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29 Mar 2010 : Column 1185

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The consultation around these proposals shows that there was very broad support for raising the threshold. So far as timing is concerned, these will not come into effect until 1 October 2010, which gives time for landlords to enter into arrangements, particularly around security for tenants' deposits, which I think is the point being pressed by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister could help me with two questions. One concerns students, who I know have been very anxious that the threshold should rise. Could he assure me that students and landlords will be ready for this on 1 October, which is the start of the new student year? Secondly, I understand that no guidance about how this will be rolled out has been published. Could the Minister tell us when it will be published?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: On the first point, it is of particular benefit to students, because although a £25,000 threshold might seem quite a high rent, when students club together to lease a property they have fallen outside the protections of the shorthold tenancies and the assured shorthold tenancies in particular. So far as guidance is concerned, I cannot give a precise timetable on that. Obviously the change here is relatively straightforward. Key protections for tenants are that their deposits be protected and the right to have two months' notice.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: Is the Minister aware of the extreme concern which has been expressed on this matter by the British Property Federation? It says that the amendment-which is what it amounts to-is very crude and that the inevitable serious consequences have not yet been properly considered.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, yes, we are aware of the representations that the BPF has made. We have liaised with it, and I think that some of its concerns have been assuaged. It was concerned in particular about a possible read-across to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and the ability of leaseholders to get security of tenure at the end of their leasehold period. We do not think that read-across is fair. Certainly there is no direct read-across in the legislation. Concerns have also been expressed around the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. No decisions have been taken on what, if any, amendments may be required to that legislation as a result of the changes we are proposing.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, is the Minister happy that the tenants' deposit scheme is working properly? It has, I understand, been reported that landlords are bypassing the tenants' deposit scheme by taking post-dated cheques, which does not seem to be quite the spirit.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Indeed, I have no particular data about that device being used to get round it. Obviously the three deposit protection schemes are very important. There is the custodial one in which it does not cost landlords anything to participate, other than the interest they lose in hanging on to the deposit.

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The two other schemes are insurance based, which obviously incur a premium from them. It is very important and I think it is right to say that if they do not participate in these schemes, they lose their right to just give two months' notice to secure the property that is leased.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Does the Minister agree that it is extremely difficult for small landlords who may not be using an agency to know where to go for these deposit schemes? I use an agent, but I went on the internet to try to locate details of these schemes, and found it extremely difficult. What will the Government do to publicise this arrangement so that people know where they stand?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, as part of our broader response to the Rugg review, we have outlined a package of measures including not only a national register for landlords and regulation of letting and managing agents but setting up a private sector tenants' helpline, which we are hoping to have in place by the end of this year.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords-

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister assure me that that will be in place by the time the scheme is introduced, which he originally said would be October? Now he says that we will know about it by the end of the year.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I was talking about one particular component of the package of measures-the private sector tenants' helpline. This is an ongoing proposition which will be available to tenants for years to come. However, the point about making sure that tenants and landlords are fully aware of this when it comes into operation on 1 October is a fair one.

Royal Mail: Bicycles


3.12 pm

Asked By Lord Berkeley

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): None, my Lords.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. It is just as well, because he might not like the conclusion. Is he aware of the letter I received on 11 February from the chief executive of Royal Mail, who said that 24,000 Royal Mail bicycles were being phased out and many converted to vans because,

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Does my noble friend agree that that is a bit of a slap in the eye for the Government's cycling policy, which encourages cycling rather than the driving of vans? Does he agree with the Royal Mail statement that it cannot give these redundant cycles to charity for use in Africa because of health and safety fears there?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: On that latter point, my Lords, my understanding is that Royal Mail has indeed donated delivery bicycles to Recycle, a charity that sends them to projects across the African regions. On his substantive point, my noble friend makes a very telling point about safety and cycling. My colleagues in the Department for Transport are ever eager to encourage active travel, embracing cycling, but we need to understand that the main reason for the change is to improve the efficiency of the Post Office. Bikes will not always be substituted by vehicles; the Royal Mail is also investing in trolleys, which can carry larger loads.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, does it not depend on the load whether the mail is delivered by a bicycle or in a vehicle?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point, which we in the Department of Energy and Climate Change keep under review at all times. The maximum weight in the cycle panniers comes to 32 kilograms, which is often not sufficient for the parcels and packages it is an increasing part of the postman's lot to deliver. Sometimes vehicles will be used, but I understand that Royal Mail will invest very largely in trolleys, which will be more appropriate.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, in three days' time, one of the Government's flagship climate change policies-the carbon reduction commitment-starts, which affects Royal Mail and other large public and private organisations. Yet although road transport fuel accounts for some one-third of emissions, it is not included in that flagship project. Therefore, it is quite understandable that organisations make decisions such as this. Is that not a major hole in one of the Government's major policies to improve climate change?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords, that misses the point regarding Royal Mail. In fact, carbon budgets will have a powerful impact in driving changes in policy which will help us meet our emission reduction targets. In the last few years, Royal Mail has seen a considerable reduction in its emissions and is pledged to meet the 10:10 guarantee this year. The decision it has taken on bikes has to be seen in an overall progressive context.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, does the Minister recall Mr Peter Hain making an objection on behalf of the postmen, whether on foot or on bicycle, against the Lighter Evenings Bill on the basis that the morning post was delivered before the sun was up in the winter months? Now the post is delivered when the sun is beginning to set. Will the Minister ask Mr Hain to withdraw on behalf of his union the objection to daylight saving? If weekend reports are correct, will

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both the parties opposite, which claim to be reconsidering the matter, help these postmen deliver letters in the afternoon by supporting daylight saving in their manifestos?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I think the noble Lord's time is coming.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the Royal Mail is fortunately still a wholly state-owned enterprise. Could the noble Lord use his influence to persuade it to use electric rather than motor vehicles?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, Royal Mail is looking to develop a vehicle policy which will encourage low-emission vehicles. I am sure that the use of electric vehicles in the future will be one such option. It is not for the Government to tell Royal Mail what to do but we should encourage it to improve its efficiency, which is why the recent agreement between Royal Mail and the CWU is heartily to be rejoiced at.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, the Minister probably is not aware that the last two times I have been knocked off my bicycle were by GPO vans.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that is a matter for great regret by all noble Lords.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, would the Minister not also rejoice at that part of the latest agreement between unions and management which provides for Saturday to be a full, normal working day? Presumably that can be without an increase in emissions.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. My understanding is that the agreement will shortly go out to ballot among the postal workers. There is no doubt that the agreement provides much encouragement towards modernisation of the service. It is in that context that the decision on bicycles ought to be seen.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, with reference to the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, could the Minister, with his great expertise, advise the House how you convert a bicycle into a van?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my understanding is that most of the content of mail now carried by bicycles will be converted to trolleys. A proportion of these will be electric; others will be manual. It is not yet known whether that will also require the use of vehicles. That is clearly an operational matter for Royal Mail.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the reason Crown Post Offices in central London were so close together up to a quarter of a century ago was because you had to allow for the ability of a small boy on a bicycle to deliver a telegram, which occurred so frequently in the narratives of Mr Sherlock Holmes?

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord has solved that mystery for us.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, the Climate Change Act as presently drafted requires a 34 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. It has been widely reported that the Prime Minister is now in favour of increasing that to a 42 per cent reduction by 2020. Can the Minister say what this will cost? If not, can he ensure that Parliament is informed of the cost before there is any question of further movement in this direction?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is premature to talk about the cost, because we are still in the process of negotiation. The noble Lord, of all people, should know that we always wanted a more ambitious target for 2020, but on the back of a comprehensive and ambitious deal at Copenhagen. That has not been achieved, but we will continue to discuss with our colleagues the ways in which we can reach that path. That will be the point at which to talk about costs.

Arrangement of Business


3.20 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lady Royall of Blaisdon will repeat the Statement entitled "European Council" at the conclusion of the speech that is in progress at 3.45 pm.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (Consequential Amendments) (England and Wales) Order 2010

Local Education Authorities and Children's Services Authorities (Integration of Functions) Order 2010

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Regulated Activity, Devolution and Miscellaneous Provisions) Order 2010

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Controlled Activity and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2010

29 Mar 2010 : Column 1190

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2010

Motions to Approve

3.20 pm

Moved By Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

Motions agreed.

Funding Code: Criteria and Procedures

Motion to Approve

3.21 pm

Moved By Lord Faulkner of Worcester

Lord Scott of Foscote: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a short question on this code before it is approved by the House. The funding code, as your Lordships will know, is intended to set out the manner in which funding of civil litigation may take place. One of the criteria expressed is that the litigation in question should be of wider public interest. Of course, if it is not of wider public interest there may be other very good reasons for allowing the funding, but wider public interest is expressed to be a criterion to be taken into account that may, in a particular case, sway the issue.

A further provision in the funding code states that, where the commission has undertaken funding and there is a substantial wider public interest, the clients may not settle the case without the agreement of the commission. A condition of the granting of the funding is that the client is required to agree not to settle without the consent of the commission. Can the Minister help me on whether that agreement between the client and the commission is thought to be legally enforceable, because I should have thought that it would be contrary to most people's idea of the public interest in speedy litigation and very unlikely to be held enforceable? If it is not regarded by the Government as enforceable, why is it there at all? It is the client who is in charge of the litigation. That provision should be dropped and never applied.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I hope that the noble and learned Lord will forgive me. It would have been easier for us if he had given us notice of his

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intention to raise this matter. The code was considered at length in Grand Committee on 23 March and, if he will forgive me, I will write to him with the answer that he seeks.

Motion agreed.

Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Motions to Approve

3.23 pm

Moved By Lord McKenzie of Luton

Motions agreed.

Anti-Slavery Day Bill

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill

Third Reading

3.24 pm

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

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