I have stood here so many times, trying to find new ways of saying that not much has happened. Now, finally, there appears to be the very thing we have all so vehemently wished for, which is a restored Executive.

I will go straight into the questions to allow maximum time for discussion. The joint board itself is an innovation; that is absolutely correct. On the question of who will sit upon it, that will be the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to promote sustainable public services and to bring about transformation. There is a recognition that, after such a long period of time, a number of issues have become bogged down in the absence of decision-making by Ministers and a different momentum is needed to underpin that. The board should meet on a quarterly basis. Noble Lords will also be aware that the Stormont agreement anticipates a fiscal council, which will provide further details of ongoing developments in the budget and useful information to that joint board.

As to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, of how much of the £2 billion is fresh, rather than reheated, money, it is important to stress that the Barnett consequentials have for the first time been guaranteed at £1 billion, irrespective of whether they reach that amount. That is the first element. The second is that there remains £237 million outstanding from the supply and confidence arrangement with the DUP—a separate sum of money that is still, and will be, available to the Northern Ireland Executive. That means that the moneys which I iterated in my remarks are broadly fresh money in that regard. I see the noble Lord, Lord Hain, hovering, or perhaps not; his time will come. It is important to recognise that this is indeed new money, which will do a great deal of good. I am very pleased to announce that the strike by nurses has now been called off because of the acceptance of the settlement, which restores a parity between the different nursing operations across the Irish Sea. That is very important in itself.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, raised the question of waiting times. They are a scandal and, in Northern Ireland right now, a serious issue that needs to be addressed. That is why the incoming Health Minister has made this one of his priorities and why money has been put in place to recognise that this does need to be one of the first areas where serious action can happen.

Again, the graduate medical school is an important step forward. It begins to address one of the deficiency problems: that there are not enough health and medical practitioners coming through the system. This will be a small step in that direction.

The question of the integrated schools will now rest with the devolved Minister, so for once I can say it is really over to him to take this matter forward—do I mean him or do I mean her? There is a question, but hopefully Hansard will correct that if I have given the wrong gender. The point is that this is a devolved matter and will be taken forward in that context.

The coming of Brexit, which has been Banquo’s ghost throughout this entire period, now means that the Assembly will have an opportunity for serious discussion and the constitutional arrangements that have been put in place in relation to the legislative consent Motion and procedures around it will now be available and can be operated by the Assembly and the Members of that institution. These developments will go some way to moving this matter forward. I will stop there and let other questions be asked.

Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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My Lords, as somebody who spent the best part of two and a half years working on this agreement, I warmly welcome the Government’s Statement today and congratulate them on their tremendous achievement in restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland. Like other noble Lords, I also commend the work of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I know from long experience how much effort has gone into this, not just from the current Secretary of State but from his immediate predecessors. Indeed, the text of the agreement reached last weekend is to some of us strikingly familiar.

I have a couple of questions. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that this agreement and financial package finally afford us the opportunity to put the political paralysis of the past three years firmly behind us and to start to build a brighter, more prosperous future for Northern Ireland? Does he agree that devolved power-sharing government is the surest foundation for the governance of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom?

Finally, on the point raised about the joint board by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, I spent many years in the Northern Ireland Office. If there is a department that is sometimes guilty of “devolve and forget”, it is the Northern Ireland Office. So I welcome the establishment of the joint board as a very positive development.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I put on record my thanks to my noble friend Lord Caine. I know how much he has done in the Northern Ireland Office to bring about what has been achieved today. The success is owed not to any one individual but to a number of individuals over a very long period of time who have put their shoulder to the wheel. Again, I agree that this should allow us to move from that political paralysis. The key thing here is the sustainability of the institutions, which we must now ensure goes forward. We do not wish to be in anything like this situation again—ever, let alone any time soon.

As to the joint board and the notion of “devolve and forget”, the joint board, I hope, will provide that momentum and push to ensure that, where there are issues that require early engagement on a ministerial level, this will take place and will allow filtering down into the Civil Service on both sides of the water to ensure that we are able to get Northern Ireland back to where it belongs, which is what the people of Northern Ireland richly deserve.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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I echo the congratulations that I made fulsomely in my speech during the withdrawal Bill on Tuesday evening. Is this executive joint board a form of conditional devolution? I do not necessarily ask that critically, because the Northern Ireland Executive have had a record of not making tough decisions. Being in government involves choices and, sometimes, tough decisions. I speak from 12 years of my own experience in government. For example, I introduced water charges before we got the settlement of 2007. They were very unpopular and acted as a spur to the agreement we got. They were immediately abolished by the new Executive, which deprived the water industry of the capital investment and finance it needed to modernise, and the consequences are to be seen. Also, combined water charges and household taxes in Northern Ireland are half the average across England, Scotland and Wales. They need to raise more of their own revenue.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is right to bring this matter before us. Restoring the Executive might end up looking like the easy bit of the operation when we start to see what serious challenges over revenue the incoming Executive are confronted by. Very difficult decisions will need to be taken, and I hope that the joint board will be able to operate in a spirit of consensus in that regard. It is the job of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not to instruct this process but to support it as it goes forward. There will be difficult decisions in health and on the wider education question, and each will require Ministers to step up to the plate, which is how it should be. They must then face the electorate in due course to see whether they have done what they wanted done; they will be judged not by us sitting in this place but by the elections yet to come.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (Ind UU)
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My Lords, I do not disagree with anything that has been said about the agreement and I am pleased to see a working Assembly once again. However, it concerns me as someone who was involved in the Belfast agreement that we appear to have had an inefficient Administration while the Assembly was not in place. We have not resolved the RHI issue, and it is important that we do. It is impoverishing farmers, in so far as we have not had equality on it with the rest of the United Kingdom or, indeed, with the south of Ireland. When will that be resolved?

Further to that, it appears to someone who was involved in 1998 that the Irish Government have been allowed to infringe strand 1 of the agreement. I hope that the Minister can address this. Moreover, why has nothing been done to discipline those responsible for finding money under the counter and paying £10,000 to someone who claimed to be annoyed by the Queen’s portrait hanging in their building? I advise the Minister, with respect, that those issues cannot be brushed under the carpet as they have been year after year. If we are to have a successful Assembly, we need a degree of openness. That starts with government here at Westminster.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is right to remind us that the RHI scandal has been a challenge for all in Northern Ireland, not least those affected by it financially. The agreement brokered with the five parties recognised that issues were brought to the fore as the inquiry unfolded regarding the working of government and the responsibility and role of special advisers and the Civil Service. Within the agreement that has been reached is a strong view that this needs to be reconsidered and examined in a way that provides a proper structure to ensure that such a situation never happens again. I believe the report of the RHI inquiry will be published soon, but that is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive—it is quite nice to be able to say that for the first time in a very long time. As to the other questions raised by the noble Lord, he has raised them in the past, and I understand why, but at this moment I will comment on them no further.

Lord Hay of Ballyore Portrait Lord Hay of Ballyore (DUP)
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My Lords, like other noble Lords I welcome the Statement. The Minister has come to this House on a number of occasions with negativity on Northern Ireland. This is a very positive Statement, and I and my party see it as a new beginning for Northern Ireland. After three years we now have a working Assembly and in particular an Executive made up of the five main parties in Northern Ireland. We have Ministers elected by the people of Northern Ireland and accountable to them, which is vital.

Yes, this Executive will face many challenges; there are huge challenges out there, but I have no doubt that they will face them with good will, whether in health, education, economic development or investment. I have no doubt whatever that they will do what they can to represent all the people of Northern Ireland. This Executive can show a lead to the people of Northern Ireland on how both communities in every community can live in peace and harmony. That is what this Executive need to be about.

I welcome the funding coming with the package. I know there may be some questions as to whether it is new money or from the Barnett formula or whatever, but it must be welcome. I also welcome, at long last, the £45 million of capital ring-fenced for the medical school in my own city of Londonderry. This has been ongoing for some time and I welcome it very much. I know that many, if not all, of the politicians in this city will welcome what has been achieved. I pay tribute to the Minister, his officials and the people who were at the coalface of getting this agreement over the line; after several weeks, several hours and several days, we got there. This whole House and the other place should welcome this agreement in moving Northern Ireland forward.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is right that this agreement can move Northern Ireland forward. The important thing to recognise is that, because of the absence of an Executive, it has slipped back. In moving it forward we are just trying to bring it into parity with the other nations in the United Kingdom. That is important to emphasise. A journey now has to be taken, and it will not be achieved quickly or in a single step. I am pleased to be able to welcome the £45 million for the city of Derry/Londonderry, given the number of times I have not been able to talk about it because I was never able to make that clear. Now I can make it very clear indeed. I also personally pay tribute to the officials in the Northern Ireland Office. I know how much they care, how hard they worked on this and how much they have helped me as I have tried to deliver on these issues as well. I hope now that this deal does what it says on the tin and makes us move into the new decade in the right way.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Portrait Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab)
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My Lords, I too welcome this very much, but I hope that the Government have learned lessons. You do not just sign a peace agreement and then forget about it. The Good Friday agreement continues to need daily work from all the people involved. Also, we should have learned from the last three years that if a Government look as though they are favouring and making a particular relationship with one party, as against working with and treating all parties equally, which the Good Friday agreement said that both Dublin and London should do, those parties then have no incentive to get back together and really make sure that they run affairs and are accountable for how things are run in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government have learned those lessons and that we can all work to make sure that we do whatever we can to support and enable that Executive to work.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right. There are lessons to be learned for this Government and for the parties in Northern Ireland; indeed, some of them are quite hard lessons. It is the people of Northern Ireland who often make the judgment, as they have done in elections gone by.

I am aware that this process is at a very delicate stage. It is almost like the stage when you see the first green shoots of your seeds coming through and you think that you have a harvest, but that is actually when you need to tend to them most carefully. We must all do that now to ensure that we reap the harvest of what we have achieved over the past few days. I am aware that each party will now be judged on how it tends the crop before we reach the harvest.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend warmly. Does he acknowledge that some important unfinished business has been taken forward in your Lordships’ House in the absence of the Executive? In particular, I refer to what I call the Hain initiative on providing proper compensation for those who suffered so much during the years of anguish and trouble. Can he assure the House that there will be no further impediment to implementing those measures?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is right to raise this issue. He will recall, as I am sure other noble Lords will, that the legislation we took forward before Christmas was taken forward by this House and this Government. It was not dependent on the outcome of a new Executive. As a consequence, it will continue to the timetable that we set. I believe—again, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, for his work on this—that the compensation for victims should be in place no later than May this year. That is something to be welcomed by all in the newly reformed Executive, I hope.

Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP)
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My Lords, I say as one who participated in the establishment of these institutions that they should never have been collapsed in the first place, but I am glad to see them returned.

However, I draw the House’s attention to the part of the Statement that says that this deal was accepted by the main parties

“as a basis to re-enter devolved Government.”

That is not true. This is not an agreement. It is a government Statement and a Statement of the British and Irish Governments collectively. It was shoved into our hands at 8.30 pm last Thursday. We had never seen a number of the matters contained in it before. Our participation in the Executive is based exclusively on our rights under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, whereby our position in the Assembly is related to our electoral support. We have taken on the health portfolio, which I have drawn to the House’s attention on many occasions because it is in such a terrible state. I hope that we will succeed in that endeavour but I want to make it clear that, for instance, we have never seen the legacy proposals and this business of 100 days before—and we do not accept the legacy proposals. We never have. We have argued against them since Stormont House in 2014.

However, there are many good things in the Government’s Statement. There is potential. But do not create the impression that everybody accepts everything that is in this paper—we do not. It would be unfortunate if we clouded people’s thinking into believing that that is the case.

Nevertheless, we are there because we want to solve the problems that I and others have brought to the House’s attention time and again, such as the disgraceful state of affairs in our health service and many of our other public services. We will play as positive a role as possible but we will not be tied down to a Statement by two Governments containing provisions of which we had no knowledge and over which we had no say.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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In many respects, the noble Lord echoes the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong: this is at a delicate stage and we have to see how it will grow into a new, fully fledged, functioning Executive addressing each of these matters. I am pleased in one respect, in the light of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Empey, that the health portfolio is now held by his party. I suspect that the incoming Minister, Robin Swann, will be getting letters from his friend, the noble Lord, which he can look forward to as much as I did.

Break in Debate

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I meant that in a nice way, not a bad way. Again, I note that there will be challenges. The noble Lord is right to note that the legacy question will be one of them. There is no question but that will be a challenge but I hope that we can see the direction of travel and I hope, in the light of the document before us, that we can achieve the outcome we all so dearly wish for.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on achieving this agreement. It represents a good news day. Some of us have not had a good news day for many years, so it is a nice thing. I want to raise an issue that I have raised with the Minister before, but it is particularly relevant in the new context. Can he get the Home Office to approach the Health Minister, I think, and get Northern Ireland to agree to take some child refugees? It has told me that it will; I am assured by both Belfast and Derry that there is a willingness to do this. Can the Government please initiate that process?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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It is a good news day. That issue is now available for the Northern Ireland Executive to push forward. The noble Lord will be aware that one of the challenges we faced—we wrestled with it in different directions—was accommodation in different parts of the Province. I hope that the incoming Executive can make progress and that they recognise their wider responsibilities under the Geneva convention, as well as the wider question of young people and children in this regard.

Lord Dunlop Portrait Lord Dunlop (Con)
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My Lords, I add my voice to the warm welcome for the restoration of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland and for a common programme for government that focuses on the priorities of the people of Northern Ireland. Does my noble friend agree that, to achieve better results, the Executive need to operate in less of a departmental, siloed way and adopt a greater sense of collective responsibility, which I hope will be reflected in a reformed and strengthened Ministerial Code?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I could not put it better myself. I pay tribute to my noble predecessor’s endeavours in this regard. There needs to be greater recognition of collective responsibility: of pulling together and pulling on the rope in the same direction. I hope that is embedded in the newly established Executive.

Climate Change: COP 26 and Civil Society

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to engage civil society in climate change issues ahead of COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November 2020.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, we engage regularly with civil society, and will continue to do so en route to COP 26 and beyond. As a delegate at COP 25 in Madrid, and while an MEP in Lima, Paris and Marrakesh, I saw at first hand the important role that civil society plays in such gatherings, and anticipate that such groups will be vital to the success of COP 26.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his Answer, but people now accept that civil society has a very important role to play. The location of Madrid was agreed at the last minute, but the fact that there was so little civil society engagement led to its failure. Therefore, I do not feel very reassured by the Answer that the Government are really on the case with this. When we signed up and bid to host COP 26, did we agree to anything—in the way that a country hosting the Olympics agrees to enhance sport in schools—such as making the understanding of climate change more available to everyone?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Baroness is right to state that COP 25 in Madrid did not have the full participation of civil society. One of the simple reasons was that COP 25 was due to be in Santiago. I suspect that a number of people had booked tickets there and discovered that they could not get a refund. However, I suspect that in Glasgow there will be full participation in those proceedings, because right now there is a great appetite to explore and express those views. In response to the second part of the question, I can say that Glasgow was chosen because it is seventh-highest in the world in the global destination sustainability index. We also have a direct train line into the venue, which will ensure a lower carbon footprint. I believe that there will be a legacy left in Glasgow, and that the Governments of Scotland and the UK will continue to build on it.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I congratulate the Government on getting COP 26 in Glasgow. It is a great thing for the country. It is also important because of the climate emergency which the other place has declared. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister say in October that there would be a cabinet committee for climate change, to ensure that it was across Government. How many times has it met under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord will be aware that very soon after that was announced, there was an election, and shortly after the election there was Christmas. Unfortunately, the cabinet committee has not yet met, but it will meet this month, very shortly. I will report back to this House on what has been discussed at that meeting.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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I congratulate my noble friend on the United Kingdom lowering its CO2 emissions from 2% to 1% of the world’s output, but meanwhile, worldwide net emissions of CO2 have gone up. Are we not in great danger of meeting 2050 with no net CO2 emissions only for worldwide CO2 emissions to have gone up, because the Chinese and Indians will have continued to build coal-burning power stations?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is right to express that simple point: carbon emissions have gone up year on year since the beginning of the COP process, and some significant emitters are doing too little to address this. The United Kingdom has been powerful in its advocacy of decarbonising, while still growing the economy. If we can continue to grow the economy and secure jobs while decarbonising, that is a model that the world should follow.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, rather in contradiction to what was said in an earlier question, the Government are woefully slow, as the House debated last June, in coming forward with policies and measures to meet new emissions targets—starting with the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which are not being met, and including bringing international aviation and shipping emissions within the scope of the Paris Agreement. The Government’s White Paper is already at least nine months beyond its promised date. Would not the best way to encourage debate on these issues be to get on with these essential tasks and provide real leadership?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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I am sure that the noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree. In the Government’s declaring net zero by 2050, the UK became the first major economy to do so. We will publish our energy White Paper imminently. The EU itself has struggled with aviation. We must ensure that aviation and international shipping are part of the decarbonisation process. Not to do so would be to ignore one of the most important elements of the carbon in our atmosphere.

Duke of Montrose Portrait The Duke of Montrose (Con)
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My Lords, what has the response of the Scottish Government been to this initiative?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My Lords, the Scottish Government have supported the Government’s approach and have welcomed the arrival of the COP process in Glasgow. We are working in close collaboration with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to ensure that the COP is a success. We are on the same page, we recognise the same challenges and we are pulling on the same rope in the same direction.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, may I, as someone from Edinburgh, welcome the fact that the conference is to be held in Glasgow? Will the Minister encourage his colleagues to ensure that as many as possible of the international conferences to be held in the United Kingdom are held outside London—in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, as well as in Edinburgh and Glasgow? Will he also do everything he can to ensure that both Edinburgh and Glasgow remain part of the United Kingdom? I am sure he will.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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That was an extraordinary link, but I fully endorse the noble Lord’s belief that Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, must remain part of the United Kingdom. We are stronger and better together: I am happy to confirm that. We should have more international conferences outside London, and Scotland is a perfect place for that; so are the north of England, Wales and the West Country. We have an extraordinary country with extraordinary offerings. Let us do more outside London.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. COP 26 gives this country the opportunity both to show leadership and to showcase achievement. However, welcome though the commitment to net zero in 2050 is, does the Minister agree that by the time of the Glasgow meeting we need a sector-by-sector detailed road map of how we will actually achieve that target?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right. The White Paper will be a part of that, and will set out exactly how we will both achieve our own domestic targets and show the leadership required to bring about the necessary negotiations to deliver a good outcome in Glasgow.

Nuclear Power: Emissions

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Tuesday 14th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare my interest as an engineer in the energy industry, as set out in the register.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, a substantial increase in low-carbon generation will be needed to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050. Nuclear power currently provides a fifth of our generation and will have an important role in securing a low-cost, stable, reliable low-carbon system by 2050. The Government will publish an energy White Paper in 2020, which will provide further detail of the necessary transformation of our energy system.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Our current nuclear fleet is approaching the end of its working life and only a single new station is being built. We need much more than that to provide additional zero-carbon firm power and reduce the risk of not meeting net zero by 2050. Does the Minister agree that a key means of doing this at least cost is to focus on replication: building a number of the same design to learn lessons and gain efficiencies, rather than using a wide range of designs, as per the previous strategy? Can he confirm that the Government are prioritising a decision on the financing of new nuclear to enable the industry to move forward?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The simple answer to that question is yes, but more details are required. The first thing to remember is that by 2030 all but one nuclear power station will be closed.

The noble Lord’s second point is correct: we do need replication on a common theme to help us, but there are other factors too, not least of which is experienced management in the construction industry and sometimes constructing nuclear reactors in greater numbers on the same site. Each of these can make a significant difference, and in order for us to increase capacity we need, in the energy White Paper, to give serious consideration to them, at which point the decision-making will be made clear.

Lord Cunningham of Felling Portrait Lord Cunningham of Felling (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s statement strongly in support of civil nuclear power. It is quite obvious to most people—not to everyone, I know—that we are never going to meet our carbon targets without a significant contribution from nuclear energy. For the first time in a generation we have the opportunity now, at Sizewell C, to use the learning curve and replication of design and construction to bring down costs and possibly the timescale involved in building the second nuclear power station, much more than the last Labour Government did, I must say—to my regret; I do not know about theirs. I hope the Minister will persuade his colleagues that we need to expedite these developments.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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We must expedite these developments. The nuclear sector deal which the Government have invested in is worth £200 million. Its purpose is to reduce significantly the costs of the replication of these new developments, and the regulated asset base should be a new model for us to make sure that there is value for money as well. Nuclear will be a vital part, I believe, of the ongoing energy mix in this country.

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con)
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My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend’s brief really reflects the full position. After all, Hinkley is now £3 billion over budget and delayed by a year or two, Wylfa has been suspended, Moorside has been abandoned, and the Chinese and French are struggling to raise finance for Sizewell C. It is not a very good picture. Should we not be focusing rather more on prospects for small modular reactors, which can be built much more quickly, and perhaps more cheaply, and might make an even bigger contribution when it comes to global climate change, which is the real problem?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My noble friend is, of course, absolutely correct. If we get to the stage where Hinkley comes online according to its timetable in 2025, it will in due course supply 7% of our electricity needs. However, the reality is that small modular reactors are vital. That is why we have invested £18 million in development thus far—£18 million that is matched by the private sector. This may well be how we can move forward a whole new generation of nuclear electricity generation.

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

My Lords, I think all your Lordships will welcome the fact that an energy White Paper is going to be published. This country has lacked a joined-up strategy on energy for many years. Can the Minister confirm that this White Paper will include not only generation of all kinds but the storage of energy and the flexible, or more flexible, distribution of energy? Clearly those will be key in how we go forward.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord has raised these points before; he was right then and is right now. Storage is absolutely vital in this area. Without it, we run the risk not just in nuclear but in our renewables more widely that we cannot capture and hold the energy that we create. Storage needs to be in the White Paper.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, nuclear energy is obviously essential to enabling us to combat climate change, as my noble friend Lord Cunningham just said, but what are the Government doing to enable the public to move away from the other fossil fuel, gas, which is so widely used in domestic heating?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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There will also be a strategy next year examining gas in the domestic heating system. There are options available to us and decisions will be required. Shall it be electrification, use of hydrogen, or indeed a hybrid of the two? We need to consider that, and the White Paper will help inform our decisions going forward.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, what discussions has my noble friend had with friends and partners internationally on the potential for using UK nuclear expertise and technology in the fight to deal with climate change?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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As part of my responsibilities as Climate Change Minister, we have engaged with a number of countries to examine what prospects we have to ensure the development of the small modular reactors, which we believe will be key to the development of a workable global strategy. We commit to continuing to do that at a greater pace.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How will the Government ensure that any new offshore wind capacity during the 2020s will not simply replace retiring nuclear plants rather than push carbon-emitting gas power plants off the grid?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is quite right: each of our ambitions in these areas has a finite lifespan, and it is important to make sure that, each time we replace them with the next generation, the carbon footprint decreases. We would like to see it significantly decrease, which is why offshore wind remains vital and why nuclear has a significant part to play.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Wylfa project on Anglesey has been suspended, as we have heard. Would my noble friend agree that it is clear that Governments will need to invest in new nuclear? Will the Government look at promoting that project with Hitachi through a government commitment to invest sovereign capital, thereby reducing the cost of capital and offsetting some of the risk?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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Yes, indeed. We will be looking at exactly this through the regulated asset base approach. The Wylfa site is at the moment still owned by Hitachi. There are still opportunities to build on that site, and we are in discussions to make sure that we can move this matter forward.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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In considering the position of the small modular reactors, can the Minister give an undertaking that the medical dimension will be taken on board so that any possible synergy between the development of the two can take place, possibly at Trawsfynydd?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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The noble Lord is absolutely right. We often think of nuclear only in terms of energy generation, but in fact our health service depends significantly upon the isotopes that are created by the system. Yes, we need to recognise the synergy and work with it.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords)
(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords)
Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Tuesday 14th January 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB)
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I will make one or two observations, if I may. I accept that it is plainly the obligation of the United Kingdom Government to take steps to implement their international obligations—the justification given by the Minister in his summing up yesterday evening. It is also right that there may be circumstances in which changes to the devolution legislation are needed. But there are ways of doing this, which have been admirably explained.

This Henry VIII clause is extraordinary because it enables the Government not merely to amend the Act but to repeal it. I cannot conceive that anyone who was drafting this with a degree of sense would ever have thought the Government would repeal the Act. When you look at the wording—it is quite useful to look at wording—this has been drafted without any regard to the realities of a union Government. This clause is manifestly deficient in that it goes way beyond anything that could conceivably be needed, even if you ignore the argument about the precedent being set.

The Government should think again. There are proper ways of doing things. I respectfully ask them to see whether they can come back with something different, or, at the very least, explain fully what they intend to do—what consultation they intend to carry out—before they repeal the Act. It is difficult to see how you would ever think that the Act needed to be repealed. One must always recall that the union of England and Wales was brought about by Henry VIII. It would be an extraordinary irony if a Henry VIII clause was used to begin the undermining of that union.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Northern Ireland Office (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting discussion, which has focused on a broad range of issues affecting the wider devolution settlement.

Some things need to be set out very clearly at the outset. The first thing is that the purpose of the protocol, which was not mentioned a great deal in the discussion, is to ensure the delivery of clean access within the island of Ireland between Ireland and the UK. This is to ensure the integrity of the customs union of the United Kingdom but also that we have the powers available as we go forward in the calendar year ahead to make necessary amendments in real time to the various elements that will be required as we seek to deliver on the Northern Ireland protocol. The important thing to stress is that we are in a situation in which time is of the essence, but that can never be an excuse.

Secondly, a number of noble Lords have spoken of the repeal of the devolution settlements almost as a Domesday scenario. There was a reference to Henry VIII powers being used, in essence, to eliminate the devolution settlement with Wales or anywhere else. It is important to stress that this clause is in no way designed for, or seeks to achieve, that purpose. Where there are elements of primary legislation which are to be amended, this will be done through the affirmative procedure, which allows significant scrutiny to take place in both this House and the other place. It is important to recognise that we are not just talking about the letter of the law here, but the wider settlements which we have discussed more broadly with regard to Wales and Scotland. The very notion that we can, by some fiat, undo that which has been set in place through the devolution settlements is, frankly, borderline ludicrous. It is not going to happen.

Lord Howarth of Newport Portrait Lord Howarth of Newport
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Minister therefore saying that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee is incorrect? Paragraph 9 of its report notes that Clause 41

“contains a Henry VIII power for a Minister of the Crown by regulations to repeal or amend any Act of Parliament … Such regulations are made pursuant to the negative procedure.”

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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To be clear, the information I have from my officials is that this will be done by the affirmative procedure. It is important to stress that point. Further, returning to the protocol, which has not been fully discussed in this particular debate, the question is: what do the two amendments seek to do? While we have no intention of in any way seeking to unravel the Wales Act or the Scotland Act, there will necessarily be elements in the Northern Ireland Act which will have to be explored and addressed, with full consultation—I express that clearly—with the restored Executive and Assembly. They will have this element for the first time: it was not there before. For example, the issue of democratic consent to the wider Northern Ireland protocol would represent a necessary adjustment to the Northern Ireland Act. This could only be taken forward by full dialogue and discussion with the restored Executive to ensure that the four and eight-year cycle that needs to go forward is inside the heart of this approach. There are also going to be elements, which we have anticipated, of disapplication of certain elements of retained EU law as they affect Northern Ireland. They too, in a domesticated form, would need to be adjusted using these powers.

We fear that there may be a hindrance of our ability to adopt the decisions of the Joint Committee, bearing in mind that that committee was established between the UK and EU. We will need to be able to move that forward in real time and this too will require a power similar to that which we have set out. Another thing we must be on top of is that we have, in this scenario, a potential restriction which might impact on the very issue which I thought might be more expansively explored—the unfettered access part—for reasons which will be touched on in the debate to follow. This debate has taken a turn that I had not anticipated—the notion that a power is now being granted to the Government to undo that which has been set before: if you like, the magisterium of the law which sets up the elements of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That is not the purpose of this rule. Rather it is to allow the Government, where necessary and through full consultation with the powers of Northern Ireland, to deliver the elements that will emerge in the ongoing negotiations and in any other concomitant parts, to ensure that we are ready to deliver the required elements by one year from today. If we fail to do that, we run the risk of undermining our international obligations. That would then create the problem that this is designed to try and avoid.

It would be very easy for me to say: “You have just got to trust me”. That is not what I am trying to say, and it would be foolish as noble Lords should not try to trust me. The important thing is to test me, and to test the Government. That is why, as well as putting these points to the House now, and setting out the areas in which we do need these necessary powers, I am happy to put that in to a note which I will supply and make available to all noble Lords who are interested in this, so they can see where we believe this power will be required to deliver the very thing that Northern Ireland wants: safety and security within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is its purpose and that is, principally, why we are here tonight. I am tempted to quote from Clint Eastwood, but the only quotes I could come up with are:

“Do you feel lucky, punk?”

and “Make my day.” I am not sure either one is particularly relevant.

In conclusion, the purpose of this is to ensure that Northern Ireland is safe and secure as we move forward and is in such a place that the protocol will function in its entirety. Equally, and most importantly—it is a genuine pleasure to say this—there is now a restored Executive and an Assembly where these matters should be discussed and whose voices must be heard and heeded. In the year ahead, we commit to ensuring that Northern Ireland is a full component part of the debate and discussion on the issues of Brexit. That is something which I have not been able to say for a very long time.

On that basis, I cannot support the amendments as they have been tabled. I understand where they have come from, but I am afraid I cannot give comfort in that regard. However, I am committing to set out exactly why we believe these powers are necessary in the area of Northern Ireland and why they are there. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Baroness will recognise where I am coming from on these matters.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid that that does not answer the points noble Lords have made. It is not so much that the powers are needed for Northern Ireland, but there should be restrictions on them. I am sorry, because the Minister is normally brilliant at the Dispatch Box and very well briefed. However, had he read Amendment 15 he would have seen what we were trying to write in by restricting those powers, such as not undermining the Government of Wales Act. He would have understood that we were not questioning that some of the powers will be needed for Northern Ireland—we will come to that in a different debate—but the way they have been set out in this clause. Unlike Clause 18, which I quoted, Clause 21 does not have the restrictions on those powers that exist in the other clauses in the Bill or, indeed, in the 2018 Act.

Our concern remains. It is good to have a northern voice. Most of us here are Welsh or from the West Country, where we feel this very strongly. The Minister is saying that these powers were not designed to undermine devolution and that the intention is not to use them that way, but that is not good enough. When something is put in an Act of Parliament, it is a power. No matter that it is not intended to be used that way, the power is there. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, there is already another way. Although I cannot see that the Government of Wales Act would need to be altered for Northern Ireland, if it does there is a perfectly good way of doing it. Denying the restriction, whether it is new criminal offences or anything like that, which exist for all the other Henry VIII powers, is very hard to substantiate, simply because it is to do with Northern Ireland. Not accepting that the other devolution settlements should be in any way accessible to these powers is unsatisfactory. As other noble Lords have said, even the word “repeal” is like waving a red flag at the way these powers could be used.

Having heard from the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, my noble friend Lord Howarth, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, I hope that the Minister might look again at the wording of these amendments and understand why we have real worries about them. Perhaps he would be willing to meet before Report. Otherwise, it will be necessary to try to circumvent these powers in a way that happens elsewhere, but not in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol. I leave the Minister with that thought and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Morrow Portrait Lord Morrow (DUP)
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My Lords, I should like to speak before the Minister responds. I want to make a few brief remarks, not least on what has already been said. In Northern Ireland we are continually lectured and told, “If you could only speak with one voice, how different things would be.” However, we speak as one voice tonight. We speak not only politically, but for the business community, and I include all those who have spoken on this matter.

I know that the Minister is a listening man, but I want him to go a step further and implement the proposed changes. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Empey, my noble friend Lord McCrea and others have said very clearly what Northern Ireland expects. We must be allowed to function as a country and as a trading partner with the rest of the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt—and those who do not agree with my politics at all have clearly outlined—that what we are being told by the Prime Minister is one thing, but actions always speak louder than words. We need the Prime Minister, the Government and the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Duncan, to take on board very clearly that there are serious issues at stake here.

It is ironic that one part of the United Kingdom will have a border with the rest of the United Kingdom. How can that ever be right? Even common sense will tell us that that is not functional; it will just not work.

It has already been stated that Northern Ireland’s economy is built on a multiplicity of small businesses—those which employ and engage fewer than 10 people. That is what our economy is built on; that is the backbone of our economy. We do not disparage the large companies that bring massive employment to our shores, but it has to be said clearly, and I do not exaggerate when I say it this evening, that those small businesses are watching every move, because their future is at stake—not only their future, but that of many homes.

It is no secret that wages in Northern Ireland are lower than those in other regions of the United Kingdom. Many families struggle. Many are in the poverty trap. Many live on the margins, as I call it. Are they not deserving to be treated equally? Is there not a strong case for saying that we need to look at this again? As my colleague and noble friend Lord McCrea has said, there is an ocean of difference in the meaning of the word “may” as compared to the word “must”, which the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has asked to be put in. You have an option if you may; you do not have that option if you must.

I concur with those who have said that this is not in any way a wrecking attempt. We know where we are in the whole Brexit debate. We know where we were in relation to Brexit. This is not a last-gasp, desperate attempt to do something over the Government. This can be implemented very easily and respectfully. I associate those remarks with the amendment in my name and the names of my three colleagues. We have absolutely no difficulty in supporting the amendments that have been tabled, and I trust that there will be no difficulty in supporting our amendment. It is there for the right reasons; there is nothing sinister about it. We are absolutely sincere. I plead with this House and with the Government to take it sincerely, because there is so much at stake.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank
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My Lords, this has been an expectedly wide-ranging debate because, when it comes to Brexit, the Northern Ireland protocol is where the rubber meets the road. I take on board the comments made this evening in that light. I also note the cross-party support for the amendments before us and I acknowledge that that is a unique occurrence.

I will try to give some context to where I think we need to take the debate. First, there is the question of unfettered access. It is straightforward for me to say that, as part of my party’s election commitment, we spoke of “unfettered access” in our manifesto. Further, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has given a personal commitment on the notion of unfettered access; he is already on record as doing that. Further again, it is important to recognise that the world has changed since this matter was discussed in the other place. Over the weekend something—I will not say “miraculous”, and I do not mean it unkindly—extraordinary happened. We have restored the Executive and the Assembly, so the debate has gone on since then. It is important to note that New Decade, New Approach sets out explicitly that legislation to secure unfettered access will be in force by 1 January next year. Each of these are indeed new elements regarding this matter. It is important to stress that, between now and 1 January, there needs to be a serious and detailed granular dialogue with all of the business community of Northern Ireland as this matter evolves. For the first time we will have the voice of Northern Ireland in its right place—in the Assembly and the Executive. This Government commit to full engagement with the relevant Ministers and the wider Assembly in these matters.

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