Twenty Fourth Report Contents

Instruments of interest

Draft Combined Authorities (Borrowing) Regulations 2018

1.The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has laid these draft Regulations with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). Under powers in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, the Government have established six combined authorities for the areas of two or more local authorities in England: the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA); the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA); the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA); the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA); the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA); and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). Each of these combined authorities has an elected mayor.1

2.In the EM, MHCLG says that the Regulations implement a commitment2 to extend the borrowing powers of mayoral combined authorities in England who have agreed debt caps with HM Treasury. While the mayoral combined authorities already have borrowing powers for transport, MHCLG explains that extending the borrowing powers will fulfil the Chancellor’s aim that the mayoral combined authorities should be able to invest in economically productive infrastructure.

Draft Enterprise Act 2002 (Share of Supply Test) (Amendment) Order 2018

3.The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has laid this draft Order with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) and Impact Assessment. BEIS says that, in amending earlier legislation,3 the Order extends the powers of the Secretary of State to intervene in mergers which might give rise to national security implications and into which he would not otherwise be able to intervene. Specifically, the instrument amends the “share of supply” test to allow the scrutiny of more mergers in three areas: military and dual-use technologies; and two parts of the advanced technology sector: computing hardware; and quantum technologies.4 For these areas, the Order amends the share of supply test so that it is met where a merger or takeover involves a target with 25% or more share of supply in the UK, as well as where the deal leads to an increase in the share of supply to, or above, this threshold.

4.In the EM, BEIS says that, if the draft Order is approved, it intends to lay a further instrument to amend the turnover test to allow the scrutiny of more mergers in the same three areas of the economy. The second instrument will lower the threshold which the target business’s UK turnover must exceed from £70 million to £1 million. In the longer term, the Government intends to bring forward primary legislation to make more substantive changes to how they scrutinise the national security implications of foreign investments.

5.We obtained further information from BEIS, which we are publishing at Appendix 1.

Draft Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018

6.In our 22nd Report of this Session,5 we published information about an earlier instrument6 which provided that, from 1 October 2018, mandatory licensing is to apply to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are below three storeys (if occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households) as well as to those of three or more storeys. We were not persuaded that such a significant extension of licensing could be readily achieved in the relatively short period until the Order took effect. We wrote to the Minister accordingly, and published the correspondence in our 23rd Report.7

7.In the Explanatory Memorandum to the latest Order, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says that it is already mandatory for a local housing authority (LHA) to include certain conditions in HMO licences, relating to the provision of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and to gas safety and the safety of electrical appliances and furniture. The Order proposes two new conditions which LHAs must include when granting new (or renewal) licences from October of this year. The first specifies minimum sizes of rooms which may be occupied as sleeping accommodation and also requires the LHA to specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy a specified room for the purpose of sleeping accommodation in the licensed HMO. The second new condition requires licence holders to comply with any local authority scheme for refuse storage and disposal at the HMO.

Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/321)

8.This instrument updates UK law so that it is consistent with the revised EU Regulation 996/2010 on the investigation and prevention of civil aviation air accidents and incidents. Although most of the EU Regulation’s requirements have direct effect, the instrument sets out the offences that constitute a breach of the Regulation. As well as including provisions to enable the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents (“the Chief Inspector”) to conduct safety investigations fairly and effectively, the instrument allows the Chief Inspector to investigate where an accident or serious incident has occurred in a state that is not a party to the Convention on International Civil Aviation and where that state does not intend to conduct its own investigation. The instrument also introduces a new permissive power for the Chief Inspector, under the EU Regulation, to conduct safety investigations into accidents and serious incidents involving military, customs, police or similar aircraft services where he expects to draw safety lessons for civil aviation from the investigation.

Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/330)

9.The main purpose of this instrument is to increase certain immigration and nationality fees, most of which will increase by 4% with effect from 6 April 2018, in line with the Home Office’s budget plans for 2018–19. The key categories affected by this increase will be workers, visitors and full-time students as well as people seeking settlement or residence in the UK and those seeking registration or naturalisation as British Citizens. Fees for the optional ‘Priority Visa’ service (by which applications for entry clearance to enter the UK to work, study or visit are processed more quickly) will increase by 15%. Sponsors’ licence fees (paid by employers or education providers wishing to recruit overseas skilled workers or offer full-time education to overseas students) will not be increased for the fourth year in succession. The Home Office estimates that the changes will raise an additional income of £60 million in 2018–19. The Explanatory Memorandum explains that the instrument conforms with its established policy of using any surplus generated by fees to contribute to the wider operation of the immigration system. The instrument also amends a small number of fee waivers and exceptions to make clearer to which application routes they apply. In particular the instrument introduces a fee waiver for people directly affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy who are now applying for leave to remain in the UK.

Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 (SI 2018/343)

10.The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has laid this Order with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). Among a number of changes being made to so-called permitted development,8 the Order increases the size limits that apply to such development on agricultural land. It also amends the existing right to change the use of agricultural buildings to residential use, so as to allow up to a total of five homes on a single site, and to increase the floor space limits of agricultural buildings permitted to change to residential use for larger homes.

11.In the EM, MHCLG says that it consulted from 7 February to 2 May 2017 on measures to support housing in rural areas and modern farming.9 As regards the proposal to extend permitted development rights for larger agricultural development, under half (46%) of the 175 respondents agreed. MHCLG says that some respondents wanted higher thresholds, while others were concerned about the impact of permitted development on protected areas. As regards the proposal on converting agricultural buildings to residential use, MHCLG explains that, while 59% of the 185 respondents voiced support, some suggested that to ensure that homes met local need, there should be a rural worker occupancy restriction, price restriction, or a limit on the size of the homes. In the event, the Order allows the change of use of up to five homes on one site, but each may be no larger than 100 square metres “to help ensure affordability for rural families”. We question whether this in itself will ensure that the homes are occupied by rural workers.

Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Bottled Drinking Water (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/352)

12.This instrument implements a number of EU Regulations which have the objective of protecting human health and ensuring good quality bottled water. In essence, the instrument introduces a risk-based approach to monitoring for radioactive substances in bottled spring water and bottled drinking water by local authorities; brings the frequency of monitoring and method of analysis in relation to such water in line with the approach supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO); removes a national requirement (which was allowed but not required by the EU Regulations) on the hardness of bottled drinking water which has been softened or desalinated; and introduces a lighter touch enforcement regime, moving from a purely criminal based approach to one which starts with improvement notices. Under this new regime appeals against such improvement notices will go to the First-tier Tribunal, and failure to comply with an improvement notice will be a criminal offence. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explains that this shift to using civil sanctions is part of a wider approach to avoiding the proliferation of unnecessary criminal offences and being more proportionate in enforcing food quality.

13.Noting that the 25 Year Environment Plan,10 published by Defra in January does not contain explicit references to the potential pollution of drinking water by plastic particles, we asked Defra about the Regulations in the context of the Government’s recent ban on the manufacture of cosmetics and care products containing plastic microbeads. We pointed to the widely reported findings of research in the United States that plastic particles had been detected in bottled water. A recent Parliamentary Question in the House of Commons11 also asked about the steps Defra was taking to prevent the presence of plastic particles in bottled water. In its response, Defra highlighted the UK’s existing standards and quality criteria for bottled water and pointed to the responsibility of local authorities for enforcing the regulations and carrying out routine monitoring checks and sampling. We question whether this is an adequate response to growing concern about the possible pollution of bottled water by plastic particles.

1 The Committee has brought a number of statutory instruments relating to the establishment and operation of these mayoral combined authorities to the special attention of the House. In the 2016–17 Session, for example, these included the draft Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2016 (17th Report, HL Paper 75); the draft West of England Combined Authority Order 2017 (23rd Report, HL Paper 106); and the draft Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Order 2017 (24th Report, HL Paper 110).

2 The commitment was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement in November 2016.

3 Namely, section 23 of the Enterprise Act 2002.

4 Relevant guidance published by BEIS says: “While a conventional computer uses binary ‘bits’ which take the value 0 or 1, the fundamental unit of information in a quantum computer is the qubit which can be in the state 0, 1 or a combination of both simultaneously. A new generation of quantum technologies are now driving and enabling a new generation of devices and systems, from very powerful medical imaging devices to entirely new methods of computing to solve currently intractable problems – all made possible by the engineering of quantum effects into next-generation technologies.” See:

5 22nd Report, Session 2017–19 (HL Paper 98).

6 The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018
(SI 2018/221).

7 23rd Report, Session 2017–19 (HL Paper 105).

8 Permitted development rights allow specified forms of development to be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission.

10 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 25 Year Environment Plan, 11 January 2018:

11 Commons Written Answer (PQ 132954), 15 March 2018.

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