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I support the concept of dialogue. That is excellent and, so far, it is going fine. However, I can tell the Minister, because I know-I do not have to imagine it, we have it in black and white in Hansard in Stormont-that there can and could well be a difficulty. The reason why it is going so well at the moment is purely because of the individual personnel who happen to be in post at this time, but that will change from Administration to Administration.
I am trying to ensure, as other noble Lords are, that we avoid difficulty in the future. However, we accept, and I think everybody accepts, that one wants to do this with the minimum of regulation. However, the Minister needs to take it on board that if the Secretary of State for Defence decides that special provision has to be made, which is perfectly natural, the quid pro quo is that the Secretary of State has to be in a position to tell Parliament how it is going to be delivered. The Secretary of State for Defence is not the Minister who can deliver. That is a fact. It might be an inconvenient fact but it is nevertheless a fact.
All I am interested in is avoiding a problem in the future. I have no desire to create difficulties for the Minister or for the Government but I wish to ensure that difficulties are not created down the line and that an unseemly row starts over something that we would want to keep above that sort of level. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
After section 359 of AFA 2006 insert-
(1) The existing network of armed forces advocates will be extended through the nomination of supporting advocates at regional and local level to ensure that local authorities work together to identify and resolve issues in local policy or the delivery of services that may affect service people.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, this amendment refers to the position of Armed Forces advocates and provides for the existing network to be extended at regional and local level to ensure that local authorities work together
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In rejecting the amendment in Committee, the Minister said that he regarded Armed Forces advocates as an excellent idea, but in effect argued that the role of government was to ensure that best practice was promoted around the country by drawing attention to successful uses of the advocate system but did not extend beyond that. It was for example a matter for local authorities to decide whether or not they wished to appoint Armed Forces advocates. Armed Forces advocates, among other things, help to ensure that services provided at the local level appropriately recognise the specific needs of Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families.
The previous Government piloted an Armed Forces welfare pathway which led to the appointment of some Armed Forces advocates. The Minister argued in Committee that since this had been done without legislation, the same should continue. The previous Government, however, was getting the system off the ground. We have now seen what can be achieved and there appears to be a general recognition of the merits of Armed Forces advocates. We also now have the Armed Forces covenant and a situation in which many authorities are under considerable pressure as well.
My noble friend Lord Davies of Stamford, who is not in his place, said in Committee that it was those local authorities least inclined to establish the post of Armed Forces advocate where it was most likely that the Armed Forces would need such an advocate, and vice versa. In response the Minister said that that was a very good point and that he would certainly look at it. I hope that having done that, the Minister, even if he is not prepared to accept this amendment, will at least be able to spell out some much more specific action that the Government intend to take to ensure that best practice is actually introduced and implemented in those places where it is most needed-mainly where there are no Armed Forces advocates or their equivalents at present.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Tunnicliffe, tabled a similar amendment to Amendment 10 in Grand Committee. In response I assured your Lordships that I regarded Armed Forces advocates as an excellent idea and outlined the tasks they carried out in central government departments. I also mentioned the variety of roles which advocates or champions can and do play at local level in local authorities, NHS trusts or jobcentres. The form this took depended on the job to be done.
The issues surrounding this amendment have not changed. It is not the merits of local Armed Forces advocates that are in question but the need to legislate for their existence. Our approach is to spread good practice by demonstrating what advocates and other local initiatives are able to achieve. As the noble Lord pointed out, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, suggested in our earlier debate that it was precisely those local bodies which decline to appoint an advocate which were most likely to need one as they had not focused on the issues. I undertook to consider this
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Lord Rosser: My Lords, I am obviously somewhat disappointed at the Minister's reply because although I accepted that he might well not be prepared to accept the amendment, I expressed the hope that he would be able to spell out in rather more detail the specific action that the Government intended to take to ensure that best practice is introduced and implemented. It does not seem to me that the Minister has really addressed that point in his reply. However, I will not pursue the matter any further at this stage and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
After section 74 of AFA 2006 insert-
(a) has been arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence, and
(b) the damage is related to substance abuse, violence against the person or criminal damage to property,
prior to any decision being made as to charge, consideration shall be given and the conclusions recorded as to the possible diversion of the person for specialist services to assist with substance misuse and mental health treatment either through Her Majesty's armed forces or in the community.
(2) Prior to such a person's case being determined before a military or civil court, the prosecuting authority and the court shall review whether the case should be referred to specialist services such as are described in subsection (1).""
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, this amendment has been rewritten in the light of the debate we had in Committee. It has, I hope, addressed the criticisms of the previous wording. It is about the procedure on arrest of somebody for substance abuse, violence against the person or damage to property. This relates quite specifically to alcohol-fuelled aggression, a problem that sadly is increasing, and possibly to drug-fuelled aggression. The alcohol-fuelled problem is much greater. The aim of the amendment is simply to bring into line the military court system with the civilian court system.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act, known as PACE, set out criteria for the police station in civilian life which present an automatic safeguard that does not exist in the military court system as PACE does
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All this amendment is asking is that it is considered. It is not asking that any more than that happens. It does not mean that there has to be detailed testing. It simply means that the person making the arrest should have a prompt to think about the problem.
I understand that probation trusts are going to become increasingly involved in the assessment of Armed Forces personnel when they are up for charges. Indeed, Hampshire Probation Trust has been named as one. One of the difficulties, of course, is that like other areas it is facing stringent budget cuts, including front-line cuts. I would be concerned as to how a probation trust is going to have probation officers in areas such as Newcastle or Yorkshire or wherever there are other barracks because they are quite far-flung. I note that there has been a recent advertisement for probation officers to cover the whole of Germany. It is for two officers. It is a very large area for just two people to cover. There is concern about the level of training and support that these people will have. Therefore, I hope that the Government will be able to provide some reassurance that the prosecuting authority will seek to engage with local probation trusts, wherever appropriate, because a local probation trust will be familiar with local issues and local diversion projects both in the community and in barracks.
Any probation officers dealing with people from the military need to have proper training to identify underlying mental health and substance misuse issues. The way that such cases present in the military may be different from how they present in what one might call the purely civilian population.
The idea of an intervention before charging is precisely to avoid stigmatisation and to avoid court proceedings when other interventions would be more appropriate and, indeed, perhaps less expensive. In the civilian justice system there are many intervention and diversion possibilities before a person is charged. For example, if the custody sergeant or arresting officer suspects drug and alcohol or underlying mental health issues, he will, in fulfilling his duty, call in a police doctor. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 there are triggers to look for evidence if drugs or alcohol are suspected. I quote from the guidance:
"The drug test is a screening tool only and the result cannot be used ... against the detainee ... The result of the test can lead to referrals for treatment and can also be used to inform court decisions on bail and sentencing".
If that guidance were adopted for military courts, we would certainly not run the risk of any results being used against a detainee but an intervention might provide the support needed to deal with the fundamental problem behind the offending behaviour.
The problem of stigmatisation is particularly marked in the Armed Forces. In medicine there has been, and perhaps still is, a somewhat macho culture in terms of coping with very traumatic situations. People suppress their feelings and have a drink, and it is quite a macho thing to hold your drink or to cope with drugs. When you fail to hold your drink and maintain that bravado, you are stigmatised as being weak because you have failed the alcohol or drugs test. People's inhibitions about admitting to having a problem or a trauma is therefore perpetrated by this macho culture.
Early detection and intervention is extremely cost-effective and was monetised by the New Economics Foundation. I have the figures relating to women, although I do not have them for men. The cost of incarcerating a woman for a year is £56,000 and the cost of locking her up for 10 years is £10 million. Therefore, on those figures, early intervention with someone for whom such incarceration had no benefit at all could certainly quickly be seen to be very cost-effective for society. There is simply a need to ask whether the person misuses substances and whether he wishes to self-harm or has ever tried to self-harm or commit suicide. That opportunity for self-disclosure in a safe setting prior to charging must be encouraged and nurtured by the Ministry of Defence, as opposed to the current culture of shaming a person and heaping punishment on them. With the help of outside lawyers, I ran the Minister's Committee stage briefing past former service personnel. I am afraid their response suggests that the impression that a lot is already in place may be a sign of slightly misplaced faith in the current system, and it reinforced my resolve to bring forward this amendment.
In the civilian justice system there is a fairly new joint initiative between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health to identify people known to the community mental health team as suffering from mental health issues or as being treated for substance misuse so that they can be dealt with fairly and appropriately. I would hope that the same could be put in place for the court martial service and the defence community mental health teams, and I think that this amendment would help to stimulate such collaboration.
In Committee, objections were raised about the pressure on the military court system to deal with every case through psychiatric reports and drug testing, but the wording has removed the obligation. As I said before, it simply makes it a consideration which lays some, although not an onerous, measure of legal responsibility. The wording creates a consideration, not an obligation, and leaves room for discretion. Some important current initiatives could certainly be built on and would, I think, be completely compatible with the wording of the amendment. For example, it looks as though the Trauma Risk Management programme, which is a peer-review support programme used in Afghanistan, will be a very effective way of supporting deeply traumatised members of our Armed Forces.
It is important to remember that many service personnel are very young indeed and do not have the emotional infrastructure behind them to help them to cope with the traumas that they encounter. Their repeated infractions are often symptoms of far deeper problems, some of which may have occurred before
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I suggest that lower welfare costs and the effect on budgets across all government departments will come about by dealing with the underlying issues through early intervention. That is the spirit behind the amendment. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who regrets that he is unable to be here at the moment, feels that the amendment should meet the criticisms made in Committee, and it should also help to turn around the existing attitude within the military court system, bringing it into line with the civilian court system. I beg to move.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I recognise the noble Baroness's concerns, which form the background to her amendment and to the way in which she has responded to points made in Committee on her earlier amendment. She wishes to bring awareness of and investigation into potential links between substance abuse, mental disorder and the committing of offences within the Armed Forces as close as possible to what is now required within the civilian justice system.
My understanding is that alcohol abuse is currently a much more common problem in the forces than drug abuse. Mental health issues-particularly those associated with post-conflict trauma-are, however, a wider concern.
I recognise the noble Baroness's concern that there are insufficient and insufficiently trained staff to provide the examinations and reports that are needed. I reassure her that the MoD will look again at the level of provision, but I am informed that there have not been recent complaints from within the military that resources are inadequate.
She raised the question of Germany. I have just checked again my previous understanding that UK forces remaining in Germany are now concentrated in two geographical areas and are not spread across the whole country. The appointment of two probation officers therefore seems appropriate.
There remain some real problems with the exact terms of the amendment as drafted, which make it impossible for the Government to accept. However, we do accept and share the underlying concern that the noble Baroness is addressing. The importance of the psychological state of an offender and the appropriateness in some cases of a specialist social or mental health approach instead of prosecution is well understood in the service justice system, as in the civilian system. However, the framework within which the forces operate is not, and cannot be, identical to the framework within which civilian offences are handled. None the less, the MoD and the Armed Forces are conscious of the importance of recognising at an early stage those who may need specialist attention. If possible, this must happen before offences are committed or prosecutions are started. That is part of the service support system.
The measures to identify and support those who are vulnerable range from informal support within the unit through to specialist medical attention. I will not
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It is essential for there to be an understanding and awareness of mental health problems at all ranks and, in recognising the question of stigma, to remove the stigma that is still sometimes attached to admitting to mental health problems and obtaining treatment. Among the steps in place is the increased use of trauma risk management, known as TRIM. The aim is to provide non-specialist advice and support within the unit. Suitably trained members of each unit can do much to identify those in the unit who may have a problem, to give them basic but informed advice and support, and to refer them, if necessary, for specialist help. Another useful measure is decompression. This informal relaxation and briefing after an operational deployment allows individuals to begin to unwind mentally and physically while having time and briefing to encourage them to talk through their experiences.
I have already made reference to the importance of understanding the psychological state of an offender and the appropriateness in some cases of a specialist social or mental health approach. But in most cases, drugs offences and offences of violence or damage to property will be prosecuted. When a case is serious enough to go to a prosecuting authority, whether civilian or military, that authority must consider the evidence available as to whether the suspect had the necessary intent to commit the offence under consideration. The prosecuting authority must also consider whether the interests of justice make a prosecution in that case appropriate. This is not a statutory requirement but part of the general responsibilities of those making decisions on prosecutions. It is also a prosecuting authority's responsibility to keep these issues under review throughout the proceedings.
The defence routinely provides submissions to the prosecuting authority about the accused's state of mind and whether continued proceedings are appropriate. The prosecuting authority is therefore able to review in context its assessment of what the interests of justice require. It is also a prosecuting authority's duty to disclose to the defence any facts it becomes aware of which go to mitigate the seriousness of the alleged offence. The prosecuting authority should, and does consider what the interests of justice require and, in particular, whether a prosecution is appropriate. It does so, taking into account the evidence before it. But it would go too far to require prosecuting authorities or commanding officers to consider and to record their consideration whether the suspect should be referred instead to specialist services. To do so would confuse the role of prosecutor and the role of a commanding officer with that of a court. It is right for a prosecutor and a commanding officer to have some discretion on whether to prosecute and to respond to what the interests of justice plainly require. However,
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The second effect of the amendment applies once the member of the Armed Forces has been charged. It would require the prosecutor and the court to consider referring an accused to specialist services before trial. This would, I believe, be wrong in principle and unfair to the accused. It would in effect require the court to consider how the accused should be dealt with before hearing the evidence. To take a simple example, if a member of the Armed Forces pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault, the amendment would require the court to consider referring the person to specialist services before it had heard the evidence on whether he or she had committed the assault.
Lastly, the amendment would mean that members of the Armed Forces were singled out by statute as requiring in every case related to substance abuse, violence to a person or damage to property, special consideration of the need for assistance with substance abuse or mental health treatment. These do not apply to other citizens, and I do not consider that there are grounds for such a different approach between members of the Armed Forces and civilians. I emphasise that we recognise the importance of understanding the psychological and social background of an offender in the Armed Forces as well as in civilian life, and I hope that the noble Baroness will be reassured by my summary of what has been put in place in the Armed Forces to identify mental health problems and to treat them in the right way. In the light of the reassurances that I have given, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I am most grateful to the Minister for providing me with a very detailed response, and for the reassurances that he has given now. I was not given such reassurances in Committee. The points that he makes are extremely important. In the light of them I will withdraw the amendment and hope that we will not hear in the future about some of the disasters that have occurred in the past. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
After section 339 of AFA 2006 insert-
Medals awarded by Commonwealth governments, including the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal, to present or former members of Her Majesty's armed forces may be worn without restriction.""
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I speak to Amendment 13 in my name and that of other noble Lords mentioned on the Marshalled List. In the course of the debates on the topic of medals it has become
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It has been normal for the Foreign Office to handle awards from foreign states but that now seems to be in doubt. I asked a Written Question about the Malaysian Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal but it was answered not by an FCO Minister but by the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever. The noble Lord has since written to me to say that he has set in hand a review of the process by which advice about the institution of medals and the acceptance of foreign awards in respect of military service is put together, considered and submitted to the Queen.
I also raised in Committee the issue of the prerogative when it came to submissions to the sovereign. I quoted two examples of Written Ministerial Statements, in 2005 and 2006, which made clear that the rules of no double medalling and a five-year moratorium were government policy. The Minister, in a Written Answer about the prerogative, dated 23 September, states that these references to the Government, "are not strictly correct".
Noble Lords will be taken aback to learn that such authoritative Statements to Parliament as two Written Ministerial Statements are not correct, or are deemed to be incorrect, in order to uphold a unique position claimed for the honours committee in relation to advice to the sovereign. I remind the Minister that in a reply to my Written Question in September about wearing the PJM medal, the noble Lord said about Commonwealth Governments:
The Minister also claims that when an exception is allowed, the results are likely to be seen as anomalous or unfair. Surely, that is not the right conclusion to draw. Rather, it is that with the passage of time the rules themselves and officials who seek to hide behind them are the problem, not the numerous exceptions that have been granted over many decades. I am sure the Minister is right to have instituted the review. It should look at the so-called rules, and I welcome his assurance that a Written Ministerial Statement on the outcome will be forthcoming.
Amendment 13 should not be delayed because of any review. As I mentioned in Committee, the long-standing issue of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal has yet to be resolved. I visited Malaysia last June at the personal invitation of Prime Minister Najib. It was clear from what he told me and what I saw that Malaysia is now well on the way to achieving its vision of being a fully developed nation by 2020. Putting a restriction on the generous recognition of the contribution
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In other words, the Government are in the lead and Her Majesty is following that advice. How does that sit with the claim that the honours committee is independent of government? Once again, we have confusion and conflicting answers to the same Question. No contortionist could so ridiculously point in so many different ways at the same time. Other Commonwealth countries are also making giant strides in development, and this Government are anxious rebuild and reinforce the ties of Commonwealth. For these reasons, I believe that now is the time to make special provision for awards from Commonwealth countries. With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting due at the end of this month in Perth, it would be a positive announcement for the Prime Minister to make at that meeting.
A further argument sometimes prayed in aid of the discredited restrictive rules is that the presence of a second award on the chest of an individual somehow reduces the value of the national award. I wonder whether that is really right. The individual can take pride in both and his contribution is clearer to those who see the medal ribbons on his uniform. I recently saw a photograph of the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma. He had 10 rows of medal ribbons on his Admiral of the Fleet uniform. I am sure he was proud to be able to display them all, but I shudder to think how the honours committee of the day managed to recommend so many exceptions to their precious rules so close to the date of their original adoption. I invite the Minister to accept this amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, as in Grand Committee, I support every word of my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig. Unlike in Grand Committee, I have not brought my PJM medal with me; nor have I brought my General Service Medal with its clasp, showing that I was involved in confrontation in Borneo, but they are two medals for the same thing.
Another aspect of the unfortunate way in which this issue has been handled relates to the veterans who raised the issue of the PJM with the Government. They were, frankly, treated in a way that I would not have expected of the Ministry of Defence. The HDC-the Honours and Decorations Committee-may have met, but if it did so, it did so internally and did not share any of its findings. The letter that was then sent to the veterans was unworthy of the ministry. I am grateful
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Viscount Slim: My Lords, while we were in Committee in your Lordships' Chamber, there was a very fine debate on the Commonwealth and how it could be brought closer together and how we could enhance it. There were some excellent speeches. I think this whole question, put by the noble and gallant Lord, of Commonwealth decorations and medals received would bring the Commonwealth even closer together. After all, in the past three years, one New Zealander and two Australians got the Victoria Cross. There seems to be no problem about them participating; they are from the Commonwealth.
The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have missed a point or two about the PJM medal of Malaysia, which is in dispute at the moment. The HD Committee, which I feel is the right way to go about these things, and I have said so in Committee, has missed a trick. Here is a Muslim nation-sophisticated, democratic and ably led-offering in gratitude a medal of thanks to all our veterans. That is really what it is. It is about the only nation I can think of that we have left that has thanked us like this. Of course, history shows, as many noble Lords will recall, that the gratitude comes from the fact that while the terrorist campaign was going on, and the British were definitely running that, it gave the Malays time to make their Government and to build their democracy.
As I said in Committee, I do not think that the HD Committee advised the Sovereign well. I would put it no stronger than that because I would not wish to embarrass the Sovereign in any way. We have not been very clever, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, says, in the way in which we have treated the veterans in rather rude, grubby and unfriendly letters that say, "You can do this but you can't do that". There is discontent among those veterans. They are old men and women now. Many in the Brigade of Gurkhas spent 15 years of their lives in Malaya, and they are not allowed to wear the medal. Many British service men and women in the 11-year period went back one, two, three more times. This is giving, and this is service-to Britain and to Malaysia. The noble Lord the Minister wears such a medal himself. I know that he puts it on the inside of his jacket when he goes out and makes sure that he has it on. I say to the noble Lord the Minister that if I appeared in front of the Agong or any of the Malayan generals whom I know, respect and look up to and I was not wearing a PJM, they would be very offended.
Let us ask the noble Lord the Minister to refuse the recommendation and look at this again. The HD Committee should not be too proud to change its mind. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said, we are moving on and things are different from how they were in wartime and in the early days after World War II. The noble Lord the Minister wears his
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Lord Touhig: My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. The issue of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal is a stain on the honour of Great Britain. This is no way to treat our veterans. They are told that they can accept a medal awarded by His Majesty the King of Malaysia but that they must not wear it. The decision was based on advice to Her Majesty the Queen from the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals. I have been involved in this matter, with other noble Lords and noble and gallant Lords, over the years. We were told that one reason why the HD Committee reached its conclusion was the double-medalling and five-year rule. However, the double-medalling and five-year rule was set aside in order that the men could accept a medal and then reimposed to prevent them wearing it. This is appalling. To add further shame, the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals then advised that they should wear it for one week when they were invited to return to Malaysia for the celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence. What an appalling way to treat our veterans.
Mention has been made of the way in which some veterans had communications from various departments and civil servants. I have a letter from a veteran who said that he was advised by a civil servant that he could stuff his PJM back into his Kellogg's packet because the medal's status meant nothing. What a way to talk to somebody who fought for our Armed Forces in the jungles of Malaysia but not in the jungles of Whitehall. I have sought, through freedom of information legislation, more information on how the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals reached its decision. Members often do not meet; they communicate and reach their decisions by e-mail. It is a good thing that we did not have e-mails in 1957 at the start of the Malaysian campaign, or some of the boys we wanted to send might have said, "I'm not going but I'll send an e-mail of support". This is an appalling way to treat our veterans.
In a few weeks, on November 11, we will remember those who gave their lives for Britain. There could be no better time to take stock and say, "We've got this wrong, we need to review this and ensure that these boys are able to wear a medal that they richly deserve". I know that the noble Lord the Minister feels this in his heart. I echo the comments made by the noble Lord: set aside the advice given by civil servants and anybody else. The right thing to do is to let our boys wear a medal. Let us-as a Government, as a Parliament and as a country-honour them in the way that they deserve.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 14. I waited until everyone had spoken on Amendment 13. This does not stop me saying that I agree entirely with all noble Lords who spoke on that amendment. I hope that the Minister will change his mind.
I will talk about a national defence medal. We have heard very poignantly about medals for gallantry, for campaigns and for being in the armed services. However, since the end of the Second World War there has been an inconsistency and an injustice in medallic recognition. Noble Lords have spoken about medals they and others received, but many people in the armed services have received no medals. I found some amazing cases in my research. The Minister talked earlier about spreading good practice. It would spread good practice if we had a national defence medal issued to those who served in the Armed Forces. I thank the Minister and his colleagues who have given us a lot of verbal and written information on the subject. One civil servant commented that there were 4 million such veterans. Not all would apply for the medal, but the fact that there are 4 million veterans shows that this is an incredible group of people to whom we owe a debt of honour. In the United States they would all be in a veterans' organisation and very powerful politically. I am afraid that the only politics here is today in your Lordships' House.
A number of people do not support such a medal. This was also the case in Australia and New Zealand, where a very vocal minority opposed it. However, the medal was introduced and I believe that it is very successful and appreciated. I feel that I am on a losing wicket in trying to get this incorporated into the Bill. However, at the very least we should have a medal review that is independently chaired, transparent and open and that consults veterans. Sadly, the MoD review, which has been going on for a long time, is seen by veterans as flawed. The draft report that has been wandering around for a long time has been greeted with little enthusiasm.
The reality is that of 7,500-plus e-petitions on the government website, the one requesting a national defence medal ranks 46th. Of the 60-plus e-petitions that affect the Ministry of Defence, the one calling for the introduction of a national defence medal comes top. It would be extremely popular and symbolic if this came as part of the five-year review of the Armed Forces Bill. The cost would be about £2.50 per medal. Is that what is stopping this? Why can we not have this symbolic recognition of people's service to their country? I hope that the Minister will at least pursue an independently chaired committee that will be transparent. It may in the end decide not to have a medal, but at least the veterans will see that the decision has been made transparently and not in the back rooms of power.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the subject of medals, the rules about accepting and wearing them, and the possible introduction of a national defence medal. A number of amendments on medals were tabled in Committee. They prompted a lively debate about an issue that clearly raises a great deal of interest. The discussion today has emphasised this. As my noble friend Lord De Mauley explained in Grand Committee, decisions on the institution of medals and honours, and the acceptance of foreign honours, are ultimately a matter for Her Majesty the Queen. The general approach adopted is that permission to accept and
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The HD Committee, as it is known, was established by King George VI to ensure proper co-ordination and consistency across Government regarding honours and decorations, both military and civilian. The committee is deliberately non-political and is made up of very senior Crown servants representing the departments most involved in matters relating to medals. The committee's work is administered by the Cabinet Office and, in respect of foreign awards, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which liaises with the Governments of other countries over any proposed awards.
The effect of the amendment proposed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, if adopted, would be to end the broadly consistent approach across government. First, it would apply one approach to the award and wearing of Commonwealth medals for serving and former members of the Armed Forces and a different one for civilians whom a Commonwealth Government may wish to honour. It would mean that the rule for the Armed Forces was that they could wear Commonwealth awards, but the general principle for civilians would remain that they could not.
A further problem would be created by establishing a separate principle that applied to medals offered by the Governments of Commonwealth nations as opposed to those offered by other allies. The operations in which our Armed Forces find themselves involved are increasingly international, with British units regularly working alongside UN, NATO or EU partners. It would not be easy to justify to non-Commonwealth allies or to members of our Armed Forces why we would generally decline the offer of a medal from them while readily accepting a medal offered by a Commonwealth nation. Considerable diplomatic difficulty could result from having to explain this to a non-Commonwealth ally.
For these reasons, I regret that I cannot support the noble and gallant Lord's amendment. However, I am aware that there is such concern over the matters raised today and in Committee that they warrant further examination. In that spirit, I have recently written to the noble and gallant Lord and other noble Lords who spoke about medals in Committee. In that letter, I explained that successive Governments have supported, and this Government continues to support, the principles that the HD Committee seeks to apply in relation to the receipt and wearing of foreign medals in accordance with the arrangements established by King George VI.
Most of the issues raised have been in relation to the application of sound principles in difficult cases to do with military medals. I have therefore asked Ministry of Defence officials to set in hand work to consider the process by which advice about the institution of medals, and the acceptance of foreign awards in respect of military service, is put together, considered and submitted to Her Majesty. The work will also consider
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Once my officials have reported back to me, I shall report back to Parliament through a Written Ministerial Statement. I aim to do so before the turn of the year. In addition, I propose to write to ministerial colleagues in the FCO emphasising the strength of feeling that continues to exist, both in this House and elsewhere, specifically about the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal. I declare an interest as being a holder of the medal, which I assure noble Lords remains hidden in my top drawer. In doing so, I will propose that they look again at whether they can advise the HD Committee to recommend to Her Majesty that those who were awarded the medal should also be permitted to wear it. I will write to the noble and gallant Lord in due course outlining our position.
All this work will complement the Ministry of Defence's review of military medal policy that resulted from an undertaking in the coalition's programme for government. This review is nearing completion under the direction of my right honourable friend, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. The receipt and wearing of medals is a sensitive issue. I hope that what I have just set out might reassure noble Lords that, while I do not agree with the noble and gallant Lord's amendment, the Government are listening to the concerns that have been raised on this issue. In the light of that, I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will withdraw his amendment.
Turning now to my noble friend Lord Palmer's amendment about the institution of a national defence medal, I must inform him that there have been no significant developments in the situation since he raised the same amendment in Committee. I am aware that a relatively small group of veterans has campaigned vociferously for a number of years now for a national defence medal. I understand that they believe that such a medal should be presented to all of those who have served in the Armed Forces for two years or more since the Second World War-an estimated 4 million men and women-irrespective of where that service took them.
Of course, we already have an Armed Forces Veterans lapel badge which provides universal recognition of past military service. Almost a million badges have been issued and are worn with pride by veterans of all ages. The national defence medal campaigners consider the veterans badge to be insufficient recognition for having served. My noble friend suggested that a national defence medal could be produced for as little as £2.50 each. I would question whether a medal of quality could be produced and distributed for a figure anywhere near that. Our own estimate is closer to £75 each when one takes into account the cost of producing a medal of some quality, the cost of drawing individual service records from archives to check eligibility, the cost of distribution and the cost of the extra public servants to do all this. To issue a national defence medal to a potential 4 million people could therefore cost in the
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As my noble friend Lord De Mauley explained in Grand Committee, the Government set out their intention in their programme for government to review the rules governing the award of medals as part of its commitment to rebuild the military covenant. In delivering that commitment, the Ministry of Defence has recently completed a draft review which included the case that has been made for a national defence medal. Extracts of that review were sent to representatives of a number of groups that have campaigned for new medals and their views sought. Extensive comments were received from the chairman of the national defence medal campaign and the review is now being considered by my ministerial colleagues. We must await the publication of this review before drawing any conclusions as to whether there is justification for a national defence medal being created.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the Minister has obviously given a lot of thought to this subject. Nevertheless, I am extremely disappointed, not only that he does not accept the amendment but that his opening remarks took no account at all of the numerous anomalies and differences between what he was saying was the position and what the reality has been. I leave him with that thought, but meanwhile I wish to withdraw the amendment.
After section 339 of AFA 2006 insert-
All serving and former members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces must be awarded the defence medal in recognition of their role in defending the United Kingdom and its interests both nationally and internationally.""
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I want to take up one point he raised, that of the ongoing review and the result, whatever it may be. It would help the veterans so much if the review was not something that just comes out of the Ministry of Defence but had some form of independence and transparency about it, whatever the result. There is a feeling that this is all being done behind closed doors. I invite the Minister to consider this.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, I place on record my thanks to all noble Lords for the spirit of collaboration and constructive criticism that has characterised our formal and informal meetings leading up to this moment. This has influenced not only the Government's amendments, but also the consultation document and draft secondary legislation which we will soon be publishing. Your Lordships examined the Bill thoroughly when it started in this House and made many excellent suggestions of how it could be improved. These were taken up in the other place and I believe we now have a better Bill before us. I also place on record my thanks to all our officials and their team, who have worked so tirelessly to respond to questions from noble Lords and, indeed, to my own.
It is convenient to discuss Amendments 1 to 3 together with Amendments 4 to 32, 96, 97 and 131. Anchoring ambition for household energy efficiency was an issue we debated in depth following amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Davies of Oldham. The Bill returns to us with Clauses 97 and 107, which oblige the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to improve the energy efficiency of the English residential sector by 2020 in order that emissions from this sector follow a trajectory consistent with the UK carbon budget.
My noble friends Lady Parminter and Lord Teverson and the opposition Front Bench stressed the importance of an annual report on the Green Deal. This Bill now contains, via Amendments 96 and 131, a requirement on the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the contribution of Green Deal policy and the energy company obligation to reduce carbon emissions in Great Britain, and the extent to which such reductions have contributed towards achieving the carbon budgets.
As we went into the detail of the Bill, we had considerable discussion on the importance of Green Deal assessors not being able to mislead customers. Noble Lords will now see that Amendment 4 requires that Green Deal assessors should act impartially. In addition, the Government have listened to the concerns raised in the House regarding liability for default on Green Deal payments. Amendment 10 fulfils this, making provision that energy companies will share revenue collected on a proportionate basis with the Green Deal provider in cases of customer default. In this model, the energy supplier will not be liable to pass anything on if no moneys are received from the customer, a feature that is vital to ensure they are not left with significant liabilities that would impact on their balance sheets. Amendment 12 is related to this.
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Finally, early repayment fees are covered by Amendment 17, which I signalled in this House. Without it, Green Deal providers would find keeping the cost of finance low extremely difficult. I assure noble Lords that such a fee will be limited to Green Deals of a specific length, and the Secretary of State will be able to specify further conditions that must be met to ensure that additional compensation will only be available in appropriate circumstances. Further, the amount of compensation that can be claimed will be subject to a cap set by the directive. I beg to move.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Marland, is to be congratulated on his presentation of the amendments, and it is important that we also place on the record the fact that we welcome many of the government amendments before us. We still consider that more could have been done by the Government to make the legislation as effective as possible, but we welcome the direction the Government have moved in.
A number of issues were first raised in your Lordships' House, and even if the Government did not concede the point at the time, it is clear that the Minister listened and that changes have been made in the other place. Specifically on the Green Deal, there is a clause that states the ambition of the Bill. Important consumer protections are now in place, particularly on the impartiality of the assessors, as well as the issues around apprenticeships. Further on in the Bill, the suggestion in amendments put forward by my noble friend Lord Judd in relation to the national parks has been taken up.
The noble Lord, Lord Marland, referred to the collaboration and co-operation that has marked the course of the Bill. I concur entirely with that, and I acknowledge his willingness to engage in debate, which was welcome. As successful as we have been on seeing a number of improvements made to the Bill, there were times when my persuasive powers failed. He knows that we do not give up easily, and I am sure that as this legislation is implemented we will all want to monitor its effectiveness and see how improvements can be made. We understand very well that this is a framework Bill and that further secondary legislation will be brought forward. I hope that we will be able to continue the collaborative approach we have seen during the course of this Bill. Given that the statutory instruments will be unamendable, it would be helpful to have discussions prior to them being brought before the House in order to get the best results possible. We have made it clear that we want the Green Deal to be successful, and early discussions on the 52-plus sets of regulations that will be tabled would be in the best interests of moving forward.
I turn to the amendments in the group before us. I welcome the introduction of the energy efficiency aim as set out in Commons Amendment 97. This was first
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Amendment 96A is one that will assist the Government in measuring the success of the Green Deal by including in the annual report the number of homes that have had energy efficiency measures installed in that and in previous years as part of the deal. I acknowledge that the noble Lord agreed to this when we discussed it in Committee and possibly again on Report, but knowing how many homes have taken up the opportunity to subscribe to the Green Deal will allow the Government to take action in order to improve take-up, if necessary, and gauge success. I would be grateful if the noble Lord could respond to that. We all know how difficult it can be to wade through government reports to find exactly the figures we are looking for, but this would be a simple figure to illustrate how successful the project has been, and to take action if it has not.
I welcome the fact that the Government have taken on many of the concerns raised in your Lordships' House and elsewhere about protection for the consumer. One area on which I badgered the Minister was the impartiality of the assessors. I know he felt that I went on at some length and rather laboured the point in Committee, but clearly the Government have listened and brought forward Amendment 4, which requires,
and that is very welcome. Some concerns remain on this point; that is why I have tabled Amendments 4A and 4B, which are about monitoring and enforcement. I know that those details will come forward in regulation, and I welcome further discussions prior to those details coming forward.
The two amendments seek only to strengthen the points that the Government are making with this amendment. My amendments would have the effect of ensuring that the code of practice will extend to any arrangements for monitoring and enforcing impartiality. Amendment 4B is seeking to give the consumer the information on which the assessment will be made. That strengthens the consumer in that they know what to expect from the assessor and the methodology used. It would make it very much harder for an unscrupulous assessor to give bad advice and provide bad options for customers. One reason this amendment is so important is that the debt stays with the property, not with the individual who originally incurred that debt. It might be many years before any problems or difficulties came to light. It is better to take preventative action at an early stage rather than to wait until there is a
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I welcome the Government's clarification to the Labour amendment passed in the Commons committee on Green Deal apprenticeships. I appreciate that the Government were not fully behind this proposal initially, but following the success of the amendment and voted on by Conservative Members in the House of Commons -albeit, I think, accidentally-the Government have responded well, for which I am grateful.
My final amendment relates to Commons Amendment 18, which proposes the new clause headed "Exercise of scheme functions on behalf of the Secretary of State or a public body". We have discussed previously what public bodies could be involved. I am seeking clarification on whether they include charities, social enterprises and other non-profit-making organisations. I suspect that they do, but from the wording it is not clear. Furthermore, could the Minister clarify whether the Government intend to consult Green Deal participants and consumer groups about any proposals in this area to ensure that we get it right and that we take on board any comments that they have at an early stage?
I know that the Minister understands the concerns that I have raised with him directly about the financing arrangements. I remain concerned that the interest rate for any loan or credit agreement on the Green Deal is not a fixed loan as the legislation stands at present. The Minister has said to me that he takes the view, understandably, that the Government cannot intervene in the finance market in this way. I put a further point to the Minister for consideration. The Government have already intervened in the market by creating a new system of a loan or credit agreement attached to a property rather than to an individual. That is different from most loans and most credit agreements. So someone who purchases a house that already has a Green Deal credit arrangement has no say in the terms and conditions of that loan. They have a say if they have taken over the house and the terms and conditions of any mortgage that they may undertake, but not on a loan that is part of the Green Deal. Many people may well be reluctant to take on such a long-term loan or credit agreement that could run for another 10 or 15 years without knowing what the rate of interest could be and having had no say in the terms and conditions of that agreement. Given those unusual circumstances, it does not seem unreasonable that the interest rate should be fixed, so that someone coming along in the middle or at some stage in that loan knows what the interest rate will be for the remainder of that loan, given that it was taken out by another individual.
I hope that the Minister can reflect further on that point. I think it would be very helpful and perhaps lead to a greater take-up of the Green Deal, because it would not put prospective participants of the Green Deal off by worries about what would happen if they want to sell their property afterwards.
My final comment on this group of amendments is about the regulations, repeating the points that I made earlier. It would be very helpful if the Minister could
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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I will be extremely brief. The Commons amendments, particularly those in this group, make considerable improvements to the Bill, and it was very welcome to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, say that the Opposition are finding it easy to accept these amendments.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Marland for the amount of trouble that he and his officials have taken with what is, at first sight, a pretty formidable list of amendments that have come from the other place. When I picked up the paper initially from the Printed Paper Office, I thought that we might be here for a week. But he has taken a huge amount of trouble to explain what the amendments are all about, which will make our debate very much simpler.
I want to raise two points on this group of amendments, which I have discussed with my noble friend. I have always found it difficult to understand why, if somebody chooses to pay off a debt early, they are subject to some sort of penalty. I would have thought that if you pay off your mortgage early, as I did some years ago, the lender then has more money to lend to somebody else. Why should one be expected to pay him compensation because you have repaid him early? Can my noble friend justify why that is particularly relevant in this case? He also talked about the regulations that will be limited to Green Deals of a specified length and so on. Is he able to give us any guidance as to how that will work?
The second point is much more relevant. From the beginning it has been recognised that a body will have to be appointed to manage the Green Deal oversight and the authorisation scheme, because that will be fundamental to securing the consumer protection that, quite rightly, the noble Baroness has referred to. Can we yet be told anything about who that will be or to what body this vital task is going to be entrusted? We have now come to the final stage of this Bill. It has gone on for a long time and we still know nothing about who is going to run the scheme. It is obviously going to be under the general supervision of Ministers, but a body will be delegated to manage the Green Deal oversight and authorisation scheme. Can my noble friend tell us anything more about that at this stage?
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, I would like to ask just one question, which I asked at Second Reading and in Committee. Heating a house is also a matter of ventilation. I raised the fact that the word "ventilation" was not in the Bill and the Minister assured me that it was not. We still have no reference that I can see in the Bill to advice about investment in ventilation systems in housing, which is a huge part of the thermodynamics. Just to satisfy the odd thermodynamics freak in this House, I wonder whether he could put that straight.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I join my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in expressing appreciation for the way in which many of the concerns, particularly in relation to consumer protection but more widely about the regulation of this area, have been taken into account by the Government in their amendments in the Commons.
However, before the noble Lord gets too complacent about this, he needs to recognise that we are leaving an awful lot to the regulations in a situation where there is considerable confusion as to how the Green Deal, which in concept most people welcome, is going to be delivered, and how the householders and landlords are going to relate to the rather lengthy chain between a bank or financial institution at one end right through to the installer at the other. There is a serious confidence issue here, which I addressed in Committee and which the noble Lord acknowledged, that the regulations and the code of practice are going to have to address. The fact is that information from neither financial institutions nor local builders-nor indeed government-is automatically accepted by householders and consumers.
I appreciate that considerable consumer protection has now been built in, but the task that the Government now have in the process of drawing up regulations, guidelines and the code of practice is to make clear exactly what quality control-to this extent, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin-will be exercised by the body that will oversee the operation of the scheme, from the financial package right through to the independence of the assessor. The confidence that will need to be instilled in the market if the Government are to attain their worthy ambition of rolling out the Green Deal will require considerable attention in the regulations, the code of practice and the consultation.
In terms of this Bill, we have made considerable progress, but the organisation that the Government are setting up for accreditation and oversight will need a lot of work before householders and those who are due to benefit from the Green Deal will be really convinced. As I have stressed previously, it is important that we do not make any mistakes at the beginning of the scheme. Just two or three bad examples at an early stage will ruin public confidence in it. I therefore plead with the Minister, who I know understands, that we ensure in the coming year or so as the regulations and codes go through that confidence of the householder is seen as their prime objective.
Baroness Parminter: My Lords, when the Bill was first introduced in this House, we on these Benches-a number of us cannot be here today due to the rescheduling of business-welcomed it on the basis that it would help provide green jobs and move us towards meeting our legally binding carbon targets and achieving a low-carbon economy. However, like many other noble Lords, we also recognised that there could be further areas where the Bill could be strengthened. We have been heartened by the approach taken by the Minister, and I join other noble Lords in paying tribute to him for being prepared to listen to the many thoughtful comments that we in this House and another place
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I thank the Minister particularly for listening to those of us who argued the need for a stated aim and ambition in the Bill, as well as the desperate need for an annual report. That is extremely welcome. I welcome also the further measures pertaining to consumer protection, in particular the early appointment of a body to manage the oversight and authorisation scheme. However, I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said about the consultation on how such a body would take forward its role. Consumer protection, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, made clear, will be fundamental to the success of the Bill. I hope that the Minister can give reassurance today that such consultation will take place, without it necessarily being in the legislation. Without that consumer protection, all the good words spoken in this House will come to naught.
Lord Grantchester: My Lords, I join others in thanking the Minister for his introductory remarks. I congratulate him on the way in which he has led the government team on this Bill and on the fact that his first Bill will soon be enacted.
With the Bill now on its last lap, and with all the opportunities that we have had to examine it both here and in the other place and the improvements that have been made at each stage, we are now able to see the coherence of the Green Deal. With today's amendments clarifying certain aspects of it, I should like the Minister to confirm my interpretation of them and give some guidance on the Government's thinking. I ask the House's indulgence concerning Amendments 6 to 9, on disclosure documents, Amendment 10, on default, and Amendments 12 to 15, on data for responsible lending.
I take it from the amendments that it is the Green Deal provider and his or her finance company that makes the payment risk decision on whether to give the go-ahead to a green deal on a certain property. Under Amendments 6 to 9, the Green Deal provider has to disclose detailed information to a consumer taking over a property; under Amendment 10, clarity is provided regarding who is liable in a default situation; and under Amendments 12 to 15, the Green Deal provider can, following the consent of the present or intended future bill payer, be advised by the energy company collecting the Green Deal payment regarding their payment history.
From these Benches, we are keen to see the legislation and the Green Deal a success in improving the energy efficiency of the nation's housing stock and buildings and reducing the demand for energy. Given that Green Deal improvements are to be paid for over 20 years, I can envisage certain properties generally populated on a more short-term basis becoming problems, even given that it may be the landlord in these circumstances who gives the go-ahead for the Green Deal improvements. Given that the Green Deal loan attaches to the property, and that there is an element of risk-taking on the part of several participants, will the ultimate assessment of risk be made on the property or on the bill payer, who could pass on the payment? Has the Minister sense-checked the Green Deal in the marketplace and seen
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Lord Marland: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I am grateful particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, for her further searching and detailed questions, which will help us all better to construct the Green Deal. As we said in Committee and at every stage of the Bill, consumer protection is at the very heart of the scheme. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Whitty-who recognises the consumer position better than anyone having been chair of the consumers' body-in saying that we must not make any early mistakes. He is quite right about that, and that is why this and future debates on this subject will be so valuable in creating a Green Deal that is fit for purpose.
I confirm that we will report annually on the take-up of the scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, mentioned the Sutton housing scheme. If 50 per cent of households took up Green Deal, we would be incredibly satisfied. We would not be complacent about it, but if 50 per cent took it up, I think that we would all say, "Well, we're moving in the right direction".
As I said earlier, consumer protection is at the heart of the scheme. It is therefore fundamentally important that we have a code of practice that protects the consumer and provides a pathway for them. The assessors have to deliver and the consumer should be protected. I make the commitment on record that I shall be very happy to engage, as we have throughout the passage of the Bill, with all sides of the House in establishing the code of practice and ensuring that it is fit for purpose for the Green Deal.
The noble Baroness mentioned apprenticeships. Clearly, a good many of our MPs in the other place felt that apprenticeships were fundamental and therefore voted against the Government on this point, and one can only agree with them.
The issue of loan interest rates is difficult; there is no point in pretending otherwise. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding got to the heart of the whole matter of borrowing for the consumer over a 20-year period. We have to remind ourselves that this is a market-driven proposition and that, therefore, the market, as it does in every other form of lending, will come up with a rating structure. If the Government try to confine that market by imposing restrictions and limitations on interest rates, they will shy the market away from it. The whole point is to encourage the market to react to this.
I wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend, as I do on virtually every occasion-I think that there was only once where I disagreed with him-that it would be wonderful to encourage people to pay off debt. Debt is at the core of this society's problems at the moment. He knows that-we all do. I would be very keen to find a way to do that but unfortunately it is not within the powers of our department in the Bill. It goes to a far wider remit. It is for BIS and the Treasury to grapple with the serious problem that we have but it is a good point.
It seems a little churlish now to move to the subject of ventilation, which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, frequently raises. This is part of the product offering that I am sure will be available as we roll out a range of products that will be acceptable within the Green Deal. He knows that our department is very sympathetic to the matter of ventilation as being at the heart of improving the build quality of a house. As I said, and to repeat the words of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, it is important that we give confidence to the market so that it can deliver but also that, as my noble friend Lady Parminter kindly said, we continue to work together to ensure that this Green Deal is a roaring success.
9: Clause 13 page 11, line 19, leave out from "obtain" to "has" and insert "a document required to be produced or updated as mentioned in section 8(4) or, if the requirement to produce or update such a document"
"(3A) Provision made by virtue of subsection (2)(b) which falls within subsection (3)(c) may include provision requiring the holder of the licence, where a bill payer has failed to pay a sum due under an energy bill, to remit a proportion of any payment received to a green deal provider."
(2B) The second purpose is the purpose of requiring the holder of the licence to disclose on request specified information about the payment of energy bills by a person who is, or is to be, the bill payer for a property in respect of which there is, or is proposed to be, a green deal plan.
"(4) Conditions included in a licence under section 7A(1) of the Gas Act 1986 by virtue of the power under subsection (1) and the purpose mentioned in subsection (2B) may do any of the things authorised by section 7B(5)(a)(i) or (iii) of that Act (which applies to the power of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority with respect to licence conditions under section 7B(4)(a)).
(5) Conditions included in a licence under section 6(1)(d) of the Electricity Act 1989 by virtue of the power under subsection (1) and the purpose mentioned in subsection (2B) may do any of the things authorised
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(d) must not exceed the total amount of interest that would have been paid by the debtor under the agreement in the period from the date on which the debtor makes the payment under section 94 to the date fixed by the agreement for the discharge of the indebtedness of the debtor.
Lord Grantchester: My Lords, I beg the House's indulgence to ask the Minister further questions on Amendment 18. Has he envisaged an accreditation body for the Green Deal scheme? Has he only envisaged some administrative functions being undertaken or will such an accreditation body undertake any overarching role acting to co-ordinate, oversee and drive forward the objectives of the Green Deal? While the Minister may answer that the market will provide, the success of this initiative would be enhanced if there was a body that could take ownership of the task.
Lord Marland: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we are working with UKAS-the United Kingdom Accreditation Service-to have an overarching effect on this particular Green Deal. I, too, beg the House's indulgence in responding to something that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked me earlier: charities are included in the Green Deal. I apologise for not answering that earlier. It occurred to me as I sat down.
"(5A) If the Scottish Ministers consider it appropriate for the purpose of, or in consequence of, any provision falling within subsection (3)(a), (d), (f) or (g), they may by regulations revoke or amend any subordinate legislation, or any provision included in an instrument made under an Act of the Scottish Parliament, if the provision making the revocation or amendment would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were included in an Act of that Parliament."
(1) Before making the first framework regulations the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report on what, if any, steps the Secretary of State has taken to encourage green deal installation apprenticeships.
"(8A) Before amending under section 9 a provision of the Building Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010/2214), the Secretary of State must, if and so far as the function under which the provision was made is exercisable by the Welsh Ministers, obtain their consent."
Lord Marland: My Lords, this second group of amendments covers the private rented sector, the energy company obligation and the Home Energy Conservation Act. For convenience, I will speak to Amendments 33 to 72 and Amendment 104 as a group.
During the early stages of the Bill, many noble Lords tabled amendments in the House for stronger provisions to improve the energy efficiency of the private rented sector. I acknowledge the leadership shown in this by the noble Lord, Lord Best. During the Bill's passage, the sentiments underlying those amendments were shared by many in another place and by a wide range of interest groups who made the
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Amendments 37 to 39, 44 and 47 remove the provisions from the Bill which required a review of the private rented sector by April 2014. The review has been omitted to send a clearer signal that we want action to address this problem. We have also made it clear that there is a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations.
However, with the regulatory certainty generated by the omission of the review provisions, we need to give the sector longer to prepare. Therefore, from April 2016 instead of April 2015, all domestic landlords should not unreasonably refuse a tenant's request for consent to have relevant energy efficiency improvements where there is finance available under the Green Deal and the ECO. Amendments 45 and 46 make these changes.
The current provisions for the domestic energy efficiency regulations were removed and we sought new regulation-making powers to introduce a minimum energy efficiency standard for the domestic private rented sector, as provided for in Amendments 35 and 36. Under these new provisions, from April 2018 landlords will not be permitted to rent property unless it has an E or above, or they have done the maximum package of measures under the Green Deal or ECO-even if that still does not take them above F. This is a clearer legislative position for both landlords and local authorities, as the enforcement body, and is similar to the current provisions in the Bill for the non-domestic sector.
Amendments 48 and 51 impose a duty on the Secretary of State to make the non-domestic regulations and change the date for regulating from 1 April 2015 to 1 April 2018, in line with the domestic provisions. Under these new provisions, we remain committed to minimising the regulatory burden on landlords. Amendments 54 to 69 relate to Chapter 3 and the Scottish private rented sector provisions, and reflect the differences in Scottish parliamentary procedure.
A number of additional amendments are very minor or technical. These include Amendments 33 and 34, 40 to 43, 49 and 50, 52 and 53, 72, and 125 and 126. I will not take up your Lordships' time with these. Amendment 104 is to enable the Secretary of State to require local authorities to report on their engagement with the Green Deal and ECO. Scottish and Welsh Ministers have decided to continue with the repeal of HECA. I beg to move.
Lord Best: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 35A to 35E. I fear that some of the excitement of this debate may be lacking, as I recognise that it would be very bad form for me to press any amendment to a vote on a night when so many from the government Benches are away at their party conference. However, I feel sure that I would not in any case be tempted to divide the House since the Minister has, throughout this Bill's progress, been extremely helpful in recognising and responding to the suggestions made within-and, indeed, outside-your Lordships' House.
During the Bill's passage through this House, I moved an amendment to secure improved energy efficiency in the worst of the properties in the private rented
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The Minister was very receptive to the arguments put forward, although my amendment was not pursued by the Government during the Lords stages of the Bill. Indeed, there was widespread support for a new law outside that would ensure that tens of thousands of vulnerable households are saved from the poverty brought on-unnecessarily, when remedies are at hand-by huge heating bills following big hikes in the price of electricity and gas over recent months. I was very pleased that the Government tabled an amendment to the Bill in the Commons Committee, as the noble Lord has explained. It is the changes to this Commons amendment that we are now debating. In essence, Ministers have taken on board the principle that, to quote the right honourable Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State,
However, the Commons amendment has some deficiencies in the opinion of the expert groups involved and my amendments seek to overcome them. I am hopeful that the Minister will be able to provide reassurances on most, if not all, of these points. The changes I am suggesting here are relatively straightforward. First, there are two proposed changes to subsection (1) of the proposed new clause so that as well as placing requirements on landlords, the legislation should cover letting and managing agents. It was estimated by the Rugg inquiry on the private rented sector that some 60 per cent of properties were in the hands of agents, often with the landlord being an investor rather than a hands-on participant in the process. With day-to-day management in the hands of agents in so many cases, it seems important for the Bill to cover those who are acting on behalf of landlords, so these amendments extend the legislation to appointed agents and make it an offence for them to let or indeed market the properties below the F or G energy rating. My amendment to subsection (4) ensures that there is a proper definition of marketing in regulations. If the Minister believes that other regulations achieve this without the need for my amendment, I know that he will explain that to the House.
I have some knowledge of managing and letting agents in the private rented sector, not least in my role as chair of the Property Ombudsman Council, which considers complaints against agents from both tenants and landlords. A good letting agent is a real asset but not all are perfect and it seems important, since so much privately rented property has been placed by absentee landlords in the hands of agents, that the Bill covers them too. I am hoping that the Minister will confirm that existing regulations can be used to ensure that landlords as well as tenants will be covered by the obligations in the Bill.
Secondly, the amendment to subsection (2) simply tightens up on the definition of the standard which the property must achieve-that is, above the abysmal F or G rating. I am hopeful that this is not a controversial point since I know it is the Government's intention that the energy efficiency of privately rented properties should be raised above the F and G level. The problem with the wording of the Commons amendment is that there could still be some privately rented properties which fail to obtain an E rating but which could still be deemed to comply with the legislative requirement because the landlord has made some improvements. They may be using Green Deal funding, perhaps topped up with special ECO finance, even though these properties have failed to achieve the minimum standard.
This loophole would create a category of legally let F or G-rated properties. Such a situation would lead to real compliance difficulties for tenants, landlords, agents and the local authorities who will be doing the enforcing. It would not be clear whether the minimum standard for letting had been achieved. If there are to be exceptions to the rule so clearly announced by the Secretary of State-I think a case could be made in the rather obscure instances of private letting of grade 1 listed buildings, for example-then surely such exceptions will be spelt out in the regulations. Obviously, the straightforward ban on the rental of properties rated F and G is what the Government intend and my amendment would make the position clearer.
Finally, the amendment to subsection (6) substitutes 2016 in place of 2018. Although I am not entirely clear why, the date for compliance in the original amendment I tabled for all the environmental organisations and consumer bodies was changed from five years hence to seven years hence when the Bill was amended in the Commons. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give me some reassurance on the arrangements here. It happens that 2016 is also the deadline for all new homes being built in the private and social sector to achieve the higher standards of energy efficiency required by the Code for Sustainable Homes-that is, to level 5 or above. While I understand 2016, I am not clear on why the extra two years are to be deployed in this case.
As in all such cases, we can be sure that the most recalcitrant and inefficient landlords will leave everything to the last minute, meaning that we would have to wait for a full seven years from today for action to be taken in a lot of serious cases. I know that many felt that a starting point of five years hence was taking the matter too slowly. Some older people living in cold and draughty properties and paying huge amounts for
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If there are properties where, despite all the Government's help and encouragement, the landlord feels the obligation is still too burdensome and sells them either to another landlord with a better business plan or to owner-occupiers who are keen to do the places up, this would not seem to be a bad thing.
I know that the Minister has worked hard on these matters and I am confident that he will be able to give us, and all the many interested parties, some reassurance in relation to most of the suggested improvements to the Commons amendment which I am suggesting. However, I am a bit worried that bringing forward the implementation date from 2018 to 2016 may still be problematic for the Minister. I know the Bill uses the words,
Therefore, if little progress is apparent as time goes by, Ministers could bring the regulation into force at an earlier date. Although it would seem better to fix a five-year deadline for the changes here and now, not least so that landlords know exactly where they stand, it would be good to hear from the Minister about the process for reviewing progress in the sector and considering an earlier starting date.
Lord Deben: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the changes that he has made. I very much agree with the spirit in which the noble Lord has brought forward his amendments. However, I do not think we should leave this without accepting that this has been a major response to the pressures which have been brought about, and we ought to thank my noble friend for that.
However strongly one feels about the need for care with regulation, this is one area where regulation is essential. As any of us who have had to deal with this on either a constituency basis or a ministerial basis will know, there are many good landlords; but, my goodness, there are some pretty bad ones as well. I too would like to ask whether we could think again about the seven-year period, for several reasons. First of all, one has to think of the situation of a family in such accommodation. It is the whole primary-school period
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Thirdly, although I hesitate to draw too close a comparison with other things that are happening, there is a worry that we are not living up to the promises that we have made. Therefore people are worried about the date of 2016. It is a crucial date. If this Government in any way move from that date, they will do huge damage to the housing industry. The good housebuilders are all prepared to meet the requirements which the last Government laid on them and which this Government are continuing. There are some quite large housebuilders who have no intention of doing anything about this until they are absolutely sure that we are sticking to 2016. It would be a crying shame if their tardiness were to succeed, and those who had done the job and were prepared were found to have wasted very considerable amounts of their money preparing to meet the Government's targets. I am worried that if we move this from 2016 to 2018, there will be those in the companies which have decided not to do the job properly who will say, "There you are-the Government are not really absolutely sure. It is not actually on that date".
Therefore I beg the Minister to reassure us that 2016 is written in stone, because the best housebuilders have spent a great deal of money on being prepared for that, and they will not only not forgive the Government but will not believe the Government again if we move from that. It is a cross-party agreement, and it is one which I think is crucial.
I therefore ask the Minister whether it is possible to think again about 2016. Five years is plenty of time to prepare, even for the most unhappy of landlords. I do not believe they need another two years; and there is also the ancillary problem, which I hope will be put right.
The second thing I wanted to say, very briefly, refers back to a point which has been raised about not being sure as to what all this means. Certainty is the key thing for the housing industry. I declare an interest in this, because although I am not a landlord I advise some housing companies on how to build ecological houses, and I do that as the chairman of a company as well. These are not covered, I am happy to say, by this Bill, so I can speak entirely independently, but as someone who knows something about it, the one thing the industry needs is absolute certainty. If there is any doubt in the way in which the amendments have been so fortunately made, I hope the Minister will allay those fears now, simply because this is an industry that does not actually move very fast, and only moves when it knows precisely what it has to do. I fear that is true, and it will be very helpful if the Minister would allay those fears.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I will make two brief points. The first is that, yes, there are landlords who fall well short of the standards that we might like
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My second point is quite different. I have been consulting local authorities, because they now have quite specific rules to enforce the new provisions that are made for the private rented sector. I am gratified to find that they are in fact quite ready to take that up. They welcome this, provided that the full cost will be met, and that this will be treated under a full burdens assessment so that they will not have to thrust the cost upon their council tax payers. I think that they have been given some assurances, but if those assurances could be repeated this evening by my noble friend that would be very welcome.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I also thank the Minister for bringing forward the substantive amendments here. However, I would also like to support the noble Lord, Lord Best, particularly on Amendment 35E, on the date. We have arrived at a slightly illogical position. There was some concern when the date was 2016, but there was a certain logic to that date. People were worried about it taking five years, but in the original proposition there was a review to be completed by 2014. The Government have accepted the logic of removing that review, which might delay progress and clarity about what we were requesting. However, that should make 2016 easier to attain, rather than less easy. I am therefore somewhat bemused as to why we are now talking about 2018 for meeting these standards.
I will accept that there could be two logical reasons for it. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has touched on one: the argument that local authorities need time to prepare and to set up their enforcement. However, that is not what local authorities are saying. They are concerned about the cost, but they are also quite keen to get involved in this, at least at the RDA level. No doubt one or two local authorities will not quite make it but we know that most of them are trying to. Frankly, it would be slightly easier for them to do so had an amendment to another Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Best, which would have allowed the local authorities to set up registers been accepted by the noble Lord's colleagues in the DCLG. However, it is not really the case-
Lord Jenkin of Roding: I have specifically asked the local authority associations where they stand on the issue of 2016 or 2018. While they see the attraction of 2016, they have actually made it quite clear that they are not taking a position on this. No doubt different local authorities will have different views. However, the associations have specifically told me firmly that they are not taking sides in this argument.
Lord Whitty: I appreciate that, and am glad for the clarification. I was not implying that they were taking sides; they were saying that they could meet what would be required from them in 2016, provided that the cost is covered by the Minister's department, as I believe to be the case. I really do not think that time for local authorities to prepare justifies moving the date back to 2018.
The other argument relates perhaps to the wider concern about the housing market, which we have debated during the passage of other Bills in recent days, that we might deter new landlords from coming into the market just as there is a big strain on the private rented sector to provide more accommodation. However, if you look behind that argument, the logic of that is not clear either. We want landlords to come into the private rented market who will be there for some time and who are prepared to provide accommodation that will not be deemed illegal in two years' time. When attracting new landlords in, it must be those who are prepared to provide capacity within the private rented sector that meets the post-2018 standards. Were they prepared to come in earlier than that, they would have made sure that their property met those standards, whether it was new build, refurbished or existing premises. I can understand that there might be some concern about those two issues, but I do not think that it stands up.
I appreciate that the Minister may be in difficulty. This has been through the Commons and so forth, and clearly there are a number of interests to be placated here. However, if he cannot accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Best, he can at least tell us this evening that, as far as his department is concerned, "no later than" means that it will attempt to bring the regulations in as soon as is practical. In my judgment, the end date would be earlier than 2018; it would probably be approximately 2016. A slippage of a few months will not worry me if the Minister can give the assurance that his department will work on the regulations, consult everybody concerned, from the property owners to the consumers, and aim to get an early date for those regulations, whatever the terminal date, in the statute book.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best, but speak specifically on Amendments 35C and 35E. I should apologise to the Minister for dragging him away from the Conservative Party conference. Looking around the Chamber, I think the average age in your Lordships' House is currently significantly lower than in the debate I saw at the Conservative Party conference this afternoon. We are pleased to have the Minister here.
In some ways, this is the most controversial part of the Bill, although not in intent, because it is clear that everyone in your Lordships' House wants to see improvements in energy efficiency in the private rented sector. The difference is the degree of urgency. I endorse the comments of other noble Lords who want to see the 2018 date brought forward.
I greatly welcome the changes that have been made, and a number of amendments in this group, particularly the Government removing the requirement for a review
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I also greatly welcome the introduction of a minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented properties, so that properties that do not meet at least an E standard cannot be let. I entirely agree with and welcome that commitment. The impact of energy efficiency regulations could have a massive impact on health; on bringing down the energy bills of some of those hardest hit by the increases in energy prices; and, of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, mentioned, on the environment. Consumer Focus estimated that just lifting band E to being the minimum could lift 150,000 households out of fuel poverty by saving each an average of £488 a year off their fuel bills. It would save 1.87 million tonnes of CO2 annually and cut the Bill to the NHS, as we have heard in previous debates, by around £145 million, which is currently spent on illnesses and conditions among those who live in poorly heated homes.
All those objectives have our full support, and I welcome the Minister's movement on them. However, I part company with the Government on two qualifications, or loopholes, to those commitments, which undermine the Government's stated objectives: first, to ensure that all homes that are rented out are of an acceptable energy efficiency standard; and, secondly, that this is done as soon as possible. The amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best, seem a sensible and practical way of addressing these issues and meeting the Government's objectives. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something positive about those two amendments in particular and about all those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Best.
As we have heard from other noble Lords, delaying the regulations that will provide for a minimum standard of energy efficiency until 2018 is really unacceptable. People in Belfast wear a t-shirt about the "Titanic" that says, "When it left here it was okay". We feel the same about the dates. When the Bill left here, it was okay in that regard. The date was 2015. We would be very happy with 2015 and would accept 2016. But now it has been knocked back to beyond the next election.
Even with 2018 in legislation, the picture is still quite confusing. Greg Barker, as a Minister, has repeatedly said that he sees 2018 as the end date, or finishing line, by which properties should have been improved voluntarily, rather than just the start of the regulations. He then said that if voluntary improvement does not happen quickly enough, the date could be brought forward. That is a very confused message to send to private landlords, who need certainty in what is expected of them. It is also a very confused message to send to tenants, who could be saving an average of £488 a year on their fuel bills, but do not know when that will be. It is also a very confused message to send to those who are suffering from living in cold homes that they
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Professor Marmot, who is known to the Minister for the reviews that he has undertaken, and his team identified very startling and disturbing details about the impact of cold homes on children. We are all very aware of the impact of cold homes on older people. Statistics from CLG, obtained by Friends of the Earth, also show that over 1.3 million children are estimated to be living in the coldest, worst insulated homes: that is, those with an F or G rating. The figures have increased. In 2009, the number of households in the group that were in fuel poverty was seven times the number in 2003. Children living in cold homes are more than twice as likely to suffer from a variety of respiratory problems than children in warm homes. More than one in four adolescents in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems, compared with one in 20 adolescents living in warm homes. Cold housing significantly affects children's attainment, emotional well-being and resilience. There is significant evidence of cold housing affecting infants' weight gain, hospital admission rates, developmental status, and the severity and frequency of asthmatic symptoms.
The Government identify those problems and get the right answer by identifying that a minimum standard must be brought in, but then fail to act on it for another seven years. I plead with the Minister not to delay but to act as quickly as possible. That date can be brought forward to what it was before the Bill left your Lordships' House. That would be greatly appreciated by Members across your Lordships' House.
There is another qualification-the second loophole-that damages the Government's credibility on this issue and the Bill. Under this provision, from 2018, landlords will not be able to rent a property unless it is in band E or above, which we all entirely support. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, made very clear, if they have undertaken a package of measures from the Green Deal and the ECO and the property is still at band F or G, they will be allowed to rent it out legally, presumably for ever. There is no time limit on that legislation.
I have struggled with this, because I have been trying to work out what the Minister and the Government are seeking to achieve by allowing that position to continue. Not only is it wrong to allow households to live in such appalling conditions-conditions that the Government themselves have said are below the minimum requirements-but it will make it harder to enforce the regulations. Whether a home has had enough Green Deal or ECO improvements could be used as a defence or argument in the courts, if it was ever to get that far. Local authorities, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said, are quite rightly looking to recoup their costs and for the Government to reimburse any costs arising from taking these issues to court. If there are categories-bands F and G-that are both legal and illegal, the ability to enforce the legislation is significantly weakened. It seems to be a legal nightmare and a solicitor's delight. It will bang around in the courts for ages.
No, they will not; most will, but not all. The Government have almost got this right. I know that the Minister longs for three cheers and only ever gets two from me. On this occasion I am afraid it might be just one, but he can redeem that. There is a great danger that what is right and what the Government have done so well in this could be completely undermined by qualifications, exemptions and loopholes. Therefore, I urge the Minister to accept the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Best.
Lord Marland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, for a very well constructed and well put argument on this amendment. It is fundamental, as he says, that we should deal with recalcitrant and inefficient landlords. I remind the House of what was happening before we brought the Bill forward: not a lot. The Bill has moved us on a long way. The other day I asked the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, "Is there any logic in government?". He was careful in responding but his silence suggested that there is not. However, his logic here is that provided we get to 2016, there is logic. The answer is that it is not logic that we can live with here, but it is a logic that we can get a long way towards. I shall come to that point in a minute in addressing the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lord Deben. In particular, I pick up on one remark that my noble friend made about certainty. We have to give certainty; it is absolutely right that we should do so in this area.
I shall address my noble friend Lord Jenkin. I am encouraged to hear that student accommodation has not changed since my day or my children's day. However, that is a very good test case-one where we have to hit the landlord hard. My noble friend raised the point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about local authorities and their attitude towards this. We have to work very closely with the local authorities. I was in Liverpool not long ago, persuading the chairman and chief executive of the local authority of the merits of the Green Deal. We have been to many other towns and cities, persuading them of those merits. I am thoroughly encouraged by their attitude towards this and their desire to ensure that properties in their cities are dealt with on this basis.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, gave a huge number of statistics, for which I am very grateful. I shall read them before I go to sleep tonight-or probably when I am going to sleep tonight. Many of these statistics will be helpful in getting us to where we should be. On a serious note, it is fundamental that these recalcitrant landlords-to quote the noble Lord, Lord Best-should act responsibly towards children and families in need, and that we stamp on them with great authority. Because of the significance of these amendments and the seriousness with which the Government take them, I shall break with tradition and read a script so that we are absolutely clear about the direction in which we are going.
I turn first to Amendments 35A, 35B and 35D, which deal with letting agents and marketing. We have investigated this matter and, under the existing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, it will be unlawful for letting agents and landlords classified as traders to market properties that do not meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements. In addition, a landlord will not be able to circumvent the prohibition against letting a below-standard property simply by seeking the assistance of a letting agent.
I turn now to Amendment 35C on the implementation of the minimum standard. This is intended to ensure that all properties, regardless of cost and availability of finance under the Green Deal, are brought up to the minimum standard. I stress that "no up-front costs" is an important safeguard. It helps to ensure that our regulations do not have an adverse impact on the supply of properties in this key sector. Therefore, landlords will need either to reach band E or to carry out the maximum package of measures under the Green Deal and ECO, even if this does not take them above an F rating. Within that, there is the matter that the noble Lord raised to do with grade 1 listed houses. We are committed to a significant ECO, which will minimise those who cannot get above F under the golden rule.
Lastly, I turn to Amendment 35E on timing. As I outlined earlier, we amended the Bill and provided a firm legislative position. With this, we also need to provide landlords with a reasonable period in which to prepare and schedule works in their normal maintenance cycles. This is a long-backstop power; our intention is that regulations will bite right at the end of this period. However, the provisions of the Bill as they stand, without amendment, are expressed in terms that do not preclude regulations being made sooner than 1 April 2018. Therefore that possibility, as a matter of law, is left open. I also confirm that we will review progress in the sector annually-an excellent suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Best, for which I am very grateful. If we do not see reasonable progress, we could consider acting earlier. As I have stated, this possibility, as a matter of law, is left open and is within the scope of the Bill. With these reassurances, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Deben: Will my noble friend take this opportunity to reassure me on one point that may not be in his script, elegant though it was? Does the movement from 2016 to 2018 in any way undermine our commitment to 2016 as the date from which domestic properties that are to be built from then must meet the new highest rating?
Lord Marland: I assure my noble friend that properties have to reach the highest rating but for the private rented sector, as I have said, 2018 is the long-backstop date. If we feel, having annually reviewed it-an undertaking that I have given the House today-that we are not making the right progress, we will act accordingly. The department is determined and keen to ensure that there is big take-up. That is why I have made the commitments that I have.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: I am grateful to the Minister, who is so eloquently reading out his script to take care over what he says in your Lordships' House. I just want some clarification on the point about F and G properties. From what he said, it seems that it will remain legal to let an F or G property if it has had a package of measures under the Green Deal or the ECO. The deciding factor would not be whether it reaches the minimum standard that the Government have set, but whether the measures have been carried out on it. Will there be any circumstances in which it will be legal to let an F or G property?
Lord Marland: As I said, there may be circumstances, such as in the case of a grade 1 listed property, in which you cannot make the improvements that you need to because of the listing arrangements. Therefore, there must be some sort of caveat. However, if our annual review finds that things are falling through a loophole, we will of course act. Our attitude to this is not to allow inefficient properties and recalcitrant landlords to operate within the Green Deal, and to carry on acting inefficiently or inappropriately in perpetuity. We shall attempt to make sure that they do not. All the initiatives and drivers from our department try to force them into that position. However, there may be situations where we might have to take a view, for instance in the case of grade 1 listed properties. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Best, indicated that they may be a case in point.
Lord Best: My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, the noble Lords, Lord Deben, Lord Jenkin and Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. I have received support around the House for this amendment. I deeply regret that I am not in a position to take it any further. However, I wish to press the Minister a little on where we have got to at the end of this discussion. I am very pleased that Amendments 35A, 35B and 35D, relating to agents, are clearly answered by his comments, for which I am grateful.
In relation to trying to ensure that there is clarity on whether a property has met a minimum standard, whether it is above the F and G level in the energy performance rating, and on the date-2018 versus 2016-as I do not think that we will make further progress tonight on changes to the Bill, I wonder whether the Minister would be willing to agree that further consultation might take place with the sector before the Green Deal kicks in and well in advance of 1 April next year, because I suspect that the private sector would prefer a position in which it is clear that the minimum standard means E or above except in specified circumstances such as grade 1 or grade 2 listed buildings. I think the private rented sector would prefer to be clear that the deadline was 2016 rather than having 2018 as a longstop. As the Minister says, it would be possible to bring forward the date if an annual review showed that that was worthwhile. I think the sector might prefer certainty. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, mentioned this. The industry finds it more helpful to know where it stands.
We need to be clear on whether a property is or is not meeting a minimum standard as it may have had certain expenditure spent on it although it has not got to level E. That leaves an uncertainty for local authorities trying to enforce this. They would have to understand the finances of that property, not just know whether the certificate says E or above. That will complicate matters. I wonder whether a bit of consultation with private landlords early on would not be more helpful to the Government and to them in getting clarity on that matter and on the date. I suspect that instead of the reviews they would rather have 2016 for sure. Would the Minister be willing to consult on that before all these measures kick in next year so that we can see whether, through regulation and through using the power that the Bill gives to come forward from the longstop of 2018, that might not happen rather earlier with everyone's agreement? I hope that the noble Lord might wish to say something on this proposal before I sit down.
Lord Marland: I thank the noble Lord. Of course, we are in consultation with the sector and we will continue to be in consultation with it. If the sector wishes to move in that direction, of course, we will embrace it. I give a commitment that we shall continue with the consultation and we will continue to listen.
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