For example, another area which has been referred to in the debate is where an officer wishes to check whether petrol is being sold in short measures. The officer can use the power to carry out a test purchase and if that discloses a potential breach by the trader, he can immediately exercise a power of entry in order to investigate. Another concern that was raised is when an enforcer comes across a new shop during visits to other premises. I am happy to confirm that an enforcer can enter those premises immediately, using the power to observe the business, or indeed he can undertake a test purchase. If while on the premises he discovers that fireworks, for example, are being sold in breach of regulations—or mattresses, as one noble Lord mentioned—the enforcer can make a test purchase. If that discloses a potential breach by the trader, the officer can exercise a power of entry immediately.

7 pm

Baroness Crawley: The noble Baroness mentioned that when it comes to a new business, there would be a power for trading standards officers to observe. What is meant by “observe”? Does it mean going behind the counter, as my noble friend Lady Hayter asked, or does it mean “observe” as if the officer was a member of the public? In that case, it would hardly be worth walking in.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: It means observing as though the officer was a member of the public, but obviously a test purchase can be undertaken. The officer can speak to the trader and agree that there should be an exemption, in which case the exemption would apply. Moreover, if the officer suspects a breach, that also implies.

Lord Harris of Haringey: Perhaps I may press this point a little because it is important and getting to the root of the issue now might save the Minister time

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later. What is sufficient for a suspicion of an individual trader? The officer has made a test purchase and now he has prima facie information to suggest that the trader is up to something. That is straightforward and no one would see any issues around that. However, I will come back to my example. It is known that something is circulating in a town and it is likely that it has only been purchased from retailers in that town. Is that sufficient to cover all the retailers? Does that change if we are talking about eight retailers or 200 retailers? That is also possible. If it covers 200 retailers, that would certainly reduce any concerns I might have, but if it covers eight retailers, I would like to know what the cut-off number is.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: As my noble friend the Chief Whip has just mentioned, you must have some sense of proportionality. I think that I gave a clear answer to the question of eight retailers earlier and I stand by that. Once we get to 200 retailers, we could be in slightly different territory. However, if there is a reasonable suspicion of a breach—although 200 premises seems to be rather an unlikely example—

Lord Harris of Haringey: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but perhaps I may give a specific example. There is a suspicion about a dangerous electrical fitting such as a plug adaptor which the trading standards department has come across and knows is circulating in the area, and those plug adaptors might be on sale in several hundred small retail outlets, local shops and newsagents which sell a range of other things. Without being unreasonable about it, there might well be several hundred outlets in an area. It may be thought that the device was such that it could kill someone, which means that the test would be proportionately higher. That is what I am trying to get at.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I can reassure the noble Lord on that point. There is of course another exemption on the grounds of health and safety and I am absolutely clear that it would apply in that case.

Lord Harris of Haringey: Even for 200 shops.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The officers would be looking for a faulty electrical product that might be in circulation in an area; there would be a suspicion. That is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. I am sorry, but I wanted to take the noble Lord through the examples in order to explain how the power will be used.

Perhaps noble Lords will bear with me while I make another point about powers of entry. The powers that other law enforcers have when they investigate offences are of interest, and the noble Lord has raised one or two of those. The police have no general powers of entry to commercial premises. They can enter a premises only with reasonable suspicion or a warrant. So there is, if you like, a form of notice. Even with a notice requirement, enforcers such as trading standards will have very substantial powers—more powers than the police, who deal with serious offences and serious crimes.

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A noble Lord mentioned Ofsted—a question I have asked, actually. For practical purposes, Ofsted does give notice. It normally gives up to two working days’ notice before a planned inspection to a further education college—that is, a routine visit—but for schools, notice is given by midday on the working day before the start of the inspection. But it also has the right, quite rightly, to undertake unannounced inspections in cases of serious concern.

The noble Lord, Lord Best, asked about interpretation. I assure the Committee that we will be providing guidance. We are not creating principles such as reasonable suspicion. They are already well understood but obviously we will need to explain them for day-to-day work.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked about evidence of the abuse of powers. This is not about abuse of powers; it is about reducing the burden on business from intrusive powers of entry and protecting civil liberties. It is about routine inspections, which, in my opinion, should be the subject of a warning. Where there are reasonable grounds of suspicion, obviously you can proceed immediately. I am a businessperson and I think business planning can have value in these circumstances.

I was also asked how notice can be given. Notice can be given by post or e-mail to the occupier or by leaving it at the premises. Actually, we have engaged extensively with the trading standards community while formulating the exemptions. That brings me on to the point that a number of noble Lords have made about the funding of the trading standards service. Obviously, spending and resourcing decisions are made by individual local authorities, which are better placed to make decisions about the enforcement needs of their communities than central government. Like all parts of central and local government, the services have faced budget reductions in recent years. There is no point denying it; that is agreed.

As noble Lords know, the Government are committed to tackling the inherited budget deficit by making savings and trying to improve value for money for the taxpayer, and this is part of that effort. We greatly value the work of trading standards to protect consumers from rogue traders and scammers, and we want to develop a better understanding of the impact it has across the economy. That is why, in partnership with the Trading Standards Institute, we have commissioned a group of academics at the Institute of Local Government Studies in Birmingham to undertake research to build an evidence base on the impact, effectiveness and efficiency of services, how improvements can be made, what works well and how we can do partnerships. This sort of evaluation is really important in public policy.

I think I have pretty well finished. I was asked about the deterrence effect of inspections. We would be concerned about the resource implications for trading standards services where uncovering breaches by chance is seen as an effective strategy for the future, even on the basis that it has been useful in the past. Targeting finite enforcement resources using an intelligence-led approach is a more efficient and effective strategy. I speak as a former businesswoman, with experience of a pretty small business trying to do

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a good job, and I think that better planning and targeting can save money both for business and for enforcers.

In conclusion, it has been an important and good debate. I have listened. I have tried to explain where we are coming from in the way in which we have drafted the Bill. I am trying to ensure that the investigatory powers in the Bill, modernised and brought together, strike the right balance between protecting civil liberties, reducing the burden on compliant businesses and ensuring that enforcers can tackle rogue traders.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: The noble Baroness said that the balance is between civil liberties and business. Unfortunately, she did not use the word “consumers”. Perhaps I might leave her with three questions. I know she will not be able to answer them now but they are extremely serious ones. First, she alleges that £50 million will be saved. I would like to know how many visits are included in that £50 million. Secondly, as I understand it, test purchases can be made only in a retail outlet and someone would not be permitted to go into a warehouse or a wholesaler’s premises to make such purchases. Thirdly, the biggest worry about this issue is suspicion, as I mentioned. How could suspicion be proved in a court of law if it was the result of an anonymous tip-off? I am very content for her to write to the Committee on those questions as I do not think that she has answered them this evening.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: I thank the noble Baroness. Perhaps she will also read Hansard on these points. We carried out an impact assessment and I think that the £50 million figure comes from that assessment, which I can certainly make available. I wanted to say that I was going to mention consumers at the end because this is the Consumer Rights Bill. It is important that we have a deal that is good for all sides. There are various different pressures relating to investigatory powers. I have tried to explain the wider picture and the parallels elsewhere. I am very keen that this should be an effective part of the Bill, which is obviously designed to modernise and improve both consumer rights and consumer enforcement. I therefore ask the noble Lord, Lord Best, if he will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Best: My Lords, that was a powerful exchange all round. Clearly, this is an issue of great interest and concern to your Lordships. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, who, among other things, welcomed the fact that the Government have already made a number of concessions along the way—that needs to be on the record. However, she pointed out that there are considerable costs involved for the trading standards service because there is a lot of bureaucracy involved in sending out 7,000 notices of intention to inspect each year, and the correspondence that has to go back and forth on all that. This is not a cost-free new regulation.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for calling into question whether there was a problem here that needed to be solved at all. He pointed out that this measure is bound to lead to endless litigation if we are not careful and made the important point that the

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ability of trading standards officers to make unannounced visits is, in itself, a deterrent, and it is uncertain what the world would look like if that deterrent effect was removed.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for raising key questions. She asked what would be the benefit of this measure to consumers and whether they would really benefit from it. She made the important point that an awful lot of unannounced visits follow anonymous tip-offs. Other traders know what is going on down the road. They do not want to get into a fight over it but want trading standards to know about it. However, there is a difficulty with that information being used later in a court of law since it is important but confidential information. I can see that that may cause a problem in future.

The Minister provided reassurance under a whole series of headings, which was extremely helpful. We have made some progress on these issues tonight. She paid tribute to trading standards officers, which I welcome, and emphasised continuously that this is about routine inspections only and that the legislation is generously drafted. We are reassured that suspicion is good enough in these cases. If a suspicion of a breach in the law is enough to trigger a perfectly legitimate unannounced visit, that covers an awful lot of cases. However, it leaves unanswered whether it is really worth putting on statute this new regulation and the binding condition on trading standards officers if they are to be able to bypass it in an awful lot of circumstances.

To conclude, we have a lot of new and extra reassurance on the record from tonight which is more than helpful. Putting this in the Bill also seems rather heavy-handed when we know there will be guidance in any case following the legislation. Guidance not statute sounds rather less of a sledgehammer to crack the remaining nut after we have heard about the many exemptions and exceptions. With those words, and the thought that we might need to bring this back again, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62A withdrawn.

Amendment 63 not moved.

Amendment 63ZA not moved.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed.

Schedule 6 agreed.

Clause 78 agreed.

7.15 pm

Clause 79: Enterprise Act 2002: enhanced consumer measures and other enforcement

Amendment 63ZAA

Moved by Baroness King of Bow

63ZAA: Clause 79, page 42, line 39, at end insert—

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“( ) For the purposes of the enhanced consumer measures set out in Schedule 7, the Secretary of State shall publish a review of the powers of Trading Standards Officers to consider—

(a) the number of enforcement actions by Trading Standards taken under the enhanced consumer protections set out in this Act,

(b) any additional operational costs to Trading Standards Services associated with the new powers and procedures under sections 77 and 79 of this Act, and

(c) the establishment of a statutory minimum standard for all officers carrying out Trading Standards functions in any local authority and the role of a competent body to set, test against, apply and monitor those standards.”

Baroness King of Bow: My Lords, I finally rise to speak to Amendment 63ZAA, in the names of my noble friends Lady Hayter and Lord Stevenson. This returns us to the issue of the enforcement landscape. The amendment would review whether the powers of enforcement given in the Bill are adequate. Surely this is absolutely critical.

I know we go in for a lot of hot air in politics—or that is what we are accused of—but this Bill is a quite good example of the detailed work politicians do to improve things for people going around their daily business. Yes, on this side we think the Bill could go much further but still it is a good Bill. What an irony it would be if we lose hours and weeks of our lives putting this consumer law into place—although for part of the debate on that last group I was worried less about losing hours of my life as the will to live—but the end result after all these words is that nothing changes because trading standards officers do not have the powers to enforce this law. Enhanced consumer powers and more flexibility are all well and good but unless we back them up with serious intervention traders might simply feel that they do not have to comply.

Will all enforcers always be able to back up with legal action any threat of intervention and the use of enhanced consumer measures, which are after all designed to avoid legal action? Which? expressed the following concern:

“The threat of court action is not always sufficient to encourage traders to engage meaningfully in negotiations with enforcers over remedies ... This risk is likely to be especially acute as enforcement budgets are streamlined”.

That is a quite nice way of putting it. Which? is therefore keen to see,

“enforcement mechanisms ... extended. This could include either the ability for enforcers to impose monetary penalties or a simplified and streamlined court process”.

This amendment takes the first step in remedying the imbalance between consumer protections on the one hand and enforcement powers on the other. As we know, trading standards departments have undergone significant cuts yet they are supposed to enforce a vast array of legislation, apparently amounting to 200 pieces of law. For example, earlier on we discussed letting agents. Trading standards have to enforce whether estate agents are members of a redress scheme. Then again, we also heard today about their responsibilities in other critical areas such as care homes. It will be very hard for them to balance those competing demands

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but we know that they will have to go for those that grab the headlines and also that carry more serious risk.

Given their reduced resources, is it realistic for us to increase their responsibilities on the one hand while having no overall idea of whether their powers are commensurate with their duties? Apart from anything else, it leaves the Government a bit exposed on the critical issue of ensuring enforcement. How can we guarantee that trading standards have the financial capacity, never mind the legal capacity and expertise, to use this legislation? The amendment is a sensible measure which would help ensure consumer protection is actually enforced. I beg to move.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment and her very important call for a government review of the powers of trading standards officers, given the responsibilities inherent in the Bill.

In the trading standards workforce survey of March 2014—despite the health warning on it from my noble friend Lord Harris—a picture emerges of a service that is still excellent but is teetering on the edge of sustainability. Trading standards staff numbers have fallen by almost half in the past five years. Numbers of trading standards officers per service range from half an officer in one local authority to 48 officers in another, with apparently little reference to the population size of the areas they serve or the number of businesses in those areas.

The Minister has just spoken, in relation to the previous amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, about needing to be an intelligence-led service, particularly in the future. I applaud that but what if there is no one left to gather the intelligence? We are seeing that in some places now. We all want a service that is effective and capable of meeting current and future expectations in the Bill, in order to fulfil its public safety remit and its consumer protection remit.

Trading standards officers take great pride in their work and they welcome the support that they receive from government. They want to make a full contribution to economic growth, public health, environmental protection and safer communities but their depleted numbers make that more and more difficult. In the workforce survey, more than 30% of trading standards authorities that responded mentioned stopping or limiting several second-tier advice services to consumers. Nearly all respondents stated that service provision would be reduced, with most proactive work ceasing and some services providing only the statutory minimum.

The functions under threat in local authorities include underage sales work, intellectual property, food sampling and animal feed. Non-statutory community projects such as the no cold-calling zones, which have been very successful, and trusted trader schemes, as well as the provision of free business advice, are also at risk. Several authorities will be introducing a system of responding only to complaints from vulnerable consumers or those with very immediate risk to their safety.

The trading standards service is centuries old. We have recently been commemorating the trading standards officers who gave their lives in the First World War.

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Many trading standards officers have in the past travelled to countries around the world to share our best practice. Ours is considered to be one of the finest services globally. We should be proud of that. Therefore, I ask the Minister, who I know is a good supporter of trading standards, to look favourably on my noble friend’s amendment and not simply say that this is the domain of local government and that therefore she is unable to intervene.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, this is probably a helpful amendment from my noble friend. The reason I say “probably” is that I am not sure that it is asking all the right questions: it is asking two of the right questions, but I suspect that there is a third one as well. One of the good provisions—which I actually think should be incorporated in all of the legislation that goes through Parliament—is the one introducing some mechanism for reviewing, once the legislation has passed, how much the powers that have been granted to whoever have been exercised, whether they have worked, and so on, and what the cost has been. Paragraphs (a) and (b) here are very much a part of that. I would like to see those incorporated in every piece of legislation that we pass because it would be helpful. I sometimes think that government departments put forward these things and then nobody ever looks at them again until perhaps 20 years later, when there is a Law Commission review as to whether anything has actually happened. This would provide the raw material to see what happened. It is particularly critical in this area because we know the extent to which trading standards departments are overstretched and in real difficulties. Therefore, it would be extremely valuable to understand whether this has been yet another set of powers, duties and obligations placed on them that they simply cannot cope with.

The second important thing done by the amendment is to try to set a standard for individual trading standards officers; to say essentially that there should be a properly recognised qualification and describe how all that would work. That is also extremely helpful. The amount of law that trading standards officers are expected to enforce—I think there are 250 pieces of legislation and the number rises constantly—covers an enormous range of areas of activity and requires a degree of specialist skills. Some of them require investigatory skills and financial skills in addition to all that, so having some minimum standard as to what officers should do is helpful and useful.

What the amendment omits is the minimum standard that our citizens—from whichever local authority—have the legitimate right to expect from local trading standards. What is the minimum level of protection that we can expect from local trading standards? That is the area where this amendment could be strengthened. Obviously, if the Government accept this amendment today, there would be progress and no doubt my noble friends would then introduce an amendment on Report which focused just on this issue. Otherwise, if they bring it back, perhaps they could look at this wider issue as well. This is important because there is enormous variation between local authorities in terms of trading standards provision.

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As a former local government leader, I absolutely espouse the importance of local accountability, localism and so on. That is an absolute principle, but there were plenty of areas when I was a council leader where, yes, we had local discretion and espoused the principle of localism, but we were expected to achieve certain minimum standards. That is not the case as far as trading standards and consumer protection are concerned. It would be helpful to try to find some way to enable the Department for Business to look at whether there was an acceptable minimum standard or level of trading standards provision in every local authority. I am conscious that the level of provision made by local authorities necessarily depends on their block grant. That is determined not by the noble Baroness and her colleagues in the Department for Business, but by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Consumer protection is one very miniscule part of that block grant. It would be in everyone’s interest—particularly in the interest of all of us as citizens or consumers—if there were some clear minimum standards laid down. Perhaps some work done on the back of a small amendment to this Bill over the next year or so would be extremely helpful in setting out what that minimum should be.

7.30 pm

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, on behalf of the team I thank the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, for her kind words at the outset.

The enhanced consumer measures will give enforcers of consumer law greater flexibility to get better outcomes for consumers. When there is a breach or potential breach of consumer law, the measures available to enforcers can be limited. Prosecutions in the criminal courts can lead to a fine or even imprisonment, while actions in the civil courts can stop the infringing conduct. However, neither option tends to lead to consumers getting their money back, nor does the person who has broken the law have to take positive steps to put right the damage they have caused.

The enhanced consumer measures will allow public enforcers to seek a range of innovative and positive measures in the civil courts, aimed at achieving one or more of three outcomes: redress for consumers who have suffered loss, increased business compliance with the law or more choice for consumers. Measures must be just, reasonable and proportionate. Once they have settled in, we expect the measures to lead to consumers getting around £12 million in redress annually. Although a business might be required to spend money in order to pay redress to consumers, to increase compliance or to provide information to consumers, a simple penalty payable to the enforcer or to the Treasury would not be appropriate.

Turning to the amendment, and to answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, we have already committed to a post-implementation review of both the enhanced consumer measures and the changes we are making to trading standards powers in the Bill. Our impact assessments for both state that the policies will be reviewed three to five years after they come into force. In addition, when we introduce the power

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to extend the enhanced consumer measures to private enforcers, we want to see how the measures bed in, and the experience of public enforcers using them, before deciding whether the use of them should be extended. Clearly, when deciding whether or not to extend the use of the measures, a key consideration will be how often they have been used and the cost to trading standards of using them.

The enhanced consumer measures represent a real change in how public enforcers such as trading standards will approach enforcement. The measures will be innovative and far-reaching. We have already circulated draft guidance on using them to our implementation group for comment.

On the proposal to establish statutory minimum standards for trading standards officers, if not the service itself, local authority trading standards are required to have regard to the Regulators’ Code, which is a statutory code of good regulatory practice. This code makes it clear that regulators should ensure their officers have the necessary knowledge and skills to support those they regulate, and that regulatory activity should be proportionate and consistent. A post-implementation review of the code was undertaken in 2012, and, following a consultation in 2013, an updated and simplified code came into force in April 2014.

The Government have committed to monitor regulators’ published policies and standards to ensure that they are consistent with the principles in the code. There will be a post-implementation review of the revised code to check that it is operating as intended. In the mean time, the Better Regulation Delivery Office offers assistance to all relevant bodies to implement the provisions of the code. At a local level, we think that local authorities are best placed to determine their officers’ competence. They will have a better understanding of local priorities, taking into account new models of delivery or collaborative approaches with businesses and other neighbouring councils.

As I have already said, the Government greatly value the work of trading standards and that is why we have commissioned research on the impact and effect of trading standards on the economy, to build on the evidence base. The research will conclude in the autumn, and the outputs will inform future policy. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness King of Bow: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and other noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. My noble friend Baroness Crawley spoke powerfully about trading standards services as they teeter on the edge of sustainability. Anyone who has worked with them and followed their trajectory over recent spending reviews and spending rounds cannot help but feel that there is a bit of a chasm between what we are talking about in theory here—the laws that we want those trading standards officers to promote—and the powers and resources available to them to do so, not least because, as my noble friend pointed out, their numbers have been halved.

If we are on the brink of ending current services and giving up on proactive work, it does not seem realistic that they may be able to make use of any

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powers, which is another reason why we feel a review of this sort would be very helpful and important. My noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey gave me qualified support—thank you.

Baroness Crawley: You were lucky!

Baroness King of Bow: I was very lucky. He said I got two of the questions right; perhaps a 66% ranking is not too bad. He said that the areas that this amendment promotes that are important relate, first, to providing the mechanism for reviewing whether powers have worked and what the costs are, and, secondly, setting a standard for individual training standards officers. That is extremely important; it is why we are asking for support for this amendment. My noble friend Lord Harris pointed out that this whole area of minimum standards has resulted in a postcode lottery nationally. If we are to tackle that postcode lottery and also ensure that the Bill’s objective of enhanced consumer protection is fulfilled, we need the powers set out in the Bill to be used proactively in the pre-emptive way in which they were intended. This amendment would give us the information we need to make sure that happens in future.

My noble friend Lord Harris said that the Government might accept the amendment. Obviously, we need not worry about that, so I will leave it to one side and end on the point that the Minister referred to, that effectively it will be local authorities who have to make sure that this works. That brings us back to the point where we started. We do not see how we can avoid a dissonance between the powers that local authorities have and their inability to use those powers and meet their obligations because of a lack of resources. We do not think that those two issues can be split up, but the review would illuminate where the problems really lie. None the less, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 63ZAA withdrawn.

Clause 79 agreed.

Amendment 63A not moved.

Amendment 63AA

Moved by Baroness King of Bow

63AA: After Clause 79, insert the following new Clause—

“Report on work of Implementation Group for this Act

On commencement, the Secretary of State shall report to Parliament on the work of the Implementation Group to ensure consumers and businesses are adequately informed of the changes in the law made by this Act, especially with regard to the key rights at the point of sale.”

Baroness King of Bow: In moving Amendment 63AA, I shall speak also to Amendment 105J in the names of my noble friends Lady Hayter and Lord Stevenson. Amendment 63AA deals with the implementation group and is interesting, not least because during the Bill’s passage in the other place the shadow consumer rights Minister, Stella Creasy, spoke about the mythical

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implementation group because often in the other place the answer to every question raised was, “The implementation group will sort it out”.

What will the implementation group look at? It will look at the point of sale information and identify the best way to communicate and teach people about their rights. It will look at a range of ways to ensure that businesses and consumers know what the law is regarding the point of sale questions being asked. It will look at statutory rights, what they mean and how people will be told about them. It will also identify clear, understandable wording, not just how to tell people about their rights but the words used to describe those rights. It will also look at the point of redress. It will answer questions about the information given when someone complains about the goods, service or digital content. We also heard that the implementation group will look at the guidance given to trading standards; it will look at how this will be drafted for a wide range of organisations.

With that said it is clear that the implementation group is not simply an add-on to this legislation. It is integral to the way in which it will work. The Bill is a framework. As we know, most of the law is then implemented via statutory instruments and guidance. Unfortunately, Parliament too often thinks that its job is done at that point, but implementation is really the most important part. The implementation group will be working behind the scenes—for example, preparing businesses. Consumers can be empowered only to know what their rights are, and therefore we need the implementation group to succeed and its recommendations to have bite. The key work of the group relates to Part 1 of the Bill, improving business and consumer education on their new rights and obligations, as well as spending some time informing trading standards officers.

After all that, what do we know about this mythical, important, integral implementation group? It is an all-statutory group. So first, we do not actually know what it is doing. Secondly, without Amendment 105J its recommendations will have no teeth. We hope that the advice of the group would be taken by the Minister to turn into a code of conduct. There definitely should be a statutory code of conduct. We want the implementation group to succeed. I beg to move.

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for highlighting both the work that we are doing on the implementation of the Bill and that this implementation is vital if the measures are to make the differences that we intend.

We have published our plans for implementation online, at GOV.UK, and we have written to all noble Lords about them. These plans have been drawn up in close co-operation with the experts on our implementation group. These are the people who know how this really works on the ground for business, consumers and enforcers. We intend the Consumer Rights Bill to come into force in October 2015. Work to inform businesses of the pending changes in the law will begin in earnest in April 2015. This will include the publication of guidance that is easy to understand and will be supported by the sterling work of trade associations and enforcers to educate and assist businesses.

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Businesses will have six months to make any changes to processes and information to meet the requirements under the Bill. They will be able to see at a glance the key changes in the law. They will also easily be able to find more detailed guidance as and when they need it. The noble Baroness rightly emphasised the need for consumers to be aware of their rights, while other noble Lords expressed similar thoughts. As we have said many times, the Government believe that we must ensure that consumers understand their new rights and obligations. That is essential and I know that is something on which we can agree.

That is why we are working closely with relevant organisations, particularly consumer groups, to ensure that consumers have a basic awareness of their updated rights and that they know where to get advice on a specific problem with faulty goods, services and digital content. The primary source of this advice will be the excellent Citizens Advice website and helpline, but of course the work of other consumer groups will be vital and we will work with key organisations to get the message across.

7.45 pm

Unlike businesses, consumers will not need to know about the changes until closer to the time at which they come into force. The experts on our implementation group all agree on this. To publicise the new law too early could lead to confusion about which rights apply when, where and how. The noble Baroness’s amendment mentions,

“key rights at the point of sale”.

We have discussed this at some length in Committee. I am happy to reiterate that we have worked with business groups and consumer groups to develop a high-level summary of consumer rights. This summary covers our rights when we buy goods, services and digital content. It is a very important element of the work to implement the Bill. As we have discussed in earlier sessions, we believe a voluntary, flexible approach will be effective without causing unnecessary burdens and costs. A summary of these key consumer rights will be central to the work to publicise the changes under the Bill. When we publish this summary, I shall be very happy to place a copy in the Library.

I assure noble Lords that everyone will be hearing a great deal about the new consumer rights, particularly around the time of commencement. We will be using a wide variety of channels: social media, traditional media, trade associations, consumer campaigns, enforcer education and online guidance, to list a few. We will be keeping Parliament informed. Noble Lords can rest assured that they will hear about the changes next October.

I also remind noble Lords about the good work being done by trading standards, and this is perhaps a theme that we can all play together. It is playing a crucial role in reducing the complexity of the consumer landscape and in strengthening the effectiveness of enforcement. BIS sets key performance indicators for the National Trading Standards Board, and agrees its business plan at the beginning of each financial year.

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The NTSB is then required to send the department quarterly performance and finance reports of progress against its business plan, and a full annual report at the end of the year. Ultimately, it is accountable to Parliament, via the public accounts process, for the delivery of its activities related to the grant that it receives from the department. Therefore, all in all, noble Lords can be assured that Parliament will be kept well informed about work to improve the consumer landscape. I do not think that a formal requirement to report on commencement is necessary in the legislation.

With regard to consumers in the regulated sectors, it is important that consumers in these sectors are also aware of their rights, in particular around matters such as refunds, repairs or replacements, and that traders are aware of their responsibilities. Noble Lords have raised some important points with this amendment and I have an enormous amount of sympathy with what is being said. I refer noble Lords back to my comments on Amendments 52 and 105A about what regulators are already doing to help consumers and to take into account their interests. In addition, I also refer back to comments made on those amendments on the excellent work being done by the citizens advice bureaux to help consumers in these sectors understand their rights.

In Amendment 63AA the noble Baroness rightly emphasises the need for consumers to be aware of their new rights. As I have just outlined, we have a robust plan in place to ensure that both consumers and business become more aware of their rights and responsibilities. Therefore, while I agree with the sentiment behind this amendment, it will simply duplicate existing work and cause confusion, and I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

Baroness King of Bow: My Lords, if this implementation group is to take on so many of the issues that we have raised in Committee, we need to know in good time when this information will be made available to consumers and businesses. That is why it is very helpful that the Minister has outlined the timeframe for some of the critical tasks that the implementation group is responsible for. I heard what the Minister said about the timing of publicising consumer rights. I was going to ask if she could write to us with an integrated summary of when both business and consumers will be informed, but the Minister has said that she will place something in the Library of the House. If it is possible to write to us in advance of that, that would be welcome.

The key point, though, is not when these organisations, stakeholders or citizens are informed; the key point is how they are informed, and whether it is in a common-sense, plain manner that they can understand. That will be down to the implementation group and, given that group’s importance, it would be helpful for us to know more about how it will operate. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 63AA withdrawn.

Committee adjourned at 7.50 pm.