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House of Lords

Wednesday, 1 July 2015.

3 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

Oaths and Affirmations

3.05 pm

Several noble Lords took the oath or made the solemn affirmation, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

International Students: Post-study Visa

Question

3.07 pm

Asked by Lord Holmes of Richmond

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consider reintroducing a post-study visa for international students studying at bona fide higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and in doing so declare my interests as set out in the register.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, the UK continues to have an excellent offer for international graduates wishing to undertake skilled work in the UK after their studies. There is no limit to the number of students who can remain, if they secure a graduate job. The Government have no plans to reintroduce the previous post-study work route, which saw large numbers of fraudulent applications from graduates who remained unemployed or in low-skilled work.

Lord Holmes of Richmond: My Lords, there is an economic imperative: we are pretty much at full employment. We do not just need to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to come to study in the United Kingdom, we also want them to stay and play their part, be economically active and then, when they go home, be great ambassadors for the United Kingdom—what a fabulous example of soft power. Does my noble friend agree that we need to focus on and grasp this economic opportunity, and will he also agree to meet with me and other interested Peers to discuss how we may improve the current situation?

Lord Bates: I am, of course, very happy to meet with my noble friend on this important issue. I agree totally with him that the offer that we have for international students plays a significant part in our economy. They bring experience and investment into our universities. However, I think that there is a problem with the

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messages that we send to students. In some parts of the world, people say that we put a limit on the number of students but there is no limit on the number of students to bona fide universities. They say that we send out a message that they are not welcome to stay, but we have said that they can stay, providing they are in a graduate-level job, an internship or a doctoral programme; they are genuinely looking for work; or if they are setting up a business. That is the right balance, but we have got to get that message out there and I am happy to meet with my noble friend to discuss how we do that.

Baroness Rebuck (Lab): My Lords, the Royal College of Art, a postgraduate institution in which I declare an interest, launches more new student start-ups than any other UK university. This year, however, its most innovative, international social entrepreneurs and inventors, its design engineers and healthcare innovators, who would have set up UK businesses upon graduation, will now return home instead. Can the Minister begin to assess the loss of enterprise and competitiveness of ending most—and it is most—tier 1 visas for budding entrepreneurs, and also the impact of skill shortages on specialist companies reluctant to deal with the increased red tape and hurdles of tier 2 visas?

Lord Bates: We have a specific tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa whereby people are encouraged to stay, particularly if they are working in the area of technology, which the noble Baroness is talking about. We have systems whereby people are given 12 months to explore where they can do, in particular, a doctorate degree. I would be very interested to discuss further with the noble Baroness why people are making that decision when the rules have been designed so that the brightest and best can stay here and contribute to the UK economy.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): Does the Minister agree that the time has now clearly come for Her Majesty’s Government to say that the number of non-EU students who come to our shores every year—well over 100,000—and whose contribution, culturally and economically, is massive, should be taken entirely out of the immigration equation? Does he also agree that it is only by acting in that simple, straightforward way that the Prime Minister’s pledge that immigration would be reduced below 100,000 can be put properly to the test?

Lord Bates: Obviously I respect what the noble Lord says, but we follow the UN guidelines on this. The ONS also follows them when it is producing the statistics, and they are used in the US, Australia and Canada on pretty much the same basis—that is, students are included in the figures. Of course, speaking as a Home Office Minister responsible in your Lordships’ House for answering questions on immigration, it would be very convenient if we could lift 140,000 or so out of the statistics, but that would do nothing to tackle the real problem. Last year 135,000 students came here and only 44,000 left, so 91,000 remain. We cannot be serious about immigration without tackling that problem.

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): What discussions have the Government had directly with universities to determine from them what impact the closure of the visa route has had on their intake of non-European overseas students?

Lord Bates: I am very happy to meet representatives of the universities. In fact, earlier this year the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration produced a very helpful report entitled UK Post Study Work Opportunities for International Students, which drew on evidence from universities. I have read it, and it may be helpful to follow it up with universities to make sure that we get the message out on what we are selling and what they should be selling—that is, world-class education, in which we specialise, not low-skilled employment.

Baroness O'Cathain (Con): My Lords, some time ago, as a member of a digital study that we were doing in this House, a group of us went to Imperial College. We were told categorically by graduate students there that they would have to leave within two or three months of finalising their studies. The Minister is saying that they do not have to do that, so why do we not get that message across? I am hearing that from students everywhere, so they are getting misinformation or a lack of information. I think that it would be to the benefit of us all to get that message across.

Lord Bates: Imperial College is a world-leading university and we are very proud of it. I want to be clear on the specific point that my noble friend made. If someone is not going into a graduate-level job, they will have four months following the completion of their course to look for work. If they do not do that but are able to find graduate-level employment, they are able to apply for a tier 2 visa. If they secure a temporary internship, they can stay for 12 months. If they are completing a doctorate, they can stay for 12 months, and if they are setting up a business, they are particularly welcome and can stay longer.

Lord Winston (Lab): My Lords, in the field of science there is no question but that a student is at his most productive and most useful immediately after completing his doctorate. Practically speaking, we are currently training what will be our opposition over the next 10 years, because these graduates are going back to their own countries and developing technology which would be highly useful to the British economy. Surely we need to try to do something about that.

Lord Bates: That is a fair point, and as regards STEM subjects, the noble Lord is absolutely right. We also need to remember that there is a development point. Due to the world-class education that we have, many people come to this country from less-developed economies. The idea of them taking their skills and experiences of British life and culture back to those countries is also an incredibly important part of the soft power that my noble friend Lord Holmes began his Question with.

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Lord Cormack (Con): Will my noble friend reflect for a moment and consider the wisdom of putting in writing for every higher education institution what he said to this House this afternoon, so that all potential graduates know what the position will truly be when they graduate?

Lord Bates:Obviously my ministerial colleague has responsibility for universities within BIS. I will certainly talk with him, and also with my honourable friend at the Home Office, James Brokenshire, who has responsibility for this area there, and see if we can do just that.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Question

3.15 pm

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will ensure that any review of their shares in Royal Bank of Scotland examines all options for the bank’s future, including alternatives to reprivatisation.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, the Chancellor announced on 10 June that the Government intend to begin selling their shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland in the next few months. The Chancellor is acting on independent advice from the Governor of the Bank of England and a review by Rothschild that it is in the interests of taxpayers to begin now to sell our stake in RBS and return the bank to the private sector.

Lord Sharkey (LD): That is very disappointing. We now have an opportunity to break up RBS into regional stakeholder banks. We know that these banks are better at lending to SMEs and more stable, and contribute more to regional growth. Will the Minister agree to publish a proper and full analysis of the comparative merits of different ways of dealing with RBS, including breaking it up into regional stakeholder banks?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, it was never the intention of the Government to be a permanent investor in the UK banking sector. At a national level, both RBS and Lloyds are already in the process of divesting part of their UK banking businesses. The Government do not believe that the case for breaking up the core operations of any bank in which the Government have a stake into regional entities meets the objectives of maximising the bank’s ability to support the British economy, getting the best value for the taxpayer or facilitating a return to private ownership. The cost of reorganisation would be attributable to the banks and, as a result, would be fully borne by the taxpayer. The significant issue is the trade-off between the costs, which are certain and significant, and the benefits, which are uncertain.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): But, my Lords, as the Minister has just indicated, the bank is involved in restructuring at present and is still awaiting a judgment

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in the United States on the mis-selling of subprime mortgages—which takes us back a little while. How can the Government think in terms of having an early timetable for the selling off of this bank? The bank is now trading a long way below the price that the Government paid for it in 2008. Will that not mean that there will be a distinct and significant loss to the taxpayer?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I made no criticism of the Labour Government when they bailed out RBS and made no criticism of the average price that they paid. But of course it is part of the mathematics of selling the bank for a loss that they paid 502p. As to the present price and whether it is being discounted, it is true that there is a law suit from the FHFA in the United States, but our independent advice is that the current share price fully reflects the concerns about any future law suits in that regard.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, can my noble friend explain to the spokesman for the Opposition that the fact that the Labour Government grossly overpaid for a bombed-out bank with shares that were virtually worthless should be a matter of shame to him and should not inhibit the Government from doing what is the right thing to do?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My noble friend has put it like that; I was trying to be a bit more conciliatory.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords—

Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, both opposition parties have already asked a question, but the Labour Party fielded its Front Bench first, so, arguably, it should be the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, is the driver behind this policy the prospect of the price of the shares falling?

Lord Ashton of Hyde:That is not the prospect. Since the policy was announced, the shares have actually gone up. The independent advice we received from Rothschild said that giving a strong signal that it was ready for sale would help the share price. By letting some shares go now, the free float would increase and the benefit to the taxpayer would be increased. The Governor of the Bank of England concurred.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards specifically recommended exactly the study that my noble friend Lord Sharkey described because of the lack of diversity in the UK’s banking system. Given that report after report has identified lack of diversity and lack of local banks as the biggest barriers to securing both economic

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growth and financial stability, why did the Government specifically ignore diversity in the review that they carried out?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, we have not ignored diversity. We are committed to increasing competition in banking to improve outcomes for consumers. The Government have an ambitious programme of reforms to increase competition in banking. This includes, for example, divesting both Williams & Glyn and TSB from RBS and Lloyds, creating a seven-day current account switch service, and delivering more data to enable customers to compare which bank is best for them—I could go on.

Lord McFall of Alcluith (Lab): My Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of the bailout promised that all the money expended by the taxpayer would be recovered in full and that there would be a reformed Royal Bank of Scotland. Neither of those promises has been realised. The Royal Bank of Scotland has still to escape the shadows of seven years ago. Why is the Chancellor breaking his promise?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I do not agree that he is. The Chancellor said two years ago that he would return RBS to private hands. He is doing that. He is increasing competition. RBS has been reformed. The independent advice is that this is the best time to go forward. We have reformed the banking sector completely. I cannot agree with the noble Lord.

Chilcot Inquiry

Question

3.22 pm

Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made regarding the publication of the Chilcot Report.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Lord Bridges of Headley) (Con): My Lords, in his letter of 15 June to the Prime Minister, Sir John Chilcot indicated that he would only be in a position to provide a realistic timetable for publication once the inquiry had received and evaluated the remaining responses from those individuals who had been given the opportunity to respond to the inquiry’s provisional criticism. In his reply, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said,

“I … had hoped for publication of your report by now and we are fast losing patience”.

He also asked for an update from Sir John once the Maxwellisation process had been concluded.

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also said that people were running out of patience with the inquiry. This must be particularly true of the families who lost lives.

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Will the Minister recall that, on 4 February 2015, Sir John Chilcot told a Commons Select Committee that there was,

“a settled body of evidence that may be added to, but it will not be subject to revision”.

Is it not deplorable that there was a 13-month argument with the former Cabinet Secretary about the disclosure of notes between Mr Bush and Mr Blair which proved unsustainable? Since Parliament is the ultimate guardian of the independence of any inquiry, and since this one seems incapable of reporting, should not the Prime Minister pull the plug, discharge the committee and, on the basis of the evidence already gathered, come to Parliament for its advice as to a way forward?

Lord Bridges of Headley: I start by saying that I entirely share the noble and learned Lord’s frustration, as I am sure do those who served and those who lost loved ones in Iraq. The general gist of his question—in fact, there were several questions rolled into one—was that we should scrap the inquiry. I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord on that. First, the inquiry is independent of government and, most importantly of all, it has taken a long time to get this far—on that we agree—but it needs to be able to complete its work as quickly as possible so we can learn the lessons. Removing its members from office or stopping the inquiry now is not in the best interests of this work. However, I am sure that those involved in the inquiry will heed the views of your Lordships, especially those of the noble and learned Lord, on how long this is all taking.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, it is now more than 12 years since the invasion of Iraq. Does the Minister agree that, increasingly, the impression being given is that people do not want crucial facts to be subjected to public transparency, where they can be discussed and debated? Does he also accept that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, said, this situation is particularly unfair to those such as my late and very outstanding friend, Charles Kennedy, who said that, in engaging with the issue of whether we should have invaded Iraq, he found that, regarding possibly one of the most distinguished commissions that has been appointed by this House and the other Chamber, we have no way of knowing what its conclusions are, no way of knowing what it believes to be the sources of the Iraq war and no way of knowing what it believes the consequences of that war were. It is profoundly unjust and unfair to allow this situation to continue. May we ask the Prime Minister to insist that, at the very least, there should now be a report, even though some parts of it may be kept secret for security reasons?

Lord Bridges of Headley: I repeat that I obviously share, as does my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, the frustration that clearly many in this House feel about the length of time this is taking. I draw your Lordships’ attention to the letter that the Prime Minister sent to Sir John, in which he asked the Cabinet Secretary to meet Sir John “as soon as possible” to discuss progress on the completion of the report, and said that the Civil Service would continue to assist the inquiry in the “urgent completion” of its work.

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Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): My Lords, does the noble Lord recognise that there is across, I think, all corners of this House total impatience with the present situation? We recognise the difficult position the Prime Minister is in, but while it is right to allow those who may be criticised in the report to have the opportunity to make representations and for those to be considered, in any consideration now and in any future arrangements for a commission of this kind there must be a limit on the amount of time that people are allowed to hold up publication of a report. This report is meant to provide an opportunity for lessons to be learned from what happened over Iraq. No lessons have been learned, a lot of years have gone by and further mistakes have been made.

Lord Bridges of Headley: My Lords, on the first point, I draw my noble friend’s attention to what Sir John Chilcot told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the other place. He said he had seen,

“no evidence … that anyone is trying to delay the publication of the report by holding out from responding or entering into argument about the Maxwellisation process”.

As regards the lessons we need to draw from this process, I am sure there will be very many indeed, but I humbly suggest that we do so once the report is completed.

Lord Richard (Lab): My Lords, is not the real problem here that, under the present rules for inquiries, the Maxwellisation process is mandatory? It is not discretionary or left to the chairman of the inquiry to decide who ought to be given the opportunity to respond; it is mandatory and it takes an awfully long time. A committee of this House recently considered the operation of the Inquiries Act and one of its main recommendations was that a Maxwellisation process should cease to be mandatory and should be left to the discretion of the chairman. So far, the Government have refused to take that on board. In the light of what we now know about Chilcot, will the Minister undertake that the Government will look again at whether the rules of procedure for inquiries are up to it and, indeed, whether or not the Maxwellisation process should cease to be mandatory?

Lord Bridges of Headley: I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, but I have to refer him to the answer I have just given, which is that we will need to take account of this process and the lessons we might learn once the inquiry concludes. I note that he shakes his head, but this inquiry is independent and it needs to remain independent.

Lord Trimble (Con): My Lords, the underlying problem here is the fact that this inquiry was not constituted under the Inquiries Act 2005. If it had been set up under the Act, as it should have been, the inquiry would have been conducted more efficiently, the Minister setting it up would have had a power to call for it to be concluded and handed over to him, and this problem would not have arisen. Lessons should be learned, and they are contained in the report that the noble Lord referred to. The Government should review their response to that report.

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Lord Bridges of Headley: My Lords, once again I have to say that we will have to learn these lessons. My noble friend makes a very valid point, but the inquiry is independent and it is following the process that it has set out.

Lord Dykes (LD): My Lords—

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): I am sorry, but the House is calling for the next question, so I think we should move on.

Greece

Question

3.31 pm

Asked by Lord Higgins

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what part they have played in discussions and negotiations regarding the Greek financial crisis.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, these discussions are primarily a matter for Greece and for the euro area. However, it is in Britain’s interest to see a stable euro area, and the Government maintain regular contact with euro area member states and other European and international partners on economic issues. As the Chancellor has said, we should not underestimate the impact that a Greek exit from the euro would have on the European economy and the knock-on effects on us.

May I also take the opportunity to correct an error that I made in answer to a question after the Statement on Monday? I said that the UK’s share of IMF funding was 15%, whereas it is around 4.5%. I apologise to the House for that error.

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords, in light of that reply, will my noble friend urge the Chancellor to play a more active role in this matter? It is fortunate that we are not members of the eurozone; however, we have a definite interest in what the eurozone is doing. Not only are we contributing to the bailout through the IMF, but it crucially affects our own economic recovery. The politics of this have become unbelievably acrimonious and complicated, but the economics are very clear. Greece is locked into an uncompetitive exchange rate and it will be condemned to endless financial crises, bailouts and austerity until it leaves. Therefore, will the Chancellor seek to do all he can with our European partners to ensure an orderly exit? In particular, will he reject the view, apparently expressed this morning, that if Greece leaves the eurozone it has to leave the European Union, which would push it into Mr. Putin’s arms? Will he also say that the finance that would otherwise be available should be used to ensure a smooth transition to a more competitive exchange rate for Greece?

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Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, the Chancellor has been very clear that we have exposure to the eurozone and it is an important market, so we cannot be in any way complacent about the Greek situation. However, it is a eurozone matter and the Chancellor will not involve himself directly. He talks regularly to fellow Finance Ministers and to the heads of the ECB and the Commission; indeed, he said in his Statement the other day that he had spoken to them in the previous 48 hours. The Governor of the Bank of England also made the point that the ECB stays in regular contact with the Bank. Regarding my noble friend’s suggestions as to what the Chancellor should tell the eurozone leaders, I can pass on his comments, but I think the Chancellor is very keen to leave them to deal with what is their problem.

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): May I ask the noble Lord to go rather further than he did in answer to me on Monday? In the course of the discussions he referred to with our eurozone partners and the IMF, will the British Government be using what influence they have in favour of a revival of the package that Mr Tsipras turned down so petulantly the other day, if the Greek electorate vote yes in the referendum on Sunday? This issue can hardly be avoided in any such discussions. Will the Minister tell us frankly the Government’s position on the matter?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The Chancellor is very clear that he is not going to make that judgment in public. He thinks that the eurozone negotiations should be left to the eurozone parties.

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, on the hopeful assumption that Greece’s financial crisis can be resolved, what constructive role can the Minister assure us the UK Government will take as a leading member of the EU—if not of the eurozone—to help resolve Greece’s economic crisis, and to help it to build a sound and sustainable economy? Can the Minister assure us that it is in our interest, as well as Greece’s, that the UK remains a leading member of the EU?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The Chancellor is not going to tell anyone what they should be doing, but of course we want the economic situation in Greece to get better, not least for the benefit of the Greek people. That is not a simple matter and it will not happen any time soon, but we are not going to be drawn on advising the Greek people on how they should vote in the referendum, or on what course they should take.

Lord Stirrup (CB): My Lords, discussion of this issue has, for obvious reasons, focused on economic and financial issues, but does the Minister agree that what is going on in Greece is likely to have far wider repercussions, not least for European security in the eastern Mediterranean? This is an issue for us, just as much as for the eurozone countries; therefore, such discussions cannot just be left to the eurozone.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, I completely agree with my noble and gallant friend. As the Chancellor said, we hope for the best but we prepare for the worst.

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That certainly includes some of the security issues that my noble and gallant friend has mentioned.

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, could my noble friend the Minister have another crack at my noble friend Lord Higgins’s Question? Does he agree that it would be in Greece’s interest if it had a flexible exchange rate that reflected the economy and created a more competitive economy in Greece?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I am absolutely not going to tell the Greek Government how to deal with their economic situation. It is certainly not my place.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, if Her Majesty’s Government can play only a limited role in the resolution of the crisis, at least they can do something on behalf of British citizens in Greece and those intending to go to Greece. The Minister gave a very limited answer on Monday to the question of whether our embassy in Greece would be strengthened and help given to those who are bound to find things difficult in getting money from the stricken Greek banks.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I mentioned on Monday that we will increase the resources available if necessary, and the Foreign Secretary had agreed that. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice and we stand by to do everything we need to do to help British citizens go to Greece and enjoy their holidays. We think that it is good for Greece that they continue to do so.

Davies Commission Report

Statement

3.38 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

“I would like to make a Statement about the Airports Commission’s final report, published earlier today. I received a copy yesterday evening and I have had copies put in the Library of the House and the Vote Office. First, I will review the commission’s process to date; secondly, I will describe the next steps.

In September 2012, the Government appointed Sir Howard Davies to lead a commission to consider how the UK could maintain its status as an international aviation hub and, in particular, provide capacity in the south-east. I thank Sir Howard for his contribution and his leadership. I also thank his fellow commissioners —Sir John Armitt, Ricky Burdett, Vivienne Cox and Dame Julia King—for their hard work. I also acknowledge honourable Members from all sides of the House who have campaigned vigorously on behalf of their constituents. I am sure they will continue to do so.

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There are strong opinions on this issue and it is not easy to resolve. For the Government, the task is to balance local interests against the wider, longer-term benefits for the UK. This report is part of that process.

Over 50 different propositions were considered. In December 2013 the commission shortlisted three schemes for further consideration—two at Heathrow, one at Gatwick. It also made recommendations for improving our existing airport infrastructure, including upgrading transport connections. We are acting on these interim recommendations.

We are working with Gatwick Airport to upgrade the station there. Network Rail is leading a study to improve the rail link between London and Stansted, and Crossrail will soon provide a new direct route to Heathrow.

The commission has also sought views from across the country because the UK’s other airports play a big role in our aviation success story—airports such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Connectivity to all parts of the UK is something the commission has rightly considered.

The UK has the third largest aviation network in the world after the US and China, but it is congested, and a lack of capacity holds our country back. Since 1990, 12 UK airports have lost their direct links to Heathrow. As Sir Howard Davies says in his foreword to the report:

‘Good aviation connectivity is vital for the UK economy. It promotes trade and inward investment’.

As the report points out:

‘About half of the British population travelled by air over the past twelve months’.

It also says:

‘While London remains a well-connected city, its airports are showing unambiguous signs of strain’.

Meanwhile, hub airports such as Dubai and Istanbul are growing fast.

The commission found that all three shortlisted schemes are credible options for expansion but that the Heathrow Airport Northwest Runway scheme offers the strongest solution. To quote the report:

‘Heathrow offers a stronger solution to the UK’s aviation capacity and connectivity needs than a second runway at Gatwick’.

The report recommends action to address the impact of any expansion on the local environment and communities, among them a limit on night flights, greater compensation, controls on air quality and a guarantee there will be no fourth runway.

Let me turn to the Government’s response. There are a number of things we need to make progress on now. First, we must study the substantial and innovative evidence base the commission has produced. Secondly, we will need to decide on the best way for achieving planning consents quickly and fairly if expansion is to go ahead. Thirdly, we will come back to Parliament in the autumn to provide clear direction on the Government’s plans.

This is a vital moment for the future of our aviation industry. Our aviation sector has been at the heart of our economic success and quality of life. All those with an interest in this important question are expecting us to act decisively.

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This is a clear and reasoned report. It is based on the evidence; it deserves respect and consideration; and we must act.

I commend this statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement

3.43 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this important Statement, which was delivered by the Secretary of State for Transport in the other place. The Official Opposition join with him in thanking Sir Howard Davies and his team for the vital work they have done since 2012 in producing this very important report.

I take this opportunity to praise Heathrow and Gatwick for the campaigns they have run in recent years which have been educative for the public and have often been conducted with an eye to giving information rather than just propaganda.

This substantial work has got one very important feature. Sir Howard Davies has proceeded to a clear recommendation:

“A new Northwest Runway at Heathrow delivers more substantial economic and strategic benefits than any of the other shortlisted options, strengthening connectivity for passengers and freight users and boosting the productivity of the UK economy”.

Aviation plays a very substantial role in our economy and it has the potential to play a greater one. The sector employs hundreds of thousands of people, contributes more than £50 billion to our GDP and pays the Exchequer more than £8 billion every year in tax revenues. But we know that the growth of our aviation sector is at risk. Heathrow has been full for 10 years; Gatwick will become full over the next five. It is therefore quite clear that we need additional capacity. That is the case made by Sir Howard Davies in the report but, as the Minister indicated, there are details regarding the report that we need to consider.

We, as the Opposition, present the following tests which we think need to be met so that the public can have confidence that this is the right way to move forward. The recommended expansion in capacity must go hand in hand with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation, allowing us to meet our legal climate change obligations. We also need to ensure that local noise and environmental impacts have been adequately considered, and will be managed and minimised. The benefits of expansion must also be felt in every corner of the country, including any infrastructure, employment and supply chain benefits; regional airports must be supported, too. If these conditions can be met, it is quite clear that it is in the long-term interests of the country to carry out the report’s main recommendation. I therefore hope the noble Lord will appreciate that, given strenuous efforts to ensure that these tests are met, the Official Opposition will support the construction of an additional runway at Heathrow.

Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, this is a worthy report but I suppose we could say, “Here we go again —another report on the airports of south-east England and another recommendation for Heathrow”. There has

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also probably been another not very ringing endorsement of such a report. A Statement that says in almost its last sentence:

“It deserves respect and consideration”,

is hardly a ringing endorsement from the Government.

The Liberal Democrat position is very different from that of the Official Opposition, in that we believe there is no need to expand airport and runway capacity in the south-east. One thing to illustrate that is in the report itself, which clearly states that airports in the south-east will reach full capacity in 2040. That is 25 years ahead. We certainly need to plan ahead on major infrastructure projects in this country but some 25 years ago, back in 1990, I was lucky enough never to have seen an email and I certainly did not have a smartphone. I had also never participated in a videoconference, which is perhaps more relevant. Over that time, Stansted, which has capacity, has increased its ability to take extra flights.

Yes, Heathrow is full. As the Minister said, it has been full for 10 years. In fact, it has always been full but you manage businesses, as Heathrow and other airports do, by making sure that your fixed assets are fully used. If you have an asset that is not being fully used, you are not managing it properly. Airport capacity will clearly be used as much as it can be and we will find that at Heathrow, as a prime airport in the UK. We would no doubt quickly find that it was true with a third runway as well.

I now move on to the fourth runway, which the report goes into. There is an illustration here of how the report looks at the future. It says categorically that,

“there is no environmental or operational case for a fourth runway at Heathrow”.

If that is the case, I find it difficult to understand why the third is so important, given that Heathrow salespeople, if they are up to their measure, will make sure that the capacity of the third runway is used fully and as soon as possible.

Heathrow is irresistible. Asking for a fourth runway is irresistible to the management of Heathrow, as they asked for terminal 5 after terminal 4. What the report really says is that Heathrow is in the wrong place. If the environmental or operational issues are wrong for a fourth runway, a third runway is clearly wrong now.

On climate change, we can be very proud of a 20% reduction in emissions since 1990, yet airline emissions in the UK have gone up by some two-thirds. Is that compatible or is it a contradiction of policy, given that the Government have, quite rightly, committed themselves to the climate change policies and budgets of the Climate Change Act 2008?

On air quality, page 196 of the report states that,

“none of the schemes improve air quality compared to a scenario where no expansion takes place”.

On connectivity, I agree that there is a real issue around regional airports being squeezed out by Heathrow, but the report recommends that the Government should be prepared to use public service obligations. There is nothing in there saying that these should be mandatory.

On noise, the reports states that,

“an independent aviation noise authority should be established with a statutory right”,

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which sounds very strong, but it concludes with “to be consulted” over noise levels in the west. That is clearly another very weak recommendation.

I have two questions for the Minister. It is said that this autumn’s decision will give a clear direction. Will there be an actual decision in October? Most importantly, the Statement says that,

“we will need to decide on the best way for achieving planning consents quickly and fairly if expansion is to go ahead”.

Will the Minister confirm that that “if” is still an option?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, for his support for the Statement. I join him in extending thanks to all involved in the report. He and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised issues around climate change. In the short time we have had to digest quite an extensive report, I am sure that both noble Lords will acknowledge that the commission has done a great deal of work on looking at how threats to the environment and to air quality can be mitigated. Certainly, the Government will look at those elements as part of our decision on the report.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, also raised local concerns and the impact on the local community. Indeed, he may have noted the suggestion in the report for a local community board to be established, which would evaluate the impact of any expansion and its operation. It is not unprecedented: I am sure the noble Lord is aware that Amsterdam Airport Schiphol operates a similar board for local interests. His point about local, regional airports was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Of course, as the Statement said, and as the report acknowledges, this is not just about the south-east and London; it is about the country. The issue of our regional airports is important and the Government will respond accordingly, but the report has dealt with that issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about October and the question of “if”. I am not going to give a commitment at the Dispatch Box on what the Government’s decision will be, but the Government have said we will press ahead. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and, indeed, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have today both stated the importance of moving forward on this and we will return to the issue with the Government’s review in the autumn.

3.55 pm

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, the Secretary of State accepted in the other place today that lack of airport capacity was holding this country back. Now that we do not have the alliance, we can rely on the new Conservative Government to implement this particular expansion. Can we now expect the Davies report to be the main determinant of the Government’s decision?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As my noble friend is aware, we commissioned the report in 2012 during the previous Government. I believe that was the right

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thing to do at that time. The issue of capacity in London and the south-east is something that we have been reviewing and looking at over the last 50 years. This was an extensive report, which looked at more than 50 different options and then whittled them down to the three on which it has reported. Of course it will be a primary consideration for the Government in thinking about the way we move forward on south-east airport capacity.

Lord Soley (Lab): I have been campaigning on this for years, in the House of Commons and in this House. I remind the Minister that many constituents supported my line precisely because they knew that Heathrow needed to expand if their jobs were to be safe and if the British and regional economies were to grow. I have two very quick, simple questions. First, can the Government make sure they act on this, hopefully by the end of the year? Please do not drag this out, which is what we have done before on so many infrastructure projects in this country. It is an embarrassment for us that we have not achieved this. Secondly, we have to stop this nonsense of taking years to decide whether an airport can expand when what matters is that we put down very tough conditions, as Howard Davies has suggested, on noise and the environment. Those are the issues that trouble people, quite rightly. If we do that, airports should be allowed to expand, because they are amazing economic drivers, locally, regionally and nationally. They are terribly important.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I share the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord and commend his efforts as an exponent for ensuring that airport capacity meets the challenge not just for our country but for the global role we wish to play. I draw his attention to the penultimate sentence of the Statement I repeated: “And we must act”. I hope he takes some reassurance from that. As he rightly pointed out, the commission looked at the conditions extensively and put in various mitigating safeguards covering noise, other environmental issues and, as I said earlier, engagement with the local community. Those will be important factors in the Government’s evaluation of the report as well.

Lord Callanan (Con): My Lords—

Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords—

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, it is sensible that the Liberal Democrat Benches should have an opportunity.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I declare that I have lived for 20 years under the Heathrow flight path and that I am a member of HACAN. Could the Minister tell us what the anticipated impact is on Manchester and Birmingham airports? The business plan for Heathrow includes a proposal to divert direct flights into those two airports to the third runway, which will have an impact on the northern powerhouse. In addition, my neighbours and I were told when the fourth terminal was approved that there would be no further expansion

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at Heathrow. There was then an effort to get a fifth terminal, and we were promised that there would be no expansion beyond the fifth terminal and no third runway. Within six weeks of planning approval, a campaign began for the third runway. Would the Minister tell me whether I am a fool to have believed those assurances from both the airport and the aviation industry, and whether I would be a fool to believe again promises about there being no plans for a fourth runway or indeed about the rather minor mitigations promised, many of which could have been implemented already?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As the noble Baroness knows, I have great respect for her opinions and I would certainly never suggest that she has been a fool in any respect. The important thing for Manchester is that it will benefit from the engagement and the statements we have made on the northern powerhouse and from the development of HS2. As I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, Manchester itself recently announced £1 billion of investment for Manchester airport and its expansion over the next 10 years.

I emphasise again that it is the Government’s opinion—and the commission has evaluated this in its report—that regional connectivity is important in ensuring that our regional airports are part and parcel of the development of our airport capacity nationally.

Lord Callanan: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Statement. I agree completely on the need to act decisively. He referred to the fact that 12 regional airports have already lost their links into Heathrow because of lack of capacity and that virtually all regional airports are urging the expansion of Heathrow to go ahead. Can I ask him please to ignore the siren voices like that of the noble Baroness who spoke earlier? It can hardly have come as a surprise to her when she bought her House in west London, next to one of the busiest airports in western Europe, that she experiences airport noise. So while it is important to take on board these concerns, please also bear in mind the concerns of the rest of the country, which needs Heathrow to expand to help in particular areas such as the northern powerhouse.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I thank my noble friend for his comments. I agree with him about the importance of ensuring that whatever decision the Government take in moving forward on what has been a very extensive report reflects the importance of UK plc and regional connectivity. We will certainly review that, and it will be part and parcel of our decision-making on the way forward when we return to this issue in the autumn.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane (Lab): Does the Minister agree that the only way to ensure regional connectivity is to regard airline slots as the national asset that they are and not leave them to airlines to cut regional services and instead introduce more lucrative long-distance services? More capacity will not improve regional connectivity unless it is destination specific.

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: As much as we may regard national slots at airports as our national heritage or assets, they are allocated by the EU and are governed by European Union and associated slot regulations. The UK Government are legally prevented from intervening on slot allocation processes—be it at Heathrow, Gatwick or other slot-co-ordinated airports.

Baroness Tonge (Ind LD): I, too, declare an interest as a former chairman of HACAN and a former MP for the constituency of Richmond Park. Some years ago the Prime Minister said that, “no ifs, no buts”, there would never be a third runway at Heathrow. Could the Minister tell us what his line is going to be now?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I am sure that the noble Baroness heard the Prime Minister responding to PMQs, when he said that the important thing was to move forward on the decision. She referred to the comments of the Prime Minister, “no ifs, no buts”, but what he was commenting on at that time was a very different proposition for Heathrow. Following this, we made the decision to set up the Airports Commission. It was the Prime Minister’s decision and that of the last Government—indeed, the noble Baroness’s party were part of that Government. That is what we have now done, and the option put forward for Heathrow now is a very different one from the one proposed in 2010.

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Rowe-Beddoe (CB): My Lords—

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I apologise, but we cannot have two noble Lords standing at the same time. The Cross Benches have not made a contribution as yet.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe: Could the Minister confirm that in his opinion Her Majesty’s Government have taken into adequate account the increased security implications for this capital city of increased flights over its administrative centre?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that the issue of security through aviation—indeed through all modes—is something that the Government take very seriously. Perhaps I speak with a special interest, because I am the Minister for Aviation Security at the Department for Transport.

Lord Clinton-Davis: There can be no doubt that the Davies report has come down in favour of Heathrow, but there are certain details that have to be addressed. Can the Minister say that, in the autumn, the Government will make a firm decision? That is imperative, in my view. The report also stressed that an early decision is absolutely imperative. The delay would be immensely dangerous, particularly since the Government commissioned the report in the first place. It would imperil British aviation, and it would imperil our

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economic advantages and our situation in the global economy, as well as our standing as a nation. Does the Minister not agree that an early decision is absolutely vital?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I do agree, and the challenge now is to make decisions that are reflective of what has been a very well-balanced report and are also, as I have said, in the best interests of the country. I assure the noble Lord that the Government will carefully consider the commission’s extensive report without delay. By the autumn, I want to get to a stage where we can set out a position to Parliament on the way we want to take forward this work.

Lord True (Con): My Lords, unlike many noble Lords, I have the honour of being elected. I was elected as leader of a council and represent many of the people who will be most affected by this report, so perhaps I might intervene. As I walked around the streets this morning, I sensed anger, dismay and cynicism, but no surprise. I deprecate my noble friend’s comment that implied that people in west London are nimbys. They already put up with 40% of the noise pollution from airports in Europe and with air quality that breaches European standards. Whatever position we take in this debate, I would be obliged if the people I have the honour to represent were not spoken of in that way.

My erstwhile noble friend mentioned the Prime Minister’s statement,

“no ifs, no buts … no third runway”.

Will he forgive me if I thought I heard an “if” and a “but” in his response? That statement was made by David Cameron at a PM Direct event. It was clear and was heard clearly. Will my noble friend use his influence to make sure that that statement is kept before the Government in all deliberations on this question?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I reassure the noble Lord that, when he gets a chance to read the commission’s report, he will find that it has addressed all the concerns that he has highlighted, and it will be a significant part of the Government’s decision. With regard to the statement made in 2010 by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as I said earlier, the proposal that was in front of him at that time, including some of the concerns that the noble Lord has just highlighted, merited what the Prime Minister said. However, we are quite clear: the commission has now produced its report; it is well balanced and has looked at many factors that the proposition in front of us in 2010 did not consider; and the Government will come back with their view in the autumn.

Lord Shipley (LD): Has the Minister noted the recommendation of the commission that:

“The Government should alter its guidance to allow the introduction of Public Service Obligations on an airport-to-airport basis, and use them to support a widespread network of domestic routes at the expanded airport”?

Given that if the third runway gets the go-ahead, it could be a number of years before it is actually in

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place, what is to stop the Government altering their guidance to bring it in line with a number of other European Union countries to enable further,

“Public Service Obligations on an airport-to-airport basis”,

being delivered?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Government consider their public service obligations very seriously, as I am sure the noble Lord knows. It is not that we have not interjected in recent times. For example, the route has been protected from Gatwick to Newquay, as have routes up to Dundee. Where the criteria are met, the Government have exercised their option and met their obligations. We are keen to ensure that public service obligations are, if you like, the backstop, to ensure that any concerns over particular domestic routes are retained.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): Does my noble friend not agree that it is wrong to hold the Prime Minister to what he said some years ago when faced with a report that has been carefully considered and that says unequivocally that it is in the national interest for the expansion of Heathrow to go ahead? It is his duty to proceed as recommended. I very much welcome the fact that the Official Opposition have indicated their support for that. Has this thing not been in a holding pattern for far too long? We need to get on with it.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I thank my noble friend for the first analogy about aircraft and holding patterns. I agree with what he said about the Prime Minister’s statement. We are looking at something very different. I stress to all noble Lords that the Government commissioned the report in 2012. It is extensive and covers a range of factors, including mitigating factors, regional connectivity and a raft of other matters. I am sure noble Lords agree that it is right that the Government look at the report’s recommendations, evaluate them and come back in the autumn with their response.

Lord MacKenzie of Culkein (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister aware that the largest aircraft coming into Glasgow Airport is the Boeing 777 operated by Emirates, and the number recently increased to two per day? Does he agree that if there is no expansion at Heathrow, the winners are going to be the Middle East airlines?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Government will return to the issue of the expansion of capacity across London and the south-east, but as I have said, our decision, which will be put forward in the autumn, will reflect on ensuring the competitiveness of UK plc and the importance of regional connectivity.

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I declare an interest in that, 30 years ago, I was rash enough to buy a house in Battersea—a considerable distance from Heathrow—where the noise is excessive, even today. I have one specific question. If this goes ahead, it is proposed that there should be a legal limit on night flights so that they cannot arrive before 6 am. At present they fly though my bedroom window, so to

1 July 2015 : Column 2073

speak, at 4 am every day because the airlines pay the necessary penalty to do so. During the long time before we go through this long process, why can we not legislate to put a legal ban on night flights straightaway?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My noble friend is quite right to point out that there are current obligations, which will continue until October 2017, but I take his point about the penalties that are paid, and I will take that back to the department.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, I speak as somebody who has taken a fairly hard-line position on expanding airport capacity: I have not been in favour of it. Does the Minister agree that there is no possibility of a meeting of minds between people who take the view that there should be no capacity increase and people who are arguing about where the capacity should be put? Will he assure the House that, since this report is about where additional capacity will be put, the Government will not come back in October, having considered, with a decision not to decide?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I have never regarded the noble Baroness as being hard line in any respect. I am sure she will agree that it would be inappropriate for me to give a commitment at this time. The Government will evaluate the report, and we will come back on the way forward in the autumn.

Lord Empey (UUP): My Lords, in view of the Minister’s Statement and the comments of a number of noble Lords from all sides of the House, can I look forward to the inevitability of government support for my Airports Act 1986 (Amendment) Bill?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I pay tribute to the consistent tenacity of the noble Lord in presenting his Bill. It has been discussed in this House, and he heard the Government’s response at that time.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, the Statement refers to our aviation success story, citing Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Is the Minister aware that London Luton Airport has passenger throughput greater than any of those airports, with the exception of Manchester: currently some 11 million, and there are plans to go up to 18 million? I declare my interest as an advisory member of the board of London Luton Airport.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: When we discuss Bills we always say that lists are indicative and not exhaustive, and that was true of that Statement.

Lord Kilclooney (CB): My Lords, the important issue here is the connectivity of provincial cities with London. Am I to understand from the previous answer that slots are very much under the control of the European Union and not of Her Majesty’s Government?

1 July 2015 : Column 2074

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Certain Heathrow and Gatwick slots are governed within EU and national slot rules.

Childcare Bill [HL]

Committee (1st Day)

4.15 pm

Relevant document: 2nd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Motion

Moved by Lord Nash

That the House do now resolve itself into Committee

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Lord Nash) (Con): It may be helpful if I report to the House that there have been productive discussions in the usual channels about the next stage of this Bill and that as a result of these discussions we will be looking to arrange the Report stage for October when the House returns from the conference recess.

Noble Lords will be aware that last Friday the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee published its report on this Bill and other Bills before the House. We are of course mindful of that report and its recommendations in respect of this Bill and intend to prepare and publish our response in good time before Report, including tabling government amendments where appropriate. Both these points are relevant to our discussions on the amendments that have been tabled for consideration this afternoon. I hope it is therefore helpful to have set them out at this first available moment in proceedings this afternoon.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and I had a helpful conversation last night. We agreed about the importance of making progress with this Bill and the important commitment to children and parents that it makes. I know that all in this House are agreed about that. We also agree that it is important that the voices and expertise of parents, providers, local authorities and employers properly inform the provisions we will make. I know that noble Lords want us to take time to get that right and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has raised many questions about it. The noble Baroness asked if I could be specific about the further information that will be available before Report to confirm and build upon the commitment I made in my policy statement that I sent to noble Lords last week. It is our intention to provide a full update to the House on how we will deliver this extended entitlement and an update on our plans to pilot it in 2016. This will take account of our consultations with parents, providers, local authorities and employers over the summer, the helpful contributions which I anticipate from your Lordships tonight and of course the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Committee, which asked for clarity about how we intend to use the powers.

In time for Report, therefore, the House will be able to scrutinise that information and we will respond formally to the Delegated Powers Committee. If appropriate we will bring forward amendments to

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the Bill which respond to its recommendations. We will also of course pay careful attention to the views that the Delegated Powers Committee has expressed about affirmative procedure. As noble Lords are aware, it is our intention to consult fully on draft regulations and guidance in the first part of 2016 after Royal Assent. In this regard, I am lucky and extremely grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, has agreed to work with me and the department to find a way in which we can take advantage of the invaluable expertise of members of the Select Committee on Affordable Childcare and others in this House to work with us on those regulations in due course to ensure that they are thoroughly fit for purpose.

Meanwhile I am delighted to confirm that we have already deliberated across government on the points raised at Second Reading and by the Delegated Powers Committee about the provision in Clause 1(5)(g) which will allow us to establish a body corporate. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has tabled Amendment 18 to remove that provision and I am pleased to inform the House that it is my intention to accept that amendment tonight. I beg to move.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I apologise for detaining the House prior to Committee but I had given notice to the Government that I would be speaking on this matter. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. It is unusual when a Minister moves a Bill to be taken in Committee that he makes such a lengthy statement and I think it is an indication of the concern that has been expressed around your Lordships’ House that he has chosen to do so today. It is helpful to a degree and I am grateful to him for doing that. Perhaps we would not have had that statement today had it not been for the report from the two committees and our intention to speak today prior to Committee.

This is an important Bill, and we all want to ensure that there is proper and effective consideration of it. However, the way in which the Government have brought forward the Bill has serious implications for how we as a House consider legislation and fulfil our constitutional obligation as a revising Chamber. We cannot revise that which is not there. The primary role of your Lordships’ House is effective scrutiny. That Ministers accept so many amendments in your Lordships’ House, and propose others following our debates, is evidence that this role is valued by Governments in improving legislation.

At Second Reading, concerns were raised about the lack of detail in the Bill from all sides of the House, including from noble Lords on the Government Benches. Since that debate, both the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee have reported. The Constitution Committee today says that this is, “a particularly egregious example” of the kind of legislation coming forward from government, and,

“an example of a continuing trend of constitutional concern to which we draw the attention of the House”.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, in its report published on Friday, agreed with many of the concerns that were raised at Second Reading and said that it was:

1 July 2015 : Column 2076

“Unable to understand why the Bill has been presented in a skeleton form only”.

Rarely has this House seen such stark criticism of a Government’s failure to provide the information needed to allow proper consideration of legislation at the start of a Bill for Second Reading, or indeed for Committee. The Delegated Powers Committee rejected the Government’s bizarre assertion in their report that,

“too much detail on the face of the Bill risks obscuring the principal duties and powers from Parliamentary scrutiny”.

Surely it is the purpose of this House to examine the detail of a Bill. The committee also rejected the notion that regulations can be published at a later date to deal with what the Government referred to as,

“operational, administrative and technical details”.

The committee has been very clear that the use of regulations in this way is “inappropriately wide”, “flawed”, “vague” and that more detail is essential, otherwise,

“the House will have insufficient information … for a properly informed debate”.

Most damning of all, the committee also rejected,

“the Government's attempt to dignify their approach to delegation by referring to a need to consult”.

I think we heard from the Minister’s statement that the committee is highly regarded by your Lordships’ House and by Governments, who rarely fail to give effect to its recommendations. This is not at all a party-political matter—far from it. The committee is cross-party, and we on these Benches support the aims of the Bill. However, for this House to do its job it must have more than the bones of a policy to scrutinise. Our concerns, as the Government will understand, are wider than the Bill. The fact that the Minister has been brought to the House to make quite an unusual statement before the start of Committee today, as welcome as that is, is an indication that the information to date is completely inadequate. Therefore, with the wider concerns that no Government should consider this to be an appropriate approach to legislation or business in your Lordships’ House, I would be grateful if he can clarify some points.

The Minister said that there have been discussions among the usual channels, and the Report stage will not come forward before October. I will press him a bit further, as I was not 100% clear about that from the other comments he made. We are looking for guarantees and assurances on just three points about information being available, not by a specific date but prior to consideration on Report. The Minister may have addressed those points in his comments, but I will be grateful if he could confirm, first, that the committee’s report is followed up by the Government and effect given to its recommendations to amend the Bill. He said that he would take consideration and take note, but I was not sure if he said that he would bring forward amendments as the committee recommended. Secondly, the draft regulations that were provided for consideration must also be available prior to Report. Thirdly, the most crucial piece of information we require is that the financial report, which is the basis on which this policy will succeed or fail, will be made available before Report.

We do not in any way want to delay consideration in Committee, but we recognise—I think the Minister has gone some way towards recognising it today—that

1 July 2015 : Column 2077

without this information, despite the best efforts of noble Lords who will take part in this debate, scrutiny will be inadequate. That information is essential for Report, otherwise we could not consider the Bill effectively. Finally, on behalf of the whole House, can we have a categorical assurance from the Government that this will not be their approach to any future legislation?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, further to the comments and concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, I also thank the Minister for setting out the Government’s position when he moved that the House should go into Committee. It is helpful that he indicated that Report stage will not be until October, but, like the noble Baroness, I was not entirely sure what he was saying in terms of a commitment to amendments. We will therefore reserve our position with regard to anything that may come forward from the Government after they have given consideration to the many concerns expressed not only in your Lordships’ House but also, and particularly, in the committee reports that have been referred to.

This legislation has the hallmark of a party policy announcement during a general election, with the Government now desperately trying to figure out what it means and how to put it together. The comments of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee —which, having recently been in government, I can attest is a committee that Ministers take very seriously indeed—are some of the strongest that I can recall. The noble Baroness said, quite rightly, that it is a cross-party committee chaired by a member of the governing party. When the committee makes comments such as:

“In our view, the Government's stated approach to delegation is flawed. While the Bill may contain a legislative framework, it contains virtually nothing of substance beyond the vague ‘mission statement’ in clause 1(1)”,

it is a strong condemnation which I think shows that the Government have not given the matter adequate thought.

My real concern is that this is not the only Bill where the Government have singularly failed to make a clear case for the policy that they are advancing. People have been watching the proceedings on the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. That is a policy that also generally commands support but, nevertheless, we have seen in that case, too, the Government seeking to make policy on the hoof and pass through the revising Chamber legislation that fails to stand up to the most basic test of scrutiny.

I suggest to the Minister that—while it may be past praying for these Bills as they were introduced—tools such as pre-legislative scrutiny might be used more regularly when the Government want to do something that is, at the outset, somewhat unclear regarding the detail of how they wish to proceed. They might reflect on the failure to use the mechanisms available to them for this Bill and ensure that such measures will be taken, where appropriate, in the future.

The Minister said that there had been agreement to make progress. My noble friend Lady Pinnock will indicate today in Committee that we do not want to see this Bill delayed; we want the Government to get their act together and make reasonable progress with a measure that commands, I think, a fair degree of support. Primarily, our position is that we want

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reassurance that, in the future, this House will not be frustrated in its fundamental role of effective scrutiny because the Bills presented to it have not been properly thought through.

Baroness Andrews (Lab): I want to reinforce the points that have been made by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition and by the previous speaker. I was critical of the Government on Second Reading because I felt that the Bill that they introduced was, essentially, an abuse of process. Having read the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, I think that I rather understated the case. Now that I have seen the Constitution Committee report, which points to an increasing trend of legislation that is vacant and in fact leaves most of the delivery to regulations, I think that I have been even more restrained. I am grateful for what the Minister has said today because he has responded to many of the concerns that were raised, but I want to press him on a few things.

To pick up on the previous speaker’s statement about the mission statement, the nature of the Bill, what the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee said is excruciating stuff, advising the Government and officials that Bills are not there to “send a message”; they are there to implement legislation. I think back on great reforming legislation, such as the National Health Service Act 1946. If it had just sent a message that it would be rather good to have a national health service and left everything to regulations, we would be in a fine mess now, but that is precisely the nature of the trend of legislation that we see in this House, which is a point that has also been picked up by the Constitution Committee. Without knowing the likely impacts of this Bill, it is very difficult for this House to do its job. As my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition said, it is not so much a question of when Report stage is introduced, it is whether we will have the fundamental information that we need to actually test this Bill in this House as we are required to do.

We are in favour of the Bill. Who could possibly be against the expansion of affordable childcare when so much more is needed, when so many parents are not able to access it and when so many children are in need of the sort of quality childcare that lifts their learning and gives them a good start? In this Bill we will be looking for evidence of not merely an increase in capacity but a genuine increase in quality. However, at the moment we do not know whether the Bill will meet its objectives. We do not know whether it will make the situation better or worse, because there is currently a real issue of capacity in the childcare system. Many childcare providers think that at the moment the Bill could reduce capacity. That is why by Report we need a full account of the evidence that has been provided to the Government so that we can make a judgment about how to improve the Bill, how to deliver the objectives and how to get the best possible outcomes for children and parents.

4.30 pm

This is a more general point but it goes to the heart of the arguments that we hear about secondary legislation. The department has consistently argued publicly that

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speed is of the essence. Frankly, I think that the Minister should be more concerned about sustainability than about speed. Can he explain to the House—with all respect, he has not done so so far—why the Bill was introduced in the way that it was? The policy comes into force in 2017. Why did the Government think that getting the process or the order right would slow down their ability to deliver the policy? Having the evidence, the reviews, the consultation and then the Bill would hardly have been a slower process. We would have ended up with a more secure and sustainable process, not simply a slower one. In particular, the Minister has failed to explain why, in the Select Committee’s words, he has put,

“the very heart of what is to be delivered”,

not on the face of the Bill but in delegated regulations and therefore beyond the scrutiny of Parliament. That has really exercised the Delegated Powers Committee and it should concern this House.

The department has attempted to argue that the regulations under Clause 1 are operational, administrative and technical in detail, and it has referred to the need to consult. The committee demolished that argument. It is often used but it is a lazy and sloppy argument. The point is that these regulations confer new powers. Some are unspecified and unjustified, referring, for example, to any public body, but they carry the burden of the implementation of the Bill; they are not technical.

Will the Minister accept the recommendations in paragraph 11 of the committee’s report and amend the Bill to include greater detail about the nature of the provision? Will he also follow the recommendation of the committee, which has said, quite simply, that it is,

“surprised that the negative procedure is considered appropriate for any of the powers under clause 1”?

Will he give the House an assurance that he will be bringing forward affirmative regulations in each case?

Unless the Minister can accept those two critical recommendations, it will be extremely difficult for the House to have a proper and full debate on Report to test the Bill.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, I thank the Minister for this announcement. Having worked with him on the children Bill, which he led through Parliament, I know how very hard he works to listen to Peers’ concerns and to respond to them, so I am very grateful to him for this response. I also know that his first ambition is to make a difference to children in this country. I am sure he will agree that, by delaying the Report stage and allowing us to gain more information, we will be in a better position to challenge him and work with him to get the best Bill and one which will make the most difference to children. Therefore, I warmly welcome the Minister’s announcement.

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, I find it very surprising that today the Opposition have decided that the Statement on child poverty made in the other place by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions should not be repeated and discussed here. The Statement details the Government’s approach to tackling the

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root causes of child poverty and improving the future life chances of young people. Instead of debating child poverty as a matter of public importance, the Opposition have chosen to have a debate about procedural matters, when the Government have already made it quite clear that they have responded to their request to defer the Report stage of the Childcare Bill to October.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Lab): Would the noble Baroness like to explain to the House the relevance of the point she has just made to the topic under discussion here today?

Baroness Eaton: My Lords, the Minister has already made it clear that the concerns of the House were to be brought back at Report in October. However, the issue of child poverty is of great importance to the whole nation. I do not think that the electorate are particularly interested in the finer points of how we reach conclusions.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain why it is in the interests of either this House or the nation for the Government to bring forward legislation without telling the country the detail of what is contained in it. It is a constitutional issue that is being raised now, not a party-political point.

Baroness Eaton: My Lords, I feel that I have made my point firmly.

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, I served as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and want to return for a moment, if I may, to the recommendations in our second report. I very much welcome the response from the Minister this afternoon because I think that it was very helpful, but there are wider issues here. I particularly appreciate the presence of the government Chief Whip, because I am sure he will wish to make sure, through the usual channels, that there is discussion of some wider issues.

I am also delighted to see that the chair of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee is here—the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. It is probably her drafting that has produced what is, I think, the most critical paragraph in the second report—critical in both senses—which I will put before your Lordships’ House:

“We note that the Minister said that ‘the introduction of the Bill, with a strong duty on the Secretary of State, sends a clear message to parents and providers about the Government's commitment’. That is not, in our judgment, a proper use of legislation: the purpose of an Act is to change the law, not to ‘send a message’”.

I think that that is critical to the role and responsibility of your Lordships’ House. I therefore think it entirely appropriate—and I welcome the fact that they have given these indications—that the Government are prepared to respond positively to the report as a whole. However, it applies not just to this Bill. As the noble Baroness and my noble friend said, there are echoes here of the committee’s first report, which relates to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, where again there were powers in statute, potentially, that are akin to Henry VIII powers, which this House has always been very sensitive to and I hope will always be.

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As my noble friend said, in the immediate aftermath of a general election and change of Administration, there is always an absurd rush to legislation, with Ministers desperate to get something done. But it is an affront to the role of your Lordships’ House to put before us obviously inadequate legislation. That is true in both these cases. I hope that there will be an understanding, not just in relation to this Bill but in relation more widely to the legislative programme of the new Administration, that there are important implications for the role and responsibility of your Lordships’ House. I hope that there will be very careful reading of the first and second reports of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for his statement and am very pleased to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, will be helping in the progress of this Bill. The noble Lord chaired most ably the Select Committee on Affordable Childcare. It is to this point that I wish to refer, following on from the points made by my noble friend Lady Andrews about the skeletal nature of the Bill and the inadequacy of the deliberations before the Bill came to us.

The Affordable Childcare Select Committee interviewed more than 80 experts in childcare and several academics and parents. It was an excellent committee effectively chaired. I would like to know from the Minister whether the Government have actually read the Select Committee report. Even though the report was presented to this House in February, we have been promised a response only in the autumn. That seems to me to be a very long time for consideration.

If the Government have read the report, does the Minister think that it would be a good basis on which to produce or propose legislation now? The Government have missed an opportunity to produce a really good, solid Bill. They have not done so. They had the opportunity to read the Affordable Childcare Select Committee report with all its recommendations. What will the Government do now about this Select Committee report? Will they take it seriously and why have they not done so already?

Lord True (Con): My Lords, I raised this matter on Second Reading. I was critical of my noble friend on the Front Bench and of the way in which the Bill had been brought forward. This was from the viewpoint of someone who spent rather too long in Whitehall and even longer—13 years—in the usual channels. I repeat what I said: it was not a good way to go about legislating. But I think that the House is at its best when it sheds light, rather than heat, on a subject, so perhaps we should get on and consider it in Committee.

The noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition was a little bit holier than thou. During all the years I spent toiling in opposition, I remember a fair number of pretty outrageous Bills—indeed, skeleton Bills—that came forward from the other side. I remember in particular a scandalous planning Bill which would not bear much resuscitation. So we have all been guilty and we all agree that the House is at its best and does its duty best when it has the opportunity to consider a Bill in detail. I was grateful for the chance to talk to

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the Leader of the House yesterday, and to my noble friend, who responded, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said, with the courtesy and consideration that the House expects from him. Clearly, a mistake was made. When a new Government are formed they understandably want to make progress on important matters. Lessons have been learned and I am unequivocally grateful to my noble friend for his response.

There is just one small thing. I do not want to upset my noble friend the Chief Whip, but Report stage is quite restrictive. It is not for me to do the usual channels any more but it may be that, in the light of information we receive, some of the Report consideration could be on recommittal, to enable your Lordships to look at one or two matters, provided that there is no obstruction to the timely passage of the Bill. This is a matter for the usual channels but the House does have that flexibility. I should like to thank my noble friend for the generous, courteous and honest way in which he has come forward with good solution for the House.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (CB): My Lords, the Minister’s statement has been described as unusual. I welcome unusual statements, especially from Ministers; it is normally a sign that some thought has been given to what is happening, which is much appreciated.

The messages are clear. The Delegated Powers Committee has produced an absolutely vigorous report and comment which mirrors much of what was said at Second Reading. We have the beginnings of a response from the Government and, if I can play a small part in that, I shall be delighted to do so—I assure noble Lords that it will be on an all-party basis, as the Select Committee was.

The critical issues are, first, how much information will be available to the House before Report. That is fundamental to having adequate further discussion. Secondly, in the case of this particular Bill, is a very clear distinction being drawn between primary legislation and regulation? These are the two areas where major discussion needs to be held. I hope that postponing Report will give us time to do that—and I hope that we might even have the odd, additional, unusual statement coming forth to help us in a difficult situation to get a Bill through that we all want to see in good shape so that we can strongly represent it to the country.

4.45 pm

Lord Storey (LD): My Lords, the noble Lord described the Delegated Powers Committee’s report as vigorous. That is perhaps a little bit of an understatement. It is true that the Minister is a courteous and honourable person. Those who worked with him on the Children and Families Bill know how anxious he is to keep people together and to get agreement on the things that concern us all. This must be true of the Childcare Bill. It is too important to get it wrong. I am a great admirer of the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton. She and I have served together on a number of local government committees. However, I was slightly disappointed with her disingenuous remarks. Had she looked at the list of amendments, she would have seen that another local government stalwart—the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock—has tabled Amendment 34 on child poverty.

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Therefore, I ask the Minister: am I right in understanding that these issues will be sorted—to use a common colloquialism—before Report?

Baroness Fookes (Con): My Lords, I hope that the House and the Minister will forgive me if I intervene briefly as the chairman of the regulatory powers committee. I accept that it was a hard-hitting report; none the less, I think that it was a fair one. On the other hand, I welcome my noble friend the Minister’s offer to postpone Report stage, and the various ways in which he is trying to put right what I think must be accepted as a mistake. However, I think that all this could have been avoided if one of two ways had been followed by the Government in this matter—either by introducing a draft Bill, where all the details could have been fleshed out, or by the time-honoured method of introducing a Green Paper for consultation, followed by a White Paper setting out broadly the regulations and Bill that they wanted to see. In those cases, we would have had no worries at all.

Lord Nash: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords across the House for expressing their support for this extended provision. I have already commented on the Delegated Powers Committee’s report and our gratitude to that committee, and the fact that we will reflect very carefully on its findings and bring forward any appropriate amendments on Report. Regulations will not be available until after Report but we will report by then on the findings of the funding review. We will have evidence from the pilots in 2016, before the provision starts in earnest in 2017. We certainly take the report of the Select Committee on Affordable Childcare extremely seriously. We are studying it in great detail and look forward to discussing the details of the Bill with its members on and off the Floor of the House.

The Bill is very clear on what it sets out to achieve. It places a duty on the Secretary of State to make available 30 hours of free childcare for working parents. That pledge was in the Conservative Party manifesto at the general election and is similar to what was in the Labour Party’s manifesto. I make no apology for the fact that we are getting on with delivering that pledge. The parents want it, the sector wants to know where it is and is, indeed, pregnant with anticipation for this provision. We have already had 500 responses to the funding review call for evidence. Of course we want to work with the House and our stakeholders to make sure we get the delivery right. I know that there is a lot of good will around the House to help us achieve this and I look forward to working together to do that. Taking all those points into account, I hope that we can now proceed to Committee.

Motion agreed.


Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Consultation and reviews

In order to ensure that the duty in section 1(1) can be implemented effectively, the Secretary of State shall, before the end of 2017—

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(a) arrange for the following to be conducted and completed—

(i) a review of the cost of providing childcare;

(ii) an impact assessment for the provisions of section 1;

(iii) a consultation with parents and childcare providers;

(iv) a review of the 2016 pilot scheme;

(v) the taskforce on childcare led by the Minister for Employment in the Department for Work and Pensions;

(b) arrange for a report on each of the pieces of work under paragraph (a) to be laid before Parliament; and

(c) publish and make available for consultation a draft of any regulations which the Secretary of State intends to make under section 1.”

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, these are crucial amendments that seek to take forward our concerns, which have just been set out by my noble friend Lady Smith. As we have just discussed, they echo the concerns identified around the House at Second Reading, which have been endorsed by the damning report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and further endorsed today by the Lords Constitution Committee.

Noble Lords will recall that at Second Reading there was broad consensus that we supported the principles behind the Bill but were concerned about whether it was workable and affordable. More fundamentally, there was a concern that we were being prevented from carrying out our essential scrutiny role effectively. I could cite a number of quotations from noble Lords around the House to endorse that argument, but I know that we all recall the frustration that we felt at the time. The Minister was not able to provide any reassurance because, as he said, the plan was to carry out the reviews and then publish the regulations in light of their conclusions—in other words, a long time after the Bill had left this House. We have since received a letter and a policy statement from the Minister, as well as his helpful statement today, but I would still like further clarification on what we will have before us on Report. This is what our amendments are attempting to tease out.

I gathered from the policy statement that it was proposed to consult parents, providers and employers, beginning in the summer, as well as to have a public consultation that would not take place until 2016, and that outcomes from both would feed into the draft regulations, which would be published after that. I am just checking the timescale that the noble Lord is now proposing, in light of what I read in the policy statement. Then, in September 2016, the pilot schemes will take place, so there will also be conclusions from these. I gathered from the noble Lord today that on Report we would have details of what the pilot schemes would do, but not their conclusions.

The policy statement also said, and the noble Lord echoed this today, that in the autumn the Government will produce their response to the affordable childcare report. As my noble friend Lady Massey has said, it would be helpful to have the Government’s response to that before Report. I am not sure that the Minister clarified that that would be the case. He said that there would be discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and others, but a thought-through response to that report would be very helpful.

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We then have the government task force on childcare, which I think we are also calling the funding review, to which my noble friend Lady Smith referred. As she said, the whole Bill will stand or fall on whether we get the funding right. Is the noble Lord saying that all the work on that review will be completed by September, in time for Report? It seems a very big piece of work to get it right—not only to consult all the providers but to look at the financial implications and at where the money will be drawn from to pay for any additional places. I am impressed if that is the case, but it would be helpful if the Minister could clarify that.

We also have the Minister for Employment chairing a childcare implementation task force—which I think is different, but the noble Lord will be able to clarify this—to look at the options for extending entitlement. However, as we discussed last night, it seems from the 10 Downing Street website that that task force’s report is not to be made public. Perhaps the noble Lord could clarify whether we will ever see it.

There is then a full economic impact assessment, which we will not see until 2016. Then, as we talked about, there are the final regulations and guidance. I am just trying to tease out in a little more detail which of these we will see on Report, because I would have thought—and this is what the Delegated Powers Committee report said—that most of them would be very helpful before we get into the detail of the Bill.

In essence, this is a topsy-turvy Bill. We are doing everything in the wrong order. As the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, said, it would have been sensible to have reviews and pilot schemes and publish a more detailed Bill after that. Amendment 1, is, in effect, a sunrise clause: it puts a logical process of consultation and review into the Bill and enables both Houses to play a proper role in scrutiny before the Bill is enacted.

At Second Reading, the Minister argued that it was important for the Bill to be published early so that parents could plan for 2017. Crucially, our amendment would not alter that start date, but would give an opportunity to address the many concerns that parents and providers are raising about who will be entitled to the free childcare and how it will be funded, so that, by 2017, parents will have a much clearer picture of what is on offer to them. I hope that noble Lords will see the sense of the amendment. It is very much in keeping with the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Committee and it would underpin our right to scrutinise the intent and detail of the Bill more rigorously.

Amendment 27 is quite straightforward and essential, and again builds on the recommendations of the Delegated Powers Committee. As it stands, Clause 2(2)(d) is a Henry VIII power that gives widespread powers to the Secretary of State to amend, repeal or revoke any regulations made under the Bill. By removing subsections (4) and (5) and replacing them with our amendment, all the regulations in the Bill would need to come to each House for approval, so there would need to be an affirmative, rather than a negative, process. We believe that this safeguard is necessary because of the lack of clarity in many of the regulations proposed.

In their policy statement, the Government sought to make a virtue of the lack of detail in the regulations proposed, arguing that the reviews and the consultation

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should take place first. We of course agree that consultation, evidence-collecting and analysis should take place before the legislation is finalised, but we are not prepared to hand over so much detail of the legislation, both primary and secondary, to the Secretary of State when so much is yet to be decided. We believe that that is bad policy and bad scrutiny.

The Delegated Powers Committee’s report was clear on this. It said:

“In our view, the Government’s stated approach to delegation is flawed. While the Bill may contain a legislative framework, it contains virtually nothing of substance beyond the vague ‘mission statement’ in clause 1(1)”.

It went on to recommend that the affirmative process,

“should apply on the exercise of all powers conferred by clause 1”.

We agree with this recommendation and our amendment would give effect to it. I am not sure whether the Minister’s statement today confirmed that. Again, I would be grateful if he could clarify that. Amendments 40, 41 and 42 are then consequential on Amendment 21.

Given the lack of detail, on which all noble Lords commented at Second Reading and again this afternoon, I hope that these amendments will provide some reassurance and a vehicle for taking the Bill forward. I hope they will receive widespread support. I beg to move.

Baroness Pinnock (LD): My Lords, I am very new to this process of scrutinising legislation. All the detailed procedures and processes that more experienced Members of this House know about, and the intricacies of how a decision is made, are a bit new to me. What I do know, though, is this: there is in front of us, for a very important change to legislation, a Bill that comes to just over three pages. The amendments that have been tabled across your Lordships’ House come to 13 pages, which is a very telling ratio.

What we have in the initial case is something that is extremely lacking in detail and substance, when we need detail and substance. The Bill is not about a Conservative manifesto commitment; I am concerned not about the Government’s manifesto commitments but about the impact of the final legislation on children and their families. So much is lacking in the Bill that we have no idea what the impact will be and whether it will be affordable or accessible for all young people. Which families will be able to take advantage of the 15 hours of additional free childcare that is on offer? We know none of these things. We do not know whether there is sufficient capacity in the sector to provide these additional 15 free hours.

In my other capacity, as a local councillor, representing families and their children, I would have to say, looking at this, that I do not know what is on offer, and whether I would be able to access and use it. We have before us a lost opportunity of immense proportions. Everybody across this Committee can agree that an additional 15 hours’ free childcare is very important to families and to children of preschool age, but we cannot get it right in the first instance. It is shameful that we are at this stage.

5 pm

Before we get to Report, we ought to have all the information we need. I do not want to be part of a system that agrees legislation without all the information. I cannot believe that that is what we are being asked to

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do. I urge the Minister to do what he can to encourage those who do these things to make sure that we get all the information we need so that we can properly scrutinise what is on offer and, in the end, provide something of value and substance.

First, I want to make it absolutely clear that, on this side, we are very supportive of the outline of the Bill, which is the 15 hours’ additional free childcare. Secondly, we do not want to see any unnecessary delay. Thirdly, we want the wording to be right so that no one slips through the net because the detail of the legislation is inadequate.

That leads me to be very supportive of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, which seeks to get all that information upfront so that we can look at it and, as is our duty, make a proper decision about the contents of the Bill. It is about not the principle but the detail. The detail matters for children and their families. I urge the Minister to reflect very carefully on the lack of detail before us, and to make sure that we get it on Report so that we can do what we should be doing, which is to scrutinise the detailed content of this important piece of legislation.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 29, and first declare my interest as a newly appointed vice-chair and parliamentary representative of the Local Government Association. I omitted to thank the Select Committee and the Opposition for their part in ensuring that we have this thinking space before Report on this very important Bill. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and I was pleased to hear the passion in what she has just said.

I do not think it a good thing if a newly elected Government with a manifesto commitment and with a majority feel timid about taking action. I very strongly opposed the Academies Bill, which was introduced under the coalition Government. I do not feel it is wholly redeemed, but I think a Government have to be fairly bold, and maybe do new and dangerous things. Sometimes those can have very good outcomes. In what became the Academies Act, I think the power given head teachers has been a very good thing.

I think it is a difficult balance for a new Government. They need to assert themselves, and they should not be too timid, but for something as important as this—and I totally agree with the noble Baroness—time, thought and consideration are vital. I am happy that we have had this opportunity for extra thinking time.

In my amendment, I call for a commission to be set up:

“Within two years of the coming into force of”,

the Act, which will look,

“with particular regard to value for money”,

in childcare provision. Under the amendment the commission would appoint,

“the Children’s Commissioner for England … a representative of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and … a representative of the Nuffield Foundation”,

to look at value for money in the childcare sector. I have done this because I have been rather shocked in the past to see from international comparisons of the

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cost of childcare how expensive it is in this country. I am concerned that the taxpayer is not getting value for money.

I must apologise to the Childcare Minister. In a recent meeting when he briefed us on the Bill, I am afraid that I put words into his mouth which he did not use. He did not refer to his concern that the cost of childcare in this country is higher than in other nations; that was a concern expressed by his predecessor in the other place, his colleague Elizabeth Truss. I apologised to him for that but he did point out that childcare provision in this country has been part of a piecemeal process. Over the years, it has been rather reactive and there has not been a strategic view of what we should be doing, so I hope that your Lordships might think this a worthy consideration.

One particular concern I have is that while parents are the drivers here—the money goes to where they choose to place their child—I know from research that they will often choose price over quality. That is absolutely understandable when you are desperate for childcare, but because we all know that quality is so important, we may need to think of other ways of funding the way the market works to ensure that there is more of an incentive to improve quality, rather than simply to have extra provision.

I will also speak briefly to my colleague and noble friend Lord Sutherland’s amendment, 38A. I do not have it in front of me right now but, having looked at it briefly, I felt that he had made a very helpful contribution in saying that there should be a longitudinal study of the impact of early years childcare. The development of children who experience early years provision is fundamental. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Northbourne will raise the question today of what happens in early childhood, and particularly how the relationship between mother and infant is mediated by early years care. That is fundamental to how we make mature relationships as adults. So much of the security and success of our relationship with our partners and children depends on what happens in early childhood. Perhaps we can get more information on this long distance between infancy and the ages of 25 or 30, when we start to make our own families, and even look at the next generation on. It would be really helpful to have a study to look at the impact of this, so I welcome my noble friend’s amendment.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I believe we are in a much better place now than we were during Second Reading and I thank the Minister for the part he has played in that. I also thank the usual channels, who I am sure were not silent when critical issues came up.

That being said, there are still some major issues and some of these amendments deal with them very well. Pro tem, until we see how much information we will have before Report, I would be inclined to give my support to Amendments 1 and 27—particularly Amendment 27, because we need to be clear that the regulations that do not come before this House deal only with practical constitutional matters. In principle, I give my support to both these amendments and we will see how things develop between now and Report. Effectively, the Government are under detailed scrutiny

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here and I encourage the Minister to do all he can to work with the good will around this place to bring about a successful conclusion.

That being said, I will refer briefly to my own Amendment 38A, which is quite different from the others. It recognises the fact that excellent work of a longitudinal nature has been done—for example, in the EPPE and EPPSE reports—with the encouragement and sponsorship of the Department for Education under two different Governments. That is something we welcome. We should look at the value of that work, which was evident to the Select Committee, with a view to continuing with a similar evaluation of what government policies bring about. The EPPE study takes children from the age of three. This legislation might alter that age and, if so, is an additional reason to look for the ways in which early education impacts on later educational opportunity.

I am looking for an indication from the Minister that the department still attaches great importance to building up this long-term database of how well or ill any particular policy might be working.

Lord Northbourne (CB): I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Listowel for mentioning that we were going to speak together and I apologise to the Minister for being a minute or two late—I did not realise that there had been a slight rehash of the timings. My Amendments 4 and 7 dare to ask, in this company, whether childcare is always the right answer for all children and all parents. I shall, of course, come back with those questions when this matter returns. I understand that we are not discussing these things in any detail today, so I shall not press my amendments.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I have a few comments. First, Amendment 1 raises a lot of the issues that we began to talk about in our previous discussion on the way the Bill is managed. Again I tell the Minister that we are very grateful for the flexibility he has shown under the circumstances.

Amendment 1, in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, creates an opportunity for the Minister to give us a bit more information on the timetable in general. He has said clearly that we will have the results of the funding review before Report. It would be really useful if he would spell out, as far as he is able at this point, some sort of road map for the process as it will run over the next three to six months. There are so many reviews and all manner of different things happening. There are the pilots—I, for one, do not know much at all about those. Is it possible to set out the department’s working timetable, and perhaps put a copy in the Library, so that we can reflect upon it as we come back at various stages of the Bill? That would be very helpful.

Secondly, there is a contrast between the amendments in this group. Some are probing into the workability of the process itself and then there are two, in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, which raise much more fundamental questions about impact and longitudinal issues. We need a proper debate on what we actually know about the impact of childcare, in terms both of learning and social skills. At the moment we have a rather random

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collection of evidence about impact, much of which is from the agencies themselves. It would be extremely useful, given the investment that is going into this and given the expectations raised by doubling childcare, if we could have some thorough, systematic research on impact, as the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, suggests in his amendment.

I do not want to labour the point, but I am reminded that there is a contrast between the way the Bill has been introduced and the way previous childcare legislation was introduced. If we go back to 1999 and look at “Meeting the Childcare Challenge”, that was a very detailed road map for increasing the supply of childcare, which went along with tax credits, with start-up capital, with revenue funds and with the extension of after-school care. There was a very clear prospectus as to what was going to happen and how it was going to be funded. We should bear in mind that past massive changes in provision have been planned carefully. Some studies on not just the value for money of what we are getting but the impact on educational achievement in particular are long overdue. For example, a recent report from the National Literacy Trust on reading shows an increasing, not decreasing, gap between the achievement of boys and of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, after all the effort that has gone into investing in boys’ education. We really need to know what we do not know, as well as what we do know.

5.15 pm

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): First, I thank the Minister for his letter, which raised a number of issues in my mind but which was at least helpful in resolving some others, and say that I support Amendment 1. I believe that I heard the Minister say in his introduction that he had had useful discussions with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and that some of the issues that he outlined in his introduction were going to come forward in any event. Despite all the difficulties that have gone before—I am glad I am not taking a political view—this gives us a really good opportunity to take a strategic view of childcare at the moment. I want to be absolutely clear about the who, the how and the what as we go through the amendments. We have a number of amendments, which we will discuss later, about what a working parent is, who in a range of other groups, such as disabled groups, might qualify for extra childcare and how that will be delivered. Will it be on an educational or a childcare basis? The Sutherland report pointed out clearly that there are differences in those two things. What will it be? Who will deliver it? Will it be delivered by childminders as well as within that educational framework?

If we could understand, through these reports, the answers to some of the issues that the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raises, we would have a good opportunity to settle funding, cost and consistency issues. Those are among the main difficulties across the country for those trying to access childcare—you only have to move across a county border to find you pay twice as much for childcare as you did in the previous county, which can cause great difficulties, particularly with a mobile workforce. I hope that as we go through the amendments we will get answers to these questions and that we will stop,

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if you like, the procedural issues—we have made enough of those. We now have some baseline information from the Minister, and maybe we can move forward and get further information so that, by October, we know which parents will qualify and can understand what they will get and where they will get it from.

Lord Storey: First, I apologise to your Lordships for not being able to speak at Second Reading. I will speak to Amendments 1, 29 and 38A. I very much agree with the comments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Andrews and Lady Howarth, but am very nervous of phrases such as “value for money” and “best value” in local government. It has to be about what is best in terms of provision. We have seen early years childcare grow over the last two decades. We have seen the Labour Government, the coalition Government and now the Conservative Government all doing something about early years, but we have not really thought about how it is going to look and how we want it to work. I find it concerning, for example, that three-quarters of our nurseries are, as we know, independent. There is nothing wrong with that, but we know that of those independent nurseries only half have a qualified teacher on the staff. We also know that, when there is a qualified teacher, the learning experience for those children is far greater than otherwise. So it has to be about the quality of the provision, for me.

I wonder about the effects of having those extra 15 hours. It might be great for working parents, but how do they affect the child? I will give an example. Schools will have nurseries, where children will go for part-time provision for three hours a day, Monday to Friday. So you can see a system arising now whereby the working parent will take the child to the childminder and the childminder will then take the child to the school nursery for three hours. With the extra 15 hours, they cannot use the school again, because it is a different set of children in the afternoon—not in every case but in most cases—so they will look for a different provider for the afternoon session. Then the child will go back to the childminder to be taken home to the parent. So there will be four different regimes or experiences of childcare, and I really wonder what the effect will be on those children. We need to look closely and calmly not just at the extra resource and provision, which we all welcome, but at how we ensure that there is quality.

Lord True: My Lords, this is very much a debate on Amendment 1, and I welcome it—it must not be another Second Reading debate—but the points in the amendment seem to be the essence of good governance. Even if my noble friend is unable to accept the amendment, I am sure that he would be the first to say that government will be constantly reviewing the cost of providing childcare and constantly consulting. I am already grateful for the assurances that I have had that he will consult childcare providers. So in that sense the spirit of it is agreed. Of course, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, that longitudinal and technical study is extremely important. Without going over where we have been before, policy should be founded on consideration of good information and be brought forward in due process, and we are moving towards that.

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I have one mild stricture for the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. She said that she did not care about what was in the government manifesto. That is a perfectly reasonable personal thought, but I think Mr Lloyd George from her Benches reminded this House that it ought to have a care for the manifesto of a newly elected Government. So I know that she does not oppose this Bill, but I hope that it is not going to be a doctrine that we hear from the Liberal Democrats—that they do not care too much what the elected Government have promised.

I wanted to probe further on regulation. I shall read Hansard very carefully tomorrow. My noble friend does not necessarily have to reply in detail; it may be something that he wants to give further thought to. But on the question of regulations—maybe draft regulations, not the final regulations—the fact is that the wrong regulations under this Bill, and under its wide powers, could drive small, private and voluntary settings out of existence, just as the wrong sort of heat drives our trains off our railways, it seems. That will be one of the concerns that I express as we go through the Bill. It is reasonable for Parliament to want to avoid the wrong sort of regulations on behalf of those whom we represent. Of course, I declare a particular interest as the leader of a local authority that may have to implement those regulations and as the husband of a provider who may have to respond to them. I hope that between now and October my noble friend will see whether we can show a little bit of ankle on the regulations, because some of them could be literally life and death, not only to businesses and voluntary organisations but to the hard-working women, if I may use that phrase —they are predominantly women—who work in these settings, many of them part time. So I would be grateful for the most that he can do to help us on regulations.

In the amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, of course I agree that value for money is important. Once upon a time, Her Majesty’s Treasury was very interested in value for money before any policy came forward; now it seems that we are looking into affordability once the policy has been published. The value-for-money argument has another aspect to it that I hope we will not lose sight of. I recognise that the Government are committed to this principle. However, this policy, we are told, is going to be funded by taking away benefit from people earning more than £150,000 a year who are provident enough to save for their retirement. That money is going to be given to another set of people, many of them earning more than £150,000 a year, who, you might say, are not provident enough to put a bit of money aside to pay for childcare for their children. That could be a bit of a merry-go-round, to use a phrase that we have heard lately.

As the policy evolves, I hope that we will consider whether the state, the Government and the taxpayers are getting the best value for their money—not only what parents get in terms of providers; that is an issue of quality. This looks potentially—we shall see—to be a very expensive policy with a very substantial dead-weight cost involved in it of paying for a lot of people for something that they pay for already.

I do not expect an answer but I hope that that thought will inform a little the consideration of the

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implementation of the policy. Having slightly enlarged on the noble Earl’s Amendment 29, I hope that that aspect of value for money will be kept in mind as development of the Bill goes forward.

Lord Nash: My Lords, in this group, I will speak to Amendments 1, 27, 40, 41 and 42, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and to Amendments 29 and 38A, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. I will attempt to flesh out a sequence of events and a road map which the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Andrews, spoke about. I will write to noble Lords about this and place a copy in the Library well before Report.

The Government are committed to delivering the provisions in the Childcare Bill in a way that is flexible, affordable and high quality for parents. A number of amendments in this group refer to specific activities that have been discussed with reference to the Motion to move the Bill into Committee and that were covered in the policy statement published last week. As I clarified on Second Reading, the Government are reviewing the cost of providing childcare and have committed to increase the average funding rate paid to providers. It is essential that the rate that we pay is fair for providers, value for money for taxpayers and consistent with the Government’s fiscal plans. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in Amendment 29 that value for money must be a consideration for all aspects of government spending, and the early years should be no different. The extension of the free entitlement is a significant government investment.

Last month, the Government launched a call for evidence as part of the funding review and, as I have said, we have already had more than 500 responses. As I have also said, we will report back on the review’s findings by Report and will then be able to say a lot more about the delivery model. I can confirm that we want childminders to be able to deliver the extra 15 hours of childcare, as they already deliver the universal 15 hours.

On 25 June, I wrote to noble Lords with an assessment of the impact of the Bill on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, child poverty, the public sector equality duty and the family test. The collective conclusion of these assessments is that the extension of the free childcare entitlement will have a positive impact for children and families. I can confirm to noble Lords that the Government will publish a full impact assessment on the extent of free entitlement when draft regulations are published for consultation in due course.

The Government want to engage with parents, providers, local authorities, employers and representative bodies about how parents currently access childcare and how it is delivered. This will begin shortly. We want to hear what is important to parents in choosing a childcare provider, and their views on how the extended entitlement will best meet their childcare needs.

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I am pleased to say that we have already received a number of great offers from voluntary and community organisations to host events for parents and providers. They include groups representing and supporting disabled children and their parents. It is the Government’s

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intention also to work closely with employer organisations, such as the CBI, to ensure that we listen to employers’ views about how the entitlement could work best.

The Government will roll out the extended free childcare entitlement in certain areas under pilots from September 2016, in advance of full implementation from 2017. I was pleased that so many noble Lords welcomed this intention on Second Reading. A number of local areas have approached the Government to register their interest in taking part. This is a really positive sign of the engagement of the childcare sector in the new entitlement. We are currently considering where early implementation of the extended entitlement should take place, including the number of areas and the locations to ensure geographic balance. The areas will test out the important operational details for delivering the extended entitlement and provide a source of intelligence to support the Government in refining the systems to deliver the entitlement. As I said, we will provide a full update on our plans for piloting ahead of Report.

I welcome the reference to the childcare task force which the Prime Minister announced on 1 June. The task force is chaired by the Minister of State for Employment, with significant cross-government representation from the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Cabinet Office. The establishment of the task force demonstrates how seriously the Government take the implementation of this policy. It is a cross-government ministerial group co-ordinating childcare work across government. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is right that it will not produce a report. It is there to drive implementation of this policy and other policies, such as tax-free childcare, so that we can deliver on our commitments.

All the activities that I have described will feed into the development of draft regulations and draft guidance. These will be subject to public consultation in 2016. Therefore, I do not believe that each activity listed in the amendment requires the production of a separate report to Parliament. Although I am in agreement with the noble Baroness that a certain sequencing of activity is required to ensure that the Government implement the extended free entitlement in the most effective and efficient way, I do not believe that the detail of this activity needs to be set out in the Bill. Indeed, I hope noble Lords will agree that it is important that a number of these steps take place now, in parallel with these debates, and do not wait until the Bill is passed. The call for evidence as part of the review into the cost of providing childcare is already under way, and the consultation with parents, providers, local authorities, employers and representative bodies will begin in the summer. I believe that the sooner the Government begin listening to the views of those accessing and providing childcare the better it will be. This is the key to ensuring that we can deliver the entitlement in the best way for working families.

I have listened carefully to noble Lords’ specific concern that it is important that Parliament is able to scrutinise the detailed secondary legislation that will underpin this Bill. I recognise and greatly value the

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expertise that noble Lords can offer as the Bill progresses through this House and beyond. Draft regulations will be published for consultation, and I look forward to comments from and engagement with members of the House’s Affordable Childcare Committee and others on those draft regulations. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and I have spoken about the best way for my department to support that. In relation to the comments of my noble friend Lord True, we have no intention of setting up a situation where we drive any providers out of business. On the contrary, we want to encourage the sector to grow and flourish.

Evaluating the impact and benefit of programmes such as the free entitlement is extremely important, and I welcome the amendments tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, on this issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, referred to the importance of this evaluation. The highly influential Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education project, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, referred, ran between 1997 and 2014 and demonstrated the benefits of high-quality early education on children’s outcomes. I hope that noble Lords will welcome the Government’s building on this with the new longitudinal study of early education and development commissioned by the Department for Education to update our evidence. This is a large-scale longitudinal research project that will follow the progress of more than 5,000 children from the age of two, assess the quality of provision and quantify the impact.

The study will also offer insights into the perspectives and experiences of childminders and of children with special educational needs and disability. The study is particularly relevant to Amendments 29 and 38A and will specifically examine the impact of providing funding for early years education to two year-olds from lower-income families. The reviewers will also be working with settings to collect cost information and to estimate the value for money offered by different ways of delivering government-funded early education. The first reports are expected to be published later this autumn with the final report in 2020.

The Government also welcome evidence gathered by others. The specific membership of the commission proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in Amendment 29 reflects previous, informative evaluations carried out in this area. The Impact of Free, Universal Pre-school Education on Maternal Labour Supply, a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is a great example of this type of work. The Nuffield Foundation report published alongside the IFS report was a welcome addition to the increasingly rich evidence base about the early years. This report was of course carried out before many of our reforms, such as the two year-old entitlement, had been introduced, and looked specifically at the impact of funding early education on child outcomes rather than the impact of early education per se.

The Children’s Commissioner in particular has a strong role in reporting on government policies which impact on all children, including in the early years. Under the Children and Families Act, as noble Lords will recall, the primary function of the commissioner was strengthened to promoting and protecting children’s

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rights, and the wide range of work that she carries out ensures that the rights of children are at the heart of what we do. This external consideration is valuable and must continue. However, I believe that setting out a requirement to produce this work through a commission would limit the scope and flexibility to report at the most appropriate time and with the most appropriate focus.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, that the Government will complete a number of steps to ensure that parents, providers, employers and Parliament are engaged in the development of the extended free childcare entitlement. I also hope that I have provided the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, with sufficient reassurance that although the Government recognise the value of evaluating significant programmes such as this one, it is not necessary to place it in primary legislation. I therefore urge the noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I welcome the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I was also very interested to hear what the Minister said about the research that is taking place and I will look at that in some detail in Hansard in due course. I will also scrutinise very carefully the wording of the information that the Minister has now provided about the timeline and I welcome his suggestion of a road map. I think that would help all noble Lords to understand what we can expect on Report.

The critical issue here is not an October deadline. I am grateful that the noble Lord has offered that but it is more important to get the information right than to tie ourselves down to an artificial date. Whether it is October or November does not matter. What matters is that we are furnished with all the information that the Minister is now saying that we will get. I would hate to think that some of this work is being rushed to meet an artificial deadline, so I will just put that marker down, but if it can be ready by October, that is fine.

A number of noble Lords have said that we have had the procedural discussion and the procedural row and I agree with that. We are keen to move on with the detail of the Bill now so let us put the process behind us. I look forward to the information the noble Lord has given and will give in the follow-up letter and I hope that we can go forward on that basis.

I have one last caveat. The Minister talked about the draft regulations. Again, I need to check exactly what he said, but our Amendment 27 says that the regulations should be affirmative, which is an important principle. It is what the Delegated Powers Committee recommended and I hope the noble Lord will take that on board so that we can have a proper opportunity to debate the regulations, not only in draft form but in their final form, before they are put on the statute book. With that caveat, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, before the amendment is withdrawn—I apologise for being slow off the mark—may I make a brief comment? I thank the Minister for

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his careful response, which I appreciated, and for your Lordships’ comments on my amendment.

On my noble friend’s amendment, I take it that the longitudinal study referred to by the Minister will finish fairly early in the children’s lives. It seems that our discussion is about longitudinal studies that are focused mainly on the educational outcomes and maybe a little on child development. The EPPE study terminated at either 16 or 18, but here it may be slightly earlier.

My concern is that we need some means to think about the long-term impact of early years care. We are becoming more and more aware of the importance of a secure attachment in the early years. I visited the Anna Freud Centre over quite a period and spoke to professionals at Coram. To give an example of the importance of a secure early attachment, they have developed a means of assessing potential adopters. With that tool, they can learn about the adopters’ own experience of their early childhoods, and from that discussion they can assess how secure the child that would be placed with them is likely to be. To simplify grossly, if the adopters have had a secure attachment in their own lives, it is likely that they will be able to give a secure attachment to an infant placed with them, even if that child is quite challenging, because they had a very good experience early in life. This is a very important thing to keep in mind.

I am sorry to bore your Lordships with this—I mention it so often—but in this country about 22% of boys and girls are growing up without a father in the home and, according to the OECD, we will overtake the United States in a few years. It is of course deeply distressing for children when their parents separate, and hugely economically costly for us as a nation when families break down.

I am sure many of us would feel reassured if there was research that looked at the experience of early years provision and the early years experience of childhood and connected that with the success of family relationships down the road. Maybe the Minister will think about that, and then we can discuss it at another point. I thank noble Lords.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2

Moved by Baroness Massey of Darwen

2: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Welfare of children in the delivery of childcare under this Act

(1) In exercising her duties under this Act, the Secretary of State shall—

(a) hold the welfare of all children as paramount in the delivery of childcare in England;

(b) promote the progressive development of persons and institutions which provide childcare;

(c) promote the effective execution by local authorities of their childcare duties under Part 1 of the Childcare Act 2006;

(d) ensure that childcare provision under sections 1 and 2 provides valuable early years education and contributes to closing gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers; and

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(e) ensure that childcare in early years settings should provide caring and positive experiences which support children’s development and prepare children to thrive at school and in later life.

(2) In this Act “welfare” in relation to childcare means the welfare of children in childcare in so far as it relates to—

(a) physical and mental health and emotional welfare;

(b) protection from harm and neglect;

(c) education and recreation; and

(d) social and economic welfare.”

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, in moving Amendment 2, I shall not go through each point but there are other important amendments in this group.

First, I thank the Minister for responding to concerns about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the annexe to his correspondence entitled “Considering the Impact of the Childcare Provisions”. Of course, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the welfare of the child should be paramount. The Minister quotes Article 18 with regard to assistance of parents and legal guardians, and Article 3, on the best interests of the child. I add that UNICEF’s summary of that article states:

“When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children

That is a fundamental issue behind my amendment.

Of course I support getting parents into work, and I support the increase in free childcare. However, children are at the end of this. I think the noble Lord, Lord Storey, was in the same territory: children should be at the end of any deliberation we might make. The Bill as it stands is very adult-centred, and I want to redress the balance and put the focus back on to children and their needs, in particular with a specific provision to close the gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.

Eligibility for working parents and the problems about eligibility will be discussed later, so I will not go into them now. Nor will I go on and on about the wonderful report of the Affordable Childcare Select Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, although I have to say it is a good read. It is packed with research, options and recommendations from providers, parents and employers. Importantly, that report also has children and their welfare at its heart. It shows that children in deprived areas tend to get worse childcare than those in affluent areas and that early years provision attached to a school is generally of a better quality. The committee also recommended that the Government should reprioritise and focus on children who are most in need of high-quality childcare. As we go on, prioritisation may become important and we should discuss the options.

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