4 Mar 2015 : Column 211

House of Lords

Wednesday, 4 March 2015.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Legislative Scrutiny: Digitalisation


3.06 pm

Asked by Baroness Deech

To ask the Leader of the House what assessment she has made of the impact on the effectiveness of the scrutiny of legislation of the introduction of further digitalisation.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, I have not made any formal assessment of the impact of digitalisation on scrutiny, but I welcome initiatives from the House of Lords administration that take advantage of digital developments, and the Government’s good law project continues to look to improve the process of scrutiny using new technologies.

Baroness Deech (CB): May I explain for the sake of clarity that by digitalisation I mean the use of computers? Would it not be a great advantage to the House that instead of being presented with amendments on paper that read something like, “delete ‘the’ and insert ‘a’”, we saw what they meant by their being placed and tracked in the draft Bill, that Explanatory Notes should be accessible alongside the clauses by clicking through, that each day the successful amendments should be shown incorporated into the draft Bill, that Bills should be in words that we can amend and exchange with each other—I could go on for a long time, but I will not—and that the use of annunciators could be better if they showed the Question being asked rather than just saying, “1st Oral Question”?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Baroness is right that we should use new technologies where they are relevant to our work and will help us to do it better. We have made quite a bit of progress during this Parliament. Last night I downloaded the House of Lords app on my iPad, which allows us to look at the relevant papers associated with today’s business. On the noble Baroness’s specific proposals for tracking changes, I can inform your Lordships that that facility will be available not in quite the detail that she would like but starting down that track from the beginning of the next Parliament.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I certainly welcome the ideas put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech. Does the Leader agree that one of the most important aims for further digitalisation is increasing transparency and engaging those in the wider world with the excellent work of the House of Lords, including scrutiny of course? I certainly commend the recent report by the Arctic Committee and the way in which it is interactive. Does the noble Baroness also

4 Mar 2015 : Column 212

agree that over the course of this Parliament, Twitter has proved a great way of communicating the important job that is done in this House?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Yes, I do agree with the noble Baroness. It is important to distinguish between the use of new technology to engage with the public and the use of technology to help us to do our job better; sometimes they serve different purposes. The arrival of the new digital director for Parliament later this month will, I hope, see all these things taken forward with great speed.

Lord Low of Dalston (CB): My Lords, will the Leader of the House make sure, in implementing the changes that she is talking about, that the needs of those who access the information using access technology are not forgotten? I am sure these developments can be very beneficial for people using access technology, but we have to make sure that we do it in the right way, not the wrong way.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord is right. Not only do we need to make sure that those who use access technology are well served alongside any new technological developments; we also need to make sure that those of us who rely on paper and prefer to do our work in an analogue fashion are able to do so. At the same time, we do not want to be behind innovation, so it is also about bringing people with us.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): If the objective is greater public scrutiny of work in the House of Lords, in particular on legislation, why does the House of Lords not have its own television channel instead of having to share one with the House of Commons? If the public want to watch what happens in this House, they have to wait until one o’clock in the morning. Have we actually assessed what it might cost to provide another channel?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: As the noble Lord knows, I used to work at the BBC. If he would like, I could give him chapter and verse some other time on the way in which decisions are made on the costing of channels. While we do not have our own dedicated channel, it is important for us all to be aware that people have access to what goes on in this Chamber and in all the other democratic Chambers around the UK via a BBC service called “Democracy Live”, as well as what is available through parliamentlive.tv.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl): My Lords, does the noble Baroness think that perhaps we should be a little more cautious about moving towards a more digital economy before advancing a bit more in the area of cybercrime?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord is starting to take me off the heart of the Question, which is about the digital means for us to be able to do our jobs here in this House. But he makes an important point.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 213

Lord Naseby (Con): I support the point made by the noble Lord opposite about a separate channel. If you tune in regularly, you will find something of the order of five or six new channels a week on television. Against that background, I cannot see why it is not a priority to find the resources to ensure that there is a proper channel for the revising Chamber that we represent here in the House of Lords.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The point I am trying to make is that new technology allows for access to more Chambers than has been possible before. In an analogue world, there was one television channel that could view only one Chamber at one time. Streaming via the internet, all the Chambers operating in the United Kingdom are accessible to everybody simultaneously.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has told us about the importance of the new role of the digital director for Parliament. I appreciate that we are moving slightly off the core subject of the Question, but does she envisage further elements of co-operation between the two Chambers of Parliament, not just in digital areas but in all sorts of areas? What discussions has she had with her opposite numbers in the House of Commons?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: As for the possibility of greater joint working, the noble Lord may or may not know that one commitment that we have made is for the Clerk of the Parliaments here to explore possibilities with his counterpart in the Commons. Alongside that, if we were to decide to go further down that route, clearly we would need to make sure in due course that we were in a very clear position to negotiate so that this House is never subordinate to the other House.

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the suggestions made by the noble Baroness does not require any great technical innovation or, indeed, easy attention to the changes in the computerisation of our activities: placing the Explanatory Notes alongside the appropriate clauses in draft Bills or, indeed, Bills that come before your Lordships’ House? I did that with a Bill two years ago with cross-party support and drew it to the attention of some of her noble colleagues, but it does not seem that the Government have caught up.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I think I am right in saying that the innovation that will start at the beginning of the next Parliament, which, as I described, allows us to see tracked changes at the end of the Committee stage, will also allow access to the Explanatory Notes alongside it. What the noble Lord is suggesting is in train if it has not yet been implemented.

Sudan: Bombardment of Civilians


3.15 pm

Asked by Baroness Cox

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of recent developments in Sudan, with particular reference to the continuing aerial bombardment of civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 214

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Northover) (LD): My Lords, recent developments in Sudan’s conflict zones are deeply concerning. Continued attacks on civilian populations, including in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, are entirely unacceptable. We continue to support the mediation work of President Mbeki’s AU panel and to emphasise to all sides that the only resolution to these conflicts is through political dialogue, not military means.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that I recently visited Blue Nile state and witnessed first hand the devastating effects of the Government of Sudan’s escalating aerial bombardment, which deliberately targets schools, hospitals, markets and people trying to grow crops? People cannot grow food and many hundreds have died of starvation. The bombers now come equipped with search-lights so that they can kill by night as well as by day. Over half a million people have fled their homes and are hiding in snake-infested caves, in river banks and under trees. What are Her Majesty’s Government actually doing to call the Government of Sudan to account and end the impunity with which they are perpetrating this de facto genocide?

Baroness Northover: I am aware of the noble Baroness’s visit and I thank her for the report that she issued after it. I commend her for her commitment to this incredibly dangerous region.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Baroness Northover: We pressed the Government of Sudan and their armed forces to cease attacks on civilians and to comply with international humanitarian law. We have consistently raised the two areas in the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council and, through our embassy work, we seek to highlight the importance of the rule of law and promote a culture of accountability throughout Sudan. We are working very hard to try to get that across.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, what has been the Security Council’s response to the Human Rights Watch reports of horrific incidents of mass rape in Darfur and the continuing insecurity and impunity in that region? When will al-Bashir and his Janjaweed be called to account? We are now watching a terrible new phase of genocide in Darfur—and, I am afraid, in silence.

Baroness Northover: The noble Baroness highlights some very grave problems in Sudan, and she will I am sure also know that the UN independent expert on human rights in Sudan is looking at the human rights situation there. We are very concerned that that is taken forward. In terms of sexual violence, she will know that it appears to be an area where rape is being used as a deliberate weapon of war. We are pressing the Sudanese Government to try to take forward protection of civilians, but she will be acutely aware of how challenging that is proving to be.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 215

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, during two visits to South Sudan last year, both in Juba and in the fighting area, it was evident that there was widespread belief and evidence that the Government of Sudan were not only interfering in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur with these terrible acts, but seek further to destabilise the already terrible situation in South Sudan. What steps do this Government believe should be taken and what steps are they taking with the international community to stop this cross-border interference?

Baroness Northover: The cross-border area is again a very difficult area to be working in. Our sense of things in terms of South Sudan is that we have huge challenges there in trying to get the parties to some kind of agreement. The Government of Sudan themselves are playing a non-obstructive role generally speaking. However, given all the instability on the border that the most reverend Primate talks about, it is exceptionally difficult.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, does my noble friend recognise and do the Government recognise that the genocidal Government of Field Marshal al-Bashir and his generals, many of whom have also been invited before the ICC, have adopted a deliberate plan to eradicate the SPLM/A by a programme of destruction of food crops, bombing of hospitals and other atrocities which have already led to the fleeing of 250,000 people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile to take refuge in Sudan and Ethiopia? When will the Government remind the United Nations of the duty to protect?

Baroness Northover: We have consistently stressed the need for the United Nations to be engaged in the two areas. Obviously, there are challenges when the United Nations is not allowed into the areas that it should be. When I was in Sudan about a month ago, we were pressing on the Government there that, if the United Nations wants to get in and feels that it is safe to, it should be able to. We pressed for the Security Council statement on 11 December, which called on all parties to refrain from acts of violence against civilians. The newly appointed independent expert is working on human rights abuses and we are urging him to take that further forward.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, does the Minister recall our exchange on 17 May 2012, when I asked her whether she concurred with the view of Dr Mukesh Kapila, formerly our high representative in Sudan, that the second genocide of the 21st century was unfolding in South Kordofan, Darfur being the first? In her reply she said that,

“it is clear that there have been indiscriminate attacks on civilians and war crimes”.—[

Official Report

, 17/5/12; col. 526.]

In the nearly three years that have elapsed since then, during which an estimated 2,500 bombs have been dropped on civilian targets, why has the international community totally failed to prevent this horrific carnage, failed systematically to collect the evidence, failed to establish an international committee of inquiry, and failed to hold anyone to account for these atrocities?

Baroness Northover: I do remember that exchange and I remember the discussions we had after that question as well—as no doubt the noble Lord does—and

4 Mar 2015 : Column 216

the sensitivity of what we did in trying to make sure that we were able to get humanitarian organisations in, which we are seeking to do. We are extremely concerned to make sure that that access is there. It is indeed a very challenging situation and we would hold both sides to account. Certainly, in terms of what the Government of Sudan have been doing, we have enormous concerns and address this through the human rights activities that I was talking about.

Regulatory Agencies: Monitoring


3.22 pm

Asked by Lord Smith of Clifton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Neville-Rolfe on 26 January (HL4107), how the activities of regulatory agencies are monitored to ensure their effectiveness in the scrutiny of the economic and public sectors they supervise.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, the monitoring arrangements for each regulator depend on how each has been established by statute, such as the different degrees of independence granted by Parliament to each regulator and different sources of funding. Some regulators are non-ministerial departments and are monitored and managed by their sponsoring ministerial department; others are non-departmental public bodies, which are subject to triennial reviews.

Lord Smith of Clifton (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that rather confused answer as to the situation. During this Parliament there have been many complaints about regulators, including those dealing with care quality and police complaints. Who will guard the guardians? Would my noble friend agree with me that there should be an overarching regulator to look at Ofcom, Ofsted, Ofwat, Ofgem and the like? It might be called the “Effectiveness Office”, otherwise known as “Eff Off” for short.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: That was a good joke, my Lords, but this is a highly complex area in which quite naturally Parliament wishes some regulatory bodies to have a good deal of independence from the Government. There has been much discussion in this Chamber recently about the Equality and Human Rights Commission and how that should be maintained at considerable distance from the Government. On the other hand, the Care Quality Commission, for example, rightly is regarded as something which needs to be close to ministerial responsibility and on which Ministers are expected to answer to Parliament.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, I take the point that one does not wish to suggest that each regulatory body should be second-guessed day to day by any parliamentary process, but would it not be useful from time to time, given that many of these regulatory bodies are governed by secondary instruments covered by our committee structure here, to see what is happening at the interface, for example, with energy and transport? There are so many bodies where the

4 Mar 2015 : Column 217

interface is confusing. Consumers do not know where to go and are maybe pushed from one thing to another. Occasionally, some process should be found to review the accountability to the government department and, hence, to Parliament.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, these reviews do take place. The Environment Agency and Natural England were jointly subject to a triennial review, precisely to look at the degree of overlap. The noble Lord may recall that the Public Bodies Act examined the need for a number of statutorily established bodies that were set up a very long time ago and that the Deregulation Bill also touches on issues like this—125 triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies have already taken place. I was interviewed for the triennial review into the Civil Service Commission, for example, which I think will recommend an expansion of the responsibilities of that body. A good deal of toing and froing is under way. Parliamentary committees and the National Audit Office also monitor the management of these bodies.

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, is there not a danger of a parallel government arising of unelected regulators working with enormous powers over the heights of the economy and working in concert?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the idea that these are massively powerful bodies operating outside parliamentary control is an immense exaggeration. If you look at recent appearances by the heads of some of these commissions and authorities before parliamentary Select Committees, you will recognise that Parliament certainly monitors what goes on very actively.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, will the Government consider supporting my Private Member’s Bill to set up a regulatory body to supervise the conduct of political polling, including by multimillionaires?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I cannot begin to think who the noble Lord might be referring to, but I look forward with interest to him showing me his Bill.

Baroness Deech (CB): Is the Minister aware that all 10 legal regulators, which operate underneath the Legal Services Board, agree that the board and the statute that put it into place are not working well and need radical reform? Can he say whether, if he is in government after May, a new Government will find time to reform it, which is what the regulators all want?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I will certainly take that back if I am in government after May. I hope I shall not still be the oldest member of the Government.

Defence Budget


3.27 pm

Asked by Lord West of Spithead

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Head of the United States Army’s statement that he is “very concerned” about cuts to Britain’s defence budget.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 218

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My Lords, we remain a strong and capable defence partner of the United States. We are able to fight alongside US forces anywhere in the world and are demonstrating this once again as the largest partner in the coalition effort against ISIL. We have the second largest defence budget in NATO, are meeting the target of 2% of GDP on defence spending and will spend more than £160 billion over the next 10 years equipping the Armed Forces.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer but have to say that it is horrifyingly complacent. For more than three years now, through the back channels, the Americans—the three services, the intelligence community and those on the Hill—have been expressing concern about our spend and the reductions in it. It is time now to be honest with our nation: our military capability has been cut by 20% to 30% since 2010. That is a huge reduction. Next year, in 2015-16, the percentage of GDP spent on defence will be 1.88%, the lowest for 25 years. There is a generation of leaders who believe that peace is the natural order of things and that wars are inconceivable. However, war drums are beating in eastern Europe, and it is time we sent a strong message of deterrence through our military capability—because military forces deter. Will the Minister talk with the Prime Minister, and ask him to talk with the leader of the Opposition, to maybe come to an agreement that both parties should make a commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence, to take this out of the political arena? I would have suggested having the Lib Dems join in that discussion, but most Lib Dems, I am afraid, with some notable exceptions, want a reduction, rather like the Green Party.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I will take the noble Lord’s suggestion back to my department and it will pass it on, but we will meet the 2% target this year and next. Decisions on defence spending will then be made in the next spending review. However, the Prime Minister is clear that there will be an annual 1% real terms increase in spending on defence equipment. We are committed to ensuring that Britain’s Armed Forces remain among the most advanced and capable, able to protect our security interests across the globe.

Lord Craig of Radley (CB): My Lords, the Minister mentioned the Government’s commitment to a 1% increase on equipment, but he did not make it clear whether this would be a 1% increase on the defence budget. Perhaps he could do that now.

Lord Astor of Hever: I can confirm that it is on the defence budget.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, before we dive overboard in pursuit of this gold-braid chorus calling for lashings of extra defence spending, can we stop for a moment to reflect? When the party of the noble Lord, Lord West, was in office, it presided over a £30 billion excess in defence expenditure, which left a black hole that this Government had to cope with. It also presided over some of the most egregious military decisions of our time, in Iraq and

4 Mar 2015 : Column 219

Afghanistan. Surely that would cause us to believe that an excessive enthusiasm in according credibility to these calls is not required at this moment.

Lord Astor of Hever: My noble friend mentioned the previous Government’s £30 billion defence budget. We now have a £34 billion defence budget and because it has been brought back into balance, we are able to invest in the latest military equipment in the coming decade.

Lord Dannatt (CB): My Lords—

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab): My Lords—

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): Order. I am sorry to have to get to my feet, but if we are taking it in turns, it is the turn of the Labour Benches.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: Will the Minister say what assessment has been made in the Ministry of Defence of the costs of the total realignment of our defence capability should we lose the collective security of NATO as a consequence of losing our Trident nuclear deterrent?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I assume that someone is working on those figures. The Government do not gamble with Britain’s national security. The primary responsibility of Government is the defence of the UK and its citizens. We cannot rule out a future nuclear threat to the UK, and therefore need a credible nuclear capability. Maintaining continuous at-sea deterrence is the best way to deter the most extreme threat to the UK. To clarify my answer to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, the 1% is not on the defence budget—it is on the equipment spend within the defence budget.

Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): Undoubtedly we face a dangerous and uncertain world. I welcome the Minister’s statement. I have more confidence in supporting a Government who have shown the ability to manage the economy and have the best chance of maintaining our level of defence expenditure than I would have if we again found ourselves unable to afford to do it.

Lord Astor of Hever: I agree entirely with my noble friend. We need a strong economy to have strong Armed Forces.

Lord Dannatt: My Lords, does the Minister agree that however welcome his message is of a 1% increase in defence equipment expenditure, this does not address the whole defence budget? Does he furthermore agree that we should salute the bravery of Lance Corporal Leakey, who won the Victoria Cross recently? This underlines that it is our military manpower that makes the British Armed Forces what they are, not a 1% increase in expenditure, because when there has to be a cut, it comes in manpower. When I commanded the Army, it was 102,000 strong. Now, four or five years later, it is 82,000.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and salute the recent recipient of the Victoria Cross. The Prime Minister has made it very clear that he does not want any reduction in the numbers of the Armed Forces below the level at which they are now, and he remains committed to growing the Reserves to 35,000.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 220

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords—

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords—

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Order. If we are taking it in turns, it is the turn of those on the Labour Benches, but there are two Labour Peers seeking to get in.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Minister said that it is the primary responsibility of Government to provide for the security and defence of the country. Does he not therefore acknowledge that the defence budget needs as much security in its expenditure as Parliament has already given to its expenditure on international aid?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the coalition agreement stated that we will honour our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013 and enshrine that in law. Those funds are being used for very worthwhile causes. For instance, DfID has contributed £35 million to our efforts to tackle ebola in West Africa.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that although the noble Lord, Lord West, and others are quite right in wanting our Armed Forces to be fully and properly equipped, nevertheless, in modern conditions, large areas of defending the national security and safety of our citizens and the British nation lie outside the classical definition of defence expenditure? Does he not agree that they should be taken more into account, because they are part of the defence of this nation in future—a matter which I am not sure that the American general who spoke the other day fully comprehended?

Lord Astor of Hever: My noble friend mentioned hybrid warfare in a question last week, and there is also the very serious issue of cyber warfare, so I entirely agree with him.

National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015

Groceries Code Adjudicator (Permitted Maximum Financial Penalty) Order 2015

Motions to Approve

3.36 pm

Moved by Lord Popat

That the draft regulations and order laid before the House on 27 and 28 January be approved.

Relevant documents: 21st and 22nd Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Considered in Grand Committee on 2 March.

Motions agreed.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 221

Electronic Commerce Directive (Financial Services and Markets) (Amendment) Order 2015

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Miscellaneous Provisions) Order 2015

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Banking Reform) (Pensions) Regulations 2015

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2015

Motions to Approve

3.37 pm

Moved by Lord Newby

That the draft orders and regulations laid before the House on 17 December 2014, 21 and 29 January and 3 February 2015 be approved.

Relevant documents: 17th, 21st and 22ndReports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and 24th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (special attention drawn to the instrument).Considered in Grand Committee on 2 March.

Motions agreed.

Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill

Order of Commitment Discharged

3.38 pm

Moved by Lord Best

That the order of commitment be discharged.

Lord Best (CB): My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been tabled to the Bill and no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Modern Slavery Bill

Modern Slavery Bill

Third Reading

3.39 pm

Clause 43: Duty to co-operate with Commissioner

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

1: Clause 43, page 35, line 37, at end insert—

“(10) Regulations under subsection (7), (8) or (9) which add a public authority to Schedule 3 may contain provision modifying the application of this section in relation to that authority.”

4 Mar 2015 : Column 222

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, I shall also speak to government Amendments 5, 7 and 8. As noble Lords will be aware, on Report the House agreed amendments which specified an initial list of public authorities which will be subject to the duty to co-operate with the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner. During that debate the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, indicated that the Crown Prosecution Service and the College of Policing should perhaps be added to this list. On that occasion, I indicated that the Government would keep the list under review and consider, ahead of Third Reading, whether an ability to tailor the duty to individual public authorities would be helpful.

Our experience from working on the initial list of public authorities is that some authorities have existing remits or duties which could conflict with the duty to co-operate. In the case of NHS trusts, we needed to make clear that patient confidentiality would be respected before they could become part of the duty. I want to ensure that it is possible to extend the list of bodies subject to the duty to co-operate in future, in light of that experience. Today, I am therefore putting forward amendments that will ensure that where we subject a public authority to the duty to co-operate by regulations, we can tailor the duty to co-operate to reflect the particular functions or legislative framework of that public authority.

The aim of this measure is to ensure that we can apply the duty to co-operate to more bodies relevant to the commissioner’s role in future. To assure Parliament that this duty will be used only appropriately, and will not inappropriately circumscribe the duty to co-operate in respect of a particular public authority, it will be subject to the affirmative procedure or the equivalent in the devolved legislatures. I hope that the House will feel able to support these amendments, which aim to ensure that the duty to co-operate can be extended practically to other public authorities. I beg to move.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): I am delighted with those amendments.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 50: Regulations about identifying and supporting victims

Amendment 2

Moved by Lord McColl of Dulwich

2: Clause 50, page 39, line 34, at end insert—

“( ) Regulations under subsection (1) must set out—

(a) what services will be provided to meet international obligations for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims;

(b) how the services will be provided to meet international obligations in respect of a victim’s consent, safety or other special needs;

(c) that provision of services must not be made conditional on the victim assisting with a criminal investigation or prosecution; and

(d) how the services will be monitored and audited.”

4 Mar 2015 : Column 223

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, Amendment 2 is in my name and would clarify the content of regulations that may be introduced under Clause 50 for the provision of support and assistance to victims. I have spoken both in Committee and on Report about the importance of putting support and assistance provision into legislation and, in particular, the benefit of setting out the minimum range of support and assistance to be provided. There are three key reasons why I continue to think that this is important.

First, it will give confidence to victims and support workers that they will receive support and therefore it will encourage more victims to come forward to seek help. This point of view has been expressed by victims’ organisations and the pre-legislative evidence review, chaired by Mr Frank Field MP. Secondly, putting the basic principles of support and assistance into legislation will provide a strong framework to ensure consistent standards and availability of care across the country, strengthened by monitoring and auditing mechanisms.

The third reason for putting details of support and assistance into legislation is that it will ensure that provision will meet our obligations by allowing parliamentary scrutiny in a way which policy provision alone cannot. The review of the NRM was extremely welcome, although it was disappointing that it found many of the same problems identified by the evaluation report of the Council of Europe group of experts known as GRETA when it visited four years earlier in 2011. Putting support and assistance provisions into domestic law will focus the attention of the Government in a way that international obligations have not.

3.45 pm

It is a matter of some regret for me that we have not been able to add detailed support and assistance provisions to the Bill. I am grateful to the Minister for giving the option of secondary legislation at some point in future and I hope that it will not be long before we see those regulations. However, I continue to have concerns about the disparity in statutory rights between victims in England and Wales and those elsewhere in the UK. As I have said, I continue to believe that there is a great benefit for victims by putting these provisions into legislation. I therefore strongly encourage whoever might be in leadership in the Home Office when the NRM pilots are completed to use the enabling power under Clause 50 and to put support and assistance provision into regulations. I can assure your Lordships that when the evaluation of these pilots is published we will be looking at it very carefully and will continue to raise this matter with whoever is responsible.

Although Amendment 2 does not put support and assistance into primary legislation, nor does it alter the enabling nature of Clause 50, I have introduced it because I believe we need clarity about the content of the secondary legislation about support and assistance, just as we have done in Clause 48, which gives rather more specific direction about the matters to be contained in regulations for independent child trafficking advocates.

On Report, during the debate on the introduction of this clause and my amendment on the subject, various noble Lords urged the Minister to consider further. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, specifically highlighted the absence of any mention of

4 Mar 2015 : Column 224

the kinds of support and assistance in the new enabling clause and asked the Minister to,

“reflect on whether a reference to the types of assistance set out in the convention and directive could be added to the reference to guidance in Clause 49 and the enabling clause”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1679.]

The enabling clause is Clause 50. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, expressed concern about the varying standards of care and welcomed the provision in my Report stage amendment regarding minimum standards and auditing processes. The noble Baroness asked the Minister to,

“reflect on how key elements ensuring consistency in standards of care might be incorporated into the regulations that he proposes”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1681.]

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, invited the Minister to look further at the need to give greater detail about the minimum level of assistance to be provided and the circumstances of that provision. I was grateful for the Minister’s response that he would reflect further on the comments made in the debate. I was rather hoping that the Government might introduce an amendment such as mine in order to provide the assurance and clarity that your Lordships had been seeking during our Report stage debate.

Amendment 2 gives an indication of the matters that should be covered in the regulations for providing support and assistance to victims under Clause 50. It ensures that the support and assistance under the regulations will fulfil international obligations and sets out clearly, as per the Council of Europe convention, that support should be for victims’ physical, psychological and social recovery. It also stipulates that the support and assistance should be provided in a manner that adheres to international treaties and in particular taking account of issues to do with the victim’s consent to receive support, their need for safety and any special needs that the victim might have, such as disability or illness. The amendment also makes it clear that support must not be conditional on a victim acting as a witness. Additionally, the amendment requires the regulations to address how support services will be monitored and audited to ensure that standards are being met.

I welcome the Minister’s comments on Report that Clause 50 will allow for regulations to be made about accommodation, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining healthcare and the provision of information, translation and interpretation services, which are the kinds of support detailed in the convention and the EU directive. However, the fact that the clause allows such details to be included in regulations is not the same as directing that they should be covered. Can the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s intention that regulations under Clause 50 and guidance on this topic under Clause 49 should cover the specific points I have outlined in my Amendment 2 about both the types of support and the manner in which it is provided?

I was also grateful for the Minister’s comments at Report regarding the inclusion of minimum standards in the tendering process for the new victim care contract. Can he give further details of the processes to provide the routine inspection of care provision under the contract that he also referred to at Report?

4 Mar 2015 : Column 225

As I conclude my speech at the end of the passage of this Bill, in which I am proud to have played a small part, along with so many others in this House and in another place, I express my thanks to the Minister for the open and constructive way in which he steered this Bill through your Lordships’ House. I sincerely hope that our aspirations that this piece of legislation will make a difference to victims will be borne out in the months and years to come. I shall certainly be watching its progress and implementation carefully to ensure that the assistance and support provided in England and Wales meets our international obligations and is of a consistent standard.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB): My Lords, I should like to add a few words in support of Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who has made a convincing case today and on previous occasions for why measures about support and assistance, in accordance with our obligations under international treaties, should be put into statute. I agree with the noble Lord that it would give confidence to victims, improve access to support and establish a consistent quality of care for victims, wherever they might be or whatever their personal circumstances. I am particularly concerned that continuing with a policy-based approach will perpetuate the scope for failures in support provision identified by the NRM review, but highlighted by many NGOs and the Council of Europe GRETA report a long time before the NRM review took place.

Flexibility to respond to changing circumstances is important, but it must not come at the cost of meeting our international obligations and ensuring that all victims receive the support they are entitled to and at a proper standard. I welcome the inclusion of Clause 50 in the Bill and very much hope that, before too long, we will see the introduction of regulations that Clause 50 enables. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, has said, during Report I was one of those who asked the Minister whether he would consider incorporating something into the regulations under Clause 50. Specifically, I asked if he might look at adding,

“key elements ensuring consistency in standards of care”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1681.]

Amendment 2 would provide the necessary direction to ensure that the regulations promote that consistency. I am particularly interested to hear from the Minister why he does not believe it valuable to add such elements to Clause 50. If, as I suspect it might, the Minister’s answer points to the guidance in Clause 49, perhaps he could indicate why that clause similarly contains no details about the international reference points for the guidance or even that the guidance should cover the elements of providing support set out in Amendment 2—that is, the types of support, the manner and circumstances in which support is provided and provisions for monitoring support.

As the noble Lord, Lord McColl, noted, the requirements for the regulations about independent child trafficking advocates are far more specific about what needs to be covered, than either the reference to guidance in Clause 49 or the regulations in Clause 50.

I would also like to ask the Minister how the Government intend to ensure consistent standards in victim care provision without reference to them in the

4 Mar 2015 : Column 226

Bill. For example, can he give details of the minimum standards to which the care providers will be held, and the inspections referred to by him on Report? Will he also indicate whether—and, if so, where—those minimum standards of care have been published? At the end of this remarkable landmark Bill, I am still very disappointed that the Government have not introduced amendments on this matter. I very much look forward to the Minister’s comments.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, it is not just trafficked people who need physical, psychological and social support when they arrive here; the same is true of many asylum seekers who have experienced torture, rape and imprisonment as well as arduous journeys to get here. Many Members of both Houses have pointed this out on successive immigration and asylum Bills. However, I am not sure that the Home Office yet fully reflects these points in its day-to-day practice, particularly as regards women asylum applicants. I strongly support the amendment.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, the points made in this amendment seem to me of considerable importance. However, if the Minister could go back to his department and be reasonably certain that these aspects will be reflected in the regulations, it would not be necessary to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Rosser (Lab): I will make a few brief comments, largely in line with the views that have already been expressed. A number of noble Lords have already referred to the Minister’s comment on Report that the government amendments would,

“allow for regulations to be made about accommodation, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining healthcare … the provision of information, and translation and interpretation services where a person is a victim of modern slavery or there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1684.]

However, the indications that the Minister gave about what could be included in regulations did not appear in the enabling clause and are not in the Bill. That is precisely the point that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, made.

I assume that the Minister does not intend to accept the amendment—I think that he would already have indicated if it was his intention to do so. However, as has been pointed out, we are facing the prospect that victims of trafficking in England and Wales will have fewer statutory rights than victims in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where statutory support services are set out in detail in the relevant legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, said, the purpose of his amendment is to provide clarity at least about the fundamental principles of support.

I ask the Minister only to give a helpful response to the amendment. He has been asked in particular to commit to the various issues that he said the regulations could cover. Will he stand up now and say that they are not, in that sense, meaningless words and that the regulations will cover the specific issues to which he referred when he spoke on Report? Ideally, noble Lords would like to see this in the Bill—but if the Minister is not able to agree to that, I hope that he might at least be able to say something rather firmer that will leave people with a very clear view that these issues most certainly will be in the regulations when they come out.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 227

4 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, I will be able to say something further on the record today, which I hope will go some way towards reassuring my noble friend and other noble Lords on this important matter.

It might be helpful for the House to reflect on where we have come on this particular part of the Bill’s journey, which relates to identification and support. We had Jeremy Oppenheim’s review of the NRM, which was widely welcomed and appreciated on all sides of the House. It is important to remember that Jeremy Oppenheim stopped short of suggesting that there ought to be a statutory footing for this. He said that he felt that would take away from the flexibility of tailoring support to the needs of potential victims. He argued that it would be better not to put it on a statutory footing. We had that debate in Committee, with the very helpful support of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee, as I recall.

We then came forward with this enabling clause to say that we could enable the Government to bring forward regulations under the Bill. We then said that we would ensure that the services are working as effectively as possible and that we would have two pilot schemes, which will be set up in the next few weeks. They will test out the recommendations that have been put forward on identification and care in the Oppenheim review, along with other recommendations that have been made. We then said that, following those pilots, the guidance that will be produced will be subject to a public consultation.

I am going to some length to spell this out because someone looking at this amendment in isolation might think that the subject matter we are talking about, namely what services and care we provide to the victims of these crimes and how, which is of fundamental importance, is not stated anywhere—that it is somehow in the ether. The point I made in the past, and which I will make again, is that Her Majesty’s Government currently comply with all our international obligations under the EU directives and the convention. All we are talking about in this clause is what more we will do to go even further than our obligations require us to do. The idea that we are somehow going to drop below that threshold is simply not there.

When it comes to the amendment, we have some very specific difficulties with one or two of its provisions. I say to my noble friend, who has played such a pivotal role in bringing this legislation forward, that this has not been passed off lightly. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the words which I used at Report and then asked whether the Government would be bringing forward their own amendment in respect of this. We have gone through this painstakingly to see whether we can do this, but we feel that to do so would be effectively to prejudge all the very good stages of consultation, pilots and testing which we have put in place. That is the only reason why we are not in a position to support the amendment in its current form. However, I want to put some additional remarks on the record and to answer the very clear questions which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, so I will seek to do that.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 228

The quality of identification and support for victims is a critical issue. As I have said before, the victim is at the heart of the Government’s approach to tackling modern slavery. Given the importance of ensuring appropriate assistance and support for victims, I entirely understand the sentiment behind this amendment and I believe I can put on the record some remarks today which will give the noble Lord and the House reassurance on this issue. The Government are fully committed to meeting our international obligations in respect of support for victims. In fact, we provide more than the minimum set out in our international obligations. I want to be clear about the intention of the new enabling power in respect of identifying and supporting victims which is that any regulations made under this clause will be fully in line with our international obligations.

The amendment also raises the important issue of the monitoring and auditing of standards of care, which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, mentioned. Standards of care are integral to the victim care contract and the lead contractor—currently the Salvation Army—will ensure that it and any subcontractor comply with the requirements set out in the contract. These include safe accommodation, access to interpretation services, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me to repeat, and all other international obligations relating to support provisions. All service providers must be registered with the Care Quality Commission, which monitors, inspects and regulates care services to ensure that they provide people with safe, effective and high-quality care based on their needs and encourages providers to make improvements.

We want to see further improvements in identification and support of victims. That is why we are piloting the transformational recommendations of the national referral mechanism review to ensure that we get it right. It is also why we have committed to a formal public consultation to develop statutory guidance, under Clause 49, on victim identification and support. This will ensure that non-governmental organisations and others with expertise can help the Government to further improve the identification and support of victims.

I have some specific concerns. Given the period of major change that the NRM is currently going through, I would caution against specifying what the regulations must contain before the results of the pilots and the consultation on the guidance have helped us to frame future regulations. I also have concerns about the potential implications of the wording of the amendment, which could, for example, arguably conflict with the UK’s current policy of providing discretionary leave to victims where they are supporting a police investigation under our international obligations.

The regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure, so Parliament will have an opportunity to comment on them before they are passed. Given that we have already come a long way on the issue by including an enabling power in the Bill and given the assurances I have provided about our international obligations, I ask my noble friend to reflect further on his amendment.

I will just deal with a couple of other issues. The first one is the point made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who asked whether the

4 Mar 2015 : Column 229

regulations will include information about our international obligations. The answer is, yes, the regulations will include the international obligations we have discussed, including the type of victim support set out in the Council of Europe conventions. To distil this down to a fine point, which my noble friend was eager to ensure: when the guidance comes forward in statutory form, will it spell out what is going to be provided? I can say unequivocally that the answer to that is yes. That is reinforced on page 62 of the

Modern Slavery Strategy

document. It is further cross-referenced in the NRM review, which on page 38 makes many recommendations about the nature of the identification and support which should be given for this. The Government have stated categorically that we support in principle all the recommendations which have been made in the NRM review.

I am grateful to my noble friend for seeking those reassurances. I hope that he will see that we have been genuine in our desire to find a way in which we can address his concerns. We have not been able to do it by accepting this amendment, but I hope that the additional words which I have been able to put on the record from the Dispatch Box today will give him the reassurance he seeks and enable him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, not only on this occasion but over many months. I thank the Minister for coming some way to allay our worries. I am very grateful to him for all the trouble he has taken and for the very gracious way in which he has coped with the conduct of this Bill. I thank him very much and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Clause 54: Transparency in supply chains etc

Amendment 3

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

3: Clause 54, page 42, line 44, at end insert—

“(11A) The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint an organisation or an individual to collate slavery and human trafficking statements, and to maintain a website on which to publish those statements in a form in which the published data is searchable by members of the public without charge.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in introducing Amendments 3 and 6 to Clauses 54 and 57, which are based on Amendments 97A, 98A and 99A which we discussed on Report, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for adding their names and to other noble Lords in all parts of the House for the support they have expressed for the principles in these amendments at all stages, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on the government Benches, and my noble friend Lord Sandwich, who spoke at earlier stages of the Bill on the issues raised in these amendments.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 230

I start by reiterating the welcome I gave in Committee and on Report for Part 6, which is undoubtedly a major step forward in ensuring that supply chains are not being infiltrated by modern slavery. I return to the issue that I raised at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report and, indeed, through public correspondence in the correspondence columns of the Times. Noble Lords may have seen some of the letters that were signed by several Members of your Lordships’ House. At every stage of our proceedings when I have raised the issue, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been most attentive and very generous with his time in listening to suggestions on how this part of the Bill might be improved and strengthened. I join others in echoing the remarks made on the previous group of amendments by the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who said how grateful we have all been for the way in which the Minister has engaged. I hope that we will see that again today when he comes to respond to these amendments, although I recognise that the way in which government works may well mean that he has perhaps not been able to gain the support of other arms of government. In those circumstances, only Parliament itself can make the decision, make the pace and ensure that if it believes that the principles in this amendment are worth incorporating, that is done.

These two amendments would allow, through regulation, for a central website to be established on which the slavery reports of businesses may be lodged. This has not only been supported by noble Lords; it has been consistently asked for by civil society groups, which have so much experience of working with businesses on supply chains. I was delighted to receive support from Amnesty International UK, Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, the CORE coalition, Dalit Freedom Network UK, the Evangelical Alliance, Focus on Labour Exploitation, the Law Society, Quakers in Britain, Traidcraft, Unseen and War on Want. I am also grateful for the letter I received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported the principles outlined in the earlier Amendment 99A and reflected in the amendment today.

4.15 pm

Without the incorporation of a central repository for slavery and human trafficking statements, the role that the Minister outlined on Report for civil society, investors, consumers and other agencies in holding big business to account would be very difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to fulfil. Just reflect for a moment on the substantial obstacles to accessing annual turnover information that indicates the companies that fall within the compliance threshold, let alone the vast number of different websites that would have to be trawled through, and it is patently obvious why a central repository must be established.

The successful basis of any measure intended to increase transparency is the ability of the public to access information, and as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby said last week on Report,

“the modern tool for transparency is the website”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1741.]

Doubts were expressed on Report about whether the proposal for a central website enjoys the full support of Kevin Hyland, the designate Independent Anti-slavery

4 Mar 2015 : Column 231

Commissioner. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that, since Report, Mr Hyland has written me. These are his words:

“I can confirm I fully support the suggestion of a website as the central repository for reports as suggested by yourself and other noble Lords”.

He adds that without such a site and adequate resourcing of it,

“it will be unlikely to achieve the objective”,

but the creation of such a,

“repository with the right resource would, I believe, make a very positive difference”.

On Report, I also cited the highly responsible companies, some of which I met. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and I met Primark. We also heard from Associated British Foods, and I know that some of your Lordships have heard from Sir Richard Branson and businessmen such as John Studzinski of Blackstone, who have argued for more transparency and equitable arrangements, so this is not a trivial matter. If we are serious about supply chains and tackling modern day slavery at source, our new commissioner says that this will “make a positive difference”, and I believe he is right.

Experience from overseas supports this judgment. Many noble Lords have been contacted by some of the groups involved in the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. They urge us to learn from their experience that people need to know which companies are required to comply with the law and that an official website to which companies upload their reports will be beneficial.

In a letter to the Minister, the Californian organisation Not For Sale said that the failure in California to create a centralised repository has made it,

“difficult to know which companies need to comply with the law, and which do not”.

In another letter, the Californian Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking say that the failure to make a provision of this sort has weakened the effectiveness of their legislation. Let us not make the same mistake.

On Monday this week, British church leaders also expressed their support for this provision, and 11 of them signed a letter in the Daily Telegraph urging the Government to incorporate into this Bill the principle of a central body to which businesses can report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains. Yesterday I was contacted by the Ethical Trading Initiative to express its support for this measure in general and for a central website in particular, which it regards as essential to achieving a level playing field. As noble Lords will be aware, the initiative is a coalition of major UK companies, trade unions and non-governmental organisations, including many familiar high street names that would be required to comply with this measure. It is worth hearing what they say:

“We would like to express our strong support for Clause 54 to ensure that a relevant government department or agency is appointed and resourced to publish a full list of all companies that are required to publish their statements on modern slavery in an accessible central website so that effective monitoring and accountability can be assured. We believe this would go a long way to levelling the playing field for ethical and responsible businesses, ensuring that they are not undercut by unscrupulous companies that operate under the radar of public scrutiny. We would

4 Mar 2015 : Column 232

also like to know that this will be monitored and updated regularly and that the quality of information provided by companies is evaluated against established criteria”.

To this long list of supporters I would like to add the Minister himself, as on Report he accepted the principle, saying that,

“we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[

Official Report

, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]

However, sometimes, as we all know, Ministers, however good they are—and we have been fortunate in having one of the very best Ministers in the Government dealing with this Bill—are circumscribed by the limitations imposed by other departments whose officials may have other priorities. On such occasions, Parliament may need to insist on its own priorities, and we have a chance to do that today.

In conclusion, these amendments have attracted widespread support. They are necessary to enable full and meaningful public scrutiny under the transparency measure, and they will allow time for detailed questions on the resourcing and practicalities to be fully discussed before the regulations are made. I beg to move.

Baroness Kennedy of Cradley (Lab): My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 3 and 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, to which I have added my name. I very much hope that they will get the Government’s support today, as there is much on which we all agree regarding this issue. There is agreement across the House that civil society is critical to the success of this part of the Bill, and there is agreement that we expect civil society to review the statements and add pressure where pressure is due. We want the amendments—we need them, even—in order to be able to scrutinise, analyse, and where necessary challenge, business; and, importantly, to praise businesses for the steps they take to eradicate slavery in their supply chains. If we want businesses to fulfil that role, we need to facilitate their doing so, and Amendments 3 and 6 would do that.

I have seen calculations that estimate that if the threshold figure of more than £60 million is used, more than 10,000 businesses will be obliged to produce a statement. If that is the case, it is absolutely inconceivable that civil society, businesses, which want to learn from each other, or indeed the Government, who want to ensure compliance with their legislation, will be able to review 10,000 statements without the use of technology. Technology gives us the power to access information and bring about real change, which is the intention behind this part of the Bill and behind the statements. Let technology do the hard administrative work and be the engine that really drives forward supply chain transparency. Those involved in the California Act recognised that there was a gap in their legislation. We should listen and learn from their experience and not repeat their mistakes. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, said, this is an enabling amendment that allows the technology and the responsible organisation or individual in the future to be decided by regulation.

In conclusion, we have to harness the power that technology can give us to increase transparent supply chains and drive change. I hope that the Government will support the amendment.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 233

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I support these amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his leadership. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, about websites and technology.

I have had the privilege of being in conversation with the Minister about the importance of this legislation and what we are trying to achieve for our country as a mark to the world: that is, helping business to develop and change its culture, and to take responsibility for good practice. Of course, the discipline of using a website will enable businesses to be accountable to their investors, their consumers and their shareholders in a transparent and open space. That will encourage good business practice and help the businesses that have fallen short to be challenged. Therefore, this very sensible and practical suggestion will not only help the Bill to achieve its objectives but will help the culture of business to change in a positive way and make the employment of people in slavery less likely.

I want to make a couple of other small points. Amendment 3 includes the word “may”. Therefore, it is inviting the Minister to agree to this direction of travel as a priority to deliver what we all want to achieve through the Bill. This has been a long journey and we have learnt a great deal on it. As other noble Lords have said, we have been extremely grateful for the way in which the Minister has listened, negotiated and developed the Bill appropriately when persuasion has been there. I think that that process will go on. The website will provide for learning to go on and, with practice, to develop.

My final point is that last week, in talking about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, we were reminded that organisations like that were able to access proceeds of crime to help fund the work. If we need to find a way of funding a website, which could be quite labour-intensive in answering all the niggly questions to which people expect a reply, the proceeds of crime might be a proper place from which resourcing might be found.

Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Alton. The Minister has referred several times to the California Act during the passage of this Bill. In both Houses it has often been cited as a sort of reference point or a benchmark. We should learn from that experience. As has already been said, the Californians are saying that this is the one aspect that they regret having missed out on. They see the work embodied in the two amendments as an essential tool. The essence of this part of the Bill is transparency. We cannot have full transparency without information and knowledge.

As I said at earlier stages, many young people in particular, in the wake of disasters in the clothing industry such as Rana Plaza, are keen to know about the provenance of their clothing. As my noble friend Lord Alton has already noted, the internet is a key tool, and many young people—and some older people, too—use social media to communicate about companies they see as not upholding their values. Pressure from consumers is something that the Government have said they are keen on. It is a way of holding businesses to account and a way of ensuring that they think about their reputations and how to protect them.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 234

Therefore, consumers have some power. However, while I argue that it is not solely down to consumers to keep a check on unscrupulous businesses, I accept that they have a role to play. Without the requisite knowledge and information it is hard to play any kind of role at all.

How could such a role be played without the kind of centralised information, the potential for which this amendment allows the Secretary of State to explore? Who, apart from specialist researchers, would even know which companies met the threshold for inclusion under the Bill, let alone find the required statements from those companies that would enable them to make their choices? I wish we could say that all companies are so concerned about reputational damage that they act in ethical and sustainable ways, but unfortunately they do not. That is one of the reasons why we need the Bill. Good businesses have said that transparency is an aid for them, not a burden. Given the widespread support for this measure in the House, from business, NGOs and, indeed consumers, I hope that the Minister, who, as everybody has said, has been so helpful in not just listening to what we have had to say but in acting on so many of the concerns expressed here and elsewhere, will take this opportunity to respond positively to the amendment and help the Government to become genuine world leaders on this aspect of the Bill.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I strongly support Part 6 of the Bill but, as the Minister knows very well, there is quite a big gap. If businesses are to produce reports, there is no point in having them if they are looked at only by their own people. They need to be subject to independent and transparent scrutiny. That has to go somewhere. It seems absolutely clear that there has to be a central, independent website.

During the Select Committee, a number of big businesses came to talk to us and made it clear that they wanted level playing fields. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I have been talking to big businesses recently which are very interested in and supportive of the idea of a website. I actually suggested to two big businesses to which I spoke—I will not refer to them by name because it would be unfair—that they, with other big businesses in the UK, might put forward the money to put up a website. So it would be not a government website but an independent one, and the businesses that want a level playing field should be prepared to pay for it. According to the sort of companies I have been talking to, it should be a very large sum of money.

4.30 pm

I see this as something that might take some time, and the ethical trading organisation is one that it might very well work through, because it is involved with so many companies. It may be sensible for the Government to say, “Would you like to get big business?”. My idea was not thrown out as absolutely ridiculous. What companies were saying to me was, “We have to think about it”. So I am very aware that this would take some time, but it is important that, within a relatively short time, we have that transparency so that the companies which will be part of this system can have their reports scrutinised.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 235

It seems to me that, if the Government are prepared to accept in principle that they should look at a website —and, preferably, get someone else to pay for it—and they think in principle that this is what should happen, it should not be necessary to have it in primary legislation. It should be either by regulation or set up through government agencies or by government pressure on independent companies. So I support the principle and very much hope that it is not necessary to take this further.

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, I declare an interest as the ex-vice-chair of the Ethical Trading Initiative. I have spent a good few years of my life discussing with companies, trade unions and NGOs the complexities of supply chains. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke of the positive endorsement of the Ethical Trading Initiative, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively.

Although I agree with most of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, I did not quite agree with the conclusion. It is a principle that is worth including in the Bill because we have to recognise that all these companies are on a journey. The complexities of global supply chains, which stretch far and wide, are not easy to monitor by any means. We know what happens when it goes wrong, as we saw in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. That is just one example of many. There are lots of other examples where, unfortunately, bonded labour and child labour exist in supply chains. There is cross-party support for this amendment and there is absolutely no doubt about its importance. I, too, congratulate the Minister, who has displayed good diplomacy and a willingness to help to ensure that we make this Bill as strong and as effective as we can. This is a key part of the effectiveness of the Bill.

Surely what we are hoping to do in creating a website like this is “encourager les autres”, as they say— my French is not very good but it means to encourage the others. We want people to say, “Here are the examples of best practice. Here is what every company ought to be aspiring to do”.

I will not take up any further time because so many, such as my noble friend behind me, have made all the key technical points. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): I certainly took from the Minister’s long and careful response to the amendments on this clause at the previous stage that he entirely took the points that are being made today. He said that all of us are willing and keen to accept the principle that the statements ought to be put in one place and made easily searchable and identifiable. I take it from that and from other comments that this is something that the Government are working on.

The Minister then mentioned a two-day tech-camp. Frankly, that sounds terrifying, but I wonder whether he has any news of that. He issued a generous invitation to Members of the House to attend it. I am not sure whether I would be up to it myself, but it sounds as though it holds the seeds for taking this matter forward and I hope that he can give us a little more news.

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, Third Reading is an occasion for tributes and I hope that the Minister is not too embarrassed to receive all these tributes.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 236

He has worked very passionately on the Bill and I congratulate him. We are asking a very small step of the Minister today. I mentioned this before. It was a small step then and remains small, although, even so, it may be the biggest step that he takes today.

My noble friend has put all the arguments so succinctly that I will not rehearse them. I add only one particular point, which is that I personally would not like to see the voluntary sector carrying the load of this responsibility. The way that the amendment is worded is very gentle. It states:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations appoint”.

It does not actually say that it has to be a government agency. That is the interesting thing about the amendment—it takes us just a very small step further.

I mentioned to the Minister at a private meeting that the situation of the groceries adjudicator may be a parallel to look at, but I would not want to wait for consultation. I do not agree with my noble and learned friend that we have to wait longer for that. I think that the House will decide today in favour of the amendment unless the Minister has something else.

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I, too, add my name in support of the noble Lord’s amendment, which I believe will be helpful to both businesses and consumers. I am particularly pleased to note that the business community, through the Ethical Trading Initiative, has expressed its support. I echo what it said about the need for a level playing field. I am proud of what we have achieved on the Bill and I am committed to the journey that we have begun, so I very much hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept the amendment.

Lord Rosser: I will make one or two brief comments. I certainly do not want to repeat all the powerful arguments that have been put forward in support of these two amendments. But to reiterate what the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said a moment or two ago, this is an enabling power for the Secretary of State. The amendment states “may by regulations”. It does not say “must”, and it does not specify who should be appointed. It simply says,

“appoint an organisation or an individual”.

I would have hoped that the Minister would feel able to go down this road, since it does not make a very specific commitment but it gives a positive indication of the direction in which we should be going.

It is heartening to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, that Mr Hyland is in favour of what is proposed in the amendment and has described it as being “able to make a positive difference”. I think that that was the wording that was used. I would only conclude by reiterating what the Minister himself said on Report. He said:

“I think it is more important to get the principle there—that we are saying, with all these statements coming together, that clearly they need to be in one place. Whether that is civil society, an NGO, a commissioner or a government body is something that can be sorted out. But the principle is that we want to see these statements in one place so that people can monitor and evaluate them to ensure that the intended action takes place”.—[Official Report, 25/2/15; col. 1750.]

I really cannot see the difficulty with this amendment, since it achieves precisely the thing that the Minister said that he and the Government want to achieve.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 237

Lord Bates: First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton —I think I want to thank him—for his amendment. In essence, it is like a number of these things. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, accurately surmised, we are more or less on the same page. The question is: do we at this stage want to have this written on the page, or do we want to leave it to something that we will come to a little later?

I sometimes get the sense—it might just be the Whip’s instinct in me—that people are preparing to take a run at testing the opinion of the House and they are galloping up the runway. I urge the noble Lord to bear with me a little while, while I try to set out what we are doing. I am putting on the record some things which I have not been able to put on the record before, but I am seeking to go further. I just ask him to keep an open mind as to whether at the end of this stage I have managed to convince him that, should he choose to withdraw, he will be withdrawing further down the path to where we all want to be at the end.

One of the key elements that we have here is another consultation going on at present about these very things. It is worth mentioning, because I genuinely want to flag it up and say that NGOs, companies and organisations —the Ethical Trading Initiative—would be people whom we would want to engage actively with this consultation, which was a concession; it was something which we said we would do in response to concerns raised in your Lordships’ House. We launched the consultation and it is open until 7 May. Question 13 on the consultation specifically asks:

“What would good practice look like … ?”.

When we deal with the publication of these statements, we hope that all the comments made here will be taken into that consultation, as well as the remarks which have been made about people who have been arguing passionately about this long before the clause was in the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, led a very constructive debate on supply chains when the clause was not even a twinkle in the Home Office eye at that stage. It is in the Bill now and we are talking about how to make it work.

Much as I love the state of California, I find it an astounding gap that the home of Silicon Valley could not fathom out a way to create a website to consolidate all these statements in one place and make it easily searchable. That is a bit of a concern. One would think there would be lots of local companies—without naming any—which might be perfectly capable of doing that.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked me to report back on what had happened to the tech camp. It is actually just finishing and it is another element that I want to put in here. It was an initiative put forward by the Home Office in response to the precise question that the noble Lord put in his amendment. We set up the tech camp with the Home Office, Unseen, a charity which works with many trafficked people, and Deloitte consulting, which does a lot of work in the technology field. They have had two days looking at what solutions might exist in technology to enable this collation to take place very effectively. I cannot provide a read-out from the tech camp because it is meant to finish about now in St Paul’s in the City, although given that they are technical whizz-kids they probably clocked

4 Mar 2015 : Column 238

off a couple of hours ago. I certainly undertake to give noble Lords a read-out from that important gathering.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for soliciting from Kevin Hyland the commitment of support that he has given. That is helpful. He is the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner-designate, and we cannot therefore direct him to do things, but he is suggesting he might have a role. Of course the point here is that everybody is in principle in favour of doing this, but not until they know what will be involved. A key point, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, is where the threshold is drawn for how many companies we will be talking about. Will it be tens of thousands or thousands? How many will we be dealing with? That will obviously impact on people’s views.

4.45 pm

I will put some comments on the record that I hope will help. It is important that we focus on the problem we are trying to solve—finding the best way for people to find and compare statements, whether that involves a central website or not. As we all know, technology is constantly evolving, improving and finding new solutions to old problems. As such, I am not yet convinced that a centrally controlled website established by legislation—the point the noble and learned Baroness made—would represent the most dynamic or effective way of increasing transparency and solving this problem in the long term.

For example, it might be that some kind of search engine or online comparison tool provides a more efficient means of finding and comparing statements. Internet platforms that draw information straight from the companies’ home websites would mean that the information could be verified more easily and that businesses could ensure that it was always up to date. The last thing we want is misinformation circulating about businesses on a second website, or an expensive and time-consuming process of validation to ensure that false or out-of-date statements are not being uploaded to a central website.

I ask my noble friend to record in particular that this is not to rule out a central website. I just think we should keep an open mind about how best to provide this service to investors, campaigners and the general public. To that end, we are taking action. Even since last week, in response to contributions, we have had the tech camp. As I explained on Report last week, this two-day event has brought together a number of different NGOs and technology companies. We are using this opportunity to talk directly to technology companies and to some of the businesses that will be producing these statements to determine the best options. I am pleased to say that discussions have already highlighted a number of interesting ideas which we want to pursue with the businesses as quickly as we can. These developments are really promising but simply do not require a legislative basis.

I reassure the noble Lord that the Government will be behind an effective solution to this issue, making sure it is easy to compare statements and working with partners to facilitate the true transparency that we all want. We can use the statutory guidance to tackle any steps needed to facilitate a solution and ensure that statements are as freely and as widely available as

4 Mar 2015 : Column 239

possible. Doing this through guidance will mean that we can regularly update and refresh it to reflect technological change and ensure our best practice recommendations stay alive to future innovation.

As the House knows, we are currently consulting on that guidance, as I already mentioned. Although I entirely appreciate the sentiment behind the amendment, it does not take us any further than the powers that are already there for the Home Secretary, once this Bill is passed. Additionally, the Home Secretary can, if she wishes, allocate funds and appoint administratively a person within the Home Office to run a central website if that proves to be the right solution. The Home Secretary could also support, financially, an NGO or other external provider to provide a website, through providing technical support, funding or referring to it in the statutory guidance.

These debates have helped to ensure that the Government are focused on working with NGOs and businesses to develop an effective solution. The amendment does not provide for placing any new duties on businesses, so it would add nothing substantive to the Bill. Given the comments I have made about the capability that the Home Secretary has, the ongoing consultation and my clear statements on behalf of the Government expressing a desire to see these collected in one place, I ask whether this might be the reassurance that the noble Lord seeks, enabling him to withdraw his amendment and work with us to ensure that we bring this important innovation to fruition.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the way he has addressed the issue. Whatever the outcome today, I will of course work with him, as I have done all the way through on this issue as we have considered these proceedings. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, gave us part of an old French saying about encouraging others. I think the first part of that saying is that you should shoot a few admirals to encourage the others—certain noble Lords are not here at the moment, so nobody will take that personally.

It is certainly not my desire that we should shoot this Minister—indeed any Minister, but not this one in particular. As I said in my opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has been exemplary in the way that he has dealt with the House throughout all our proceedings. He is a fine example to other Ministers in piloting legislation through your Lordships’ House. He has offered us today a consultation which is under way, the “tech camp”, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to earlier—which is welcome—and more guidance. In a way, at the end, he pointed to the difference that stands between us: whether something should be in the Bill—a point alluded to by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss—or whether it should be purely discretionary. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, pointed out, this is actually a discretionary amendment, because it allows for regulation and says, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, “may” not “must”. It will be there for the Secretary of State to use. Therefore it is not prescriptive in any great sense.

The noble Lord has told us that we should wait for a consultation, but I cannot think of an organisation—and I cited many in my opening remarks—that we would

4 Mar 2015 : Column 240

consult about this proposal that has not already come out in favour of a central repository which should be available to prevent people from having to trawl across the internet to find individual companies. How on earth is anybody going to do that? Who will know who makes the threshold required in this legislation and who does not?

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and my noble friend Lady Young said that we should learn from experience. The Californian experience has been cited here. If only they had their time again. It is not about the inability of people in Silicon Valley, as the Minister said, to construct a website. It is quite the reverse. It was the failure of legislators to place a requirement in their legislation that such a central website should be provided, so there would be a repository where everyone meeting the threshold would have to place an account of what they were doing to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking. There are moments when Parliament needs to help Ministers out and this is one of them. I therefore beg to test the opinion of the House.

4.53 pm

Division on Amendment 3

Contents 205; Not-Contents 232.

Amendment 3 disagreed.

Division No.  1


Aberdare, L.

Adams of Craigielea, B.

Ahmed, L.

Allen of Kensington, L.

Alli, L.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Armstrong of Hill Top, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Beecham, L.

Berkeley, L.

Best, L.

Bichard, L.

Billingham, B.

Blackstone, B.

Boateng, L.

Boothroyd, B.

Borrie, L.

Bradley, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Canterbury, Abp.

Carter of Coles, L.

Cashman, L.

Chandos, V.

Chester, Bp.

Clancarty, E.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Cohen of Pimlico, B.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Condon, L.

Coussins, B.

Cox, B.

Crawley, B.

Cromwell, L.

Darzi of Denham, L.

Davies of Abersoch, L.

Davies of Coity, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Dear, L.

Deech, B.

Derby, Bp.

Desai, L.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Drake, B.

Dubs, L.

Elder, L.

Elis-Thomas, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Erroll, E.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Evans of Watford, L.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Filkin, L.

Finlay of Llandaff, B.

Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Giddens, L.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Greenway, L.

Grey-Thompson, B.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 241

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hanworth, V.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haskel, L.

Haworth, L.

Hay of Ballyore, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hennessy of Nympsfield, L.

Hollick, L.

Hollins, B.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Chesterton, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Hylton, L. [Teller]

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jones, L.

Jones of Birmingham, L.

Jones of Moulsecoomb, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kerr of Kinlochard, L.

Kinnock, L.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Lawrence of Clarendon, B.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Leitch, L.

Lipsey, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Lytton, E.

McAvoy, L.

McCluskey, L.

Macdonald of Tradeston, L.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Maginnis of Drumglass, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Mar, C.

Masham of Ilton, B.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Meacher, B.

Mendelsohn, L.

Monks, L.

Montgomery of Alamein, V.

Morgan, L.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan of Huyton, B.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

Nye, B.

Pannick, L.

Patel, L.

Patel of Blackburn, L.

Patel of Bradford, L.

Pendry, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prescott, L.

Prosser, B.

Quin, B.

Quirk, L.

Radice, L.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Ramsbotham, L.

Rea, L.

Rebuck, B.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Richard, L.

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowe-Beddoe, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

St John of Bletso, L.

Sandwich, E. [Teller]

Sawyer, L.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Singh of Wimbledon, L.

Slim, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Gilmorehill, B.

Soley, L.

Stern, B.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Temple-Morris, L.

Tenby, V.

Thornton, B.

Tomlinson, L.

Touhig, L.

Truscott, L.

Tunnicliffe, L.

Turnberg, L.

Turner of Camden, B.

Uddin, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Walpole, L.

Warnock, B.

West of Spithead, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Wood of Anfield, L.

Woolf, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Young of Hornsey, B.

Young of Norwood Green, L.


Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Alderdice, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B.

Arran, E.

Ashcroft, L.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Balfe, L.

Bamford, L.

Barker, B.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 242

Bates, L.

Berridge, B.

Bew, L.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Blencathra, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Borwick, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brinton, B.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Butler-Sloss, B.

Byford, B.

Caithness, E.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Chadlington, L.

Chidgey, L.

Chisholm of Owlpen, B.

Clement-Jones, L.

Colville of Culross, V.

Colwyn, L.

Cooper of Windrush, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

Cotter, L.

Courtown, E.

Craig of Radley, L.

Craigavon, V.

Crathorne, L.

Crickhowell, L.

Cumberlege, B.

Dannatt, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dholakia, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Dykes, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eden of Winton, L.

Elton, L.

Empey, L.

Evans of Bowes Park, B.

Falkland, V.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Farmer, L.

Faulks, L.

Feldman of Elstree, L.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fink, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Fowler, L.

Fox, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freeman, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Glentoran, L.

Goddard of Stockport, L.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Greengross, B.

Grender, B.

Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Harris of Peckham, L.

Helic, B.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Home, E.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe, E.

Howe of Aberavon, L.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hurd of Westwell, L.

Hussain, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Inglewood, L.

James of Blackheath, L.

Janke, B.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Kakkar, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Knight of Collingtree, B.

Kramer, B.

Laming, L.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Lee of Trafford, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lexden, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Linklater of Butterstone, B.

Liverpool, E.

Loomba, L.

Lothian, M.

Luce, L.

Ludford, B.

Luke, L.

Lyell, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

Mackay of Clashfern, L.

Maclennan of Rogart, L.

McNally, L.

Maddock, B.

Mancroft, L.

Manzoor, B.

Marks of Henley-on-Thames, L.

Marland, L.

Marlesford, L.

Montrose, D.

Moore of Lower Marsh, L.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Naseby, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Northbrook, L.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

Oxford and Asquith, E.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Palumbo, L.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 243

Perry of Southwark, B.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Popat, L.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Randerson, B.

Rawlings, B.

Razzall, L.

Redesdale, L.

Rennard, L.

Ribeiro, L.

Ridley, V.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Rogan, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Scriven, L.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Sharples, B.

Shephard of Northwold, B.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shields, B.

Shipley, L.

Shrewsbury, E.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Smith of Clifton, L.

Smith of Newnham, B.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Steel of Aikwood, L.

Stephen, L.

Stewartby, L.

Stirrup, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Storey, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Strathclyde, L.

Suri, L.

Sutherland of Houndwood, L.

Suttie, B.

Taylor of Goss Moor, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L. [Teller]

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Thomas of Winchester, B.

Tonge, B.

Tope, L.

Trefgarne, L.

True, L.

Tyler, L.

Tyler of Enfield, B.

Ullswater, V.

Verma, B.

Wakeham, L.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Wallace of Tankerness, L.

Walmsley, B.

Wei, L.

Wheatcroft, B.

Whitby, L.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Younger of Leckie, V.

5.08 pm

Amendment 4

Moved by Lord Bates

4: Before Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—

“Gangmasters Licensing Authority

The Secretary of State must—

(a) before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish a paper on the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and

(b) consult such representative bodies and other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate about the matters dealt with by that paper.”

Lord Bates: My Lords, this amendment inserts a new clause before Clause 55. I thank noble Lords for the excellent debates that we have had on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority during the passage of the Bill, as well as the important discussions that we had outside the Chamber ahead of Report. I welcome the support expressed in this House for the vital work undertaken by the GLA—the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, that is. It is obvious that there is a shared interest right across the House in increasing the GLA’s effectiveness and indeed that of all the agencies engaged in the fight against worker mistreatment.

On Report last week, I welcomed the spirit—no pun intended—of the proposal from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, which was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley. I highlight that my concerns about it were of a technical nature; as in the previous group, there is no difference over the principle that we want to see in the Bill. I said that I

4 Mar 2015 : Column 244

would look again at this before Third Reading, and I have done so; the government amendment reflects our revised thoughts on the issue. It commits the Government to publishing a consultation paper on the role and responsibilities of the GLA within one year of the Bill being passed. This amendment achieves several important things, including a full public consultation on the role of the GLA, which will be placed in the context of the wider landscape of organisations fighting worker mistreatment. It provides for an evidence-based approach to further improving the role of the GLA in tackling abuse of workers. In addition, this new clause places this commitment to a consultation in legislation, meaning that a future Government must live up to the commitments that have been made during the passage of this Bill and ensure there is an urgent focus on the work of the GLA at the start of the next Parliament.

I believe that a clause on the work of the GLA in this Bill reflects the concerns expressed through pre-legislative scrutiny, debates in another place and in this House. All through the passage of this Bill, there has been a common view that we need to focus on getting the role of the GLA right, and this amendment reflects that clearly in the Bill. Through this full public consultation, we will be able to take proper account of the activity of other organisations devoted to tackling serious crime and protecting workers and make sure that, in whatever we do, we avoid creating duplication and overlaps between agencies, thus avoiding wasting time and money which could be better used than in allowing the perpetrators of mistreatment of workers potentially to escape scrutiny. Preparatory work on the consultation document will start immediately so that it can be published as soon as possible in the next Parliament.

I know that some noble Lords have supported the idea of an enabling provision to allow extension of the GLA remit by secondary legislation. Our assessment is that would not achieve its main purpose of avoiding the need for further primary legislation should a decision be taken to extend the GLA remit. We have not, therefore, focused the government amendment in this area. Any significant change to the GLA would be likely to require both reform of the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 and substantive changes to wider primary legislation related to how the labour market is regulated, such as the Employment Agencies Act 1973. A focus on how the remit of the GLA is set out in legislation in isolation fails to consider the need to make sure that our legislation provide for a coherent enforcement landscape that can be used by the police, the National Crime Agency, HMRC, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and others.

I assure the House that the Government welcome and share the commitment expressed in this House to considering how best the GLA can tackle and punish those that abuse, coerce and mistreat their workers. Our proposal for a full and speedy public consultation reflects that commitment.

I add one other thing, on the subject of consultation. I know that we have had many consultations, but that in itself is part of the strategy. The more that we engage with organisations and individuals about different aspects of how this Bill is going to work in practice,

4 Mar 2015 : Column 245

the more awareness there will be of the problem and of the new, robust legislative landscape that is there to tackle this abuse. I hope that noble Lords will support this amendment to ensure a comprehensive consultation. Again, I particularly thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby for his work in this important area.

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I thank the Minister. This is another excellent example of listening, learning and working together and taking seriously what was said at Report. On Monday, I was privileged to be at the GLA national conference, which was in Derby, where the Minister, Karen Bradley, who I see is present, was the keynote speaker. I was privileged to speak, along with the new independent commissioner designate. The GLA is alive and well and thinking creatively, but it will be very important for it to use its expertise in a targeted way and negotiate how that expertise is employed alongside other inspectorates. I welcome this proposal.

At the event on Monday, there was the launch of an academy by Derby University in partnership with the GLA to help businesses to learn good practice at a professional benchmarked standard to enable them to comply with the spirit and direction of the Bill and for there to be proper professional training of those employed in businesses to administer supply chains and employment.

The GLA is fulfilling all the expectations that it raised with the Select Committee and Members of this House. It is very important that we undertake this work. I am grateful that the amendment contains the word “must” because it is important to do this scoping out and I thank the Minister for tabling it.

5.15 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I have no problem with the amendment but have picked up a concern that, although it is in line with much that has been done already, it possibly raises the whole question of the GLA. A future Government might come in and say, “We have had this consultation and perhaps the GLA is not the right way forward”. I do not know whether the Minister has heard that comment before but it would be helpful if he could give some reassurance on the record that this could not be a consequence of the consultation and this amendment.

Lord Rosser: The comment that I wanted to make was in line with that made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I appreciate that the Minister can talk only about the intentions of this Government and not those of a future Government. The amendment refers to publishing,

“a paper on the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority”.

Will the Minister assure us that the Government are not looking to extend the role of the GLA into other new and very different areas such as crime control or anything to do with border security, but that they will consider whether to extend its existing remit and resources to enable it to continue to fulfil the very successful role that it plays in labour inspection, enforcement and standards? There must surely be a need to concentrate

4 Mar 2015 : Column 246

on its core functions and perhaps extend the area in which it carries them out given that it is highly successful at achieving those core functions which are crucial in the fight against modern slavery.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for welcoming this amendment. I again thank him for his work in this area. In answer to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the consultation will look across all aspects of the GLA’s work and will consider how it can make an effective contribution to tackling worker exploitation through asking questions about how we can improve the way that it gathers and shares intelligence with other agencies and the way that it interacts with other agencies. The consultation will also examine possible changes to its enforcement activity and powers as well as to its licensing functions. Given that that is the intent, I certainly think that the scenarios outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, would not arise. We are talking about the mistreatment and exploitation of workers. The GLA performs excellently in its present role and we are seeking to ascertain whether, given this new piece of legislation, it can play a part in supporting the work of tackling exploitation. I hope that I have reassured the noble Earl.

Amendment 4 agreed.

Clause 57: Regulations

Amendment 5

Moved by Lord Bates

5: Clause 57, page 44, line 33, at end insert—

“( ) regulations under section 43(9) which contain the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3);”

Amendment 5 agreed.

Amendment 6 not moved.

Amendments 7 and 8

Moved by Lord Bates

7: Clause 57, page 45, line 7, at end insert “, or

(ii) the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3);”

8: Clause 57, page 45, line 22, at end insert “, or

(b) the provision mentioned in section 43(10) (modification of section 43 in its application to public authority added to Schedule 3).”

Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.


Moved by Lord Bates

That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Bates: My Lords, the new advice from the Procedure Committee is that it is at this stage, in moving that the Bill do now pass, that we make some traditional remarks marking the end of this stage. I want to take that opportunity.

To start naming particular individuals is perhaps invidious, since so many have engaged in this process.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 247

This has been a genuine cross-party effort. All sides of the House, including the Cross Benches, have played an incredibly important role. That also includes the Bishops’ Benches—they have played a very important role in shaping this legislation.

In all the legislation I have ever been involved in, this has perhaps been one of the most significant. Procedurally it has been one of the best for Parliament. I am delighted to see the Minister for Modern Slavery at the Bar of the House. It is appropriate that she is there. When the Bill was published it went through pre-legislative scrutiny. It was then republished. It was taken through a substantive series of Committee stages in the other place, where amendments were made. It then came to your Lordships’ House where it has been engaged with again. The amendment that I just passed, Amendment 8, was the 100th government amendment that we have made to the Bill in the House of Lords. That is a tribute not only to the deep passion that we all share on this issue, but to the thoroughness with which we have engaged.

From my point of view, I thank in particular my noble friend Lady Garden for her support through this process. I thank members of the Bill team, who have done such a tremendous job. We have put them through an incredible pace. The number of letters, bilateral meetings, interested Peers’ meetings and telephone calls that we have had has put a tremendous strain on them. I am very conscious of that, but they have performed their role perfectly in support of our discussions in your Lordships’ House.

I take great pride in this Bill. It was more than 200 years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, often refers to, that legislation abolishing slavery was passed by this House. It was this country that took a lead in the world to produce legislation to bring about that effect. What we have done in our work is of a similar magnitude and similarly groundbreaking. It needs to send a message to the victims that we are here and will provide them with support, and to those who are perpetrating this evil crime that there are powers, capabilities and institutions that are now on their case in tackling their inhumanity to other human beings. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Rosser: I thank the Minister for his very kind comments. I, too, add my appreciation for the work that both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, have done. I express my thanks to the members of the Bill team. Whether with 100 government amendments they ended up in a state of despair, I do not know, but if they did they never showed it and we are extremely grateful.

I also express appreciation from these Benches to all noble Lords who have taken part in our discussions, whether from a political party, the Cross Benches or the Bishops’ Bench. We have had numerous meetings which have all been extremely helpful. They have certainly all been extremely good-natured and conducted on all sides with a view to trying to resolve any differences of view and to come up with solutions that have been acceptable to us all. I also thank those organisations and individuals who have provided advice and briefings. I am sure we have found them all very useful and

4 Mar 2015 : Column 248

helpful. Whether or not we have always taken the road that the advice suggested is another matter, but we appreciated receiving it.

This Bill has been interesting because at heart it has not been a party-political issue. We have all been trying to achieve the same objective. We may have had slightly different views as to how that objective should be achieved, but nevertheless this Bill has avoided some of the rancour that can go with highly party-political issues. As the Minister has said, at the end of the day we have achieved real progress on behalf of the victims of modern slavery and I am sure this Bill and its terms will be much appreciated by all those concerned for what it will achieve.

The Minister said there had been 100 government amendments. They were obviously put down in part as a result of the patience, good nature and willingness to listen of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, which has been widely commented on in this House and widely appreciated. Of course, in so doing, the Minister has denied us the excitement and thrill of a number of votes, but in view of the outcome of the last one, perhaps that is just as well.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from the Liberal Democrat Benches I also thank all those who have already been mentioned. It is only so as not to be tedious that I will not go through the list again but my thanks are sincere.

This has been such a good example of how Parliament can work well across parties, with people of no parties and with organisations outside this House, as the noble Lord said. I have been particularly struck, which I am sure is in no small part thanks to the efforts of both Minsters present, that even at this last stage, with the last of the substantive amendments on the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Minister came forward with an amendment which he did not need to make. I do not think there would have been complaints. We would have taken the good faith of what he had said about the work that the Government were going to be doing on this. I know that he will agree that this is the end of the beginning rather than anything further, including at a personal level. I do not know whether the Bill team has counted up for him the number of commitments to extra meetings that he has made following the passing of what will soon be an Act but I know that we will all want to continue to be involved in making sure that the Bill, as implemented, fulfils its promises.

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I want to very briefly say from these Benches what a privilege it has been to participate. My colleague, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, had to get special permission for me to sit on the Select Committee. It has been a wonderful opportunity for the church to contribute and, through me, for the voluntary sector to be involved both with the crafting of the legislation and with working further afield on grass-roots responses and the wider cultural and learning changes that need to happen in our society. I also want to say a final “thank you” to the Minister whose leadership of this whole process has been exemplary, as other colleagues have said.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 249

Deregulation Bill

Deregulation Bill

Third Reading

5.30 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Deregulation Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Clause 1: Health and safety at work: general duty of self-employed persons

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

“( ) After subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) A description of undertaking included in regulations under subsection (2) may be framed by reference to—

(a) the type of activities carried out by the undertaking, where those activities are carried out or any other feature of the undertaking;

(b) whether persons who may be affected by the conduct of the undertaking, other than the self-employed person (or his employees), may thereby be exposed to risks to their health or safety.””

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a general duty on all self-employed persons to protect themselves and others from risks to their health and safety, regardless of the type of activity they are undertaking. Clause 1 limits the scope of Section 3(2) so that only those self-employed people who conduct an,

“undertaking of a prescribed description”,

will continue to have a duty under this provision.

A public consultation was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive during July and August 2014. A common concern was that regulations which prescribed only self-employed persons who conducted specified high-risk activities would not be fit for purpose. One of the key concerns expressed by respondents to the consultation was that this would lead to some self-employed persons who pose a risk to the health and safety of others falling exempt from the law. Following the commitment I provided to the House on Report, the Government have now given careful further consideration to the consultation responses and Amendment 1 addresses these concerns.

The amendment sets out the ways in which undertakings may be described in regulations made under Section 3(2) of the 1974 Act to retain duties on self-employed persons. New subsection (2A)(a) covers descriptions based on the type of activities carried out by the undertaking. These descriptions could include a reference to the economic activities that the undertaking engages in, work activities involving a specific hazard, work activities conducted in a specific capacity, or a combination of these things. New subsection (2A)(b)

4 Mar 2015 : Column 250

ensures that the regulations could also include a general description covering any undertaking the conduct of which may expose others to risks to their health and safety.

This amendment will therefore enable the Secretary of State to make regulations which not only retain Section 3(2) duties on all self-employed persons who conduct specified high-risk work activities but also retain duties on those self-employed persons who may expose others to risks to their health and safety. This, it is considered, more closely aligns with Professor Ragnar Löfstedt’s recommendation in respect of this provision. Regulations made under this clause will continue to be subject to the affirmative procedure. They will therefore be scrutinised by Parliament at the time of laying to ensure they are fit for purpose before the regulations are brought into force.

The Government acknowledge that assistance will need to be provided to the self-employed to assist with their understanding of this legislative amendment and to limit the possibility of incorrectly assessing whether their work activities may expose other persons to risks to their health and safety. Further to aid this amendment, the HSE will therefore produce guidance targeted at self-employed persons and others to address these issues. It will also signpost them to existing guidance which explains in practical terms what self-employed persons need to do to comply with the relevant law.

Amendment 2 seeks to make it mandatory for the regulations to prescribe all self-employed persons who may pose a risk to the health and safety of others, thereby ensuring that they do not fall exempt from the law. I can provide the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, with the assurance now that the Government intend to produce a set of regulations that will retain a duty on all self-employed persons who may pose a risk to the health and safety of others under Section 3(2) of the Act. I understand what the noble Lord wants to achieve with his amendment. However, in the light of the assurances I have now provided, and given the safeguards in place for the regulations to be scrutinised further by Parliament before they are brought into force, I hope the noble Lord will not seek to change what the Government have brought forward. I think the differences between us have narrowed considerably although I realise that some very small differences remain about the assessment of potential risk.

Amendment 3 seeks to impose various conditions on the making of regulations before undertakings can be prescribed for the purposes of retaining duties on the self-employed under Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This amendment requires an independent review to be conducted and considered by both Houses before the regulations can be brought into force.

I hope I can provide some assurances also to demonstrate that this amendment is not necessary. In Committee, the Government amended Clause 1 so that regulations made under the power it creates are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure before they come into force. This provides Parliament with an adequate opportunity to scrutinise and debate the regulations to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The conditions that the noble Lord seeks to impose on

4 Mar 2015 : Column 251

the regulations can already be considered by the Houses as part of the affirmative resolution procedure if, indeed, Parliament considers these factors to be relevant. Additionally, the proposed prescribing regulations will contain a commitment for their review and for a report to be published after five years of making these regulations. The report will seek to assess the extent to which the objectives intended to be achieved by the proposed policy have been met.

Given the safeguards already in place, and the consultations undertaken by the HSE, the Government do not consider that a further independent review of the regulations would be of any benefit. Furthermore, the Government have now changed the policy to ensure that all self-employed people who expose others to risks to their health or safety will remain subject to the law. This, I think, is also what the noble Lord seeks to achieve. We have considerably narrowed the differences in the course of our consultations. I thank the noble Lord and other opposition Peers for the conversations we have had with officials in the intervals between the various stages of this Bill. I hope we have provided sufficient assurance. I beg to move that Amendment 1 is made and urge the noble Lord not to press Amendments 2 and 3.

Amendment 2 (to Amendment 1)

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

2: Clause 1, leave out lines 8 to 11 and insert—

“(b) must be framed so as to include all those whose work activities may pose any risk to the health and safety of any person other than the self-employed persons conducting them.”

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 3. I thank the Minister for reverting on this matter at Third Reading, as he promised to do, and for providing some important draft regulations. The issue with which we have grappled throughout this Bill is how Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations might be safely implemented—if indeed they can be—and in particular how it would be possible to deliver the recommendations that those self-employed who pose no potential risk of harm to others should be exempt from the general duties of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 without creating unintended consequences.

As we have asserted before, maintaining the status quo for the self-employed is the preferred approach given the minimal requirements that would fall on them in these circumstances and the risk of confusion that could follow any change. However, we accept that this is not where the Government are—hence another attempt to implement the recommendation is necessary. Certainly, the first two attempts to implement a Löfstedt approach fell short. The most recent did not have the support of the professor himself and received substantial criticism when consulted on, not least from the CBI and the EEF, and it is understood that the HSE advised that the last approach should be abandoned. The latest attempt is reflected in the government amendment and in the draft regulations, which I think were circulated on Monday.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 252

As we have heard, this amendment provides a framework for determining who is conducting and undertaking a very prescribed description and, hence, is subject to the general duty. As we have heard, it can be determined or framed by reference to types and locations of activities or any other feature, and, crucially, by whether persons who may be affected by the conduct of the undertaking may be exposed to risk to their health and safety—a very important change.

Although our preference for any exemption from the general duty is that it should be based on everyone being in, subject to exclusions which take people out, rather than the reverse, we see merit in this government amendment. We are comforted by proposed new subsection (2A)(b), which appears to be a substantial change in the Government’s position, as I think the Minister confirmed. It brings matters back to a Löfstedt formulation and therefore we are grateful to the Minister for his efforts in bringing this about, doubtless with the steadying hand of the HSE. It raises questions of how it is to be put into practice and doubtless takes us back to issues around risk assessments, but I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about specific guidance being developed in this regard, as well as use of the existing guidance.

Although comforted, I am bound to say that we are not comforted enough. Our Amendment 2 would simply ensure that, rather than just setting out some of the potential criteria by which undertakings of a prescribed description may be determined—that is, the circumstances which bring a self-employed person under the duties of the 1974 Act—it is mandatory. So regulations determining the self-employed who retain a general duty must always include those who may pose a risk to the health and safety of another person. Indeed, why on earth should that not be the case?

Certainly that approach is what has been provided for in the draft regulations that we have seen. But they are, frankly, only that—draft—and presumably there is no prospect of them being finalised before the end of this Parliament. The Minister may wish to comment on their intended progress. What assurance do we have that the actual regulations will replicate the circulated draft? I understand exactly what the Minister said—that if he were in a position to determine that, that would be the case; it would be the basis on which the Government took them forward. However, we know where we are in the electoral cycle and, come May, who knows who will be in a position to take this forward and on what basis? Is it not the case that the government of the day could ignore new subsection (2A)(b) in framing any regulations, undoing the good work that the Minister has achieved and reverting to a prescriptive list which bears all the flaws of the earlier version? Changing primary legislation, which could always be done, would be much more difficult.

Incidentally, in determining who is exposed to harm, the Government have discounted the employees of a self-employed person. Accepting that Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act would in any event impose a duty on the self-employed in respect of their employees, can the Minister tell us why that is so?

Our Amendment 3 was drafted before we had sight of the government amendment and it calls for a review of any proposed regulations to see that they are fit for

4 Mar 2015 : Column 253

purpose. This still has relevance, although we see that the draft regulations—the Minister referred to this—provide for a review of any regulations within a five-year period. Such a review would clearly be welcome.

On the face of it, the Government’s position represents a significant and welcome change. However, unless we think about locking it down more tightly in primary legislation, it may yet be wasted. I beg to move.

5.45 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his constructive comments, and I recognise that the timing creates some difficulties. I have consulted on whether draft regulations can be finalised, approved and laid before the general election, but I have to say that with the best will in the world that will not, at this stage, be possible. I cannot give the noble Lord a guarantee on the structure, nature and composition of the next Government—I am not sure that any of us can at present. That, of course, has to remain a matter of good will and of the commitment of those who have been involved from all sides in these consultations.

The duties and the question of the employees of the self-employed are covered by the general duty that the self-employed have to consider the interests of others and the risks involved. That seems to me to be fully covered here. We have moved as far as we can and the draft guidance was intended to provide an indication of where this coalition Government would be moving and where we would trust any successor Government to continue in assessing this very delicate balance between where Professor Löfstedt started, which was with the sense that we should try,

“to exempt from health and safety law those self employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others”,

and, as he also said in his original review, to,

“help reduce the perception that health and safety law is inappropriately applied”.

That is what we on both sides are attempting to do. I felt that the Government had now moved sufficiently far to assure the Opposition that we were very much pursuing this role and that our proposals would bring Britain into line with other European countries and remove health and safety burdens from the self-employed in low-risk occupations. I hope that that does provide sufficient assurance, but I will see how far we have been able to do so.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response, and I entirely accept his assurance about what he sees as the way forward in circumstances where he and his colleagues were in a position to determine that. It is a great pity that the Government have come a significant way on this but we are just a smidgeon away from locking it down and making it mandatory. I really do not see the problem with doing that. If the Government are happy to provide for that in the draft regulations and happy to take those factors into account as part of their amendment, simply always making it mandatory to feature that provision in regulations seems to me to be quite a small additional step and one that could make a real difference. It is a pity that having come so far the Government cannot just close that gap.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 254

Incidentally, in terms of the employees of self-employed people, I understand that Section 2 of the 1974 Act creates a general duty on all employers, whether they are employees, self-employed, or whatever their status is, so I am not quite sure why they are being excluded here when these arrangements are considered. Perhaps we might reflect on that. This is difficult, because I would like to test the opinion of the House, but I think that the Minister has done his utmost to provide reassurance on the record. That is where we are, and it is probably the best way to leave it today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2, as an amendment to Amendment 1, withdrawn.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Amendment 4

Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

4: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—

“Short-term use of London accommodation: relaxation of restrictions

(1) The Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 25 (provision of temporary sleeping accommodation to constitute material change of use), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) Subsection (1) is subject to section 25A.”

(3) After section 25 insert—

“25A Exception to section 25

(1) Despite section 25(1), the use as temporary sleeping accommodation of any residential premises in Greater London does not involve a material change of use if two conditions are met.

(2) The first is that the sum of—

(a) the number of nights of use as temporary sleeping accommodation, and

(b) the number of nights (if any) of each previous use of the premises as temporary sleeping accommodation in the same calendar year,

does not exceed ninety.

(3) The second is that, in respect of each night which falls to be counted under subsection (2)(a)—

(a) the person who provided the sleeping accommodation for the night was liable to pay council tax under Part 1 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 in respect of the premises, or

(b) where more than one person provided the sleeping accommodation for the night, at least one of those persons was liable to pay council tax under Part 1 of that Act in respect of the premises.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b), it does not matter whether any previous use was by the same person.”

(4) After section 25A (inserted by subsection (3) above) insert—

“25B Further provision about section 25A

(1) The local planning authority or the Secretary of State may direct that section 25A is not to apply—

(a) to particular residential premises specified in the direction;

(b) to residential premises situated in a particular area specified in the direction.

(2) A direction under subsection (1) may be given only if the local planning authority or (as the case may be) the Secretary of State considers that it is necessary to protect the amenity of the locality.

(3) The local planning authority may give a direction under subsection (1) only with the consent of the Secretary of State.

4 Mar 2015 : Column 255

(4) A direction under subsection (1) may be revoked by the person who gave it, whether or not an application is made for the revocation.

(5) The Secretary of State may—

(a) delegate the functions of the Secretary of State under subsection (1) or (4) to the local planning authority;

(b) direct that a local planning authority may give directions under this section without the consent of the Secretary of State.

(6) The Secretary of State may revoke a delegation under subsection (5)(a) or a direction under subsection (5)(b).

(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision—

(a) as to the procedure which must be followed in connection with the giving of a direction under subsection (1) or in connection with the revocation of such a direction under subsection (4);

(b) as to the information which must be provided where the local planning authority seeks the consent of the Secretary of State to the giving of a direction under subsection (1).

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (7) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(9) In this section, “local planning authority” has the same meaning as in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (see section 336(1) of that Act).””

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, following the publication of the Government’s policy paper on short-term letting in London on 9 February, the Government have laid Amendments 4 and 17 to 19 to include provision for the policy in the Bill.

The Government’s policy paper has taken into account the representations that we received following the discussion document published last year on property conditions in the private rented sector. It has also taken into account our discussions with London’s local authorities and the industry and all the important issues that noble Lords have raised on this clause in previous debates during the passage of the Bill. They have been clear that any relaxation of legislation governing short-term letting in London should be available only to residents, so that they can make their property available when they are away for a limited duration. It will not allow non-residents to use their property for short-term letting on an ongoing or year-round basis. As set out in our policy paper, the Government share this view, and we have put forward these amendments to update the existing legislation and to ensure that we provide an appropriate level of freedom for residents, alongside important safeguards to prevent abuse of these reforms.

The Government have been consistently clear that their aim is to reform outdated legislation from the 1970s that requires Londoners to apply for planning permission in order to be able to let their residential property on a short-term basis. This will enable London residents to benefit from letting out either a spare room or, indeed, their whole house without unnecessary red tape, in the same way as other residents do in the rest of the country. We have also been clear throughout the passage of the Bill that this policy is aimed at helping residents to let their homes while they are away, not at providing new opportunities on an ongoing basis for commercial letting.

Section 25 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 provides that the use of residential premises for temporary sleeping accommodation for

4 Mar 2015 : Column 256

less than 90 consecutive nights is a change of use for which planning permission is required. London’s residents face a possible fine of up to £20,000 for each offence of failing to secure planning permission.

The world that we live in today is very different from what it was in the 1970s. The internet has created entirely new ways to do business. It has made it much easier for people to rent out their property, allowing residents to supplement their incomes and offer new experiences for consumers. Last summer, nearly 5 million overseas visitors came to our capital city. Some of those visitors, as well as UK residents, want to experience London as a real local. This means either staying with Londoners or staying in their homes while the Londoners are away on holiday.

Currently thousands of London properties and rooms are advertised on websites for use as short-term accommodation. However, each is potentially in breach of Section 25 as it stands. The current legislation is poorly enforced, which often leads to confusion and uncertainty for householders as to whether their local authority will take planning enforcement action against them for unauthorised short-term letting. The Government’s reforms will provide clarity and give London’s residents confidence that they are able to let out their property on a short-term basis within the law, but without the disproportionate bureaucracy of applying for planning permission.