All 2 Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale contributions to the Business and Planning Act 2020

Mon 6th Jul 2020
Business and Planning Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Mon 13th Jul 2020
Business and Planning Bill
Lords Chamber

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

Business and Planning Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Business and Planning Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Monday 6th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Business and Planning Act 2020 - Government Bill Page Read Hansard Text
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I absolutely respect the choices made by others, but one of the reasons that I have travelled to London each week since the beginning of June to attend your Lordships’ Chamber is because I believe very strongly that the Government and Parliament need to lead the country out of peak lockdown with confidence and clarity. That is best done if as many of us as possible are here and present to do so.

I wholeheartedly support almost every measure in the Bill and the purpose behind it. The Government are right to be leading the country out of lockdown and trying to energise our economy again, but I am a little concerned at the pace in the devolved nations, which should be more closely involved. There should be more effort across the four Governments of the United Kingdom to be more co-ordinated in their approach to releasing business activity and moving on from peak lockdown.

In this effort, the Government are in danger of being too inconsistent and lacking in clarity. For example, I cannot understand why we are allowed—and now I think that “encouraged” is the right word—to use aeroplanes and sit next to each other in a confined space while travelling for hours on end, yet people cannot take lifeline ferries to the islands off the west coast of Scotland. I do not understand why people can pack into pubs, not only to stand too close to each other and get drunk but also to use the same toilets and other facilities, but cannot move in a single-file, one-way system at a reasonable level of numbers through our national and local museums and galleries; or use health clubs, which would be a far better use of their time than getting drunk on a Saturday night. I do not understand why people can get their hair cut, as I did on Saturday morning—but if I had wanted to, I could not have gone to a nail bar to have my nails done.

I do not understand the choices that have been made. The Culture Secretary speaking on the “Today” programme this morning showed how difficult that is to explain when he was asked a question about museums and aeroplanes. He did not have an answer. When the Government are not clear and do not show the logic behind the decisions they are announcing, that does not release economic confidence, energy and entrepreneurship; it deflates it, because people remain worried and scared. My plea to the Government when bringing forward this Bill and other measures is this: there needs to be more clarity and consistency in decision-making, so that people feel confident to take the leadership role that they are being shown and thus re-engage with the economy in ways that are absolutely essential.

I am not at all convinced by the idea that we should encourage more off-sales of alcoholic liquor, and I will come back to that during the debates on the specific clauses of the Bill, I am sure. However, while I welcome the Bill and most of the measures in it, I make the plea that not only in Whitehall but also in Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast, the four Governments of the United Kingdom show more unity and urgency as well as much more clarity and consistency, because that is how the country will respond with the highest degree of positivity.

Business and Planning Bill

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Monday 13th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Business and Planning Act 2020 - Government Bill Page Read Hansard Text
Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support pavement licences not only for the purposes of the Bill but because, as I said at Second Reading, they have the potential to help knit together communities. But there must—“must” is the operative word—be access for all pavement users. Otherwise, our pavements are not a shared space in the wider sense of the term.

Anyone who knows Berlin and smaller towns in various countries on the continent will see how well this can work. As a pedestrian in Berlin, I do not recall ever having to walk around tables and chairs, which is an important point. The scheme is not working if you cannot walk down the centre of the payment, and where the pavement is wide enough, there is no reason why café furniture cannot be split into two sections so that it can be right up against the road or fence between for safety.

I am sure that there is a whole art to this, but things such as large wooden tubs with flowers and large umbrellas marking the corners of the café territory can give the area a structure that is both open and rigid, so that pedestrians know precisely where they can walk on a predictable, routine basis. That is extremely important, particularly in the context of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Low. You should be able to walk down a pavement and know precisely where you will be walking on different days.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I had the pleasure yesterday afternoon of my first meal out since before the lockdown, at the fabulous Drift Inn in Lamlash, on the Isle of Arran. The young proprietors and members of staff there had been looking forward to their first full spring and summer, with tourists and locals enjoying their hospitality. Of course, the business has had to stand still for several months. For them and so many others, small businesses in particular, I welcomed the Bill last week and I welcome it again today. I hope that, beyond England and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, there will be a bit more enthusiasm for supporting these businesses to get safely back on the rails over the coming weeks and months.

Turning to the amendments, I counsel the Government not to go against the grain when pushing through the Bill and the important powers it will enable. The Government themselves have spoken about building back better after the lockdown and Covid-19. There have been many negatives and terrible impacts of Covid-19 and the lockdown over recent months, but for those of us lucky enough to have had the opportunity to leave our homes, at times it has also been a pleasure to reclaim our streets and parks for walks or runs and relaxation. Many people have commented on that.

On the issue of off-sales, which I mentioned last week and which will come up later in Committee, I think it would be wrong for those to become too readily available in a society where they are already far too readily available. That is a major mistake. Also, we cannot talk about “building back better” if we leave people out of the equation. Without the amendment so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, whose introduction to this group was excellent, and without the consultation that was so well described by my noble friend Lord Harris, we will be, yes, rightly encouraging businesses to become entrepreneurial in this new environment and encouraging customers to go out and enjoy the hospitality of those businesses, but if we do that to the exclusion of sections of our society, whether they are there as customers or are just passing by, that will be a terrible error. We should leave no one behind as we emerge from this lockdown period.

I urge the Government not to go ahead with the Bill in its current form just because it has been through the House of Commons and because it was drafted by Ministers and officials before these debates but to listen to the debates and make the changes. They will get a much stronger welcome in the country for the Bill when enacted, and it will be more successful as a result, if it involves everybody and does not leave anybody behind.