All 14 Lord Callanan contributions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

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Mon 19th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 20th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard)
Mon 26th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 28th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 2nd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 4th Nov 2020
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Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 18th Nov 2020
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Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Mon 23rd Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 25th Nov 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 2nd Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 9th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 14th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
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Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 15th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. The United Kingdom’s internal market has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity for centuries. Since the Acts of Union, the UK internal market has been the source of unhindered and open trade across the entire United Kingdom. It has enabled businesses and individuals to thrive and has been the source of unhindered and open trade across our country. It has helped to demonstrate that, as a union, our country is greater than the sum of all our parts.

Around 60% of Scottish and Welsh exports are to the rest of the UK, which is around three times as much as exports to the whole of the rest of the European Union. About 50% of Northern Ireland’s sales are to Great Britain. When we leave the transition period at the end of this year, an unprecedented number of powers will flow from the EU to the devolved nations and the UK Government. As this happens, and as we recover from Covid, we must ensure that our economy is stronger than ever. The Bill will guarantee the continued functioning of our internal market to ensure that trade remains unhindered in the UK and businesses can continue to operate with certainty. Without the Bill a Welsh lamb producer, for whom almost 60% of the market is the rest of the UK, could end up unable to sell their lamb as easily as before. Scotch whisky producers could lose access to supply from English barley farmers, unnecessarily putting at risk Scotland’s own whisky industry.

This package guarantees a continuation of our centuries-old position that there should be no economic barriers to trading within the United Kingdom. To achieve this, the Bill will do the following. First, it will introduce a market access commitment for goods, services and professional qualifications respectively. This will ensure that the UK can continue to operate as a coherent internal market and maintain the deep integration and strong economic ties that bind the UK together. Secondly, it provides a statutory underpinning for a new office for the internal market, within the Competition and Markets Authority. This office will independently monitor the health of the UK internal market and provide technical advice on issues that may impact it, reporting to the devolved legislatures and to this Parliament itself.

Thirdly, it introduces provisions to ensure that there is a safety net in domestic law to prevent new checks and controls on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, in line with the Government’s commitment to unfettered access for qualifying Northern Ireland goods. Fourthly, it enables strategic investment in all four corners of the United Kingdom, giving the UK Government a power to provide financial assistance for the purposes of economic development, culture, sporting activities and infrastructure, as well as both international and domestic educational and training activities and exchanges.

Finally, it reserves to the UK Parliament the exclusive ability to legislate for a UK subsidy control regime once this country ceases to follow EU state aid rules at the end of the transition period. This is to ensure that subsidies do not unduly distort competition within the UK’s internal market. Let there be no doubt: this Bill is crucial in providing certainty to businesses, and we must give them that certainty.

My department and I, along with colleagues across government, spoke to hundreds of businesses and business representative organisations from across the UK to gather views and feedback on our original White Paper proposals. Over 270 businesses and organisations responded to a public consultation on the proposals, and businesses overwhelmingly supported our approach. I record my thanks for the engagement we have had from all aspects of business on this.

The Bill will put in law a market access commitment by enshrining mutual recognition and non-discrimination: mutual recognition to ensure that goods and services from one part of the UK will be recognised across the country, and non-discrimination to guarantee that there is equal opportunity for companies trading in the UK regardless of where in the country that business is based. The same principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination will also be applied to services and will introduce a process for the recognition of professional qualifications across the whole UK internal market. This will allow professionals such as doctors and nurses, qualified in one of the UK nations, to work in any other part, as I am sure Members would expect. Furthermore, the Government are inviting views on the regulatory framework for professional qualifications, to ensure that our approach remains world leading. We have, of course, listened to those in the devolved Administrations and business, and have made some exemptions, for example to respect the divergence that exists between the legal professions in England, Wales and Scotland.

The Bill will also ensure that Northern Ireland qualifying goods benefit from the market access commitment and receive mutual recognition in the rest of the UK, guaranteeing a continuation of our centuries-old position that there should be no economic barriers to trading within the United Kingdom.

We consulted on how to ensure an independent monitoring and advice function to uphold the UK internal market. In response, and to oversee the functioning of the internal market, the Bill will set up an office for the internal market within the CMA. This office will monitor and report on the internal market to the UK Government, devolved Administrations, the legislatures, and external stakeholders, ensuring the continued smooth operation of that market that businesses so desperately desire.

Subsidy control has never been devolved. It is crucial to continue to have a UK-wide approach, to protect our internal market and prevent harmful and distortive practices arising. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that we continue to have fair and open competition across the UK, and so it is right that we have a UK-wide approach to subsidy control. As we take back control of this policy from the EU, the UK will have its own domestic subsidy control regime. From 1 January, the Government will follow the World Trade Organization rules for subsidy control, and any related commitments the Government have agreed in free trade agreements.

We will consult on whether to go further than those existing commitments, including whether legislation is necessary to achieve a system that promotes a competitive and dynamic economy throughout the United Kingdom. We appreciate that our longer-term approach will have implications for business and all public authorities that grant subsidies with taxpayers’ money, including the devolved Administrations. So we will take the time to listen closely to those voices and design a system that promotes a competitive and dynamic economy throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. However, we will not return to the 1970s approach of bailing out unsustainable companies, be they in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

As we leave the EU and take back control of our money, we will require new powers to continue to invest across the United Kingdom. Therefore, this Bill will confer a power to make sure that the UK Government can invest UK taxpayers’ money nationwide, including on the UK Government’s priorities, supporting people and businesses across the UK and delivering on our commitment to level up all parts of our country. Currently, unelected EU bodies spend billions of pounds that we provided as a net contributor, on our behalf. They spend our money, with very little say from elected politicians in the UK. This will, rightly, change as we leave the transition period.

The UK Government intend to take a much more collaborative approach in delivering programmes that replace EU funds. This includes engaging heavily with local authorities as well as wider public and private sector organisations. And, of course, it means working closely with the devolved Administrations to make sure that investments complement their existing—and continuing—powers used to support citizens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This power to provide financial assistance will cover infrastructure, economic development, culture and sport. It will also support educational and training activities and exchanges both within the UK and internationally, much of which of course was previously done at EU level.

These powers are not designed to take powers from the devolved Administrations, but to add powers to direct investment in a similar fashion to the EU Commission, while reforming programmes and empowering MPs from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England to design and scrutinise funds in a way that was never possible within the EU. This will also allow the UK Government to meet their commitments to replicating and matching EU structural funds within the shared prosperity fund. This is in line with the Government’s manifesto commitments to strengthen the union and level up the country. This power to provide financial assistance is one of the mechanisms by which the Government hope to achieve these ambitions.

We will also be introducing limited and reasonable steps to provide a safety net to ensure that peace can always be preserved in Northern Ireland. In the event that we do not reach an agreement with the EU on how to implement the Northern Ireland protocol, we must be able to deliver on promises in our manifesto and in the Command Paper. This is a legal safety net which clarifies our position on the Northern Ireland protocol, protecting our union and ensuring that businesses based in Northern Ireland have true “unfettered access” to the rest of the United Kingdom, without paperwork. The Bill will also provide certainty on state aid, ensuring that there is no legal confusion and that, while Northern Ireland will remain subject to the EU’s state aid regime for the duration of the protocol, Great Britain will not be subject to EU rules in this area.

This Bill, and our wider approach to protecting our internal market, is designed for co-operation between the four parts of the United Kingdom. It will protect our common causes, such as the setting of high standards in our economy, and will work in concert with the common frameworks programme and the IGR, which is due to conclude shortly. After all, the UK has some of the highest standards in the world. It is worth reminding noble Lords that we go beyond EU rules in many areas, including health and safety in the workplace, workers’ rights, food, health and animal welfare, consumer protections, household goods, net zero and the environment. We will maintain that commitment to high standards, including as we negotiate trade agreements that will provide jobs and growth in the UK. We have been driving this forward through our common frameworks programme, to drive collaboration and a coherent approach to policy across the UK now that we have left the European Union. I therefore want to reiterate the Government’s invitation to all devolved Administrations to work together on this Bill, with the common frameworks process and with the internal market as a whole.

This Bill is crucial to ensuring that we continue to work together as one United Kingdom to support jobs and livelihoods across our entire country. As we rebuild and recover from Covid-19 and look ahead to opportunities following the end of the transition period, this Bill will provide the certainty that businesses need to invest and create jobs. It will accompany one of the biggest transfers of powers in the history of devolution, with hundreds of powers flowing from the EU to the devolved Administrations at the end of the transition period. This Bill will do all this and preserve the internal market, which has been an engine of growth and prosperity since the Acts of Union. That is why we need this Bill. I beg to move.  

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Moved on Monday 19 October by
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Amendment moved on Monday 19 October by

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 26th October 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-II Revised second marshalled list for Committee - (26 Oct 2020)
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, if the Ministers shepherding this Bill expected an easy ride, this gives a taste of things to come. It serves a purpose in setting the scene, and a lot of arguments and debates will come in other groups as we go through this process. I shall not labour those points. An overriding sense I got from my noble friend Lord Purvis is that the question everybody wants to know the answer to is: why have Her Majesty’s Government decided to turn away from a process of managing markets that has been extremely successful? It was successful before we joined the European Union and successful afterwards. This is the overriding question that hangs over this whole debate.

On Amendments 1 and 112, if ever we needed convincing that things such as the environment need to be written into the Bill, the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, convinced me that they do. This is because we cannot take things for granted. Governments come and Governments go, but the law stays, and we need to be sure that our public policy is being directed properly. I uncharacteristically find myself somewhat agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes: we have to be careful not to constrain the nature of this Bill. We need to find a way to write in issues such as those of the consumer and the environment. I would add some of the points made by my noble friend Lady Bowles and food safety to that. We need to ensure that there is an assessment of the success of this internal market in some of those areas, including the environment, the effect on consumers, the effect on jobs, et cetera. I share the view of my noble friend Lady Bowles that perhaps more work is needed, but the issue is live and very important. I thank the proposers of the amendment.

Turning to Amendment 2, I do not think proportionality pops up anywhere in other amendments. We had a brief discussion of this extremely important subject from various speakers. I take my lead on this from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who understands the law, and my noble friend Lady Bowles, who knows a thing or two about regulation. If they are concerned about proportionality, so are we on these Benches. The Government need to find a way of writing that issue into the Bill.

On public procurement, we need to understand what the Government mean by what they seek to do in this legislation. The issue highlighted by my noble friend Lord Purvis is live and real: how will this legislation affect those issues? It is a probing amendment, but for it to work we need answers.

We have started. There are issues we shall return to, but proportionality and public procurement are two on which I hope the Minister will respond at length.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, let me open by thanking noble Lords for their contributions at Second Reading last week. Again, the contributions have demonstrated the tremendous breadth of expertise in this House. This is indeed a crucial piece of legislation. In this respect, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and I look forward to providing the scrutiny it deserves and that I am sure it will receive from noble Lords, beginning today and in the days and weeks ahead.

Let me reassure, and to some extent disagree with, my noble friend Lord Cormack, which will not come as a surprise to him. We are not riding roughshod over the devolution settlements. The devolved Administrations will acquire dozens of new powers that they have not exercised before once we leave the EU transition period. The Bill is about ensuring that those powers are exercised in a non-discriminatory manner, but they will acquire new powers and new responsibilities. Before I address the specifics of Amendments 1, 2, 59 and 112, which we are discussing in this first group, I want to remind to noble Lords of why we need this Bill and the context of Part 1.

By opening with the purpose of the Bill, I hope to explain why these four amendments, which seek to alter the Bill’s core principles, are not necessary. The Bill aims to allow the continuing smooth functioning of our UK internal market at the end of the transition period. As we set out in the White Paper, and as I explained at Second Reading, the Bill will establish a market access commitment by enshrining mutual recognition and non-discrimination in law. Part 1 concerns itself with delivering this market access commitment for goods. The principle of mutual recognition is that goods and services from one part of the UK will continue to be recognised across the country. This will ensure the devolved Administrations will benefit from their additional powers and freedoms outside the EU. As the transition period ends, they will gain increased powers, as I said to my noble friend Lord Cormack, to set their own rules and standards across a wide range of policy areas within their competence. At the same time, it provides firm assurance to our businesses that their goods can continue to flow freely throughout the United Kingdom. Non-discrimination ensures that there is continued equal opportunity for companies to trade in the UK, regardless of where in the UK the business is based.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Empey, that the measures in the Bill will also ensure that Northern Ireland qualifying goods benefit from the market access commitment and receive mutual recognition in the rest of the UK. The Bill will also affirm the principle that those goods are not subject to checks, controls or administrative processes as they move from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord on that point. This means we will fulfil our commitment to legislate for unfettered access, as we promised to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland. This will ensure that businesses and citizens in the United Kingdom can continue to trade freely across the four nations.

With this context in mind, I turn to Amendments 1 and 112 together. These seek respectively to limit the purpose of Part 1 and the Office for the Internal Market’s statutory objective to the protection of the environment and consumer interests. Now, it goes without saying that the protection of the environment and consumers is hugely important, and something that we as a Government are already committed to. The UK, as I never tire of repeating, has some of the highest standards in the world, and we will continue to improve these ahead of others. We remain committed to being at the forefront of environmental protection and a leader in setting ambitious targets to prevent damage to our natural world, building on our already strong environmental record. For example, we have set out a range of new policies in the Environment Bill that are designed to drive up environmental standards in line with the UK’s priorities.

The statutory objective of the Competition and Markets Authority—acting as the Office for the Internal Market—ensures that the office is able to effectively operate as the monitoring body for the internal market, and that there is no confusion between the pre-existing powers of the CMA and those newly conferred on it as the OIM. Distinct objectives will prevent any operationally problematic blurring of functions.

As my noble friend Lady Noakes observed, the office will operate for the benefit of all those with an interest in a smooth-functioning internal market, whether that be regulators, businesses, professionals, the four legislatures or indeed consumers. Explicitly narrowing its focus to consumers would be to the detriment of all the others that I have listed.

Moreover, the functions set out in Part 4 of the Bill clearly establish that the office will consider the economic impacts of regulatory measures on the internal market. Although some of these will of course be environmental protection measures, it will not be authorised to opine on the extent to which these measures safeguard the environment, because this would risk duplicating the role of existing public bodies with a purely environmental focus. As such, given how much the Government are already doing in the area of consumer and environmental protection, I consider that these amendments, which seek to change the purpose of the Bill, are unnecessary, and I hope that I have been able to persuade my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, to withdraw Amendment 1 and not move Amendment 112.

Amendment 2 aims to introduce the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity into the Bill as additional market access principles. These are European law principles. We have now left the EU and are free to organise our internal market in a way that is better suited to the UK’s unique constitutional arrangements and common-law systems. I agree with my noble friend Lady Noakes that the market access principles will protect seamless trade and jobs across all four corners of the United Kingdom following the end of the transition period in December 2020. They have been designed for the UK’s specific devolution arrangements and legal approach, and they already take account of the need for reasonableness and respect for devolution. In contrast, the proposed amendment would muddy the waters with EU concepts that in our view are ill-fitting in the UK. For these reasons, the Government cannot accept this amendment and I hope that noble Lords will not move it.

Amendment 59, on which there was considerable discussion, seeks to disapply the market access principles from the public procurement rules. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Fox, that the principles proposed in the Bill will not typically operate in the area of public procurement, and indeed that we intend to legislate separately in this area via a wider package of procurement reform, on which we will shortly consult. The market access principles are not relevant to procurement as they are about how business is regulated. The procurement rules cover how public authorities carry out their procurement function. We believe that the risk of divergence can be effectively managed through a combination of close devolved Administration engagement and use of the common frameworks, and we are working to develop a concordat on expected public procurement practices and policies between the four UK nations.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, while I am grateful that the Minister has confirmed to me that a piece of legislation that has been made fully compliant with our single market—the deposit return scheme—will now come into scope under this legislation, because it is not yet in force in Scotland, that will be of very significant concern to Members of the Scottish Parliament, who legislated in good faith in a perfectly legal way. This Government have now said that that will come into scope, contrary to the market access principles, because it will not be able to be afforded protection if it is challenged in court because of the lack of environmental objections. I take the Minister’s point that he believes that it will be brought under the scope of market access principles, so I would be grateful if he could write to me to explain how indeed that will happen. If it is under a framework, we are back to exactly where we started, which is that the best approach on all these aspects is a framework.

That leads me to the question that I wish to ask him, because he did reply to the question that I asked about the status of the agreement made between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations on the framework agreement. In the document of September 2020 on the framework analysis, the Government repeated what that agreement was. I will quote from it again for the Minister: it was to

“maintain, as a minimum, equivalent flexibility for tailoring policies to the specific needs of each territory, as is afforded by current EU rules”.

The document goes on to say:

“These principles continue to guide all discussions between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on common frameworks.”


What is the basis of that document and that commitment, given what the Minister has just said in responding on this group: namely, that that is an ill-fitted set of agreements because we are now out of the EU? What is the status of the agreement that was made over the frameworks?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Well, as I have said before to the noble Lord, we remain completely committed to the framework process and we remain committed to frameworks that have already been agreed—but we see this legislation as complementary to that, as it underpins the entire framework process. As I said to him with regard to the deposit return scheme, if it comes into force when it is predicted to do so, then indeed it will be covered by the market access principles, but we are confident that the deposit return scheme can be brought into effect in full compliance with the market access principles.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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I am slightly lost on that, but we will come back to it. I thank the Minister for his response and I am grateful for the very interesting debate that has happened. I will say a few words about what was said by the noble Baronesses, Lady Noakes and Lady Bowles, about the point of competition and why it should be here. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that competition is extremely good for consumers. We want to see a successful economy, and I see no difference whatever in what he was spelling out and what we want to achieve.

The problem, of course, is where, for whatever reason, there is not a perfect market. Although here we are talking about goods rather than financial services, I was involved in the Financial Services Consumer Panel, and even though we had and still have—although Covid is throwing everything out—a thriving financial services market that has been good for the economy, for consumers and for the taxpayer, it has sometimes been, as we know from all the compensation that had to be paid, at the expense of consumers. So we cannot assume, simply because we have a good, thriving economy and lots of competition, that there are not sometimes disadvantages for consumers. That is why it is important, while we want a competitive, thriving market, to make sure that those protections are there. So as we look forward to the internal market being all the things that have been described, it cannot be at the price of consumers.

As I have said, I really support competition—we all used to wear NHS glasses until someone freed up the market, so we are all able to get nice red ones now. I doubt there is anything much between us on that. It is important, though, as we look forward to a market that is going to work for the whole UK, that it is not at the expense of consumers or the environment. I have been buying plants recently, hoping that one day we will have some good weather, but they should not be in peat pots. That is not good for the environment. Something may be good for consumers and at a good price, but you also need to consider the environmental aspect.

Consumers are not just interested in price; they are interested in safety and the longevity of products. However, that is not always something they can see at the point of purchase. Price is very easy for consumers: they can look at it and compare. Other things behind the price are also important. It is important as we look to a new market mechanism that we take that into account. I am sorry to have gone on a bit about this issue but as we will come back to it on Report, it is probably helpful for the Minister to understand. We may not have got the wording quite right: I am not trying to trump the Government but to point out why those elements need to be included.

On the devolution issue, the noble Lord, Lord Empey, is right that there is a clash between the settlements and what we are now trying to do with the internal market; I think he called it a collision between London and the regions. I hear very much what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said: that if we get this wrong, we are threatening something much bigger than any of us thought. No Brexiteer wanted to challenge the union; that was not what divided some of us who had divisions on that issue.

We need to look at how we deal with devolution. I was really taken by the example that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, gave of the IGC process that led to the single market and other things. I will come on to that way of working when we consider a different group of amendments. The confidence to do things in a shared and consensual way is important. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said that it would probably be important to put in the Bill retention of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. They have guided us well and there is no reason why we should lose them, just because we are leaving. I think we will return to that issue.

On procurement, I think the arguments were fairly common between us. I am afraid I was slightly thrown by what the Minister said and will have to read later exactly what he said about separate legislation. Maybe we can exchange correspondence on that issue, and on the timing. Clearly, we will need to come back to procurement to ensure that we have something that will work for all four nations. For the moment—and I am sorry about the length of my response—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, said, this debate is a sort of appetiser for the main course to come in later groups, when we will dig much deeper into the right approach to ensuring that our current well-functioning internal market continues after the transition period ends and that we can manage the necessary and inevitable policy divergences that we need across the United Kingdom and should welcome.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said that the key questions are why we need the Bill at all, let alone now, why the Government are ignoring the evident successes of the co-operation and constructive progress which have been hallmarks of the common framework programme, why threaten the devolution settlement so directly, and what it is about the top-down approach that the Government wish to introduce that is so attractive, given the huge risks to devolution. Those are very important questions and I look forward to hearing what the Minister says when he comes to respond.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said that she recognised the value of proposed new subsections (1) and (2) in the amendment but was worried that proposed new subsections (3) and (4) made it a wrecking amendment. I do not think that it is. Indeed, I make the same points about the need for a pause before we implement in my Amendment 178, which is in a later group.

I hope that the Government will think very hard about the clear message that seems to come from this debate. We need to carry on down the road well travelled in recent years, encouraging the devolved Administrations to continue to collaborate, to work together with mutual understanding until agreement is reached, and then to go further so that there is agreement on all the issues that need to be agreed and a way of resolving any issues that are left over. This is the way in which we make progress—not by imposing a top-down solution. Indeed, anything else risks destroying the complex but pretty successful devolution settlement that we currently enjoy.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 4, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Purvis, would prevent the market access principles applying by the end of the transition period. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe pointed out, that would produce a considerable delay in providing certainty to businesses that free trade can continue within the UK’s internal market.

I heard the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, query my assertion at Second Reading about business support for these measures, but over 270 businesses and organisations responded to the public consultation on our proposals and, overwhelmingly, businesses supported our approach. Particularly as they look to recover from the impacts of Covid-19, businesses need certainty, and that is what this Bill, as drafted, seeks to provide.

I repeat that the aim of the Bill is to ensure that there are no internal barriers to trade within the UK, while respecting the devolution policies. All devolved policy areas will stay devolved. The proposals ensure only that no new barriers to UK internal trade are created. The Bill aims only to procure frictionless trade, movement and investment between all nations of the UK. The policies that different parts of the UK choose to pursue in the future is a matter for those Administrations. The Bill ensures that these local policies can be pursued while, at the same time, maintaining seamless trade in the UK internal market.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, asked me specifically about barley, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has written to me on the same subject. We believe that this provides a good example of the risks that businesses could be exposed to. Food produce placed on the market must comply with rules on pesticide maximum residue levels. These are currently set at EU level, and so are consistent across the United Kingdom, meaning that food can be traded across the devolved Administrations. This is an example of a policy area which will be devolved after 1 January. At the moment, all Administrations are supported by the same regulator—the Health and Safety Executive. That will, to a certain extent, aid consistency, and we are of course committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations to jointly agree consistent maximum residue levels across Great Britain.

However, without the Bill’s mutual recognition provisions, there would be the possibility of divergent decisions being taken, which would then introduce new trade barriers on food between different parts of our country. Depending on any particular decision, this could affect any agricultural or horticultural produce that has been previously treated with pesticides. For example, different residue rules might mean that it is not lawful to sell in Scotland barley grown in England.

More broadly, without the principles set out in the Bill, harmful divergence would be possible, in spite of the important protection provided by industry standards. That is because industry standards are voluntarily agreed between private economic actors and so cannot provide the same certainty for businesses and investors as the legislative principles set out in the Bill.

The consent process proposed in the amendment would remove that certainty and make operating conditions for businesses across the UK dependent on a number of fairly onerous conditions. These conditions include matters that would cut across ongoing collaborative work with the devolved Administrations. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that these include the common frameworks programme and the intergovernmental relations review, both of which the Government are fully committed to pursuing. Indeed, in the next group, we will examine the common frameworks principles in more detail, and my noble friend Lord True will explain our position in more detail.

However, I assure noble Lords that the Government have already committed to appropriate consultation with the devolved Administrations on these matters. Furthermore, we are engaging them in all suggestions for how practically to improve intergovernmental relations, including both the machinery, such as dispute resolution, and the way in which these joint forums are run.

The noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Purvis, asked a question about dispute resolution. I can tell them both that the office for the internal market will support existing arrangements for dispute resolution. Its non-binding reporting will ensure that evidence-based dispute resolution takes place in line with the current memorandum of understanding on devolution. The OIM’s reporting will be available to all four Administrations and legislatures on an equal and purely advisory basis. It will provide information and support separate political processes to resolve any disagreements and enable intergovernmental engagement. The amendment would cut across all ongoing collaborative work with the DAs and remove our ability to give businesses the certainty they need at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said that the Government would override the rest of the UK when legislating for England. That is certainly not our intention. The nature of our constitution is that the UK Parliament will be able to legislate over existing legislation, but the Bill aims to treat all domestic legislation in the same way. Her Majesty’s Government will be cognisant of the importance of market access principles in supporting any extra legislation.

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Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister cited the example of pesticides, a subject on which there will almost certainly be unanimity. But on matters such as subsidy control, where there may be a justifiable difference in approach, does the Minister not accept that unless the Government are willing to accept a mechanism such as this to secure consent from the devolved Administrations, he is in effect imposing his solution on them, and cannot in any way claim that this Bill is agreed by the devolved nations—with all the consequences that flow from that unfortunate situation?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Bill would legislate for subsidy control becoming a reserved matter. We are committed to consulting further with the devolved Administrations before proceeding, if we do, to any further legislation.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have two questions. First, I called for clarity, trying to explain its importance to organisational success, which, frankly, is very relevant. I noticed almost no support for this from the Benches opposite, yet businesses, citizens and professionals will have to manage in the new market, and if the rules are at risk of changing in different ways regularly, that could be a problem. Obviously, sensible consultation and collaboration are needed, but we must be wary of a political veto. Does the Minister agree that this is a problem, or is the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, right?

My second question is whether the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is right or I am. At Second Reading, I mentioned with approval the ability of the devolved territories to do their own thing and gave two examples: minimum pricing of alcohol and carrier-bag charges, both of which I supported at the time. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, suggested that the powers to do such things will be undermined, and quoted exactly the same examples. Am I right or is she right?

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend is putting me in the very difficult position of choosing which noble Baroness is correct. If I might venture to say, on the measures she has quoted my noble friend is correct. The Bill has no effect on minimum pricing of alcohol; that is excluded as a policy area, as are all pre-existing measures. This would also apply to carrier-bag prices. The Bill provides clarity and certainty for businesses, which is what we seek.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I take it as a little chink of victory that the Minister found it difficult to say whether he agreed with his noble friend or me. I will secure that as an achievement of the day, if he does not mind. I will return in a future group to minimum unit pricing and single-use carrier bags, because I am not convinced about that position.

I suspected that the Minister would refer to pesticides, so I took the liberty of reading the Health and Safety Executive’s board report on the framework, which has now been agreed, on pesticides and maximum residue levels. That agreement has been reached, so the concern the Minister is putting forward, of a threat to the operation of the single market, does not exist. That will be a UK-wide provision, and the regulations for Scotland are about policing it. The approach of the HSE has been well established for many years, and the regulation required to police this in Scotland is quite different from what the Government are asserting, which is the exercise of a power that would effectively prohibit goods from entering a Scottish market. That is notwithstanding the fact that if it concerns what is ultimately used for produce such as whisky, it is an industry standard, based on the minimum base that would be taken. The chemicals and pesticides framework from Defra and HSE has been resolved, so perhaps the Minister should stop using this an example. It is not convincing.

Regarding the office for the internal market, the Minister has now said something new: that the CMA, the parent body of the OIM, is involved in existing disputes under the Joint Ministerial Committee’s memorandum of understanding that was agreed after devolution. This will be news to the CMA. Can the Minister repeat that the CMA has a role in the Joint Ministerial Committee’s disputes, under the memorandum? That is what he said in response to the question, but it is not the case. As outlined in the Bill, the OIM has no role in disputes. If the Minister is saying that the dispute resolution mechanism for the internal market is the JMC memorandum of 20 years ago that was agreed for devolution, it simply will not work, because it does not provide for the operation of the single market.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord asked a number of questions, and I am sure he will be quick to write to me if I do not answer all of them. On the famous subject of barley and pesticides, he is correct, but the whole point about frameworks is that they are voluntary agreements. Any one of the Administrations can walk away at any time. We are committed to agreeing voluntary frameworks and will continue to take part in those discussions and advocate them, but the point of this legislation is to provide a legislative underpinning for all of the work taking place on frameworks.

Could the noble Lord remind me what the other questions were?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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I am grateful to the Minister and may well be writing to him on that basis, as he predicted. Can he clarify what the intended role of the office for the internal market will be under the CMA? In a previous answer, he indicated that it has a role in the dispute resolution mechanism in the devolution memorandum of understanding. My understanding is that it does not. Which is the case? If the intention is that the OIM has a role in the dispute resolution mechanism, there is no reference to that in the legislation.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The purpose of the office for the internal market is to provide advice, reports and monitoring to all four Governments and legislatures. It will have no direct role in dispute resolution, which will be a matter for the Joint Ministerial Committee to discuss.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise to the Deputy Chairman of Committees for having jumped in so soon. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions; the subsequent questions were worth waiting for, so I am glad that I did not plough on.

This has been an interesting debate; however many more hours we will have in Committee, it has uncovered above all else how half-baked—how completely undercooked—this Bill is. It is not worked through. The point of this amendment was to highlight, and give the Government, an opportunity to step back and admit that there are so many open questions and so many issues. I feel sorry for the Minister—I rarely do, but on this occasion I do—because he is having to respond to things that have not been properly locked down in this legislation. So I will look at Hansard, but it is quite clear that, one way or another, we will have to come back on Report to these absolutely central issues. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 4.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 28th October 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-III Third Marshalled list for Committee - (28 Oct 2020)
Amendment 61 in my name would delete the first reference in the Bill to any part of the offending Part 5. For the purposes of good management, it is far better that instead of addressing that in this group, we wait until we get to Part 5. Amendment 61 was intended to be a paving amendment to the Part 5 debate, so I will leave that until then.
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank everybody who has contributed to what has been, as always in this House, a fascinating debate, ranging far and wide, from cattle droving in the 1700s, through to the immense knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on current EU matters. It is good to see him again to take up cudgels across the Dispatch Box. As he knows, I do not agree with him, but I always enjoy debating these matters. I hope that noble Lords will have patience today. I have quite a lot to say—many points have been raised and I intend to go into a lot of the detail. I apologise if my remarks are a little long.

Amendments 7, 8, 20, 21, 22, 26, 32, 45 and 61, all seek to alter or change the application and scope of mutual recognition and non-discrimination for the internal market and goods. The workings of mutual recognition and non-discrimination as applied in this Bill have been carefully designed to suit the UK’s unique constitutional and legal arrangements. We consulted widely on this, based on the Government’s proposals set out in the White Paper in June.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, wanted to know in detail about the consultation. We published for her benefit, a response in full to the White Paper consultation on 9 September and I would be happy to send her a copy. The consultation demonstrated that UK businesses and industry representatives are overwhelmingly supportive of the measures to prevent discriminating behaviours within our internal market. I will set out the rationale why I cannot accept these amendments. I am happy to explain how mutual recognition and non-discrimination work in greater detail.

We have been clear that the UK will do nothing to diminish its reputation as a leading nation when it comes to setting and expecting high standards of its domestic businesses and international trading partners. I know this is a concern that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has expressed on other Bills that we have discussed in relation to EU exit and is what she seeks to address in Amendment 7, but I contend that this simply will not arise.

Removing imported goods from the mutual recognition principle would mean that those goods, simply because of where they were sourced, could not benefit from the same regulatory treatment as goods produced in the United Kingdom. Even when produced to identical specification and quality as domestic products, this discriminatory impact would put imported goods at a conspicuously unfair disadvantage. Under such a discriminatory approach, we would be likely to be in clear breach of our World Trade Organization commitments to treat imports from other countries no less favourably than similar products produced domestically.

This amendment would also create continued uncertainty for importers. Those businesses whose supply chains rely on overseas sourcing could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. This amendment would not tackle the issue it seeks to address and would have significant negative consequences for the UK if included.

There was considerable discussion of Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, which would ensure that food and animal feedstuffs would not fall within scope of the mutual recognition principle. Like my noble friend Lady Noakes, I was slightly struggling to understand the relevance of his comments about pig semen. I think he asked whether pig semen across the island of Ireland would be affected by Clause 2, but I am happy to confirm for his benefit that pig semen will be subject to the same rules as other goods across the island of Ireland and only when it moves from Northern Ireland to Great Britain will it be subject to any checks. On pigswill, I am happy to confirm for him that the Government will not allow the reinstatement of its use.

This amendment could have serious consequences for the food supply chain, as foods sold in one nation could not be sold in another if there were different regulatory requirements, creating significant barriers to trade within the UK. As I have said, the Government remain committed to maintaining the highest standards in food and feed safety. The UK internal market approach will not change the approach to determining food and feed safety and hygiene policy. I can put at rest the noble Lord’s mind and that of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis: Schedule 1 to the Bill contains an exclusion to the market access principles to continue to enable the UK Government and the devolved Administrations to take appropriate risk-management measures to prevent or reduce the movement of unsafe food or feed from one part of the UK to other parts. I will have more to say about that later.

Turning to Amendment 20 and the consequential Amendment 22, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh and relating to the exclusion of certain existing statutory requirements from the mutual recognition principle, Clause 4 ensures that pre-existing regulatory differences within the UK are excluded from the scope of mutual recognition. This is a forward-looking Bill that seeks to ensure that businesses can continue to enjoy the benefits of our well-integrated internal market after the transition period ends on 31 December. Businesses already live with and have adapted to any regulatory differences that currently exist, so mutual recognition does not need to apply retrospectively. In line with this objective, Clause 4(2)(b) ensures that this exclusion is specifically targeted at those areas in which regulatory differences have previously emerged.

This amendment would widen the exclusion to include any statutory requirement that existed prior to the relevant day set out in the Bill, regardless of whether there had been divergence in that area. However, this is not necessary. Mutual recognition has a practical effect only in areas where requirements differ across the UK, which is why the exclusion is targeted at those areas. Regulatory requirements, which are currently harmonised across the UK, do not need to be specifically excluded as the application of mutual recognition will not make any difference to the status quo. Of course, if the existing requirements excluded by Clause 4 are amended in a way that changes the effect or outcome of the legislation, they would then come within the scope of mutual recognition.

Amendment 21 is consequential on Amendment 6, which we discussed previously as part of a wider discussion on market access principles. It would amend the exclusion of pre-existing requirements from the mutual principle if Amendment 6 is also adopted. My noble friend Lady Bloomfield addressed Amendment 6 yesterday in the fifth group but, in brief, these amendments in combination would enable harmful regulatory divergence within the UK internal market into 2021 and beyond. This could lead to new barriers for businesses trading within the UK, instead of clarity and certainty.

The noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked about any follow-on emissions trading scheme. This is a non-market framework, so it would not be captured by the market access principles as it does not relate to a good or service.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised a number of questions about fertilisers. I shall give him a detailed reply. To exclude from the principle of mutual recognition as proposed by the Bill the safeguarding decisions of Administrations in relation to the placing on the market of fertilisers would allow each Administration to ban the sale of a fertiliser or impose conditions on that fertiliser in their jurisdiction in response to a risk to the health and safety of humans, animals, plants and the environment. We think it necessary to retain the current ability for the individual nations to take local circumstances into account and immediately to take a fertiliser deemed unsafe off the market in their territory without the risk of that product finding its way back into that territory via another nation. Without that amendment, it could take some time formally to ban a product through legislation—perhaps a couple of years.

The noble Lord also asked about pesticides. Decisions on which pesticides can be authorised to be marketed and sold in each part of the UK are already within devolved competence. All four Administrations work closely together, supported by HSE, and most decisions can be taken jointly by consensus. However, retaining the ability of each Administration to take its own decision where necessary is important, for example, if merely to consider locally specific factors, such as environmental or farming conditions, which can differ across the UK. This has worked well for many years where there has been occasional divergence between different parts of the UK and has not, so far, caused problems. This amendment therefore maintains the current position.

Amendment 26, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, seeks an explanation of the meaning of Clause 5(3), which I am happy to give. Clause 5(3) will operate so that any future requirements that fall within the scope of the non-discrimination principle will be of no effect to the extent that they are discriminatory. For the benefit of the lawyers, this does not mean that the requirement is to be treated as if it never had any legal effect. Rather, it allows the continued operation of the requirement, except to the extent that it has discriminatory effects. This aims to ensure that businesses can continue in their trade and goods can continue to be sold, despite protectionist measures that might treat goods from one part of the UK more favourably than goods from another. As the Bill deals with trade across the whole of the United Kingdom, the intention is that this will apply to all legislation: secondary legislation, primary legislation passed by devolved legislatures and legislation passed by the UK Parliament.

We believe that this does not require further elaboration in the Bill and is clear that only changes to existing legislation that affect the outcome are in scope. The amendment in question could cause confusion as there may be amendments that are considered “significant”, but do not change the outcome or effect of legislation. Fundamentally, however, the drafting in this clause will allow businesses to continue following the same regulations as they have been accustomed to, as our desire is not to disrupt their operations. That flexibility is important, because we want this provision to catch legislation only to the extent that it produces discriminatory effects. If something is not law, it cannot have any effect. As I said, we want to create a presumption that future Acts of Parliament are subject to this rule, which the current drafting allows.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh also asked whether, if the FSA and FSS had different rules, that would impact on the free movement of goods. The principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination will apply to goods, including food, feed and animal products. This means that a good that can be lawfully sold in one territory can be lawfully sold in the other territories without having to comply with that other territory’s requirements. The only exclusion from this, as I said earlier, is set out in Schedule 1, which provides for exclusion in emergency scenarios where specific criteria are set out.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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The Minister did not explain why services from the Isle of Man to the rest of the United Kingdom will be considered within the United Kingdom internal market, but goods coming from the Isle of Man are outside the single market. There are many service providers from the Isle of Man. In fact, financial services are probably a bigger part of the Isle of Man economy than goods for export. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain this. The Minister did not respond to my point about whether these regulations apply to the services that citizens receive for higher education. This is very important within Scotland.

My point to the Minister, I believe, justifies my argument on the good working relationship across the four nations on fertilisers and pesticides. The Minister referenced the justification for the government amendment about the need to work in emergencies. Paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 already has exclusions from market access principles for threats to human, animal and plant health. Emergencies were already covered. The amendment that the Government brought forward was not on emergencies; I looked at the regulations that it covers, which are in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 on fertilisers and pesticides. The Bill will allow the Scottish Government, and a Welsh Government or UK Government acting for England, to make a different judgment on the advice they get from the single regulator about the safety of a pesticide for, as the Minister Paul Scully said, “movement and use”.

So, if English farmers, under the authority of the regulations in the Bill, decide to use fertilisers on crops—barley—that are unsafe in the view of the Scottish Government, the Bill will allow the Scottish Government to prevent that barley from being used in Scottish distilleries. The Minister said that the whole purpose of the Bill was to prevent that from arising. So he has managed to undermine the entire intent of his argument at Second Reading, which was that the purpose of this legislation was to prevent a barrier from a different decision being made on safety grounds. If this amendment, which the Government brought forward, allows for different decisions to be made on the safety of pesticides used in different parts of the UK, I hope the Minister will reflect on what he said about the justification for the Bill.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I understand the point the noble Lord is making, but I think we are talking at cross purposes. It would allow provisions on unsafe products, but the provisions would be based on advice from the common regulator—so presumably the authorities in England would draw the same conclusion. It does not allow a Minister to dream up a definition of “unsafe” and implement provisions on that.

On the noble Lord’s first point, if he will forgive me, I will write to him.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am struggling to understand the Minister’s reply on Amendments 26 and 45. I am particularly concerned about Amendment 26, which is a probing amendment and simply asks for greater clarity, which I do not think we have had. Is he saying that the statutory requirement has no effect? Does he mean that it is valid or not? Is it enforceable? I am trying to avoid a situation where there is any doubt whatever, and court action might be taken. I do not quite understand his answer that the possibility of court action is excluded if, in the view of others, a statutory requirement has effect and could, therefore, be actionable.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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No, it does not mean that the requirement is to be treated as though it never had any legal effect. Rather, it allows the continued operation of the requirement, except to the extent that it has discriminatory effect.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, I think I am Baroness Hayter of Confused. I did not understand that last reply. I thank the Minister for attempting to answer the question, though I have to warn him that I think he is in trouble with the boss. I think he admitted that there would be checks at the border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain on pig semen. The boss said, “No checks, no extra paperwork”. I am now hearing noble Lords say, “New checks”. That is not what the Prime Minister said at that reception. He said, “If there’s a piece of paper, send it to me and I’ll throw it away”. I shall make no comment on semen causing particular problems, but it seems that there would be checks on it.

I shall try to be brief because a lot of points have been raised. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly those who support the line we are taking. I fear that many of these questions flag up the problem that the Bill was drafted without the full involvement and agreement of the devolved authorities. We may not be where we are if those discussions had taken place beforehand. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord German, who talked about parallel tracks between the common framework and this Bill. It loses not only the consensus approach to the common frameworks that we have discussed before, but the flexibility that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned. We want to build on this. I hope the Minister will hear some of these questions and see whether he can give a response that ensures clarity for business, as well as for those operating in this area.

The Minister did not answer on universities and I am not sure he answered about the all-Ireland agreement. A lot of other points were raised about animal feedstuffs and pesticides. It would help if some of those dialogues could continue before we get to Report. It is also worth listening to what my noble friend Lord Liddle said. The Government should stand up and say that they support the maintenance of the devolved settlements, and that they recognise and want to keep diversity where it would still enable us to have an internal market. That sort of statement would be helpful.

I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is now not allowed to come back at me for what I am going to say. I partly agree with her. We want trade and believe that it is good, but not at any price—not at the price of safety or the environment. This does not mean that we are not in favour of greater trade with all the benefits that it has brought. I also agree with her that, of course, we favour free, and barrier-free, trade. That is why some of us want a deal with the EU, which has no tariffs or checks, and we wanted to stay as close to it as possible. I know it was not her view that we should stay in. I think I once heard her say—I am happy to correct this at the end if I am wrong—that trading on WTO terms would not be the end of the world. Good, the noble Baroness is nodding, so she confirms that she said it. That, of course, would mean a lot of checks and a stop to free trade.

The issues raised in this debate need further consideration. We have to resolve the question that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked. Will there be any input by the devolved authorities into importation by, particularly, the English Government? They will need some comfort over that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
9: Clause 3, page 2, line 21, leave out “any” and insert “a particular”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would clarify that the purpose of Clause 3 is to identify what are the relevant requirements that apply to a specific sale of goods (the word “sale” being defined broadly in Clause 14).
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I apologise in advance if noble Lords are in for more technical explanations. We will take together the minor technical amendments in my name to Clauses 3 and 4. All involve drafting improvements or clarifying technicalities. None of these amendments results in a change of policy, but they need full and proper scrutiny in this Chamber and noble Lords deserve an explanation of the improvements that they make to the Bill.

First, I turn to Amendment 9. This clarifies Clause 3 by identifying what is a relevant requirement in relation to a specific case where particular goods are sold. Without this amendment, there could be ambiguity as to whether a requirement needs to apply to all sales of all goods to be a relevant requirement. For example, where a business has produced a tin of biscuits in Scotland and seeks to rely on the mutual recognition principle to sell them in England, this amendment makes it clear that the relevant requirements are those that would apply to the sale of the biscuits in England and to the equivalent, hypothetical sale of the biscuits in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. Requirements that apply to other sales of other goods—for example, requirements that apply to the auctioning of a painting—would not be relevant requirements in this context. Without this amendment, there is a risk of legal uncertainty over which requirements are relevant. This could create confusion, costs and inconvenience for businesses.

Amendment 10 provides similar clarification. It emphasises that subsection (2), which defines and therefore enables one to identify a relevant requirement in relation to a particular sale, makes relevant requirements only in relation that sale. Requirements are not relevant in any general way; they are relevant only in relation to the sale in question.

Amendment 18 clarifies that Clause 4(1)(a) refers to a specific sale of goods, rather than a hypothetical sale of goods. It makes clear that we are referring to an actual sale of goods and not to a hypothetical sale. As a result, the amendment removes any potential ambiguity around which existing statutory requirements are excluded from the mutual recognition principle. This amendment also ensures consistency with Clause 3(1), as proposed to be amended by Amendment 9—also in my name. Once again, we are considering requirements which apply specifically to a particular sale—for example, the requirements that would apply to the sale of a tin of biscuits in England, as per my previous example, but not all requirements that might apply to any other sales of goods. This makes clear which statutory requirements might be excluded, if the conditions in Clause 4(2) are met.

Amendment 19 corrects a small drafting error in Clause 4(1)(a). This paragraph refers to “a” part of the United Kingdom when it should refer to “the” part of the UK mentioned in the opening words of the subsection. It removes any ambiguity around which part of the United Kingdom is being referred to in Clause 4(1)(a), so that there can be no doubt that when we are considering English requirements, we are considering how they apply in relation to a sale in England. Without this amendment, there could be confusion over whether we are referring to just those requirements which apply in England or to requirements which could apply in any part of the UK.

Finally in this group, Amendment 23 aligns the language used in Clause 4(2) and 4(5). Both provisions refer to a hypothetical sale on a particular day, rather than to an actual sale. These subsections set out the conditions for when an existing requirement will be excluded from mutual recognition. Both should refer to a hypothetical sale on the relevant day. This amendment clears up the ambiguity by making it clear that both subsections refer to a hypothetical sale, rather than to an actual sale. Aligning the language in this way will make the drafting of this clause clearer and will avoid any confusion over why the wording is different in Clause 4(2) and 4(5) when both should refer to a hypothetical and not to an actual sale.

Taking again the example of the sale of a tin of biscuits, Clause 4(2) and 4(5) refer to the statutory requirements around the sale of biscuits, which would have been enforced in different parts of the UK on the relevant day, which is the day before this Bill comes into force, if the tin of biscuits had been sold on that day. This means that we will always be talking about a hypothetical sale here, and the amendment to Clause 4(5) makes this clear. Without this amendment, it is not clear that Clause 4(5) is referring to a hypothetical sale, which may cause confusion. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am interested to know why the Minister felt that these amendments needed to be moved at this time; what provoked that? Furthermore, who decides—and in what circumstances—what is a hypothetical sale, as opposed to a real sale?

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I have mainly technical, minor drafting points, which do not require much discussion. The Minister was consumed during his speech because of the hypothetical tin of biscuits that he brought into play. I am so glad that we do not have details of what pig semen is carried in. I much prefer us sticking with the tin of biscuits as our main metaphor in these issues.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I wonder why these amendments are being tabled now. After all, the Bill has been through the other place and been republished. Only now are we getting evidence of “scrubbing the text” to ensure that the sorts of issues raised in this group of amendments will not get into the final version of the Bill. It is a minor criticism of a very minor issue, and I am happy to await the answers to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, which would bear substantial response and will need to be dealt with at the appropriate time.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise to noble Lords for hesitating in my answer earlier. There is a danger of this “tin of biscuits” example assuming the same significance that the maiden aunts of the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, did, during the EU withdrawal Bills. I see smiles from noble Lords who were involved in those debates. However, I am not sure that we should pursue the “pig semen” argument of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.

To answer my noble friend Lady McIntosh, these are technical changes relating to drafting errors that became apparent in further studying the text following amendments tabled by noble Lords. Following further examination by government lawyers, the Bill was drafted fairly speedily over the summer. Our intention was to avoid government amendments, but we wanted to hear the replies to the consultation and the White Paper. They are technical and legal clarifications that change none of the policy intent.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that the minimum unit alcohol pricing policy is unaffected, because it is an existing measure that is excluded, and because it is specifically excluded in addition to that, via various clauses. I will write to reassure him of that. Regarding his points about gin and vodka, I am not an expert on the Scottish measure, but I think it affects the retail price of the sale and not wholesale prices, and therefore the product would need to be sold at a different price, as specified in the Scottish measure. However, I consulted officials when we first debated this legislation and was assured that the Scottish measure would be unaffected by this legislation. I am happy to write reassuring the noble Lord on that point.

Baroness Fookes Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes) (Con)
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I have received a request from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, to speak after the Minister. My apologies; I gather that is not the case.

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Moved by
10: Clause 3, page 2, line 28, after first “requirement” insert “in relation to the sale”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would clarify that a statutory requirement that meets the conditions in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 3(2) is a relevant requirement in relation to the sale mentioned in Clause 3(1).
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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, there is little to add to what my noble friend Lady Andrews and other members of the hard-working, thorough and thoughtful DPRRC have said, along with the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and others who have spoken in the debate. However, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, whose party has been in government more recently than we have, that I do not recall any reluctance on the part of the coalition Government to reach for secondary powers when it suited them—but perhaps his memory is rather shorter than mine.

I should say to the Minister that these amendments are pretty much bound to be accepted by the House on Report. That, of course, will leave the Government having to try to defend in the House of Commons in more detail than they have had to thus far why they should gift themselves the most remarkable and far-reaching powers, none of which, as has been said, have they sought to justify by purpose, urgency or anything else. Rather than repeat what the 24th report sets out and what has just been set out so eloquently, I urge the Minister to listen to the wise words and, either after discussion or of his own accord, take these unnecessary and worrying powers out of the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Liddle touched on the powers in Part 5. Obviously we will take those out, but of course the Government might try to put them back in again. We should remember that this group of amendments covers regulations that would, if they manage to keep Part 5 in or return it, be made in some areas of Part 5. These regulations are really serious, due to the current Clause 47(2)(a), which, as everyone will know, gives the status of primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act to secondary legislation. Inexplicably and extraordinarily, those pieces of secondary legislation would therefore not be able to be struck down if they breached convention rights, rather they would have thrown around them the protective ring that is normally used only for primary legislation. But those measures are regulations that will not have been through the legislative process. They would be introduced as secondary legislation by regulation, but would suddenly be preserved as if having been given the status of primary legislation. That is set out in Clause 47(2)(a)—I hope I have got that right; I have my learned friend next to me, in case I have got it wrong.

Needless to say, the Joint Committee on Human Rights had rather a lot to say about this constitutionally unacceptable ruse. Its members have tabled an appropriate amendment to remove it when we get to Part 5, and quite right too. The Government seem to want to legislate by regulation—unchallengeable in court, therefore —giving it primary status that goes even further than the other Henry VIII powers which were considered by the DPRRC. I have a feeling that the committee met before the insertion of this clause in the Commons—I think I am getting a nod from behind me—which is presumably why the Delegated Powers Committee did not discuss it.

I add a further comment that goes beyond the Bill but is a reflection of what has already been mentioned. I have spoken in the House previously about the book, How Democracies Die, which lists institutional forbearance —along with the rule of law, respect for the opposition and a free press—as a fourth vital element of what the authors call quadrilles, which go beyond democratic elections, on how to have a robust and fully functioning democracy. Institutional forbearance is an interesting term and is defined in the book as,

“the action of restraining from exercising a legal right”,

thereby perhaps avoiding actions which, while within the law, violate its spirit. It is what my former supervisor, the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, would call the “good chaps” theory of government. I agree that regulation-making powers can be donated to Ministers but the purpose of that was to enable small adjustments to the policy of an Act to be finalised or tweaked without primary legislation. It was not meant to gift big policy decisions—especially not of the sort included in the Bill, which I heard today was hurriedly written over the summer—to the Government with effectively no parliamentary scrutiny or agreement.

Therefore, like my noble friend Lady Andrews, and the noble Lord, Lord Fox—whose extremely useful quote from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I have not heard before—I am concerned about the extensive, unnecessary and quite unjustified use of Henry VIII powers, not simply in this Bill but in others. It is a worrying pattern that this House has a duty to curtail. I hope that this is the last occasion on which we have to remind Ministers that they should carry out the primary laws as passed by Parliament, not take to themselves powers to make their own laws.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I have a sense of déjà vu about this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, will well remember our debates on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. These amendments relate to delegated powers included in Parts 1, 2 and 5 of this Bill. I should probably decline the kind opportunity afforded to me by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, to comment on the parentage of Henry VIII, apart from saying that the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, who is an expert on all these matters, tells me that his parents were Henry VII and Elizabeth of York—officially, at least.

I should say in answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and his comments on the Sewel convention that the Government are fully committed to that convention and its associated practices for seeking consent. These powers are purely there to ensure that the legislation works properly and is future proof. There is no intention whatever to use the powers to avoid Sewel processes.

I should like to take this chance to emphasise the importance of these powers for the ongoing dynamism of our internal market, and to emphasise that the Government will not take lightly their responsibility in administering these powers. I am of course listening carefully to what your Lordships say but it is important for me to explain how we intend to use these powers.

The Bill aims to ensure a smooth transition for businesses as they are no longer subject to EU constraints. However, we recognise that this is an ambitious new system and the Government want to make sure that it works as well as possible for businesses and for devolved Administrations. As the system embeds in the functioning of law and trade, we will of course be monitoring this. We will speak to stakeholders and devolved Administrations to ensure that it works as well as possible within our constitutional framework. Where it does not, the Government need to be able to make necessary amendments to the system for the benefit of all parts of the UK. In line with normal arrangements for secondary legislation covering devolved matters, we will of course engage with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of the devolution memorandum of understanding. This system has worked well for 20 years and continues to do so.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank everyone who has spoken in what has been another excellent debate. Most of the points have been valid. I will disagree with many of them but noble Lords made their points well.

Before I start, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, knows that I have tremendous respect for her: we do not often agree, but I have tremendous respect for her views. However, talking about an “extremist ideology” and “hypercapitalism”—whatever hypercapitalism is—does not aid her cause; I would prefer that noble Lords address the issues in a better and more constructive manner.

The scope of the market access principles and the areas of regulation included in Schedule 1 have been carefully designed to avoid unnecessary barriers within the UK’s internal market while ensuring that the devolved Administrations and the UK Government can act to preserve the proper functioning of certain policy areas. This is where I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Fox, because when he talks about the principle of uniformity in an internal market, that is, of course, the EU system, and I do not recall the Liberal Democrats having much of a problem with that in years past. The system of mutual recognition does allow diversity, but while not discriminating against other countries’ goods. The principle of mutual recognition and market access principles allow diversity of policy. The EU system, of which the Liberal Democrats were previously particularly fond—as far as I am concerned—does not because you have common standards and common principles. I understand the argument about the so-called race to the bottom, et cetera, but that is the system that the Liberal Democrats happily signed up to and defended loyally for many years—indeed, it is still their policy that we should rejoin the EU and assume a further application of common principles. I do not agree with it, but it is a view.

I am listening carefully to what many noble Lords are saying this evening, but it is important, so I will take the time to explain why we have taken the approach we have to the application of the market access principles and the exclusions from these principles. Amendments 35, 36, 37, 39A and 95 seek to alter the list of legitimate aims for the disapplication of indirect discrimination against goods and services. The current list of legitimate aims for indirect discrimination against goods contains

“the protection of the life or health of humans, animals or plants”,

which will, of course, align in many cases with the protection of the environment. It also contains

“the protection of public safety or security.”

I agree with my noble friend Lady Noakes that expanding the list of legitimate aims beyond the current list would increase the grounds on which goods from one part of the UK could face discrimination in another—maybe in small, incremental steps, but with each addition steadily eroding the benefits that we all enjoy of the UK internal market. Expanding the list would also make discrimination easier to create and implement within the internal market, which would contradict our policy objectives.

I am of course aware of the comparisons that have been made to the EU system and its list of legitimate aims. The UKIM Bill and non-discrimination principle have been designed to take account of the UK’s unique circumstances, reflecting that our market consists of four highly integrated, highly aligned parts. Conversely, EU provisions deal with 27 countries, all with diverse histories, cultures and competing market priorities. It is therefore right that the list of legitimate aims in the Bill is more narrowly focused. Should a need to amend the list be identified, the Bill allows for the Secretary of State to add, vary or remove additional legitimate aims.

Let me deal with the points raised about legitimate aims by my noble friend Lord Young and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, as well as, on a number of occasions, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, with regard to minimum alcohol unit pricing. I reiterate that policies such as minimum alcohol unit pricing and other innovative pricing policies are not covered by mutual recognition, unless they result in disguised prohibition. It would also be possible to enforce them regardless of what is on the list of legitimate aims or indirectly discriminatory measures, as long as they are non-discriminatory.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned air guns. All the existing requirements will be out of scope—as I have said, the Bill is forward looking—unless they are amended significantly. Other than that, the air gun restrictions would have to create a significant adverse market effect for indirect discrimination to apply. That is before any consideration of whether that meets a legitimate aim. On her point about unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods, this is an unequivocal commitment from the Government precisely to take account of the possibility of divergence. It precludes qualifying Northern Ireland goods from being subject to new checks and controls and it protects their access to the whole of the UK market, no matter what the legislative regime is in Great Britain.

Amendment 39A is a more nuanced version of Amendment 38. It aims to limit the Secretary of State’s regulation-making powers to only add or broaden a legitimate aim—the Secretary of State would not be able to vary or remove a legitimate aim. Again, I appreciate the nuance of the amendment, but I must emphasise the importance, as we see it, of ensuring that the Government have the ability to adapt and improve the list of legitimate aims to address any challenges that arise—for example, during the implementation phase. We will of course listen attentively to businesses and to consumer stakeholders and may employ the powers that the amendment seeks to remove to ensure the UK internal market’s continued smooth functioning. To clarify another matter about which some have asked, Her Majesty’s Government and the devolved Administrations are not constrained by the rules against indirect discrimination when they need to take reasonable action to protect the life or health of humans, animals or plants, or to protect public safety or security.

Amendment 95 has a dual purpose. It seeks to remove the list of legitimate aims for indirect discrimination against services in Clause 20 and, as such, it would also remove the Secretary of State’s ability to amend that list. The list of legitimate aims covers a limited range of necessary objectives for regulators, which would justify a requirement that may have a discriminatory effect. The legitimate aims are the protection of the life or health of humans, animals or plants, the protection of public safety or security and the efficient administration of justice.

The inclusion of the list of legitimate aims is in our view vital, as it clarifies whether a requirement should be considered indirectly discriminatory and thus whether it is justified to put an affected service provider at a disadvantage compared to a similar provider from another part of the United Kingdom. To allow the flexibility to adapt to potential changes in circumstance—for example, in relation to future types of services regulation—a power for the Secretary of State to add, vary or remove additional legitimate aims is crucial and has therefore been included in the Bill.

I turn now to Amendments 50, 51, 52, 52A and 56, which seek to add in new clauses before and after Clause 10 of the Bill. The proposed new clauses would introduce a new set of conditions that would need to be met in order for an exclusion to be applied. Exclusions have been tightly defined to areas where the market access principles would adversely affect, or prevent the proper functioning of, the UK internal market. For example, we have made it possible for authorities to continue to consider local environmental conditions when authorising a chemical for use in a particular part of the UK.

Turning to Amendment 52, the protection of the environment and tackling climate change are vitally important, and something that the Government are, of course, already committed to. The UK leads the world in environmental standards and tackling climate change. We were the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the economy by 2050. The EU is only just now catching up with us. We have also been quick to take action against single-use plastic, with our ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds having come into force on 1 October this year.

Moving on to Amendment 52A, broadening exclusions from market access principles could result in significant challenges for the UK’s internal market. These are intentionally narrowly drafted to ensure that there are no unnecessary trade barriers that would ultimately increase costs to businesses and consumers while reducing choice. These amendments also do not take into consideration the impact any exclusions might have on unfettered access and Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market.

Amendments 33 and 34 are both consequential on Amendment 50, which I addressed above. Amendments 55 and 56 are consequential on Amendment 50 as well. Taken together, these amendments would replace the existing schedule of exclusions with a significantly wider exclusion process. The proposed process is not sufficiently targeted and would increase the potential for trade barriers to emerge. For these reasons, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Amendment 47A limits the Secretary of State’s regulation-making powers to only add to or broaden the exclusions in Schedule 1. The Secretary of State would not be able to vary the meaning of the exclusions in Schedule 1, nor to remove the exclusions entirely under the amendment. This might make it impossible for the Government to respond to business and wider stakeholder feedback and to act rapidly to adjust the list of exclusions if implementation shows the need for a review. While we are committed to retaining this power in the Bill, we are also fully committed to ensuring that the use of this power is subject to effective oversight and scrutiny.

First, any use of the power would, of course, require an affirmative regulation to be made in Parliament. This would ensure that MPs from all parts of the UK would be able to scrutinise and vote on any changes, along with Members of this House. Secondly, in line with normal arrangements for secondary legislation covering devolved matters, UK Government officials will engage with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of the devolution memorandum of understanding. This is a system that has worked well for 20 years and continues to do so. I hope, therefore, that noble Lords will agree that it is not appropriate for us to accept that amendment.

Turning to Amendment 54, the proposed new schedule is related to the new clause in Amendment 6, to which I responded on Monday. These amendments would, in combination, prevent the market access principles from applying in time at the end of the transition period. The lengthy process they put in place before the principles can apply would mean a considerable delay in securing business certainty that trade can continue unhindered within the UK’s internal market. Furthermore, they would limit the areas that the market access principles could apply to. This would again unduly constrain the scope of the principles and fail to fully protect the internal market.

Amendment 57 removes the requirement that a measure meets all the conditions set out in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to be excluded from the mutual recognition principle. The conditions in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 relate to the exclusion of certain food and feed measures from the mutual recognition principle, where this is required to address a serious threat to the health of humans or animals. A measure will be excluded from the mutual recognition principle if all the conditions in paragraph 2 are met. These conditions were designed to be cumulative and work as a whole, and in our view would not be effective individually. The fourth condition, for example, relates to the responsible Administration providing a risk assessment of the threat addressed by the measure in question, which is essential in situations relating to protecting human, animal and plant health, but is not a stand-alone condition for any exclusion. As this amendment weakens the ability of the Bill to ensure that we can address a serious threat to the health of humans or animals, I hope that noble Lords will agree not to move it.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I sometimes wonder whether the Minister sustains himself through the long periods of Committee by imagining himself throwing off the yoke of hideous EU conformity. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. How does the noble Lord explain all the examples of diversity across the four nations of the United Kingdom if there is this conformity? How can his comment that the market has worked very well for 20 years stand up, if this conformity was so bad? Indeed, the 2020 assessment by the Government of the frameworks says that they will maintain, as a minimum, equivalent flexibility for tailoring policies to the specific needs of each territory, as afforded by the current EU rules. The Government clearly recognise the flexibility in the current EU rules.

I commend the Minister for getting through that lengthy statement without once mentioning the words “common frameworks”. There is still no explanation of how the common frameworks inform the Government’s view today of the internal market. Will he please answer that question?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thought my comments might provoke a reaction from the noble Lord. Of course, there are EU common standards in many areas as well as EU minimum standards in many areas, and it is possible for Administrations to go further than those minimum standards in many areas, as he will know from his knowledge of EU affairs.

I have said a number of times that we are committed to the work on frameworks and will take it forward, but we were looking for frameworks in something like 38 different areas. So far, we have managed to agree frameworks in two of them. In terms of the frameworks that have been approved by the ministerial committee, I think those numbers are correct; I will write to the noble Lord if they are not. We are committed to taking forward that work on common frameworks, but we believe that this legislation provides an underpinning to that work. We do not believe that they are mutually exclusive; indeed, we think that they complement each other.

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For goods, it simply states “re-enacts without substantive change”. For services, it says “re-enacts or replicates”. Does it simply mean that it is a re-enactment? I do not know what “replicates” means as far as this is concerned. What is a replication of a regulatory requirement that is different from a re-enactment? I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to those points?
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It may be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, who I know is interested, if I return to a question he asked on the previous group—the vexed question of coal and the English-Welsh border. Let me build on the answer given by my noble friend Lady Bloomfield. Under mutual recognition, the use of coal could be banned regardless of where it is bought. The sale cannot be stopped simply because the use is not permitted. The use would still not be permitted in England, even if the coal is bought in Wales, or if it is legal to use it there. It is the distinction between sale and use that my noble friend referred to. I thought the noble Lord would like early clarification of that.

Amendments 68, 69, 70, 71, 78, 81, 84, 89, 92, 96 and 102 seek to alter the application and scope of both the exclusions and non-discrimination rules for the internal market in services. Several of these amendments centre on the application of the services rules and the non-discrimination principle. This non-discrimination rule is a fundamental safeguard for businesses, ensuring that there is equal opportunity for companies trading in the UK, regardless of where in the UK the business is based. I will address the amendments in related groups, and I am happy to explain how the services rules work, and the list of exclusions, in greater detail.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for tabling Amendments 68 and 96 on consumer protection. I hope to be able to persuade her that they are unnecessary. As I set out on Monday, the Government are committed to maintaining and protecting the highest consumer standards across the UK. This legislation will be to the benefit and protection of the country’s consumers. Without an updated, coherent market structure, UK services trade could be significantly and detrimentally affected. Future complexities could arise, and costs could then be passed on to consumers through an increase in prices or a decrease in choice.

Amendments 69, 71 and 78 would provide that Part 2 applies only to services specified in regulations. We believe that these amendments are contrary to the aims of the Bill, because this is the opposite to the current approach, which is that mutual recognition and non-discrimination applies to all services except those specified in the schedule. Further, the amendments set restrictive consultation and reporting conditions on a Secretary of State wishing to make those regulations, and a requirement for devolved Administration consent to regulations extending the list of exclusions in Schedule 2. My noble friend Lord True spoke about this issue earlier today in the group on the involvement of the devolved Administrations.

Clause 17 currently aligns with the wider aims of the Bill—to allow businesses and people to trade as they do now, without facing additional barriers based on which nation they are in. These amendments run contrary to those aims. They would make the raising of barriers to service provision the default position, by not applying mutual recognition and non-discrimination principles in the Bill to any services unless specified. The reporting and consultation requirements the amendments place on specifying regulations also mean that bringing services into scope of the rules of Part 2 of the Bill, including all those to which the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination apply under retained EU law, would be both difficult and time-consuming. This would, in turn, cause disruption to businesses seeking to provide their services across the whole United Kingdom.

Overall, these amendments could raise barriers to service provision across the UK where even the current system does not, and would seriously hinder any attempts to develop a co-ordinated and focused response to the evolution of services in the future. Therefore, while I recognise the spirit in which these amendments were tabled, I am unable to accept them. However, to answer the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, on financial and legal services, and to allay their specific concerns, I can reassure them that legal services are excluded from the mutual recognition principles, and financial services are excluded from Part 2 entirely.

As my noble friend Lady McIntosh makes clear in her explanatory statements accompanying Amendments 70, 81, 84 and 92, their primary purpose is to probe the drafting of the Bill. On Amendment 70, the intention of Clause 16(5)(c) is to restrict the application of Part 2 only to new requirements that take effect after Part 2 itself does. This is because the Bill is intended to prevent future obstacles to trade within the single market, not retrospectively review all existing requirements.

Clause 16(5)(c)(i) provides that requirements already in force are not subject to the principles in Part 2. Clause16(5)(c)(ii) recognises that there will inevitably be new iterations of rules, which will in fact simply restate the previous rules that were in place. This provision sets out a threshold, beyond which the new requirement will be brought within scope, and that is where the requirement has changed in substance.

My noble friend in particular asks the meaning of “substantive change”, which her amendment would replace with the phrase “significant amendment”. This wording is simply intended to distinguish between those rules which are genuinely new and different from those which may have been in place beforehand, and those which are in fact substantively the same rules. My noble friend’s suggested change uses the term “significant”, which is less easy to quantify and suggests to me a higher threshold before which a change would bring the provision within scope of the principles in the Bill. “Change” and “amendment” are of course covering fairly similar ground, but I suggest that “amendment” would more commonly be used when talking about changes to text. Since Part 2 is operating on requirements imposed by or under legislation rather than the text of the legislation itself, we think, in these circumstances, that “change” is the most fitting word— but there will probably be lots of work for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and his friends in interpreting this.

I turn now to Amendments 81 and 84. In Clause 21, a legislative requirement is one imposed

“by, or by virtue of, legislation”.

This extends beyond legislation to rules produced by bodies with powers delegated to them in respect of a particular field of regulation, and it may include licences or requirements contained therein. My noble friend’s Amendments 81 and 84 would appear to have the same effect. However, in my view, the term “of no effect” is the more appropriate to apply in respect of a licence or a non-legislative rule.

Turning now to Amendment 92, the purpose of the words “less attractive” in Clause 20(3) is to encompass requirements which are not outright prohibitive but which otherwise make it harder to offer a service in a particular market. Without these words, the clause could be read as referring only to actively punitive measures, when in fact it is intended to cover a broader range of harms under the definition of direct discrimination. My noble friend will no doubt also be aware of the amendment in my name to Clause 20, which seeks to clarify the meaning of the test for indirect discrimination in that clause—although the language that she highlights remains unaltered by it.

Amendments 89 and 102 from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, seek to remove the reference to the legitimate aims in Clause 20. These amendments should be read alongside the other amendments in the noble Baroness’s name. The wider purpose of all these amendments is to alter the legitimate aims in Clause 20. The amendments would have the effect of making the principle of non-discrimination almost absolute, not allowing any requirement which had an indirectly discriminatory effect, no matter how valid or urgent the justification. I suspect that this was not what the noble Baroness intended with this suite of amendments.

Clause 20(2)(d) provides that a requirement will be discriminatory only if it cannot be justified by a legitimate aim. Amendment 89 suggests removing that. Clause 20(9) provides that, to determine whether a regulatory requirement can be considered as a necessary means to achieve a legitimate aim, particular consideration must be given to the effects of the requirement in all circumstances and to the availability of alternative means to achieve that aim. This subsection is key to determining whether a legitimate aim may be relied upon. It is designed to assist the reader and its removal would hinder the effective application and operation of the test. The subsections are both key to the effective operation of the non-discrimination principle provided for by Part 2 of the Bill. I therefore cannot accept these amendments.

Amendment 103 relates to Part 3 of the Bill, concerning professional qualifications. As used in the clause, “mainly” has been used in this context to ensure that the majority of the experience that a professional is relying on is obtained in the United Kingdom. This is so that relevant authorities can reliably assess the professional’s experience. The decision to use “mainly” rather than “substantially”, or other similar words, is so that professionals can rely on their experience for this part of the Bill without it being interpreted as the whole of their experience needing to have been obtained in the UK. I hope, therefore, that this explanation satisfies the House and that the noble Baroness feels able not to press her amendment.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I go back to the very interesting answer that the Minister gave on the coal example. Let us assume that the coal example, which he described as being a prohibition on sale but not use, did not come in a pre-existing requirement and that it had been entered into after this Bill became law. I would be right, would I not, in assuming that such a requirement would offend against the non-discrimination principle under Clause 8? It is obviously a disadvantage to be able to sell coal to people who cannot use it. In those circumstances, it is valid only if that was a provision entered into after the Bill became law if such a provision was justified by one of the legitimate aims identified in Clause 8(6). Would I be right in assuming that? Would I be right in assuming that the question of whether the ban on the use of coal survived would depend upon a private law action between the supplier of the coal and the buyer of the coal?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not think the noble and learned Lord is correct in his assumption, but it is a detailed legal point, so I will take further advice and reply to him in writing.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, which poses more questions than even I had realised. I have also realised that I have not got a complete handle on the services that are covered. Are financial services excluded? I think auditing is excluded. It would perhaps be helpful if a note could be passed about what services are covered. I assumed they are cultural and intellectual property, education and architecture, but there are some interesting ones where there are big differences at the moment between countries.

I am particularly thinking of residential property, where Wales now licenses landlords and is ahead of us in licensing letting agents. We are now in discussion with the Government about the licensing—shortly, we hope—or authorisation of all property agents, but then that would be different between England and Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland. Presumably all that would be caught by this, but I am not certain.

This is a genuine question and it would be really helpful to have, without it being part of the Bill and without it committing the Government to anything, a more useful note of what is covered. Then we could look at what is already different, particularly in licensing, as is certainly the case in the area that I know about of residential agencies in Wales and elsewhere.

In a sense, the bigger issue is the one I set out at the beginning. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, put it much better. I was asking about the purpose of Part 2. I think the noble Baroness went further and asked whether we even need Part 2. It actually comes back to whether we need the whole Bill or whether the common frameworks road might be the better one, or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked, whether it might be sufficient to fall back on the 2018 position on what things could not be agreed—it would probably save an awful lot of this. The purpose of Part 2 needs justifying, rather than defining. Why do we need it? Is the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, correct that we do not need this level of detail?

If the Minister could also informally explain a little more about what would be covered, that would be helpful, and we might come back at a later stage to look at whether we could define why we have this part. However, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
82: Clause 19, page 13, line 27, leave out “, and section 20,”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the amendment adding a definition of relevant connection to Clause 20 (page 14, line 16).
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 82, I shall speak also to Amendments 83 and 85 to 88 in my name.

Clause 20 provides the test for assessing whether a regulatory requirement is indirectly discriminatory in relation to service providers. The indirect discrimination test comprises several elements, including a test for difference of treatment between incoming and local service providers and a test to assess whether the difference in treatment gives rise to an adverse market effect. This group of amendments would provide greater clarity to readers, particularly in relation to differential treatment and adverse market effect. The amendments would break up concepts previously included in Clause 20(4) and deal with the unequal treatment test separately from the adverse market effect test. This revised drafting also allows for clarification of the language.

This change delivers the same policy objectives but with greater clarity. It is supported by consequential amendments throughout Clause 20, including new definitions for local and incoming service providers. The definition of “relevant connection” is also moved into Clause 20 to link it better to the provision. Limb C of that definition is deleted because it is not relevant to indirect discrimination. A consequential amendment to Clause 19 supports this.

In my detailed remarks, I will focus on Amendments 90, 91 and 93 upon which the other amendments are consequential. Amendments 90 and 91 would provide greater clarity and break up concepts that were previously packed into Clause 20(4). They deal with the unequal treatment test separately from the adverse market effect test, and this division also allows for a clarification of the language. These amendments would introduce and define the concept of “relevant disadvantage”, tying it more clearly to the concept of unequal treatment between incoming and local service providers. Importantly, the more clearly laid out test for relevant disadvantage between local and incoming providers makes plain that it does not require all incoming providers to be disadvantaged or all local providers to be advantaged. That was the intended effect of the drafting; this amendment would ensure that it is clear.

Amendment 93 does two things. First, it defines local and incoming service providers—terms used in this group of amendments. Secondly, it copies the definition of “relevant connection” over from Clause 19, linking it more clearly to this provision. Limb C of the direct discrimination provision is deleted because it is not relevant to indirect discrimination.

Amendment 94, which is unrelated to the other amendments in this group, would simply remove a provision that is now no longer necessary. I beg to move.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend the Minister for speaking on a technical amendment. I support much of the Bill and have limited my contributions accordingly.

However, I want to ask for a fuller explanation of Amendments 90 and 93, which again relate to services. Why do we need to make a distinction between incoming service providers and local service providers? Will that not create uncertainties and its own form of discrimination? Is this an insurance policy, for example against unwise anti-competitive moves by a devolved Administration? Is there any evidence that such an outcome is at all likely, given their well-known attachment to the EU single market? What is the underlying purpose of this approach?

The Minister was not able to answer my question on Amendment 68 about how marketing activity would be treated, or indeed the question from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on local language capability. The distinction between incoming service providers and local service providers may be part of the answer. I would welcome some simple examples that make some of this service area easier to understand. If the Minister needs notice of the questions, perhaps he would be kind enough to write to me on these points, as it is late.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, like other speakers, I welcome the idea that this is a clarification of the language currently used in the Bill. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, I wonder whether what we have got is in fact any clearer, or makes us any more clear about what we are supposed to be doing with this part of the Bill.

The language is, in places, incredibly archaic and obscure. There seems to be no recognition of the digital world. Services provided through the internet are not going to be provided locally; they are not going to be provided “in a region” and there are not going to be local service providers, and yet there seems no reference to them or how they are to be treated. Even if that were not that case—even if we were not living in the virtual world—the idea that somehow a service provider has a relevant connection to a part of the United Kingdom if it has a registered office seems to ignore hundreds of years of the use of brass plates outside solicitors’ offices which provide registered offices but no services, no people, no contribution and no economic effect. Where is all this heading?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for the brevity of their contributions, particularly given the late hour, and I shall endeavour—they shall be pleased to hear—to match that brevity.

We think that these amendments make the test significantly clearer. The relevant concepts are unpacked in distinct subsections, and the new subsections more clearly express policy intention on how the test for indirect discrimination will function. The additional clarity ensures that businesses can operate with certainty, which is what this Bill is intended to ensure.

I have noted the requests from my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe—the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, repeated them several times—for details of how the service provisions will operate in things like marketing, language tests, et cetera, and for the legal definition of what “adverse market effect” means in practice. I will, of course, provide those for them in writing. With that, I commend these amendments to the Committee.

Amendment 82 agreed.
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Moved by
83: Clause 20, page 13, line 34, leave out the second “a” and insert “an incoming”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would make clear that Clause 20 is concerned with incoming service providers.
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Moved by
85: Clause 20, page 13, line 35, after “that” insert “incoming”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment follows from the amendment to page 13, line 34 in my name.
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Moved by
90: Clause 20, page 13, line 44, at end insert—
“(2A) A regulatory requirement puts an incoming service provider at a relevant disadvantage if—(a) it puts the incoming service provider at a disadvantage in relation to the provision of services in the part of the United Kingdom in which the requirement applies, and(b) it does not put, or would not put, each local service provider at that disadvantage in relation to the provision of those services in that part (at all or to the same extent).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would define the concept of relevant disadvantage, introduced by the amendment to page 13, line 39 in my name.
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Moved by
93: Clause 20, page 14, line 16, at end insert—
“(4A) For the purposes of subsections (1) to (4)—(a) an “incoming service provider” is a service provider that—(i) provides the services in the part of the United Kingdom in which the regulatory requirement applies, but(ii) does not have a relevant connection to that part;(b) a “local service provider” is a service provider that—(i) provides the services in the part of the United Kingdom in which the regulatory requirement applies,(ii) has a relevant connection to that part, and (iii) does not have a relevant connection to another part of the United Kingdom;(c) a service provider has a “relevant connection” to a part of the United Kingdom if the service provider—(i) has a registered office, place of business or residence in that part, or(ii) provides the services from that part.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would define concepts used in the other amendments to Clause 20 in my name.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-IV Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (2 Nov 2020)
Moved by
107: Clause 25, page 19, line 24, at end insert—
“(d) in relation to any part of the United Kingdom, the profession of patent attorney or trade mark attorney.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would add patent attorney and trade mark attorney to the list of legal professions the regulation of which is excluded from Clause 22.
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 107 and 108 in my name aim to clarify the scope and application of the professional qualification clauses of the Bill. Amendment 107 adds patent attorneys and trademark attorneys to the list of legal professions excluded from the application of the automatic recognition principle in Clause 22. As well as work related to trademarks and patents, trademark and patent attorneys may carry out broader regulated legal activities which require an understanding of the underpinning legal system in the part of the UK in which they practise. Accordingly, we are bringing them into line with the other legal professions to ensure that they are not caught by the automatic recognition provisions of the Bill. These exclusions ensure that access to these professions is not affected in any way by the recognition provisions of the Bill.  Part 3 will not affect how these professions are regulated, nor will it change what activities trademark and patent attorneys are able to perform.

Amendment 107A has been tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, in response to this government amendment and seeks to probe the effects of the amendment in respect of authorised reserved legal activities under the Legal Services Act 2007. In respect of this amendment, I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that nothing in the recognition provisions of the Bill, or in the government amendment, changes how reserved legal activities are authorised under the Legal Services Act 2007, and her amendment is therefore unnecessary.

Amendment 108 is a technical amendment to provide clarity on the type of qualifications and experience requirements to which Clause 22 applies. It ensures that where qualification requirements are attached to specific activities, those requirements are disapplied by automatic recognition only if they apply to activities that are essential to the practice of the profession in question—in other words, if they amount to a barrier to access to the profession as a whole. This will ensure that Clause 22 does not apply to qualifications or experience requirements for activities which are not essential to the practice of the profession, such as optional service activities which professionals may choose to offer.

I recommend that government Amendments 107 and 108 be accepted, as they provide clarity on the scope and application of automatic recognition principles. I regret, however, that I am unable to support Amendment 107A, for the reasons I gave earlier. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to press her amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I am a retired patent attorney, which is what made me curious about Amendment 107. I guess that is an interest of some kind, though no longer pecuniary.

In this group I have tabled Amendment 107A, which is intended to clarify what has become a confused situation. It can accurately cover all the legal professions named in Clause 25, although the confusion relates only to patent and trademark attorneys. Essentially, it says—as I think the Minister agreed—that there is no change to the status quo under the Legal Services Act 2007, which was the Government’s intention all along.

The background to this is that patent and trademark attorneys may be in the unique situation of being regulated and qualified on a UK-wide basis, while, through their sectoral professional qualifications, also engaging in four specific English and Welsh reserved legal activities, no matter where in the four nations of the UK they qualified, reside or practise. They do this as patent attorneys or trademark attorneys, not as lawyers.

The purpose of that unusual provision is, broadly, to enable conduct of litigation for all in the specialist England and Wales Patents Court, and for associated matters such as deeds and oaths to be dealt with. That unique construct does not fit within the definition of Clauses 22 and 23 for the professions when they are identified as patent attorneys or trademark attorneys because you cannot work it out so that there is a relevant part and the other part. Noble Lords are welcome to try—it takes quite a few pieces of paper. The point is that it is the same for all patent and trademark attorneys, wherever they are.

However, somewhere the niggling thought arose that perhaps it was confusing, or that the mutual recognition would apply notwithstanding that Clause 22 did not apply and would somehow extend the enjoyed England and Wales reserved activities to Scotland or Northern Ireland courts, deeds or oaths. Amendment 107 has, therefore, been proposed. It has the effect of defining patent and trademark attorneys as a legal profession in Clause 25, thereby putting them into Clauses 23 and 22 and simultaneously taking them out again. This hokey-cokey amendment was meant to stop confusion. It has, however, also created its own confusion, perhaps best illustrated in an explanation from the Ministry of Justice that said:

“If trademark and patent attorneys were not excluded from the UKIM bill, then one of your practitioners authorised to conduct litigation in Northern Ireland, for example, could potentially argue that under the automatic recognition principle IPReg must also allow them to conduct litigation in England and Wales without meeting the normal IPReg authorisation requirements for doing so”.


However, that does not fit the present circumstances that I have just explained. The patent or trademark attorney in Northern Ireland is qualified to conduct litigation in England and Wales but, actually, not to conduct litigation in Northern Ireland—and that is not the only wrong explanation that has been offered. Indeed, a few moments ago, the Minister referred to attorneys being qualified in respect of the part of the UK in which they practise. There is no such provision for patent and trademark attorneys. They just have that extra bit of add-on, no matter where they practise, which relates to being able to access the England and Wales Patents Court. That is quite fundamental, because that is where you would see appeals from the comptroller and so on.

I believe that a true analysis of the facts ends up as I have said, that these particular professions were not in the original construct, but some people might have been confused. Now they are defined as in and out again but, unfortunately, this leads to other confusions, suggesting divisions in the profession that do not exist but which have just been replicated in the words of the Minister. If the Minister and an MoJ official can get it wrong, who else might? A wrongful accusation, no matter that it can be refuted, is still damaging. My amendment clarifies that the status quo is maintained. It neither adds nor subtracts anything, other than giving clarity—something to point to on the same page as the confusing hokey-cokey.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, intellectual property lawyers, patent agents and attorneys are incredibly important for the future. I thoroughly endorse the remarks made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Neville-Rolfe, and my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury.

Honestly, confidence in this Bill was weak to start with. That mess-up just then on patent attorneys was appalling, and it made me look at the rest of Part 3. Could the Minister first of all identify what the problem is that Part 3 is dealing with? We had a clue between 11.30 pm and 11.45 pm on Wednesday evening when the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, who sadly is not in her place, said the following:

“The purpose of the professional qualification provisions in the internal market Bill is to ensure that professionals can, in most cases, access their profession in all parts of the UK, by ensuring that there is an overarching system for recognition.”—[Official Report, 28/10/20; col. 375.]


Clause 22 says that where you are qualified in one place, you can be qualified in another, while Clause 25 says that Clause 22(2) does not apply to existing provisions. Let us be clear what is happening here: the Government are saying that we are not making any change to the existing position in relation to professional qualifications, and as far as I am aware—and this is nothing to do with the EU—there is absolutely no problem about the current position. The effect of Clause 25(3) is that these provisions do not apply to any change in the future. Am I right about that? They are making no change for the past but they are bringing in these provisions in relation to the future. Why is that, when there is no problem about the past or the future? The Government are causing problems everywhere with this. I ask them to explain to the House and the wider public why on earth they are doing it. They have messed up the one area that we have looked at so far. Why should anyone have any confidence in this Bill?

On a separate point, I refer the Minister to what the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop—on the government side—said on day one in relation to this matter:

“The timetable for the Bill appears to be predicated on the end of the transition period on 31 December this year, but what is the real risk of regulatory divergence between then and the completion of the common frameworks process in 2021? The House is aware that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 already confers on Ministers so-called Section 12 powers to freeze devolved competence in relation to EU retained law.”—[Official Report, 26/10/20; col. 88.]


So, if there is any problem about this, it can be dealt with by the Government’s Section 12 powers. That applies not just to this but to wider issues.

Why are the Government bringing forward such an obviously unthought-out Bill that is doing damage to what—and I say this with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby—even the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, thinks is a mess-up, and he is a supporter of the Government’s Bill? Why on earth are they messing everything up like this? Could they please give an answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, said on day one? Is he right? If so, the urgency goes.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate on this important subject. I shall start by replying directly to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who spoke about Part 3 and why we felt the need to bring these proposals forward. The Bill is intended to ensure that divergence in professional regulation between the four nations of the UK does not increase barriers for professionals living and working in different parts of the UK. As our economy continues to develop and new sectors emerge, it is possible that new regulated professions will be created and there may be changes to existing qualification requirements that could make it more difficult to access the profession in another part of the UK. These new professions may well be crucial to the UK’s economic future. As in other areas, we do not want barriers to trade across the UK in these sectors. Internal market provisions will apply where part of the UK regulates a new profession, access to which is limited to those holding certain professional qualifications or experience. The provisions will also apply to existing professions where there are changes to the requirements for the qualifications or experience needed in order to access the profession concerned. Currently, while the recognition of professional qualifications between the four nations can and does occur, there is no overarching framework that ensures that it does. The Bill creates such an overarching framework to guarantee that recognition of qualifications between the four nations will be possible and barriers will be minimised.

I am happy to give the noble Lord, Lord Smith, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe the specific assurance they asked for: nothing in the recognition provisions of the Bill, including the exclusion, affects the current situation. IPReg will continue to be able to decide whether and how trademark and patent attorneys should be allowed to carry out the regulated legal activities that it is designated to regulate in all the different parts of the UK.

The government amendment aims to bring patent and trademark attorneys in line with other legal professions and to place them outside the scope of the recognition provisions of Clause 22 of the Bill. Legal professionals have been excluded from the scope of the provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications in acknowledgment of the different legal systems that exist in the UK. This will ensure that the regulation of and access to these professions, including trademark and patent attorneys, are not affected in any way by the mutual recognition provisions of the Bill and will be completely unaffected. That is why we need Amendments 107 and 108.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, referred to the idea of new professions being invented. If this happened, there would be a professional body that would need government recognition in some form. Could he give us an example, perhaps, of a new profession emerging without a professional body in relation to which there is a substantial risk? If there is no such example or evidence, it is incredibly unconvincing. The second and separate example he gave was an existing profession giving rise to a particular requirement that would create a barrier to entry in one part of the United Kingdom for another. Could he give an example of when that has happened in the past?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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By the very nature of it being a new profession or qualification, it is quite hard for me to give examples of what might happen in the future. There are all sorts of new technologies; even in the noble and learned Lord’s legal profession, there may be new technologies, ideas and proposals that will come forward. There is the whole world of artificial intelligence or gene editing—there is a massive range of new and potential professional areas, bodies and qualifications that may come forward. That is the point: we want the current situation in many of these professions to be unaffected, but, in the case of new professions, it is entirely possible that the individual nations of the UK might seek to regulate them differently, and we want no new barriers to trade to emerge.

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

My Lords, with all due respect to the Minister, I am sure he understands how unsatisfactory that answer was. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford talked about the gobbledegook of future-proofing, and this is gobbledegook. First, could the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what past examples lead the Government today to this conclusion? Secondly, why is there a problem with bringing any future issues to the Government and your Lordships’ House bespoke in the event that the Minister proves correct and something turns up? To seek to produce a Bill that covers all of the unknown unknowns that are going to happen in the history of time seems overambitious.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think we are just going to have to differ on this one. We do not want to be returning to the House to create unnecessary difficulties and disagreements in the future; we want to ensure that, before any of these difficulties arise, we have put in place, as in the rest of the Bill, a framework that covers the whole of the United Kingdom to regulate how we will manage and control these issues in the future. That is all we are seeking to do. I understand the points that noble Lords are making. There are differently regulated professions in some parts of the UK already; we accept that and that the status quo is there, but we think that, in future, these things are best regulated on a UK-wide basis, and we want no new barriers to trade to emerge.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has nothing to do with powers repatriated from the European Union; it has everything to do with our internal United Kingdom approach. When was the last time that a professional body regulated by law was established where the Government considered there to be major barriers across the United Kingdom?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will be well aware that there is European directive on this subject, and mutual recognition of professional qualifications, so, even in the EU law space, it is accepted that the nations of the EU have different ways of recognising different professional qualifications. I commend Amendments 107 and 108 to the House.

Amendment 107 agreed.
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Moved by
108: Clause 27, page 20, line 35, at end insert—
“(1A) Provision that limits the ability referred to in subsection (1)(a) to individuals with certain qualifications or experience falls within section 22(1) only if the activities affected by the provision are, in a significant number of cases, essential to the practice of the profession in question.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide that provision imposing qualification requirements on particular professional activities falls within Clause 22 only if the activities are, in a significant number of cases, essential to the practice of the profession in question.
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We will come to the exact status of the OIM in a later group with Amendment 115, in the name of my noble friend Lord Stevenson, but I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said that no case has been made for the OIM to be in the CMA. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said there had been no consultation; it just sort of appeared. In fact, I share with her the view that it could disappear into the CMA’s back room. Even if our solution happens to be a different one, we share a diagnosis of that problem. We will discuss in a later group whether we want it to be outside of the CMA, but for now the important point that we are trying to signal is that the OIM should have some independence. We want to make sure that it is not in any way in hock to just one of the four Governments, who must work very closely together if we are to make this internal market work and thrive, as we all wish to see.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has participated in this group. I will seek to take forward the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that letters be copied around—I have another batch on my desk to approve once we have finished this debate, many of which, I am sure, are to my Liberal Democrat colleagues. I will ensure that they are circulated to all the protagonists. They are not particularly secret; they just help to clarify and explain the Government’s role and answer the many questions that we have been asked. I hope that is helpful.

I will start with Amendment 110, which seeks to replace Clause 28 with a new clause on the establishment of the Office for the Internal Market. As noble Lords will know, this Bill will create an Office for the Internal Market within the Competition and Markets Authority to carry out a set of independent advisory, monitoring and reporting functions to support the effective operation of the UK internal market. The proposed new clause seeks to create a new and separate public body that reports to the BEIS Secretary of State. The effect would be not to establish the Office for the Internal Market within the Competition and Markets Authority.

Let me say in response to my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Naseby and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that the Government did consider a wide range of delivery options for the advisory, monitoring and reporting functions of the UK internal market, as set out in the Bill. We concluded that the Competition and Markets Authority is best suited to house the OIM to perform these functions. The CMA is an independent non-ministerial department that currently operates at arm’s length from the Government. It is sponsored by BEIS and Her Majesty’s Treasury and—to answer the question posed by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe—Ministers will be responsible to Parliament in reporting on the work of the CMA and the Office for the Internal Market, even though they operate at arm’s length.

The Competition and Markets Authority has built up a wealth of expertise and experience that makes it a natural fit to take on these additional functions. It has a global reputation for promoting competition for the benefit of consumers and for ensuring that markets work well for consumers, businesses and the wider economy. It will also build on the CMA’s existing technical and economic expertise, which will now support further development of the UK internal market.

I should also explain that it is government policy that new arm’s-length public bodies should be only set up as a last resort and when consideration of all other delivery options has been exhausted. Other delivery options that should be considered include utilising existing bodies in order to deliver any new functions. New public bodies should be created only if there is a clear need for the state to provide the function or service through a public body and if there is no viable alternative—effectively establishing new public bodies as a very last resort. For the reasons that I have set out, we are not able to agree with this amendment. I hope that my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe will feel able to withdraw it.

Regarding Clause 28 stand part, this clause defines regulatory provisions on which the CMA, through the OIM, will monitor and provide reports and advice. The purpose is to set out the areas where the OIM will perform functions under the Bill, in order to ensure certainty and transparency for Administrations, businesses and the general public in connection with the effective operation of the UK internal market. Regulatory provisions are within scope if they set requirements for the purposes of the mutual recognition and non-discrimination principles of the Bill for the sale of goods and the equivalent for services. Moreover, regulatory provisions are within scope if they apply to one or more nations but not the whole of the United Kingdom. Clause 28 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the OIM to carry out its independent, advisory and reporting duties in respect of the UK internal market. For these reasons, therefore, I am unable to accept the proposal that Clause 28 should not stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 29 stand part, removing Clause 29 would remove the Competition and Markets Authority’s objective when exercising its functions as the Office for the Internal Market. This clause designates the CMA, in its capacity as the OIM, as having a specific role in the operation of the UK internal market. It is additionally important to note that this clause establishes the statutory objectives of the CMA in its capacity as the OIM. This clause will ensure that the CMA in its OIM role is able to operate effectively as the monitoring body for the internal market, and will ensure there is no confusion between the pre-existing powers of the CMA and those newly conferred upon it as the OIM. Distinct objectives will prevent any operationally problematic blurring of functions. Clause 29 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the OIM, and therefore we are unable to leave it out of the Bill.

Moving on to Clause 41 stand part, removing this clause would leave out vital definitional provisions. This clause provides key definitions for the purposes of this part of the Bill. This includes a definition of the Competition and Markets Authority itself and sets out how widely the operation of the internal market in the United Kingdom should be understood. This clause also defines “Relevant competence” in Part 4 as meaning both reserved and devolved competence so that executive and legislative competence in each territory is included. Clause 41 as it stands forms an integral part of the provisions for the CMA in its capacity as the Office for the Internal Market: it ensures legal clarity and certainty on technical terms used throughout this part. For all those reasons, therefore, I am unable to accept the removal of this clause.

Amendment 111 would require the CMA to not engage in any form of dispute resolution while fulfilling its responsibilities as outlined in Part 4. This addresses the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. In cases of disagreement between one or more Administrations, the OIM, within the CMA, could be called upon to provide a non-binding report to support intergovernmental discussion. An assessment of economic impacts will ensure a technical underpinning to an otherwise political discussion.

Ultimately, the OIM only supports the resolution of disputes among the Administrations politically, and it does not adjudicate. The Government believe that building upon existing intergovernmental arrangements is the best approach to resolving any potential disputes, and this includes mechanisms such as common frameworks and intergovernmental relations, according to a clear and agreed process. The OIM will have its role in disputes between individuals and businesses, but businesses can request that the OIM consider disputes as part of its regular reporting. It is under no obligation to do so, nor will it have the authority to adjudicate on the specific issues.

Amendment 113 would prevent the necessary flow of information from the Competition and Markets Authority to the Secretary of State as the policy’s sponsor. The clause in question allows the CMA to alert the Government when it thinks adjustments may be needed to the way it fulfils its statutory functions, or it wishes to raise issues of particular concern. This is in line with precedent for similar public bodies and mirrors provisions in the existing legislation underpinning the CMA. Removing this provision would hamper the necessary communication between the Government and the CMA across all the other provisions in Part 4. For that reason, we are unable to accept the amendment.

Amendment 155 would make it an explicit statutory duty of the CMA, under its existing duties within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to protect and promote the interests of consumers in respect of the internal market. The clause in question establishes the statutory objective of the Competition and Markets Authority in its capacity as the OIM. It will ensure that the office is able to operate effectively as the monitoring body for the internal market and that there is no confusion between the pre-existing powers of the CMA and those newly conferred upon it. Distinct objectives will prevent any operationally problematic blurring of functions. The OIM will operate for the benefit of all those with an interest in a smoothly functioning internal market, be they regulators, businesses, professionals, the four legislatures or consumers. Explicitly narrowing its focus to consumers would, in our view, be to the detriment of all the other stakeholders I have listed. Therefore, I am unable to accept the amendment.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
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I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I see the request has the enthusiastic endorsement of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. Therefore, as his biggest fan in the House, I am obliged to follow the idea put forward. I will of course write to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, on that.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has been a good debate on an important group of amendments. We are not all agreed, but most of us are doubtful about the decision to allocate the office for the internal market to the CMA in the way the Bill proposes. I favour an office with ministerial leadership—there is a parallel with the EU’s single market commissioner, which has worked well in many ways.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, made an expert and very strong case from a different perspective. She rightly pointed to the huge powers and penalties involved in giving this role to the CMA, and explained useful background as to why it ended up in the CMA, linked to an earlier time when state aid rules were going to be part of the portfolio. She also highlighted a concern about how the arrangements will work for the devolved Administrations, which the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, developed in more detail and which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter.

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Consultation is inadequate. At the very least, there has to be consent, and I hope the Minister will give the House the absolute confidence not just that he is listening but that he will take back the message to those who, I hope, will enable us to have a consensual approach by Report stage.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate so far. At the risk of agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I can say I have been listening very carefully to what everyone has had to say in this debate. We take these matters extremely seriously.

Let me respond directly to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. No: the CMA did not respond formally to the consultation when we issued it, but as you would expect, there has been extensive, official-level discussion on the design and development of the OIM proposal with the CMA.

Before addressing the individual amendments, I shall set out why Clause 30 and Schedule 3 should stand part of the Bill. I have set out the purpose of the office in previous groupings, and noble Lords will be delighted to hear I will not repeat that here.

The purpose of Clause 30 is to introduce the office for the internal market panel and task groups and allow those task groups to carry out all the functions set out in Part 4 of the Bill on behalf of the Competition and Markets Authority. This will ensure that the CMA, through the OIM, can carry out a set of independent, advisory, monitoring and reporting functions to support the development and effective operation of the UK internal market on an ongoing basis. Building on existing governance arrangements, it allows the CMA to authorise the task groups to do anything that the CMA can do under Part 4. This would include delivering specific pieces of reporting, such as annual health of the market reviews or requested monitoring on the intra-UK trade impacts of specific regulations.

To fulfil those independent functions, Schedule 3 sets out the constitution of OIM task groups, to which functions of the CMA may be delegated by virtue of Clause 30. Schedule 3 also provides for the establishment of a panel from whose members such groups may be selected. In performing its role, the OIM will have the ability to gather market intelligence from UK businesses, professionals and consumers to develop its evidence base. The effect of removing Schedule 3 would be that no public body undertook those independent advisory, monitoring, and reporting functions to support the smooth running of the UK internal market. The Government believe that this outcome would be detrimental to the future health of the internal market and to the benefit of every region and nation of the UK. Thus, it is crucial both Clause 30 and Schedule 3 stand part of this Bill.

Amendment 116 would insert a new clause seeking to ensure that the creation of the OIM was subject to a memorandum of understanding being agreed between the Secretary of State and Ministers in the devolved Administrations. It also seeks to set out how the OIM should handle and use information that it requires to fulfil its functions. It proposes that the office for the internal market panel and task group members should include nominees from the English regions and devolved Administrations. It also proposes who should be members of any internal market work undertaken by the CMA if it undertakes such work separately from the OIM. I will respond to these latter points later, as they are referenced within other amendments.

The Government have considered a wide range of delivery options for the advisory, monitoring and reporting functions for the UK internal market as set out in the Bill. We have concluded that the CMA is best suited to house the OIM to perform these functions. This option was strongly supported by a wide range of stakeholders during the White Paper consultation earlier this year.

The Government have sought to work closely with the devolved Administrations. For example, I would like to say how much the engagement with the Welsh Government to date on this Bill has been appreciated. I believe these conversations have helped enormously to ensure that the purpose and effect of the OIM is understood. The Government are committed to continuing to engage constructively with the devolved Administrations on the establishment of the OIM and how it operates in future in fulfilling its functions as set out. In recognition of the keen interest of the devolved Administrations in the operation of the UK internal market, these appointments will be made following consultation with Ministers from all three devolved Administrations. This will ensure that the panel comprises members who all represent the interests of stakeholders in all parts of the UK. For the reasons I have set out, I am not able to accept the amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles.

I turn to Amendments 117, 121, 122, 123 and 124. Amendment 117 would allow each devolved Administration to appoint a CMA board member, with Amendments 121 through to 124 setting the terms and conditions of those appointments. The CMA is an independent non-ministerial department with a global reputation for promoting competition for the benefit of consumers and ensuring that markets work for consumers, businesses and the economy. Ministers have no day-to-day involvement in its operations. It is for these reasons that the CMA is a natural choice to take on the functions of the OIM.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked how it is that the CMA deals with reserved matters but the OIM can address devolved issues. The statutory objective of the OIM in Clause 29 is designed precisely to draw a distinction with the current CMA objective and functions. This is wholly compatible with operating effectively and independently in relation to devolved matters, with a difference in focus on devolved and reserved matters respectively.

So that the advice and outcomes of the CMA’s work and the members undertaking such work are trusted and continue to be seen as impartial, it is clearly important that board members and the appointments process are seen to be trusted. As my noble friend Lady Noakes said, board members must be seen as capable of overseeing the promotion of competition throughout the entire United Kingdom, rather than as a representative of any one individual nation. It would therefore be inappropriate to risk politicising the CMA’s board by accepting this amendment.

Having different routes to the appointment, resignation and removal of CMA board members would be at odds with the UK-wide remit of the CMA and would have the effect of creating two categories of member. I recognise the keen interest of the devolved Administrations in the appointment process for the CMA board given that the proposed OIM panel chair will, by extension, become a CMA board member. We have stressed during engagement and written into the Bill that devolved Administration Ministers will be consulted on appointments ahead of the OIM becoming operational.

Amendments 118, 119 and 120 propose devolved Administration consent mechanisms for appointing the chair and panel members of the OIM. The first two of these amendments would require the Secretary of State to seek the consent of the devolved Administrations before appointing the OIM’s chair and panel members. As it stands, the Secretary of State appoints the CMA board chair and will appoint the OIM panel members and chair with full and mandatory consultation of the devolved Administrations. The priority will be ensuring that each appointment is on the basis of the relevant range of expertise and, crucially, is someone who can serve the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.

During this consultation and the appointment process, the Secretary of State will aim to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that their interests and comments are taken fully into account before decisions are made on who should be appointed. These amendments, on the other hand, would encourage a narrowing of expertise and risk the effective establishment of the panel. Consent would give each Administration a veto, which could delay and politicise appointments, which would undermine the OIM from the outset. For those reasons, I cannot accept these amendments.

Amendment 125 would require CMA’s proposed and finalised annual plan and annual report to be laid before each Parliament of the devolved Administrations. I assure noble Lords that the Government share the concern of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that adequate opportunities for debate and scrutiny of the CMA’s annual report and other documents exist for the devolved legislatures. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires arrangements to be made to lay the annual plan and report to Parliament; in practice, they are also laid before each devolved legislature. I assure noble Lords that this will continue in future. Should this reassurance be insufficient, the CMA’s annual plan and report are made public, allowing each legislature to scrutinise and debate them if it sees fit. In the light of those reassurances and reasons, I hope that noble Lords will not move their amendments.

Amendments 126, 128 and 129, and subsections (2)(b) and (4) of the new clause proposed by Amendment 116, would require either the OIM panel or task groups to have representatives from each of the four nations of the United Kingdom. This amendment could lead to members of the relevant task groups placing regional or political interests ahead of the CMA’s UK-wide mandate. This would harm the OIM’s ability to monitor the internal market effectively. All panel members chosen to be on each task group should represent the UK as a whole when undertaking reporting for the OIM. For that reason, I am unable to accept these amendments.

Amendment 127 would increase the mandated size of an OIM panel group from three members to five. Having consulted the CMA carefully on this and other points, the Government are confident that three members are sufficient to provide the range of expertise necessary to undertake the work of a task group. Since the panel may need to be able to form multiple task groups at a given time, increasing above this number would reduce the resilience of the panel as a whole and create additional unnecessary expense. For this reason, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise for detaining the Committee; I know I spoke at length on this group. Can the Minister clarify something that he said at the outset? I heard him say that responses to the consultation supported the Government’s proposals for the CMA having this role, but I have the White Paper and the consultation in front of me. No one asked; the Government did not ask. The CMA is not mentioned at all, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, indicated. In fact, questions 3 and 4 do not refer to the CMA, and in the entire section the CMA is not mentioned. To resolve this, would the Government publish the consultation responses before Report, or can the Minister clarify in his remarks that he may have inadvertently misled the Committee?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will certainly check that, and of course I will respond to the noble Lord if that proves incorrect. We obviously proposed the creation of the office for the internal market in the White Paper and said that we were interested in views—the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, shakes his head but I think we did. I will clarify that for the noble Lord in writing, in one of the many letters that I will be sending him. I definitely remember having discussions at the time of the White Paper with many noble Lords whom I spoke to during the consultation. We certainly discussed at the time how the creation of a new body would best monitor the function and effectiveness of the UK internal market process in the context of the White Paper, but I will certainly clarify that for the noble Lord in writing.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD) [V]
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My Lords, we have had an extensive and thoughtful debate, and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. I thank my noble friends Lord Palmer and Lord Purvis for supporting my amendments, and indeed others who have mentioned them; one who springs to mind is the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann. As ever, the major constitutional issue has taken pride of place over technical issues. I am sure that noble Lords have realised that I am rather interested in the technical issues too, but we will end up having to come to grips with them, so I will not reiterate now.

To comment on some of what has been said—I cannot do justice to all speakers—my noble friend Lord Palmer said that there needed to be much more clarity to the OIM, and that we needed to resolve the ambiguity of its structure, flesh out how it works and find out what it meant in real terms. I think that is also the basis for a lot of other thoughts, whether they are technical or to do with devolution. What comes out loud and clear is whether all parts of the UK will feel that they have voice or ownership. My noble friend Lady Randerson led with the proposals that others have also spoken on and which have the support of the Welsh Government. It is all about having a structure that is workable for everybody and not part of something working inside the UK Government.

The Minister says that the CMA is independent. I accept that to a large extent that may be true, but there is still the problem that its strategy can be directed or steered by BEIS. That is just not the way to give the devolved Administrations confidence when, as has been outlined, the hybrid role of UK Ministers leaves us in the rather unsatisfactory situation of the same person trying to arbitrate. It is like the referee in the rugby match that my noble friend Lady Randerson referenced. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said that basically the referee cannot be the manager of one of the teams—which rather seems to be the situation that we have here.

Some very valid points were made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who said that judges had to be drawn from the different parts of the United Kingdom who understood everything vis-à-vis their specialist knowledge. I would not hold myself out at the level of a judge. I am not bad when it comes to negotiating things internationally, but I am English and would never hold myself out as being able to represent the positions of the devolved Administrations. I know that there are known unknowns that I do not know, and that is the situation we have to recognise. Whatever the integrity of the people on the CMA, you just do not know that the background is there unless they are drawn from a diverse field. I am very much one of those people who says that you cannot have sectoral interests, but this is different. I do not consider that devolution is political in that sense—we are all trying to get on together.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made a very interesting point when she suggested that it could perhaps be an interim measure because it has all been brought together very quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, investigated the governance of the CMA and came up with many of the same conclusions as others. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, echoed that it is all about a voice for the legislatures and how to keep devolution alive.

As I said, I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, the view that the CMA is meant to be a UK-wide body and that nominees are not always the best people, but what is good enough for judges is, I think, good enough for the OIM. Yes, perhaps you always have to compromise, but my compromise comes down on the side of voice and ownership; otherwise, the body will never be trusted, as the noble Lord, Lord Empey, said. You have to have the confidence of knowing that people are properly at the table. I acknowledge that we have had rather haphazard devolution but, just because we have left the EU, that cannot be solved with “Whitehall knows best” and by taking back things that properly have been devolved.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, supported consensual Motions and said that consultation is not a guarantee. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, warned us of the danger of a broken United Kingdom, emphasising again that there was a need for more time to be taken and for more confidence. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, had a good point in suggesting that we need a federal UK. That would perhaps make things easier, but we are not able to resolve that now—so, as he said, it comes back to understanding separate identities and to ownership.

The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, supported some of my amendments and wanted the proper involvement of all parties. She also felt that the CMA was the wrong home, and really was not a viable place or a viable alternative to constructing a new body, because of the strategic involvement of BEIS and HMT, and because of it not being sensitive to matters of small businesses and diversity.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, was I think the first to bring forward the same points about needing a degree of independence and embracing the devolved legislatures, and also the fact that the Constitution Committee had also asked, “Why the CMA?” This was echoed by the views of my noble friend Lord Purvis. I agree with him; I could not find the flagging up of the CMA. It may be that one respondent said “a body such as the CMA”, but I did not see any consultation on it being the CMA or whether it was appropriate. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and other noble Lords also pointed out that the CMA is used to dealing with private business and enterprise and has a BEIS strategic influence.

I cannot begin to summarise what was said by my noble friend Lord Purvis, but the fact is that the CMA is left trying to analyse hypothetical benefits. It is true that we do not really know how this is all going to work out. If noble Lords follow the logic of my noble friend’s argument, they will find that he concluded by asking what incentive there was for this body to be used by the devolved Administrations. It is not intended to stir up wars between the devolved parts of the UK and the centre, but my view is that, by its set-up, it is likely to stoke rather than resolve concerns.

As I said before, the noble Lord does not like looking to the EU for examples, but it is a bit like when the Commission comes out with a proposal. It always wants to harmonise everything to make it easier and then the member states, notably the UK, get stuck in. You then get down to the nitty-gritty and you solve it. At the moment, we have this sort of overview coming from the Government that gives the devolved Administrations no room to manoeuvre—yet, when they get down to the nitty-gritty in the common frameworks, what happens? You can reach a conclusion.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Not if the noble Baroness has withdrawn her opposition.

Clause 30 agreed.
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank noble Lords who have taken part. They have asked for a lot of information on the various clauses and whether they should stand part, and I will provide it.

I start with Clauses 31 to 37 and why they should stand part. As we have discussed previously, Part 4 of the Bill creates the office for the internal market within the CMA, charged with carrying out a set of independent advisory, monitoring and reporting functions to support the effective operation of the UK internal market. Clause 31 defines a regulatory provision for the purposes of the CMA’s UK internal market reporting, advisory and monitoring functions, as well as stating which of these provisions are within scope. The purpose is to establish that the CMA may undertake monitoring reviews on an ad hoc basis, either of its own volition or at the request of other parties, including the UK Government and the devolved Administrations and legislatures. This monitoring will focus on cross-border competition, investment and trade, as well as access to goods and services.

There are two categories of monitoring and reporting that the CMA must undertake. The first is an annual health of the market assessment that will set out trends and developments in the internal market, including levels of integration across different sectors and nations. The second is a review of the impact of the measures in Parts 1 to 3 of the Bill, dealing with the internal market system itself, to be published at least every five years. Both types of report will be published and laid before both Houses and all the devolved legislatures.

Clause 32 sets out the provision for the CMA to advise on a regulatory proposal prior to it being passed or made in law. If an Administration in one part of the UK wishes to do so, it may request non-binding advice from the CMA on an approach to regulation it or any other person proposes to make in the relevant part of the UK. This is on a voluntary basis but will help support effective policy development. The advice, or report, from the CMA will examine the potential economic impact of the proposal on areas such as competition and trade distortions, the impact on prices and the choice and quality of goods and services for consumers. To ensure transparency, all advice will be published and shared with all four Administrations.

Clause 33 details the CMA’s reporting procedure on regulatory provisions already been passed or made in law. The request may be made by one or more Administrations and must concern a regulatory provision applying to its part of the UK and within its legislative competence. Similarly, to ensure transparency, the CMA will publish the report soon after it is provided to the requesting Administration. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked about this clause. The clause sets out that it is for the national authority seeking the report from the OIM to consider and determine whether another body could provide advice. This is not a technical term and is simply intended to make it clear that the OIM is not intended to displace other bodies that might in theory provide more relevant advice on the same matter and, in doing so, make the best possible use of public funds.

Clause 34 sets out the reporting procedure that the CMA will undertake for regulatory provisions that are already enacted in any part of the United Kingdom and are considered to have actual or anticipated detrimental impacts on the internal market. The CMA may produce reports upon the request of a Minister in the UK Government or a Minister in any devolved Administration. The CMA must provide copies to all other Administrations in other parts of the United Kingdom, laying the report before each House of Parliament and all devolved legislatures, as well as making it public.

Clause 35 sets out the process that the CMA, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations must follow once a report has been produced by the CMA and laid before the legislatures under Clause 32. The process requires the Minister in the Administration responsible for implementing the regulatory provision that was the subject of the report, and the Minister in the Administration who requested the report, to make a Written Statement in their relevant legislature. This supports effective parliamentary oversight, as well as prompting legislatures to determine the most appropriate subsequent course of action.

Clause 36 allows the CMA the discretion to exclude particular categories of information from its reporting on impacts on the internal market. The discretion to exclude some categories is not novel or contentious, and is used by public and private organisations to protect commercial and private information about an organisation or a person. This discretion is necessary in specific circumstances to provide assurances for business and individuals’ interests.

Clause 37 requires the CMA to publish general advice, information and guidance about how it expects to approach the exercise of its monitoring, advisory and reporting functions under Clauses 31 to 34. This mirrors existing requirements in the Enterprise Act 2002 to publish documents, as the UK’s competition authority, on how it works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK.

I turn to Amendment 134, which seeks to delete the phrase “from time to time” from Clause 31(1), which deals with the CMA’s ability to produce ad hoc reports on matters it considers relevant to the effective operation of the UK’s internal market. The Government agree that it is essential for the CMA to undertake reviews and report on matters it considers relevant to the effective operation of the internal market. However, the Government believe that it is also important that, as an independent body, the CMA should not be under pressure to frequently produce ad hoc reports, which is what removing this phrase “from time to time” would imply. As Clause 31(5) and (6) make clear, the office for the internal market will produce regular reports on the health of the internal market; it will therefore be well placed to make the right judgment on the need for the production of other reports.

Amendments 135 and 137 would require the CMA to conduct reviews only into what are called “important” matters, and that only the UK Government and devolved Administrations may request a review from the CMA. The Government appreciate the intention of these amendments, which is to ensure that the CMA is not overburdened by expectations in relation to reviews. However, the CMA is experienced in the matter of reviews and should not have its work impeded due to debates as to what constitutes a “matter of importance”. Furthermore, it is important that all stakeholders with an interest in the internal market should be able to request that the CMA undertake a review. This in turn will help to maintain stakeholder confidence in the independence of the OIM from the UK Government and the devolved Administrations.

Amendment 144 seeks to amend Clause 32 by inserting the word “entirety” to ensure that the Secretary of State can request advice and a report from the CMA on matters relating to the whole of the UK, not just a part of it. The current wording of Clause 32 aims to capture that reporting made possible by the clause is limited only to devolved regulatory competence. In the case of the Secretary of State, this would mean England-only legislation by the UK Government would be in scope of Clause 32. The effect of the amendment would be to extend the scope of Clause 32 to capture powers being exercised for the whole of the UK by the UK Government. To support the effective operation of the internal market, the office will need to focus its reporting and monitoring on areas of regulatory divergence across the UK. If regulatory measures apply UK-wide, the same risks to the functioning of the internal market will not feature. It is therefore vital to narrow the focus of the reporting in question to regulation that covers only a proportion of the UK and could pose an issue to the functioning of the market.

I turn to Amendment 145. The purpose of Clause 33 is to enable the CMA to produce reports on the impact of regulatory provisions which have already been passed or made into law. This procedure is voluntary and can be requested by an Administration, solely or jointly, in all parts of the United Kingdom, in relation to a regulatory provision applying to the relevant part of the UK and within its legislative competence. The Government understand the concerns around transparency, but the aim of subsection (2) is to ensure that the requesting Administration consider whether any other person or body is also qualified to provide an independent report on the matter before a request to the CMA is made. It is important to consider whether any work done by another person or organisation would put the CMA in a better position to provide advice to an Administration and for this to be taken into account and considered before a request to the CMA. This is a pragmatic and wholly sensible approach and ensures that the CMA’s resources are best directed at requests for advice, monitoring and reporting where it has the relevant expertise.

Amendment 146 advocates for the removal of subsection (4) within Clause 35. This clause requires the national authority responsible for implementing the regulatory measure that was the subject of the CMA’s report to then make a written statement in the relevant legislature. This amendment would remove the obligation of laying a copy of a written statement before each House of the UK Parliament. This would clearly result in inconsistency between the UK Government and devolved Administrations in accountability to their respective legislatures. We believe that this change would result in a democratic deficit and the loss of accountability towards both Houses of this Parliament.

Amendments 147 and 148 would require the CMA to consult stakeholders before preparing advice and information about how it expects to approach the exercise of its functions and revising or withdrawing any advice or guidance. Clause 37 mirrors existing requirements in the Enterprise Act 2002 to publish documents, as the UK’s competition authority, on how it works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK. As a matter of good practice and maintaining effective working relationships with a range of stakeholders, the CMA already undertakes extensive consultations with stakeholders in respect of its existing statutory duties before publishing advice and information. The CMA will be maintaining this approach in respect of the advice, information and guidance it publishes under Clause 37. In light of this reassurance, and to safeguard the independence of the CMA, the Government do not think it is necessary to compel the CMA to do this, as proposed by the amendment.

Amendment 151 seeks to amend Clause 39 to explicitly require the CMA to consult the UK Government, the devolved Administrations and other relevant persons in preparing or revising its statement of policy in relation to the enforcement of its information-gathering powers. Clause 39 allows the Competition and Markets Authority to take actions in response to non-compliance with the information requests described in Clause 38. To ensure that its penalties regime is fully considered and proportionate, the CMA will be required, as it already is now under its existing statutory functions in relation to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, to consult other parties as it sees fit when developing or revising its approach. I can assure noble Lords that, in practice, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations would always be consulted as a duty on the CMA as it stands in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked about compelling devolved Administration Ministers to give information. We can give DAs information notices, but they cannot, of course, receive any penalties for non-compliance.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it will be interesting to hear how the Minister responds to this request, which has been well described as a bit of a coda. On the other hand, it also contains teeth, which would be there to be used, if someone wished to. It is important to get this right and understand, if it is rejected, why it is. I look forward to that.

Ministers know that we on the Labour side think that the common frameworks are at the centre of the managed divergence that we want to see and allow to happen across the devolved Administrations. It is important that the process continues and that is at the centre of the Bill, because it is not at the moment; it is hardly mentioned, except in passing. If that is the case, we look for some additional reassurance from the Minister that the powers that might be available to the Government, when they feel the common frameworks are not working, are not used too early or vicariously just to show the devolved Administrations who is in charge. As we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, on day one, the Government already have powers to deal with any default they feel is present in the common frameworks. The questions raised by this amendment are important, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank those hardy souls who have stayed for this brief debate. Amendment 143, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is concerned with a proposed role for the CMA in the laying of regulations on the application of the market access principles. It builds on the earlier Amendments 6, 78 and 104, which concerned the scope within which the UK market access principles proposed in the Bill will apply. I understand that the noble Baroness has tabled this amendment on behalf of the Welsh Government, and I thank the Welsh Government for their positive engagement on the Bill so far. The UK Government look forward to continued and constructive future engagement with them on more aspects of these proposals.

Before I turn to the detail of this amendment, I note the previous discussion on similar amendments also tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, which would have narrowed the scope of the market access principles. As I set out then, those amendments would, in combination, prevent the market access principles from applying in time, at the end of the transition period. Earlier, I set out that the lengthy process the amendments put in place before the principles can apply, including the need to exhaust the framework discussions first, would mean a considerable delay in securing business certainty that trade can continue unhindered within the UK’s internal market. Amendment 143 would add an additional layer of bureaucracy to that process.

In our view, it would also problematically risk bringing the CMA into potentially contentious decision-making and mean its role was weighted towards supporting the Secretary of State over the devolved Administration counterparts. This contrasts sharply with our vision for this, which is to ensure that the OIM’s expert reporting is available to all four administrations equally. Above all, however, the advice provided by the OIM will be economic in nature. Its panel will have expertise across intra-UK trade, regulatory impacts on business and competition effects, which is one reason why the Government chose to establish it within the CMA. We had that debate earlier.

The office for the internal market will not be equipped, therefore, to opine on matters related to animal welfare or environmental protection. To lay this obligation on the OIM would bring a significant risk of duplication of the remit of other public bodies, which would cause considerable confusion for the many stakeholders in this field. For these reasons, and the uncertainty and confusion that this and other related amendments would generate for businesses and citizens, the Government regretfully cannot support them, and I hope the noble Baroness is able to withdraw.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for recognising the staying power of some noble Lords, because we have had three days of this debate. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for going through some of the aspects of this amendment in more detail and clearly pointing out that its aim is to establish a level playing field, at every level. There has to be a level playing field, because it is the only way in which the four nations will eventually be able to work together properly.

I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and I am grateful to him for stating that there is a need to have common frameworks at the centre of the Bill. This is something to which we will return on Report, because the Bill, as it is written, does not make this clear at all. In the way it is written at the moment, it looks as if the common frameworks are almost disposable. We need to come back to that.

I am glad that the Government recognise the involvement and commitment of the Welsh Government to have positive discussions, and I know that from the Wales end that that is true. They want to engage and come to a good solution. They want business certainty just as much as anyone else; they want less bureaucracy just as much as anybody else, but they need to know there will be a level playing field and fairness at the end of the day. That is why the common frameworks were so attractive, and why people have worked so hard towards them and are committed to carrying on working towards them.

Having said that and knowing that we need to have further discussions on this and that we will return to this on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-V Fifth Marshalled list for Committee - (4 Nov 2020)
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this debate has raised some interesting and important issues. I have listened with care to all the speakers and particularly to the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, based on information provided by the Scottish Law Commission, whose help I also acknowledge. I look forward to the Minister’s response. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, raised a number of issues to which I wish to return. Other speakers have made small but important points on SMEs and the role of Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, picked up on the recent letter from Ministers about university fees, particularly in Scotland, and questioned whether this could constitute indirect discrimination. This was also raised in an earlier group. Like the noble Lord, I wonder why this could not be better dealt with by the common frameworks approach. This should be applied to all aspects of managed divergence, in relation not just to goods but also to services and the regulation of professions. We will return to this on Report.

In respect of the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, the powers included in Clauses 38,39 and 40 are quite extensive and detailed. Do they go beyond the existing powers of the CMA? Are they new because of the responsibilities that will accrue to the CMA or the office for the internal market under this Bill? Or do they simply repeat existing powers reframed in some way to suit the new circumstances? I would appreciate the Minister’s response. As other speakers have said, this additional activity is very detailed and gives specific examples of what can and cannot be done and how it is to operate. Does this not play to the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, in an earlier amendment that asking the CMA to extend its focus and the range of its work might blur the good work it does at the moment? Does the Minister accept that there might be a problem here?

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, raised issues around university tuition fees and water services. As he said, I have written to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about the points they raised in earlier debates. I am told that these letters have been submitted to the Library but there may be a slight delay in their publication. I confirm what I said there about the exemption in the legislation for public services. More details are set out in the letters. If for some reason they have not yet been published, the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Purvis, should get in touch with my office, which will be happy to furnish them with a copy.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I much appreciate the Minister’s answer. The questions I asked about university tuition fees were in the light of having read his letter, which my noble friend Lord Purvis made available to me—there is no need to send it to me. In it the Minister states that,

“we are aware of the questions raised in relation to university services and how they may interact with the Bill”,

which is good. The letter continues:

“We have the power to amend the exclusions Schedule and will keep the area of higher education under close review.”


It therefore seems that the Government are planning to do that after Report. My point is that it would be a boon to our process on the Bill if the Government were to consult before Report and come back with something that I am sure, given what the Minister said, would merely fulfil their ambition for the Bill while settling concerns in the university sector.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thought that I had put the matter to rest by writing the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on which the noble Lord, Lord Fox, has commented. In our view, there is no doubt that the regulation of tuition fees is outside the scope of the Bill and, therefore, beyond the scope of the office for the internal market’s functions. But as the letter to him confirmed, we will keep the matter under review and not hesitate to take action if there is a problem, which we do not believe exists.

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, also wish to speak after the Minister.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I asked the Minister a specific question on whether the framing of Clauses 38 to 40 was exactly the same, or differed from, the existing powers of the CMA. He did not answer that. I do not want to delay us too much today but perhaps he could write to me about it.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

I would be happy to write to the noble Lord but, as I said, the powers to date have functioned effectively and are based on the CMA’s existing powers.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have another couple of points for clarification by my noble friend. First, does legal privilege apply to in-house counsel, provided that they are properly qualified lawyers? I would be happy for the Minister to write to me about that. Secondly, he referred in the debate about small business to Clause 32(4), and helpfully explained that the CMA will advise on regulatory proposals before laws are made, which provides an opportunity for small business interests to be taken into account. However, my concern was also about enforcement of the law, which would bear particularly harshly on small businesses that do not have the same fancy legal departments as others. I am not sure that the clause deals with that but would be delighted if I was wrong.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

On my noble friend’s first question, she will notice that Clause 38(8) states:

“A notice under subsection (2) or (3) may not require a person … to produce or provide any document or information which the person could not be compelled to produce, or give in evidence, in civil proceedings before the court”.


I hope that that resolves the matter. I will write to her on her second point.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank everyone who has contributed, including my noble friend the Minister in summing up the debate. We had an excellent discussion on the issues, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, for raising them because they are pertinent. I am slightly confused as to why it is necessary to include in the Bill powers that already exist. We are told that they are not new, yet my noble friend will not agree to include in the Bill a matter that is already causing alarm.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, for alerting me to the Constitution Committee report in that regard. It has highlighted its concern and received a verbal undertaking from the Lord Chancellor. I should repeat that we are referring to the Law Society of Scotland, not the Scottish Law Commission. If both the committee of this House and the Law Society of Scotland are concerned, that verbal reassurance is not enough. I may well reflect on the matter and come back on Report. However, for the moment, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to debate this matter and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, this debate is perhaps even more important than some of the others that we have had. The real advantage of a stand part debate is that one can question the purpose of a clause rather than getting down into the weeds of amendments.

The issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, has raised is fundamental to how we have been looking at this. She asked—these are actually my words, although the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said much the same—whether the competition regime was appropriate for work on the internal market. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, gave away in an earlier debate that this may have been written hastily over the summer; it certainly sounds like a cut-and-paste job, done without stopping to think. Just because it is the same organisation at the same address in Holborn, or wherever the CMA is these days, you cannot just cut and paste it; as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, was saying, it is about the culture of that organisation as well as whether the structure is available. There is a fundamental question here, which my noble friend Lord Stevenson dealt with under Amendment 115, of whether the OIM should be within this framework, as well as the even broader subject of whether these sorts of penalties are appropriate for such a different role.

There are some specific issues in these clauses, such as whether it is appropriate for the Government to be able to amend the list of exclusions without any involvement of the devolved authorities. We have discussed such matters before, but under this legislation the fixing of penalties could again be altered without any involvement of the devolved authorities. This is serious stuff. They are a part of the overall governance and working of the new internal market, yet the Bill is written as if this is simply a Westminster responsibility.

I come to what the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, was saying: exactly what is covered by these clauses? In an earlier debate I asked the Minister to set out what services were covered, but obviously I was mumbling at the time because he wrote me a very nice letter on 2 November telling me about the services that are excluded, which of course already exist in the Bill. The question that I was trying to ask is: what services will be covered? I still cannot get a handle on that. This is really important given what has been said about whether the demands and penalties applying to services that are covered are appropriate.

Obviously I was not very clear about what I wanted but I had talked about housing and whether someone organising a register of housing would count as a service. I was talking about landlords but the letter refers to social housing. We are talking not about social housing but about landlords of private housing. I am involved with another part of the Government, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, in chairing something to try to set up a code for property agents for when the Government are ready to fulfil what they have already promised—that is, to set up a regulator of property agents. They are already a service but the circumstances are different—buying and selling a house in Scotland is very different from England; if you buy there, you tend to go to a solicitor rather than an estate agent—so there are different ways of a service being developed or in existence. Once they are regulated, perhaps property agents will count as a profession, which is a different issue, but before then, as a service, are they going to be covered by these sorts of requirements?

If that is the case—and this is the main thrust of what I want to say on this group— how will these services know that they are covered by this provision? It is important for anyone risking breaking the law, in the sense of civil law, and being charged a penalty to know that that law applies to them. If they do not define what they are doing as a service and therefore do not know that they are captured by this provision, they may find it difficult to understand that they could be required to provide information. I can imagine that this could really affect property agencies. They need to know that it covers them, which is quite an issue, but it is also unclear to me whether the level of penalties is appropriate for this area. For a small housing management group, for example, this daily rate of £15,000 will basically wipe out its business if it has an £80,000 annual turnover. We are talking about levels of penalty.

It seems to me that those agents are covered by this, but I am unclear about the appeals process. If they are asked a question, how do they know that it has legal force behind it? Even if they are told that—most of these people will of course not have lawyers —and there is a penalty, do they have any appeal? I could not find one in the Bill but I am sure the Minister will be able to tell me; it is quite unusual to have a penalty without any sort of appeal. I could not work this out but I am sure the Minister will.

My main ask is: can we know the sort of services that will be covered? Perhaps we could hear more—not in legal language but in language that I can understand—about how they would know and about their rights to appeal any fixed penalty.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, if she found my letter disappointing; I will try to do better next time. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, looks disapproving; I am not going to write him any more letters if that is the case.

With regard to exclusions on services, all services subject to the authorisation requirements or the regulatory requirements are affected under the Bill unless they are specifically excluded from some or part of the rules under Part 2. I hope that that clarifies the noble Baroness’s question—if not, I will be happy to write her another letter. She is shaking her head in disbelief.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, with regard to her question on consultation, that we consulted on the general office, what enforcement provisions there should be and whether or not it should be included as part of an arm’s-length body. Once we had made the decision that it should be located within the CMA, there was of course extensive discussion between officials and the CMA on the powers and how they will be enforced. I say to my noble friend Lord Tyrie that I am of course aware of the proposals that he refers to on the CMA and I will be happy to take another look at them.

Addressing the specific questions on this clause stand part debate, I will set out the rationale for these clauses. Clause 38, as I believe we already discussed in the previous group, sets out the powers that the Competition and Markets Authority will have to gather information in support of its monitoring, advisory and reporting functions. As I said previously, in order to carry out its functions the OIM must have access to high-quality information to produce accurate, relevant and credible reports. Clause 38 will ensure that the CMA is able to require the assistance of third parties to perform its functions and is able to independently gather evidence in a timely manner.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, agrees with me that presenting analysis based on partial or inaccurate information could be detrimental to the regulatory decisions taken as a result of OIM reporting and monitoring and would damage the reputation of the OIM among many key stakeholders in these fields. The powers in this clause are therefore put on a strong statutory footing. They will ensure that the reporting that the OIM undertakes will be as effective and comprehensive as possible for the benefit of policy-makers in the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, significantly strengthening existing stakeholders’ ability to navigate the new UK internal market.

Clause 39 describes what action the CMA is able to take in response to non-compliance with the information requests described in Clause 38. As noble Lords said, the CMA has existing powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 regarding non-compliance with its information requests. This is necessary to enable the CMA to carry out its functions effectively. As with Clause 38, the provision for the OIM in Clause 39 is modelled on those powers. The clause will allow the CMA to determine the most appropriate policy approach and the amount of any financial penalty to be imposed within the limits that have been prescribed. The clause also sets out the conditions where financial penalties may not be imposed because more than four weeks has expired since the CMA exercised its relevant functions.

Clause 40 sets the parameters that the CMA should consider for financial penalties in cases of non-compliance with an information-gathering request notice. Let me first say that I understand the concerns of noble Lords, but the preference and expectation will always be that information gathering is on a voluntary basis. The Government do not anticipate that the CMA will need regularly to fall back on the information-gathering and non-compliance powers. However, it is important to ensure that this facility is available to the CMA to detail how penalties will be set. As with other provisions, the Government have chosen to mirror the relevant provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002.

I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe that the Secretary of State will make regulations specifying the maximum amounts in practice within the specified ceilings for these penalties in consultation with the CMA and other interested parties. I can confirm for the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that the devolved Administrations will of course be consulted as part of this. In addition, and as noted in our debates on previous groups, I confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, that the CMA will not be able to issue a financial penalty against the UK Government or any devolved Government. Let me be very clear about that. Let me also assure the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that the Government are committed to not taking any steps to bring in the financial penalties until there is credible evidence that there is a need do so, so we will not commence these provisions without that credible need being demonstrated.

I will deal with a couple of other questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked about third-party requests. Such requests would be permissible if they were within the scope of Clause 31 and the CMA thought that they were appropriate. As I confirmed earlier, the White Paper invited consultation responses on how the functions to be delivered should be implemented as well as on whether an existing arm’s-length body should deliver them or bespoke arrangements should be established. As is obvious, we decided after that consultation that the OIM should be situated within the CMA.

With the reasons I have set out, I hope that I have been able to reassure noble Lords on their legitimate concerns and on why this clause should stand part of the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have had a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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With regard to the noble Lord’s first question, I understand why his cleaning abilities might not be up to standard and he might not get his tea. With regard to the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, on reasonableness, we certainly do not intend to create disparity within the CMA over the functions it carries out and the processes it follows.

To be serious, of course I understand the difference between being asked to do something voluntarily and being asked to do something voluntarily with the back-up of potential penalties. The powers and penalties in question are similar to those used by the CMA for its existing functions, such as conducting market studies. This will ensure consistency in the way that the CMA, under its existing and its OIM capacities, interacts with stakeholders across all its functions. We do not intend to commence the powers on fines until it is proved that they are necessary, as I said.

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have had a request to speak from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my noble friend for his assurance on commencement. He did not answer my specific questions, but I think that the answer in general terms was that the Government have taken the same powers as the CMA has on competition and applied them pro rata. Perhaps I can pick up something that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said earlier. I wonder whether we could look at this line by line to see whether things are or are not all the same; that would be a helpful Committee-type process.

I really got up to ask a question about examples. The Minister helpfully gave an example of a penalty regulation—he said that he might make regulations with penalties under £30,000, perhaps at a lower level for particular things—but I am confused about what kind of regulations are going to be made here. That may be an impossible question to answer but if my noble friend could give us some more examples, perhaps ones that are in draft or have gone out to consultation, it would be incredibly helpful.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I referred in my earlier speech to the need to make regulations setting the maximum penalty, which the Secretary of State will do, but I will write to my noble friend if there are any other examples of regulations that we feel we may need to make.

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Henig) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, wish to respond to any of the points made?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, at the outset I should say that, because of my past but discontinued interests, I will not be speaking to the specifics of the example that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, brought up; rather, I will speak generally on this issue.

I speak to support the spirit of this amendment. It is a shame that the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, is not still here because I would have welcomed his view on this issue. As the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, there are examples of Secretaries of State who wanted to do more but were constrained, and Cadbury is a good example of that.

However, after two dozen or more hours in Committee, I find myself at last coming to agree with something that the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said, and that is that this issue goes wider than simply the nature of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said the same thing. It is an important issue, so we should be thankful that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has brought it up. It is clearly inadequate; the Secretary of State needs a better armoury to assess the public interest and deal with what will undoubtedly be, as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said, a flood of potential acquisitions and hostile takeovers.

This may not be the right Bill to be doing it in, but it is a big issue. That said, it also opens up the question of how the new office for the internal market relates to the Secretary of State and the CMA when it is dealing with a hostile takeover that the Secretary of State has called in. As the Bill stands now, allowing for the fact that the Minister may not accept the amendment, how do the Government envision the interactivity between the office for the internal market, the CMA and a hostile takeover bid that the Secretary of State has called in? Who does what, and where?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for her amendment. I understand her concerns but, as I am sure she is aware, the internal market Bill is concerned with protecting the flow of goods and services across the UK after the end of the transition period. It is not concerned with the general merger regime, nor with Ministers’ powers to intervene in mergers. Noble Lords should be aware that they will have the opportunity to debate these matters further in the Government’s forthcoming national security and investment Bill.

None Portrait A noble Lord
- Hansard -

Will that be soon?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

It is forthcoming. Noble Lords will know that I cannot go further in terms of dates. It was flagged up in the Queen’s Speech and is forthcoming.

The grounds for ministerial intervention in mergers are deliberately precise and limited, in order to maximise transparency and predictability for businesses. The effect of the amendment would be to broaden the grounds upon which Ministers may make a public interest intervention in mergers. This would constitute a significant change to the UK’s approach to merger control which, as noble Lords observed, currently puts the emphasis on competition-based assessments by the Competition and Markets Authority, with narrow and specific grounds for ministerial intervention.

It is not clear how such a change would materially assist with the effective operation of the UK internal market which is, of course, the focus of this part of the Bill. The CMA already has significant powers and expertise to investigate the benefits and risks of mergers in relation to competition. An excessively broad power to intervene in the affairs of investors, shareholders and company boards risks stifling competition, innovation and creativity. This could lead to worse outcomes for both businesses and consumers, as well as stifling inward investment. For these reasons, I cannot accept the amendment and hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw it.

Before I sit down, I will answer the other question which the noble Baroness asked about the previous group. The power for the Secretary of State to specify the maximum penalties for breach of information-gathering notices will be brought in by negative SI. This mirrors Section 111(4) of the Enterprise Act 2002.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is very polite. What he really wanted to say to me was: “Nice try”. There is a serious point here. As I said in my introduction, I know that the basic power is outwith the scope of this Bill, but there is some urgency to this question. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, used the words “greater protections are needed against hostile takeovers”. They may not be exclusively from outwith the UK, but those are some of the ones where there have been particular problems. I think it is agreed that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, there is a weakness in our armour because you cannot argue against them on the grounds of competition. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. The problem is that it is not within the tools of the CMA. It cannot use as a ground the need to either respond to public policy or promote particular industries. If it does not affect competition, it is not within its powers.

This does need to be added. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, is right that this is perhaps not quite the right mechanism, but we are delighted to know that there is a Bill coming and I look forward to the Minister accepting an equivalent to Amendment 153 at that point. I will, needless to say, use today’s Hansard to support that amendment to get this in then. I look forward to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and other noble Lords supporting me at that time.

I wanted to table the amendment to this Bill because of the changes there will be when we have got the internal market growing and we are looking for new investments. Even those who think everything is going to be wonderful after Brexit know that we are going to need a lot of support to get the economy going again after Covid. There is a slight weakness, so it would have been nice to have been able to put this clause in at this point. It was a nice try, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th November 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 135-V Fifth Marshalled list for Committee - (4 Nov 2020)
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, for introducing her amendment. She made her case extremely well: R&D is important, and the Government could easily, with advantage, accept all three of the amendments as they stand. However, her introductory speech raised all the issues that have subsequently been picked up by other speakers, because we are facing what appears to be another black hole in this Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the noble Lord, Lord Fox and I have signed up to an amendment more in frustration than any genuine feeling that the existing clause is wrong, although the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, does make a very good case for how the procedures adopted there are not the ones that should be seen in the final version of this Bill.

The question really seems to be about what our state aid regime is going to be. Is it going to be central or devolved in terms of both its process and delivery? Is there going to be a central body that will be charged with making sure that all those participants who benefit from state aid do so on a fair and open basis, and are they going to be able to review and make recommendations for how it is taken forward?

It seems to me this is another area where common frameworks have an opportunity to provide the solution to a problem the Government are facing. I hope that whichever way we go on this, time will be taken to make sure we get it right, do it properly and come forward with something that will justify the effort that has been placed in it, because it will be worth it.

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

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I recognise that the hour is late, so I will attempt to be as brief as possible. I begin by setting out why Clause 50 should stand part of the Bill, before moving on to discuss Amendments 169A, 169B and 169C.

Clause 50 reserves for the UK Parliament the exclusive ability to legislate for a UK subsidy control regime in future. The Government have always been clear in their view that the regulation of state aid, which is the EU approach to subsidy control, is a reserved matter. Let me say in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, that the devolved Administrations have never previously been able to set their own subsidy control reviews, as this was covered by the EU state aid framework. Now we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to design our own subsidy control regime that works for the UK economy.

It is important, in our view, that there continues to be a uniform position across the United Kingdom. Reserving will ensure we take a coherent and consistent approach to the way public authorities within the UK subsidise businesses, supporting the smooth functioning of the UK’s internal market. A unified approach will reduce uncertainty for UK businesses and prevent additional costs in supply chains and to consumers.

Also in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, I say this reservation does not impact the devolved Administrations’ existing spending powers. The devolved Administrations will continue to make decisions about devolved spending on subsidies—how much, to whom and for what—within any future UK-wide subsidy control regime.

The Government announced in September that the UK will follow World Trade Organization rules for subsidy control from 1 January. These are internationally recognised common standards for subsidies. Before the end of the year, the Government will publish guidance for UK public authorities to explain these rules and any related commitments the Government have agreed in fair trade agreements. We will also publish a consultation in the coming months on whether we should go further than those existing commitments, including whether or not legislation is necessary, because we want a modern system for supporting British business in a way that fulfils our interests. We do not want a return to the 1970s approach of Government trying to run the economy or bailing out unsustainable companies. We will take the necessary time to listen closely to all those with an interest in this subject.

UK government officials have been meeting, and will continue to meet, their devolved Administration counterparts on a regular basis. We are keen to ensure that the devolved Administrations are involved in the upcoming consultation process. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this approach is the best, and indeed the only, way to ensure that the whole of the UK can benefit from having a consistent and coherent system of subsidy control, which is necessary to support the smooth running of the UK internal market. I therefore commend that Clause 50 stands part of the Bill. I hope that I have answered at least some of the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Fox. If not, I will write to him to confirm the other points.

I turn to Amendments 169A, 169B and 169C, in the name of my noble friend Lady Rawlings. They seek to amend the definition of a subsidy for the purpose of their reservation. They would add to this definition that a subsidy will also include “research and development grants”. The interpretation provisions contained in Clause 50 set out what is classed as a subsidy for the purpose of this reservation. We define a subsidy as including assistance provided to a person, directly or indirectly, financially or otherwise. The definition includes examples of this assistance as income or price support, grants, loans and guarantees.

For the purpose of the reservation of subsidy control, the definition of a subsidy is deliberately broad to ensure that we have sufficient scope to design a future domestic regime that meets the needs of the United Kingdom. To ensure that we cover a broad range of financial interventions, the definition is not currently limited by reference to any specific policy purpose or sector. Subsidies may be given for a variety of purposes, and it would be anomalous to single out just one of them here. The current wording in the clause already encompasses assistance provided to a person directly or indirectly by way of grants and is therefore sufficient to cover research and development grants as my noble friend intends. Therefore, the Government do not think that the amendments are legally necessary. I hope that, in the light of that information, my noble friend will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alderdice) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

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

With every answer, there come more questions, I am afraid. The Minister sought to explain that the devolved authorities will still be able to spend the money—I think those were the words that he used—but I am interested to know to which money he is referring. How in future will they get their hands on the money? Will there be a competitive bidding process? Is it part of the formula? Is that the money that he is talking about? Perhaps he could outline what he means by “the money”, because it is not entirely clear to me. He is looking at me as though I am being slightly stupid and I shall be very happy to be educated by him in writing rather than verbally.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

I certainly did not intend to imply that at all and I apologise if the noble Lord got that impression. I was talking about the existing block grants that the devolved Administrations have. It is their existing spending power—the money that they spend at the moment. They will continue to make decisions about their devolved spending on subsidies, as they do at the moment—how much, to whom and for what—within any future UK-wide subsidy control regime if, following consultation, the Government and Parliament decide that we want to legislate in this space. I hope that I have resolved the noble Lord’s question; if not, I will certainly write to him.

Baroness Rawlings Portrait Baroness Rawlings (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his courteous and careful reply, and I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments, for and against. I am sorry that at this late hour several of your Lordships have, understandably, withdrawn.

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. I take his point on the devolved matters and thank him for his very interesting contribution. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for her probing remarks, as always, and my noble friend Lord Trenchard, who fully understood what I am trying to do. I am most grateful to him for his kind words. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his support. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, always makes good points and always asks even better questions.

My noble friend the Minister said that state aid was a reserved matter but we can design our own. I was not quite clear about that. I was even less clear on his explanation of why R&D should not be included; I feel that it is too important not to be included.

To conclude, these modest amendments are hardly revolutionary and are purely intended to help the Government in any future contracts so that we are less likely to lose out; it is a shame that the Government are not able to accept them. I hope that there may be some other way. I may return to the subject of research and development on Report. Having said that, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

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

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 150-II Second Marshalled list for Report - (18 Nov 2020)
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as I have said before, the women in the House always get a bit nervous when we talk about Henry VIII. We have only to go outside and see what happened to some of Henry VIII’s women to remind us that we are a bit uncomfortable with him.

The debate has made clear why the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Andrews and fellow members of our always brilliant Delegated Powers Committee should be heeded. Indeed, the unanswered question, posed by my noble friend, is why the Government have not removed the powers in Clause 6 in the way that they have now agreed to remove them in Clause 3. Why the inconsistency? What is the difference between them? Our Delegated Powers Committee certainly did not distinguish between the two pillars of the internal market—market access and non-discrimination— so we do not understand why the Government have taken such a different view on those. Without a stunning, innovative answer—the Minister looks as though he may have one, but there was none such in his letter of 12 November to the Delegated Powers Committee—when we come to Amendment 7 a little later, we will throw our weight behind it to remove the sections which, as the noble Lord, Lord Beith, has just set out, give overwhelming power to Ministers. Furthermore, as my noble friend Lady Andrews says, if these are meant to be just backstop powers to correct as yet-unknown deficiencies, then, given that Clause 13 affects all parts of the UK, it should be for Parliament, not Ministers in Westminster, to make any correction, with the full panoply of safeguards that come with primary legislation for input from the two Houses as well as from the devolved legislatures.

It is really not good enough—in a Bill which, after all, they must have known for four years they would need—for the Government at this stage still to be so unsure that they have thought of everything and drafted correctly that they need to accord to themselves these extraordinary powers to amend important parts of what will then be an Act of Parliament. That was never the purpose of secondary legislation. Indeed, as the Minister will know, we feel that it is likely that the proposed use of these ministerial powers is more the result of the Government’s tendency to rely on them rather on than proper primary legislation on a wide variety of measures. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, noted, so common has this become that my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton wrote on behalf of the Constitution Committee to Mr Rees-Mogg on 9 November suggesting how to diminish the practice, while the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Blencathra, from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee respectively, similarly wrote to Mr Rees-Mogg on 10 November, specifically with concerns about “skeleton bills and skeleton provision”, noting his acknowledgement that delegated powers

“should not be ‘a tool to cover imperfect policy development’”

and reiterating the need for the Government “at all times” to

“fully justify the appropriateness of delegated powers”.

I fail to hear such justification for these particular powers. Therefore, while welcoming the Government’s support for Amendment 2, we will support Amendments 7, 12 and the others in this group.

I am delighted that, because of the acceptance of Amendment 2, my Amendment 4 is pre-empted. For those who do not follow all this, Amendment 4 would have amended subsections (8) to (11), which was a regulation-making power. We were seeking to give the delegated legislatures a say over that. But clearly, as those powers have come out, my Amendment 4 luckily is pre-empted and not needed. However, we will return to similar amendments next week. For the moment, we welcome the moves of the Government on Amendment 2 and, in due course, unless the Minister comes up with a stunning answer in the next few minutes, we will support Amendment 7 in its place.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank everybody who has spoken in the debate so far. Just before we start, let me give my personal support—not a matter for the Government—to the gruesome twosome, the unholy alliance between the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes and Lord Cormack. I hope that we can get back to full and proper debate in this Chamber as quickly as possible. I do not know about other noble Lords, but I quite miss the heckling from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes; it adds a bit of interest and spice to our debates. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, copes very well with debate in this Chamber, of which she is a noted exponent.

The Government have listened closely to the concerns from colleagues from all sides of the House and outlined in the DPRRC report. I thank your Lordships for the helpful debates that we had, and I hope noble Lords will think that I have responded at least to some of the points that were made. As I set out in my letter to colleagues last week, we listened closely to all your Lordships’ comments and, after further reflection, we are proposing a number of changes in line with many of those comments to how these powers will operate. The amendments will remove powers that are now, on further reflection, considered non-essential and will provide the fullest transparency and accountability in the use of those that remain. We hope that the package of changes proposed will address the concerns that were raised and provide some reassurance that the Government take their responsibilities seriously in administering these powers.

I understand from the comments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Andrews, and others that noble Lords intend to divide the House on this issue tonight. I hope that they will consider carefully what we hope will be very welcome steps before voting in a way that will have quite far-reaching consequences for the operation of the UK internal markets. Given that there are no other groupings today and next week on the delegated powers more generally, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to discuss this grouping in a little more detail.

First, the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, will remove the ability of the Secretary of State to amend the list of statutory requirements that are in scope of the mutual recognition principle for goods. While our position remains that the majority of the powers in the Bill are essential, as I said, in this particular case we are now content that the removal of the power will not substantially undermine the operation and flexibility of the internal market system. Therefore, we have removed the power—I have added my name to the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews—in combination with further changes on transparency and accountability that we are proposing.

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Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, at a time when the role and, indeed, the very existence of this House is under increasing scrutiny, would the Minister agree that the fact that he has put his name to Amendment 2, and that he and the Government have accepted the spirit of many of the amendments that were moved in Committee, underlines the value of this second Chamber as a revising Chamber and that that is something that should be broadcast widely?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord, actually. If you look at the degree of scrutiny with which this House has portrayed this Bill, as opposed to the degree of scrutiny in the other place, you see the value of the debates we have here.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab) [V]
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I am very grateful indeed to everyone who has taken part in this debate, particularly those noble Lords who signed my amendments. It has been a very useful and illuminating debate. I am grateful to the Minister for his detailed responses and, particularly, the information he has provided on the review. Retrospective reviews are always too late to improve or perfect what has happened, but I understand that this is a useful step forward, and I look forward to more detail.

I am afraid I am unable to accept his explanation of the difference between Amendments 2 and 7 in relation to the two clauses. I was struck by the use of the term “non-essential” powers, which was applied to Amendment 2 to Clause 3 and which has enabled the Government to sign the amendment, but made them unable, in the same sense, to apply the same logic to Clause 6.

Very briefly, I will read what the Delegated Powers Committee report actually said about Clause 6, which deals with non-discrimination:

“It suffers from similar defects”


to Clause 5. The report continues:

“The Government say … that the power in Clause 6(5) is necessary to ‘future-proof’ the operation of the non-discrimination principle. They might have said ‘to completely re-write’ the non-discrimination principle.”


We believe that the extreme degree of freedom that these powers give Ministers to go back almost to the drawing board and rewrite their own legislation by way of secondary legislation is so dangerous. Although the Minister has made a case for the distinction, I am afraid it is not one I can accept. Therefore, he will not be surprised when I say that I shall press Amendment 7 to a vote when we reach its place on the Marshalled List.

I say again that I am extremely grateful that the Government have responded so positively to the arguments of the DPRRC, the Constitution Committee and your Lordships, supported Amendment 2 and brought forward these other amendments, as outlined by the Minister this afternoon and in his letter. I beg to move.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Foulkes have made the case clearly around the issue raised in Clause 5(3), and I hope the Minister will be able to respond. I join them in thanking the Scottish Law Commission for its considerable work in scrutinising some of the detail of the Bill—as always, it has been very helpful. I put on record our thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, for her very comprehensive and clear explanation of Amendment 24 in her name, and to others who have spoken.

We on this side had the benefit of a presentation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on this point, and I was seized by the fact that this is very important indeed to them and a matter that really has to be dealt with. The ground has been covered very fully and I just want to make sure that it is clear that we support this important amendment. It is designed to ensure that the non-discrimination principle in Clause 5 cannot be used to challenge the statutory provisions introduced in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period to fulfil the obligation set out in Article 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol. That is relatively easy to say, but it is rather difficult to see how it translates into legislation. I hope that, when he responds, the Minister will be able to give us clarity on this.

As my noble friend Lord Hain said, the stakes here are very high. If you have not been to Northern Ireland, it is sometimes very difficult to get why it is so important to the people there and to the institutions that have to operate within Northern Ireland. There is a very widespread respect for human rights and equalities issues in Northern Ireland; it is something that comes up in conversations wherever you have them, in relation to employment, services, goods and operating in the commercial sector in Northern Ireland. Once you have had that conversation, and once it has been explained to you why it is so important, it is very clear that this is a matter that cannot be left. It is up to the Government to explain now how it is going to happen, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.

Amendment 6, in the names of my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, seeks to clarify the meaning of Clause 5(3). This subsection explains that

“A relevant requirement … is of no effect in the destination part if, and to the extent that, it directly or indirectly discriminates against the incoming goods.”


This wording was chosen by the Government because it targets discrimination, while leaving intact other elements of a regulation that may be perfectly useful or serviceable. For example, consider the case of one requirement covering two products. One of those products is not discriminated against, but the other faces indirect discrimination due to the particular market structure for that product. Clause 5 ensures that the regulation of the product which is not facing discrimination continues. This would not be the case if the requirement were struck down in its entirety when any part of it is discriminatory.

This amendment gives rise to a risk that a court would read this as attempting to oust its jurisdiction on normal grounds of challenge. That is clearly not the intention of this provision, which is to target the mischief of discrimination without going further or interfering with other legislation. I am sure that it goes without saying that we would not want to invoke any such confusion, nor do I think that that is what my noble friend and the noble Lord are trying to achieve. For these reasons, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

On Amendment 24, from the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and others, I am very happy to accept a letter from the noble Baroness, and I will ensure that it gets a full reply. The Government are fully committed to Article 2 of the protocol—that goes without saying. We have demonstrated this by making the necessary amendments to the Northern Ireland Act to establish the dedicated mechanism and by working closely with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to operationalise the dedicated mechanism, ready for the end of the transition period.

The Article 2 commitment is about protecting the specific rights that individuals are afforded under the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and non-discrimination in this regard. It is supported by six EU equality directives that are all designed to tackle discrimination because of specified protected characteristics of individuals and to promote equal treatment. It will be part of the role of both commissions, through the dedicated mechanism structure, to monitor, advise, report on and enforce the Article 2 commitment and report to the Government and the Executive Office in Northern Ireland in this regard.

As I have said, we have already delivered the relevant legislative measures to give effect to Article 2 of the protocol, and no further amendments are required in this regard. I can assure noble Lords that the rights for individuals in Northern Ireland captured within the scope of the Article 2 commitment will continue to be protected going forward and will not be impacted by the outworkings of this Bill.

In reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, I can say that, for statutory requirements to be relevant requirements under Clause 6, they must be requirements that apply to, or in relation to, goods sold in the nation in question. If the employment law requirement were to meet that test, they would not be disapplied because they had discriminatory effects.

I hope that, with those assurances, that the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, will not press Amendment 24.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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I call the Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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In short, I addressed the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. No, I do not believe that this will be a problem. We will, of course, keep it under review if any such problem were to be relevant. We think that we have already legislated to ensure these requirements and that, therefore, this amendment is unnecessary.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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I have just received a message that the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, would like to speak briefly.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I would like to ask the Minister a further question. In my submission, and the submission of the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, we specifically asked the Minister for a meeting for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission, along with the signatories of Amendment 24, to further discuss the outworkings of Clauses 5 and 6 and Clause 11, and also the complex nature of our amendment and the problems that could ensue as a result of the outworkings. I would greatly appreciate it if the Minister could accede to our request.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness also asked me if I would receive a letter, and I said that I would do so. That is probably the best course of action. If she writes to me with her concerns, we will, of course, look at it. I am not sure that I am the right Minister for any such meeting to take place. I am a Minister in BEIS, which is responsible for this Bill, but many of its aspects are, of course, being handled by other government departments. I will certainly seek to put her in touch with the correct and relevant officials and Ministers.

Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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I think that I am now safe to call the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

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Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I respect the views of the noble Baroness who has just spoken, but I have to say that there is little in what she said that I agree with. Amendments 21, 48 and 49 are quite different from Amendments 10 and 11. They go, in my judgment, way beyond what is necessary for a successful free trade market. Really they amount to micromanaging, and on the whole Her Majesty’s Government in any form, whether it be devolved or central, certainly are not terribly good at managing commercial activities. So I suggest that those amendments are unacceptable.

Amendment 11 is one that I warm to because the environment is absolutely crucial. In that context we include climate change, which we know is affecting every nation in the world, so that is a very serious area. Whether this amendment is the right one or not is almost for the Government to decide. I care deeply about the environment. I am privileged to live outside London. I shall drive home tonight, 50 miles to Bedfordshire, and it is a very nice environment there. It is essentially a horticultural one, which brings me to the point that horticulture is changing, not least because we are looking to achieve a fair degree of import substitution. All sorts of new challenges arise from that. We virtually gave up in the glasshouse world, losing out to Holland. There is all sorts of experimentation going on—growing vegetables just in water and so on—but this is not the time to go into that.

I do worry that there are products at the margin, where there is always somebody lobbying against them. Smoking has been mentioned. I have never smoked, but I accept the current situation in which people have the right to smoke if they wish to, and there are clear frameworks in which they can follow that. Pesticides are important in the horticultural world because they affect yields; again, that is a controversial area. So I will listen to my noble friend, particularly on Amendment 11, about which I have a reasonably open mind. I know that the environment is absolutely crucial, but I do not want to see areas of our society and our market squeezed out because of some heavy lobbying from one particular group who do not like the particular industry involved.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 10, 11 and 41 would expand the list of legitimate aims used to justify where statutory requirements in one part of the UK can indirectly discriminate against goods or services from another part of the UK. So I will start by saying that the Bill provides an updated, coherent market structure which will help to avoid future complexities and prevent costs being passed on to customers through an increase in prices or a decrease in choices. An expansive list of legitimate aims would increase the potential discrimination faced by businesses or service providers, eroding the benefits of the internal market and creating damaging costs and internal barriers to trade.

The current list in the Bill is targeted to allow nations to meet their respective goals while avoiding unnecessary damage to the internal market—a point that was well made by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. For example, the Bill already includes the protection of public, plant and animal health, and in some cases, of course, this will align with the protection of the environment. However—I cannot stress this enough—the Government have repeatedly committed to maintaining our world-leading standards across a number of different areas, whether that is in consumer protection, the environment, social and labour standards or public, animal and plant health. The Bill does not undermine the great strides that we have taken in these areas, and we will continue to be at the forefront of improving and protecting our high standards.

Under this Bill, the devolved Administrations will retain the right to legislate in devolved policy areas. Legislative innovation remains a central feature and, indeed, a strength of our union. The Government are committed to ensuring that this power of innovation does not lead to any worry about a possible lowering of standards, by both working with the devolved Administrations via the common frameworks programme and by continuing to uphold our own commitment to the highest possible standards. It is important to remember that the market access principles do not prevent the UK Government or the devolved Administrations adopting divergent rules for goods or services.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 23rd November 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 150-III(Rev) Revised third marshalled list for Report - (23 Nov 2020)
Moved by
14: Clause 8, page 7, line 4, at end insert—
“(8A) Before making regulations under subsection (7) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending the “legitimate aims” in Clause 8 (which can mean that provision does not count as indirectly discriminatory against goods).
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I start by bringing to the attention of the House an inadvertent error that I made in one of my replies last Wednesday. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, I misread my note on the relationship between the non-discrimination principle and employment law requirements, and got one word wrong. I should have said:

“If the employment law requirement were to meet that test, they would not be disapplied unless they had discriminatory effects.”


I reassure that House that my misspeaking in this case was, of course, entirely unintentional.

To be absolutely clear about this point, we have already delivered the relevant legislative measures to give effect to Article 2 of the protocol. I again assure noble Lords that the rights for individuals in Northern Ireland captured within the scope of the Article 2 commitment will continue to be protected going forward and will not be impacted by the outworkings of this Bill. Even if employment law requirements were in scope of the non-discrimination principle, which they would not generally be as they would have to relate to goods sold, they would not be disapplied unless they had discriminatory effects. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, last week, I would be happy to facilitate a meeting between her and interested parties and the relevant Ministers and officials, and I stand by the commitment that I gave then.

On the subject of today’s groupings, the amendments in my name would ensure that the Government consult with the devolved Administrations when seeking to use powers. As we made clear in Committee, if the powers are required, we will of course engage with the devolved Administrations in the spirit of the devolution memorandum of understanding. We have been listening to colleagues in the House and appreciate that there is an appetite for these commitments to be included in the Bill. We are therefore introducing these amendments to put beyond doubt our commitment to consult each of the devolved Administrations if any of the relevant powers are used. The consultation requirements and the commitment behind them are clear. However, once consultation is undertaken, the right place for final decisions should be back in Parliament, where parliamentarians from all parts of the United Kingdom can debate and vote on the proposed use of these powers.

It is also worth noting the separate amendment we have tabled, requiring the Secretary of State to review and report to Parliament on the exercise and effectiveness of the powers in Parts 1 and 2 within five years. That will provide an additional degree of accountability and scrutiny, and will again involve consultation with the devolved Administrations—something that I know the House is keen on. For the reasons I have set out above, I hope that noble Lords will accept the amendments in my name, and agree that Amendments 18, 32 and 43 are therefore unnecessary.

Having set out the reasonable measures that Government have tabled, I turn to Amendments 15, 20, 34, and 46. These seek to add additional processes around devolved Administration consent before use of the relevant powers. We have been listening to noble Lords and appreciate the appetite for these commitments on devolved Administration engagement to be included in the Bill. As I have already explained, we are therefore seeking to amend this clause to require consultation with the devolved Administrations prior to use of the power, putting our commitment beyond doubt. As part of this, we will of course set out reasoning for seeking to use the powers, both to the devolved Administrations and to Parliament. We will also seek to reach agreement with the devolved Administrations wherever that is possible. Because of this, it seems to us that putting into legislation the process proposed by noble Lords in their amendments would be duplicative and unnecessary. For these reasons, I hope that the amendments we have already tabled address the concerns of noble Lords, so these amendments are unnecessary.

Amendment 16 requires the publication of the results of consultation on the exercise of the power in Clause 8. While this power was removed from the Bill last week, I will speak briefly about the Government’s position on the subject. The exercise of this power would require consultation with the devolved Administrations. They are perfectly capable of deciding to publish their responses if they so choose. It is not necessary to make that choice for them in this Bill. For these reasons, I ask the noble Baroness not to press that amendment either.

Amendments 26, 27 and 28 would require the Secretary of State to consult all three devolved Administrations before preparing, revising or withdrawing guidance on the operation of the UK market access principles. Amendment 27 specifically stipulates that the Secretary of State should seek the consent of the devolved Administrations. However, should formal consent not be received within a month, the Secretary of State may proceed none the less. This amendment further states that where the Secretary of State makes regulations without obtaining consent, he must publish a statement explaining why. The guidance is itself explanatory; it is important to note that it is not a power to make or amend regulations.

It goes without saying that as part of the guidance process we will engage with all the relevant stakeholders, including the devolved Administrations, because we are committed to helping regulators and traders understand the principles and make the best possible use of them. However, this guidance will not change the rules that apply, so the formal consent of the devolved Administrations should not be required. It is also unnecessary to have a legislative consultation process with the devolved Administrations alone in respect of the guidance, when the guidance will be explaining, not making, the law.

I hope that with those words I have reassured noble Lords on this matter and they feel able not to press their amendments. In the meantime, I beg to move.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for his correction on the unforced error, I think it is called, in what happened on Wednesday. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, will be speaking later and I am sure will comment on that; I hope the House can let her even if it is not specifically in this group. When the Minister responds, I would ask him to ensure the meeting that he has kindly offered takes place before Third Reading, so that if anything needed adjustments, we would be able to look at it at that point. As I say, I am absolutely certain that it was an unforced error, but it would be nice to have that clear.

We are pleased about parts of this, and certainly the review of the use of powers. It may seem odd to the House that we are continuing with these amendments, almost all of which—the guidance being the exception—set down how regulations should be made, even as the very power to make such regulations is about to be removed from the Bill. Nevertheless, we are in agreement with the Minister that it is helpful to deal with the amendments in his name and those in mine and others’ which deal with how these powers would be handled, should they be put in.

Therefore, it is helpful to have our Amendment 15, which I will formally move in due course, as well as Amendments 20, 24 and 26 in the Bill, so that the Commons and the Government will be well aware—assuming that our amendments are passed—that this House would expect any regulation about the functioning of a market across four nations to be made in partnership with those other three participants.  

  Amendment 15 and the others go further than what the Minister has offered in his. He has quite rightly added consultation; ours go further than that, but they do not hand a veto to any one of the devolved authorities. What they do is take further the welcome admission by the Government, in their Amendments 14, 19, 36 and 45, that it would be unthinkable to make regulations affecting devolved competences without consulting their Governments and legislatures. Our further step is to add some grip to the consultation by making it a proper involvement. The amendments say that the devolved authorities must either give their consent to the regulations within a month, or else the Government can continue but would have to explain to Parliament and the public why they were proceeding without agreement. This does not seem much to ask. It will not cause any delay, but it would ensure that there was no risk of any tokenism in the consultation. Instead, the devolved authorities will have to reply, and speedily, and the Government would simply have to explain why they wanted to proceed contrary to any of the devolved authorities’ views before proceeding. 

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords will be happy to know that I can be brief, because of course I set out the Government’s position on these matters in my opening remarks. However, to summarise, we feel that we have set out a comprehensive package of changes to the delegated powers in the Bill to address many of the concerns that have been raised about the role of the devolved Administrations. Of course, it is always a great regret for me to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, but I have to say that on these matters I am able to go no further.

Devolved Administration consultation is now required by legislation prior to any use of the key powers in Parts 1 and 2. The Secretary of State will also be conducting a thorough review of the exercise and effectiveness of each of these powers within five years, which again will require consultation with the devolved Administrations. Our approach will ensure a high degree of transparency and scrutiny and will guarantee devolved Administration involvement whenever the powers are used or, indeed, reviewed. The alternative approaches proposed in the group would, in my view, overcomplicate these very clear commitments.

I shall reply briefly to the questions that were put to me. In response, first, to the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I can confirm that the policy statement he referred to is accurate. With regard to his second question, the design of the Bill is different from the EU single market because the Government’s approach does not simply copy out EU rules, and that means that the constraints under which we operate are different.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked about the procedure for consultation. The Bill now requires that consultation should occur as a matter of fact before Ministers exercise their delegated powers. As is normal for such legislation, it does not spell out in great detail how this must be achieved, but we will engage with the devolved Administrations as part of the process of normal policy development such as, for example, sharing draft SIs and publications and co-operating on public-facing events wherever that is possible, and then in any case more formally before a decision is made.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, asked why we should consult with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. I can tell him that the reference to the department is consistent with the precedent of the Northern Ireland devolution settlement. Finally, perhaps I may confirm yet again to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, that I will urgently seek to facilitate a meeting for her and the interested parties that she requested.

With those commitments and answers to the, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to support the Government’s approach to this matter.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab)
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My Lords, I have received two requests to ask the Minister a short question. They are from the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP)
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Briefly, my Lords, a question has been raised in the House on a number of occasions: why are Welsh and Scottish Ministers referred to, but a Northern Ireland department is referred to? The reason is that, since 1921, power is devolved in Northern Ireland to the department, not to the Minister. The role of the Minister is to direct and control the department, but the department can still function without a Minister. It is a quirk that goes back 100 years, but it is there.

The noble Lord, Lord Morrow, made a relevant point. I do not know what the Minister means by “consistent with the devolution settlement”, because nothing in the settlement that I am aware of determines that this particular department is responsible. But, if you want a plural, because “Ministers” are referred to in the plural in Scotland and Wales, the only collective equivalent in Northern Ireland is the Executive—or, to meet the point made by the noble Lord, you could say, “Northern Ireland departments as appropriate”. But the reason for the difference is historic; it is not an error, as some people thought in the past. It is consistent with the fact that powers are devolved to the department and not to the Minister.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I of course thank the noble Lord for his help in answering the question more thoroughly than I did, and I can confirm my understanding that he is correct in what he says.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I am overwhelmed that my noble friend the Minister has accepted Amendment 14. Perhaps I may press him a little more on Amendment 16. If I understood him correctly, he said that it should be for all of the devolved Administrations to publish their responses to a consultation. I would beg to differ. It would be much better for all concerned, including myself, to find in one location on a national Westminster-based government website all the responses that have been published.

He did not comment—I would be grateful if he would—on why he would feel unable to give reasons for any decisions reached. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who has also signed Amendment 16. Is there any problem the Government would have in giving reasons for any decisions if they were not prepared to accept the responses to the consultations from the devolved Administrations?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

I will write to the noble Baroness with further information on that point.

Amendment 14 agreed.
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Moved by
19: Clause 10, page 7, line 25, at end insert—
“(4) Before making regulations under subsection (2) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending Schedule 1 (which contains exceptions from the rules about market access for goods).
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate for a number of reasons, which I shall come back to as I conclude. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, as she often does, focused on the key issue in play here: where we best situate the balance in an internal market that is as integrated as we currently have, which needs and respects clearly harmonised rules but also allows for joint processes which allow individual parts of the market to develop at different rates in different places. I think we agree that that is the key issue but differ on where the balance must lie and whether it has to be uniform as much as the Bill seems to suggest it will be.

The main interest in this debate has been in focusing our minds on areas that we have not really touched on in recent groups. We have looked at goods and services and at qualifications and how they might be harmonised, and we are coming back to services and qualifications later in our debates this evening. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, about whether current policy might be adapted because of the impact of this Bill when it becomes an Act need an answer, and I would be grateful if the Minister could respond in particular to that point. Is there a particular hook in this Bill that will cause difficulties across the devolved authorities?

Secondly, on the point made by my noble friend Lord Hain, could it have an adverse effect on current processes so that, for instance, we would lose the local benefit policies to which he referred? Thirdly, on the point raised by my noble friend Lord Liddle, if there are good and valuable initiatives on local growth and support for sectors that are perhaps subsets of the national economy that are appropriate and best organised and run from a local point of view, how will they be affected by the way in which the Bill imposes a straitjacket on the various initiatives that we want to see come forward? I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as the Government set out in Committee, we intend to consult shortly and deliver measures on procurement through a wider package of procurement reform. The aim is for primary legislation to be made in the second Session. Therefore, I hope that this will offer some reassurance to noble Lords that this amendment is unnecessary, because the market access principles will not typically operate in the area of public procurement, as they are about how business is regulated. The procurement rules cover how public authorities carry out their procurement activities. Therefore, I reassure the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Liddle, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and others that there will be no impact on public procurement.

Turning to Amendment 23, we have obviously had these debates before; in fact, I recall having them during the passage of the various Brexit Bills with many of the same speakers. As we explained on previous occasions, the exclusions we have drafted for goods in Schedule 1 are narrow and tightly defined to protect the functioning of important policy areas. This protects the ability of the devolved Administrations and the UK Government to preserve the proper functioning of important policy areas, while at the same time avoiding any harmful or costly barriers to trade within the UK internal market.

More generally, I understand that this amendment is designed to strengthen the devolved Administrations’ ability to take different approaches to public policy related to aspects of the environment. We have made it clear that the Bill contains derogations for the protection of the life of humans, animals and plants, which aligns with protection of the environment in many cases.

Secondly, the Government support and respect the devolved Administrations’ right to set policy in their areas of devolved competence. The Government also recognise the benefits of locally targeted policy and the potential for policy innovation. For example, on the environment, between 2018 and 2019 the UK nations all introduced a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, working together to take a landmark step in the fight against plastic waste. There is no reason why the provisions in this Bill would hinder similar collaborative initiatives.

However, it is important to acknowledge the unprecedented and significant flow of powers to the devolved Administrations, as well as the incoming ability of the UK legislatures to create new policy in areas previously overseen by the EU. This Bill aims only to ensure frictionless trade, movement and investment between all nations of the UK. The policies that different parts of the UK choose to pursue in future is a matter for each Administration.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Randerson, raised yet again the sale of coal across the English-Welsh border, and my noble friend Lord Randall introduced the new issue of peat. The same thing applies in both cases: there is a clear distinction between sale and use. Under mutual recognition, the use of coal or, indeed, peat—it is probably a form of coal, is it not?—could be banned, regardless of its origin in the UK. Requirements related to the use of goods are not within the scope of the mutual recognition principle. If the requirement instead relates specifically to the sale of coal or peat, the interaction with mutual recognition is slightly more complex and depends on whether the requirement in question counts as a relevant requirement for the purposes of mutual recognition. Broadly speaking, mutual recognition captures requirements that are intrinsic to the good itself, such as requirements for the composition of the good, whereas non-discrimination captures, among other things, requirements for the circumstances or manner in which a good can be sold. I clarified these matters in detail in a letter to the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Fox; it is in the House Library, I think, if Members require further details.

My noble friend Lord Randall asked me about the situation in the EU and whether we could ban the sale and use of such things. As noble Lords know, the machinery in the EU is wholly different: for example, there are technical notification requirements through which a member state may be delayed in implementing its legislation; or, indeed, the European Commission may step in and open negotiations on a harmonising measure. Any derogation applied by a member state is open to challenge, of course; the Scottish Government had to fight very hard to get their minimum unit alcohol pricing accepted.

The system established under this Bill is different. Pricing and other manner of sale requirements are totally out of scope. Furthermore, requirements governing how a consumer can use a good that may originally have been caught by Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union are also totally out of scope.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked whether the Bill is a threat to devolution. No: the proposals are designed to ensure that devolution can continue to work for everyone. All devolved policy areas will stay devolved. The proposals ensure only that there are no new barriers to UK internal trade.

The noble Baroness also asked about the Interparliamentary Forum on Brexit. Of course, the clue is in the name: it is an interparliamentary forum. Such decisions are for the legislatures rather than the UK Government to take forward directly, so it is not my place to comment on that.

For all the reasons I have set out, I hope the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful for what the Minister said in referring to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and to his correspondence with my noble friend Lord Fox and me.

I consulted the House of Lords Library on how the Minister’s letter referring to the sale of coal—not its use—interacts with the Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations, which this House passed on 7 October and which are the governing legislation. The regulations specifically ban the supply and sale of coal and wet logs in England. One concern is that the Bill would not ban such sales if the goods originated in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, where bans are not in place. That is clear; in fact, the Minister’s letter confirmed that this issue falls within the scope of mutual recognition. In addition, the other terms of the regulations bring this issue within the scope of indirect discrimination.

However, more concerning is that the regulations have been made but are not yet in effect—they come into effect on 1 May 2021—so the Bill will take effect before them. That is a requirement under this legislation, so the regulations the House passed banning the sale of coal and wet logs in England will have no effect because they are now within the scope of the Bill. Clause 5(3) states:

“A relevant requirement … is of no effect”.


Can the Minister clarify that, regardless of whether this is allowed or not, the ban in England will have no effect because of this legislation?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

Again, it is about the difference between sale and use. England can proceed to ban a sale in England but if the sale is allowed in Wales, it could still take place under the mutual recognition principle; but, presumably, use would be prohibited. My letter explains this in great detail.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not want to labour the point, but I am a little dense on this issue. As I understand it, my noble friend is saying that you could ban the use but not the sale of coal or peat, which is my particular interest. I wonder how that will be affected. I am sorry to labour this point—I am sure my noble friend has lots more important things to discuss—but I would be grateful for any elucidation he can give.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

My noble friend is essentially right, but it would depend on whether it was legal for the good to be sold in the other nations of the United Kingdom. Again, the difference between sale and use is the important distinction here.

Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, to conclude the debate.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, I thank the dozen or so noble Lords who participated in this debate, which was very focused and has raised a number of issues that will need to be taken further. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for introducing her amendment, many parts of which overlap with mine; I certainly support her amendment in its own right, irrespective of how it interplays with mine. I am sure that she and other colleagues will accept the principle of product miles being an important element in the consideration of environmental and economic policy.

I was taken by the references the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, made to regional policy in England. This was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, as well. That is absolutely valid, because circumstances vary from area to area, certainly between the south-east and the north of England, and between other areas. Where there are different circumstances one needs different policies and mechanisms of government that can deliver those policies in line with the areas’ requirements.

Therefore, in advocating these powers for the three devolved nations, I also accept entirely the argument that there should be an ability to fine tune policy for the regions in England. It is for those regions to stand up and be counted, and to demand the powers to do so. After all, the facility in Wales of having our own Government has enabled us to take new initiatives that have helped to solve some problems—not all of them, but some of them. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, whose support and that of the Green group I welcome for both amendments, has underlined on a number of occasions the need for there to be devolution to the regions of England.

I listened carefully to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, in particular, who raised a question that I do not think has been fully answered by the Minister regarding how the use of orders might be undertaken in Northern Ireland. That leads me on to the question, in responding to the Minster’s argument that there will be a separate policy statement on procurement reform, of whether that new policy and the legislation associated with it will be driven through by statutory instrument. We might be in a position where Wales and Scotland could, like Northern Ireland but for different reasons, be subject to that sort of policy.

What I want from the Minister before I conclude this short debate is some assurance that, in drawing up the consultation and procurement proposals he has in mind for a later stage, that will not go through the back door, which he is not admitting to doing through the front door in this Bill. I would be grateful if he could respond specifically on that question: that the procurement reform will not undermine the thrust of the argument we have had in the debate. I would be grateful for his comments on that before I conclude.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

The Government intend to deliver measures on procurement through a wider package of procurement reform. The aim is for primary legislation to be made in the second Session, as I said in my answer. I hope that is enough reassurance for the noble Lord.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that this will happen in the second Session, but I very much hope that it will not open a totally different view of the devolved competencies and the balance of powers needed not only between the three devolved nations, but regionally in England. I hope that that can be given greater thought.

I will not press the amendment, but I believe that the approach encapsulated in it can be combined with some of the other amendments we have already passed that will be part of the revised Bill that goes back to the House of Commons. If that is the case, there may be opportunities for Welsh MPs to pick up this matter in the House of Commons so that we can come back to it again when we consider how the House of Commons responded to the Bill as it finds it. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
29: After Clause 12, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to review the use of Part 1 amendment powers
(1) In this section “the Part 1 amendment powers” are the powers conferred by sections 6(5), 8(7) and 10(2) (powers to amend certain provisions of Part 1).(2) The Secretary of State must, during the permitted period—(a) carry out a review of any use that has been made of the Part 1 amendment powers,(b) prepare a report of the review, and(c) lay a copy of the report before Parliament. (3) In carrying out the review the Secretary of State must—(a) consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland;(b) consider any relevant reports made, or advice given, by the Competition and Markets Authority under Part 4; and(c) assess the impact and effectiveness of any changes made under the Part 1 amendment powers.(4) The permitted period is the period beginning with the third anniversary of the passing of this Act and ending with the fifth anniversary.(5) If any Part 1 amendment power has not been used by the time the review is carried out, this section has effect—(a) as if the report required by subsection (2), so far as relating to that power, is a report containing—(i) a statement to the effect that the power has not been used since it came into force, and(ii) such other information relating to that statement as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to give, and(b) as if the requirements of subsection (3) did not apply in relation to that power.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would require the Secretary of State to carry out a review of, and to lay a report to Parliament about, the use made of the amendment powers in Part 1. The review cannot start within three years of Royal Assent, and the steps required would need to be completed within five years.
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this has been an interesting debate. It has revealed many gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the Bill, which, perhaps, is very comfortable for the Government. I would go a bit further than some of the previous speakers and say that the Government are making heavy weather of this part of the Bill, not displaying to their best advantage the knowledge and understanding they should have in this area. I presume that the starting point must have been that if there is to be an internal market, it must be regulated so that it works well. It is therefore necessary for the legislation to have regard to our services sector, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, accounts for some 65% of our economy. If that is right and it is such an important part of our economy, why is this Bill so sketchy about it? Do the Government not know much about our services sector? Is it not important that we get that right? The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, again put her finger on it: is this just a protection against possible future unknowns? If so, does that explain why there is so little in the Bill itself to reflect that?

Others have made these points very well. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was right to say that we have to think harder than the Bill does about the way modern companies operate in providing goods. Companies are rarely without a service component, and the Bill does not deal with that bipartisan, hybrid approach. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked about services that are licensed or rented. In the virtual space of the internet, one is rarely talking about purchase. One is talking about usage, and there is nothing here about intellectual property, copyright or associated interests. What about those companies? Do they get affected by this legislation?

What sort of world are we living in if our Bills cannot embrace the fact that, in the digital world, services are not delivered by companies based in specific parts of the UK? That point was made by a number of speakers. Most operate in more than a single place, and it would be difficult to drill down to a point where the physical geography can be identified—the “brass plate” question that was raised earlier.

At the end of the day, it would be more helpful to the House if the lists given in Schedule 2 did not try to discriminate against services. The services listed in the schedule are not covered by the Bill, and it would be more of a challenge but more interesting for us if the Bill listed the services to which the Bill does apply, thereby making it easier to discuss this issue. I challenge the Minister to write to us before Third Reading with a comprehensive list of the services he believes are caught by this Bill and to explain to us, in simple language that we can understand, the impact the Bill will have if implemented.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend for tabling this amendment, which seeks to clarify the extent to which we have considered how the provisions of the Bill in respect of services will work in practice. I shall endeavour to do my best to answer my noble friend’s concerns, because I know that she appreciates and promotes just how critical the services sector is to the United Kingdom, and I share that view. It is vital, constituting more than 80% of our GDP and four out of five jobs nationwide.

The principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination in Part 2 underpin an internal market framework which will limit the emergence of new barriers following the return of powers from the EU. This will support UK businesses trading services in other parts of the UK, and authorities regulating these services. The Bill will complement the existing services regulatory framework while building in certainty for businesses and regulators.

The mutual recognition principle means that businesses authorised to provide services in one part of the United Kingdom will not need to satisfy further authorisation requirements to provide those services in the other parts of the United Kingdom. This principle of mutual recognition applies to authorisation requirements. It does not cover matters such as non-mandatory membership of organisations, which cannot prevent a service provider from offering a service but which might be desirable to join for other reasons.

A similar form of mutual recognition already operates as part of the existing UK-wide regulatory framework for services under the Provision of Services Regulations 2009. Regulators complying with that legislation will already be subject to the principle of mutual recognition. Similarly, the non-discrimination principle is a fundamental safeguard for businesses, ensuring equal opportunity for companies trading in the UK regardless of where in the UK that business is based, from where it provides services or where its staff are based.

As my noble friend Lady McIntosh highlighted, with the non-discrimination provision, regulators have until now had to follow rules in the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 which prevent discrimination towards service providers from other European Economic Area states. These rules will be revoked at the end of the year when the transition period comes to an end, as they will no longer be relevant to the UK’s situation. It is only right that rules that have previously prevented discrimination towards businesses from the other EEA states should now be applied to ensure the continued flow of services across our United Kingdom.

To help provide clarity, Clause 16 sets out a list of requirements and provisions that are neither regulatory nor authorisation requirements and therefore are not covered by the principles in Part 2. First, those requirements dealt with in other parts of the Bill—namely the mutual recognition principle in Part 1, which relates to goods, and provisions covered by Part 3, on professional qualifications—are not within scope of Part 2. This is because it is not desirable for one set of requirements to be subject to several rules from different parts of the Bill.

Secondly, existing requirements are out of scope because Part 2 applies only to new or substantively modified requirements that come into force, or otherwise come into effect, after this section comes into force. However, for the mutual recognition principle only, existing requirements will be brought within scope of the Bill where a corresponding authorisation requirement in another part of the UK introduces a new or substantively changed requirement.

Thirdly, a requirement which applies both to service providers and non-service providers is not in scope of Part 2. This part of the Bill is concerned only with the requirements which seek to regulate service providers and not all requirements which might affect service providers.

Finally, there are administrative requirements on service providers that we consider are reasonable in all circumstances, and therefore they are also not in scope of this part. Such administrative requirements could include, for example, where a service provider may be required to notify a local regulator of their presence, or where they are required to provide proof that they are in fact authorised to provide that service in another part of the UK. These requirements are necessary for regulators to continue operating effectively under the rules in this part, but it is our view that they are limited enough in scope so as not to create any unnecessary barriers to trade.

I can therefore assure my noble friend that the Government have considered carefully how the provisions in Part 2 will work in practice, and that Clause 16 is an essential part of their operation.

My noble friend asked whether penalties apply to businesses that are excluded from the Bill. If a given matter is out of scope of Parts 1 to 3, it is also by definition out of scope of the OIM’s functions and responsibilities.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the four weeks’ consultation, as did a number of other noble Lords. The consultation followed the principles for a government consultation and represented an ambitious plan to engage businesses of all sizes across all four nations, as well as many academic experts and representatives of the devolved Administrations.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe asked also about Schedule 2, which lists a number of services with the aim of reflecting those outside the scope of the Provision of Services Regulations 2009, which is the current services framework. The Government also recognise that it is appropriate for legal services to be excluded from the provisions on the mutual recognition of services to reflect the separate legal systems in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked whether service providers from the Isle of Man were subject to the measures in Part 2. The answer is no. Part 2 applies only to businesses and individuals that a have a permanent establishment in the United Kingdom as defined by the Corporation Tax Act 2010, which does not include of the Isle of Man. It is also the case for all Crown dependencies.

The noble Lord also asked when the services principles apply and when the goods principles apply. The services principles apply only where the goods principles do not. Only one set of principles will apply as to a particular requirement.

I hope that I have answered the questions of noble Lords and of my noble friend. I hope that she feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for an interesting debate and I am grateful for the support of my noble friend Lady McIntosh, the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and, of course, my noble friend Lady Noakes, who rightly pointed out the probing nature of this amendment, which I obviously do not seek to press. She also said that it was right that we include the services sector in the internal market, which is obvious from its very scale—a point that she, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the Minister emphasised—I think that it is about 80% of GDP. The Minister was also right to emphasise the value of mutual recognition and the loss of the EU-based services regulations of 2009, which to some extent we are trying to replace.

The single most important thing about the services element of the Bill, in Clause 16, is to understand the Government’s intentions, particularly in view of the minimal nature of consultation in framing it. My noble friend Lord Naseby was right to emphasise the importance and use of consultation. He also asked a question about the proposed registers which I am not sure we got a complete answer to.

The trouble is, we still do not know why these provisions are needed in individual cases—I gave some examples that I did not really get an answer to, such as hairdressers and other businesses—and why they vary from sector to sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said, I am an optimist—I have been a strong supporter of the Government on this Bill against the advice of respected friends—but perhaps the Minister can kindly reflect on whether he can do anything further on services, with services now being so linked to goods as we have all agreed, to allay my fears. Some sectors, from property to restaurants, appear to face new regulations, possibly draconian, without much of awareness of it. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, suggested a letter outlining what was covered within the services sector. Perhaps the Minister could reflect a little further on how we might communicate this and reassure people about the value of these provisions in creating a single market with mutual recognition, which I strongly support. But we need to make sure that people understand what their duties are and that such duties are not overly draconian and will be sensibly enforced. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
36: Clause 17, page 12, line 45, at end insert—
“(5) Before making regulations under subsection (2) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending Schedule 2 (which contains exceptions from the rules about market access for services).
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the general theme here, I suggest, is that we need the Minister to respond very clearly and precisely on this matter. My noble friend Lord Foulkes used the rather nice and elegant Scottish word “fankle” to describe where we are at, suggesting that this needs to be undone. I was going to use the Gaelic word “bùrach”. I suddenly thought that Hansard might have difficulty with it, so I checked it on a handy electronic device close to me—and came up with a rather interesting extension, which I leave with the Minister. You can use the word “bùrach”, which in Gaelic means a “right mess”, but I think a more appropriate term in this case is a “clusterbùrach” which, as the article on my device goes on to say, is

“a Scottish term for a hopelessly intractable mess made by hapless politicians.”

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
- Hansard - -

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has been very helpful, adding to my knowledge of grammar. The north-east version of that would be “cluster”, followed by a word I cannot use in the House, which would not be “bùrach”. If only I had known, I would have brought my thesaurus along to aid noble Lords in their pursuit of these matters.

These amendments seek to ensure that the drafting of the non-discrimination clauses means that the discriminatory requirement is of no effect only to the extent that the requirement discriminates against the service provider in question. However, I am pleased to tell my noble friend Lady McIntosh that Amendment 39 is already addressed by this clause and is therefore unnecessary. In the case of Amendment 40, as this clause concerns indirect discrimination in the regulation of services, the amendment as drafted would make Clause 20 entirely inoperable and leave indirect discriminatory requirements to take effect.

I start with Amendment 39, which obviously concerns direct discrimination. Direct discrimination is where a regulatory requirement treats a service provider less favourably than other service providers; the reason for that is their connection, or lack of connection, to a certain part of the United Kingdom. Clause 19 already limits the application of these measures—this addresses the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis—so that only the affected service provider may benefit from the requirements having no effect. While I understand my noble friend’s concern, the definition of a regulatory requirement already ensures that only the offending requirement is of no effect. This amendment therefore replicates what is already drafted in Clause 19, so I am sure she will understand that I am unable to accept it.

Turning to Amendment 40, the test for indirect discrimination requires that a requirement is not directly discriminatory, and the amendment would mean that indirectly discriminatory requirements are of no effect only to the extent that they directly discriminate. This would render Clause 20 entirely ineffective. Therefore, I am sure that my noble friend will accept that I cannot accept either of her amendments for the reasons I have set out, and I hope that she will agree to withdraw them.

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Moved by
45: Clause 20, page 14, line 41, at end insert—
“(9A) Before making regulations under subsection (8) the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before making regulations amending the “legitimate aims” in Clause 20 (which can mean that provision does not count as indirectly discriminatory against service providers).
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Moved by
47: After Clause 20, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to review the use of Part 2 amendment powers
(1) In this section “the Part 2 amendment powers” are the powers conferred by sections 17(2) and 20(8) (powers to amend certain provisions of Part 2).(2) The Secretary of State must, during the permitted period—(a) carry out a review of any use that has been made of the Part 2 amendment powers,(b) prepare a report of the review, and(c) lay a copy of the report before Parliament.(3) In carrying out the review the Secretary of State must—(a) consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland; (b) consider any relevant reports made, or advice given, by the Competition and Markets Authority under Part 4; and(c) assess the impact and effectiveness of any changes made under the Part 2 amendment powers.(4) The permitted period is the period beginning with the third anniversary of the passing of this Act and ending with the fifth anniversary.(5) If either of the Part 2 amendment powers has not been used by the time the review is carried out, this section has effect—(a) as if the report required by subsection (2), so far as relating to that power, is a report containing—(i) a statement to the effect that the power has not been used since it came into force, and(ii) such other information relating to that statement as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to give, and(b) as if the requirements of subsection (3) did not apply to that power.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would require the Secretary of State to carry out a review of, and to lay a report to Parliament about, the use made of the amendment powers in Part 2. The review cannot start within three years of Royal Assent, and the steps required would need to be completed within five years.
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Moved by
51A: Clause 25, page 19, line 38, at end insert—
“(7) Section 22(2) does not apply in relation to provision that limits the ability to practise the profession, or any profession, of school teaching.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment adds school teaching to the professions the regulation of which is excluded from Clause 22.
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Moved by
52: Clause 29, page 23, line 16, at end insert—
“(2A) That objective includes, in particular, supporting the operation of the internal market—(a) in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom, and(b) in the interests of consumers of goods and services as well as other classes of person with an interest in its operation.(2B) The CMA must also, in carrying out its functions under this Part, have regard to the need to act even-handedly as respects the relevant national authorities.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would set out in more detail the considerations that the CMA (including while acting through the Office for the Internal Market) must have regard to in exercising its functions under Part 4.
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, noble Lords will have noticed that we have listened carefully to the many constructive points put forward in Committee as well as from the devolved Administrations on the provisions in the Bill to establish the office for the internal market, tasked with overseeing the smooth operation of the internal market. As set out in my recent letter to colleagues on government amendments for Report, we have made a number of important changes throughout Part 4 to make it clear in statute that the OIM will work in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom and for all Administrations on an equal basis. I believe that these changes take into careful consideration the points raised in Committee and put beyond any doubt concerns around the consumer focus of the OIM—I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, will welcome this—and the devolved Administrations’ involvement in the OIM’s governance arrangements.

Amendments 56 and 57 ensure that there is an enhanced role for the devolved Administrations in OIM appointments, requiring Ministers to seek consent with all Administrations within a one-month timeframe. This builds on the model proposal developed by the Welsh Government and tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, previously. We believe that this strikes a delicate balance by ensuring that the OIM can operate independently and that all Administrations can have a meaningful input in the appointments process. At the same time, we have been clear that it is essential that the OIM operates independently and at arm’s length from Ministers from all Administrations. Therefore, we do not believe that reserving the right for each Administration to make appointments to the CMA board as set out in Amendment 54 is the correct way forward. Likewise, it is important that appointments are made through fair and open competition, which is what our amendments ensure.

We believe that Amendment 57 and our changes made to Schedule 3 ensure a fair, independent and equitable process for all Administrations. It will ensure that consensus is always a first preference, but recognises that, if it is not reached, appointments can still proceed after an appropriate time has elapsed. This represents a pragmatic way forward and avoids the risk of prolonged deadlock over appointments that would prevent the OIM fulfilling its duties under the Bill.

We agree with previous arguments in Committee that all OIM appointees should reflect a range of expertise from all parts of the United Kingdom. That is why we have tabled Amendment 55, which clarifies this in the Bill, making clear the desirability that panel members have a variety of skills, knowledge and expertise. It is important to remember that the OIM will be a neutral custodian of the UK internal market through its non-binding reporting, advisory and monitoring functions. If there are potential concerns in future about how the OIM conducts its duties, Amendment 61 ensures that the CMA’s annual plans, proposals and performance reports are laid before the devolved legislatures as well as Parliament, ensuring equal scrutiny and oversight of these developments, which can be discussed between Ministers from all Administrations where that is appropriate.

Finally, I am aware that there has been considerable interest in this House in ensuring that the OIM operates in the interests of consumers. We have listened carefully to these discussions and are confident that our amendments throughout Part 4 resolve the concerns expressed and put it beyond all doubt that the OIM will operate in the interests of UK consumers.

For all the reasons I have set out, I hope that noble Lords can accept the Government’s amendments and consequently will not press their own. I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB) [V]
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I shall speak to Amendment 54 but, before doing so, I thank the Minister for the substantial progress that has been made in relation to the office for the internal market, and for the recognition that it is necessary for the strength of the union and for equality and fairness between the people of the four nations of the United Kingdom that that office has representations from all four nations. However, the purpose of Amendment 54 is that that principle should be applied to the Competition and Markets Authority. This is a non-ministerial department with very substantial powers, which it has exercised since its creation in 2013, but Part 4 of the Bill gives it further and more substantial powers and a role in the operation of the internal market. What precise form those powers will take may ultimately depend on further changes to the Bill, but there can be no doubt that the powers are substantial.

Amendment 54 is therefore a modest amendment, seeking to build upon what the Government have agreed to in relation to the office for the internal market. At present, the Competition and Markets Authority has its chair and members appointed by the Secretary of State and the panels under the Act. But it seems that there is no reason at all why the principles that have been brought to bear for the office for the internal market should not be applied to the CMA itself. As I shall try to explain in a moment, it is essential that the CMA should have representatives of each of the four nations.

It was said at a previous sitting that this would be politicising the body. That is not so. First, the CMA is an independent, non-ministerial department, and people appointed by the Secretary of State, including its chair, are independent. The persons under this provision would be independent in exactly the same way. They are not going to be representatives of the devolved Governments in exactly the same way that the persons appointed by the Secretary of State are not representatives of Her Majesty’s Government but independent people.

Secondly, it is very important to ensure that now that the CMA will have an important role in the internal market, it will have at least one member from each of the nations who understands the issues in the internal market as it affects that nation. Thirdly, the amendment will not politicise the position in any way because the appointment will be by an independent public appointment process, in the same way that the chair and members appointed by the Secretary of State are appointed by an independent appointments process. That is the purpose of the first amendment.

Amendment 58, which is also in this group, is now covered by government Amendment 57 if Amendment 54 is agreed to. Amendment 59 is agreed to be consequential on Amendment 54. Before explaining briefly my reasons for tabling Amendment 54, I wish to make it clear that at the appropriate time this evening, unless the Minister is prepared to come forward with some alternative proposals, I propose to take this amendment to a Division.

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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I join others in thanking the Minister for some significant moves in the amendments that he has introduced today. As others have said, it is testament to his having listened. He sometimes thinks that means “listened at length”, but he listened, considered and responded, and we welcome all the changes. I am particularly pleased about the acknowledgement in the amendments of the interests of consumers in the mapping out of the new internal market. The House will be pleased about the recognition of the need for experience across the kingdom in the appointment of the OIM panel and the need to seek the consent of the devolved authorities to such appointments.

Similarly, we welcome, perhaps unsurprisingly, the new requirement for the CMA to lay its key documents before all four legislatures. It is possible that they already do it, albeit perhaps as a courtesy rather than a legal requirement. We also strongly welcome Amendments 56 and 57, which require devolved authorities to give their consent within a month to appointments to the OIM panel. We like that—consent within a month; we have heard it before. We pinched the idea from the Minister’s words, but it is a good one. As we proposed in our amendments, if the Government proceed with an appointment despite consent not being forthcoming, they will have to explain why they are doing so. Therefore, we will not move Amendment 59.

However, the Minister will not be surprised to hear that, although we welcome these changes, we would like to nudge them a little further. On Wednesday, as others have said, we will seek to move the OIM out of the CMA. Just in case it remains in the CMA, it is vital, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and others have said, that the CMA, in accepting this new role, amends its structure to accommodate the change. It is impossible to think of any other national organisation, when its remit changes, not revisiting its governance and appointments. It should not just continue with business as usual when taking on a whole new responsibility.

Indeed, although we welcome Amendments 56 and 57, we were surprised that they did not apply to the CMA as well as to the OIM panel. For an overarching body with a purview of the development of the new internal market architecture, not having to feel the pulse of, understand and have input from the constituent parts is a little odd, to say the least. For all its board members to be appointed by just one of the four Governments is particularly hard to understand, because it is a body covering the competences of all four Governments. If it was covering only the reserve competences, one could understand, but it will cover powers that affect the area of all four Governments.

As was said by, I think, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, if you are appointed by one place you somehow feel like a representative from it. I must say something about other boards and committees that I have sat on. It may not be a board of this nature, but the National Consumer Council included someone from the Northern Ireland Consumer Council, as I think it was called, someone from the Welsh Consumer Council and someone from the Scottish Consumer Council, but once they got on the board, they had responsibility to it as a board member. Just because we brought in someone with different responsibilities, it did not suddenly make them a representative. Similarly, the chairs of the different sub-committees of the Financial Reporting Council sat on the board. They came with that experience but, once they sat on the whole-council board, their responsibilities included that.

It is slightly hard to say that just because people are appointed by different Governments, they are then answerable only to them. Given that they would be appointed by only one Government, and given that people are saying that if you are appointed by the Welsh Government, you are then a representative of the Welsh Government, surely if you are appointed by the UK Government you also are not independent. It does not quite make sense to me.

We will shortly vote on Amendment 54 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. The Opposition will be happy to support it, to ensure that the CMA really does act on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I can be brief, on the basis that I went through the amendments in detail in my opening remarks. I thank all noble Lords who took part in this debate very much.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that the Bill is not a smonach at all. As I am from the north-east, I can say that, despite all this, I still consider them both marras and not at all workie tickets—I suspect that all this is driving our Hansard copywriters into a bit of a radgie.

I reiterate that my amendments to Part 4 will ensure beyond doubt that the OIM will operate in the interests of both UK consumers and all four Administrations on an equal basis. I thank my noble friend Lady Noakes in particular for her important observation that the CMA board appointments are there first and foremost to ensure that the organisation operates effectively.

I wish to emphasise strongly that changing the wider CMA structures would be wholly unnecessary and create a deeply unhelpful precedent in so far as DA appointees would have a say on reserved matters. In contrast, the OIM panel will undertake the work of the OIM. It is in that context that the government amendments have been brought forward. I believe that this directly addresses the points made in this House, ensuring that the devolved Administrations have greater involvement in OIM appointments. I therefore hope that the House will be able to accept these amendments.

There were a couple of questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked me to define the panel requirements. Amendment 55 makes clear the Government’s view that a balance of expertise in the round on the panel from which task groups are drawn is important. Schedule 3 makes it clear that such task groups must

“consist of at least three members”,

and therefore may contain more. We have argued consistently against a hard distinction between panel members and assigning specific members to specific parts of the UK. In my view, it would be a failure if there was seen to be an “English panel member” and a “Welsh panel member” who are then somehow adversarial.

Finally, I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, that I have consistently made it clear that the functions of the OIM cover advice, monitoring and reporting only and cannot force regulatory change of any kind.

With those remarks, I hope—though without much expectation—that noble Lords will not press their amendments and I commend those in my name.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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Does the Minister agree that good governance requires a balanced board but it also requires that each appointee fulfil the person specification as set out to ensure such balance, that they declare any interest in a relevant discussion and that they may have to withdraw during that discussion? That is all laid out for the running of an open and transparent process within a board as well as for an open and transparent appointments process. Does he further agree that it would be an incredibly narrow person specification that expected people to have only one skill, relating only to their devolved Administration experience, and that they would be coming forward with a broad range of skills to complement a balanced board?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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There were a number of questions there, but of course I believe that there should be an open and transparent appointments process, and that individuals appointed should possess a broad range of skills—that seems self-evident.

Amendment 52 agreed.
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Moved by
55: Schedule 3, page 47, line 27, at end insert—
““(2ZA) In making appointments under paragraphs (iv) and (v) of sub-paragraph (1)(b) the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of securing that— (a) a variety of skills, knowledge and experience is available among the members of the OIM panel, and(b) there is an appropriate balance among the members of that panel of persons who have skills, knowledge or experience relating to the operation of the United Kingdom internal market in different parts of the United Kingdom.”Member’s explanatory statement
The amendment would require the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of having a variety of skills, knowledge and experience in the Office for the Internal Market panel and for a balance between members with specific skills, knowledge or experience in the internal market as operating in different parts of the United Kingdom.
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Moved by
61: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Laying of annual documents before devolved legislatures
(1) Schedule 4 to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (the Competition and Markets Authority) is amended as follows.(2) In paragraph 12(3)(annual plan to be laid before Parliament), for “Parliament” substitute “—(a) Parliament,(b) the Scottish Parliament,(c) Senedd Cymru, and(d) the Northern Ireland Assembly”.(3) In paragraph 13(2)(proposals for annual plan to be laid before Parliament), for “Parliament” substitute “—(a) Parliament,(b) the Scottish Parliament,(c) Senedd Cymru, and(d) the Northern Ireland Assembly”.(4) In paragraph 14(3)(a)(performance report to be laid before Parliament), for “Parliament” substitute “—(i) Parliament,(ii) the Scottish Parliament,(iii) Senedd Cymru, and(iv) the Northern Ireland Assembly”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause would require the CMA to lay its annual plan, proposals for its annual plan and its performance report before the devolved legislatures as well as Parliament.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord Callanan Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 150-III(Rev) Revised third marshalled list for Report - (23 Nov 2020)
Moved by
62: Clause 39, page 31, line 30, leave out “such” and insert “—
(a) each relevant national authority, and(b) such other”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide that the domestic administrations must be among the bodies consulted by the CMA in relation to its policy on enforcing information-gathering notices.
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Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, during the Bill’s progress through Parliament, we have engaged extensively to ensure that it, and the Office for the Internal Market in particular, work for all parts of this country. We have always been clear that the Competition and Markets Authority will ensure the devolved Administrations are consulted on all important matters relating to the OIM. Following significant discussions with our devolved counterparts and noble Lords, we are pleased to introduce these two amendments, which will underscore the importance of the devolved Administrations in the operation of the OIM. The Government have emphasised throughout the introduction of the Bill that the UK internal market needs to work for all parts of this country, and these amendments are a testimony to this aim.

Amendment 62 ensures the CMA must consult the devolved Administrations when preparing or revising its policy on enforcing information-gathering notices. Alongside this, Amendment 63 will require the Secretary of State to consult the devolved Administrations over the level of fines that can be placed on bodies that do not comply with a CMA request for information. Both amendments give the devolved Administrations a significant say in the key operations of the OIM. These amendments will put beyond doubt this Government’s commitment to ensuring that the interests of the devolved Administrations are reflected in the governance of the OIM and that the OIM will continue to meet the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom.

I turn now to Amendments 62A, 63A and 63B, which seek to alter the CMA’s ability to effectively gather information. I reassure the House that, as highlighted in previous debates on the Bill, these penalty powers in Part 4 will not be commenced unless there is a clear and credible need for them—for example, to ensure that the OIM can gather credible and accurate information for its reporting and monitoring purposes. I believe this goes some way to addressing many of the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, regarding the design of the information-gathering and enforcement regime. This will ensure that such a regime will be well considered, based on clear evidence of need and proportionate to fulfil the OIM’s duties. I emphasise that the need for accurate, and up-to-date information is essential to ensure that the OIM’s reports and advice are credible, evidence-based and meaningfully capture the UK internal market landscape.

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Moreover, the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee is aware that, in the process of completing the task of making the frameworks, some—such as nutrition––are already coming up against the requirements in this Bill. No doubt there will be future examples of that emerging in the next few weeks. Will the Minister say, before the Bill progresses further, whether he will seek the advice of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee on this emerging evidence of difficulties, so that we really do make sure that this Bill is not going to undermine but will support the work of the common frameworks?
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their interventions on this subject; I understand the sincerity with which Peers have addressed it. However, as I said in my opening remarks, the amendments on which we have been able to get agreement put beyond doubt that the OIM will closely consult and work with the devolved Administrations on an equal basis, in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom. These important changes ensure that the OIM’s policy on information-gathering and enforcement, including the level of penalties, will be carefully considered in consultation with the devolved Administrations. This will ensure greater transparency in decision-making and will help ensure that the OIM will be able to gather the accurate information it needs to independently assess and monitor the UK internal market. Of course, the Government have made it clear that reports carried out by the OIM each year will be made available both to this Parliament and to the devolved legislatures.

I reiterate a point I made in previous debates: to be clear, the penalty powers in Part 4 will not come into effect unless there is clear evidence that there is a need to do so in order for the CMA to fulfil its internal market functions. I believe that this provides the necessary assurances that any penalties regime will be proportionate and transparent.

In addressing some of the points made in the debate, I turn first to those made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, on precedent. I can certainly reassure noble Lords that the Bill sets out clearly the maximum limits to the level of financial penalties in Clause 40(6). They do not exceed those which the CMA can currently impose. Penalties and the enforcement regime are based on precedent, as set out in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. As I mentioned in my opening speech, the justification for these powers is that, without such a deterrent in place, there is an incentive not to comply with information-gathering requests, and that runs the risk of not having completely accurate information supplied to the OIM.

My noble friend Lady Altmann gave the example of the Pensions Regulator. I can say that excluding an entire class of business from information-gathering requirements such as these does not have as firm a standing in precedent as the she suggests. The CMA acting as a reasonable public body will, of course, in all cases, take into account all relevant factors, whether on the face of the Bill or not, in considering how to act and whether to pursue penalties, if they have been commenced at all.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about reasonable excuses. I am not sure whether it was she who asked me a similar question on Report on Monday, but as I said then, the CMA would set out in its statement of policy the clear steps and procedures regarding the enforcement of its information-gathering regime. The penalties will not be commenced until there is evidence that they are called for, and even then they will not be used except as a last resort, whatever the size of the business. The CMA will consult all relevant persons regarding its statement of policy. I am happy to confirm to my noble friend Lady Noakes that, as I said in Committee, the CMA will not be able to issue a financial penalty against—I am pleased to say—either this Government or any UK Government, or indeed the devolved Administrations.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh mentioned consultations. The Bill requires that Ministers should consult as a matter of fact before they exercise their delegated powers. As is normal for such legislation, it does not spell out in great detail how this must be achieved, but we will engage with the devolved Administrations as part of the process of normal policy development, by, for example, sharing draft SIs and publications, and co-operating on public-facing events wherever that is possible, and, in any case, more formally before a decision is made.

For all of the reasons that I have set out, I hope that noble Lords will accept the amendments that I have tabled and that the noble Baroness will not press hers. However, for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and to be absolutely clear and to put the matter beyond doubt, I am afraid that I have gone as far as I can go on these matters and I will not be reflecting further before Third Reading. Therefore, if the noble Baroness wants to test the opinion of the House, she should do so now.

Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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My Lords, I have received no request to ask the Minister a short question. I shall therefore put the Question.

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Moved by