Fourth Report Contents

Instruments of interest

Draft Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020

14.This instrument has been laid by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) alongside an Explanatory Memorandum (EM). The instrument imposes duties on private landlords of residential premises in England in relation to electrical safety standards, including the duty to have an electrical installation inspection and test carried out by a qualified and competent person at least every five years. The Regulations require local housing authorities to enforce the duties. The EM states that the instrument makes provision for remedial action, urgent remedial action and a financial penalty of up to £30,000 to be imposed in respect of a breach, using the powers set out in section 123 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. The Ministry told us that the Regulations will apply to all new specified tenancies from 1 July 2020 and all existing specified tenancies from 1 April 2021.3 The EM includes information about the duties and the enforcement process and details of the consultation. It notes that the Ministry will be issuing non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities on the new private rented sector electrical safety duties which will be published when the Regulations come into force on 1 June 2020. We asked the Ministry why it was not publishing the guidance earlier, giving landlords more time to understand and prepare for the new duties. MHCLG told us that a familiarisation period that includes a communications campaign has started and will continue until the legislation is introduced fully. The Ministry added that it is planning to share draft versions of the guidance “with stakeholders from the landlord and property agent industry and the electrical safety industry to ensure the guidance is targeted and useful”. We asked MHCLG for details of the communications campaign and are publishing this information, along with the Ministry’s responses to other questions, at Appendix 1. The Committee notes that, in relation to new tenancies, landlords will have a month to familiarise themselves with the guidance and their new electrical safety duties. Given the size and diversity of the private rented sector, this is a short time.

Draft Gambling Act 2005 (Variation of Monetary Limits) Order 2020

15.This Order proposes to raise the prize and sales limits for large society lotteries.4 Specifically, it proposes to increase the individual per draw sales limit from £4 million to £5 million, the individual per draw prize limit from £400,000 to £500,000, and the annual sales limit from £10 million to £50 million. According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the current limits have been in place since 2005 (annual sales limit) and 2009 (per draw sales and prize limits). DCMS says that, to circumvent the £10 million sales limit, some larger society lotteries currently use umbrella schemes which involve separate operating licences under a single brand. According to DCMS, such schemes are expensive to manage and reduce the funding available for good causes; the proposed changes would enable society lotteries to increase the size and frequency of their draws, making umbrella schemes less attractive. DCMS consulted on the proposals in summer 2018 and says that the 1,629 responses received showed polarised views: the society lotteries sector strongly supported the proposals, while the National Lottery sector was strongly opposed. According to DCMS, society lotteries currently account for 9.2% of all sales and 17.2% of contributions to charitable causes, compared with 90.8% and 82.8% for the National Lottery. DCMS explains that the proposals aim to strike a balance to ensure that growth in the society lottery sector will not affect the National Lottery and the overall funding available for good causes. The Department says that a clear distinction between the two sectors will be maintained, with society lotteries continuing to offer smaller prizes and less frequent draws, in contrast to the National Lottery’s life-changing prizes and high-frequency draws. DCMS says that while it is sympathetic to calls for further increases, it will only consider them if evidence suggests that there would not be a negative impact on the National Lottery and overall returns to good causes. The Department also plans to consult on additional licensing conditions in response to concerns that the current oversight of larger society lotteries in relation to their marketing costs and rate of returns may not be sufficient.

Overseas Production Orders and Requests for Interception (Designation of Agreement) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/38)

16.These Regulations designate an Agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime (“the Agreement”) under the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019, to enable UK overseas production orders to obtain data governed by the laws of the United States of America and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, to allow a UK telecommunications operator to lawfully intercept the communications of an individual at the request of the USA, as long as the requisite conditions of the Agreement are met.

17.The Home Office states that such orders will increase the speed and efficiency of obtaining electronic data for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of serious crime and terrorism, including in eliminating people from an investigation. However, this Committee was concerned about how such data might be used in the USA, and in our Report5 on the Agreement we questioned whether it could be used to obtain data on a UK citizen in relation to a crime that could result in the death penalty or to transfer to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (GTMO). The Minister reiterated the UK’s opposition to the death penalty and stated that the risk of the Agreement being used to target data in relation to GMTO was “very limited” but “theoretically possible”. The Committee concluded that, given the gravity of the matter, this small but real possibility is alarming. The House had no opportunity to debate the Agreement but may wish to take the opportunity to note these concerns in relation to the current instrument.

Countryside Stewardship (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/41)

18.These Regulations enable the Countryside Stewardship scheme in England to open for new applications in February 2020. According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the scheme provides grants for farmers, land managers and others for improving the environment by promoting wildlife habitats, managing woodland and flood risk, reducing water pollution and encouraging educational activities. Defra explains that the scheme currently operates as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. After the end of the current RDPE programme in 2020 and the UK’s exit from the EU, a transition period will begin in England in 2021 towards a new domestic Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. According to Defra, there will be a gap between the end of the final application period for the current Countryside Stewardship scheme in 2020 and the national roll out of the ELM scheme which is expected in 2024. This instrument therefore enables a new application round for Countryside Stewardship grants to open in 2020, with the first agreements starting in 2021. Defra explains that the new application round will take place as a standalone scheme in England, funded by HM Treasury and governed only by domestic legislation. Existing projects under the current Countryside Stewardship scheme will continue in parallel and draw on EU funds until these run out, after which they will be covered by the Government’s guarantee to provide the current annual budget to farmers in every year of this Parliament. Defra says that in response to feedback received during consultation, this instrument makes several simplifications to the scheme to encourage more applications, increase environmental benefits and reduce administration. The improvements include extending the scope for online applications, focussing inspections on outcomes rather than the supporting paperwork, and, where appropriate, issuing advice or a warning when beneficiaries have not met fully the terms of their agreement, rather than immediately recovering funding or issuing a penalty. Defra told the Committee that the budget for the new scheme is expected to be between £150 million and £300 million in 2021.

Education (Student Fees, Awards and Support etc.) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/48)

19.Broadly these Regulations increase loans for students’ living costs by forecast inflation at 2.9%. This means that for a new full-time undergraduate student living away from home and studying outside London the maximum loan for living costs will be £9,203 in 2020–21 (£12,010 in London); for students starting postgraduate master’s degrees after 1 August 2020 the maximum will rise to £11,222; and for students starting postgraduate doctoral degrees the maximum loan will be £26,445 capped at £11,222 for any one academic year. The instrument clarifies a number of eligibility provisions but section 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum also lists the large number of corrections required to ensure that the Regulations operate as intended. That list unfortunately also includes SI 2020/46 laid on the same date, which this instrument revokes and replaces due to a defective commencement provision. This once again illustrates the need for all government Departments, and the Department for Education in this instance, to be much more vigilant in the checks that they make on legislation before laying it.

National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/59)

20.These Regulations amend existing legislation so that the normal charges for overseas visitors using NHS services in England are waived for anyone seeking diagnosis or treatment for Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The amending instrument adds Wuhan novel coronavirus to the list of diseases (such as tuberculosis and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)) in respect of which no charge is to be made or recovered. This instrument comes into force immediately so that the health service can take steps in preparation should the virus spread to the UK. The Devolved Administrations have been engaged in relation to the changes in this instrument but are responsible for taking forward any amendments to charging regulations in their own areas.

3 Appendix 1, answer to Q6.

4 Society lotteries operate to raise money for good causes and pre-date the National Lottery. They are regulated by the Gambling Commission and include schemes such as the People’s Postcode Lottery and The Health Lottery.

5 See the 4th item in our 3rd Report, Session 2019 (HL Paper 11) on the Agreement Between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime (CP 178).

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