12.These Orders laid by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), confer functions corresponding to the business rate supplements (BRS) functions that the Greater London Authority has in relation to Greater London on four mayoral combined authorities (CAs): Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CA, Liverpool City Region CA, West of England CA and the West Midlands CA–in relation to their respective areas. The Orders provide that the functions are exercisable only by the mayors of each CA. MHCLG says that conferring the power to levy a BRS on to these combined authorities, to be exercised by the mayor, will ensure that they have the appropriate powers to develop projects that promote economic growth and regeneration in their area. It also explains that, if an authority wishes to levy a supplement, it is required to consult and publish a prospectus setting out the benefits of the proposed project. This is then subject to a ballot of affected businesses: a majority of affected individual rate-payers must approve it, and the aggregate rateable value of those businesses in favour must exceed those against.
13.We obtained additional information from MHCLG about the legislative background to this proposal, about local attitudes towards it, and about the position of other mayoral CAs. We are publishing the information at Appendix 3.
14.The key change proposed in this draft Order is the introduction of cost controls for renewable energy that has been generated under the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme by biomass conversion plants (former coal power stations that have been converted to run wholly on biomass) and biomass co-firing plants (plants that use a mixture of biomass and coal), which are not protected by previous ‘grandfathering’ commitments of the Government. The aim is to avoid an increase in costs to consumers.
15.According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the RO scheme is one of the main mechanisms to encourage large-scale renewable electricity generation in the UK. Under the scheme, electricity suppliers are obliged to purchase from generators of renewable electricity a certain number of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and present these to the Gas and Electricity Market Authority (Ofgem). Where suppliers do not have sufficient ROCs to cover their obligation, they have to a pay into a buy-out fund to cover the shortfall. Under the RO scheme, costs to suppliers are passed on to consumers through their energy bills, and the total cost that can be levied on consumers is controlled through the Government’s Levy Control Framework (LCF) which sets an annual budget.
16.BEIS explains that without this intervention, increases in the generation of electricity by biomass conversion and co-firing plants will put pressure on the LCF and lead to higher costs for consumers. The draft Order therefore proposes annual caps on the number of ROCs that can be issued. BEIS says that without these changes, the additional spend under the RO would be between £135 million and £240 million per year from 2019–20, adding an extra £1 to £2 per year to average household bills. Bills of business users with small electricity consumption would increase by between £80 and £140 per year and those of energy intensive industrial users by between £29,400 and £53,000.
17.On 4 June of this year, the Government made a Written Statement, announcing publication of the response to a consultation on establishing the regulatory framework for Social Work England - the new, specialist regulator for social workers in England - and also the laying of Regulations about the operation of Social Work England. The Department for Education (DfE) has laid these draft Regulations, with an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) in which it clarifies how they support the establishment of the new regulator by setting out the detail of the new framework. In particular, the Regulations deal with the way in which the new regulator will perform its core functions of keeping a register of social workers in England, approving education and training for social workers and making arrangements to operate the fitness to practise system.
18.In the EM, DfE acknowledges that during the passage of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, members of this House raised concerns about the role of Government in social work regulation and the delegation of too much of the detail about the key regulatory responsibilities to secondary legislation. We would draw attention in this context to the comments on the Children and Social Work Bill which were made by both the Constitution Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. DfE says that, in response, the Act was amended, so that Social Work England was established as a body corporate on the face of the Act, and its responsibility for core regulatory functions was also set out in the Act, with operational detail about how regulation was to be delivered reserved for secondary legislation.
19.We commend the Department on providing an EM which helpfully summarises concerns raised during Parliamentary consideration of the parent Act, as well as key issues highlighted in responses to the consultation on the proposed secondary legislation.
20.This draft Code of Practice has been laid by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The aim is to provide updated and improved guidance to owners and keepers of laying hens and pullets on how to comply with the relevant farm animal welfare legislation, and how to practice good standards of stockmanship. According to Defra, the draft Code incorporates the latest scientific, veterinary and husbandry advice, and is to replace the current “Code of recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Laying Hens” from 2002, as part of a programme of revising ten animal welfare codes. The first such code to be updated was in relation to meat chickens and meat breeding chickens. It came into force in March 2018 and the Committee published information about it in its 17th report. In that report, we welcomed the fact that Defra had not pursued its original plan of replacing the statutory codes of practice on animal welfare with non-statutory, industry-led guidance, and that the Department had instead taken forward the update on a statutory basis and in consultation with interested parties. Defra says that it will update the remaining eight animal welfare codes in due course.
21.The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 revised the requirements for the retention and destruction of DNA and other biometric material taken in the course of a criminal investigation. This was in response to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights that the blanket retention of such material from individuals who had not been convicted of a criminal offence was in breach of their Article 8 rights. Transitional provisions allowed until 31 October 2016 for the destruction of material taken under counter-terrorism powers before that date. However, provision was made to extend the transitional provisions for Northern Ireland until 31 October 2018. This Order further extends those transitional provisions to 31 October 2020 on the ground that biometric data collected there before the commencement of the retention and destruction provisions could have significant investigative value to the work of bodies charged with investigating Troubles-related deaths in Northern Ireland.
22.This Department for Transport instrument makes it an offence for a manufacturer or its subsidiary to supply a vehicle to the UK market with a prohibited “defeat device” (a device or computer software designed to circumvent or defeat the intention of regulatory testing). It also aligns the safety and environmental regulations that cover the type approval of road vehicles built in low volume with existing rules applicable to mass production vehicles. In relation to heavy vehicles (trucks and buses) the Regulations implement requirements for the latest “Euro VI” heavy vehicle exhaust emissions, Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS), Lane Departure Warning systems (LDWS) and improved passenger side mirrors (for goods vehicles only). The instrument also amends legislation on the provision to the public of standardised car emissions and fuel economy figures by requiring measurement of fuel economy to be carried out using a new and improved European laboratory test cycle.
23.Currently, support for pensioners who have responsibility for children is provided through Child Tax Credit. However, Child Tax Credit is being abolished as part of the Government’s welfare reforms, and from 1 February 2019 support will be provided through Pension Credit. Although Pension Credit will broadly replicate the amounts paid under Child Tax Credit, because it is means tested, some claimants who would have been entitled to Child Tax Credit will not be entitled to Pension Credit. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that the maximum number of such cases will be around 1,500 in 2019–20, rising to around 2,400 in 2020–21, then falling to around 1,800 in 2021–22.
24.NHS chemists and primary services providers are reimbursed by the Government for the cost of the medicines and medicinal products that they dispense. Under the current arrangements, supporting information about the sales and purchases of medicines is provided on a voluntary basis. To increase transparency these Regulations require everyone involved in the manufacture, distribution and supply of health service products to provide specified information. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will use this information to make its reimbursement strategy more robust by basing reimbursement prices on information from the whole market, rather than a partial view. The Regulations will also allow DHSC to identify potential shortages in the supply of certain medicines and to investigate where the price of an unbranded generic medicine appears to exceed the cost of its manufacture. Medicines and medical supplies pricing is a devolved matter and DHSC will disclose the information obtained from industry to the Welsh and Scottish Ministers to inform their pricing policies. For now, these Regulations apply to Northern Ireland and will be reviewed once a Northern Ireland Executive is reformed.
25.This instrument extends the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme to include remote loans of e-books and e-audiobooks to ensure that authors and others who hold rights can receive payments in respect of these loans. Under the PLR scheme, authors receive an annual payment if their titles have been borrowed from public libraries in the UK. To date, only the lending of audiobooks and e-books which are downloaded on library premises has been covered by the PLR. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport explains that while remote lending accounted for only around 3% of all public library lending in 2016–17, this proportion is expected to increase as e-lending becomes more popular. The instrument also makes it easier for authors and those making a posthumous application to register with the PLR scheme for the first time, by removing the requirement to provide a certificate signed by an independent witness.
26.This Order transfers responsibility for the governance of fire and rescue services to the current Police and Crime Commissioner (the PCC) for Staffordshire. The proposals were publicly consulted on and although the responses were evenly split, the local authorities in the PCC’s area–Stoke on Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council–were opposed to the proposal. This triggered a requirement for an independent assessment of the proposal, which was carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. Having taken it into account, the Secretary of State at the Home Office has decided that the proposal appears to be in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness and that there will be no adverse effect on public safety, and has therefore made this Order to transfer governance of fire and rescue services in Staffordshire to the PCC. This is the first use of the review mechanism under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (as amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2017).
3 Grandfathering is a commitment that certain renewable electricity generating capacity will not receive any less support under the RO than it received historically.
4 , 4 June 2018 [Lords Written Statement].
5 Department of Education, , 8 February 2018 [accessed 19 June 2018].
6 , Session, 2016–17 (HL Paper 10), para. 5.
7 , Session 2016–17 (HL Paper 13), paras. 57 and 61.
8 , Session 2017–19 (HL Paper 71).
9 in S and Marper v the United Kingdom.
10 The process whereby manufacturers of a new model of road vehicle are required to test it against a number of EU or international safety and environmental standards and obtain approval from a government body prior to placing it on sale.