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House of Lords

Tuesday, 5 November 2013.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Introduction: Baroness Williams of Trafford

2.38 pm

Susan Frances Maria Williams, having been created Baroness Williams of Trafford, of Hale in the County of Greater Manchester, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Morris of Bolton and Lord Howard of Lympne, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

2.44 pm

Jennifer Helen Jones, having been created Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, of Moulsecoomb in the County of East Sussex, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws and Baroness Grey-Thompson, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

EU: Balance of Competences Review


2.50 pm

Asked by Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will next hold discussions with the Council of Ministers and the European Commission on the current United Kingdom review of European Union competences.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe recently briefed the September General Affairs Council of the European Union on the balance of competences review. This is but one example of the regular conversations that we are having with our European partners and the Commission as the review progresses. Lead departments also regularly engage with the institutions and their foreign counterparts during the consultation period for reports. Ministers will continue to raise the findings from each semester with EU partners and institutions.

Lord Dykes (LD): I thank my noble friend for that Answer. No doubt he would agree that emotional fans of the review of competences were few and far between, but even they would agree with the excellent results of the last EU summit at the end of October and the firm and detailed agreement reached by President Barroso

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and the Council of Ministers on a secure reform agenda for the future, which has also helped to anchor the United Kingdom membership into the Union even more strongly.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am pleased to hear my noble friend echoing the speech that the Prime Minister made to the CBI only yesterday. The balance of competences review is only one of the things that the coalition Government are undertaking on European issues. It is intended to be an evidence- based review, and we have so far had well over 1,000 contributions to the reports published and under consideration.

Lord Barnett (Lab): My Lords, could the Minister tell us how many of these competences he expects the Government to have agreed by 2017?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it is not a question of which competences we agree. We are asking various stakeholders, and getting very large pieces of evidence from producer groups, about the current balance of competences. I think that the Scotch Whisky Association has produced the most pieces of evidence so far—clearly a stakeholder. As Ministers have said before from this Dispatch Box, the current Lisbon treaty has a lot of headroom on competences, not all of which are currently exercised by the European Union. We are asking stakeholders to say whether they are happy with the current balance, whether there are areas in which they would like the balance to be tipped back towards the national level or whether there are areas in which they would like the balance to be tipped further towards common European policies.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): Would my noble friend, who knows a lot about these things, accept that it is not just a question of looking at the balance of competences? It is also about looking at unpicking and unravelling some of the categories of competences, which are now substantially out of date, as they were invented in the last century. For instance, agriculture now embraces all aspects of climate, energy and scientific issues as well; and many aspects of social policy, which used to be centralised, are now much better handled at a very local level. Those are all areas in which it is not just a question of taking the competence as it stands but unravelling and unpicking it to see what aspects are best dealt with at a global, national or local level. Would he take that message back to his ministerial colleagues?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, one thing that has come across strongly to me from the first round—and the second round, which we are currently considering—is the dynamics of globalisation, on which the noble Lord is himself a great expert, and the extent to which the context in which we operate with our European partners in a great many sectors differs fundamentally from the context in which we joined in 1973. As I have stressed before, we are not seeking to arrive at policy recommendations in this review; we are asking for

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evidence of how far the current arrangements satisfy the various stakeholders and where there is room for improvement, reform or change.

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): With regard to the claims by some members of the Conservative Party that we should withdraw entirely from Europe, I suspect that the reaction of the people whom the Government are consulting has been almost unanimously opposed to that extreme view.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Prime Minister made it clear in his speech to the CBI that he is interested in a reform and not a repatriation agenda, and that he seeks to use the process of reform as a way in which to convince the sceptical British public that our national interests remain in staying in the European Union.

Lord Waddington (Con): My Lords, why do we allow the powers that be to translate competences as competences, when in plain English what we are talking about is powers? Why are we not talking about powers?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am not a lawyer, so far be it for me to question the sort of language they use, in particular international lawyers.

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): As our officials wander around Europe begging for bits and pieces that might be repatriated, does the Minister sometimes worry that the Government will end up generating a good deal of diplomatic irritation without achieving any genuine reconstitution of the relation between Britain and Europe?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: No, my Lords, I do not. I am very struck by the extent to which a number of other Governments are following a similar agenda to ours. I am sure that the noble Lord is familiar with the Dutch Government’s recent study of subsidiarity. In the process of publishing the opening stage of papers, the Minister for Europe and I spoke to Ministers in other European Governments and many of them have very similar views to our own. We are pursuing a reform agenda for which there is a great deal of sympathy in a number of other Governments.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend get the message across to the Europeans clearly and strongly that the British housewife does not consider them competent to tell her how much sugar she should put in her jam?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The other day my wife and I were discussing how much sugar she puts in jam. We have rather a surplus of fruit from our allotment this year. I simply remind the noble Baroness that Britain is also a European country.

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, while the Government conduct this interesting and potentially valuable but, in truth, somewhat academic exercise, has the Minister noticed the CBI report published yesterday which

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shows that the benefit to Britain of our membership is between £62 billion and £78 billion a year—4% to 5% of our GDP? Can he imagine any circumstances in which any British Government would be crazy enough to throw away these benefits, whatever the results of his review of competences?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, academic exercises have their valuable purposes as well. I look forward to hearing the Labour leadership say frequently and openly that they also agree with the CBI’s statement.

Lord Vinson (Con): My Lords, in any future renegotiation, I hope the Government will bear in mind that currently we have a massive imbalance of trade with Europe, equivalent to £80 billion a year. Thus we are creating in Europe 1.5 million jobs more than are its trade with us creates. We also import 800,000 more cars from Europe than it buys from us. All these factors mean that in many respects from a trade point of view Europe needs us more than we need it. I hope that this imbalance of trade will be well remembered in any future negotiations. It is something that the CBI surprisingly missed.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, Britain has a trade deficit in goods with a great many countries, including China. I am not sure where the noble Lord’s argument is taking him. We have a surplus in financial services and other services with the European Union and a number of other countries as well.

EU: Free Movement of Labour


2.58 pm

Asked by Lord Empey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the present arrangements for the free movement of labour within the European Union.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, the Government support free movement but do not tolerate abuse. We are focusing on work across government to tackle abuse of free movement and address pull factors such as access to benefits and public services. We have consistently raised the issue of fraud and abuse with other member states, and in April the Home Secretary wrote, with Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, to the Council presidency. We continue to welcome the brightest and the best but immigration must benefit the UK.

Lord Empey (UUP): Given that the economies of the original EEC countries were at similar stages of development and that the 28 economies of the current EU are not, is the policy of free movement of labour compatible with current economic circumstances, and will the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister will be raising this matter with our EU partners in the course of his reform negotiations?

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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I can certainly reassure the noble Lord on his latter question. As regards our negotiations with the EU, although we support the principle of free movement we continue to give high priority to preventing the abuse of free-movement rights. The Home Secretary has repeatedly raised questions about free-movement abuse at European level and, as I said, we are getting increasing support for our position from other member states, including Germany.

Lord Taverne (LD): My Lords, the Prime Minister argues eloquently for the completion of the single market and for its extension to services, which would greatly benefit this country, but is there not a transparent inconsistency, and is it not obviously counterproductive, to seek at the same time to modify the free movement of labour, which is one of the pillars of a single market?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I accept that the noble Lord is quite right in saying that free movement was one of the founding principles of the European Union, and we in this Government support it. Although the vast majority of individuals coming to the UK reside here lawfully and make a positive contribution to our society, a small minority abuse these rights by either becoming a burden on their local communities or turning to crime.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, in each answer the Minister has spoken of abuse of the system. Does he accept that enforcement of the national minimum wage helps to prevent bad employers undercutting the wage of local workers by not allowing them to exploit foreign workers on lower wages? We know that that is a real problem but only two prosecutions have been brought since this Government took office. To help tackle this issue, will the Minister and the Government support us by giving local councils the power to enforce the national minimum wage and bring their own prosecutions?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble Baroness has expanded the Question somewhat into Labour policy and that is not necessarily something on which I can support her. However, I reaffirm the Government’s support for the national minimum wage. Indeed, it has never been part of our policy to do other than to maintain a national minimum wage, and we do so regularly.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, will the Minister say whether the Government support the findings of the report published this morning by UCL which demonstrates that there are major benefits to this country from economic migrants from the European Economic Area and the European Union? If the Government agree, does he not think that it is more important to concentrate on the practice of free movement rather than the principle?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The principle is important but it is the practical that I have been trying to address. I have not read the UCL report but I have noticed the media comments on it and the key findings. I reiterate that what matters now is that we take steps, through

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our policy on access to benefits and public services, to reduce the incentives for abuse and to prevent this problem from growing.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, has my noble friend noticed the Ipsos MORI survey which shows that the level of abuse of free-movement rights is far less than Mrs May seems to imagine?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have not noted that particular report. I am concerned that we are experiencing a pull factor in this country, and that is something that we need to address if we are going to get a proper balance between migrants who are coming here to support the British economy and those who, through other purposes, are seeking to abuse our systems.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister recommend that all colleagues study reports on the nature of multinational corporations in this context? Is he aware that many executives and other workers in many industries, including the motor car industry, are moving all the time from, say, a job in Frankfurt to a job in Limoges or wherever? We need Ministers’ assistance to improve the public’s perception of this issue as the tabloids are not going to do it.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I agree with the noble Lord that many of the people coming here are essential to the British economy. That is why the Government facilitate their presence here, to support economic activity in the country. As I say, we welcome the brightest and the best.

Health: Local Healthwatch Organisations


3.04 pm

Asked by Lord Harris of Haringey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of local Healthwatch bodies whose budgets are less than the amount that has been allocated to the relevant local authorities for that purpose.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, the Government have made no assessment. We believe that local areas are best placed to make funding decisions to ensure that local needs and circumstances are best taken into account. In total, we have provided £43.5 million to local authorities for funding Healthwatch this year. We believe that transparency on funding is important. We will be requiring each local Healthwatch to publish the funding it receives from local government in its annual report.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that response. I am, however, amazed that he says that he has no direct information on this matter. Is he aware that at least 23 local Healthwatch organisations have budgets lower than those of their predecessor organisation and that

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one of them—the one covering the Mid Staffordshire area—has a budget 19% lower than its predecessor LINk organisation? Are the Government nonchalant about how this money is being spent and about how patients are to be represented at a local level because they want to ensure that there is no vociferous view from patients about the scandalous way in which local health services are deteriorating as a result of both the top-down reorganisation that this Government have imposed and the real-terms cuts in budgets that have taken place?

Earl Howe: No, my Lords. As the report from Robert Francis identified, the patient voice has to be at the heart of the health and care system, and Healthwatch plays a crucial role in supporting that as the new consumer champion for health and social care. It is very easy to get fixated on the amount of money that is going into Healthwatch. One additional consideration could be the investment that a local authority may be making in other areas to ensure that the voice of service users and the public is heard—for example, through the voluntary and community sector. Surely what matters are the outcomes that are achieved for service users and the quality of those services.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, are good activity and good results really coming out of these Healthwatch groups? In particular, have they done anything to help stroke victims or underprivileged or autistic children? Can the Minister give us an update on what good they are doing and whether they should be continued?

Earl Howe: I am grateful to my noble friend. The first annual report from Healthwatch England was laid before Parliament on 9 October and it outlined some encouraging progress at both a national and a local level. There are already examples of the impact that local Healthwatch is having—for example, the work of Healthwatch in Peterborough, which is looking at how to improve health outcomes for offenders. My noble friend mentioned autism. I am aware that Healthwatch Cornwall uncovered a gap in the services meant to deliver a diagnosis of autism in children. That work resulted in a really practical solution so that families could access a diagnostic service without losses to other services in the area.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): My Lords, will the noble Earl acknowledge that, certainly from the point of view of people who are working on the ground, the process we are going through is somewhat different from that set out by my noble friend, with whom I hate to disagree? There are obviously challenges at the moment, particularly in A&E, as the noble Earl is aware, but many of the changes have brought a lot of good news for health trusts, and my own in particular. However, the Healthwatch bodies—certainly locally where my trust is involved with them—need some support and guidance about what they are meant to achieve. It may seem odd but there is still some ambiguity about who is doing what. We are working with them as an acute trust to make sure that we can link with them, but there needs to be more clarity about their role.

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Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She is certainly right that some local Healthwatches have got off to more of a flying start than others. I am aware of many that are working closely with their local clinical commissioning groups and indeed with provider trusts. However, others need encouragement and support, and we have created Healthwatch England to provide exactly that kind of support. That is the route for the Healthwatches which find themselves in some uncertainty about their role.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, does the Minister agree that Healthwatch members working in rural counties have extra travelling expenses and will these be considered? Healthwatch members should not be out of pocket.

Earl Howe: I am very much in sympathy with that thought. However, it is up to the local Healthwatch organisation to organise its funding as it sees fit and in the most cost-effective way possible. I would not want to dictate to them what they should do but, clearly, for a Healthwatch to work effectively, one has to have volunteers who are ready and willing to do the work, which might involve the need to reimburse them for some expenses.

Baroness Barker (LD): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that local Healthwatches retain the power to merge and reconfigure their services with neighbouring bodies if that would make for better outcomes for patients?

Earl Howe: That is potentially within their power, although it is for local Healthwatches which find themselves in that position to consult their commissioning local authority to make sure that the local authority is happy with whatever the proposals are.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): If they are to have a role with regard to complaints following the recommendations in the Clwyd report, will additional resources be provided?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we will be responding to the recommendations from the Clwyd/Hart review in the context of our response to the Francis inquiry, so there is a limit to what I can say today. In answer to the noble Lord, I think that the local Healthwatch has an important role to play as patient champion and it is right that individual local Healthwatch organisations have access to information about complaints so that they can spot the themes and trends that emerge from them.

Israel and Palestine


3.11 pm

Asked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they assess the impact of current prisoner releases on the progress of negotiations between Israel and Palestine for a comprehensive peace agreement.

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, we warmly welcome the courageous decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Government to release 26 Palestinian prisoners. We pay tribute to the leadership of Secretary of State Kerry, Prime Minister Netanyahu and, of course, President Abbas for the progress made. We urge both sides to take further measures to build trust and avoid steps that undermine the prospects for peace, including Israel’s recent settlement announcements. Britain stands ready to support efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Will the Government do whatever is possible to help genuine confidence-building measures and to discourage provocation—for example, by preventing attacks and retaliations, and rhetorical and impossible land claims? Does he agree that a calm climate for the long-delayed final-status negotiations is urgently needed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As the noble Lord rightly points out, there are unfortunately individuals on all sides of this conflict who seek to derail any attempts at peace. The Government stand with those who are looking to work towards peace between Israel and Palestine, and the UK consistently outlines steps in this regard and raises these issues. Indeed, my right honourable friend Hugh Robertson, the new Minister of State responsible for the region, is currently visiting the region and he will be raising this issue with all sides. Let me once again reiterate that we are calling upon both sides, because the violence we have seen by extremist settlers and the rocket attacks on Gaza are derailing a peace process which really needs to reach a conclusion.

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may say straightaway that the Opposition are, of course, at one with Her Majesty’s Government in welcoming the renewed peace negotiations and remain committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution and a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. In that context, will the Minister tell the House what judgment Her Majesty’s Government have come to on the role that the UK might play in the next important few months and what role the quartet might play in that same period?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for his words. Of course, irrespective of the colour of its Administration, over the years the UK has been consistent in ensuring that we require a two-state solution, which, as he said, secures the borders of Israel in a secure way and ensures that the Palestinians have a viable state. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that there is no greater global priority for the UK than the search for peace in the Middle East. Let me assure the noble Lord that Britain is working intensively to support all parties in their efforts to achieve a negotiated end to this conflict, which has gone on for far too long.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): While it is very welcome that 26 of the Palestinians internees have been released, there are still many thousands of

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Palestinians in prison. Does the Minister agree that further steps to release yet more prisoners and perhaps, equally importantly, a pause in the settlement policy, at least while the negotiations are continuing, would be very welcome steps towards the outcome we all want to see?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My noble friend raises two very important points. I reassure her and the whole House that the Government believe that any steps taken by both sides to encourage the peace process are welcome. I state once again that the UK Government retain their position that the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are classified as illegal and do not help in the process for peace.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, surely the impact of this and other confidence-building measures by both sides can only be positive. This particular prisoner release was painful for Israel because of the nature of the offences committed by these Palestinians. On the best evidence available to the Government, do they think that the rather ambitious timetable set for negotiations is now realistic?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: First, I agree with the noble Lord that it has been a painful process for the Government of Israel. Indeed, reports have suggested that up to 80% of the Israeli population were against such releases. As I have already said, it was a courageous decision on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu. On the second point, I think the timetable has been set. Secretary of State Kerry has been clear. We, and the whole international community, must work together to ensure that we reach successful conclusions to these talks by April next year.

Lord Grocott (Lab): My Lords, many Ministers—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): My Lords—

Lord Grocott: I have started. There is plenty of time.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Hill of Oareford) (Con): There is plenty of time. If we can go to the Cross Benches then we will come to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Does the noble Lord agree that one of the greatest provocations between Israel and the Palestinians is the building on occupied land by the Israelis in direct contravention of the United Nations resolutions banning such building?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, as I have already said, the UK Government’s position is quite clear. These settlements on Palestinian land beyond the 1967 borders—be they in East Jerusalem or in the West Bank—are illegal.

Lord Grocott: In the light of the Minister’s remarks, it seems to me that there is a coalition now about these settlements which includes the noble Baroness,

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Lady Williams, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, me and the Government. If that is the case, perhaps he can express the view that seems to me to be crystal clear. We are not in a static situation as we prepare for the peace talks that have been longed for for many years as the Israeli Government are quite deliberately making the situation more difficult by the continual expansion of the settlements. Quite apart from that being in clear violation of international law, is it not also crystal clear that the longed-for, two-state solution, to which nearly everyone at least states themselves to be committed, becomes more and more difficult to achieve so long as that settlement activity continues?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I can do little more than reiterate what Secretary Kerry and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary have said. Yes, the window of opportunity is fast closing. That point has been made by my noble friend Lady Warsi from this Dispatch Box as well. We are all working towards finding a two-state solution which guarantees the security of the State of Israel from rocket attacks but also guarantees a viable, economically independent Palestinian state. These peoples share a history but we have to look at the reality on the ground today, and we call upon both sides to recognise that they also share a future—one of peace and economic prosperity.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime andPolicing Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

3.19 pm

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 104, Schedule 5, Clauses 105 to 109, Clauses 151 to 154, Clauses 1 to 10, Schedule 1, Clause 11, Schedule 2, Clauses 12 to 86, Schedule 3. Clauses 87 to 96, Schedule 4, Clauses 97 to 103, Clauses 110 to 118, Schedule 6. Clauses 119 to 131, Schedule 7, Clause 132, Schedule 8, Clauses 133 to 150, Clauses 155 and 156, Schedule 9, Clauses 157 to 161.

Motion agreed.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Motion to Agree

3.20 pm

Moved by Lord Ramsbotham

That, in the light of recommendations of the 7th Report from the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (HC Paper 601–1), the 5th Report from the Joint Committee

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on Human Rights (HL Paper 61) and the 3rd Report from the Constitution Committee (HL Paper 62), and the report on Non-party campaigning ahead of elections from the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, so much of the orders of the House of 22 October and 28 October as relate to Clauses 26 to 35 and Schedules 3 and 4 be vacated, and that those clauses and Schedules be instead committed to a select committee; and that the select committee do report by 13 February 2014.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, I should make it abundantly clear from the start, as I have done to the Leader of the House and the Minister, that far from being a wrecking Motion, this is a saving Motion designed to save the Government from doing untold damage to a very precious part of the big society that they claim to champion—namely, the voluntary sector—and to save the vast majority of voluntary sector organisations which have nothing whatever to do with the electoral process. That is why my Motion is confined to a very specific part of the Bill and organisations with which I and, I suspect, every other Member of the House are in regular contact.

I freely admit that it would have been more normal for me to have tabled my Motion at Second Reading, but it was only when the masterly report of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement entitled Non-PartyCampaigning Ahead of Elections, under the outstanding chairmanship of my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth, was published after Second Reading that the need for urgent preventive action became abundantly clear. The report accentuated the points made by the constitutional Select Committees of both Houses and the Joint Committee on Human Rights to the effect that there are serious flaws in what is being proposed that the Government need to address. However, these could have been exposed had the Government allowed the three-month consultation period that hitherto they had been so keen to promote. By not engaging with the sector and pressing ahead with the Bill, which essentially addresses political matters, the Government appear to be oblivious to what they claim to be the unintended consequences for what I described at Second Reading as one of the “jewels in our national crown”; namely, the vast number of organisations that have nothing to do with the political process.

Last week, when we debated the unfortunate redundancies imposed on members of the Armed Forces within days and weeks of qualification for pensions, I mentioned the damage that this had done to the all-important mutual trust that there should be between government and people. I fear that the way that this Bill is being handled will seriously damage the trust that the voluntary sector has in the Government, which is something that the alleged champions of the big society can ill afford to lose. Indeed, the very clear exposition of the consequences set out in the commission’s report reminds me of the most succinct but unenforceable instruction that I ever saw in the Army: a note pinned to a company notice board which read, “A breach of common sense is a breach of the rules”. I was therefore glad when the Leader of the House contacted me last

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night, after I had tabled this Motion, to see whether there was a way of avoiding confrontation—which was, I assured him, the very last thing I wanted.

I hoped that a way could be found to mitigate the damage that had been done and to assuage a voluntary sector that is understandably worried and incensed. As it forms such an indispensable and irreplaceable part of our national infrastructure, I have to admit that I was amazed that the Government did not realise the risk they were running in tabling this part of the Bill. At Second Reading, I asked why the Secretary of State for Justice had not complained about the likely damage to those voluntary organisations that he hopes to engage as partners in his rehabilitation revolution. Like me, many Members of the House are wearing the annual symbol of the Royal British Legion, which, along with countless other organisations helping military veterans, is deeply concerned about these clauses.

During the day today I have had meetings with the Leader of the House, the Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the opposition Chief Whip and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, as well as regular contact with the voluntary sector. As a result of that, the Leader of the House has given me his word that he will alter the order of consideration of the parts of the Bill and instruct the Minister to consult my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries over the composition and terms of reference of an examination of the recommendations of the reports of the two constitution committees and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, as well as of the report of the commission, and to produce a report to the whole House before a delayed Committee stage. I know that many in the House and in the deeply suspicious voluntary sector will feel that the Leader’s word is not enough and that what he has offered is less than I was seeking, which was for a Select Committee to be allowed to specify a three-month consultation period to conduct a similar inquiry.

The Leader added that, of course, opportunities still remain for amendment in Committee and on Report. As a soldier, I am accustomed to accepting pledges given by my Government in good faith. Therefore, if I do not press my Motion to a Division, knowing that I shall face the opprobrium of those members of the voluntary sector who do not share my faith, I would be doing so because the word of the Government is on the line. I know that this House and the nation know what to do and to think about those who do not keep their word. If the regulation is felt to need tweaking, by all means tweak it, but not in this way. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for coming to talk to the Leader of the House and me this morning to set out frankly his concerns about the passage of the Bill to date. Following our conversations, and having taken on board his constructive suggestions, I am glad to say that we seem to have an agreed way forward. I believe that we have come up with a way of delivering a pause in our consideration of Part 2 of the Bill so that there can be wide consultation over the

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coming weeks and so that the Government can try to address the concerns of those involved and interested in Part 2.

One of the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was that we could revise the order of consideration to delay our consideration of Part 2. I can undertake to return to the House tomorrow with a revised order of consideration Motion, to take Parts 1 and 3 first and Part 2 last. I understand from the Chief Whip that I can also undertake that the two days in Committee on Part 2 will not be scheduled before 16 December, on the understanding that we need to finish Committee this side of the Christmas Recess. That effectively gives a near six-week pause in our formal consideration of Part 2.

In that period, I and my colleagues in Government responsible for the Bill will consult widely with all the interested parties—Members of the House and the many others outside. We intend to draw on the work of the Commission on Civil Society, chaired so ably by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, and to build on it so that the charity sector has a proper opportunity to explain to the Government its concerns not only with this Bill but, as we discovered in our conversations, with the current statute electoral law in this area, in particular the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. We can also consider the reports generated by the two Houses. I also hope to facilitate further discussions between the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission about each of their sets of guidance, in the hope of achieving something straightforward and agreed for those who have to work within it.

If the commission of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, could report in three weeks, I am confident that we can find a solution in nearly double those three weeks. I stress that we are listening and that we want to listen. We have already shown willing: we announced this morning that we will bring forward an amendment, the effect of which will immediately be to exempt all smaller charities from the provisions of the Bill. If that listening ultimately proves not to satisfy all the concerns in this House, then there can of course be Divisions in Committee and on Report, as is usual and proper, and the House will have a final opportunity to stop the Bill completely on the Motion that the Bill do now pass at the end of the process. The House will therefore scrutinise the Bill in detail.

I believe that my proposal satisfies the concerns that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and others hold and offers us a practical way forward this afternoon, one that will better enable the House to go about its scrutiny of the Bill as we all seek to get it right.

3.30 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lords for what has been said so far. Obviously, we support the Motion but we consider that this is a decision for the House to take about how it scrutinises the Bill.

We welcome the acknowledgement, albeit somewhat late, of the mishandling—if I may call it that—of the Bill this far. When it was in the other place, the same

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comments were made and were brushed aside. They were made at Second Reading but it has taken until this morning, I think, to have at least an acknowledgement that further consideration with those people affected by the Bill is necessary.

I will not rehearse everything that has been said about the Bill to date, but “raising significant concern”, “rushed”, “unacceptable”, “unnecessary speed”, “abuse of parliamentary scrutiny”, “lack of due process” and “truncated timetable” are all phrases that have come across all our desks. There was no warning of this part of the Bill. There was no pre-legislative scrutiny. It is no wonder that the Constitution Committee was very critical of the way it was dealt with.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights raised a slightly different issue from the hurriedness. The lack of effective scrutiny, it thought, had left serious questions about challenges to freedom of association and speech, which needed greater consideration by lawyers as much as discussion with the third sector.

Of course, the recommendation of the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee was for a six-month pause so that serious work can be done, not simply in hearing the concerns but in responding to them. It would be worth keeping the words and for the Government to have a listening exercise if nothing changes at the end of it. What we need is much more of a commitment, not just to listen and engage, important though that is, but to act on what is heard.

There has been no indication that something other than the raising of the threshold is on offer. Not everyone has followed the detail of this Bill. Let us just say that it is one of the many asks that the third sector has but it is not the answer to the problems of the Bill. There is a democratic fear about Part 2—it is not the whole of the Bill—about the threat to freedom of assembly and free speech, which needs more than just consultation to be put at rest. It may be that there is not a problem but we need to be sure of that.

Nowhere is this issue more important than in Northern Ireland, a nation emerging from conflict, where civil society has had a prominent role. Indeed, NGOs’ participation in democratic processes is one of the key components of the peace process. The Assembly and civil society must be consulted—not merely, as the Government said yesterday in their response to the your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, that the Minister,

“wrote to the devolved administrations on the introduction of the Bill … to ensure they were aware of the proposals”.

That is not what we are looking for. That is not due consideration of their special circumstances, nor is the Government’s undertaking simply to provide,

“further clarification of the potential impacts”.

The third sector is not looking just for reassurance; it is looking for change. Amnesty International is concerned about the potential to undermine its vital campaigning on human rights. These are not the small charities that might now be exempted; they are the ones that are basic to our democratic engagement and discussion in this country. The Women’s Institute fears that its legitimate comment on policy could leave it,

“exposed to scrutiny for seemingly promoting a political party”.

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We need to engage with the WI to see whether its concerns could be met by more fundamental change than is being suggested today.

Able though my colleagues on this side of the House are, I do not believe that they will be able to come up with amendments by 16 December that would answer those questions. I also point out that the week beginning 16 December is a short parliamentary week, and there may be people in this House who have made other plans for that week. Trying to engage with civil society in the period running up to Christmas and then to get the amendments written in time for Committee still seems a tall order under the offer that has been made.

We need to hear whether the fears of the third sector are founded or not. If they are, we need to respond. The third sector has organisational problems. It may seem simple to people with lots of accountants to change the way they account for staffing costs, travel costs, and all that. For any charity with a small back office, that is a big challenge and they need to be heard on that issue.

It may not have been the Government’s intent to wrap up charities and small organisations in the red tape that, elsewhere, they are taking off businesses. It may not have been their intent to frighten the third sector into thinking that their campaigning would be undermined, but that is the position at the moment. I fear that if we over-hurry this pause—if we make it just a breather, rather than a serious pause—it will not achieve what the Government want.

The NCVO has already heard of the offer being made, and said this afternoon that,

“one small change does not fix this bill, and it is important that any changes are considered as a package”.

In particular, in addition to a rise in thresholds, it is looking for the removal of constituency limits, the end-use of nil reports, the removal of staff costs, the removal of events and public rallies, change to the way coalitions are dealt with—not the one over there, the coalition of voluntary organisations—and a reduction of the regulated period to six months.

The Government may not accept that as a final package, but it is important that there is time to consider that and to ensure that a change in one part of the Bill does not leave effects elsewhere. Time spent now, before the Bill is set in stone, will help the Government to achieve their aims. We would like a pause as suggested—a longer one for the discussions. Having done that, we on this side of the House will do all we can through the offices of the usual channels to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book in the timescale that the Government want. We can work to do that, but without a sensible pause and a proper committee to look at it and report back, and to allow the Government time to change the Bill, we will not achieve what all of us seek.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): My Lords, first, perhaps I may say how glad I am that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, tabled this Motion today. I pay tribute to him because he was willing to take the lead on this important issue and for all the hard work that he has done behind the scenes, keeping me and the

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commission in touch with what is going on. I also pay tribute to the Minister and the Leader of the House, who I know are genuinely anxious to get a real consensus on this issue.

The Minister has basically offered a five-week period of consultation. I remind your Lordships that the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee recommended a pause of six months. The commission believes that six months is unnecessary, but five weeks is a very short period indeed. I can say that the commission will do all it can to help the Government during the consultation period, but if it turns out that five weeks is not long enough to get the kind of agreement that we all want on this crucial issue, I remind the leadership of some new advice which has just come from the Electoral Commission, which states:

“Should Parliament decide that a period of consultation is desirable before the Bill makes further progress, we would recommend that the start of the regulated period for the 2015 general election be delayed by an appropriate period”.

It goes on to say that that would give it good time to draw up its advice and educate the charities. Therefore, if the Minister finds that this five-week period is not long enough, there is an alternative that would still enable the Bill to get through in time for the 2015 election: namely, to heed the advice of the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile, I repeat that the commission will do all it can to support the Minister in this consultation period.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, the question has been posed as to whether this consultation has any effects on other parts of the Bill. This is the time to say that the question of consultation, which has been completely left aside in Part 3, has consequences a fortiori—and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The trade unions have supported and are part of the coalition with the NGOs. The voluntary sector is huge, and trade unions are probably a bigger part of that sector than is the rest of civil society. I want to put the point on record that the time for more consultation should apply also to the trade unions, otherwise they will feel discriminated against.

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for the excellent report of his commission, which has performed a service to the whole House and to everybody involved in the debate throughout the country.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for tabling his Motion today. It has performed an extremely useful purpose in concentrating minds, particularly within the Government. I would never say that the Government have been running around like headless chickens, but there has been a great deal of activity over the weekend and into today, to try to find a compromise which will do what a lot of us want. This is no excuse; anybody who heard my speech at Second Reading will know that my views on Part 2 of the Bill are not terribly complimentary.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to serious damage to the relationship between the Government and civil society as a whole. We have an extraordinary position in which on the one hand the Government are saying that black is black and, on

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the other, pretty well the whole of civil society is saying, “No, it is not. It is actually white”. Who is right in this instance? A great deal of scrutiny and investigation is required. The question is whether it needs a special Select Committee or whether it can be done through the normal processes of this House, augmented by enhanced consultation by the Government with all corners of the House, with everybody outside and with the whole of civil society in the mean time. Is five weeks long enough? Ideally, we would have longer, but we can do the job in five weeks.

We are often told that the purpose of this House, particularly in Committee and on Report, is to scrutinise legislation and revise it. Will my noble friend Lord Wallace give an absolute assurance that, as this scrutiny takes place with the groups in this Chamber and as there is further discussion and negotiation with outside bodies, the Government will be serious and honest—and will not, when we come to Committee, take the typical attitude of all Governments to Bills, which is to defend the status quo and the wording on their Bill, then give way when they are really forced to? As far as Part 2 is concerned, are the Government really going into this with an open mind? It is not just a matter of reassuring the third sector or civil society that the words in the Bill will not harm them, but of taking seriously their view that the Bill will harm them and of looking at ways of changing the Bill so that not only will it not harm them but civil society generally will accepts and be confident that it will not. Are the Government open to change in a serious way on Part 2? That is the fundamental question that we have today. If my noble friend can guarantee me that that is the open-minded approach that the Government are going to take in Committee and on Report, we can be justified in going ahead with the revised schedule, taking Part 2 later on and going to Report in January.

3.45 pm

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested that there was not enough time to write amendments. I am sure that that is not the case, but the important time for amendments is of course Report. If the amendments are going to be serious and are going to stick, and not be overturned when they go down to the House of Commons, they will have to have general consensus in this House—and that means general consensus by the Government, even if there is otherwise a majority in this House for what might be proposed.

That is the task before us. It requires a change of approach to the Bill, to some extent, on behalf of the whole of the Government, including parts of the Government that are not represented in this House—in higher places, perhaps—and an acceptance that Part 2 is not right yet but can be made right. I believe that the normal processes of this House, worked properly and well, can achieve that. I hope that I am right. I am very pleased that these discussions took place today and that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is seriously thinking of not pressing his Motion to a vote. If it does go to a vote, I will unfortunately not be able to support it. We have a compromise now and, in the best traditions of this House when negotiations take place around the House between the Government and parts of the House and a compromise is reached, we should accept it and go ahead on that basis.

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Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con): My Lords, I was very concerned about the Motion that was put down today. I am very glad that a compromise has been reached for dealing with this issue without going ahead with the Motion. It has been said that five weeks is not enough. As we know, these things are not absolutely inflexible, but we know how quickly the Governments can work and how quickly amendments can be produced when there is the political will to do so. I accept the assurances that have been given on behalf of the Government about the spirit in which this is being done.

I was extremely concerned about the idea that we should depart from our ordinary practice for the scrutiny of Bills. As far as I know, one part of a Bill has never been sent to a Select Committee in this way. In my time, the whole of a Bill was sent when an office that had lasted for more than 1,000 years was to be abolished by a press release from No. 10; the House then sent the whole of the Bill to a Select Committee. So far as I know, though, a Select Committee has never been appointed to deal with part of a Bill.

The danger that I see about that is that if it were to be done, it would suggest that we were not confident in our own procedures for dealing with all forms of questions. It would undermine the confidence that exists at the moment in the integrity of the parliamentary process that we have come to know and respect. One thing about this House that I seek to emphasise as often as I can is that anyone who has a point of view that they can persuade a Peer to raise will see it raised in consideration of the Bill in this House, and the Government will have to give an answer. People may not always be very keen on that answer, but at least they can get one. That is a very valuable aspect of our House’s procedure, and I am delighted that it has been preserved in the arrangement that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has made with my colleagues.

Another danger here would be if we departed from our ordinary procedure in a particular case in which a lot of Members of this House are particularly involved, as they are in the charitable and third sectors— I am a member of a number of charities, as noble Lords might have thought—whereas, for example, we never subject to special procedure Bills on disabled people or on the particularly poor. I am very relieved that this has been agreed to, and I sincerely hope that it will work. I am sure that the Government can work very speedily, with political will, if that should be necessary.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I assure the House that the Government are open-minded on the possibility of changing a number of aspects of the Bill. One thing we discovered in the course of the consultation is that the language of PPERA 2000, particularly of Part 6, does not meet the needs or requirements of a very large number of those who are now to be affected by it. I hope I will not embarrass my noble friend Lord Greaves if I quote him as having said that he had never previously read Part 6 of PPERA 2000, and now that he has, he does not like it very much. I think that opinion is shared by a number of voluntary organisations outside the House.

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Clearly, we will need to look at that in consultation with others. It may well be that we will need a government amendment. That is the process through which we should go on that and a number of other concerns that were set out very well in the Harries commission report: for example, the range of activities covered, the treatment of campaigning coalitions, the reporting procedures requested of campaigning groups and so on. We are open to listening, we are open to adjustment, and we expect that when we come back to Committee and Report, this House will give the Bill the detailed scrutiny that it needs.

Lord Rooker (Lab): I have one narrow point. That was just a list of things that would be considered. One thing was mentioned specifically. It figures very largely in the report. It is the special situation in Northern Ireland. Will that be taken seriously in the five weeks? I was Minister for Northern Ireland for only a year, unlike many Members of this place, but I know that the nature of the third sector there and of its relationship with the political process is completely different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I give an absolute assurance that we will take that fully into consideration. If the noble Lord would like to come to talk to me about it, I will be very happy to hear from him as well as from others.

Lord Ramsbotham: I am very grateful to all those who have spoken in this short response to the Motion. In particular, I paid great attention to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, said. In fact, in preparation for this, I consulted a previous recommendation to a Select Committee, which was made by my noble friend Lord Owen at the time of the Health and Social Care Bill. It was proposed and debated, but it related to a constitutional measure rather that a measure like this. However, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord that the processes of the House should be allowed to proceed.

After reflecting on this and, in particular, listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and her catalogue of things that need to be addressed, which I did not list, I hope that the Minister will be able to exercise the flexibility that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, mentioned, and that if, when this consultation and examination gets under way, it is discovered that the work needed cannot be done in the time before the new date for Committee, rather than rush things through, consideration will be given to pushing the Committee date yet further back to enable all the proper consultation and examination. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and others said, this is a hugely important matter that cannot be allowed to go by default.

However, in the spirit of the assurances given to me by the Leader of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

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Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Committee (1st Day)

3.54 pm

Relevant documents: 5th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 3rd Report from the Constitution Committee and 12th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee.

Clause 1: Prohibition on consultant lobbying unless registered

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Hardie

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “carry on the business of consultant” and insert “engage in professional”

Lord Hardie (CB): My Lords, in moving this amendment I also wish to speak to Amendments 4, 6, 46, 53, 59 to 62, 66, 79, 80, 87, 96, 98, 111, 116 and 117 standing in my name.

Part 1 of the Bill is confined to those who carry on business as consultant lobbyists. This amendment, and related amendments in my name, seeks to extend the Bill’s provisions to in-house lobbyists who endeavour to influence the Government about the matters specified in Clause 2(3). I suspect that the public do not distinguish between consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists. The present proposal for a register of those carrying on business as consultant lobbyists fails to address the equal concerns of the public about the activities of in-house lobbyists of major companies to which the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, alluded at Second Reading. In other amendments which we shall discuss later I have suggested a register of lobbying activities. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, implied, a lobbying register might be more effective than a register of lobbyists. I have suggested both but if there is to be a register of lobbyists, it must be a register that includes in-house lobbyists if it is to have any credibility.

In introducing the Bill at Second Reading the noble Viscount the Minister acknowledged the role of lobbying in the policy-making process of our democracy. I agree, as did many other noble Lords at Second Reading, that lobbying undertaken in an open, transparent and responsible manner is integral to our democratic system. However, the noble Viscount also said that there had,

“been some concern … that some lobbying activity is opaque and there is a perception that certain powerful organisations and individuals could exert a disproportionate influence on government”.—[

Official Report

, 22/10/13; col. 893.]

It seems to me that in confining the register to consultants lobbyists the Bill fails to provide the necessary transparency in public life which will deliver to the public the noble Viscount’s promised offer of,

“greater confidence in our political system”.—[Official Report, 22/10/13; col. 892.]

It certainly does not dispel the perception that powerful organisations could exert a disproportionate influence on government. It does nothing to address that particular

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concern. Such organisations include major British and multinational companies involved in the tobacco, alcohol and gaming industries as well as energy suppliers, and many more listed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, at col. 897. Many of those organisations have in-house lobbyists and will not be subject to this legislation.

4 pm

The Public Relations Consultants Association, which is the professional body that represents UK PR consultants, in-house communications teams and individuals, has advised me that about 80% of the industry consists of in-house lobbyists. Why should the legislation exclude the majority of lobbyists from the requirement to register? How is that consistent with the Government’s commitment to increase transparency and public confidence in our political system? The noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, at col. 928, asked the Minister to explain the salient distinction between in-house lobbying by tobacco firms about cigarette duty and identical lobbying by consultant lobbyists. The Minister did not respond at Second Reading. In his reply to this debate, will he provide an answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Norton?

The Public Relations Consultants Association fears that a statutory register will impact upon those choosing to be part of the existing voluntary registers, which provide more information than will be captured on the statutory register. The voluntary registers include a register of consultant lobbyists which lists the clients of each consultancy. They also include a register of organisations that employ lobbyists whose names are listed. The statutory register would list only a small proportion of those already on the voluntary registers. There is a genuine concern that the effect will be to reduce transparency, not increase it.

The noble Lord the Minister seemed to appreciate that he had to justify the restrictive approach to registration adopted in the Bill. What reasons did he give at Second Reading? The first seemed to be that it is necessary to have a register of consultant lobbyists so that Ministers and civil servants know on whose behalf they are being lobbied. One might expect Ministers or civil servants to ask appropriate questions of people making representations to them to obtain that information, if it were not already obvious, rather than go to the trouble of legislating for a register. However, whatever inquiries are made by Ministers or civil servants, it seems to me that this reason is no justification for confining the obligation to register to consultants. The register has to be seen in the context of the public’s desire to know who is seeking to influence government policy, and perhaps succeeding.

Another explanation given by the noble Lord the Minister was that if the register is extended beyond consultant lobbyists, it would contain too much information. Is that a good reason? If the register is confined to consultants, and thereafter all lobbyists elect to operate as consultants, is it the intention to abandon the register because there are too many entries? An inclusive register would mirror the current voluntary register but would obviously be larger. Nevertheless, it would not be too cumbersome. If a member of the

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public noted that there had been a communication between a Minister or senior civil servant and a named person during a relevant quarter, he or she could search the website for that name and discover the identity of the lobbyist’s employer or client.

Finally, the Minister relied upon the inconvenience that might be caused to the voluntary sector, particularly those charities which engage in lobbying. He cited the example of Oxfam, saying:

“For example, Oxfam has people who actively lobby the public and the Government”.—[Official Report, 22/10/13; col. 988.]

I have two observations to make on that purported reason. The first is that the provisions in many parts of this Bill are far from clear, but what is abundantly clear is that this Bill has nothing to do with lobbying the public. Clause 2(1) defines consultant lobbying as making “communications within subsection (3)”. Subsection (3) only includes,

“communications … to a Minister … or permanent secretary”.

My second observation about this reason is that the activities of charities consist mainly of non-lobbying activities. Any lobbying of Ministers or senior civil servants is incidental to those activities. In his response, will the Minister confirm that charities will be able to take advantage of the exception allowed by Clause 2(1)(c) and paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1? In so doing, will he confirm the explanation given in private by Ministers and officials that the word “incidental” is not related to the proportion of time spent on lobbying activities but is concerned with ascertaining the intention of the remit of the client or employer to the lobbyist?

The reasons advanced by the Minister for restricting the register to consultant lobbyists do not bear scrutiny. There is no justification for such restriction. The amendment would have no adverse effect on charities but even if there were such a risk, there could be an amendment to include a specific exclusion for charities. Will the Minister confirm that the mischief that this part of the Bill seeks to address is unrelated to the activities of charities? If so, will he agree to bring forward at Report an amendment to exclude charities from any requirement of registration to put the matter beyond any doubt?

This amendment would result in a fairer and more effective system of registration, which would enable the public to scrutinise the activities of powerful organisations and individuals in their dealings with government.

I should mention that Amendment 46 raises a different issue altogether. This is a probing amendment. Does the reference in the Bill to a sovereign power include those countries with which the United Kingdom does not have formal diplomatic relations or which are not members of the United Nations? As an example, I have in mind the Republic of China-Taiwan; and in mentioning Taiwan, I wish to declare that I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Taiwanese Group and have attended many receptions hosted by the Taiwanese Government to celebrate the national day or visits to Edinburgh by the wife of President Ma, and several other cultural events. Furthermore, a number of years ago I was part of a judicial delegation

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to Taiwan as guest of the Taiwanese Government; on a further occasion, I lectured at an international conference there.

Taiwan has a democratically elected Government and is recognised as a sovereign state by a number of countries, including the United States of America. Although we do not have an embassy in Taiwan, we have a representative there, and we have cultural and trade links with it. Indeed, our whisky exports benefit significantly from our trade with Taiwan. Is it intended to protect communications between officials from Taiwan and Ministers or government officials that come within Clause 2(3)? I am sure that there are many such communications, and if the Bill does not already protect them, it is essential that it does and affords Taiwan equal status in that regard as is given to other states.

Can the Minister define what is meant in this Bill by a sovereign power? Will he confirm that communications between officials from the Republic of China-Taiwan and Ministers and officials will be afforded the same protection as other states? I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) (Con): I advise the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendment 2 due to pre-emption.

Lord Norton of Louth (Con): My Lords, I rise to speak to my amendments in this group which seek to achieve the same aim as Amendment 1 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie. I will keep my comments fairly brief as the noble and learned Lord has made the case that I would have made. However, I want to make a few points in support of the thrust of what these amendments seek to achieve. The Short Title of this Christmas tree Bill begins, “Transparency of Lobbying”. That is misleading because the Bill does not contribute to transparency of lobbying. The Bill may result in us knowing who engages in the activity of lobbying—in other words, lobbyists—but it contributes little to knowing what lobbying takes place on particular policies or measures. It could be argued that it is necessary to know who the lobbyists are in order to know what lobbying takes place, but it is certainly not sufficient, and I am not sure that it is even necessary.

The value of a register of lobbyists is far from clear. As I argued on Second Reading, I am not clear what the compelling argument is for introducing a register. The value of the register proposed in the Bill is especially unclear. It is not a register of lobbyists. It is not even a register of professional lobbyists; it is a register of some professional lobbyists. If one is to have a register of lobbyists and, as I say, I am not persuaded of the case for it, one should at least try to make it comprehensive. This entails broadening the class of lobbyists covered in the Bill as well as the class of those being lobbied. This group of amendments deals with the class of lobbyists. We will come shortly to the other aspect of the Bill and its limitations. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, powerfully made the case for the measure to be extended to encompass in-house lobbyists. As I argued at Second Reading, I see no case for

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distinguishing between those who are paid and are external to a company and those who are employed directly by a company.

It is no good saying that in-house lobbyists should be excluded as it is apparent on whose behalf they are lobbying. The fact that someone works for a company as a political lobbyist is not necessarily a matter of public record. They may have a title which masks their activity and may work in a public affairs division rather than a parliamentary affairs unit. If one is truly going to have a register of lobbyists for the purposes of transparency, one should aim, as I say, to be comprehensive and not go for an option that excludes more than nine out of every 10 lobbyists.

My amendments, like those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, are designed to encompass in-house lobbyists. That is the purpose of the whole grouping. I am not particularly wedded to the wording because the aim at this stage is to get the Government to concede that the Bill as drafted will not make any significant difference to transparency in respect of lobbying government. Indeed, Part 1 conflicts with what the Government seek to achieve because it establishes a new regulatory regime at public expense and for no clear purpose. The taxpayer will not get value for money. If my noble friend the Minister argues that extending the definition to in-house lobbyists is too complex or not practically feasible that, I fear, is not so much an argument for rejecting the amendments as it is for dropping this part of the Bill.

4.15 pm

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, I support Amendment 1, moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie—perhaps I should say the noble and wise Lord, Lord Hardie, given his masterly introduction. I wish to speak on the last amendment in this group—Amendment 143—in the names of my noble friend Lady Royall and myself, and also on Amendments 2, 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 47, and 99, together with various others, on which our names are joined with that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie.

However, Amendment 143 is perhaps the simplest and is the key. It would amend the title of Part 1 to read, “Registration of professional lobbyists”. Establishing a register only of consultants would add nothing to the existing non-statutory register. Worse, it would effectively end that voluntary register, its associated code of conduct and related disciplinary mechanism. As UKPAC says, the Bill risks creating a statutory register with minimal coverage while undermining a voluntary regime that lists several hundred employers such as agencies, in-house lobbyists, public bodies and charities, and more than 1,000 people employed in lobbying.

Indeed, the proposed register—a skeleton rather than a viable thing—would cover only 1% of lobbying meetings, yet would be a heavy financial burden on consultant firms because they would have to fund the whole operation of the registrar. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton, has said, the register would fail to increase transparency because it would not enable the public to see how outside bodies seek to influence the political system.

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On the “Today” programme, which I assume we all listen to, Andrew Lansley said last week that the public should be able to see who is lobbying Ministers. I think we all agree, but the register will not tell you that if you saw only the list of clients and not the particular client on whose behalf even a consultant was meeting a Minister. The register would tell us nothing about the big six energy companies’ discussions with perhaps HMT or DECC officials. Indeed, we would learn about only their meetings with Ministers—and would learn that from the departmental diaries, not the lobbyists themselves.

Most seriously, the proposed register would exclude virtually all business lobbying, whether done by companies themselves or by their trade bodies. The Minister needs to tell the House whether that really is the intention. Does he really want a list that excludes the bulk of lobbying activity? Last year, BIS had 988 meetings with lobbyists, only two of which were with consultants. Under the Bill, only those two meetings would need to be entered on the register. Thus the register would capture fewer than 1% of ministerial meetings and do nothing to shed light on what goes on behind those closed doors in Whitehall.

Big government decisions often involve big business which—quite rightly and with no criticism—want to influence decisions that affect their bottom line. There is nothing wrong with Ministers, civil servants, Bill writers or anyone else meeting those who will be affected by legislation. In fact, had Ministers met those affected by Part 2 of the Bill, we might have saved ourselves half an hour earlier this afternoon and not have been presented with such a dog’s breakfast. More importantly, for the rest of us, for democracy and for good governance, we need to see who is lobbying Ministers and civil servants. Those who will not be covered, in addition to those mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, will include: the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, which recently produced a manifesto for insurance for 2014; the Building Societies Association, which has been lobbying on the Banking Reform Bill; the Mobile Operators Association, which has been lobbying about the electronic communications code; Philip Morris, which sought to delay the tobacco products directive; the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners, with the associated Keep Me Posted campaign; the Save Our Supplements campaign and Holland and Barrett, which makes supplements and spends money on reaching politicians; Fujitsu, which is keen to meet us, whether in Parliament or at party conferences; Forest, which argues for us to keep the freedom to kill ourselves with tobacco; One Hub or None, Heathrow’s campaign for expansion; BAE Systems, builders of killer planes and warships, which are, in its words, “defence solutions”; the CBI; the Nuclear Industry Association; Santander; Canon; and Siemens.

Noble Lords will recognise that list as containing just those whose material has passed over our desks in the past few months. There are also the pharmaceutical companies, and the drinks industries have been mentioned. They contrast with Alcohol Concern, which is too small to have in-house lobbying and thus has to rely on an agency for lobbying assistance. They all use in-house lobbyists and therefore will not have to register.

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The same is true of virtually every other manufacturer, service provider or audit firm which wants the ear of government. I am not against that dialogue; in fact, I rather favour Keep Me Posted, as my bills come by post so much more slowly than by e-mail.

I am delighted that we were lobbied about this Bill, but that is not the point. The question is: why should only lobbying consultancies, rather than those that do serious lobbying on behalf of their own company, have to register? That is not what was foreseen in the coalition agreement and it is not what the industry itself wants. The overwhelming feedback from the consultation last year was that the proposals lacked breadth and depth and would fail to collect meaningful and sufficient information.

Furthermore, requiring only those employed by a consultancy to register would mean that it would be cheaper for lobbyists to work directly for a company, if only part time. For example, they could perhaps work for 10 companies rather than run a consultancy with 10 clients. If a company wanted to have its dealings excluded from the register, it would only have to pull its hitherto outsourced person on to its own wages bill and then, as an in-house lobbyist, they would be below the radar.

It is not just business lobbyists who want to see a full register. Charities and trade unions, including Oxfam, which has been to see me, have told us that they are very content for their public affairs professionals to be included on a register and to disclose their lobbying meetings.

Therefore, we support Amendment 1 and the production of a proper, comprehensive—the word used by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth—and statutory register of all professionals engaged with government and Parliament. Democracy demands nothing less.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, unfortunately I was unable to attend the Second Reading of the Bill due to the fact that domestic committees of the House were meeting and I was otherwise engaged. However, I have read the whole of the Second Reading debate.

It is quite clear that the Government have not really put a case for what they are doing in this very limited form. One speech that struck me from reading the debate was that of the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, who suggested that a very different approach to the Bill could well be taken. I just wondered whether Ministers had considered the contents of his contribution. His is a sort of halfway-house proposal: it would dilute the value of the register but would ensure that the kind of information that we really need was available. Today, he slightly alluded to his case, and I believe that the questions he raised at Second Reading should be answered during the deliberations on the Bill. I cannot understand for the life of me what is driving the Government down this route, apart from some huge PR effort to convince the public that they are doing something about lobbying in line with their coalition agreement. However, their proposal does not meet the terms of what I understand was agreed.

I have a number of questions that I should like to ask, and I have tabled amendments of my own, to which we will come later. What is the Government’s

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latest estimate of the number of organisations and individuals that will register? Some work on that must have been done. I have seen some figures published but, in the light of the speeches at Second Reading showing up the deficiencies in the Bill, and recognising that many will not be required to register because they will not meet the criteria for registration—information which, prior to Second Reading, the Government may well not have considered—what is now their estimate of the number that will finally register?

I should like to know more about the discussions that took place between departmental officials and Ministers and the professional associations. Since the early 1970s, in one form or another—I shall give more detail later in the debate on the work that was done in the 1970s and 1980s in this area—a system has been in operation which provides far more information than the Government are seeking the lobbyists and lobbying organisations to provide. It has been suggested in this House and in correspondence that we have received that their efforts may no longer be necessary. Some of them may be inclined simply to discard the work that they have been doing over the years and rely on the Government’s far more limited source of information. Surely that would be totally counterproductive. I wonder whether Ministers or civil servants have been told what the intentions are. I think that the House is entitled to know what the professional organisations intend to do in the event that this register is set in place.

Finally, on in-house lobbyists and their exclusion, it is simply not credible to call a Bill the name given to this Bill when it excludes the vast majority of lobbyists in the United Kingdom. It is not credible; it is a joke. Inevitably, there will be some scandal which will draw attention to the deficiencies in the registration system that has been set up by the Government. It may be for a future Government to find themselves defending the indefensible. I hope that the Minister can answer some of my questions prior to my moving my amendments.

Lord Dubs (Lab): I had to go abroad on the day of Second Reading and I very much regret that I was unable to make a contribution. I do not intend to make a Second Reading speech. However, I should declare a couple of interests. Some years ago I wrote a book on lobbying. It is a very small interest because it is out of print and no one can buy it. It was a do-it-yourself book on how to lobby and was intended specifically for the voluntary sector. The other interest I want to declare is that I spent some years until coming into this House as chief executive of the Refugee Council. Indeed, one of the things that I did most was to lobby. The organisation did quite a lot of lobbying on refugee policy.

I cannot for the life of me understand why that activity should not be incorporated in the register. If we had had the money, we could have hired a firm of lobbyists, which might have had to be on the register. The fact is that we did not have the money and I simply carried out that activity myself. It took me to all three party conferences: going to the Lib-Dem and Tory party conferences, as well as the Labour Party conference, is a subject for another day. I lobbied quite blatantly and I had two members of staff who also did

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quite a lot of lobbying. I hope that the Minister can tell me why that activity should not be covered in the proposed register.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, let me start by stressing that lobbying is a normal, valuable, regular aspect of any healthy democratic political system. The question is one of transparency and certainly not one of trying to reduce the level of lobbying in this country. Part 1 was designed to address the problem of consultant lobbying firms entertaining and going to see Ministers without it being clear who they were representing. The Government have dealt with the question of employed lobbyists—members of charities and others—through their arrangements for transparency. Every three months, I and others have to declare who we have met and what organisations employ them, including anyone who happens to be an old friend, perhaps from student days: I have to list “the Information Commissioner” or whoever it may be because a meeting has taken place.

We have looked at other systems, in particular the Canadian one, which adopts the universal system of wishing to take on board every single lobbyist. It is a very large and expensive system and unlike what we propose—I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Norton—it is funded by the public purse and costs the equivalent of £3 million a year.

4.30 pm

Lord Campbell-Savours: The Minister talks about the system he has to use. Did he listen to the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, at Second Reading? I think it was he who recalled how very complicated the current system is, how you often have to trawl through hundreds or even thousands of documents, and that it is almost impossible for the general public to have access to that kind of material. It is just too complicated. Does he take that on board?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I take that on board. The question of designing a system that is easily accessible to everyone, including if one has such a very large register as that which the noble Lord and some others are proposing, is one with which we all have to deal. The Government are indeed looking at making the ministerial diaries more readily and more rapidly available. At present we submit them every three months, so they are sometimes three months or more in arrears. We are aware of that problem. However, we are much more transparent than previous Governments in this respect and are, to that extent, moving forward.

Looking at the Canadian system, we are not persuaded that we need a comprehensive register in which everyone who might be said to be lobbying as a matter of their employment would be included. The Canadian system was introduced in response to a system in which it was felt that there was no information about who Ministers were meeting. We have dealt with the issue of who Ministers are meeting by other means.

Lord Tyler (LD): If wonder if I can help my noble friend, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. There is a specific amendment which I hope will help

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with the point he raised. It is not necessary therefore to include every in-house lobbyist because they are already going to be recorded in those meetings and it is fairly obvious why they are there.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are more persuaded from other countries that have the light-touch system we are proposing that it is more effective at addressing the problem than the large, expensive and comprehensive system the Canadians have gone in for.

There are a large number of amendments in this group. I will try to address as many of the issues as I can.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, before the Minister goes on to the detail of those, I think he has not answered the point—it was made more at Second Reading—of why the existing publication could not simply deal with this. If any Minister meets a consultant lobbyist they name the organisation on behalf of which they have met that consultant and the purpose of it. I still do not understand why that would not meet the objectives there seem to be for the register.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there was considerable concern while the previous Government were in office that consultant lobbyists were a powerful element in our political system, that we did not know who they represented and that it would be better if the public were informed who their clients were. The noble Baroness has, on a number of occasions, stressed the point that perhaps one should also add what subjects they are discussing with the Government. I am very happy to take that away and perhaps on a belt-and-braces principle that should be tied in. However, I do not think it takes away the issue that for transparency of the democratic process it is desirable to know who consultant lobbyists are representing and who therefore is paying them.

Perhaps I may move on to answer some of the questions. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asks what our assessment is of the number of lobbying organisations that will be required to register. Our current estimate is that it will be somewhere in the order of 350. We have held a number of constructive meetings with representatives of the industry at which we discussed the voluntary register and the code of conduct, and we have talked with the three main industry bodies concerned. They were able to give a reassurance that many of the concerns regarding the application are being met by that.

I turn now to the details. As I said to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, if the tobacco industry lobbies on behalf of its own industry, we know what is going on. If it is a consultant lobbyist lobbying on behalf of the industry, that is a great deal less clear. That is the underlying distinction between a consultant lobbyist and a professional lobbyist. Because I am concerned with the EU balance of competences exercise, over the past nine months I have read a great deal of evidence produced by the Scotch Whisky Association. I know exactly where the association is coming from and what it is lobbying about. If it were a consultant lobbyist, that would be a different situation. That is the distinction we are making.

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On the question of whether we extend this to professional lobbyists, I cannot see the justification for excluding charities from it. As a Minister, I have met a number of charity representatives who have lobbied us on policy issues. That is quite properly a part of what charities themselves do.

Lord Hardie: Does the Minister not accept that charities would be exempt in terms of the schedule because what they do would be incidental to their other activities?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am not sure that I do accept that. I am a member of the National Trust. Yesterday I received an e-mail from the trust which talked about the National Trust’s “vital” campaigning and advocacy work. I have to admit that I did not actually join the National Trust primarily in order to support its campaigning and advocacy work, but it regards that work not as an incidental part of what the trust is for. Noble Lords should look at the most recent announcement made by Oxfam. It is changing its internal organisation so as to put more stress on its campaigning dimension. Campaigning is at the centre of what Oxfam regards as its entirely appropriate charitable activities. Part of campaigning is, of course, lobbying Governments. I therefore do not accept that distinction.

We see the Canadian example as one that suggests overregulation, and therefore distinguish between professional lobbyists and consultant lobbyists. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and I were at a conference over the weekend. At one point we were both sitting with a senior executive from BP, and indeed one consultant lobbyist was there. I forgot to ask him precisely who his clients were, and perhaps I should have done. However, when you are talking to a representative of a company, you know who you are talking to and what you are talking about. I came away from the conference much better informed about BP’s involvement in the Southern Corridor pipeline project than I had been, and I trust that that will inform me in future discussions with those Governments through whose territories the pipeline will go.

Transparency is about knowing who these consultant lobbyists are representing. A number of amendments in this group address that point. The Government are not persuaded, but of course we are open to further discussions about particular areas where noble Lords feel that there is an overlap between consultancy and professional lobbying, although I do not entirely see how a particular lobbyist, being employed part time by five or 10 different companies, would somehow get around this legislation, as has been suggested.

Lord Wigley (PC): A little earlier, the noble Lord mentioned that the Government favoured a light touch. In case the light touch does not work as effectively as he or the Government expect it to, can he amend the Bill in any way as it goes through to provide for adjustments to be made that do not need further primary legislation? It will be years before we come back to this and if we do not get the outcome that many people wish to see, it will be a lost opportunity.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: That is, again, a fair point, which the Government will look at. We are extending regulation into lobbying here and are reluctant to go too far too quickly. There may be a means of considering further extension on review. The noble Lord will know that we now have a regular practice of having a five-year review of legislation. If whichever Government are then in power decide that this is inadequate, we will see what can be done.

Lord Norton of Louth: I come back to my noble friend’s point about who would be included in the register. He gave the figure of 350. Does he know how many of those would be caught who do not already reveal who their clients are?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, that stretches my expertise very considerably. I will have to consult and write to the noble Lord about that. It is a good academic question. The Government have been quite clear that there is no exemption from the requirement to register for large multidisciplinary firms that conduct consultant lobbying. We refined the exception provided in paragraph 1 by amendment in Committee in the other place to clarify that it will not be enjoyed by organisations such as, for example, law firms if they run consultant lobbying operations and lobby in a manner which is not incidental to their other activity—even if consultant lobbying is not their primary activity. As such, they will be required to register if they meet the other criteria outlined in the definition of consultant lobbying. The provisions outlined in paragraph 1 provide an important and effective exemption for those whose limited involvement in lobbying is in a manner which is merely incidental to their normal professional activity. However, it brings within its scope those that provide consultant lobbying as a major part of their activities and firms for which consultant lobbying is a significant part of their activity.

Opposition Amendment 39 provides a long list of exemptions from the Opposition’s definition of professional lobbying. Exemptions are provided for constituents contacting their Member of Parliament, persons making communications on their own behalf, persons responding to government consultations or an invitation to submit evidence to a parliamentary committee, persons acting on behalf of government, persons not receiving remuneration, and those responding to a court order. That is a very large and unwieldy list of exceptions partly because once one extends this to professional lobbying, the question of definition itself becomes much more difficult. That is, again, partly why we have stuck to consultant lobbying in our approach.

Finally, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, asked about sovereign powers and the Government of Taiwan. It is very helpful that he has raised Taiwan but it would probably be better, to be absolutely sure that I am correct, that I offer to write to him on that specific point. I would like to reassure him as far as I can.

I hope that I have managed to answer most of the points in these amendments. I have outlined why it is not necessary to extend the register to those who lobby

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on their own or their employer’s behalf, because it is clear whose interests are being represented. Our proposals will deliver a focused, problem-specific register and, as such, we believe that these amendments are not necessary. I urge the noble and learned Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con): Is a consultant lobbyist somebody who has more than one client? Is that what constitutes a consultant—somebody who has at least two clients? So far as “professional lobbyist” is concerned, I am not too clear in my own mind so far—no doubt it is my fault—as to what exactly is meant by a professional lobbyist. For example, if a company has engineering matters that it wants to deal with, it might send along an engineer to tell the Minister what it is all about. He might not be described as a professional lobbyist but, being an engineer, at least he knows about the subject matter. Does a professional lobbyist have to have some professional qualification or does professional mean something else? I am rather befogged.

4.45 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, that is a very fair intervention. That is one of the reasons why we hesitate to include people whose main responsibilities within the charity or company for which they work is to contact government. The public affairs departments of major companies are the ones dealing with government, trying to interface between the company and the political process, and it would be the public affairs departments of many companies with which one would therefore logically deal. I know many people who have gone to work in the public affairs departments of companies—I am sure we all do. It is very often where people who have been involved in politics go afterwards to earn what they failed to earn in politics.

The noble and learned Lord is absolutely correct to say that in the exact definition of a professional lobbyist we are talking about people who are employed by a company, campaigning group or charity and pursue its interests in its relations with government. A consultant lobbyist is someone who lobbies on behalf of someone else apart from their own company. Theoretically, I suppose it is possible to imagine a consultant lobbyist all of whose income comes from one external client but the majority of consultant lobbying firms provide assistance, advice and lobbying for a large number of clients. That is the industry with which we are all familiar and with which those of us in government often interact. That is the distinction we make.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, responds, my noble friend has really not addressed the distinction between those who do the activity and the activity itself. The Government are supposed to be trying to provide transparency about the activity, not simply listing those who may engage in it—in this case, only some who engage in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred to what I said at Second Reading about what is in effect an alternative to this rather clunky mechanism being proposed by the Government. What I was proposing

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gets fairly comprehensively at the activity of who is lobbying on each measure that the Government bring forward. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, may wish to note that my Amendment 115 is intended to get at that. It is an alternative to what the Government are proposing and it would actually deal with that particular problem. My noble friend may wish to bear that in mind in responding to the amendments because I am not sure he has established that there is a need for this part of the Bill, certainly not compared with the alternative that I am putting forward, which actually gets at the nub of ensuring transparency of lobbying.

Lord Campbell-Savours: If I might add to that, particularly if there are only 350 registrations.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Organisations, I should have said.

Lord Hardie: I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate and to the Minister for his reply.

To answer the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the definition of professional has been slightly widened over the years. I imagine that those who undertake lobbying activity for a living would probably prefer to be called a profession rather than a trade. Therefore, those who lobby, whether they are lobbying as employees on behalf of employers or as consultants, might be described as professional lobbyists.

As the Minister pointed out, consultant lobbyists might well have only one client, although that might be a rare case. Indeed, the Bill itself recognises that the consultant is a person who,

“makes communications … on behalf of another person or persons”,

so the singular is certainly envisaged.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response and want to reflect on his comments about charities and the exemptions—if they are exempt. I note that he said that he is open to further discussion and that the Government will look in response to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, at possible further extensions without further legislation. Those matters ought to be and will be explored between now and Report. I may come back at Report with a more focused amendment, but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2 not moved.

Amendment 3

Moved by Lord Campbell-Savours

3: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, after “lobbying” insert “of government”

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, my amendment would inject the words “of government” after the words in Clause 1(1):

“A person must not carry on the business of consultant lobbying”.

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I should make it clear that I am amending a part of the Bill which I believe in principle to be totally inadequate to deal with the problem of the lack of transparency; I am only amending what is on offer.

Amendment 3 would clarify in the first clause of the Bill exactly the intention of the Government behind the legislation. The Bill restricts its remit and reach to limited areas in the institution of government. My amendment would make it clear that at this stage, the Government’s intention has been deliberately to exclude other important areas of government influence over public policy and decision-taking from the reach of the Bill. I tabled this amendment last Thursday to draw on the wider debate about those bodies that were being deliberately excluded—namely, government in its wider form, and Parliament—since when, on Friday, my noble friends Lady Royall of Blaisdon and Lady Hayter of Kentish Town tabled their Amendments 18 and 22, which more roundly deal with the issue of Parliament. I therefore yesterday withdrew the reference to Parliament in my amendment and will leave that to them to deal with.

My amendment would bring under the Bill government as a whole, as against the cherry-picked sectors which the Government propose. My case is that executive agencies, which are staffed by civil servants, non-departmental public bodies, which are staffed with a mix of non-civil servants and civil servants, and non-ministerial departments are all crucial parts of government.

The document Categories of Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments, of December 2012, sets out each of the three areas of government to which I have referred. Non-ministerial departments are described as,

“government departments in their own right—but they do not have their own minister”.

They include the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the Food Standards Agency, HM Revenue and Customs, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education and Children’s Services and Skills, Ofwat, the Office of Water Services, and the UK Statistics Authority.

Executive agencies are defined in the document as,

“business units headed up by a chief executive … often supported by a management board. Executive agencies carry out executive functions, with policy set by ministers”.

They include HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the Identity and Passport Service, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the UK Border Agency. Finally, there are non-departmental public bodies, which are described as carrying out,

“a wide range of administrative, commercial, executive and regulatory or technical functions which are considered to be better delivered at arm’s length from Ministers”.

All these bodies are part of government and deal with contracts as set out in Clause 2(3)(c)(i). Some deal with grants and “other financial assistance”, as set out in Clause 2(3)(c)(ii), and some grant licences and other authorisations, as set out in Clause 2(3)(c)(iii). In other words, they are very much at the heart of government and carrying out the functions described in the Bill, and which the Bill is intended to catch. My

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amendment, which at this stage is a probing amendment, asks the Government why these bodies are to be excluded. I beg to move.

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 24, which is in this group. In doing so, I wish also to speak to Amendment 52 and, with the leave of the House, Amendments 56, 57 and 58, which are in a different group but are all consequential on the main amendment.

Clause 2(3) applies only to communications to,

“a Minister of the Crown or permanent secretary”,

second Permanent Secretary or persons serving in government offices as listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1. My amendment seeks to extend the class of persons. As many noble Lords observed at Second Reading, lobbyists will not confine their activities to Ministers or the senior civil servants listed in these provisions. Indeed, their involvement with such people is likely to follow lobbying activity involving civil servants of a lower grade. This is clearly the case when one considers the word “government” in paragraphs (a) to (d) inclusive of Clause 2(3), which has to be construed in accordance with paragraph 1(4) of Schedule 1. That construction extends the definition of consultant lobbying to Ministers or their equivalent, and officials at the highest level in devolved Governments and local authorities in the United Kingdom, and in any institution of the European Union.

When I was in practice at the Scottish Bar, I was initially standing junior to the City of Edinburgh Council then, when I was appointed Silk, I became standing senior to that authority. From that experience, I am aware that local authority officials of a lower grade than senior management prepared policy documents for consideration by senior officials, then elected members. Those junior officials had considerable expertise within their own professional competence and a significant influence on the terms of policy documents that were ultimately submitted to elected members. Any lobbyist worth his salt who wished to influence policy would communicate with these officials at an early stage. I suspect that the same is true in central government and devolved Governments in the United Kingdom. If this provision is to be of any significance, it should be extended to include communications with any civil servant. Equally, there is a perception that political advisers can have a significant influence on government policy. Why should they not be included in the definition of persons to whom communications are made?

Amendment 34 sets out the definition of “political adviser” but, on reflection, the approach taken in the amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall of Blaisdon and Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, is more appropriate in referring to “special advisers”. That avoids reinventing the wheel.

5 pm

I have suggested the inclusion of Parliamentary Private Secretaries, but I suspect that that might be the most controversial part of the amendment. While I agree that it is essential that Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships’ House, but not Ministers, should be excluded from this provision,

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PPSs are in a special position regarding their Minister. Although unpaid, they may have access to draft policy documents and will attend meetings with the Minister and departmental officials when the formulation of policy is being discussed. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, who is not in his place, attended many such meetings when he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the late Donald Dewar when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. The special relationship that a PPS has with his or her Minister and the access to policy documents and discussions indicate that their inclusion in the affected parts would increase the transparency that the provision seeks to achieve. The other amendments are consequential because the definition of “Permanent Secretary” would be otiose if Amendment 34 were passed.

Lord Rooker (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 23, some of whose content has been covered, and 26. Before I do so, however, I would like to jump back for a moment because I was reluctant to intervene on the welcome statement that the Minister made at the beginning of our proceedings. I hope that when he comes forward tomorrow with the timetable, Part 4 will actually still be Part 4—that is, after we have finished Parts 1, 2 and 3. It is no good doing Parts 1, 3 and 4 and then trying to fix in Part 2. Part 4, on commencement and everything else, has to come at the end and remain as the final part of the Bill. I hope that that will be the order that we will get tomorrow.

I shall share this with the Committee: I have made a bit of a list, although I agree, frankly, that the route taken by the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth is much more satisfactory. Like my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, I am amending what is on offer; I am not trying to rewrite the Bill. It is fairly obvious that a Minister of the Crown has to be covered, and it is an open-and-shut case that special advisers should be covered.

What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, has just said about Parliamentary Private Secretaries is absolutely true. To be honest, I had an effective PPS only for my first four years as Minister when I was in the other place; to have a Lords Minister with a Commons PPS is a complete waste of time—not much help at all. Nevertheless, the PPS that I had for two years in MAFF and then for two years at the DSS—the same person—did not attend all meetings but certainly once or twice a week was sitting around a table with officials and myself and other Ministers, along with the Secretary of State’s PPS. That was normal; there was nothing suspicious about it. It worked perfectly okay. It was very useful. That person therefore has to be covered by such legislation, not in their role as a constituency Member of Parliament but in their role as a minor functionary in the Government. They can be dismissed by the Prime Minister or indeed appointed with the Prime Minister’s permission. Effectively, for practical purposes, those decisions are made by the Chief Whip but it is the same thing: the head of the Government sanctions these appointments and dismissals—as I found out to my cost when I got sacked as a PPS in 1977. I had voted the wrong way on a Bill. So PPSs have to be covered, and the Government have covered Permanent Secretaries.

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I come to the issue of non-ministerial government departments. On the latest count that I have, there are 23 ministerial government departments and 21 non-ministerial departments. One thing that is unique about them compared with the non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies—it is a cast-iron cert—is that they are all separately funded by the Treasury. They are government departments. They do not have a parental department. When one looks at the Cabinet Office list on the web for November last year, they are all listed. For executive agencies, the list gives the parent department. For non-ministerial departments, there is no parent department but a post-box department that answers PQs and debates. It has no role whatever in policy and no authority. Most non-ministerial departments are set up by primary legislation. They have their own Act of Parliament to set them up—obviously, I declare an interest, having just done four years as chair of the Food Standards Agency.

Let us take the first one on the list: the Charity Commission for England and Wales. It is the independent regulator of charitable activity. In the advert for a new chief executive that I saw at the weekend—I am not quite sure what has happened there because I thought the former chief executive was reappointed in August—the word “independent” is used. Non-ministerial departments are set up to give them a degree of independence. In fact, most members of the public do not know that they are government departments. That is the benefit. They are genuinely treated as independent regulators. Half the food industry does not understand that the Food Standards Agency is a copper-bottomed, 100% central government department, but it operates under its own legislation as the independent regulator for the sector. It answers to Parliament, like all government departments, and all the staff are civil servants, as in all these 21 non-ministerial departments.

Although there are 21 non-ministerial departments, only one is covered in the legislation: HM Revenue and Customs. The reason is that it is the only one of the 21 where the chief exec is a Perm-Sec-status civil servant. In all the others, the chief executives are either directors-general or in some cases, directors, who are very senior civil servants, but not at the top. There is a difference in their status. The one exception is HMRC, where there is a Perm Sec, and that is covered in Schedule 1.

Non-ministerial departments are set up in the way they are to keep them away from the sticky fingers of Ministers on a day-to-day basis. I know it looks like Topsy, and it is a very unsatisfactory arrangement with the hierarchy of different bodies, but each one was set up for a reason: to keep Ministers away from the day-to-day activity. That is obviously the case in Customs and regulating charities and, certainly, in food. Not having Ministers involved in the day-to-day working on a hunch has been a big success. That is the reason for setting them up as freestanding and funded by the Treasury, unlike executive agencies or non-departmental public bodies. They are quite different, but they are central government departments and are all staffed by civil servants, and the heads, including the chairs of boards—I will come to that in a moment—are all approved on appointment by the Prime Minister, after they have gone right through the interview process

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with Civil Service commissioners. They are government departments for all practical purposes, but they do not have a Minister walking the floors day to day. Ministers do not like it because they do not have any policy levers over these government departments, but they answer PQs and debates, and it is a very satisfactory and British way of dealing with an issue.

So are they subject to lobbying? Ha! You only have to look at the list. Of course they are subject to lobbying. Who is subject to lobbying? The chief execs are. So far as I know, they all have governance boards with a chair to deal with the governance aspects and they are all non-execs. I have not gone into that, but I think most of the boards are completely non-exec. In the case of the Food Standards Agency, it certainly is, and long may it remain so.

The question is whether they are subject to lobbying as government departments. They are operating, by the way, without phone calls from the Perm Sec or Minister of another department. They are told that it is a no-go area: “Take your tanks off my lawn. The legislation says that I am responsible for this policy. We, as the agency”—it may be a regulator; most of them are, but there are other functions—“are responsible under the law for these areas of policy”. Ministers therefore do not have a role. They do not sit around the table deciding on the policies. The agencies and non-ministerial departments do that, and the board deals with the strategy and governance, so you can bet your bottom dollar that the chairs and chief execs are subject to lobbying and, as such, should be treated in the same way as the Government say that Ministers and Perm Secs should. It naturally follows.

The other matter I listed was that of a chief scientific officer to a government department. The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser is of course listed in Schedule 1. That is not good enough. They are incredibly influential in the departments. By definition, they are all now part time; that was part of the change some years ago to have all the chief scientists out in the real world. They have got to have a chair somewhere or be part of another organisation, and give three to four days to the department. That is certainly the case with Defra and the Food Standards Agency, as was. That was laid down: they would have another role and be tied to academia or outside science. Are they subject to lobbying? You can bet your bottom dollar they are. Should they be covered? Most certainly. They should be covered for their own protection. It is not a question of saying that they cannot be trusted, but these bodies are independent and this applies to all government departments, whether they are ministerial or non-ministerial.

I do not want to labour this—I think I have made the point—but my other point relates to Clause 26. With the charities part of the legislation, we have this new rule of one year before the date of the fixed-term election; now we have that fixed date you can do things that you could not do before. Different rules will come in. Well, frankly, the salaried leader of the Opposition and the financially publicly supported members of a shadow Cabinet, six months before the election—and they could be the Government after those six months—ought to be covered. There ought

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to be some kind of rule which includes the Opposition for their protection. Again, I am not casting aspersions; it is for their protection. The reality is that all kinds of accusations will be made during the election period. First, Ministers will be publishing their diaries and all that during the election. There are bound to be some people causing trouble, asking questions and things like that. Within that final six months, the official Opposition, salaried out of public finds, trying to be the Government, ought to be covered. That is a crucial period. I have not discussed this with anybody, by the way; I just came up with a bit of lateral thinking the other day.

If the Government are genuine about the transparency of the lobbying they have to cover as many arms of government as they realistically can. I deliberately did not include every single civil servant—the bottle washers, cooks, cleaners, engineers and whatever. That would be going too far and would be impractical. We need a tight list that could be practical and both understood and accepted by the lobbying fraternity, government, customers outside government and the staff concerned. The staff would want to be involved because it is about their protection. All kinds of allegations would be bandied about when things go wrong. It is much better if you can always say, “We are open and transparent”. The greatest protection people have is openness and transparency. Most of the press do not read the open and transparent stuff until something goes wrong. Then they make all sorts of accusations, saying that they have discovered this, that and the other, while things were already there, open and transparent. However, that means that you do not get the full scare stories of the press or the leaks, and openness is a good idea. In this case that ought to be shared by the Opposition. It would obviously be to a limited extent, because they do not issue contracts. All kinds of lobbying activities will go on, and it will be useful for everyone else to know who was being lobbied, who was doing the lobbying, and what they were lobbying about.

5.15 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 25, which is in my name and that of my noble friend, and is a very specific amendment. Before I do so I will respond to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I have a very open mind about the wider additions that have been proposed in different parts of the House, and I shall listen with great interest to the noble Baroness—whichever noble Baroness that will be—when she speaks to Amendment 18, as that may well clarify our minds.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, makes a very interesting point about non-ministerial government departments, precisely because they are not in the hierarchy of any department. They have a different relationship to the Permanent Secretary and the Minister from all the other civil servants. While I would be very worried about going too far down the list of civil servants—down the hierarchy—he makes a very valuable point and I shall look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on it.

Rather late last night, after leaving the House, I renewed my acquaintance with a very interesting book, Dr Andrew Blick’s history of the special adviser in

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British politics, published nine years ago in 2004, which is entitled

People Who Live in the Dark

. That is a quotation from Clare Short that some of my noble friends may recall. Very many distinguished Members of this House, on both sides, are of course former special advisers, and I do not in any way intend what I have to say to be a slur on their reputations. Of course, it is also true that some important Members of the other House have been special advisers, not least Mr Ed Miliband and Mr Ed Balls, both of whom feature very prominently in Dr Andrew Blick’s account of how the Treasury clique operated under Gordon Brown. Then, of course, there was the “special special adviser”, Mr Alastair Campbell.

No sooner had I got myself to sleep last night by reading Andrew Blick—it was rather late—than I woke up again at 4am. I usually find that a good book sends me straight back to sleep, but unfortunately Dr Blick’s book is so interesting that I was awake for several more hours this morning. Therefore, if I am slightly less articulate than usual, that is entirely his fault. I will quote from page 313:

“The Thatcher years had a centralised, private-sector flavour, with individuals making a great impact. In Major’s premiership, temporary civil servants were less remarkable, subject to more formal regulation and perhaps more intrigue-prone. Finally, the Blair period saw expansion in terms of significance and numbers, and the exercise of pronounced managerial and media roles, leading to high levels of publicity”.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, I realise that the noble Lord is quoting from a book, but I point out that recent figures showed just last week that the number of special advisers has risen quite extensively under this Government as compared to the previous Government.

Lord Tyler: I am absolutely aware of what the noble Baroness has said, and I will come to that very point. Of course, it is not just a question of the numbers but about the role they play. I am trying to demonstrate that this is not a new problem but is certainly a central issue for the Bill and hence for my amendment.

Dr Blick goes on to say:

“If there was a change over time, it was in aides becoming more firmly established and accepted, and, to a limited extent, officially defined”.

Therefore they are recognised there and so they should be recognised in this legislation.

Then, as now, these political appointees acted as gatekeepers for senior Ministers. Then, as no doubt now, too many lobbyists found their way to the top decision-makers by this route. It was their particular way forward. If the spad did not feel that it would be politically helpful for the lobbying exercise to reach his or her Minister, it often failed at that hurdle. However, in many cases that was and is the gate through which the lobbyist has to go. It is certainly true in the present Government—I endorse what the noble Baroness said.

With both Labour and Conservative Ministers, we know that this was the route taken by representatives of the Murdoch media empire. Since 2010, there have been two serious scandals involving lobbying at this level that resulted in resignations. In one case it involved a spad and in another an adviser who clearly thought

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that he was a sort of special spad—a sort of spadoid. As I indicated at Second Reading, it would be ridiculous to exclude those extremely important decision-makers who are outwith the normal hierarchy of responsibility to the Permanent Secretary.

The advantage of the amendment is that it is simple to add spads into the regime. Consultant lobbyists who approach them should have to register, and the spads should have to publish details of their meetings with all external organisations, in precisely the same way, I am glad to say, as the coalition Government have now insisted that Ministers should do. I understand the arguments for extending the scope of transparency still further down the Civil Service chain, but the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made a very valid point. It will be difficult to know where to stop, if you go down the departmental hierarchy. The cases that he mentioned are not within that hierarchy, of course. If we went further down that hierarchy, there would be a substantial administrative burden; for the move to be effective, hundreds and perhaps thousands of civil servants would have to publish their diaries. As it is, the Permanent Secretary is responsible for what happens at lower levels.

I welcome the fact that this Government have, for the first time, introduced very considerable transparency in terms of the meetings that take place. As I said at Second Reading—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred to this—there is an amendment that would address the particular difficulty that the public, the media and parliamentarians have at present in identifying, in precise terms and quickly, when a meeting has taken place of this nature, with whom and on what subject. Therefore, it is extremely important that we have that clarity and access. Adding hundreds more people into the declaration regime would risk giving an excuse for delay in the publication of details about meetings with those who strongly influence decision-makers, and those who really do take those decisions—who must surely be the political appointees, special assistants and senior Ministers.

As we have heard in this debate, the lobbying register proposed by the Government is limited.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Did I mishear the noble Lord when he said that adding hundreds to the list would lead to delay? Surely, if he supports the position taken by my noble friend Lord Rooker, that is precisely what will happen.

Lord Tyler: I referred specifically to the non-ministerial government departments, on which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made a very valid point, because they are not within the hierarchy of departments responsible to the Permanent Secretary, in the same way as other civil servants. So I do not accept that. The addition to which he specifically referred would have considerable merit. I would look at that very carefully, and I hope that my noble friend the Minister will, as well.

Unlike others, I accept that we are making a limited addition to the transparency of the whole process with the register. Far more important is to make sure that the meetings that take place with whoever is lobbying are as transparent, timely and accessible as we can

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make them. What surely should not be limited should be the encounter with such critical political decision-makers and their advisers as the special advisers attached to senior Ministers. Therefore, I hope that my amendment will find favour with the House and with my noble friend the Minister.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I have amendments in the grouping as well. My amendments have similar aims to those of the noble Lords, Lord Hardie and Lord Rooker, and of the noble Baronesses, Lady Royall and Lady Hayter. I was very attracted by the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, because of the breadth of what it covers. However, I also noticed an omission; it does not encompass senior members of the Civil Service but confines itself to Permanent Secretaries. I think that there is a problem there.

When this Bill was considered in the other place, the point was well made that it appears to have been written by people who do not understand lobbying—clearly people who have not read the book by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. If it helps, I have a copy of his book on my shelf.

There are a number of problems but, as has been identified, Clause 2(3) is particularly problematic as it is so narrow. If you are going to lobby, the target is normally the Minister, and you therefore have to focus on the channels for reaching the Minister. The Permanent Secretary is not a significant channel for this purpose. Other officials will deal with that particular policy area—or a special adviser or the parliamentary private secretary. In saying that, I have nothing against special advisers; they play an extraordinarily valuable role from which Ministers and civil servants benefit. Parliamentary private secretaries also play a valuable role, so both should be included in the measure.

I know the objection as regards PPSs will be that they are private members, but increasingly they have been drawn within government. They are now mentioned in the Ministerial Code and are subject to certain requirements under it. Therefore, they are particularly good channels for reaching Ministers. We should encompass within the Bill’s remit all those who are being lobbied for the purposes of affecting public policy. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, does a valuable job in that regard, but one could add to it. I suspect that between now and Report we could come up with an amendment that brings together the various points that have been made and ensures that if we are to go down this route—and I am not persuaded that we should—those who are lobbied with a view to affecting public policy will be included in the Bill.

As it stands, Clause 2 is too narrow and, as I say, Permanent Secretaries should not feature significantly in it. I commend the various amendments that seek to widen the provision, so that if the Government go down this route at least they will do so effectively.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, provided that “government” is defined not as it is in the Bill but as it is in the

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amendments standing in the names of the baronial opposition Front Bench, by which I mean Amendments 33 and 43.

I approach all this with a certain bemused detachment. I have to intervene because the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, appeared to imply that Permanent Secretaries are not important, although I am sure that he did not mean to do so. I say “bemused detachment” because none of this would ever have applied to me—not the Bill as it stands or with any of the amendments, even the wide-reaching, admirable amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I was never a civil servant. I was a Permanent Under-Secretary but I was never a civil servant. The Diplomatic Service is a separate service. I apologise for making a rather pedantic—indeed, possibly, pompous—point, but there is something wrong in the drafting. I was a public servant but not a civil servant.

When I was a Permanent Secretary I never met a consultant lobbyist, thus proving the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Norton. They do not come to see Permanent Secretaries. If you are Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, the people who come to see you are CEOs or chairmen of companies that are in trouble and want the help of an embassy or high commission somewhere around the world. They do not send government affairs people, so widening the definition would not bring in Permanent Secretaries—they come themselves. They certainly do not send a professional consultant lobbyist to see the Permanent Secretary or, I think, the Minister. I think they do to see special advisers, so I think that is a very important addition which has to be brought in. They tend to see the relevant desk or the Under-Secretary. They do not come near the Permanent Secretary.

5.30 pm

I was, for a time, head of the British negotiating delegation in Brussels. In that capacity I saw professional consultant lobbyists all the time. Brussels is a mass of lobbyists, and some of them are actually not too bad. I had to see a great deal of them but I was not a Permanent Secretary and would therefore not have been covered by the Bill. All their approaches to me would therefore have been irrelevant to this Bill. Even if wider definitions were brought in, their contacts with me would still have been exempt because I was never a civil servant. When I was running UKRep I was still a member of the Diplomatic Service.

At least three drafting points therefore need to be looked at. You need to deal with the distinction between the Diplomatic Service and the Civil Service, and include the Diplomatic Service. You also need to look very closely at Schedule 1, in which the definition of “government” seems to be strikingly and dangerously wide. I do not know what is meant by the inclusion in the schedule of a reference to the institutions of the European Union. It is every citizen’s right to approach the European Parliament, lobby the European Commission or approach the Permanent Representative and his office to register their views in the Council. I am not terribly happy about that reference, or the reference to other sovereign Governments, in Part 1 of Schedule 1.

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Even if these definitional points were tidied up, I am still bemused. I am not quite sure, despite the noble Lord’s elegant explanation, what the problem is that we are trying to fix. As the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in the other place pointed out, it is not clear that transparency in lobbying is a significant problem. However, if it is a significant problem but a problem that applies only to Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, and that is all, and we keep a narrow definition, it is a problem that we can solve this afternoon. We need to change the Ministerial Code and the code of practice for civil servants, and we need a clear instruction to all Ministers’ private secretaries that in any contact with a lobbyist it must first have been established who the client is—who the lobbyist is acting for. Problem solved. You do not need a Bill to do that if you are dealing with the narrow problem that the Minister says the Bill is dealing with.

However, if you are dealing with a much wider problem, and most of the amendments assume that you are doing so, you are still in difficulty. I would have loved to go down the road that the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, suggests and regulate the activity rather than the individual doing it. But where then do you draw the line? When I was Permanent Secretary, senior trade association representatives or senior company executives did come to see me and did ask for help. Were they lobbying? They were not professional lobbyists but were acting for their company and asking for the support of the Government, high commission or embassy in question. If you legislate on the activity you need a recherché definition of what exactly lobbying is. Of course, that is not in the Bill because the Government have ducked the problem by going for the individual and a particular narrow category of individual.

It would be good to go wide rather than narrow, so my heart is closer to amendments such as that of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, than it is to the Bill as originally drafted. It is an uneasy mix and it does not quite work.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (CB): My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I was a Permanent Secretary for some 10 years and, unlike him, was a civil servant. I do not remember in that period ever being lobbied as a Permanent Secretary, but of course lobbying went on among the grades immediately below mine. This debate has therefore shown that these matters must be the subject of a new amendment on Report that resolves the various difficulties that have been mentioned.

I was attracted by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, which referred to senior civil servants and special advisers. It probably needs to go further. Amendment 33 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, goes wider than it needs to in its references to “Ministers or officials” and then to civil servants; however, that is for her to discuss. I very much hope that this issue will be looked at and that the definition will be widened. It need not go beyond including a senior civil servant, as defined by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, because any lobbyist would think that lobbying below that level was a waste of time, and it is therefore not likely to happen.

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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I was a very junior Minister in Northern Ireland and, of course, was being lobbied all the time. Such activity would, of course, be covered by the Bill, except to say that most of the people doing the lobbying were not consultant lobbyists but from a range of organisations. Perhaps I may make a few brief points.

I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Rooker about shadow Ministers. It is clear that any lobbyist worth their salt will pinpoint those who will be of influence, should there be a change of Government after an election, and make a beeline for them. That is an important issue. I also agree with my noble friend about government agencies. There were a large number of government agencies in Northern Ireland, which were a bit closer to government than the ones in England. Nevertheless, the point my noble friend makes still applies—I am quite sure that a lot of lobbying of those government agencies went on, and goes on, which would not be covered by the definition of a Permanent Secretary.

However, I should like to make another general point about civil servants. As I said earlier, although I had lots of meetings and was being lobbied, that activity would be covered because I was there. But of course civil servants are lobbied to secure access to a Minister, and that is a crucial part of the process. They need not be very senior civil servants but be senior enough to say to whoever is doing the lobbying, “Yes, I will get you a meeting with the Minister”. The Minister has to agree to such a meeting but in the way things are that nearly always happens. Civil servants who are not that senior can therefore be quite influential. Indeed, in all my meetings with civil servants during that time and when people lobbied me, I do not think that the Permanent Secretary of one of the two departments I represented was there on more than a handful of occasions. It was all done at a less senior level. I am bound to say that I cannot work out where the cut-off point should be, although there clearly has to be one. One of the considerations should be to include those civil servants who are senior enough to assist in the process of gaining access to a Minister. That might be a helpful way of looking at this issue. Someone said that Permanent Secretaries are ultimately responsible. I would say, “if they know”, because, in the nature of things, so much is going on I do not believe that a Permanent Secretary could possibly know about all the contacts made by lobbyists with more junior civil servants. There is a bit of a problem there.

Lastly, I should like to comment on advisers. I was not senior enough to have an adviser, although the Secretary of State had one who helped all of us. I very much agree with noble Lords who said that political advisers are crucial in the process. They open doors, can be extremely influential and give advice to their Ministers, having been lobbied in turn. I am therefore puzzled. I understand that the Minister has said—we had meetings on this before Second Reading—that transparency is what he is after, but I am puzzled as to why the Government are taking such a narrow view of the way in which the lobbying process works. We are talking about a process that seeks to influence legislation and public policy, and the scope of the Bill should be a bit wider to cover people who lobby in that manner.

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Lord Aberdare (CB): My Lords, I have listened to the whole debate thus far this afternoon and I confess that I, too, remain baffled by the logic behind this part of the Bill. It is something of a relief to find that I am in the distinguished company of others such as my noble friend Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, with whose remarks I very much agreed. That is despite the efforts of the Minister to explain the logic. As I understand it, the problem is that Ministers are not clear whom consultant lobbyists represent. I find that astonishing. If that is so, why not ask?

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, told us that two out of 988 meetings with Ministers at BIS were with consultant lobbyists, so that is not a huge number. One of the briefings that we have had from the professional lobbying bodies—from the PRCA—tells us that rarely do consultancies speak directly to Ministers on behalf of clients, especially without the client being present, in which case I imagine that it is fairly clear for whom they are speaking. Furthermore, speaking to Permanent Secretaries is pretty much unheard of, as has been confirmed by a number of former Permanent Secretaries in your Lordships’ House. In addition, the professional bodies tell us that their estimate of the number of organisations likely to have to sign up is around 100. Therefore, I fail to understand how this is likely to improve transparency. Indeed, it seems to me that there is a real risk that it could reduce the incentive to sign up to some of the voluntary registers which exist and which are also linked to codes of good practice.

The Bill as it stands seems to fall between two stools, and I am not sure which one to rest on in order to form a view on these amendments. It seems to me that if we are to have a register, it has to be a broader register that on the one hand covers a wider range of people who are undertaking lobbying and on the other hand covers a wider range of people who are being lobbied. I agree that if we are to have a register, it should extend to many of the bodies and individuals that other noble Lords have mentioned.

However, if we are not going to do that, it seems an incredibly expensive and elaborate approach to set up a register and a registrar if we are going to cover just 100 consultant lobbying firms, together with Permanent Secretaries, who are never lobbied by them, and Ministers, who are rarely lobbied by them. I would be much more attracted by the sort of approach that the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, mentioned at Second Reading, in which the reporting system on the receiving end is improved to make sure that it records those particular interactions.

Therefore, I confess that I am totally confused. I should be very happy to support some of these amendments if I thought that that was what the Bill was going to do. If it is not, then I do not know at all what the Bill is trying to do and I hope that I will receive further enlightenment as I sit here for longer.