With regard to the first part of the Bill on the Oil and Gas Authority, it is clear that the industry—predominantly based in north-east Scotland but having provided support across the United Kingdom for the past 40 years, explored for oil and gas for the past 50 years, and produced gas since the late 1960s— will be entering a considerable next phase. With decommissioning and the harder exploitation of the resource within the UK continental shelf, we require a different regulatory framework. That was set by the outstanding Wood review, whose conclusions the previous coalition Government accepted in their entirety. This Government are carrying on honouring the commitments provided by the previous one with genuine cross-party support, and that is to be warmly welcomed. When I spoke in the debate on the then Infrastructure Bill, the consensus was there in that legislation and it carries on. I therefore think that the Government will see that there is lots of constructive support for those clauses within the Bill.

I shall highlight some areas before moving on to the renewables sector. Clause 4 indicates the areas that the OGA must have regard to. However, since the predominance of Scotland within the oil and gas industry has been commented on so far in this debate, I wonder whether Clause 4, which says that the OGA must have regard to operating closely with the Government, should now say “all the Governments across the UK”. Of course I recognise that it is a UK authority and it will be under the auspices of this Parliament and this Government, but I think that its working effectively with the Scottish Government as well as with the UK Government would bode well for its efficient delivery of its own duties.

In addition, given that the principle behind the clause is to establish the independent operation of the Oil and Gas Authority, I highlight my observation that there is considerable scope in Clauses 5 and 6 for very wide ministerial direction. While the Bill says that ministerial direction will be given on public interest grounds only in exceptional circumstances, it would be helpful if the Minister could give us, if not today then with further briefing material, some further illustrations of what the public interest grounds may be, and some examples of what those exceptional circumstances might be that would bring the Government to direct the OGA.

Noble Lords have also mentioned the fee levels. Again, I think there should be some clarification of the ministerial powers within this area. Currently in the Bill, Ministers hold the powers to change fivefold the levels of fines that can be imposed by the OGA, except it is not clear whether this can be on an individual fine or whether they can simply increase the power of the OGA to do this. Again, clarification on that would be helpful.

I understand that further amendments are being considered for this element of the OGA. It would be helpful to know when the Minister expects the Government to bring those forward so that we will be able to see them. In the wider sense, the Bill further develops the consensus and the process that was started on the basis of the consensus in the previous Government, and with wide input from the sector. That is why I think these aspects of the Bill are to be welcomed.

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I turn to the elements on renewable energy. I say “elements”, as today we are debating only partial government policy; we have not had sight of the criteria that were announced by press release through the BBC this morning. I was hoping that in the Minister’s opening remarks at the Dispatch Box he would outline clearly what would be the timetable for the legislative measures on solar that we heard about through the press release, and whether they would be part of this Bill or whether the Government intend separate legislative measures for that. It would be helpful if he did so in responding to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and others made a persuasive case that much clearer information is not only necessary for industry but is of necessity for this Parliament.

Many noble Lords have raised issues relating to planning. I think that I heard the Minister say that communities would have a final say on planning—I think he said it twice. He has been asked to clarify that point. I echo those requests; it would be helpful to know how many schemes he anticipates this would cover. Also, given that he said that communities would have the final say, I was interested to read the Peers’ briefing that was given to Peers on 16 July, which says about planning:

“We want to see local communities having a greater say on the development of onshore wind in their area”.

It markedly does not say “final say”. I was interested to see that in another place Kit Malthouse MP asked the Secretary of State, with regard to whether communities would indeed have the final say:

“Can she reassure those worried communities that that means that they cannot now be overruled by the Planning Inspectorate?”.

Ms Rudd responded:

“Yes, I can”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/6/15; col. 627.]

That led to him tweeting:

“I asked a question today about planning permission for wind farms and got the perfect answer”,

but a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that developers would still be able to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Could the Minister confirm whether Ms Rudd or Mr Malthouse was correct? Could he confirm exactly what that situation is?

The Bill seems to suggest that the competence of the grace periods will be determined by regulations. I am unclear what additional provisions the Government might make relating to the closure via regulation, subject to the affirmative procedure, which I understand is in the Bill, especially as DECC officials have been clear in a number of public forums in saying that the grace periods are to be introduced in primary legislation. That confusion is further compounded by the announcement this morning with regard to solar. Not only would it be helpful for the Minister to clarify this; it is absolutely necessary for him to do so.

The Government have said that they were going to consult colleagues in the Scottish Government—we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, and others about the predominance of this relating to Scotland —but they published a policy paper that said:

“We will not be holding a formal consultation on our proposals because they will be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny”.

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How can that be when we do not have the measures in front of us at the beginning of the Bill? How can we properly scrutinise the proposals when we have only partial proposals there? We will not be able to scrutinise views submitted by people to the Government’s process on the grace periods, to allow us to inform our views and scrutiny of the Government. Surely that cannot be the correct way of going about our business, especially in the context that it is the grace periods that are absolutely fundamental to the business opportunities.

I do not think that the Government have a mandate to bring forward the shortening of the support for industry. The Government’s tools for doing so are becoming quite clear: they are using uncertainty and disruption for the investor community to end a practice, and they are seeking not to be clear on bringing that forward in Parliament. These are not trifling sums: £1.3 billion of capital expenditure, with £350 million of sunk costs, is at stake. I had to chuckle slightly this morning when I saw that the press release was concerned about “supporting hard-working businesses with their energy costs”. These are hard-working businesses that have put £350 million of investment into schemes that may not come to fruition.

On top of that, there is now much greater uncertainty for the investor community. Let us remind ourselves what the investor community is: it primarily consists of United Kingdom pension schemes that are looking for long-term ethically secure investment opportunities to support British industry and British energy. That should be exactly the kind of investment environment that we wish to see, not harm.

Yesterday in another place, Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State, responded to this question:

“Scottish Renewables say that this decision, the early closure of the renewables obligation, risks £3 billion of investment and compromises two gigawatts of projects. Is that correct?”,

by saying:

“It may be correct”.

She was then asked:

“So you would not anticipate onshore wind being part of the next CfD?”.

She replied:

“I would not, no”.

I do not think that Parliament yet has sufficient information to fully scrutinise these aspects of the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and my noble friends Lady Maddock and Lord Teverson have said compellingly, not only are we undermining the cheapest source of renewable energy, the cheapest source of growth in renewable energy and the cheapest way of gaining electricity growth as part of the whole energy mix but we are also undermining the crucial consensus which has been developed over the last few years and which has not set one energy technology against another. An overall consensus has been built. Nor do I believe that the Bill is part of the wider consideration of climate change that the Minister referred to in his opening remarks. This would be a climate change Bill and an energy Bill true to its name if it included measures for reducing consumption, improving energy efficiency and maintaining zero-carbon homes, as my

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noble friend indicated. The consensus has been broken and uncertainty has been put into our manufacturing industry, and that cannot be good for the British economy.

2.20 pm

Baroness Worthington (Lab): My Lords, it is a genuine pleasure to respond to a debate that has had a veritable all-star list of energy experts contributing to it. I begin by thanking the Minister for his introductory comments. My sense is that we now have a very capable and committed Minister but, sadly, he comes before us with a rather shoddy and politically tawdry Bill. That is to be greatly regretted because important things need to be done in energy policy. There are big issues to be tackled and 2015 is a big year for climate change. I fear that we will waste precious parliamentary time on a Bill that is not complete, is lacking in important detail and is very confusing and conflicting in the messages that it is sending.

As many noble Lords have mentioned, the Bill is in two parts, the first relating to the setting up of the Oil and Gas Authority and the second consisting of a meagre two clauses that seem to be designed to destabilise the wind industry.

Many noble Lords have spoken very eloquently about the first part of the Bill. It is indeed necessary to implement the findings of the Wood review. However, the timing of the review was rather unfortunate, being published in February 2014—mere months before we saw a radical resetting of the global oil price. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, and my noble friend Lady Liddell pointed out to us that things are changing rapidly in the global oil and gas industry, and my fear is that this aspect of the Bill reads slightly as though it is out of touch and out of time with what is happening in the industry today.

I say that because we have seen a dramatic falling off of revenues from oil and gas from the North Sea continental shelf. It is now a very different place. I am sure that we will go through this in detail in Committee but we must ask whether the Government have truly reflected on whether the powers they are giving the OGA will be fit for purpose.

The statistics are quite astounding. Revenues from offshore oil and gas have already tumbled by 40% but they are likely to tumble again from £2.1 billion last year to only £0.7 billion in 2015-16. This is a serious issue. The future scenarios upon which we are relying that might see rising receipts are predicated on an oil price of between $70 and $100 a barrel. We must ask ourselves whether that is likely. It is possible—everything is possible—and even plausible that, with renewed investment in the North Sea and a renewed commitment, we will see production levels creep back up again. However, no matter how much wishful thinking we might apply to this problem, we will not see a return to the activity levels that we had in the heady days of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Production peaked in 2000 and has been falling steeply since the start of this century. My noble friends Lady Liddell and Lord O’Neill hinted that there is a future for the North Sea but it is likely to be very different from the one we see today.

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It is likely that some of the skills will be transferable into the offshore renewables industry and equally likely—again, the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, spoke eloquently on this, as did my noble friend Lord Whitty—that the North Sea will reinvent itself as a source of storage for CO2 as we move to decarbonise our fossil fuel industries. This creates a challenge for the OGA because part of its job, in addition to trying to create some transparency and openly negotiate reinvestment in the North Sea, will be considering decommissioning—the rolling out and management of decommissioning. However, the risk is that, because it is largely determined by private sector players, the decommissioning may occur out of sync with our needs for carbon capture and storage.

If we do not get on with the carbon capture and storage element of our energy strategy, we could see a mismatch where infrastructure that would otherwise be re-used for carbon capture and storage is simply decommissioned because the carbon capture and storage project is not yet up and running. Will the Government consider creating a hierarchy in the OGA’s thinking—where the talk is about efficiencies and investment but then thought is given to re-use for CCS, and only then is thought given to decommissioning—so that we do not run the risk of a timing mismatch?

Another subject which I am sure we will talk about in Committee and which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Grantchester is the core functions of the OGA and whether they are fit for purpose and comprehensive enough, given today’s concerns. I certainly echo my noble friend’s comments that the core functions should include references to environmental considerations and climate change. One aspect of the new regulatory authority will be that it can levy fees and raise finance for necessary expenditure, including on environmental issues. A very interesting proposal has been posited by the academic Myles Allen from Oxford University. He has been asking whether the time has now come to ask the extractive industries, which are currently extracting fossil fuels to be burned for our energy sources, to pay a levy towards the climate change damage that arises from the use of their products. We may wish to explore that in Committee.

The Bill has two functions—looking at oil and gas and the more minor measures on onshore wind—but I am left wondering whether it could have been different. Could we not have had a much more positive Energy Bill from the Government? There is an agenda here that I support. The Government said in their manifesto that they will seek to decarbonise at least cost. That is a very sensible aim. I am a technology neutralist—neutral in terms of which technologies we should be deploying. I do not believe that there should be holy cows within the energy sector, where certain technologies are protected. I honestly believe that market forces should help us to determine which of the technologies should succeed. That should be overlaid with strategic oversight from government to determine which technologies will play to the UK’s strengths and to ask where we can invest in and develop technologies that will give us a lead in the global race towards decarbonisation.

That leads me to think that we are missing a trick on carbon capture and storage. The Bill, had it perhaps not been rushed through at quite the speed that it has been and had a little more consideration been applied

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to it, could have been an excellent vehicle for kick-starting our focus on carbon capture and storage, not least because of the measures regarding the Oil and Gas Authority but also because we have now recognised that we need to do something to help industry to decarbonise. We talk a lot about electricity decarbonising but there are still large sources of greenhouse gas emissions in this country that will need to be decarbonised or these industries will simply be forced to leave the European Union and move elsewhere, because the caps on those emissions are tightening.

There has been some very good work on the subject of how to decarbonise our industrial sector. A recent report commissioned by DECC or the DTI—I forget which—asked the Teesside Collective to think about policy mechanisms for funding industrial decarbonisation. There are some very interesting ideas there. When will the Government start to take this seriously? When will we see some policy consultation on how we are affordably to provide industry with decarbonisation options that mean that it can reinvest in the UK and get primary production of materials going again, safe in the knowledge that we are insulated against carbon prices in future? That is the sort of Energy Bill that I would have liked the Government to have come forward with, had they given themselves a little more time to reflect and to produce a more strategic set of measures.

On process, there is no impact assessment for the Bill, which I find curious. When will we see an impact assessment? It has been mentioned by noble Lords today that the methodologies that the Government are using are opaque. The Government say with great confidence that they are on track to meet their renewables targets. Can we see those figures written in black and white please? As my noble friend Lord Grantchester mentioned, it is simply not true that we are on track to meet our EU renewables targets. We may be doing reasonably well in electricity, but we are falling drastically behind on heat and transport, and the target represents all energy, not just electricity.

When it comes to assessing how well we have done, if I were the European Union DG responsible for assessing our performance, I would look very gravely on a Government who come out of the traps with this short-sighted set of measures to rein back on renewables at a time when we have no comprehensive plan and no confidence that we will hit our targets. That seems to me to be wilfully trying to miss targets, and I would take a dim view of it. That will cost the UK taxpayer money, let us be clear, because we cannot simply flout the rules having signed up to them. There will be financial consequences to our missing those targets. Let us see the analysis and see how the Government can be so confident that they can tie their hands behind their back by destabilising some of the most successful aspects of our energy industry.

I have moved seamlessly on to the second part of the Bill, which is clearly the most controversial. It contains merely two clauses at the moment, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, stated very clearly, we need to see the detail. We need to scrutinise it. There has been no consultation and there is no impact assessment. The Government owe it to Parliament to bring forward that detail as soon as they can so that we can scrutinise it. We have only these two clauses

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and we must try to derive from them the Government’s intentions and plans. It seems to me that the reality is that this is obviously just narrow party politics. When she announced the early closure of the RO, the Secretary of State namechecked several Conservative Back-Bench MPs. This is clearly more about party politics than anything else. What angers me the most is that it puts in jeopardy the UK’s economic growth for the sake of narrow interests raised by a very small number of MPs. The whole of the UK economy is benefiting from our investment in our energy infrastructure. To put that at risk and seriously damage investor confidence in the way that the Government are is wholly irresponsible.

Several noble Lords mentioned investor confidence, including my noble friend Lord Whitty, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron. It is a serious problem. The think tank E3G states:

“Every time these announcements come out, the U.K. looks like a less attractive place in which to invest. I think a number of investors will be pricing in much higher risk now”.

That was true when the Bill was published; it is even more true after today’s announcements. It is really regrettable that we should kick off this new Government with something so short-sighted and tawdry—that is the only word that I can come up with. They are simply enabling a very small but vocal group to issue self-congratulatory press releases while putting serious investment and serious jobs at risk and making us appear to be a country that does not know which way it is going when talking about the need to address climate change and to decarbonise.

The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, made good points and some of them are obviously being listening to. He and I agree on a few things, and one of them is that there should be a focus on a least-cost approach to this. I am not saying that we should continue to provide subsidies when they are no longer necessary; that is not my aim at all. My aim is that we conduct ourselves in a way that gives investors confidence and allows for an orderly transition—a phrase that has been repeated here today. That is the phrase that the Government have used. An orderly transition is what is needed. This is a long distance from that; the Bill does not represent that.

Viscount Ridley: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for allowing me to intervene briefly, since she mentioned me. The central point to all this is that we are on course to overspend—from £7.6 billion up to £9.1 billion—on subsidies for those industries. What would the Opposition’s position, or anyone else’s, be about reining in that expenditure, because the cost is falling most heavily on the people who can least afford to pay it?

Baroness Worthington: I thank the noble Viscount for that intervention.

On the levy control framework, there is an interesting policy that the Treasury invented. I honestly think that it was invented simply for us to have this conversation later down the line. That number represents a partial figure for what is being added to bills as a result of government policy. It is incomplete; it does not include everything. It also makes no reference to

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the counterfactual. We live in a world with infrastructure built in the 1960s that has now served its time, is closing and will need to be replaced. That involves higher capital costs. You cannot replace assets that have already had their capital costs paid and expect energy prices to stay the same: they will not. The counterfactual is that we will have to spend more money on electricity as we build a new infrastructure.

That is not taken into account in the Treasury’s levy control framework, so it is a particularly redundant policy, and I would not use it as my measure of whether we should be cutting an industry off at the knees just as it is showing signs of success, in the false belief that we are on track with our targets. We are not. We desperately need inward investment and jobs in the UK. The Government do not have a great record in stimulating growth in the economy—far from it. They are desperately cutting costs to mask the fact that economic growth is virtually stagnant—or would be if it were not for immigration. Here we see them recklessly upsetting investor confidence in one of our success stories.

It could have been so different. It could have been done in a much better way. We could have made it clear that we are encouraging a wider range of technologies. We could have talked positively about some of them. We could have heard more about the fact that an increasingly wide range of renewables is now being deployed, but we have not. Unfortunately, we have had a very negative spin on what has been a success story for the UK.

I have not done justice to the debate, because it has been so rich and varied, but I thank noble Lords for all their contributions. As noble Lords can see, this is a subject I feel great passion about. I hope that, as we go into Committee, we will find some way to improve the Bill. I am sure that there are some measures in it that are necessary, but it is not the Energy Bill that we would have brought forward. I hope that through the scrutiny process of Committee we can make changes to make it something worthy of our efforts.

2.37 pm

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, first, I thank your Lordships very much indeed for what has been a debate of extremely high quality with some important contributions, to which I shall try to do justice, on subjects ranging from the Oil and Gas Authority and wind to the old chestnut of the East Ayrshire coalfield. I am very grateful for the advance notice of that question, otherwise I might not have been able to deal with it; I will certainly try to as I address the points raised within the suggested time.

Let me begin by dealing with two general points. The first was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, at our meeting yesterday, when I also met the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I was of course aware of the likelihood, although not of the certainty, of announcements today at that stage, but I could not share anything because of market sensitivity. The only conversations that Ministers are allowed to have are with devolved Administrations—which brings me on to the second issue. We have very good avenues of communication, and such things continue to be shared, as they were yesterday, with Scotland, Wales and

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Northern Ireland. That does not mean that we agree, but we of course continue to do what previous Governments have done.

I will try to deal with the issues in the way that they were set out—the Oil and Gas Authority, wind and then miscellaneous. I am not in any way denigrating the importance of the miscellaneous questions, but they are not directly represented in the Bill. I will try to do justice to the contributions that have been made. I start with a general point about what will be forthcoming as we go through the Bill. We are certainly hoping for an impact assessment by Committee stage. We very much trust that that will happen, as we trust that there will be a settled position on the grace period, an issue raised by many noble Lords and by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, in a briefing meeting. As soon as I am in a position to give information on that, I will ensure that it is circulated to all noble Lords because I am cognisant of the fact that they will need to be aware of it in the recess.

Turning to the Oil and Gas Authority, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, raised the question of how the environmental importance issue will be dealt with. DECC will continue to be responsible for that in relation to the Oil and Gas Authority, but it will of course work alongside it. The decommissioning strategy will be delivered; indeed, it is the prime issue that will be dealt with by amendments that we will introduce. That is not yet in the Bill and we hope to come back in Committee with more detail on that.

Many noble Lords raised the issue of carbon storage—I have it under the heading of oil and gas, but also under miscellaneous—including the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I thank her for her kind comments and I understand her passion and share many, if not all, of her climate change goals, so I am sure we will have a good working relationship. The noble Lords, Lord Grantchester, Lord Oxburgh, Lord Whitty, Lord O'Neill, the noble Baroness Lady Worthington and others raised the issue of carbon storage, which it is important we look at. It would be a responsibility of the Oil and Gas Authority, although not its core responsibility. I hope we will be able to look at that as the Bill proceeds through Committee and beyond.

On Norway and Scandinavia, again, I agree that a lot of this draft legislation is based on the experience of Scandinavia, which is a good example for us. I am sure that we will continue to learn lessons from there and exchange good practice.

Moving on to a general point about the Oil and Gas Authority and the tribute to Sir Ian Wood paid by noble Baronesses, Lady Worthington and Lady Liddell, and noble Lords, Lord O’Neill, Lord Purvis and others, I quite agree. We have not really done anything other than present the report as it is. We believe that it is a good report and we are giving it legislative strength. The timing—2014—might not have been of our choosing, I agree, but we are where we are and we have to make sure that the authority is smart, nimble and able to take on new challenges as they develop.

I am happy to look at and engage with the example of transferable skills and research given by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell. It was a helpful suggestion, so we will be in touch and make sure that noble Lords are aware of what we are doing in that regard.

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The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, asked about the number of staff who would be transferred. The current figure is 103, which is an increase from the figure I was given earlier this morning, so we are obviously recruiting at a rate of knots. The majority will come from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but expertise is retained in the department and of course we are continuing to recruit. There was a suggestion that the industry was trying to do this on a small budget, but that is not the case. We will obviously continue to recruit.

My noble friend Lady Byford raised some specific issues about the stable and predictable regulation regime set out in Clause 4 and asked for more information about that. I am happy to write her and copy noble Lords in on the detail that we have.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, talked about the regulatory role of the Oil and Gas Authority. Yes, it is of course the regulator and is subject to controls, but the oversight will be with the Secretary of State, who will be the sole shareholder of the company. No doubt we can look at that as the Bill goes through Committee. Those are the prime points on the Oil and Gas Authority. It seemed to receive a general welcome, and no doubt we can look at the detail as we proceed.

Obviously, we will not all agree about wind. There are differences even within party groups. I notice that some are more enthusiastic than others about onshore wind. Clearly, the fundamental point is that industry should not have been taken by surprise by the attitude of the Conservative Party to wind. One thing we cannot be accused of is ambiguity: the manifesto made our stance very clear.

A general point was made about the affordability of bills. My noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Ridley rightly said that affordability is an issue. Looking at the figures, the action we have taken has trimmed bills by £7 annually, which is not something that we should dismiss. But there is a concern and we should not categorise it as tawdry. We may disagree with it, but there are people who feel that there are sufficient land-based wind farms and they affect the quality of their lives, so let us put that in perspective. We have just had an election in which that was an issue.

To return to planning, developers can obviously still appeal against a decision from the local authority as they can in relation to shale. The point was made that somehow, the planning regime is fundamentally different in relation to shale. It is not. As we know from the decision recently taken in Lancashire, a decision is taken at local level and then there is the potential for appeal. In a similar way—although not identical because they are different planning regimes—there is a local element and then an appeal in both cases.

Reference was made to the certainty that is needed for British industry and investors regarding the supply chain. I agree. We need a sustainable approach to decarbonisation to 2020 and beyond. There was a Written Ministerial Statement this morning outlining these changes, which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has. There was a press release, too, as is customary practice, but this was not announced only by press release. It makes it clear that there is a levy-controlled framework beyond 2020. I reassure noble Lords that in the autumn, we will say what we will be doing about contracts for difference.

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My noble friend Lord Ridley questioned the need for Clause 60(3). It is simply there to ensure that generators who do a credit before the closure date will not be affected. A general concern was expressed about the grace period. There is an ongoing dialogue on that issue, which is why it was not dealt with in the Bill and we will return to it in Committee. That dialogue will finish at the end of July. We will then study the representations made to us and come back with something. I will make sure that noble Lords have sight of any decision as soon as it is made. That is why the measure has not been included in the Bill. I know that noble Lords will want us to look at these considerations with some care.

The number of projects affected is in the region of 250. It is not a precise figure—we cannot be absolutely certain which projects will proceed, so to that extent it is a best guesstimate. Again, that will be covered in the impact assessment. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, also talked about the grace period and the need for dialogue, which I quite agree with. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, stressed the importance of areas of outstanding natural beauty, and I agree. Some people may well say that some wind farms are already in such areas, but I thank the noble Lord for his thoughtful speech. He asked how the costs were determined. I think they are published, as we will be able to see as we go through the Bill, but they are determined by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Lord Purvis of Tweed: I hope that the Minister will forgive me for bringing him back to the issue of planning. Just after he received clarification from the Box, I took the opportunity of looking again at page 57 of the Conservative Party manifesto, which says that they would,

“change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications”.

The Minister confirmed at the Dispatch Box a few moments ago that that was not the case. The current practice of developers being able to appeal to the planning inspectorate will carry on, so that is not being implemented. Is that true?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: Noble Lords will understand that I am approaching this constructively. I am not going for the party knockabout, so let us leave that for another occasion. I am trying to be constructive and explain how we can take this forward.

The noble Lord quite rightly raised a point on public interest and national security grounds; perhaps I may get back to him on that with examples. The two go together. The national security point will be fairly evident, the public interest one perhaps less so. Thinking on my feet, it could involve something like piracy, but that word has connotations of the old type of pirate. However, it could mean someone taking over one of these installations, which, while it might not represent a threat to national security, may demand urgent action in the public interest by the Secretary of State. It could be something like that, and I will certainly write to the noble Lord with more precise information.

As I understand it, coming back to the announcements on solar made this morning, we do not need primary legislation for any action that is taken consequent on

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that consultation, and therefore I do not think that we will need to amend this legislation. If I am wrong about that, I will write to noble Lords, but I think it can be achieved through secondary legislation.

I shall move on to the miscellaneous points, although that is not to say in any way that the issues are not important. A regular theme of the debate was energy efficiency. It was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and the noble Lords, Lord Oxburgh, Lord Teverson, Lord Judd and Lord Foulkes, among others. It is a vital issue and a lot is already happening that does not demand legislation from us now. I refer to the smart meter programme, the delivery of which in 2020 will make a massive difference. Since April 2010, we have delivered the installation of more than 1.5 million measures such as boilers, insulation and so on which have made a material difference. That links to another area of responsibility, namely fuel poverty. We are currently looking at how to ensure that our fuel poverty measures are more closely allied to improvements in energy efficiency than perhaps they have been in the past. That is something we are looking at and it is certainly important.

On nuclear, a matter raised by my noble friend Lord Howell and touched on by the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, and others, we are expecting the contract to be concluded at the end of the year. I think my right honourable friend the Secretary of State mentioned this yesterday to the Select Committee in the House of Commons. We are certainly looking at small nuclear, as I think I have indicated previously; it is important. Progress is being made on Wylfa and I discussed it again yesterday with the devolved Administration in Wales. Those matters are progressing. I think I have dealt with carbon storage.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Could the Minister deal with the question of whether insurance will be available?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I am coming to that; I had not forgotten. I think the noble Lord has also tabled a Question for Written Answer on this and I hope he has had a response because I have it here, although I will not read it out. I think he will be reassured that we believe there is sufficient cover at the moment. The Government will continue to monitor the insurance market for capacity in this area and to encourage insurers to enter the nuclear insurance market. I offer the noble Lord my apologies if the response has not yet arrived, but it is certainly on its way to him.

On contracts for difference, raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, the noble Lords, Lord Whitty, Lord Oxburgh, and others, I have indicated that we will be announcing our approach. Of course it is important that we look at the totality of the position on renewables; I totally agree with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised issues around the automotive industry. He is absolutely right to say that there is a massive opportunity for the United Kingdom in this area. We are working across government on this with the Department for Transport and there is a certain urgency. It is an important issue and it would be great to see British industry have an edge in the area.

22 July 2015 : Column 1166

The security of the national grid was raised by noble Lords. That was one of the first visits I made, and obviously there are connections with other countries such as Norway and France. I think security of supply is in place.

The Competition and Markets Authority was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, in relation to switching. He will be aware that we are currently studying, and will soon be responding to, the preliminary findings of the Competition and Markets Authority, which had a default mechanism in those preliminary findings for those people who do not switch and are on an expensive tariff. They are put into a default mechanism tariff, which will be better for them. I hope he is reassured by that. The noble Lord also raised the issue of smart grids, which are very important. We are looking at them as part of the smart energy programme.

Finally, I turn to the East Ayrshire coalfield. We are aware of the issues, as the noble Lord indicated, and at the moment the Treasury is looking at the Hargreaves and Banks proposals he mentioned. We will come back to him on that; it certainly has not been forgotten.

Baroness Worthington: In anticipation that the Minister is about to finish, I want to touch briefly on two points. I hope I will be forgiven if the noble Lord has already mentioned them. On the European targets, I should like some clarity on the statement from the Government that we are on track. We are not on track. We would like to see some information about how we will compensate for failing to meet the targets for the other two aspects of the energy policy. Related to that, I should like some reassurances because, as I understand it, to have an auction for the CFD, as was planned, the Government would have to be making decisions in August, not in the autumn. Can we assume from this that the planned CFD auction for this year will not take place, and what will that mean in terms of our being able to make progress with our targets?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I thank the noble Baroness for those two points. On the European targets, we are certainly on track, as I think she will accept. Indeed, I think she said that in relation to the electricity target, which is the one that wind directly affects. The other targets are certainly challenging and we are seeking to address them. I have mentioned what we are doing on cars, but I accept that they are challenging. However, I am sure she will agree that the track record of the United Kingdom in meeting our targets is, in European terms, very good, and I am sure it will remain so. On the auction, as I say, we will be making a statement in the autumn about the future of contracts for difference, and I have indicated that there is a future for the levy control framework, but I cannot really add to that at this stage.

Once more, I thank all noble Lords for a wide-ranging debate, which has gone far beyond the narrow remit of the Bill, but that is no bad thing. I hope that, as we go through the Bill, we can engage in the constructive way we have today.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

22 July 2015 : Column 1167

Energy Bill [HL]

Order of Consideration Motion

Moved by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Energy Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule, Clauses 3 to 63, Title.

Motion agreed.

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (Extension of duration of non-jury trial provisions) Order 2015

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (Extension of duration of non-jury trial provisions) Order 20151st Report Joint Committee on the Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

2.57 pm

Moved by Lord Dunlop

That the draft order laid before the House on 4 June be approved.

Relevant document: 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scotland Office (Lord Dunlop) (Con): My Lords, under this order, trials without a jury can take place in Northern Ireland for a further two years from 1 August 2015. Without this order, the current provisions will lapse on 31 July. This is the fourth such extension of these provisions. Noble Lords will understandably want to assure themselves that a further extension is justified.

As Northern Ireland continues its progress towards peace and stability, the proposal to extend the system of non-jury trials is not made lightly. We continue to face a severe threat from dissident republican terrorism in Northern Ireland; there remains a minority of committed terrorists who seek to undermine our progress using lethal violence and intimidation. The explosion of a device in Lurgan last Saturday is the eighth national security attack in Northern Ireland this year. It was an attempt to murder police officers who serve the community with bravery and dedication, and it demonstrates once again the severity and persistence of the threat we face.

We all want to see progress towards normalisation in Northern Ireland. We must recognise, however, that Northern Ireland is still in a unique situation. The non-jury trial provisions in the 2007 Act continue to provide an appropriate response to a very small number of cases. Without such provisions, trials in Northern Ireland would not be safe from disruption, and justice would be put at risk in the most serious of cases.

I can assure the House that the Government would move to end the exceptional system of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland as soon as it was no longer necessary. However, this should happen only when the security situation allows. Regrettably, we are not there yet. Police, prison officers and military personnel remain the principal targets of attacks for violent dissident

22 July 2015 : Column 1168

republican groupings. Attacks such as the one in Lurgan at the weekend demonstrate a blatant disregard for human life and put the wider public in danger.

Noble Lords will be aware that such attacks are not isolated events. In June an explosive device was placed under a police officer’s car in Londonderry in another attempt to maim or kill. Earlier in the year a postal improvised explosive device was sent to the Police Service of Northern Ireland headquarters, which could clearly have caused harm to postal workers. A further device exploded at the Probation Board offices in Londonderry in April and the remains of another exploded device were also found on the Belfast to Newry railway line.

Over the last year there has been a rise in paramilitary-style attacks by both republican and loyalist groupings as a means of exerting fear and control within their own communities. In-fighting also persists within loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland, remaining a cause for concern for the wider community. Threats and acts of violence towards police and public bodies demonstrate continued attempts at intimidation of individuals and communities, and under these circumstances we must not allow the criminal justice system to be put at risk.

I will now turn to the process for obtaining a non-jury trial. The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland issues a certificate which allows for one. The DPP can issue a certificate for a non-jury trial only if, first, he suspects that one or more of four statutory conditions, which are laid out in Section 1 of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007, are met.

Condition 1 is that the defendant is, or is an associate of, a member of a proscribed organisation, or has at any time been a member of an organisation when it was a proscribed organisation, whose activities are connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. Condition 2 is that the offence was committed on behalf of such a proscribed organisation, or such a proscribed organisation was otherwise involved. Condition 3 is that an attempt has been made by or involving a proscribed organisation connected with Northern Ireland to prejudice the investigation or prosecution. Condition 4 is that the offence was committed as a result of, or in connection with, religious or political hostility. Furthermore, the DPP must be satisfied that, in view of one or more of these conditions being met, there is a risk that the administration of justice might be impaired if a jury trial were to be held.

There is a clear distinction here between this system and the pre-2007 Diplock court arrangements—a term which has previously been used erroneously to describe the current system. The Diplock system saw a presumption that all scheduled offences be tried by a judge alone. Today, there is a clear presumption that jury trial will take place in all but the most exceptional cases.

Certificates are issued only in a very limited number of cases. So far in 2015, the DPP has issued just nine certificates for non-jury trials. During 2014, 18 certificates were issued. To put this into context, in 2014 only 1.7% of all Crown Court cases in Northern Ireland were conducted without a jury. The figure so far for 2015 is 0.7%.

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In keeping with the approach followed in 2013, the Secretary of State conducted a targeted consultation to gather views from 35 interested groups and individuals, including representatives of the main political parties in Northern Ireland, independent reviewers, human rights and other NGOs, security forces, and practitioners in the criminal justice system. In total 19 responses were received: five were supportive of extension; three were opposed; and 11 expressed no clear preference but did not object.

The Secretary of State decided to seek an extension of the provisions, having considered all the responses received, in conjunction with her view of the security situation in Northern Ireland and the potential for disruption of criminal trials. It is important to note that there is no limit in the legislation on how many times the provisions can be extended. However, given the understandable concerns around the repeated extension of these provisions, and mindful of previous calls for wider consultation, the Secretary of State has asked officials to prepare a public consultation ahead of the next expiry in 2017. This will inform a wider review of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland and how certificates are issued and may be challenged. This should not be perceived as the Government questioning the necessity or validity of the provisions for Northern Ireland’s current situation; rather, it is a positive commitment towards openness and a desire to consider the views of the wider public on provisions that would, by 2017, have been in operation for 10 years.

Let me again emphasise that the Government remain fully committed to tackling the threat from violent paramilitaries and keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe and secure. This includes doing all that we can to ensure the effective administration of justice. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of national security arrangements in Northern Ireland, noted in his response to the Secretary of State’s targeted consultation in 2015 that,

“there remains clear evidence of residual dissident activity with some technical ability, access to weapons and explosives, and the ambition to undermine the democratic process in NI”.

The noble Lord goes on to say:

“It is rational and logical to believe that dissidents would strive to undermine criminal trials of their friends and confederates. This would be likely to include the intimidation of jurors - a form of perverting of the course of justice that can be formidably difficult to detect”.

It is clear that the non-jury trial system is not being overused and that it remains necessary for the very small number of cases in which it is applied for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. I commend the order to the House.

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, I rise briefly, with a heavy heart, to support this approval Motion. I am very grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has explained the context fully and fairly. I would add only one consideration, which is that another destabilising element in the recent situation was the large paramilitary display by the INLA at the weekend in Derry. It contributes to a picture where, unfortunately, it is necessary to maintain this particular provision. I am very grateful to the Minister for saying that there will be a wider consultation next time out.

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I have been speaking on these Motions since my arrival in this House, and I would love to think that, 10 years in, next time out the Minister will have better news for us. I support the approval Motion today.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, I welcome the Minister to his brief. Let me place on the record that we appreciate the efforts that have been made by him in consultation. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said—it is with a heavy heart but nevertheless a necessary attitude towards the legislation. The shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ivan Lewis, was consulted on these measures. Again, that demonstrates the bipartisan approach to issues in Northern Ireland, which is absolutely necessary. That was before the election but we are still very grateful for that.

We all recognise that non-jury trials are not an ideal part of the justice system. They are currently necessary in a society emerging from conflict. The measures will be used in only a small number of cases—as stated, fewer than under the previous Diplock system, and under very specific circumstances, as outlined by the Minister. The Minister said that the measures were justified, and we agree. The situation is unique, and we agree wholeheartedly. We accept assurances about future monitoring of the figures.

The noble Lord mentioned examples of recent behaviour in Derry/Londonderry and clearly outlined the procedure. We support the Government on that. These measures are an improvement on Diplock. The figures need to be monitored. We also wholeheartedly welcome the public consultation, as mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Bew. That is a positive measure because the situation in Northern Ireland will have to be resolved within the political process.

We need to make political progress in Northern Ireland through implementing the Stormont House agreement in full to better deal with the underlying tensions that make such differences in the justice system necessary—they are necessary, unfortunately. Collectively, we need to make sure that there is no let-up in the process in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has to be seen to be active in a bipartisan way, backed up by the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is not a place where one can take one’s eye off the ball. We must constantly reiterate the Stormont agreement and the need for peace and progress. Having said all that, clearly the measures are justified and have our support.

Lord Dunlop: I thank the noble Lords, Lord Bew and Lord McAvoy, for their support. Non-jury trial is an exceptional system used only in very limited circumstances. There is rightly a presumption for jury trial in all cases. The security situation in Northern Ireland has not significantly improved since the 2013 extension. The situation is covered by the conditions in the 2007 Act, which remain relevant for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. In view of the continuing potential for juror intimidation and disruption of criminal trials, I commend the order to the House.

Motion agreed.

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Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) (Amendment) Order 2015

Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) (Amendment) Order 20151st Report Joint Committee on the Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

3.12 pm

Moved by Lord Dunlop

That the draft Order laid before the House on 8 July be approved.

Relevant document: 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scotland Office (Lord Dunlop) (Con): My Lords, this statutory instrument makes provision to adopt for the purposes of Northern Ireland Assembly elections the same polling districts and polling stations already in place for parliamentary elections.

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are elected using parliamentary constituencies. However, at previous elections the polling districts, or wards, used were those drawn up for local government elections. Following the reorganisation of district councils in Northern Ireland in 2012, the local electoral boundaries were changed. This resulted in polling district boundaries that no longer sit discretely within the parliamentary constituencies.

The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland has made it clear that it is not possible for him to hold an election where the wards straddle two constituencies. So, in advance of the general election, the last Government introduced legislation that removed the formal link which provided for local government polling districts to be used at parliamentary elections.

Under the new provisions introduced for the general election, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland now has a duty to designate the polling districts to be used for parliamentary elections, and the Chief Electoral Officer a duty to designate polling stations within those districts.

The polling districts that the Secretary of State has designated for the purposes of the parliamentary elections are the ones that were in place before the reorganisation of local government boundaries in Northern Ireland. The effect is to retain for Westminster elections the same polling districts as previously used for the 2010 general election and the last Assembly election.

The purpose of this order is to seek to close the legislative gap that has existed for Assembly elections since 2013 by applying the parliamentary polling districts and polling places used for parliamentary elections to Assembly elections. This measure will have the effect of maintaining the status quo, retaining the polling districts that voters are familiar with.

The order provides that the polling places used for the Assembly election will be those listed in the polling station scheme drawn up by the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland. He will have a duty to amend the scheme in relation to Assembly elections if he considers that the parliamentary scheme does not adequately provide for voters at an Assembly election. As a result of this order, electors and interested parties will have recourse to the Electoral Commission to appeal the scheme if they are not content.

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I hope that noble Lords will agree that making provision to re-establish the link between parliamentary and Assembly polling districts and polling places is a necessary and logical step to take in advance of the Assembly elections, and are reassured that these changes are fully supported by both the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer. I therefore commend the order to the House.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us about any contact taking place with the parties in Northern Ireland with regard to these measures, and perhaps a bit more about the appeal process, if they want to appeal them?

Lord Dunlop: The parties have been consulted and there is an appeal process. Indeed, an appeal is going on with regard to a polling station in Dungannon, and is currently being considered by the Electoral Commission.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, there is no need to repeat everything outlined by the Minister. The measure is absolutely necessary because of the redrawing of local government boundaries and has our support.

Lord Dunlop: I thank the noble Lord for his support and brevity.

Motion agreed.

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 20151st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

3.16 pm

Moved by Baroness Altmann

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22 June be approved.

Relevant document: 1st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) (Con): Section 1 of the Deregulation Act 2015 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations, which limit the scope of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 so that only those self-employed who conduct an undertaking of a prescribed description will continue to have a duty under the provision.

The regulations set out ways in which undertakings may be prescribed. The regulations will retain duties on all self-employed persons who conduct specified high-risk work activities or may expose others to risks to their health or safety. I am satisfied that the instrument is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is important that I set out a little of the background to the draft regulations. In 2011, the Government commissioned Professor Löfstedt, director of King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College London, to conduct an independent review of health and safety

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regulations. One of his recommendations was to exempt from health and safety law those self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others. The Government accepted this recommendation and asked the Health and Safety Executive to draw up proposals for changing the law.

Currently, Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a general duty on self-employed people to protect themselves and others from risks to their health and safety, regardless of the type of activity they are undertaking. The proposed change to the law was included in Clause 1 of the then Deregulation Bill to ensure that only those self-employed who conduct an,

“undertaking of a prescribed description”,

will continue to have a duty. The underlying policy is that self-employed people will retain duties under Section 3(2) only if their undertaking involves carrying out an activity which is specified within the regulations. It was intended that the regulations would consist of a short concise list of activities. The proposed policy was subject to two public consultations and was debated in Parliament. The Government carefully considered the consultation responses and listened to respondents’ concerns during the debates in both Houses. The clause was therefore amended at Report in the House of Lords to ensure that those self-employed people whose work poses a risk to the health and safety of others remain subject to the law. It is these amended regulations that are subject to scrutiny by both Houses of Parliament.

The Bill received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. The regulations have been drafted to ensure that self-employed people still have a duty under the law when they carry out high-risk activities that create risks for themselves or others. This is intended to include the most common activities carried out by the self-employed and those which statistically result in high numbers of fatalities or injuries. This approach puts beyond doubt that these self-employed people will not be exempt from health and safety law, irrespective of what they do.

Work activities in agriculture, on the railways or involving gas and asbestos are included. In addition, the regulations also include any EU requirements that impose a specific duty on someone who is self-employed to protect themselves from risks to their own health and safety. This brings in work with genetically modified organisms and self-employed people who work on construction sites. This is the key part. There is a catch-all provision in the regulations so that self-employed people who carry out an undertaking which may expose others to risks to their health and safety are included. We are exempting only those self-employed people who do not pose a risk to the public and who are not going to sue themselves.

The Government acknowledge that the self-employed will need some help to understand this change and to limit the possibility of incorrectly assessing whether their work activities may expose others to risk. The Health and Safety Executive will therefore produce guidance to support the regulations. This will also signpost existing guidance which explains in practical terms what they need to do to comply with health and safety legislation.

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Baroness Donaghy (Lab): My Lords, I regret that these regulations are before the House. As they are here, I think they are the least worst option. I see from the impact assessment that a “probabilistic” approach was taken to these regulations. It is not a word I have ever heard of. I hope they veer towards the probable rather than towards the ballistic in their outcome.

As the Minister has said, the catch-all provision to ensure that those self-employed persons who may pose a risk to others are not exempt from Health and Safety law is at least an improvement on the original intention. The word “may”, however, leaves an awful lot to be desired. This all arose, of course, from an explicit assurance by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, to my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton, who was seeking inclusion of this provision in the Bill.

I still believe that the phrase,

“may pose a risk to others”,

will cause confusion. Professor Löfstedt actually recommended exemption from Health and Safety law for,

“those self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others”,

which is what the noble Baroness herself just quoted. There was no “may” about it.

It may be that the impact will be minimal because, even under current legislation, there is evidence that a significant number of self-employed people do not think the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act applies to them. In one piece of qualitative research, only five out of 60 people interviewed thought that they had any health and safety obligations. Not a single one of them responded to say that this change would make a difference to their working practices.

The regulations may be more about perception than a real change, as stated by Professor Löfstedt. In one sense, I hope that is correct, and that health and safety at work will not diminish. However, perceptions are extremely important, and these regulations may encourage the perception that not only is health and safety a burden but that it is respectable to avoid obligation. There is still potential for self-employed people to assess incorrectly whether the exemption applies to them. The Health and Safety Executive guidelines—to which, again, the Minister referred—are still in preparation, so we do not know what impact or coverage they will have.

With approximately 266,000 new businesses being established each year, we do not know what impact these regulations will have on them. As the impact assessment points out:

“The newly self-employed will still need to spend some time determining whether they are exempt under the proposals”.

I hope it will be made clear, in communicating information about these regulations, that there are still more than 40 sets of regulations that apply to the self-employed, either explicitly or in more general regulations. For example, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, known as RIDDOR, will still apply. When I was preparing my report on fatalities in the construction industry, I was concerned about the low level of reporting of accidents and injuries under RIDDOR. It was quite

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clear that hospitals were more likely to know the extent of occurrences under RIDDOR than the reporting mechanism itself. It was also clear that there was a pattern that low levels of reporting on minor injuries also saw a higher proportion of serious injuries and fatalities. I realise that these comments apply to construction, which is not an exempt industry under these proposals, but I am making the point that, if anything, there is a problem of underreporting, which can lead to more accidents. It is in the interests of government and the taxpayer, as well as the self-employed person, to be conscious of the costs to the health service and the DWP of any increase in accidents at work. This is why I remain concerned about the policy of exempting people from an Act that has served and is serving this nation well.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, it is very clear from what the noble Baroness has said that the health and safety of the English language are at risk. I should like an assurance from my noble friend that the word “probabilistic” will never appear again in any document or on the Floor of this House. I should like an assurance that she will take some time during the Recess to distribute to everyone within her department a copy of Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words. May we also have a resolution that, when we come back in the autumn, acronyms will be banned?

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I agree entirely with the comments of my noble friend Baroness Donaghy. She is absolutely right to raise her concerns. I also want to raise the question of the agriculture industry. I know that this industry is prescribed; it is the most dangerous industry working today. There is a shocking level of drownings, electrocutions and other fatalities in this industry. It has a really appalling record. I hope the noble Baroness can comment on that today because it really is an industry in which a lot of individuals work and in which some very serious injuries take place. Frankly, the regulations at present are not good enough or strong enough, and need strengthening in that industry.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, for introducing these regulations. I welcome her to what I understand to be her first foray into the health and safety debate. The Minister will doubtless be aware of the extensive legislative consideration given to this matter in what was then the Deregulation Bill—now the Act—which culminated in the provision now enabling these regulations.

As we heard, these changes to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 have their origin in the report of Professor Löfstedt entitled Reclaiming Health and Safety for All,in which he recommended that those self-employed people whose activities posed no potential risk of harm to others should be exempt from the general duties under that Act. This recommendation was made, notwithstanding that it was generally acknowledged, included by the professor himself, that these duties did not overly burden the self-employed, and that any requirements in these circumstances would be minimal in time, cost and enforcement effort by the HSE and local authorities. Their main duty was to

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carry out an assessment of the risks to themselves and others that are relevant to their work. There was no necessity to record the findings. The impact assessment that accompanies the regulations estimates that those within the provisions would have spent on average just 15 minutes a year on this endeavour. Paragraph 58 of the impact assessment further states:

“One current requirement that the self-employed might not comply with if they became exempt is carrying out a risk assessment considering risk to themselves. However, in order to know whether they qualify for the exemption, they would still need to assess whether their work poses risk to others, and it is likely that any risks to themselves would arise from the same factors”.

So there is no particular practical easement from that perspective.

3.30 pm

Although we supported the overall thrust of Professor Löfstedt’s report, we hold to the view that to implement this recommendation is, to use the words of IOSH, “unwise and unnecessary”. The scope for confusion over who is covered and who is not, and the minimal overall benefits calculated—less than £1 million a year, with estimated upfront costs of £3.4 million—strongly argue still for the original scope of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act to be retained. But changes to primary legislation preclude our going back.

The argument that this is all in the interests of tackling perceptions about over-burdensome inspection and prosecutions is simply not tenable. The facts dictate otherwise. Surely, so far as perceptions are concerned, the task is to challenge misperceptions rather than to pander to them. The Minister will be aware that there were a couple of attempts by the previous Government to implement a Löfstedt approach which fell well short of being acceptable. The penultimate attempt at prescribing a list of high-risk activities which, if carried out by the self-employed, would cause them to remain subject to the 1974 Act with all other self-employed outside was greeted with a storm of criticism not only from the health and safety community—RoSPA, IOSH, IIRSM and safety groups—but from the CBI, EEF as well as the TUC. The HSE’s consultation clearly demonstrated this approach to be untenable.

Thankfully, the coalition Government belatedly listened. While not abandoning an approach of a high-risk list, they were persuaded to add a “catch-all” provision to include within the provisions of Section 3(2) of the Act those self-employed whose activities may pose a risk of harm to the health and safety of another person. We support this as far as it goes, but note that it does not replicate any previous obligations on the part of the self-employed to avoid risks to their own health and safety, unless they are on the prescribed list. However, the HSE has never prosecuted anyone for putting at risk their own health and safety.

I have some questions for the Minister. Can it be confirmed that nothing in the Deregulation Act or these regulations diminishes in any way the health and safety obligations of others to the self employed? Can it also be confirmed that, similarly, nothing diminishes the obligation of the self employed to their employees or to others in respect of activities which may pose a risk of harm to them; that is, Section 3(1) and Section 2

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of the Act will continue to apply? Can the Minister explain the reference to “employees” in Regulation 2(b) given that Section 3(2) of the 1974 Act supposedly only applies to self-employed who are without employees?

To the extent that, previously, the self-employed posed no risk of harm to others, the substantive change appears to be in respect of the self-employed’s duties not to expose themselves to risks to their health and safety. Does the Minister agree with the impact assessment that this easement will have little practical effect on the risk assessment they will continue to undertake?

The HSE is to produce guidance. Is this now available in final form given that the regulations come into force in less than three months? I think that there was a commitment to have them ready 12 weeks or three months before implementation.

What definition is being used for “self-employed”? The Minister will doubtless be aware of the long-standing difficulties of what is known as the bogus self-employed, which is an issue that my noble friend Lady Donaghy focused on relentlessly in her report on the construction industry. While many in this category would be involved in construction, and whose activities would be in a prescribed category in any event, uncertainty of status can only create uncertainty of application of health and safety regulations. If a self-employed person’s activities are not listed in the schedule, they have to make a judgment about whether they pose a risk of harm to others. To what extent is that process and judgment different from that which would have taken place before the amendments to the 1974 Act were made?

Paragraph 18 of the impact assessment makes it clear that more than 40 sets of regulations which apply to the self-employed, including RIDDOR as referred to by noble friend. The regulations before us deal with the general duty, but can the Minister explain their impact, if any, on these other regulations and the requirements they place on the self-employed?

We see these regulations as an improvement on where we might have been heading when government first turned its mind to Professor Löfstedt’s recommendation. But they remain unsatisfactory because of the uncertainty created; unsatisfactory because of the risk that the view will take hold that there is a general exemption for the self-employed; and unsatisfactory because they reinforce the idea that health and safety is unnecessary and burdensome.

Although the list of prescribed activities in the schedule is shorter and more precise in some respects than earlier offerings, it still relies on references which will not be familiar to all. The list of categories attached to the impact assessment might be read by some as negating the need for individual risk assessments.

We welcome the plans for a review, but are concerned that it might be as long as five years before it comes to fruition. Are there any plans to do it earlier in that five-year period? These are important regulations potentially touching on matters of life and death. We believe that they bring unnecessary change, but one which must now be made to work effectively. Therefore, we will reluctantly not oppose them.

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Baroness Altmann: I thank noble Lords for their comments, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, and the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for their, albeit reluctant, welcoming of the proposals.

I want to provide some clarifications that were asked for by the noble Lord. The obligations of the self-employed to others are unaffected. Their obligations to employees are unaffected and Section 3(1) and (2) will still apply.

I also make it clear that the exemptions will be clarified in specific, detailed guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. The definition of self-employed that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked me about is in Section 53 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and is rather broad, stating that,

“‘self-employed person’ means an individual who works for gain or reward otherwise than under a contract of employment, whether or not he himself employs others”.

A director of a limited company is an employee of that company. If that company employs others—that is, is an employer—it will have duties under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act towards its employees.

I take my noble friend Lord Cormack’s point about the term “probabilistic”, which seems to have been more ballistic today than one might have expected, and I will relay his request to the department. As far as banning acronyms is concerned, as someone who is steeped in pensions, these have often been the bane of my life and I sympathise to some degree.

I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about the agriculture industry. It is indeed an industry, as is construction, in which there have been an enormous number of accidents and fatalities. The duties on the self-employed to report accidents are not affected in any way by these changes but it is anticipated that they will remove 1.7 million people from the scope of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety and Work etc. Act 1974 and will result in savings to the self-employed of £4.7 million over 10 years. Obviously, the source of those savings is subject to estimation but it appears that a number of self-employed people who do not pose any risk to others, such as a bookkeeper working from their own home and not coming into contact with anybody else, mistakenly believe that they are required to carry out health and safety assessments or are approached by consultants who lead them to believe that they need to spend money on having such an assessment. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that as long as the guidance is clear and the clarifications are available—so that people who are exempt know they are exempt, and those who could pose a risk to the public and are therefore not exempt will be able to identify themselves—this should indeed result in savings, as recommended by the Löfstedt report.

We have had an independent review. We have listened to the concerns and the requests for amendments that have been made, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and have responded to those. The catch-all phrase in Regulation 2(b) should make it absolutely clear that we are intending to cover anybody who potentially poses a risk to the public, and they will still have to comply with health and safety regulations.

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Lord McKenzie of Luton: The Minister referred to the 1.7 million people who will be taken outside the scope of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. What estimate has been made of the number of those people who would have to undertake a risk assessment in the first place to determine whether or not they pose a risk to others?

Baroness Altmann: We would expect that if they are exempt they would not need to undertake a health and safety risk assessment. The idea is that it will be made clear to them if they are working in such conditions that they pose no threat to the public. As I described, if you work from your own home and you do not come in contact with the public, you will not need to do a health and safety self-assessment, and somebody will not come along and say, “Oh, by the way, everybody has to conduct a health and safety assessment”. However, of course, if you are employing other people, that will still be required. I hope that that answers the question.

I understand that it is difficult to imagine how this will work until it is actually working, but the guidelines and the guidance will be available six weeks before the regulations come into force. There will be an extensive campaign to publicise this change and to explain it to the public. Our estimates have been made and we are accepting the recommendations of an independent review. We are talking only about someone who is self-employed so our expectation is that this will save both time and money; it will also save those self-employed people who are now exempt from having to keep up to date with any changes in health and safety regulation, which in itself can take time or cost money.

We are aiming to help businesses. We expect that more new businesses will start up as a result of this. Again, one cannot demonstrate precisely how many—

3.45 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I am sorry; I promise not to interrupt again. Is the Minister seriously saying that an estimated 15 minutes a year has been prohibiting self-employed businesses from starting up and flourishing; or that the minuscule savings that, in aggregate, even on these estimates, are expected to accrue will affect the growth of self-employed businesses? There have been some 200,000 new businesses in recent times in any event. They do not seem to have been inhibited by overburdensome health and safety regulations.

Baroness Altmann: I accept that it is impossible to prove but that is the expectation of the department. At the margin—these decisions are often important at the margin—some people will be reassured to know, if they are intending to set up only as a self-employed person working from home, that they are not included in the health and safety requirements they are now being exempted from. It is impossible to say, as with all such things, but we certainly have been advised that, and it is the view of the independent reviewer that, this will make a difference. Therefore, we are recommending these changes.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: I said that I would not intervene again, but I want to stress to the Minister that the statement made that those working at home

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can be outside the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act is very dangerous. To make blanket assertions in such a bold way—that no one in that situation will pose a risk of harm to others or need to undertake a risk assessment—is highly dangerous. I apologise for interrupting. I will not do it again but we have to stress the importance of not going down that path of encouraging people to think that they are outside the provisions of this very important legislation.

Baroness Altmann: I absolutely share the noble Lord’s view that this is very important legislation. The advances we have made in health and safety and the consequent reductions in accidents, along with the measures introduced all those years ago, are a significant achievement and success. However, I am suggesting that certain businesses can be exempted from this provision because they pose no risk to the public. I certainly would not wish to give the impression, and I hope I have not, that everybody who works from home is exempt. One million self-employed people will still be covered by the regulations. They will apply only to certain types of activity and they will be made clear. They will be clarified by the guidance and by the campaign that will be launched six weeks before these measures come into effect.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con):Perhaps my noble friend might like to explain to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, and the party opposite that what is actually needed here is common sense, not risk assessment. Risk assessment is a formal legal process. People should use their common sense to make sure that they look after themselves. I think that is what my noble friend is trying to drive at and it must be the right way to proceed—to avoid paper form-filling and unnecessary diversion of effort for people who, with common sense, could work it out for themselves.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: But is risk assessment not a matter of common sense?

Baroness Altmann: I thank my noble friend Lord Hodgson for his comments. I would certainly be of the view that in the cases one could imagine these regulations applying to, it would be common sense to identify whether you pose no risk to the public in the work you are doing. You would therefore not need to carry out a health and safety assessment on yourself or your place of work if you do not pose any risk to anybody else. As I have said, a self-employed person who is an employer will continue to have duties under the Act; so will anyone who carries out high-risk activities.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: I made reference to the problems in the agriculture industry, which is the most dangerous in which to work in the whole of the UK. I am certainly of the opinion that either the regulations are not strong enough at present or they are not enforced properly. Will the noble Baroness look at the list of injuries—drownings and electrocutions? It is a shocking tale in that industry and something really needs to be done about it.

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Baroness Altmann: I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about agriculture, which is a prescribed activity. All self-employed persons undertaking agricultural activities will continue to have duties under Section 3(2) of the health and safety Act. Indeed, if the noble Lord so requests, we will be happy to look at the situation with agriculture. We certainly recognise the importance of keeping agriculture within the remit.

I beg to move that the House has considered these regulations.

Motion agreed.

UK Opt-in to the Proposed Council Decision on the Relocation of Migrants within the EU (EUC Report)

EU Committee 2nd Report HL Paper 22

Motion to Agree

3.51 pm

Moved by Baroness Prashar

That this House, while noting that Her Majesty’s Government are minded not to opt into the proposed Council Decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece, agrees the recommendation of the European Union Committee that, should an amended or a new proposal be brought forward giving effect to the European Council’s Conclusions in April and June 2015, the Government should exercise their right, in accordance with the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice, to take part in the adoption and application of that proposal (2nd Report, HL Paper 22).

Baroness Prashar (CB): My Lords, I beg to move this Motion as chairman of the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, which prepared the report to which the Motion relates. I thank all members of the sub-committee, the clerk to that committee, Theo Pembroke, and the policy analyst, Lena Donner, for their assistance with the preparation of the report.

As your Lordships know, when the House considers reports from the European Union Committee, it is normally on a Motion that the House takes note of the report. In this case, the Motion invites the House to agree the committee’s recommendations. The reason is that this report deals with a proposed European Council decision, which falls within the area of justice and home affairs and which will apply to the United Kingdom only if the Government exercise their right under protocols to the EU treaties to participate in its negotiation, adoption and implementation—in other words if the Government, having taken into account the views of the committee, opt in. The Government have to do this within three months of the proposal being presented to the Council. In this case, the deadline will expire on 27 August so I am extremely grateful that time has been made available to debate this opt-in report at short notice and before the expiry of that three-month period.

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The background to this debate is the global migration crisis and, specifically, its tragic consequences in the Mediterranean. In a single incident off the coast of Libya in April, more than 800 people lost their lives. Italy and Greece are on the front line. The proposal that is the subject of this debate focuses narrowly on the EU’s attempt to alleviate the burden that has fallen on Italy and Greece in responding to this humanitarian crisis. The fact is that Italy and Greece are unable to cope with looking after migrants and processing their claims for international protection status. Conditions have become so poor in Greece that the European Court of Justice has held that states that return asylum seekers to Greece are in breach of the prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

In response, the emergency European Council summit in April agreed to consider organising emergency relocation between all member states on a voluntary basis. What this meant in practice was that the member states agreed voluntarily to assist Greece and Italy by taking in or relocating some of the migrants already based in those countries. However, in May, the EU Commission proposed a Council decision that, if adopted, would create a temporary scheme to relocate 40,000 migrants entering the EU via Italy and Greece to other member states, with the precise numbers to be determined in accordance with a mandatory quota system. Since that point, the Commission and the European Council seem to have been in disagreement. What happened next was that the European Council agreed at its meeting in June that the Council of Ministers should adopt a Council decision providing for,

“the temporary and exceptional relocation over two years from the frontline Member States Italy and Greece to other Member States of 40,000 persons in clear need of international protection, in which all Member States will participate … all members will agree by consensus by the end of July on the distribution of such persons, reflecting the specific situation of Member States”.

This meant that the European Council accepted the principle that 40,000 migrants should be relocated from Greece and Italy, and the reference to agreement on distribution by consensus, rather than by qualified majority voting, underlined that the European Council was rejecting the mandatory nature of the scheme proposed by the Commission and reverting to a voluntary political agreement.

Earlier this week, on 20 July, after the report was published, the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed to a voluntary scheme that would relocate 32,256 migrants—almost 8,000 short of the target agreed by the European Council. Germany has agreed to take 10,000; Luxembourg, with a population of a little over half a million, is taking 320; even Malta, which is already overburdened with migrants entering Europe by sea, is taking 60. The UK is taking none—not even one.

Lord Higgins (Con): I wonder whether the noble Baroness will allow me—

Baroness Prashar: Will the noble Lord forgive me if I do not give way, because I would like to go through my speech first? I can answer questions later.

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Lord Higgins: Could the noble Baroness just clarify one point? I should explain that I have taken part in all the other debates on this issue. She refers to migrants. Is that the same as asylum seekers?

Baroness Prashar: Could the noble Lord repeat the question?

Lord Higgins: The noble Baroness referred just now to migrants. Is that the same as asylum seekers?

Baroness Prashar: Yes, in this case they are predominantly asylum seekers.

Lord Higgins: But not exclusively?

Baroness Prashar: Not exclusively. The point is that the definition of a migrant is rather fluid, because people who are migrants may become asylum seekers or refugees.

As I said, the UK has taken none—not even one. This week’s political agreement appears to have sidelined further involvement by the Commission, so the status of the Commission’s proposal is uncertain. It is not clear whether it will be withdrawn or amended. Indeed, the information published by the Council about Monday’s meeting has muddied the waters, leaving it unclear on what legal basis the Council’s decisions are being taken forward. That is why the Motion before the House is conditional on the Commission amending or replacing its proposal in such a way as to reflect the conclusions of the European Council.

This is a convoluted story; it was not the way to handle an issue of such gravity and importance. We need to remind ourselves of the underlying reality of this crisis. First, the proposed scheme would not relocate any migrants who have entered Italy or Greece. Only those who are from countries where over 75% of emigrants are successful in claiming asylum status are eligible. At the moment, only three countries meet this condition: they are the conflict-ridden states of Iraq, Eritrea and Syria. Those who would be helped by the scheme are overwhelmingly refugees and not economic migrants.

Secondly, the scheme has repeatedly been conflated with the concurrent proposal to resettle 20,000 refugees in the EU directly from north Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and other priority areas. The UK has agreed, in accordance with long-standing international obligations, to take in just more than 2,000 refugees under the resettlement scheme—but this has no bearing on the relocation scheme, which applies only to migrants who are already in the EU.

Why is the UK refusing to help? The Government argue that the relocation scheme, which is helping those migrants who have already reached the EU, will act as a pull factor and encourage more people to risk their lives. This claim is wholly unsubstantiated, and the Minister, James Brokenshire, was unable to offer any evidence to support his claims when he appeared before the committee. These refugees are fleeing for their lives. The notion that the relocation scheme will encourage more to flee is therefore totally unconvincing.

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The Government also cite their wider objectives, such as stopping migration across the Mediterranean and reducing the flow of migrants in countries of origin. These are of course laudable medium and long-term objectives—my sub-committee has just launched an inquiry into the EU’s agenda on migration, which will address these issues in more detail—but they have no bearing on this proposal, which has a specific, limited goal to deal with the current humanitarian crisis.

If the EU fails to relocate refugees, they will be forced to remain in countries which have increasingly poor reception conditions and which, particularly in the case of Greece, are facing economic crises that seriously reduce their capacity to accept additional migration. This is a humanitarian crisis which requires genuinely collective EU action. Moreover, this scheme is about the fundamental principle of solidarity and burden-sharing between member states. As an EU member state, we have a duty to show solidarity and help deal with the crisis. The political and international implications of failing to opt in would also be grave. This humanitarian crisis is happening within the EU’s own borders, and the EU’s failure to deal with it adequately is undermining its international credibility. Effective action is needed and this cannot happen unless all member states, including the UK, take their share of the burden.

After the June Council, the Prime Minister made it clear that the Government do not wish to take part in the relocation scheme. However, the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum leaves open the possibility that the UK may help if a voluntary scheme is introduced. This now appears to have happened at this week’s Justice and Home Affairs Council. Moreover, the distribution of relocated migrants is well below the target of 40,000, so it would seem that there is still scope for the UK to participate in this scheme. The precise number of migrants that the UK would take would of course be up to the Government.

Before I finish, I have three questions for the Minister, of which I have given his office advance notice. First, further to the Council’s resolution on 20 July, will there be EU legislation to establish the relocation scheme? Secondly, what form will such legislation take and on what legal basis will it be adopted? Thirdly, what relationship will this legislation have to the Commission’s original proposals? These are technical questions but they are important.

Technicalities aside, the issue we are discussing today is fundamentally a question of the UK’s responsibility as a member of the EU. We believe that duties of solidarity with our allies, and compassion for those who have fled civil war, mean that the UK must opt in. Moreover, we believe that it is in the UK’s interest to take part in the proposed scheme. Now, above all, we should show we are fully engaged in supporting our partners. I urge the Government to reconsider their position and opt in. I beg to move.

4.05 pm

Lord Tugendhat (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on the remarkable report that she and her committee produced in a very short time. I also congratulate her on a formidable speech.

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The points she made and the moderation with which she expressed her views were quite moving and very convincing. I am not going to speak for very long because the noble Baroness has set out the case with such eloquence and covered all the issues at stake so fully that there is very little I can add. I only say this: I agree with her about European solidarity and the failure of the EU to respond satisfactorily to this crisis. However, above all we are dealing with a humanitarian crisis that touches all our consciences, as she said. It is as a humanitarian crisis and a matter of conscience that the Government should approach this.

We have heard a great deal recently in the media, but also from members of the Government, comparing what is happening in Syria and Iraq and ISIS with the Nazis of the 1930s. I am always rather dubious about historical analogies and, almost always, situations differ from one epoch to another. However, we can all agree that ISIS is evil—evil in its intent and evil in its actions. If we are to make comparisons with the 1930s, we ought perhaps also to think about what happened to the victims of persecution then: of course, most countries closed their doors to them. Most countries would not take the people who were suffering in Germany and Austria at that time. Indeed, one of the countries that particularly closed its doors was the United States.

However, the United Kingdom had a relatively good record in this respect, as my own family has reason to know. We recently mourned the death of Nicholas Winton, who organised the Kindertransport to this country. There is a striking contrast between the actions and attitudes then—not just of Sir Nicholas Winton but of those who received the children, the institutions in Britain that provided jobs to people who were fleeing and those whose hearts went out to those who were suffering—and the very cold-hearted behaviour that the Government are exhibiting at the moment. It is on that basis that I hope this matter will be considered, in addition to all the other powerful points made by the noble Baroness.

It is unworthy of the traditions of this country that we should not participate in this scheme. It is an EU scheme and we are members of the EU. We have duties to our fellow members and those should all be observed. Quite apart from anything at all to do with the EU, this is a humanitarian issue that should touch the conscience of the nation. If we are to be true to our traditions, we should be co-operating and trying to do something for those who are seeking asylum and fleeing from persecution, who it is quite impossible to send back to countries in a state of chaos, upheaval and violence. I hope that the Government will be able to put that at the centre of their consideration.

4.09 pm

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, I also welcome the debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, on her speech and on the report. I congratulate the sub-committee—of which I am, in fact, not a member—on the speed of its report. We learn from the United Nations that there are 60 million refugees and displaced persons in the world and, since the

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beginning of 2014, getting on for 400,000 people have arrived in the EU. I share the view expressed by previous speakers in wanting a more positive response to the whole European agenda on migration from the Government of a country that is still a leading EU member state and a permanent member of the Security Council and which has, while by no means a perfect record on handling migration, at least a lot of experience, and a better tale to tell than many others. I would like a greater sense of how the Government think that the UK can contribute to EU solidarity on this matter, as well as enhancing the responsibility, which is the other side of the coin, of all member states to implement the asylum acquis. We know that there was not a good record in countries such as Italy and Greece even before this crisis; across the whole EU, apparently only two in five return decisions are implemented, which does not help the situation, although some ideas include much greater use of detention, which is worrying.

Sadly, the UK’s moral authority on matters of the asylum acquis is not increased by the fact that we have not opted into two of the five measures—the procedures directive and the reception conditions directive—in the common asylum system. Of course, we are not in the Schengen information system for immigration purposes, so the return decisions and entry bans are of no help to us. But even if the Government are not persuaded by this report and this debate—and I hope that they might be—I hope that they can tell us, in the words of the Explanatory Memorandum to this proposal, how they think,

“an effective and sustainable response to the situation in the Mediterranean”,

can best be implemented, and the extent to which the UK can contribute to an effective response to migratory pressures on some member states, even if it does not opt into the relocation proposal.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, updated us, there was an agreement at the JHA Council on Monday to clarify the legal nature of the scheme—that it is voluntary—by consensus, because it must be admitted that that lack of clarity was not conducive to making decisions. I would like to hear what the Government think about the implications of the scheme for the future of the EU asylum system. Now that the legal nature of being voluntary has been ascertained, could the Minister elaborate on what other factors and criteria will influence the Government’s decision now that that is clear?

The Commission has presented the present proposal as temporary, but as the precursor to a permanent and mandatory scheme which, presumably, would drive a coach and horses through the Dublin arrangement of responsibility on state of first arrival. The June European Council referred to a “temporary and exceptional relocation” of 40,000 over two years but, once this has been done, how could Dublin be re-established, even if it were desirable to do so? Perhaps the Government could answer both those questions. I note that Austria has already stopped processing asylum requests, and Hungary has refused to take back Dublin transferees, so what is the future of the EU asylum system? How will the Government contribute positively to make the overall system work? One puzzle is why the temporary protection directive has never been used and invoked

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in these circumstances. It is designed for a mass influx, which can be counted cumulatively. One would have thought that it was tailor-made for this situation.

While we are on the asylum acquis, the Commission guidelines on fingerprinting have elicited considerable concern on human rights grounds, since they introduce notions of coercion and detention for failing to give fingerprints. What is the Government’s reaction to those guidelines? It has been much commented on, so are they aware that many arrivals are not being fingerprinted? Can the Government give us an idea of what really is the extent and scale of the problem of non-fingerprinting?

Even if the Government are hesitant on relocation, they need to do much more to help promote safe and legal routes into the EU, whether for refugees, displaced people or legal migrants. It should be much more positive and proactive on the resettlement side of the equation for permanent resettlement, humanitarian admission, enhanced family reunions, study visas and so on, by which I mean direct from the region, specifically for Syrian refugees, of whom 4 million are registered by UNHCR and hosted in neighbouring countries. We must applaud the generosity of countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, while being very aware of the strain that this is placing on their capacity, resources and local communities. Indeed, they are starting to close their borders, because the degree of pressure is leading to unregulated shanty camps, which are rife with disease and distress and act as a hotbed for radicalisation. UNHCR is running out of money because promised donations, particularly from the Gulf states, have not materialised. Are the Government pressing those states to come up with the money?

There was an excellent article recently on resettling Syrian refugees by Dr Neil Quilliam, acting head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House. I have not got time to quote a lot of it but he feels that our failure to resettle or provide humanitarian admission to more than a few hundred Syrian refugees is harming the UK’s reputation in the Middle East and squandering an opportunity to influence a new generation of Syrians who will likely lead the reconstruction of their war-torn homeland. He draws an analogy with Iraqi Kurds and Kosovars and he proposes that the UK should admit 10,000 Syrian refugees as opposed to this couple of hundred. This would have various beneficial results. It seems to me that if we were to set such an example we ought to be aiming for something upwards of 200,000 resettlement places across the whole of the EU. Then we could challenge other regions and countries in the world to take on a similar burden. The advantage of resettlement is that it cuts out the middleman or criminal smuggling gangs. I believe there would be public support for such a programme. It does not have the same resonances as the relocation scheme.

On the return of irregular migrants, the Commission plans to revise the legislation on migrant smuggling by 2016. Will the UK take part? It is regrettable that the UK is not a party to the return directive or the framework decision on strengthening criminal penalties against smuggling. Will the Government turn over a new leaf and decide to actually lead in this area for the EU? Perhaps the Minister can update

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us on other measures that have been taken to tackle criminal smuggling, even though that is not the focus of today.

Also, can the Government give us, either now or perhaps in September, more information about the third leg of the European agenda for migration which is co-operation with countries of origin and transit? There is much rather airy-fairy talk of a global package to support a dialogue with third countries. What does it really consist of? Are we ready to make serious offers to countries, including Morocco and Tunisia, with which the EU is trying to negotiate readmission agreements, on trade and possibilities for legal migration which would actually make it a real partnership? Even if the main focus today is the relocation proposal, perhaps the Minister can add some comments that will put some concrete flesh on the bones of those proposals, if I can mix my metaphors.

4.19 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme (CB): My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, for having secured this debate and for introducing it. I agree entirely with her speech.

The discussions about opt-ins, opt-outs and Title V of Part 3 of TFEU risk obscuring an extraordinarily serious and difficult issue: the consequences of the situation in Iraq and Syria and, further south, in Sudan and Eritrea. The war in Syria alone has led to the worst humanitarian disaster on the borders of Europe since the end of the Second World War, and that is only part of a huge global problem, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, has said: 60 million refugees worldwide, with more than 20 million displaced people on the borders of Europe.

Not only is this extraordinarily serious, it is also extraordinarily complex. There are people fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria. There are economic migrants from west Africa who had gone to work in Libya but are now fleeing conflict there—economic migrants have become asylum seekers. The apparent constancies here easily break down. Whatever the causes, though, the consequence of all this is that desperate people are prepared to take desperate remedies to escape a pretty desperate predicament. In some cases, as we know, women and children are encouraged into leaking boats by unscrupulous people smugglers and many of them, alas, have died.

There is an inevitable and understandable tendency to wish for an easy solution to problems as complex as this, but there are, alas, no easy solutions. I have to say that I entirely understand, and in many ways applaud, the European Commission’s attempt to find a solution by proposing a relocation scheme. I think that it was wrong to stick to a mandatory scheme when the European Council clearly did not want that. However, proposing to allocate to other EU member states some of the asylum seekers in Greece and Italy is a perfectly sensible, logical and humanitarian attempt to share the burden among EU states.

Of course, that can be only part of the solution. For the longer term, we need to work collectively with countries in the region to remove the causes of migration—not easy at the moment in Iraq, impossible

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in Syria and virtually impossible in Libya. But we need to work with Jordan and Lebanon and, where we can, with those in north Africa to encourage co-operation and promote development. I think that there is a big role here for DfID, and I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that it will indeed be working hard to co-operate with the states from which the migrants are coming.

We also need to work to try to neutralise people smugglers and drug traffickers. This will inevitably be for the medium to long term, and meanwhile we need to ensure that those who are on the leaky boats are rescued, not left to drown. I was encouraged that HMS “Bulwark” was sent to help to achieve that, and I would be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that HMS “Enterprise” will be equally assiduous in trying to save people on leaky boats trying to get from the north African coast to Malta or the European continent.

I am glad that at the Council meeting this week the UK agreed to take 2,000 people from east Africa. However, if we believe that the United Kingdom has an international role, or indeed an international responsibility, surely we must take part fully in the search for a solution to an immensely difficult problem, and that means taking part fully also in the European Union’s proposals for relocation. The response is evolving day by day, and we must be part of that. Opting out of a key part of the European Union’s attempt to find solutions to a problem as serious as this is, frankly, as the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, has said so eloquently, not worthy of our history or our traditions, nor indeed of our interests as a nation that still has global influence around the world. I therefore hope very much that the Government will consider these broader humanitarian issues as well as the narrower question of how many people to take in under these different schemes.

4.25 pm

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, like other speakers, I am grateful for this debate and particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and her colleagues for this excellent, moving and powerful report.

Of course, there are no easy answers to this dilemma, and I do not pretend that there are. I fully accept that any further help that we offer these poor disrupted people should be on a voluntary basis. Generosity and hospitality are important but cannot be mandated. On the other hand, as relatively wealthy members of the family of nations and of the European Union, we have a duty to help the persecuted and dispossessed, and to offer support to poorer European partners who find themselves under severe pressure. I stress that this is not easy.

Clearly, the problems in places such as Eritrea, Syria and Iraq must be dealt with at source, and it is right that we as a country should play a full part in that diplomatically, through appropriate aid—I note and endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said about the involvement of DfID—and, if necessary, in other ways. But if people are driven out of their country or

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are fleeing persecution, the political considerations and complications should not be an excuse for our inaction.

The words “refugee and “asylum seeker” have become almost terms of abuse in our generation, yet we have a noble tradition in this country of welcoming the persecuted and dispossessed, and that is part of what has made our country great. In my city of Peterborough, we still have a thriving community of Ugandan Asians and their descendants. These people were expelled by the dictator Idi Amin in 1972 in an appalling act of racial cleansing. Our city welcomed a large group, and three years ago held a celebration of 40 years of that community and the immense contribution that it has made to our common life over that time.

Yes, the political problems are great. There are no easy answers and all actions have consequences. Nevertheless, welcoming the persecuted and the dispossessed is a duty for civilised nations—I would argue that it is a Christian duty—and in the long term it is good for the host nation, as well as for those fleeing for their lives.

4.27 pm

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I am glad to follow the right reverend Prelate in a very brief but powerful and moving speech. I am glad that he referred to the Ugandan Asians. I was a very new, young Member of another place, alongside my now noble friend Lord Tugendhat, in 1970, and when I look back upon that time, I think that it was the best decision of the Heath Government, notwithstanding any others. We behaved as good neighbours and received people into our midst, and we have received manifold benefits as a result of that. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Popat introduced a debate in this House to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the coming of the Ugandan Asians.

Of course, there is no exact parallel. Ugandan Asians, for the most part, had British passports. We were taking in those who had a degree of entitlement, although there were many voices raised at the time to suggest that they did not. However, it is an interesting parallel to draw. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Tugendhat referred to the late, great Sir Nicholas Winton, who, with his Kindertransport, did so much—unheralded and unknown until recent years—to bring children here from one of the most evil and repressive regimes in history. Many of them settled and, indeed, we have at least one in our own midst, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who has talked movingly of that.

This is a humanitarian issue. We are talking about refugees, people who are fleeing evil regimes, situations of civil war and repression. It is not an unfair analogy to say that the evil of ISIL compares with the evil of Nazi Germany. I am grateful, as are others, to our noble friend Lady Prashar for the way in which she chairs our sub-committee and for the manner in which she introduced this debate.

We all understand the caution on the part of the Government when immigration was an issue that played large in the recent general election and when the policy of an open door excites sometimes very unfair, sometimes downright wrong responses from certain people.

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We are not talking of ordinary immigrants here. Of course, precautions have to be taken. It is necessary for fingerprints to be taken, because in the areas from which these poor people flee not only is there strife and civil war but there are those, some of them from our country, who are fomenting trouble and are guilty of terrible things. We have to be careful, but being careful does not mean that you have to slam the door or refuse to open it.

I very much hope that the Government will heed the voices heard in this debate. I hope that they will recognise that this great humanitarian crisis—the greatest, as has been said, since the end of the Second World War—behoves us to behave as good neighbours. None of us is saying that there should be a mandatory scheme. You cannot order people to be kind, as the right reverend Prelate made plain in his remarks, but a voluntary scheme is one of which we should be part, as long as the renegotiation, of which we should be part, produces a workable one. I believe that it can and should; I hope that it will.

The noble Lord, Lord Jay, has reminded us that we are a world power. We have a seat on the United Nations Security Council. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, reminded us, we are a leading member of the European Union, one of the largest nations. If we remain within it, as I devoutly hope that we will, within a decade or so we will probably be the most powerful economic nation within the European Union.

Of course we have national obligations, and it is by recognising national responsibilities in the past that our country has become a great country. In the 19th century, we opened our doors to people. In the 20th century, we opened our doors to people. In the 21st century, we must be prepared to take into our midst not unlimited numbers—that is not possible—but the sort of people for whom Nicholas Winton fought to gain admittance to the United Kingdom.

I sincerely hope that my noble friend who will be replying to this debate, who has an enviable reputation as a Minister of sensitivity, compassion and thought, will be able to give us an encouraging response, because this is a modest report which makes a modest request. It is fitting that the last debate before we break for the summer should be one where we look not inward but outward and seek to recognise the plight of those whose sufferings we cannot even begin properly to imagine and to say to them: “Yes, we will behave as good neighbours”.

4.34 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, the debate we are having today and the report from the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee shine a much-needed spotlight on a policy area where both the EU collectively and its individual member states are struggling to find an adequate response and, so far, falling well short of what is required. Although I am no longer any part of the sub-committee—I used to chair it, before the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, who introduced the debate this afternoon with such eloquence and precision—I strongly endorse the views put forward in that report. Just in case anyone feels that if we go away on holiday and simply forget about it, the problem will somehow go away or diminish, I commend to their

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attention the Ditchley lecture on 11 July by António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who warned that the flow of asylum seekers towards Europe is sure to get worse before it gets better. That warning really does need to be taken seriously.

The Government and indeed the EU’s response so far has contained some valid elements. It is indeed good that rescue operations in the Mediterranean have been stepped up and that the Royal Navy is participating actively in those operations, thus reducing the appalling death toll of the spring and early summer. It is right to contemplate taking military action against the traffickers, although the implementation of that approach bristles with difficulties. It is right, too, to intensify police and judicial co-operation both within and outside the EU to clamp down on this inhuman trade. It is the case that helping developing countries to grow their own economies must be part of any solution to the problem of excessive economic migration. But having said that, to go on to assert, as the Government have done, that to handle genuine asylum seekers more expeditiously and humanely would be to encourage a pull factor, is deeply unconvincing—and that is a British understatement because one could use stronger words than that. Do we seriously believe that Syrians, Eritreans, Iraqis and Afghan families fleeing for their lives from persecution are motivated by the same factors as economic migrants? I cannot believe that we believe that.

I agree that the EU Commission has not helped the handling of this sensitive matter by ignoring the views of the April European Council and putting on the table a proposal for mandatory quotas. However appealing the emotional argument for such an approach, the Commission must have known that it would not be accepted. The Commission’s task is to be practical and not utopian. On this occasion, it failed that test.

The Government’s response, which has been to shelter behind the Justice and Home Affairs opt-out, was predictable, and so long as the proposal for mandatory quotas was on the table, I would argue that it was a legitimate one. But that seems to be no longer the case, and the June European Council opted for a voluntary approach, which has now been confirmed by the 20 July Justice and Home Affairs Council earlier this week. I believe that the Government should—there and then in June, when the mandatory approach was discarded and the voluntary approach was endorsed—have marked that shift in policy by making a voluntary offer to increase the number of asylum seekers from conflict zones whom we are prepared to admit from the current pitifully low level. To have done so would have been to show sensitivity to the problems that Greece and Italy are facing as a result of being in the front line of the wave of migrants and would have been no more than we are obliged to do under our international obligations towards refugees. That chance was missed, unfortunately, but I agree with the proposal before us today and with those who have preceded me in this debate in urging the Government not to opt out again but to participate in the voluntary scheme which is now taking shape.

Surely we need to be shaping policy in this area, not washing our hands of it like Pontius Pilate. As long as member states, and we are not alone in this, allow their

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policies on immigration to be dictated by scare stories in the press and by populist political agitation, we will fall short of finding an adequate response to what is a major humanitarian challenge of our times.

4.40 pm

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con): My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. I have had the honour of serving under him on several EU sub-committees and it has always been an instructive experience. Our views do not always coincide. The noble Lord has an Olympian view, honed by years of distinguished service to this country in the Foreign Office, while my more utilitarian views have been honed by years of experience in the rather more vulgar world of industry and commerce, so I am afraid that our views today do not coincide.

I was not a member of this sub-committee, but I have served on it before and was a member when, in the 2007-08 Session, it produced its report on FRONTEX, the EU’s external borders agency, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Jopling. Then, as now, one could not fail to be appalled by the evidence of human misery: wretched men, women and children being plucked from the sea or staggering on to some Mediterranean beach. Then, as now, one could not fail to be appalled by the cynical behaviour of the people smugglers. I remember a particularly heartrending evidence session given by a senior officer from the immigration service of Malta. He described overloaded, unseaworthy boats being towed by an inflatable until the GPS showed that the boat was in the territorial waters of Malta. A cheap satellite phone would then be handed to one person on the unseaworthy boat with instructions to call a number, and when it was answered to say, “We are in Maltese territorial waters. Please rescue us”. The number, of course, was for the Maltese coastguard. By the time the coastguard turned up, the inflatable was, if not back in Africa, well its way there. So I would not want any Member of your Lordships’ House to doubt my sympathy for these unfortunate people.

Yet, while this Motion is entirely worthy and has been incredibly persuasively argued by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, I think it is misconceived. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said, this is a very complex problem and I believe that the Government are right not to opt into this measure or any part of it on any basis. I do so on two grounds. First, while I agree that the measure is entirely well intentioned, it addresses the symptoms, not the problem. As such, it risks exacerbating the problem rather than solving it. Secondly, while many noble Lords have referred to this country’s historical welcome to displaced persons and refugees, the situation now is that this country is experiencing, and will continue to experience for the next 20 years, a population explosion—unlike our continental European neighbours—with consequent strains on social cohesion. In that context, the relative population densities of different EU countries are a critical feature.

Let me deal with each of those in turn. I am afraid that I do not accept the assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that there is no pull factor from allowing

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immigrants, refugees and displaced persons to enter the EU. I support what the Government say in paragraph 24 of the report. The challenge is that even at first quite small, limited numbers can begin the creation of what is known as an immigration superhighway. Immigration superhighways can now be created faster than ever by the prevalence of social media, which allow instantaneous communication about possibilities and opportunities. The more desperate the people, the quicker the highway emerges.

That takes me to my concern about the statement in paragraph 29 that this event is “exceptional and temporary”. I am afraid I have difficulty in accepting that argument. I would very much like to see evidence to support the argument in paragraph 31 that somehow “international protection” will not encourage a steady drift west or north in search of a better life or merely to avoid persecution, poverty and threat to life or limb. However neat this may appear to the Commission in Brussels, displaced persons are not so easily segmented or clearly put into one box or another.

There is another political, rather more stark reason why this proposal is misguided. The presence of these unfortunate people puts pressure on the Governments of the countries involved to police their borders effectively. If there is a hope—a possibility—that arrivals can be passed on to the rest of the EU, I fear that the political and operational focus will inevitably diminish. The numbers, as other noble Lords have said, are staggering. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, referred to 10 million displaced persons in Syria, 3 million in Iraq and many more in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and other north African and Saharan countries. Any action, however trivial, that suggests that the EU might open its door even a fraction could create population movement on a scale hitherto undreamed of.

So, do I think that we have to leave those unfortunate people to their fate? Of course not. The Government have made a courageous and principled commitment to spending 0.7% of our GDP on overseas aid and have ring-fenced it. The economic power with our international partners—I entirely support the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, when she said that we ought to make sure that everybody does their bit—needs to be deployed to improve the living and economic conditions of these displaced people at source, as does our military power to offer protection to displaced people as well as to destroy the boats and generally inhibit the operations of people smugglers wherever they may operate.

I turn to the second reason why I believe that the Government need to keep control of our borders and should not take part in any relocation scheme. Noble Lords have made moving statements. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough, and others, talked about the contribution that refugees have made to our country in the past. This is a very small and very crowded country. Furthermore, it is a crowded country undergoing a population explosion. Last year our population rose by 500,000 people—1,400 people a day. A small town or large village is being put on the map of Britain every week. If we wish to house these people to the same standard that we enjoy ourselves—I assume we wish to do that, with 2.3 people per dwelling—we need to build 600 dwellings a day. That is one every two and a half minutes, 24 hours a day,

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seven days a week. That is without building the hospitals, the schools, the roads and other infrastructure that are required. That is not all. The mid projection from the Office for National Statistics suggests that this will continue for the next 20 years. By 2035 it is estimated that we will have a further 8 million people in this country, equivalent to three cities the size of Greater Manchester. To house them, we will have to build 3.4 million dwellings—building a house every three minutes for the next 20 years.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough referred to social strains. This will put huge social strains on our country. Some of those strains, I fear, are beginning to make themselves felt already. We should not add to those strains as this proposal suggests, not only because it would be unfair to our settled population, of whatever race, colour or creed, but no less significantly because, when social cohesion breaks down, it is the poor, the disadvantaged and the recently arrived who suffer the most. If the European Union wishes to proceed with these plans, it is surely essential that existing countries’ population densities need to be taken into account. This is not mentioned in paragraph 11 of the report.

I described England as a crowded country. We have just overtaken the Netherlands as the most densely populated country in Europe, with more than 400 people per square kilometre. The Netherlands has 393 people per square kilometre. However, Germany has 233—about 60% of our density—and France 111, about 25% of our density. If the EU wishes to proceed with this measure, these countries must surely be the destination for the 40,000 people.

To conclude, I recognise that these are stark realities and I, for one, do not always feel comfortable spelling them out, but the 40,000 are only the symptom of the problem. We need to tackle its roots.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I apologise for interrupting but I would have thought the noble Lord might recognise that at the Council meeting on Monday of this week, the French and Germans accepted numbers in the region of 10,000 each under this scheme, and these are countries where there are very active political forces urging them—like us—to accept no one at all.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I did not expect to get through this speech without the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, wishing to draw attention to the advantages of the European Union. The fact is that those countries are immeasurably less densely populated than the United Kingdom. France, at 111 people per square kilometre, has 25% of our population density, and we have to bear that in mind. Our settled population—and when I say “settled population”, I mean people of whatever race, colour or creed—has its own position and we are in danger of—

Baroness Prashar: I draw the noble Lord’s attention to Malta, which, as he knows, is under enormous pressure from migrants arriving by sea. Malta has agreed to take 360.

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I understand. I am speaking for the people of this country and what we should be doing to make sure that our settled population’s rights are looked after. I am trying to draw attention to the fact that, with a population growth rate of 1,400 people per day, this country’s population is growing very fast indeed, and that will bring strains with it. Those are strains to which we should not be adding, but we risk doing so if we go down the line being pursued this afternoon by the proposers of this Motion, well-meaning, beautifully argued and well-modulated though it may be. It is a question of the preferences that we need to speak up for in this debate. I believe that, as the sub-committee itself reported, this situation is “exceptional and temporary”. In my view, the Government would make a grave mistake if they opt into this proposal in any way.

4.53 pm

The Earl of Sandwich (CB): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has considerably widened the scope of this debate and I shall resist the temptation to answer him directly for that reason. I understand that he must come to the aid of his noble friend, but it is not enough to say that he is in a minority because he has made important points which we will reserve for another day.

This debate follows on neatly from the debate on the situation in the Mediterranean and the displacement of refugees and migrants from Asia and Africa introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on 9 July, which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, may have attended. I am afraid that we did not get satisfactory answers on that occasion, as we should have done given the current daily anxieties in the media and among the public, so I shall ask some of those questions again today. This is a matter of great concern in this House, not least because of the work that has been put in by our Select Committees.

I congratulate my noble friend Lady Prashar on her elegantly worded Motion and on taking on this urgent question on the very last day that we can have any hope of influencing Her Majesty’s Government. It is also a genuine benefit to have this particular Minister, whom I know from experience of the Modern Slavery Bill and most recently the Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Minister has to represent a department that can at times, and under any Government, resemble a brick wall—and I have had 20 years of experience of that—but he himself is a very practised listener.

The Government do need to listen on this issue because, as others have said, this is an exceptional time in terms of the numbers of migrants entering Europe. Member states therefore have to make urgent adjustments, and they are very modest adjustments being proposed today, to current EU policy—not just the Commission proposals or the recent Council conclusions, which seem to have confused everyone and have muddied the waters, to use the expression of my noble friend—but in the longer term the Dublin regulation itself, because the fact is that member states are already reinterpreting the regulation. Surely this strengthens the argument, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, pointed out, that we should be reconsidering that regulation formally.

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We are therefore discussing this issue in something of a vacuum because the Commission, having revised its conclusion, has not yet come up—or the Council has not yet come up—with new proposals we can consider. We know that the Commission made a serious misjudgment—and the Minister might agree on that point—in proposing a mandatory scheme in the first place. On the other hand, it should be helpful to our Government if we raise the issue today, either to enable them to prepare a response in advance or, better still, for us as the UK to make our own proposal first.

My own view is close to that of my noble friend and of the committee. The Commission’s intention is very clear: to help Greece and Italy to relocate 40,000 migrants to other member states. The Council has agreed now to adopt a voluntary scheme, if it is agreed by consensus by all participating member states. I was surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, mention our own “population explosion” and “superhighway”, which I think do not come into this area of discussion. I believe that the UK should in fairness take an active part in the resettlement scheme as proposed in the terms now set out by the Council.

The proposed scheme does little to help with the processing of asylum applications; under the Dublin rules, that falls to Greece and Italy as the countries of first asylum. They get very limited operational assistance from the EU or through FRONTEX, but that processing needs strengthening as well. As my noble friend says, these are not economic migrants from north Africa. I must repeat that. The vast majority in Greece and Italy who come under these measures are fleeing civil war in Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. I support the view that, when we see the Council’s conclusions, the UK should fully take part in negotiations on them. We are a member state, whatever our legal relations with Schengen or FRONTEX, and under a voluntary scheme especially we have a clear moral responsibility.

Can the Minister say how many Syrians are being processed already under the UNHCR’s gateway resettlement scheme? I know we are receiving up to 750 from different countries under this programme, but how do the Syrians fit into the more recent scheme by which hundreds of vulnerable Syrians are selected and given five years’ humanitarian protection status? I understand that up to March only 183 had been resettled under this scheme. When I asked the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, the number had risen by four, to 187, when he answered in the 9 July debate. Can the Minister confirm those figures, and does he have anything more recent?

I do not think we are slamming the door—an expression that is being used. I recognise that more than 4,000 Syrians have already been granted asylum in the UK during this crisis, but we still cannot match the generosity of other EU members, such as Germany and France, which have various problems, as has been said, and are jointly taking more than 20,000 refugees in the next two years.

I am reminded by the right reverend Prelate’s contribution that this contrasts not just with the case of the Ugandan Asians but with the warm reception that the earlier boat people, the Indo-Chinese, received—

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I think that most of us can remember that—especially through the churches and local communities. Again, these were people already under UNHCR protection and processed through that scheme.

If I may digress for a moment, some noble Lords may be familiar with the magazine Forced Migration Review, which is published by the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford. It is an excellent magazine recording the direct experience of aid workers and researchers who visit refugee camps in Turkey and the Levant. They know the problems of refugees intimately. Last September’s issue was devoted to Syrian refugees. It reminded us that during the civil war it is the women who shoulder the main burden in feeding the family and keeping homes together. It is they who ultimately make the decision to leave; they are already vulnerable at the point. But the old, the infirm, mothers of young children and many more suffering from mental health problems are the categories that we are talking about, who deserve urgent assistance and protection. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, put it, the Government must not shelter behind their JHA opt-outs. It is up to them to increase our share of this responsibility.

5.01 pm

Lord Ribeiro (Con): My Lords, like other Peers, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, for securing the debate. The UK has a unique role in Europe in that, like France, it has a significant colonial past with positive and negative connotations. The positive legacy is that the UK still has many friends in Africa, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, from where many migrants emanate. I shall focus on Africa as the continent I know best, because, as a migrant of some 63 years in this country, I probably know more about it than most. Of the three countries that have been referred to as being eligible for admission under the scheme, Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa, is the only African country.

However, many from west Africa are undoubtedly economic migrants. Many of them started to go to countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt to better themselves, improve their family and send money back home. They have come not only from francophone countries but from anglophone countries in west Africa.

The problems that have occurred in Libya with the change in government—in fact, no government in some respects—the warfare, the abuse and the persecution, have meant that those who went there as economic migrants now choose to leave as persecuted people, in the same way as many in Syria and Iraq. We must make the point that there are those who are genuinely fleeing oppression, and that needs to be taken into account in dealing with them.

Our focus, naturally, has been on people around the Mediterranean rim. We have heard in an evidence session even today, from Franck Düvell, a senior researcher from the University of Oxford, that 90% of those who embark on journeys to Europe succeed, with 1% dying on the way. So for a migrant, a 99% success rate is a risk worth taking. To them, the prize at the end is what matters.

If we reflect on the fact that in this House we often say that hard cases make bad law, we must also be careful that we do not let the tragic incidents which

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have occurred—and they are indeed tragic—divert us from the fact that we need to get to the solution via the causes of the problem. As the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said, we need to deal with the causes not just the symptoms. The Spanish Interior Minister, Senor Diaz, was quoted in the

Wall Street Journal

yesterday as saying:

“It’s like when you have a leaky roof: Instead of fixing it, we distribute water between the rooms”.

Surely, as the noble Lord, Lord Jay, identified, we would do better to work with the sub-Saharan African states to fix the leaky roof.

The UK is one of five EU member states in the Khartoum process and should use its influence to bring greater pressure to bear on the African Union, which also has responsibility in this matter. We talk about the pull factor but there is also a push factor and in order to get a push factor you have to have countries that do not have secure borders or arrangements to ensure that their people are not persecuted or made uncomfortable about staying in those countries. The African Union has responsibilities in relation to migration, both regular and irregular. Sudan enacted a law against human trafficking in March 2014, yet conflict in South Sudan is a major factor in migration, some of which passes through Sudan to Europe.

At the meeting of the African Union in Khartoum in October 2014, the African Union Commission Director for Social Affairs acknowledged that despite action plans in 2006 and 2009, human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants remains a “caustic challenge”, particularly in the Horn of Africa. He said:

“Many Member States in the Sub-region are yet to ratify the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and/or fully implement it with national legislation in their respective domain”.

The UN has been mentioned today and certainly the UNCHR has offered to help but I believe that this is a challenge for the UN itself to deal with. There are issues and problems with the UN. We know that in the Security Council there is disagreement between the various parties about this issue and therefore very little has happened. But dealing with many of the conflicts in the zones and areas that we have talked about is the way to address the problem.

We have talked about the Horn of Africa. There is also Niger, which is a major transit point for many migrants. The reason is the problems we have seen recently with Boko Haram in Nigeria and many people being displaced from that country to surrounding areas. My questions to the Minister are: what input have the UK Government had in the discussions with the EU members of the Khartoum process? What is our response to the action plan for 2014-17 set by the EU-Africa Summit in 2014, which focuses on the following priorities: trafficking in human beings; the diaspora, which is one of the pull factors; mobility and labour migration, including intra-African mobility, which I referred to earlier; international protection, which we feel is a right for all those who migrate; and irregular migration, which is the basis of our discussion today? We have heard much about the pull and push factors driving migration but I would like to know what we can do in the long term to contain the problem, which can be solved only through conflict resolution.

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5.08 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I add my thanks to the European Union Committee and the members of the Home Affairs Sub-Committee, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, for this report. I will direct my comments to the specific points made in the report and the conclusions set out in the last two paragraphs in respect of the Council decision that the committee retains under scrutiny.

The number of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe via the central Mediterranean Sea route has increased considerably, rising from 40,000 illegal border crossings in 2013 to more than 170,000 in 2014. On the eastern Mediterranean route through Turkey to the European Union via Greece, southern Bulgaria or Cyprus, there were just over 50,000 illegal border crossings last year. The EU border agency said in March this year that anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million people were waiting in Libya to cross the Mediterranean.

In response to this major unfolding and all too often tragic humanitarian disaster in the Mediterranean, the European Commission, as the report says, published a proposal just under two months ago for a mandatory emergency relocation scheme in respect of Syrian and Eritrean nationals who arrive in Italy and Greece seeking asylum. The scheme aims to relocate 40,000 people to other member states over the next two years. The EU Committee report notes:

“While the Commission has presented the current proposal as a temporary measure, it intends that it should be a precursor to a permanent and mandatory scheme”,

to be brought forward by the end of this year.

Under the proposal, responsibility for deciding the asylum claim would rest with the member state that accepts the relocated asylum seeker. Doing this would constitute a temporary and limited departure from the usual Dublin system for determining which state is responsible for processing an asylum claim, namely the member state through which the applicant entered the EU. Our opt-in arrangements mean that we decide on a case-by-case basis whether to participate in new EU legislative measures on asylum and immigration. In this instance, the three-month deadline for indicating that we wish to participate in its negotiation and adoption, if that be the case, falls on 27 August this year.

In an article in a national newspaper on 13 May, the Home Secretary said that the United Kingdom would not participate in mandatory relocation or resettlement schemes, since in the Government’s view the schemes would create “pull factors” for further migration, strengthen the incentives for people smugglers’ activities and reduce the incentives on individual member states to ensure effective asylum systems of their own. Indeed, these points were similar to those made by the coalition Government in October 2014 when they supported the ending of Italy’s search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.