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Grand Committee

Thursday, 6 November 2014.

Deregulation Bill

Committee (5th Day)

2 pm

Relevant documents: 4th Report from the Constitution Committee, 14th Report (Session 2013–14) from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and 5th and 9th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee

Clause 45: Management of child trust funds: looked after children

Amendment 62C

Moved by Lord Tunnicliffe

62C: Clause 45, page 37, line 21, at end insert—

“(5) Under the provisions of the Child Trust Funds Act 2004, the Secretary of State must issue guidance on the support to be provided to account holders when they reach the age of 18 by local authorities and persons authorised to manage a child trust fund for looked after children under section 3(10) of that Act.”

Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab): My Lords, in moving Amendment 62C, I shall speak also to Amendments 62D and 62E. There are four clauses—Clauses 45, 46, 47 and 48—about child trust funds and they are so exciting that, at Second Reading, the Minister devoted two lines in Hansard to them, to call our attention to the fact that they were there. I hope the Committee will forgive me if, so that my amendments and remarks make sense, I outline the clauses and what they do. I hope the Minister will correct me if I make any errors.

The four clauses concern child trust funds. The first, Clause 45, is about looked-after children and changes the sole manager from being the Official Solicitor to others. Clause 46 is about child trust funds and the role of 16 and 17 year-olds. Clause 47 is about transfers and child trust funds morphing, for want of a better word, into junior ISAs. Clause 48 is the wonderful clause that creates the capacity for enormous regulation, right in the heart of a deregulation Bill—more of that later.

I start with Clause 45, which relates solely to looked-after children. We know that looked-after children are some of the most disadvantaged—probably the most disadvantaged—young people in our society. In some ways, they are a group of people of whom we, as a society, should be ashamed because of the paucity of their outcomes. We know from recent publicity that they are the subject of sexual predation and that they generally, in education, work and so on, have very poor outcomes. When child trust funds were invented in 2003 and introduced in 2004, the Government committed to ensuring that looked-after children would participate in them. In the period within which those children born became eligible for child trust funds—from 2004 to 2011—some 9,000 looked-after children got child trust funds.

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To remind the Committee, child trust funds were funds to which the Government made an initial payment. That fund became the property of the child and was managed so that they did not have access to it until they were 18. In general, a parent looked after the management until the child reached the age of 16. However, in 2011 the present coalition Government decided that child trust funds could no longer be afforded but, in a little-known act of generosity, created junior ISAs so that looked-after children would have an equivalent benefit. It is rare for me to find an opportunity to praise the Government but, in this case, I am reluctantly forced to do so.

I do not know whether it was the creation of junior ISAs that led to the creation of the Share Foundation but it is the organisation that manages junior ISAs. It is a third sector organisation and, while it is difficult to judge from just looking it up on the internet, from everything I can find out about it, it seems a thoroughly excellent organisation. It does the management role, but it is also a charity that tries to get contributions to child trust funds for disadvantaged children. As far as I can see, it is to be admired.

The regulations under which child trust funds were set up stated essentially that where there was not a parent or guardian—where the child was a looked-after child—the manager had to be the Official Solicitor. The language of this clause makes it sound as though other people could become the manager. In practice, as far as I can tell from the facts and from the debate in the Commons, effectively the only other manager would be the Share Foundation, because it is a third sector organisation that has shown skill in those areas.

My Amendment 62C is a probing amendment. Essentially, it looks not at the commendable improvement in flexibility, which we support, but at the fundamental dilemma of the whole concept of the child trust fund: what does the child do with the money at 18? The Minister in the other place suggested that one of the possibilities might be to throw a big party. He also implied that that might be a regrettable outcome. We all want every child to act responsibly when they have the benefit of the child trust fund, and take control of it, at the age of 18. Our probing amendment seeks the agreement of the Government that a proper objective of government is ensuring that children have the education and skills to act responsibly.

The amendment seeks to understand what guidance the Government intend to give to local authorities and account providers to advise them on how to deal with this task of helping children to act responsibly. In responding to this, I wonder whether the Minister—I pause to check that I have his attention—might focus on the particular question of looked-after children. What general guidance will the Government give to try to ensure that looked-after children have financial training as they approach 18? As we all know, one of the problems with looked-after children is the precipice they face at 18, as they fall from one area of responsibility to another. It is a period when they particularly need financial education. The Minister might want to comment on that, as it was also the topic of a short debate in the other place on the general context of how all children

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are educated financially in the later years of their schooling, to prepare them for the difficult world of money.

Turning to Clause 46, we have no amendments. The clause merely gives some flexibility. The present regulations require 16 and 17 year-olds to take responsibility for the management of their child trust fund. This is a sensible piece of deregulation, permitting—if the child so wishes—the parent or guardian to continue responsibility. It is, dare I say, a sensible piece of deregulation.

I turn next to Clause 47, with which goes our Amendment 62D. The clause concerns the transfer of child trust funds into junior ISAs. However, it could never be that simple, could it? Anyone who cares to read the appropriate definition and looks for the words “junior ISA” will not find them; they will find the words “protected child account”. My understanding is that the rest of the world refers to these things as junior ISAs. If I have that wrong, I hope the Minister will tell me.

Assuming I have that wrong, the regulation addresses the issue whereby if you were born between particular dates—I think they are 2004 and 2011, roughly—you get a child trust fund and you cannot have a junior ISA. If you were born outside that time, you do not get a child trust fund but you can choose to have a junior ISA. In many ways, a junior ISA is much like any other ISA. Its essential feature is that it is a tax-advantaged savings product that can roll into the next year and not count against the limit. In fact, it is an ISA for which the manager is a parent or guardian. The two options this clause allows are for the child trust fund to be converted into a junior ISA or, at the age of 18, for the child trust fund to continue and remain in its tax-advantaged situation. That is how I read it and I hope I have it right. I assume that is because the present legislation is a bit woolly about what happens at 18 because 18 will not happen until 2020, and we have only just got around to thinking about what to do about it, but that is good. That is not a criticism; it is good to tidy things up.

The issues of flexibility, choice and competition are prayed in aid of this, and that is probably fair enough. The desire is that this choice and competition should improve the market for these products. Amendment 62D probes that to see how much the Government have thought this through and what their expectations are. The essential question behind the amendment is about the extent to which the Government intend to promote competition between providers. Are they going to go out actively to do that? Are they going to promote competition between child trust funds and junior ISAs or between junior ISAs? We all know that you can create a system of rules whereby financial instruments can move from one description or firm to another, but we also know that the ease with which that can be done varies radically between different financial instruments. I am interested in the extent to which the Government will be looking to make any such competition easy so that there is a genuinely competitive market. I hope that in answering that question, the Minister will be able to give some indication of the discussions he has had with providers about ways to improve competition.

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Finally, Amendment 62E relates to Clause 48, which is an absolute delight to somebody like me. I, unlike the party opposite, do not think that every regulation is a bad thing. I believe that good regulation is the essence of a civilised society. Good regulation is a good thing. It is great that the coalition Government recognise this by creating a clause that allows them to make just about any regulation conceivable about child trust funds. Indeed, I really enjoy the language. If I go to page 38, new Section 7C(1) states:

“The Treasury may make regulations under this section if the Treasury think it appropriate”—

I love the word “appropriate” as it means “I have not got a decent argument”—

“to do so for the purpose of safeguarding the financial interests of children, or any group of children, who hold child trust funds”.

New subsection (3) states:

“The regulations may authorise the Treasury to require any account provider or any account provider that is prescribed, or of a description prescribed, in the regulations to take one or more of the following steps in relation to every child trust fund held with it”.

That seems to me to be a description of everything. The most draconian of all the steps thereafter is to,

“to transfer an amount in cash representing the value of all the investments under the fund (whether consisting of cash or stocks and shares) to a protected child account that can be used for investments in cash and is provided by a person specified by—

wait for it—“the Treasury”. The Treasury will be able to make any rules to move anything about to anybody.

2.15 pm

The unlimited extent of these powers takes one’s breath away when one gets to new subsection (7), which states:

“The Treasury is not liable in respect of … a decision made by it as to the person to be specified in a requirement of a kind mentioned in subsection (3)(d)”.

As I understand it—once again, the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—the parliamentary procedure to which the new Section is subject is that of negative resolution. Our amendment does not resist this new Section, because, at the end of the day, we do not really know when we set up a competitive market what the outcomes might be, but we want to see consultation and to be given a feel, as far as possible today, as to the circumstances in which Her Majesty’s Government would intervene.

Of course, the track record of this industry in the most general terms is hardly good. We have had many mis-selling scandals, the closest example perhaps being that of pensions, so I can see that there will be some circumstances when intervention is needed, but it would be good to know which circumstances the Government had in mind in creating this capability for regulation. What do they think is the correct level of interference in the market? When and whom will they consult before they make any regulations? Why will it be Her Majesty’s Treasury and not the FCA that does it? Do they anticipate making any special preparations for 2020, when these funds start to mature and, as some have speculated, possibly produce particular disturbances in the market?

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Our amendments are designed to probe. I hope that the Minister can answer some of my questions, but I realise that this is not a general but rather a specialist subject and I entirely accept that he may have to write. We support the initiatives. I ask the Minister to write very carefully, because my objective is not to make this speech again on Report. Therefore, I would like answers that fully satisfy my concerns. Our interests are in financial education, the effectiveness of the market and where intervention might be necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that speech and I am glad that he has so much enjoyed reading the details of Clause 48. I confirm that his understanding of these clauses is by and large correct.

The Government are most concerned, of course, about looked-after children. As I understand it, the change in the 2011 Act was introduced partly as a result of pressure from within the House of Lords, so we were doing our job properly at that time—I do not know who was involved in it; certainly, I was not myself. I am also told that a number of charitable bodies and philanthropists have in some instances added to these new junior ISAs for looked-after children, which seems to us to be a good public benefit and a step forward. That is very much part of where we are. The move to junior ISAs allows for a more flexible system, and it is expected that better-to-do parents and, speaking personally, better-to-do grandparents should contribute to junior ISAs when they can afford to do so. One is therefore most concerned about disadvantaged children.

The remainder of the clause concerns the transitional impact as one moves from child trust funds to junior ISAs; I wrote a note to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, yesterday. Part of the transition is what happens to existing trust fund organisations, which may include credit unions, as much of the money is taken out. At a certain level, there is a point at which the scheme might become unviable. The Government are very concerned about those transition issues.

Financial education is a particular issue for looked-after children, but it is a broader issue for all children. This is why financial education now forms a part of the compulsory national curriculum in England in citizenship classes, which should teach 11 to 16 year-olds the functions and uses of money. Budgeting, managing risk and financial mathematics are also included in the maths curriculum for this age group. The noble Lord might say—I would probably agree with him—that we all know, and have often debated in this House, the inadequacies of citizenship education so far. There is clearly a long way to go. That is something on which I suspect that, again, the House of Lords in its revising role should keep exerting pressure on schools to make sure that citizenship education continues to improve. Of course, the child trust fund and the junior ISA provide an excellent way of increasing a child’s financial capacity and to learn about the role of savings, mortgages, trusts and the like.

The second amendment was about junior ISAs and protected child accounts. My understanding is that the reason for using “protected child accounts” rather

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than “junior ISAs” is that, as we have often discovered, the exact names of financial instruments may change over the years, but they will continue to be protected child accounts even if they are later renamed from junior ISAs to something else. That is the simple reason for that. At the moment, we are of course talking about junior ISAs. The question about the transition from one to the other is well taken. We are of course concerned to provide the maximum amount of competition. If the noble Lord is not satisfied with anything I have had to say on this point, I am happy to write to him further on that. One wants a range of providers. We want, however, to make sure that the providers are viable and have sufficient financial reserves.

The noble Lord asked about the Financial Conduct Authority. I can answer with reference to both of these amendments: the FCA has a crucial role in ensuring that account holders are treated fairly, but its remit does not extend to making detailed changes to the child trust fund account rules. Such changes will be required if the safeguards envisaged in Clause 48 are applied. Changes to the CTF rules are most appropriately brought before Parliament by Her Majesty’s Treasury. I am sorry that the noble Lord is so suspicious of Her Majesty’s Treasury—I picked up on that—which has been responsible for the development of child trust funds and the detailed account rules since the account was created.

I think that the noble Lord was most concerned about Clause 48, which is again about making sure that, as we go through the transition, which he rightly points out will be from 2020 to 2029, we guard against any untoward developments. That is why Clause 48 is there: it is very much precautionary. It is intended to ensure that if things that we have not yet anticipated come along, the Government are able to respond. We consider it prudent to seek these powers, given the background of uncertainty about the impact of transferability on the child trust fund market. We do not know—and I cannot speculate on at the moment—what action the Government may need to take in this area or the timescale for such an intervention. However, if it became necessary to use these powers, the Government would have to act promptly and appropriately. Therefore, we felt that we should include this measure, with the proviso that it would be subject to the usual public law safeguards. The overriding interest would be to safeguard the interests of the trust fund holder.

The Government’s usual approach is to consult on changes to the child trust fund rules where possible. However, while the Government will always look to consult and engage interested groups wherever possible, they must also be free to intervene at short notice in response to market conditions. I hope that provides the reassurance the noble Lord seeks.

Lord Tunnicliffe: Will the Minister be kind enough to comment on the parliamentary involvement?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I had better write to the noble Lord on that. However, I understand exactly what he is asking and can assure him that I will feed back to him precisely what role Parliament will have in overseeing any such necessary interventions. Having

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said that, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment, and perhaps he and I might have a further discussion off the Floor of the Committee about the exact areas on which he would like further reassurance.

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I will read it in Hansard with great care and compare our two contributions. I will certainly get back to him if I feel that there are any inadequacies. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62C withdrawn.

Clause 45 agreed.

Clauses 46 and 47 agreed.

Amendment 62D not moved.

Clause 48: Child trust funds: safeguards for children’s interests

Amendment 62E not moved.

Clause 48 agreed.

Clause 49 agreed.

Schedule 13: Abolition of office of the Chief Executive of Skills Funding

Amendment 63

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

63: Schedule 13, page 155, line 26, leave out “ “Chief Executive” substitute “Secretary of State”” and insert “the words from “The” to “facilities” substitute “The Secretary of State must secure the provision of such facilities as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I wish to move this largely technical amendment briefly. It does not alter practice very considerably.

The Government have tabled seven amendments to Schedule 13. Schedule 13 gives effect to Clause 49 of the Bill, which deals with the abolition of the statutory office of chief executive of skills funding, as established by Part 4 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. The chief executive of skills funding is the head of the Skills Funding Agency, which is an executive agency of BIS.

As a result of the abolition of this office, the powers and functions that are currently exercised by the chief executive of skills funding in respect of education and training for adults aged 19 or over and all apprenticeships will in future be exercised by the Secretary of State. I hope noble Lords are aware that we are now approaching 2 million apprenticeships, with which we are extremely satisfied.

Schedule 13 therefore removes the provisions of the 2009 Act that create the office of chief executive, and transfers or amends the current duties of the chief executive so that these duties will in future apply, as

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appropriate, to the Secretary of State. The majority of responsibilities are transferred, with any necessary modifications, to the Secretary of State, including the funding powers set out in the 2009 Act. These amendments deal in detail with the transfer of the duties relating to the provision of facilities for education and training, and remove redundant provisions.

2.30 pm

Amendments 63 to 67 deal with Sections 86 and 87 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, which relate to the provision of facilities for adult education and training. The effect of these amendments is to ensure that these duties are appropriate to the Secretary of State and to make consequential changes. In practical terms, the duties to secure the provision of facilities for education and training will continue to apply. However, in transferring the duties formally to the Secretary of State, these amendments recognise the wider remit and discretion of the Secretary of State and seek to reflect this more appropriately in the wording of the statute. By contrast, the current wording is appropriate to the chief executive, whose role as a creature of statute needed to be more closely specified.

Amendment 68 leaves out paragraphs 35 and 36 of Schedule 13, which are now unnecessary following the passage of the Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Act 2014—with which I am sure all noble Lords are entirely familiar.

Amendment 69 inserts new paragraph 67 into the consequential amendments. These all relate to the Education Act 2011 and simply remove provisions that will become redundant with the passage of Schedule 13 and the amendments outlined above. I hope that provides sufficient information for this, as I say, largely technical set of amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, we do not oppose those amendments, which, as the Minister rightly said, are technical and relate to the decision to transfer the duties.

However, I can resist anything except temptation, as someone once said. I cannot resist responding to the point made about having created approaching 2 million apprenticeships. I welcome the Government’s commitment to apprenticeships but I keep making the plea for that figure to be disaggregated. The Minister knows as well as I do that anywhere between 50% and 75% of those apprenticeships are over-25s and really ought to be described as re-skilled adults or adult apprenticeships. It is not that we reject the need to ensure that re-skilling takes place but a number of people have raised doubts about whether they really should qualify as apprenticeships.

Real progress has been made on apprenticeships but I wish we would refrain from quoting that figure as though it were the answer to all the problems. We still have a long way to go in increasing apprenticeships, and I shall quote the usual statistic: only one in five employers and a third of FTSE 100 companies have apprentices. Other than those comments, we are content to support the amendment.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Perhaps I may respond. A number of people over the age of 25 have indeed been through the apprenticeship scheme that I know best, in Bradford. I met a splendid woman who had been unemployed for 10 years before she came on to the scheme and is now training apprentices. That is worth while. My deep frustration, given that the scheme deals with the building and maintenance trades, is that we are not putting enough people through these schemes, and we know that part of the problem we face in the economy is that we are desperately short of skilled people in the construction industry. We need to expand such apprenticeship schemes still further.

Amendment 63 agreed.

Amendments 64 to 69

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire

64: Schedule 13, page 155, line 27, leave out “subsection (3)” and insert “subsections (3), (4) and (8)”

65: Schedule 13, page 155, line 28, leave out sub-paragraph (4)

66: Schedule 13, page 155, line 34, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—

“(2) In subsection (1), for the words from “The” to “facilities” substitute “The Secretary of State must secure the provision of such facilities as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.

(2A) In subsection (3)(b), for “Chief Executive” substitute “Secretary of State”.”

67: Schedule 13, page 155, line 36, leave out sub-paragraph (3) and insert—

“(3) Omit subsections (4) and (5).”

68: Schedule 13, page 158, line 34, leave out paragraphs 35 and 36

69: Schedule 13, page 161, line 19, at end insert—

“Education Act 2011 (c.21)

67 In the Education Act 2011, omit the following—

(a) section 30(8);

(b) section 70;

(c) section 72;

(d) in Schedule 18, paragraphs 4 and 6.”

Amendments 64 to 69 agreed.

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed.

Clause 50 agreed.

Schedule 14: Further and higher education: reduction of burdens

Amendment 69A

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

69A: Schedule 14, page 161, line 30, leave out paragraph 2

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Andrews) (Lab): Before I call the noble Lord, Lord Young, it is agreed that there has been a mistake in the Marshalled List. The amendment should read, “Page 163, line 35, to leave out paragraph 8”.

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Lord Young of Norwood Green: I welcome that clarification and apologise to the Committee for any confusion caused.

My Lords, Amendment 69A seeks to amend Schedule 14 to ensure that teachers at further education establishments have specified qualifications. It seems that there is a dichotomy in government policies: on the one hand, they stress the importance of vocational careers and apprenticeships—we heard the Minister pointing out the difficulties in some areas, such as construction—and the need to enhance public perception of young people, parents and teachers. Yet the schedule seeks to remove the requirement for teachers at further education institutions to have a specified qualification.

The Opposition are not alone in their concern. The City & Guilds institute, in written evidence to a consultation on the proposed revocation of further education teachers’ qualifications, said:

“City & Guilds wishes to see further exploration of the impact of removing the statutory requirements for Further Education (FE) sector teachers to have specific teaching qualifications at the same time as other changes resulting from the establishment of the Education and Teaching Foundation. The Sector faces uncertainties about the expectations for staff qualifications … The Coalition Government’s Skills for Sustainable Growth made clear that a strong FE system should play a key role in social mobility. Qualitative evidence suggests that the 2007 Regulations had a big impact in relation to the FE sector. There has been a year-on-year increase in the proportion of staff with a teaching qualification at Level 5 or above and an increase in the overall proportion of teaching staff in FE colleges holding a recognised teaching qualification (at whatever level) since the introduction of the Regulations (an increase from 74% of staff in 2005-06 to 77% in 2009-10). The majority of teaching staff in FE colleges are either qualified or on the way to becoming qualified according to the most recent data (from late 2010, but including earlier returns for 25% of providers). The Deregulation Bill now puts responsibility on the FE sector to consolidate and improve this momentum, so the sector will need to define and establish clear direction on how it will sustain and enhance its professionalism … City & Guilds is keen to ensure that the quality of FE teaching is maintained. ‘The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. If we are committed to high quality vocational education, we must have teachers with the experience and skills to deliver it.’ It is vital for FE providers to strike the right balance in relation to teaching skills and industry/subject expertise within their workforce”.

Those closing points about striking the right balance between having specific qualifications and “industry/subject expertise” lie at the heart of this. I applaud the Government’s commitment to vocational training, but we question whether the schedule’s act of removing the need for teaching requirements is a step too far.

I go further and refer to the proposals of Labour’s independent Skills Taskforce, led by Professor Chris Husbands, director of the Institute of Education, and comprised of leading business and education experts. The work of the task force informs Labour’s shadow business and educations teams. It feeds into Labour’s work and business policy commission, and its education and children policy commission.

Under the proposals put forward by the independent Skills Taskforce, colleges will apply to become institutes of technical education, specialising in technical subjects suited to their local labour markets and focusing on offering high-quality technical education to young people. Gaining a licence should be contingent on

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three core criteria: demonstrable specialist vocational training and expertise; strong employer and labour market links; and high-quality English and maths provision. I would add IT to that. Having a licence would allow these institutes to access funding streams to deliver the technical baccalaureate and off-the-job apprenticeship training. They will consult on the process for licensing colleges.

One option recommended by the Skills Taskforce is to give the UK Commission for Employment and Skills responsibility for determining the full criteria and method for awarding the licences. The report goes on to recommend that, under Labour, college lecturers would be required to obtain a teaching qualification to ensure that standards are high. This is in contrast to the policy of the previous Minister, Michael Gove, of allowing unqualified lecturers, and it is consistent with Labour’s position of insisting on qualified teachers in schools.

All further education lecturers will have to become qualified to minimum standards, determined by the Education and Training Foundation. FE lecturers will need to have at least level 2 English and maths, which is surely not an unreasonable requirement. As part of a new agenda for the professional development of FE lecturers, they will also be required to spend time in industry to top up their skills and expertise. Again, I think that strikes the right balance—requiring a qualification plus the need to know what is going on in their particular industry.

Despite calls from industry, the Government have refused to back these steps. We believe that these bold new policies will build on Labour’s agenda for those young people who choose not to go to university. It may not be an either/or decision; they may well go on to qualify for a degree later as a result of their technical education. These announcements follow a commitment made by Labour to dramatically increase the number of level 3 youth apprentices over the next five years. We will ask all firms that want a major government contract to provide high-quality apprenticeships for the next generation, in contrast to this Government’s attitude of allowing public contracts to have no requirement for apprenticeships.

In closing, I ask the Minister whether there will be any guidance or criteria for FE colleges to consider when appointing teachers in the FE sector and encouraging their career and personal development. Surely all of us in this Committee know that we face a real challenge in meetings shortages of those skills that are vital to the development of industry and the growth of the economy. Quality further education which inspires students, parents, teachers and industry surely lies at the heart of the solution. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, I hesitate to contradict anything said by the noble Lord, Lord Young, because I know that his heart is absolutely in the same place as mine so far as vocational education is concerned. I also hesitate very much to go against anything said by the City & Guilds of London Institute, having been its vice-president for many years and then the chair of its quality and standards committee.

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However, on this occasion I think that the amendment has got it wrong, and the way the Bill is currently drafted is right.

Let me explain why I think that. I started my own career teaching in further education, so I have worked alongside many people who taught courses in mechanical vehicle repairs and so on who were not qualified teachers and had no teaching qualification. However, they had a passionate commitment to the education and training of the young people for whom they were responsible. Very recently, I visited a further education college and went to see the construction course. I talked to a young man who I think was about 16 or 17, who told me quite openly that he had been truanting from school for many years and was not at all interested in it, but then he saw this course and decided that he would have a go. He absolutely loved it, and he was learning and upping his skills in maths and English and so on.

I then talked to the tutor on the course, who did not have a teaching qualification, but who told me that he himself had been very much like the young man who was now his student. He had played truant from school; he had “messed about”, as he put it. Finally, he had got himself an apprenticeship in the building trade, had worked his way up and become a foreman and had decided that he would go to night school and do some A-levels and so on. He had then sought and obtained a job as a teacher. He was not a qualified teacher, but he was a highly self-educated and aspirational young man, and deeply aspirational for the young students he was teaching.

We would deny to principals of further education colleges the freedom to offer jobs to people like that, who have all the right experience in terms of their knowledge of the industry and a deep commitment to bringing other young people along the path they have themselves followed. The 2002 Act says that it would prohibit the provision of education by a person who does not have that specified qualification. To insist that they have a teaching qualification, as well as all the other qualifications of experience and vocational qualifications, would make for a very sad day for further education. I beg the noble Lord to think again. I pass to him.

2.45 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I ought to clarify that, as I thought I had made clear in my contribution, this is obviously a probing amendment in a way. We sought to oppose the removal of that particular paragraph, which specifies, as the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, rightly says, a particular teaching qualification. If the noble Baroness reflects on my contribution, however, she will note that we talked about a qualification—something like level 2 in English and maths.

I concur with the noble Baroness’s point. I, too, have been to FE colleges. The one that stuck in my mind was teaching painting and decorating. They said that it used to be a hopeless course until they got the current teacher in, who had run his own successful business in painting and decorating for 20 years. What he did not know about sticking a piece of paper on a

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wall—I say that ironically—was not worth knowing. He was an inspirational teacher, with much the same effect as that referred to by the noble Baroness.

This is in the nature of a probing amendment. My final point was to ask whether there would be any guidance and criteria. I hesitated to interrupt the noble Baroness, but I hope that that has been helpful.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab): My Lords, some noble Lords know that I spent 33 years at the University of London Institute of Education, so teacher training is in my blood. I support my noble friend on this amendment. I do not think there is any intention that we should not recognise some flexibility in the system for those who do not have a traditional academic background. I am sure that that is not what my noble friend meant.

Years ago, I was secretary to a committee of all 36 principals of teacher training colleges in the south-east of England; this was so long ago that some of them wore hats to the committee. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, also knows about a particular set of principals who were a formidable group of, mainly, women. Garnett College in the Roehampton area—the noble Baroness is nodding—trained mature entrants. It was a one-year course, mainly for technical education. To this day, I do not know why that college was closed; that was disgrace. It gave a chance to people who did not have a traditional background. They may have come from what were in those days called the colonies. There was a great tranche of administrators and officials coming from a lot of former African colonies looking for work in their 40s and 50s. There were also ex-service personnel and others who found work as teachers and managed to get an equivalence recognition of their background and experience before they entered the course.

Even for the main Senate House, there used to be a mature entrance system for 600 people a year, who would just have to pass a basic, opening gateway course, as I think they are called now—they were not called gateway courses in those days. It admitted 600 people a year for a shortened teacher training course. Again, it was people who had experience but no traditional academic background. So it cannot be beyond the wit of man or Governments to recreate that kind of system to allow for non-traditional entrants into the system. I firmly believe that we should not go backwards on requiring teacher training of some kind. In the health service, I often chair consultant appointment panels. One of the requirements for the successful applicant is that they should have gone on some teacher training and/or some leadership skills training. We insist on such standards for our consultants so that they can teach the next generation. It would be the height of irony if we should give a hint that we do not expect certain standards from our teachers.

I hope that the Government will rethink on this, if only to get some new thinking about how we train teachers in the non-traditional subjects and the more technical subjects, and how this will fit in with the university technical colleges developed by the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking. This is an extremely important pathway into those colleges and we should

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give some active thought to it. If we do not have the teachers trained to make those pupils fit for those technical colleges, we will be failing them at a very early age. With those words—I am delighted to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is now here— I will sit down.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The thought had not crossed the minds of any of us on this side of the Room that we might possibly be waiting for the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton; we, too, are very glad to see her here.

I do not think we are very far apart on this matter. I think we are all strongly in favour of good-quality teaching. We all recognise that in many of these practical areas people with practical experience also have a lot to offer, but that, as part of their development and encouraging them to become good teachers, it is quite useful these days to give them some teacher training—in spite of the fact that many of them may not want any.

May I declare a slightly embarrassed interest? I taught for 15 years in three successive universities without a single half-hour of training on how to be a teacher—which was the way one behaved in those days. What is more, I gained a prize at one stage for the quality of my teaching. I was rather relieved when, having spent 12 years in a think tank, I came back to universities and found that, although the University of Oxford did not think about training me to teach, the London School of Economics did. Since IT had become an important element in teaching, there were things that we really needed to know about how one handled a different student generation. No qualification was required, but there were some very good short courses on how to use teaching aids.

Thinking about my own university experience, I recall that the most popular course in my department at the London School of Economics was taught not by somebody who had come via the traditional route through universities or research and so on but by a former ambassador. He taught a course in economic diplomacy. The weight of his practical experience, as well his ability to organise an argument, made a huge difference for students, most of whom would not themselves become university teachers but many of whom were indeed hoping to become diplomats or businessmen and thus picked up that practical experience.

In introducing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, citing the City & Guilds institute, said that the majority of FE teachers are either qualified or on their way to being qualified. That is fine; we do not disagree too much—that is where we are and we merely wish to push things a little more in that direction. The noble Lord also said that what we need is both experience and skills.

We recognise that people in these practical disciplines will come from a range of different backgrounds. They will not all have to have extensive professional qualifications but it may be desirable for them to pick up the sort of skills I have been talking about now that we have all these different ways of using teaching aids. The purpose of this amendment is very much to allow

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colleges to make their own decisions and not to impose too many strong controls from the top. We intend to free colleges from central government control and place responsibility on them to address their various needs.

The Education and Training Foundation has a core responsibility for ensuring the development of a well qualified, effective and up-to-date professional workforce. It is responsible for the standards of FE leaders and teachers and has now taken on responsibility for the membership of the Institute for Learning. The foundation will be looking at what more it can do to help increase the professionalism of teachers in this field. It has recently issued guidance and new professional standards for these teachers.

I hope that suggests that we are not far apart on this. It is really a question of how far we should impose detailed regulations from the top. We are encouraging colleges to work with the Education and Training Foundation to make sure that people who often come from a practical background, as the noble Lord said, are given the chance to acquire the professional skills that they need alongside the inspirational qualities which they may have gained from their practical experience. This is about deregulation, not deprofessionalisation. We have removed the requirement to have a qualification, which as the noble Lord points out, does not apply to a number of people teaching in FE colleges at the moment. However, the expectation is that the large majority of teachers will be qualified. We do not see regulation from the top as the best way to achieve this. Teachers need to play a part in developing their own professionalism, with the Education and Training Foundation providing common standards which will underpin that. On that basis, I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw this probing amendment.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: The Minister’s contribution was worth while. I will read Hansard and look at what the Institute of Education is saying because that is important. I think the only difference between us here concerns what we would regard as minimum standards in maths and English. On the basis of what we have heard, we will reconsider the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 69A withdrawn.

Schedule 14 agreed.

Clause 51 agreed.

3 pm

Amendment 69B

Moved by Baroness Thornton

69B: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—

“Schools: establishment as Industrial and Provident Societies

(1) The School Organisation (Requirements as to Foundations) (England) Regulations 2007 are amended as follows.

(2) At the end of Regulation 3(b) insert “or;

(c) A Co-operative Society as defined in the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.”

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Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I thank noble Lords for giving me time to get here from the Chamber, where we had an excellent three-hour debate on violence against women. I am now very pleased to join the deliberations in Committee.

Amendment 69B concerns co-operative schools. We believe that there is scope within the Deregulation Bill’s intention to,

“make provision for the reduction of burdens resulting from legislation for businesses or other organisations or for individuals”,

to correct two specific burdens on the development of co-operative schools and co-operative school trusts. Amendment 69B would insert a new clause to ensure that co-operative schools are able to establish an industrial provident society, should it be desirable, to bring them into line with other types of co-operative organisations.

The background to this is that the first Co-operative Trust school was established just over five years ago. Few would have anticipated the extent of their growth. There are now 700 co-operative trust schools, and that number is expected to increase to 1,000 by the end of 2015. More than a 250,000 pupils in England now attend co-operative schools. The values of these schools are drawn from the global Statement on the Co-operative Identity, which is recognised by the United Nations and forms the basis of co-operative law throughout the world. The co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, equality, equity and solidarity, together with the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others have been seen by the governing bodies to resonate powerfully within their schools, including with staff and pupils.

In fact, moving to a co-operative model provides a framework in which everybody with a stake in the school’s success—parents, teachers, support staff, local community organisations and pupils—have the opportunity to be involved in running it. There is a growing recognition that working co-operatively brings clarity, allows school leaders to concentrate more on the effective leadership of teaching and learning, and raises standards. The value of this kind of collaboration and partnership working between schools was recently highlighted by the Education Select Committee, which highlighted in its report the benefits that collaboration between schools brings, particularly where it is on the basis of mutual benefit.

Examples of these trusts can be seen in Cornwall, where more than 100 schools have become co-operatives and are part of 13 trusts. Most of these are geographically based clusters, enabling small village primary schools to be part of a learning community with a secondary school that most of their young people will move on to. In Leeds, a significant proportion of the city’s schools are already in co-operative trusts, and others are in consultation. The remarkable growth in co-operative schools has happened despite, not as a result of, the current Government’s policy. This demonstrates that the models developed under the pathfinder scheme programme following the 2006 Act under the previous Labour Administration are enormously attractive to schools.

The case for the changes proposed in the amendment was first made by my honourable friend Meg Munn MP within a 10-minute rule Bill, the Co-operative

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Schools Bill, in 2013. The proposals then formed part of an amendment tabled in Committee on this Bill in the Commons when it was debated on 27 February 2014. After the debate, my honourable friends on the Labour Front Bench withdrew their amendment on the basis that the Government had indicated that they were willing to work with the Co-operative Party to adopt the changes into the Bill as government amendments. My honourable friend Meg Munn, with the Co-operative Party and co-operative schools experts, then sought to work with the department over the next few months. While the then Secretary of State Michael Gove MP was personally supportive of the proposals, he indicated that the department lacked the expertise and resources to adopt the changes. I understand that in meetings, the noble Lord, Lord Nash, has, however, expressed very limited support for co-operative schools. Subsequent to the Government’s reshuffle, we were told that the department and new Ministers would not seek to adopt our proposed changes.

I raised this issue in a meeting with the Minister before we started discussing the Bill, and again at Second Reading. The Government need to explain their opposition to these proposals because they are in line with government policies, first, on co-operatives and mutuals; secondly, on schools and their freedom to operate; and, thirdly, on deregulation and creating fair circumstances in which organisations and individuals —in this case schools—can operate. It is a complete mystery why the Government refuse either to accept these amendments or to bring forward amendments of their own. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was slightly shocked to discover, when I asked for a list of how many co-operative schools there were in West Yorkshire, that there are nine in Leeds, eight in Wakefield but only one in Bradford.

Baroness Thornton: More are coming.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I look forward to talking to the noble Baroness about what else Bradford claims, but I am sorry to hear that we are a little behind in this respect. As the noble Baroness said, few would have anticipated the rise of co-operative schools. Indeed, there has been considerable development of them.

The Government are not persuaded that this amendment is needed. We understand the argument that has been made for co-operative schools forming a part of developments under the current school models, which include maintained co-operative schools and co-operative academies. They should do so without weakening school accountability or adding complexity to an already complex system. Some co-operative schools are very impressive but others are rather less impressive. They do not stand out in any particular way.

In line with the Government’s earlier undertaking, given in the other House, to investigate the proposals further, my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education met interested parties earlier this year, as the noble Baroness said, to discuss their concerns but was not entirely persuaded of the

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merits of their case. The Government are determined to continue to remove the barriers and obstacles that prevent schools delivering the best education possible for their pupils.

The department recognises the general aim behind this amendment. We welcome further discussions and assurances on how these changes can be achieved without changing primary legislation or adding to the complexity of the system. Officials have been engaged with representatives from the Co-operative Party for some time now, and we are yet to see any compelling evidence of clear educational benefits that these changes would introduce.

Baroness Thornton: This amendment is about allowing co-operative schools to have the business form that makes them co-operatives. Given that the Government allow other schools to have the business form that allows them to operate in different ways, such as companies or charities, with religious freedoms and all that, why is this discrimination in place against the co-operative form of doing business?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the fact that there are now some 700 co-operative schools suggest that they are not suffering from systemic disadvantages in this respect. I was interested to hear from the noble Baroness that the expansion is continuing. If there are strong arguments to make that the current structure is discriminatory, I look forward to hearing them and perhaps we can continue this discussion, but at the moment I hope the noble Baroness has been sufficiently persuaded by my response to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thornton: Of course I will withdraw the amendment, and I thank the Minister for the offer to continue these discussions because that is exactly what we need to do. I will bring my co-operative school experts with me because I think the Minister will be persuaded by what they have to say about this. This is an issue that needs to be solved one way or the other. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 69B withdrawn.

Amendment 69C

Moved by Baroness Thornton

69C: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—

“Nursery schools: inclusion in schools trusts

In section 18 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (alterations that may be made under section 19), omit subsection (4)(f).”

Baroness Thornton: This amendment concerns nursery schools. The case for the change is that nursery schools would be able to become full members of existing trusts, enabling an all-through vision of education and potentially strengthening most nursery schools—which, by definition, are small—by enabling them to access mutual support from the schools they feed as well as avoiding duplication of effort. It allows for the formal clustering of nursery schools within a local authority, helping them to become more sustainable by co-operatively

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and mutually working together and avoiding duplication of effort. Both these factors will significantly help nursery schools to become market-ready in an increasingly commissioner/provider-driven early years environment.

Around half a dozen nursery schools are already operating as partners in co-operative school trusts in Bristol, Cheshire East, Devon, Norfolk, Staffordshire and West Yorkshire. They would prefer to change category, make the trust their legal foundation and play a full role in developing their local school co-operative trust. Indeed, the Co-operative College believes that it already knows of at least 60 nursery schools that would look to make use of this legislative change were it to go ahead. They include individual nursery schools looking to link formally with their local mainstream schools, as well as those that wish to cluster with other nursery schools in their local authority.

There is also a growing desire among some local authorities to see local authority-wide nursery school co-operative trusts, akin to the local authority-wide special school trusts that initially emerged in Devon and are now in Norfolk. Other local authorities have also indicated an interest in such a change, including Bradford, Bristol, Devon, Leeds, Plymouth, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wiltshire, plus a number of London and south-east local authorities.

During the discussions that I referred to in my remarks on my previous amendment, there were also discussions with the department about these issues. My colleagues were told that the department would like to work with co-operative schools to produce data on performance and would look to utilise a power to innovative to unlock the nursery school ask. If successful, the power to innovate would have the ability to suspend a relevant piece of legislation for a three-year test to see whether nursery schools wished to join co-operative trusts. Since this offer was made, the department has now gone silent and has not responded to repeated inquiries. Can the Minister help us to restart those discussions? This would not require primary legislation if they took place. In the mean time, I beg to move.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lady Thornton. I declare an interest: I am president of a co-op trust school, St Clere’s School, which is a cluster of schools. It has one secondary school, formerly known as St Clere’s, and two primary schools: one junior and one infants. The ethos of that school is very much community-based. It was set up to extend its facilities and to work with the local community to get the best support from the assets held by those schools. St Clere’s has also been successful at ensuring that those pupils who came from feeder schools and potential feeder schools would want to be part of the school and its success before they joined. As noble Lords will remember from their school days, having some contact with a secondary school before joining it can make it a less frightening experience. That seamless trust that co-op schools provide has been excellent.

What surprises me about the amendment is that my noble friend has had to table it. It seems to me quite logical common sense that, if a nursery wishes to be part of a co-op trust, it should be able to do so. It is a

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matter of choice for the nursery. To deny it that opportunity is something that some parents may feel is rather unfair. I was really encouraged when the Department for Education, under the leadership of Michael Gove—I probably did not agree with very much when Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, but on this I did—seemed willing to open up discussions so that, if nurseries wanted to be part of a co-op cluster, they would have the choice to do so. It seems that that has been taken away and no progress has been made. For me, it is a simple matter of that ethos of the co-op: if parents of children in those nursery schools who then go on to primary and secondary schools in the same area wish for them to be part of that trust and choose to do so, they should be allowed that opportunity. It is hardly a radical or striking move, but it seems to be very much a common-sense one.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I have returned to the issue of nursery schools myself as my grandchildren have reached a certain age. I am conscious of the patchy provision of nursery education. I understand that only a small proportion of the overall sector providers—400 out of 14,500 day nurseries—are presently in the maintained sector. Nursery schools are currently able to federate with other schools and early-years providers. The Government support the broad aims of partnership, collaboration and co-operation. This sector has a diverse range of providers that facilitate parental choice and it enjoys a high degree of autonomy.

The Government are not currently persuaded that there are further benefits in creating a separate category of “nursery academies” at this time. It sounds as though there is further room for continuing discussion, but the Government have not yet been persuaded that this is a necessary addition.Nursery schools can indeed federate with other schools, so I believe that part of what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, is asking for is already available without legislative change. I hope I have said enough to assure the noble Baroness that she can withdraw her amendment and, again, I am willing to discuss this further off the Floor if there are other points to cover.

3.15 pm

Baroness Thornton: I thank the Minister for that reply, and I do indeed think that we need to meet to discuss this. This is not about creating nursery academies, but about allowing nurseries to take decisions about their future. Again, as with the previous amendment, it is about the particular form of organisation that they wish to have. This will need discussion with not only the Minister but his colleagues from the Department for Education. I would be grateful if we could proceed on that basis before the next stage of the Bill, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 69C withdrawn.


Schedule 15: Schools: reduction of burdens

Amendment 70

Moved by Lord Clement-Jones

70: Schedule 15, page 165, line 3, leave out paragraph 3

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Lord Clement-Jones (LD): My Lords, tourism is a vital component of the UK economy, and is predicted to be a key part of our economic recovery and of future job creation. The tourism industry is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% until 2025, which is significantly faster than the overall UK economy. The sector supports more than 3 million jobs, which is 9.6% of all UK jobs. The benefits are spread around the UK. They are driven by domestic tourism spending at places including attractions and the seaside.

The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions represents this sector, and it helped me put together this amendment. Most of the tourism spend comes from domestic tourists on day trips, which is the demographic that visits BALPPA’s attractions. In 2012, the expenditure on overnight domestic tourism trips in Britain was valued at £24 billion, and a further £57 billion was spent by domestic tourists on day trips. Summer holidays are crucial to this, but other holidays in the warmer months with longer days are also very important. This is because takings at attractions are much better when days are longer and, of course, when the weather is more pleasant.

These times are also crucial because they are the only ones when families, who are the core part of these attractions’ business, can go away together. This period is vital, because attractions and seaside areas then have to survive the winter, when tourism falls away. Many attractions close during that time, and so their takings in the winter are nil. If the weather is bad over just one or two weeks in the summer, that can be the difference between making a profit or a loss.

In April last year, Michael Gove made a speech at a conference at which he said that he wanted to reduce summer holidays from six to four weeks. A few weeks later, on 1 July last year, the Deregulation Bill was published and included a clause enabling this. Clearly, the Department for Education would not be advocating this clause if it did not expect some schools to use it. It would cause chaos for families with children at different schools that have different holidays. Even a single group of schools changing term times in a single area would have an impact on the tourist industry. Clause 51 and Schedule 15 are of deep concern to the tourism industry.

Where similar schemes have been introduced in the US, the evidence clearly shows that moving school holidays reduces tourism spending, which is not made up elsewhere. In Pennsylvania, moving the school year to start before Labor Day—which is the first Monday in September—had a dramatic negative impact on economic development and employment, costing the Pennsylvanian economy more than $378 million annually. In South Carolina, the move was estimated to have a $180 million impact on the state, and more than $8 million was lost in tax revenues. In Texas, returning to later school start dates resulted in higher direct tourism expenditure, estimated at $251.9 million per year, and 6,635 more permanent jobs. This is despite the actual number of instructional days staying similar. Eleven US states have now seen fit to introduce laws which mandate school years because they appreciate that there are economic benefits.

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Surely all the above merit some consideration in detail about what the impact of these changes would be, yet no assessment has been made. The Department for Education, in advocating Clause 51 and Schedule 15, has singularly failed to engage with the tourism industry which feels strongly about this. The DCMS has admitted that there has been no evaluation of the policy’s impact on tourism. On 30 October, Kate Green MP asked,

“the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of deregulating school holidays on (a) tourism jobs in seaside areas and (b) seaside economies”.

Mrs Helen Grant replied:

“There has been no specific assessment of the impact the Government’s proposals in the Deregulation Bill will have on tourism jobs. However, impact assessments have been completed on the overall impact of proposals within the Bill. Government is confident that tourism jobs and seaside economies will not be adversely affected overall. Whilst the measures will extend an existing flexibility to a greater number of schools, this does not mean that all schools will change their term dates. This Government believes that decisions about term dates are best made locally. The Department for Education is working with the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions and others to ensure the Department’s advice to schools on their new freedoms is clear that term dates should be set in the interests of pupils’ education and should also consider parents and local businesses”.

That is quite a miraculous statement. We all know that the Government are confident that they will not be adversely affected overall. That is an answer that does not exactly fill me or the tourism industry with confidence. Throughout the Bill’s progress, tourism representatives have been raising strong objections that their concerns have not been addressed. The unintended consequences associated with passing these provisions are enormous. They should not be included in the Bill until their impact has been properly evaluated. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I shall defend paragraph 3(3) for many reasons. First, it is only right that maintained schools should have the same freedom as academies and free schools. A vast number of secondary schools and an increasing number of primary schools already have the freedom to determine their own term dates. It seems quite invidious that we are not allowing maintained schools to have the same freedom.

Secondly, my noble friend made an impassioned plea on behalf of the tourist industry, and we have all seen the lobbying material it has sent. I should like to make an impassioned plea on behalf of parents. As we all know, there is plenty of evidence that if parents can take holidays only in the one prescribed period when all schools are closed, they end up paying two, three or, in some cases, four times what it would cost them to have the same holiday at a slightly different time. I am just as interested in the finances of parents and their wish to be able to take their children out at different times because schools would not all be taking their holidays at exactly the same time.

My noble friend mentioned that it would be chaos for parents if they had children in different schools. For those of us who live in London, that is already the case. Different boroughs in London have slightly different

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term dates and many parents have children in one borough for primary school and in another for secondary school and they cope with that. It is not chaos; it is a perfectly simple thing that parents deal with in the small amount of time for which the schools coincide.

Over the years, various learned think tanks have come up with all sorts of suggestions about changing school terms. Some have suggested that we should go to four terms or that we should split the year into two semesters, each with a break, rather like American universities. They have adduced all sorts of psychological learning reasons for why this would be better for children than the very long gap that we currently have in the summer. I should like to think that this freedom given to schools would enable some of them to experiment in that way, based on very good pedagogical evidence.

I am for freedom. I think the tourist industry would not only cope very well—as it does; I have great confidence in the tourist industry—but would find that its period of busy activity would be extended if there were slight overlaps with some schools closing early in July and others going on to early August and so on. The freedom would enable parents—who, heaven knows, are strapped enough at present in the very grim times we have been going through—to take their family holidays over a slightly more extended period when the prices would not be double and treble what they are in the very compressed period when all schools take their holidays at the same. I think the tourism industry would adapt, and perhaps prosper, in this country.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I shall take the opportunity of this amendment to ask two other questions. What was the problem that the Government felt needed to be remedied with these provisions? Is it to reduce administrative costs to schools? I should also like to ask the Minister about reports and the dissemination of information by electronic means, particularly websites, which is included in this part of the Bill. What do the Government think will happen to streamlining the information that is available to parents from schools in areas where there is a digital divide? For example, in Bradford, there are lots of people who are not online and would not be able to receive those reports.

Term times is one of the really difficult problems that I know my Government struggled with, but I would like to know whether the Minister has consulted organisations in the education sector, including teachers, trade unions and head teachers’ representatives, to see what they feel about this.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am conscious that the issue of school term times and summer holidays is particularly acute, especially for the leisure sector. I have heard a lot of people say that it is absurd that we still have long summer holidays because people went out to help with the harvest. When I was a teenager, that is precisely what I used to do during my summer holiday. I worked on a farm for four to six weeks. When I went back to visit the farm 25 years later,

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almost all the jobs that I had done had been mechanised. That is part of what has happened. Farmers do not need the labour, and they did not need that much labour then.

I am also conscious that the speech that Mr Gove made about reducing the length of summer holidays has rung a number of alarm bells. This clause does not give the department the power to reduce summer holidays, and the department has no plans to reduce summer holidays. It is very much intended to push down to the local level where the length of holidays should be agreed. Schools’ term dates are already determined locally, but in many cases an individual school’s flexibility is constrained by the fact that Section 32 of the Education Act 2002 places responsibility for determining term dates on the local authority. This measure will enable all schools to vary term dates to help pupils, rather than simply following tradition, where there is a compelling need to do so.

3.30 pm

Thousands of schools, educating over half of all registered pupils, are already responsible for their own term dates. Three-quarters of secondary schools and over a third of primary schools are already responsible for their school year. There is a school in every local authority in England with this freedom. This has not resulted in the problems that have been raised in this debate. There are all sorts of other reasons, which have been mentioned, as to why schools within a local area wish to consult, including with the local authority, about arrangements. In practice, the majority of schools have continued to follow their existing term dates, but a small number have made changes where there are a compelling reasons to do so. These may include the religion of the majority of pupils and the question of Muslim holidays, for example. These may be small but not unimportant adjustments. Schools involved have reported a real difference to pupils, especially in disadvantaged areas, as well as helping parents. I had not realised that, for example, a school in Leeds—the David Young Community Academy—has decided to go to a very different pattern, which believes it has a clear advantage in having a succession of shorter breaks and much more support for students. That is not the pattern that is needed in many other areas but there are schools in particular areas where changes in the pattern may nevertheless help.

I can assure noble Lords that the Government have considered the impact on business and the leisure industry, and judge that there will not be a negative impact on business overall. Local authorities have told us that they will continue to co-ordinate term dates. We have not held a formal consultation on this but the Department for Education informally sought the views of a range of interested parties on the measure, including head teachers on the department’s Bureaucracy Reference Group, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Family and Childcare Trust, Mumsnet—of course, Netmums, and the Federation of Small Businesses. I hope that that is a relatively representative cross-section

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with whom to consult. There was broad support for the proposals, with points raised including whether it was right that schools should be able to decide when to change their term dates and that teachers would adapt to this. Indeed, I am told that in at least one case, a school in Cornwall has managed to assist those parents who often work in the leisure industry by putting together a number of what I would have called “Baker days”, but I gather are now called something else, at the end of the summer half-term break, which created a two-week holiday slot for parents who, in the summer, work full time in the leisure industry.

The experience of this so far suggests that there will be no marked change in the pattern in most instances. There will not therefore be the disruption that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, fears. Officials from the Department for Education have consulted with the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions and others from the tourist industry. I am happy to assure the noble Lord that the Government have agreed that their advice to schools will make clear that: schools should be considerate of the needs of parents and impacts on others by working with each other and the local authority to co-ordinate term dates as far as possible; and that all schools must act reasonably when setting term dates, including considering the impact of changes to term dates on small businesses that rely on tourism from families with school-age children. I refrain from taking that any further into the issue of taking children out of school during term time to take them on holiday.

This measure gives governing bodies of community and voluntary controlled schools the flexibility they need to make changes to term dates to help pupils and parents. As I have argued, there are some instances in which pupils benefit from a different pattern of terms and holidays. As is now the case with academies and voluntary-aided schools, they will set term dates within practical constraints and co-ordinate through the local authority. In the vast majority of schools it is likely that no changes to term dates will be proposed, but where changes can help pupils’ education governing bodies will be able to do so following sensible local conversations with businesses, parents and others, taking into account religious and cultural exceptional cases, and the needs of pupils in particular areas, thereby taking a number of local exceptions into account. I hope that that provides the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is looking for, and assure him that we are very much conscious of the needs of the tourism industry, as we are of the needs of education, and that we have got the balance right.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. What happened to evidence-based policy-making? In my all noble friend’s points, I could see assertions; indeed, I could see assertions in what the vastly respected noble Baroness, Lady Perry, had to say. Nothing that my noble friend said was rooted in evidence. He read out a string of educational consultees and the Federation of Small Businesses. Later in his reply he mentioned BALPPA, but BALPPA is extremely unhappy about this. It is one thing to consult; it is another thing to actually listen to what the consultee is saying.

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Both the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and my noble friend talked about parents’ interests and so on. The fact is that many parents already find the system where some schools can set their own dates pretty much of a nightmare as well. There is already some advantage in uniformity. In a sense, the case that I am making is, “Why read the writing on the wall when you can read the book of the US experience?”. If we go to a set of very different dates, which this could potentially lead to, that will have a severely detrimental effect on the tourism industry.

My noble friend is relying on the idea that, in practice, it will not happen. What evidence do we have that it will not happen over a period of time, especially if the pressure is to have shorter summer holidays? That seems to be what the department would like to see, even though I accept the point that it is not up to the department to fix those dates. However, there is a way of establishing a culture, of which it is perfectly capable. The department judging that there will be no impact does not, I am afraid, have a great deal of force behind it. “No change likely” is not particularly plausible.

I very much hope that those local educational establishments—the schools and so on—will consult when they decide what dates they fix if we keep this in the Bill or delete it from Section 32. However, when did local schools ever go to the local attractions and piers and consult with them and local businesses about this kind of thing? It is highly implausible to imagine that the headmaster of a local school is going to consult local businesses when considering what dates they are going to fix, unless it is made clear in some sort of guidance or instruction that that is what they ought to do. Otherwise, I am afraid that it will be a difficult situation for local tourism attractions in these circumstances.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: There is no plot to reduce the length of the summer holiday. I fear that the noble Lord is suggesting that there is some Govian conspiracy afoot; there is not.

We have clear evidence from academies and pre-schools—the half of schools which already have the freedom. Only 8% have made any changes, and we see no evidence that it is likely that more will do so. There are strong arguments for at least one long break between terms every year. They include basic things such as school maintenance: repairing the roof and other such things. The same sort of argument exists for having a long break for the Houses of Parliament at one point during the year. In most instances we have no evidence whatever that there is a surge of demand to change the existing patterns.

I can reassure the noble Lord that the Department for Education is very much working with and has listened to BALPPA. We have agreed a new position. The advice that I have read out is an assurance: we are giving advice that schools should consider the needs of business. Having visited a number of costal towns on the east coast of England with my wife this last summer, I appreciate that costal towns in some instances are in real difficulty. However, that is not necessarily

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primarily connected with the position of schools and school holidays. There are a range of other problems that they are facing for other reasons.

I hope that I have said enough to reassure the noble Lord that this is not intended to produce radical revolution, but to produce a reasoned local compromise, a little more flexibility in the system and a little less interference from the top.

Lord Clement-Jones: I thank my noble friend for that peroration. It was very helpful. I think I have kicked the tyres on this particular clause enough. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 70 withdrawn.

Schedule 15 agreed.

Amendment 70A

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon

70A: Before Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—

“Review of licensing legislation

(1) No later than the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must commence a cross-government review of all legislation relating to local authority licensing, consents, permits and registrations with a view to streamlining licensing processes.

(2) A report on the review must be presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State no later than the end of the period of 18 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, there are six amendments in my name in this group; in moving Amendment 70A I will speak to the others. Before I do so, given the nature of the discussion that we will have on this and the following group of amendments, I will make a few general comments about the Government’s general approach to alcohol strategy. I am most concerned that there does not seem to be a coherent approach to evidence-based strategy, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said a moment ago. That is what is missing here. We have a pattern of implementing piecemeal change, which does not have a significant impact on the problems that the Government freely admit need to be addressed. What we really need, and as my amendments address, is a wide review of the licensing system, not randomly to amend various sections of the licensing regime.

We have to recognise that most people drink responsibly. Probably a few of us will have a glass of wine or beer tonight before we retire. Most people can enjoy a drink without causing harm, nuisance or distress to others, or an unnecessary drain on public expenditure. However, there are others, who, because of the amount and way that they drink, cause significant harm to themselves and to others. The challenge for government—indeed, for all of us—is to effect such change that will impact on the behaviour of those who cause and have caused significant problems, without unfairly impacting on responsible and reasonable drinkers.

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The Government’s alcohol strategy has done very little to target the problems caused by significant problem drinking. Nearly 1 million violent crimes linked to alcohol still happen every year. The Prime Minister promised,

“a real effort to get to grips with the root cause”

of alcohol problems, with a strategy that attacked alcohol harms “from every angle”. The Home Secretary promised a minimum unit price for alcohol. I will not go into detail because we will come to that later. She said—no ifs, no buts—that it would be introduced. That seems to have changed and there is no immediate plan. I think the phrase that is often used when something is on the backburner or in the long grass is “under review”.

When the Government brought in new licensing conditions that alcohol could not be sold below the permitted price—I have spoken on that order in your Lordships’ House on two occasions this year—they were seriously criticised by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee for overselling the impact that it would have. In reality, the impact was about a reduction in consumption of alcohol of one glass of wine per person per year. An awful lot of work went into getting a reduction of one glass of wine per person per year. The impact assessment that the Government submitted had to be withdrawn and a new one resubmitted. One of the reasons for that was that the Government put the benefits at £17 million a year when, in fact, the figure was nearer to £1 million—and I think the evidence for that £1 million was somewhat woolly. Therefore, the challenge of affecting harmful behaviour without impacting on responsible behaviour has not yet been met. Our amendments are intended to be helpful in seeking to address that challenge, which we appreciate is difficult.

3.45 pm

Our Amendment 70A seeks a review of licensing legislation. It calls for a comprehensive review across government departments of all legislation relating to local authority licensing with a view to streamlining that process. To be clear, under the Licensing Act 2003, there are four licensable activities: the sale of alcohol; the supply of alcohol; the provision of regulated entertainment; and the provision of late-night refreshment. Licensing authorities are responsible for issuing and enforcing licences, and must do so to promote the four statutory licensing objectives: preventing crime and disorder; preventing public nuisance; public safety and preventing children suffering harm.

Well over 150 licences, permits, consents and registrations are issued by councils and many more are issued by government and its agencies. A business establishing even a standard business model can be required by law to submit numerous licence applications relating to the same premises and containing overlapping information to different parts of the relevant council. For example, a small restaurant could be required to apply for up to eight or nine different licences or registrations. At the other end of the scale, some large businesses have had to employ a dedicated person to keep track of the different renewal dates that their multiple licences require. That is costly and

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burdensome and detracts from their core focus of serving customers, growing their business and supporting the economy.

One of the main barriers to streamlining those licensing processes is that some legislation—most notably, the Licensing Act 2003—requires that councils use the application forms set out in regulations. I am getting into my flow but I see that the noble Lord wants to intervene.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I read this amendment as also covering taxi licensing, scrap metal dealers—the whole caboodle of local authority licensing. The amendment refers to,

“all legislation relating to local authority licensing”.

Was it the noble Baroness’s intention to include all that?

Baroness Smith of Basildon: On my reading of the amendment that is not its intention. If the noble Lord wants to carry out a review of all licensing, I am very happy with that, but it is not the intention of the amendment. I am talking specifically about alcohol licences and the problems that are caused by the way in which they are operated. As I said, the application forms councils have to use are set out in regulations. This means that local authorities cannot combine forms so that a business can provide basic information once or even twice. Instead, businesses must complete this for each and every form required, overlapping and duplicating the information they provide. Councils tell us that they would like to have the freedom to remove this burden by combining and simplifying forms to cover just the information they need, thereby not placing undue burdens on businesses. Ending prescribed forms by regulation would enable that to happen without taking up parliamentary time. It is an easy thing for the Government to do by regulation. I always like to make things easy for the Government.

Individually, licensing regimes make sense and most of them continue to provide valuable safeguards. Typically, they have been brought in to tackle specific problems as they occur, which makes sense, as we have seen with the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. However, collectively, licensing regimes are a complex set of conflicting rules. The Licensing Act 2003 made an initial attempt to bring together multiple licences covering alcohol, entertainment and late-night refreshment under one Act. We want to take that further by rationalising and updating the legislation which is currently across at least five government departments. To give the Minister an example, I just referred to the Home Office and to the order I spoke to earlier this year, the draft Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Conditions) Order 2014. We have before us today a document on licensing from the Cabinet Office, and I was today given an impact assessment from the DCMS for yet another proposal to exempt regulating the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003.

That is very difficult for small and large businesses to manage and to cope with, but it can be simplified. That is a really easy thing to do, and does not cost any money. If we establish broad and consistent criteria for licensing schemes, we have to include transparency.

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There is also an issue around appeals and cost recovery processes. We need to enshrine the principle of joined-up related applications. That would simplify processes for businesses and councils and would also offer scope for improved safeguards for communities. Our proposal, which I believe is helpful to the Government—I thought I saw the Minister nodding at one point—is for a government-led review of local government licensing legislation, which would give the basis for a comprehensive licensing framework. We believe that that would help economic growth, and it would certainly help those businesses which have told us that they see a problem.

I turn to Amendment 75A, which is about making the licensing authority a relevant person. Clause 52 and Schedule 16 insert a new Part 5A into the Licensing Act 2003, to introduce a new procedure for authorising the sale of alcohol where the sale is ancillary to a community event or the provision of other goods or services. The clause and the schedule as a whole are sensible, and I am not going to oppose them. Currently, the requirement for obtaining a licence to sell alcohol is that it is sold on a commercial basis for profit. It is not to be given away freely or cheaply. However, we have some concerns around the unintended consequences of the new notices, including the potential costs to local authorities.

The new legislation outlines the prescribed fee, and we seek assurances that the fee will cover the cost to local authorities. Amendment 75A would make the licensing authority a relevant person. As the Bill is drafted, the licensing authority is responsible only for processing the applications. Objections to ancillary notices can be made only by the police or by council environmental health teams, not by the licensing authority. The licensing authority is the district council, the metropolitan London borough or unitary authority. That is the authority responsible for considering applications to sell alcohol and issuing a licence.

I am indebted to the Local Government Association, which supports Amendment 75A. I should declare that I am also one of its vice-presidents, as are many noble Lords. This mirrors a change made to the Licensing Act in 2012. When that change was introduced the Government said that licensing authorities were better able to respond quickly to the concerns of local residents and businesses by taking actions they considered appropriate to tackle irresponsible premises without having to wait for representations from other responsible authorities. We agreed at the time and we still agree with those reasons but we believe that they apply to all aspects of licensing. The Explanatory Notes on ancillary sales notices state that licensing authorities have the right to raise objections, but there is no wording to allow this. Expert legal advice confirmed that this power will not be available without an explicit reference in the legislation. Licensing authorities should be included on the list of relevant persons to ensure that they can raise local concerns about a notice if it is appropriate for them to do so.

My final amendments in this group, Amendments 75B, 75C, 75D and 75E, introduce a right of appeal to the licensing committee. This is really a streamlining process, because they introduce a right of appeal to the local licensing committee for applicants to use if their notice

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is refused because of an objection. That mirrors the Licensing Act regarding licensing committees whose judgment and applications are the subject of objections. Each licensing authority is required to establish a licensing committee that is formed of elected councillors, which will hold hearings and make decisions relating to licenses.

Local government prides itself on being the most open and transparent part of government and on being directly accountable to residents and businesses. It is worth noting that it also has the strictest rules regarding conflict of interests. I do not understand the reasons why, under the Government’s proposals, the only right of appeal against the decision not to grant a notice because of an objection is by judicial review. That seems a lengthy and expensive process, particularly when you take into account that applicants are prevented from reapplying for a licence for a period of 12 months. There is supposed to be a light-touch approach. Is that not hugely disproportionate and expensive for those businesses concerned?

I feel—and I am sure other noble Lords will probably accept this—that licensing processes within local government are pretty robust, but within any system objections can be raised with which applicants do not agree. Businesses should be able to appeal against objections they feel are unfair or do not take full account of their business proposal in a way that is straightforward and affordable. If we are insisting appeal has to be by judicial review, while that has to be part of any wider appeals process, it does not meet the criteria of being proportionate, straightforward and reasonable in cost.

We are not talking about a great deal of money here. Fewer than 5% of regular licences are refused. It is anticipated that it will be even lower for the new licences, so the financial impact on most applications would be negligible. It seems a bit OTT to have a judicial review process before any other appeal process is brought into play. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, perhaps I should not use the expression “happy hour” in this context, but we have spent many happy hours over the past few years debating licensing provisions. I have a bit of a horror of this clause, I must confess. The idea of this gargantuan review of what is effectively the amended Licensing Act 2003 seems to be vastly overengineering what is needed in this context. The reason I say that is that I remember pressing the Government nonstop between 2005 and 2010 on entertainment licensing, asking them to take a view about the way in which the Act worked for live music. Finally, rather than wait for a review, I had to put a Private Member’s Bill in and get that through before we got any further sense—luckily from this Government—on the wider scope of deregulation of entertainment more generally.

The idea that we are going to start digging up the plant by the roots at this stage, whether entertainment licensing, alcohol licensing or whatever, fills me full of horror. We have had debate after debate. We had a very long debate on the late night levy. We have got to

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let that bed in. I was not a great fan of some of that legislation, and I would very much like to see whether it is working. I suggest a rather more piecemeal approach to review. I am not against reviewing bits of the legislation, but this kind of vast superstructure of review over the whole of licensing in this area seems undesirable.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Smith on Amendment 70A. I will not comment on Amendment 75A and the subsequent amendments as I will speak on those topics separately later. I am full of horror on hearing the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, express that view. What has been happening with licensing is an absolute shambles, an absolute mess, at local authority level. If the Minister responds that he would like to see a review of all of them, which is what was advocated in Rewiring Public Services: Rewiring Licensing, I would be very happy to support him. There are so many areas in which local government needs to come into the present century and to review the way it looks at issues, particularly using old-fashioned approaches when in fact it should be moving in a digital way in so many ways, that it is high time that there should be an overall review right across the board on what is happening there and to see how we can effect some greater efficiencies than we have at the moment. When this report came out earlier in the year, it was looked at in the context of the debates that took place on the Deregulation Bill. I recommend that those who are opposed to it go back and read the Hansard report and they will see that a fair wind was given by Ministers at the other end to this being a possibility in the future. The simple fact is that if work had been done on the LGA’s report, with more time spent on that and legislation produced on it, much of it would be a damn sight better than some of the stuff that we have in the Deregulation Bill.

4 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the LGA published Rewiring Public Services: Rewiring Licensing in 2014, calling for a major review. I had indeed read Amendment 70A as covering the whole remit of local authority licensing. This is a very large area, and I am conscious that it is an important part of how local authorities regulate local communities. It is also a not insignificant part of how some local authorities recoup the costs of what they do. I note the case made for moving towards harmonised dates for renewal and for reforms to be completed. I also note with my different Cabinet Office hat on that, as we move towards digital interaction between companies, individuals and local authorities, some of these things will become easier than they were—as the noble Baroness will know, that is something which the Government are actively promoting. Some small businesses are much slower than others in moving towards digital interaction with their local authorities, but that will help to reduce a number of these burdens.

We have reviewed a range of licensing areas through the Red Tape Challenge, including alcohol, entertainment and taxis, and we do not see the need to do another

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major review of all licensing legislation. Therefore, having looked at the LGA report, we do not accept its proposals, although we are still considering some of the issues raised. Certainly, the Government remain committed to reviewing unnecessary bureaucracy. A 2011 survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that only 8% of small businesses identified local authority licenses as the most challenging area of regulatory compliance.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: When the Minister intervened on me previously, it was because he thought that my amendment was significantly wider than I intended it to be. I apologise if there is a drafting defect; it was never intended to be as wide. Does the 8% figure that he gives for the proportion of businesses which are concerned about the licensing regime relate to the vast, entire licensing regime or just to the regime relating to alcohol that my amendment refers to?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I suspect that it is about a much wider issue; we are in that sense at cross-purposes. I thought the amendment was concerned with alcohol licensing and other forms of planning licensing. As I was being briefed on this, I was thinking of the example of a bar in Saltaire that lies halfway between where I live and where the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, lives. It is a very popular bar which is licensed for the sale of alcohol. It is sufficiently popular that its clients spill out over the pavement and on to the road. The question of whether tables can be put out on the pavement has been raised and you begin to deal with different sorts of issues, such as disruption to traffic, noise and so on. So putting everything into a single category is not entirely straightforward. The Government are not therefore convinced that we need an overall review at present. I know that we will come back to some of these issues when we consider the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.

I turn to the other amendments proposed by the noble Baroness on community and ancillary sellers notices or CANs. The noble Baroness asked why there was no provision for appeal if a CAN is revoked. Our intention is that there will be no prescribed right of appeal for the user either at the stage at which the CAN is given in cases where it is rejected, or where revocation takes place after a CAN has taken effect. This is one of the key ways of keeping the costs of the CAN as low as possible as it avoids costly hearings processes, as well as reflecting what is intended to be the light-touch nature of the authorisation. We believe that this is justified on the basis that the user will be given very limited rights to sell alcohol. The authorisation lasts for three years only and it always remains open to the user to apply for a full premises licence or to use a temporary event notice. The business of the ancillary seller would also not be unduly affected by revocation because the alcohol sales are by definition only a small part of the overall service being provided. It would remain open, as the noble Baroness has suggested, to the CAN user to seek redress via administrative complaint to or about the licensing authority, or ultimately, in extreme cases, by judicial review.

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I hope that that provides some reassurance to the noble Baroness; she looks a little puzzled by this. The intention is to limit the complications of this very limited change in the alcohol regulations.

I was asked whether the fee will cover the cost to the licensing authorities. Licensing fees are set on a cost-recovery basis. We will be working with the LGA and licensing authorities to estimate the cost of processing a CAN before we set the fee. I hope that that covers the issues that have been raised and invite the noble Baroness to withdraw—

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I apologise; I am intervening rather than making my final remarks. I think that the Minister addressed the point about the ancillary sales notice. The Explanatory Notes state that licensing authorities have the right to raise objections, but there is no wording to allow this. Our legal advice is that the power will not be available without explicit reference in the legislation. It is in the Explanatory Notes; it is not in the legislation. The Minister did not answer that point.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It is probably better if I write to the noble Baroness to make sure that I am absolutely clear about it.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: That is helpful. That point needs clarification if we are to achieve what the Government say they want to achieve, and we are not opposed to that.

I am rather disappointed with the Minister’s response and, indeed, that of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. This gargantuan review is not quite as gargantuan as the noble Lord thought it would be. The figures to which he referred are for the gargantuan review, not the review that we are asking for. When those who are dealing with this, day in, day out, say that there is so much ad hoc regulatory change and ask whether it might not be better to look at it in the round, that seems to be a sensible approach.

The noble Lord made his own case on the late night levy. He and I debated that as we have debated other issues such as the licensing order, referring to mandatory licensing conditions, earlier this year. We had a number of discussions about it being very piecemeal, and we were also critical of the late night levy, which is also proving to be quite ineffective because of how it was set up.

I will read again what the Minister said about the right of appeal being through judicial review. He seems to be saying that because there is an admin review process when someone wishes to make a complaint, it can replace any other appeal. It seems rather costly and disproportionate if the only right of appeal is through judicial review. However, I will read what he said in Hansard so that I am absolutely clear on his points before I decide whether to bring this back at another stage. For now, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 70A withdrawn.

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Clause 52: Sale of alcohol: community events etc and ancillary business sales

Debate on whether Clause 52 should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I shall speak also to Amendments 71 to 75 to Schedule 16 to the Bill which are tabled in my name.

I first raised my opposition to this part of the Bill in the debate on the Queen’s Speech back in May. I raised a number of questions about it after having carefully followed what had been happening in the debates on the legislation in the Lords. I did the same at Second Reading on 7 July, and I did not have any satisfactory response to some of the questions I put to the Government. I was told that later regulations, when they come after the Bill becomes law, will address many of the questions that I was raising.

At the end of July, in response to a very welcome invitation from the Minister, I asked to see officials to see whether I could follow through some of the questions which I had been posing. Last Friday at 4.30 pm, I had a response from officials inviting me to have discussions prior to today’s Committee. My diary was full this week—I have just spent two days in Brussels—and there was no way that I could do that, so I am none too happy about the way this has been handled and the time that has been taken. While I might be in a minority on this issue in pursuing the topic, I believe I am entitled to get proper service so far as possible from the Government.

I will put a series of questions, some of which I have I have posed previously, and I hope the Minister will be in a position to answer them this afternoon or will address them before Report. I underline that this part of the Bill is not deregulatory at all. It is new legislation. The Minister just used the phrase “limited changes”, but I believe that the limited changes could be more significant than he believes. Therefore, if we are, in effect, dealing with new legislation, we should have the maximum information before us at the time that the legislation is going through rather than having to wait for regulations later down the line after further consultation has taken place.

This is a serious issue. It may appear quite minor, but I think it is serious and I hope the Government will now give some serious attention to the points I shall make. In fairness to them, they endeavoured to do the best they could with the problems we face with alcohol when they produced their alcohol strategy in 2012. I was one of those on this side of the Room who welcomed it very strongly indeed because I believed they identified the core of the problems which the country faces with alcohol and its abuse: first, the cheapness of drink, and secondly, easy and proliferating access to it in so many places.

Regrettably, on pricing, the Government abandoned the very strong stance they had taken—the Prime Minister had personally taken a very strong position on it—and opted for a change that will make next to no difference. As my noble friend Lady Smith indicated, it will change consumption by one glass of alcohol per

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drinker per year, which will make no difference whatever to alcohol abuse. I have therefore tabled Amendments 73 and 75 to remind the Government of where they started and where they have now ended. I have not got a great deal of hope that I am going to get far down the road with those amendments, but they ought to be on the record. While I have proposed 50p per unit, the latest evidence, which comes from the University of Sheffield, which is the leader in this area, indicates that it should now be 65p per unit.

4.15 pm

While I acknowledge that the Government have legislated to tighten up local alcohol licensing laws, as referred to in earlier debates, there is still a major omission in their not introducing an additional statutory criterion for local public health to be taken into account. Many bodies, particularly health bodies, are calling for this change—many of them being the Government’s own bodies. Public Health England is now on record as stating that there is a need for public health to be taken into account in licensing. Those bodies are joined by many local authorities around the country, which have backed a Private Member’s Bill that I am trying to get through. There is not much chance of it being heard, but it is good to know that I am representing a substantial body of interests around the country. In addition, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have either adopted the additional public health criterion test, or are in the process of so doing. Momentum is gathering for this change to be introduced. It behoves the Government to look at it again. That is why I have tabled my amendments.

I hope noble Lords will note that I am not speaking to anything new or radical. I may in due course move my amendments; they will be nothing more or less than what the Government set out in their own strategy as the appropriate means to address the problem. That strategy was drawn up in 2012. I am sure that the Minister will point out that there was a commitment in that strategy to introduce the freedom to sell alcohol at community events. It might seem churlish that I am paddling this long canoe opposing that change; in due course I will seek to strike it out. However, I am baffled to understand why WI or church events need licences that will start at 7 am. Unless the church is now contemplating selling alcohol at early morning mass, I do not see why these licences should start so early in the day.

I am interested to see how Governments will enforce the stipulation in Clause 52 that selling will be limited to three units of alcohol per customer per 24-hour period. Can that really be enforced? Is making such a statement really worth while? Amendments 72 and 74, which are self-explanatory, endeavour to establish just how responsible the sellers handling this will have to be.

My principal objection to Clause 52 is the way that requests for more freedom to sell alcohol at events, which originally came from community activists such as the WI, have moved into a much wider front—into the business community and wider society—with its extension to so-called ancillary licences, with a new licensing regime attached. The Government have instanced

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that this would be used with bed and breakfasts. Again, I am amazed that they have licenses to sell alcohol starting at 7 am. We go back to one of the debates we had earlier on problems arising for Airbnb with changes to bed and breakfasts’ terms. Presumably this will equally apply to that site. It would be amazing to know how anyone could possibly police the application of those changes within the limits that the Government think the selling of alcohol should take place.

I said that we could see quite a cultural change coming from this, not so much in community events but in the way it will extend in business. I mentioned that I believe that hairdressers would wish to take ancillary licences, as well as tanning shops and nail boutiques and even sandwich bars. As I understand it, they would have the freedom to start selling alcohol, admittedly on a limited scale. The Government said that this will not happen, but so far there have been no consultations to indicate whether or not it will. Unless I have got this complete wrong, the Government are moving in a direction that will extend the sale of alcohol over a much wider area than we have had hitherto. I will be very happy to hear the Minister say what work he is doing to make certain that there will be some clear limitations on the extent to which these changes will be applied throughout the community, because, if there are not, the abuse of alcohol or the sale of alcohol, which is what the Government have been seeking to limit in their alcohol strategy, will go in precisely the opposite direction.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, whenever I listen to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe speak on these issues, I am always conscious of—I hesitate to use the word “experience” on the issues we are talking about—his knowledge of and commitment to these issues. He has been a campaigner to protect people from the harm that those who overindulge and unwisely use alcohol are subject to.

My noble friend has hit the nail on the head on public health. When we were discussing the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in 2011, we proposed that public health should be one of the licensing conditions. I mentioned the four licensing conditions earlier, but we recommended that public health should be one of them. That proposal was blocked by the Government, yet the Government’s alcohol strategy includes a commitment, as the noble Lord said, to look at including public health and the cumulative assessments that councils undertake. I am not aware that that has been taken forward, even though it is in the Government’s strategy. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us whether that has been taken forward, given that it was in the Government’s strategy. At some point, but not today, I would be interested to know which measures from the Government’s strategy have been taken forward. Perhaps the Minister will write to me on that. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK and the Local Government Association want to see public health included in the licensing process. There is widespread support for that. It seems a sensible measure to include it, not as the overriding measure but as one of the measures taken into account when licenses are awarded. I should like to know some more from the Government on that.

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When I look at the alcohol strategy, I lose track of when the Government were in favour of minimum alcohol pricing and when they were not. In our debates, I was assured that the Government would look hard at advertising and education involving children to ensure that we are not subjecting children to the kind of alcohol advertising that would encourage them to drink at too young an age. Pan-European research shows that children in the UK see more alcohol advertisements than adults and more than their European counterparts in Germany or France. I have asked about this before. I would like to know why the Government have not moved forward to look at that kind of advertising and how to combat it. If we are talking about young people and their health, that is a key thing that could really make a difference, and we have not seen the progress we were promised.

I still cannot understand what has happened on minimum alcohol pricing. I have raised this in your Lordships’ House on a number of occasions. The Government have moved from absolute certainty that minimum alcohol pricing would be introduced. The Home Secretary said, without ifs or buts, that the Government would introduce minimum alcohol pricing. When the Government undertook their consultation on the strategy, they specifically excluded minimum alcohol pricing from it. I raised this back in July 2013, so it is not a new issue; I am sure that the Government and the Minister are aware of it. The Government said in their consultation that they were committed to introducing a minimum unit price, but added:

“However, in other areas, this consultation seeks views”.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee states in its 32nd report that it contacted the Home Office when it was seeking to introduce a permitted level of pricing—which is different from minimum alcohol pricing. It asked, “Why are you bringing this in now, because you’ve said that the minimum unit price is still under consideration?”. The Home Office explained:

“Minimum Unit Pricing remains a policy under consideration, but will not be taken forward at the present time”.

That is not what the Home Secretary said. So it would be helpful to understand the Government’s thought processes and whether any advisers in Downing Street or political lobbying played a part in this. Why did the Government move from absolute certainty that they were going to do something to “maybe” and then, as I think is the position now, to not going to do something? If we are to take an alcohol strategy seriously, we need to know what the Government are seeking to achieve and how committed they are.

There are two points in particular that I wish to emphasise and seek assurances from the Minister on. First, what has happened to dealing with advertising and education aimed at children who could be at risk of harm from alcohol? Secondly, why are the Government so set against including public health as one of the considerations when introducing a licence?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, was able to get back from Brussels and apologise to him for our not yet having managed to fix up a meeting. If he would like to have a meeting, we will make sure that

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it is pursued as soon as possible. I recognise his strong concerns in this area and the amount of work that he has put in and continues to put in on these broader issues.

On the implementing regulations, we are about to go out to consultation on what they should be. We are of course ready to discuss informally our current thinking, but it seems to us right that we should consult on where we might go from here.

I think we all recognise that the focus on alcohol-related problems is at its most acute in the centre of some of our cities on Saturday evenings. I have been in Leeds and Wakefield on a Saturday evening and it is very much a problem involving young persons in those areas. Sometimes, in the winter, I think that there is also a hypothermia problem, from the fact that they wear so little as they go out. What we are proposing here is absolutely separate from that. It is thinking about deregulating some of the issues which arise for local events and ancillary sellers.

As it happens, my wife and I went to rather a splendid party in a village hall just north of York in the summer. One of those who attended explained to us that they had had some difficulty about this, because they are allowed to have events that serve alcohol in the village hall only once a month. This was for all sorts of restrictive reasons, and that is the sort of area where we would like to loosen the constraints and the number of times a year that village halls can have events of that sort.

That is the “community events” to which the measure refers; the ancillary sellers are the bed-and-breakfasts, as the noble Lord knows. I am informed that the reason why 7 am is specified in the Bill is so that if, on a particularly special occasion, a bed-and-breakfast wants to provide a champagne breakfast it should be allowed so to do. I have been trying to think about having a champagne breakfast in any of the last three or four bed and breakfasts that I stayed in in the north of England. It is an interesting concept and I shall probably go to sleep tonight imagining what one might look like. However, that is the justification for 7 am starting point.

This is intended to be deregulatory, to exempt community groups and small providers of accommodation from needing premises licences on multiple temporary event notices, and to limit the costs to them of having to renew these licences so frequently. We are very much responding to community pressure, and again I think about how this affects my locality. This would cover events in the park in Saltaire but would not cover the wonderfully bucolic Bradford Beer Festival, complete with a large number of large stomachs, which is held once a year in Victoria Hall. That is a big event at which a lot of alcohol is served—beer—which therefore requires a different sort of licensing regulation. That is why I stress that this is a limited measure. The terms “ancillary” sellers and “community events” explain how limited this measure is.

4.30 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): I accept the noble Lord’s point that, taken event by event, or even instance by instance, we are talking about relatively

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small numbers—one or two glasses, not magnums, of champagne. I think that the point my noble friend was making, picked up by my other noble friend Lady Smith, is that in aggregate, if we are talking about nail bars, hairdressers and small events, we are talking about a potential explosion in the total quantum of alcohol being provided. Is the Minister happy with that?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the concept of having my hair cut and being offered a whisky at the same time had not occurred to me. I recall that when thinking about the 7 am starting point, the one occasion of which I was conscious, when listening to someone describing how pleasant it was to have alcohol at breakfast, was when I got up very early, heard the BBC farming programme, and a good friend of mine who appeared on that programme was having breakfast with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, at his farm, who had indeed offered him a dram with his breakfast. He remarked that that was an unusual occurrence. I do not think that that is the sort of thing that bed and breakfasts will want to do very often.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, would not have required a licence to offer a friend a glass of whisky at breakfast if he chose to do so. The point made by both noble Lords who raised this issue was to express concern about the 7 am start. Does it open a door far wider than the Government intend in order to allow an occasional champagne breakfast at a bed and breakfast?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I will take both points back and see how much this opens a door wider than intended. If it is possible to interpret the measure in such a way as to open a door much wider, we will clearly need to tighten this. I hope that we can provide reassurance on that point.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Are you going to mention the ancillary sellers?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Certainly, because, again, the measure is intended for small providers of accommodation, so that they can provide guests with an evening drink if they wish. As I say, the B&Bs with which I have been familiar in the north of England in recent years had not done that, although I would probably have appreciated it if it had been possible. Again, the intention of including “ancillary” sellers is to allow small-scale provision of alcohol in small-scale establishments. Does that begin to satisfy the noble Lord?

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: The answer to that is no. The great danger of these debates is that we pick out a particular instance and focus on it. I have said that my concern has not been particularly about community events but the movement of ancillary licences into the business community. I have asked for a definition of the range that will be eligible. We focused on the bed and breakfast people, and I suspect you will find

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that it is much wider than that; they are just a small element. I suspect that you can almost look down any street in a town and see several people who would fall into the category. Hitherto they have never sold alcohol because it is not their main business but, under the new arrangements, they would be free to apply to do so. There is no reason why you would stop them.

I have sought from the Minister a definition of the extent to which freedom to apply for the licence will be available. I have not got the answers. Again, we are focusing on a limited area when, in fact, this will spread over a much wider front. I will be reassured if the Government can limit it.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I think that I can now give the noble Lord some further reassurance. I am told that, in the other place, the Minister for Crime Prevention spelled out specifically that we will not and should not allow businesses such as hairdressers, sandwich shops and florists to benefit, and that this is intended very much to permit certain prescribed businesses to sell small amounts of alcohol as a minor part of the service that they provide.

I will take the noble Lord’s questions back and will look again at the details, but that is the assurance that the Minister for Crime Prevention gave in the Commons. This is intended to be for bed and breakfasts and businesses of that sort, and is not intended to provide me with a shot of whisky with my coffee when I go into a coffee shop on Gordon Terrace at 11 am, which I think is the sort of thing that the noble Lord is suggesting that we will spread into if we are not entirely clear.

I hope that I have managed to answer most of the questions. I note that the noble Lord has some much larger questions, including on alcohol and pricing. I am informed that the issue of minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland is currently being challenged before the European Court of Justice. That is one powerful reason why Her Majesty’s Government are taking a pause in considering the matter further in the English courts, being, as we of course are, strong supporters of the European Court of Justice. Perhaps if there were to be a Labour Government they would wish to ignore that particular constraint but I rather suspect that they would not.

The Government have a range of other considerations to bear in mind on alcohol pricing; not only the EU legal challenges but also the not insubstantial question, particularly in southern England, of smuggling, which arises if the price in Britain differs too sharply from that across the Channel. If one goes through Calais and around there, one can see how much that is a possibility that could easily expand.

I also note, with respect, the noble Lord’s insistence on the public health dimension. That is a broader issue, which covers the Government’s alcohol strategy as a whole, to which we will return. We have already been discussing citizenship education, but it is clear that part of the answer is to educate children in schools about the problems of alcohol. Binge drinking among young people is the single biggest alcohol problem that we face in Britain at the moment, on which we need to do more.

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I hope that I have provided enough to satisfy the noble Lord, and I have no doubt that he will continue to pursue his wider campaign on alcohol strategy as a whole on this occasion and the many other occasions on which he will be able to do so.

Clause 52 agreed.

Schedule 16: Part to be inserted as Part 5A of the Licensing Act 2003

Amendments 71 to 75E not moved.

Schedule 16 agreed.

Clauses 53 and 54 agreed.

Schedule 17 agreed.

Clause 55: Sale of liqueur confectionery to children under 16: abolition of offence

Debate on whether Clause 55 should stand part of the Bill.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, this is a genuinely deregulatory measure. It will repeal Section 148 of the Licensing Act 2003, which concerns the sale of liqueur confectionery to children. I have been surprised by the amount of correspondence I have had on this topic, and the number of different bodies which have been in touch with me. I am not really sure as yet why the Government feels the need to move to repeal this.

If there had been a meeting with the Government, I would have asked out of interest what burden was placed on industry because of the continuing presence of this regulation. I would have asked how many prosecutions there were because of this piece of legislation between 2005 and 2010, and how many between 2010 and 2012, and how many since the alcohol strategy was published in 2012. I would have asked why this change has come about, who wants it and for what purpose. I would have asked why there has not been a consultation with the public or with parents about this. I would then have looked at the information I was given, which seems to indicate that it is solely the producers and manufacturers who have asked for this change to be put in place. I would ask the Minister to confirm that my analysis is correct.

Would the Minister also agree that ethyl alcohol is not simply a drink, but it is also a drug? We talk about drink and drugs, but alcohol is a drug. It is one of the most addictive drugs if misused, and abuse has very serious consequences. That is why the Government have very extensive provisions in the 2003 Act to control the way it is sold and administered, and to prevent liquid alcohol being sold to those under 18.

There is a well held medical view that if one starts to drip-feed an addictive drug to young people it gathers momentum and they are, as night follows day, likely to be pulled further and further into the addictive process and into drinking more. In that

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context, Section 146 in the 2003 Act is particularly relevant, because it prevents people selling liquid alcohol to those aged under 18.

4.45 pm

Alcohol, of course, can be presented, and is being presented these days, in an increasing number of ways to both adults and children. It can now be produced in powder form, and has been for some time. It can also be baked into confectionery, and is sold in that form in some parts of the world. People can get quite drunk from eating cake containing alcohol. That is not dissimilar from the way that many people used to add cannabis and marijuana to different products. Is the Minister aware that the clause which the Government wish to repeal is the only existing protection preventing alcohol being sold to children in other than liquid form? If I am wrong about that, I would be grateful if the Minister would correct me but my understanding is that that is the case.

Is the Minister aware that drink and food manufacturers are already adding increasing amounts of alcohol to an increasing number of their products? Does he know that alcohol is now being added to some ice cream and sorbets, and that vodka is now being added to ice cream by Smirnoff? I wrote to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, about this matter some time ago and asked whether the Government had had any discussions with their partners in the responsibility deal on the recent introduction of vodka sorbet in supermarkets. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, replied:

“The Department does not discuss individual products with producers or retailers”.—[Official Report, 26/9/14; col. WA 349.]

So it would appear that they can insert alcohol into a whole range of different products and sell them. The Government have no involvement whatever in that, nor have they indicated a wish to get involved. However, many of these products comprise items that children normally buy. I know of children who have purchased ice cream containing vodka. Those products may not contain a very high element of vodka. However, champagne truffles, for example, have an alcohol content in the order of 6% or 7% proof, which is higher than some beers which are 3% or 4% proof. A child is not permitted to purchase beer for very good reasons but under this legislation will be permitted to buy the confectionery I am discussing. Norman Baker MP was challenged about the possibility that this was a move in the wrong direction but responded:

“Liqueur chocolates are not seen as a risk to children because of the extremely low amounts of alcohol they contain. Children are more likely to be sick than get drunk from eating too many”.

That may be the case but, with respect, Norman Baker is not a medical authority on this topic. Some medical authorities have been in touch with me on this issue. I suggest that the Minister might check the view of Public Health England on children under the age of 18 having access to alcohol—admittedly in small amounts—and on what the effects of that might be in later life.

Will the Minister also check what government Chief Medical Officers have said on this topic? The former Chief Medical Officer—not the current one—stated that children under 16 should not in any way be

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exposed to ingesting alcohol. He said under the age of 16, not 18—it is 18 in law. I have also had contact from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. She has been concerned to see what the Government are doing. Have the Government sought her views and will they seek her views before we put this through?

I believe that for the best of reasons this looks like legislation that we can get rid of and that does not really matter. I believe that if we get rid of this legislation the Government will open up changes over a wider front than they have foreseen. They should be asking themselves why the drinks industry wants it. Why is it pressing for it, and where is it going? The Government should be asking themselves why they have not consulted the public and parents to see what they think about this. If they did, they would find they are making an error. I hope that before we get to Report some of these issues will have been addressed in all seriousness. I know this topic can be made a joke, but we are talking about the health and welfare of children in the future. If the Government proceed to repeal this, they will make a big mistake.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, as ever, my noble friend Lord Brooke has given us food for thought on this issue. I was unaware of the detail of the issues that he raised. This goes back to our earlier comments about policy being evidence-based. I am not quite clear about why this has been brought forward and about the purpose behind it. When we look at it, it does not seem to have much of an impact on business so repealing it has only a very tiny, albeit positive, as the noble Lord thinks, impact on business.

I understand that the Licensing Act 2003 requires premises to obtain the relevant licence before selling liqueurs due to their alcoholic content. The Act exempts liqueur confectionery from being classed as alcohol and defines liqueur confectionery as containing alcohol in a proportion not greater than 0.2 litres of alcohol per kilogram of the confectionery. I do not know what 0.2 litres of alcohol per kilogram means. The noble Lord referred to something being 6% proof. If I buy, as I may on occasion, a bottle of wine, the label will tell me the percentage proof, as it will with beer or any other kind of alcohol. It does not tell you on confectionery. In the interests of evidence-based policy, can the Minister tell me what 0.2 litres of alcohol per kilogram is in terms of percentage proof? It is an important point: 6% proof for a five year-old is significant.

The law states that the chocolates must be sold as separate pieces so they are not consumed en masse. I am puzzled by that because anybody who eats chocolate as I do always eats chocolate en masse. There is no other way to eat chocolate. One buys boxes of liqueur chocolates, and it seems to me that they are not being sold individually in that case. They are being sold en masse. I would like to understand a little more about the interpretation of the law. If that is not possible today, I am happy for the Minister to write to me because I do not understand what that means. I have to confess that when I was 14 my French pen pal sent me a box of Mon Chéri liqueur chocolates, which I ate. I do not think I liked them terribly much at the time, but I grew to like them. I probably felt more sick from the chocolate.

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I am trying to understand exactly what is intended here. There is a negligible effect on business. There is a tiny minority of businesses that sell such confectionery. The point raised by my noble friend when he asked who asked for the change is interesting because when something is deregulated it is normally because somebody wants it because it is an onerous burden on them. In most cases we obviously want to reduce overonerous burdens on businesses. Who asked for this change? Were there any complaints about the law and how it has been implemented? Where did they come from? Is there any intention to have any consultation on this? My noble friend Lord Brooke has raised issues that I was not aware of. This first became an offence in 1961 under a Conservative Government. Labour’s Licensing Act 2003 built on the definitions that were brought forward in 1961. The Conservative Party tabled an amendment during the Licensing Bill Committee for the age to be increased from 16 to 18. We held out against that and it was withdrawn.

My first reaction was not dissimilar to Norman Baker’s: you would have to eat the equivalent of nine Mars bars of liqueur chocolate to drink the same quantity of alcohol in a regular bottle of wine with a content of about 12%. However, I think that misses the point, and that is what worries me about this. One of my concerns is whether it helps young people get a taste for alcohol: does it encourage them? That is a valid point to look at. I am interested in the evidence base on both sides of the argument. It would be helpful to understand that.

My noble friend raised some points that I am unclear about. Does the Government’s proposal also impact on the kinds of alcohol that are being sold in forms other than liquid? Does that mean it is easier to buy vodka ice cream or vodka lollypops? I have some concerns about alcopops: people drink quite large quantities of alcohol because they are very sweet-tasting and fruit-flavoured. They do not realise the content that they are drinking. I stressed that I will leave here tonight and will no doubt enjoy a glass of wine at some point. However, there is a difference between responsible drinking of alcohol and almost surreptitious drinking, where people are not aware of the alcohol content that they are drinking.

I have concerns about this. I would like to know what the evidence base is—the consultation, where the request came from and what differences it makes—particularly if it opens up a much wider area than indicated by the Government’s proposals.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this debate has ranged a good deal wider than liqueur chocolate. I stress that the amount of liqueur chocolate sold in this country is very small and we have no evidence that it is likely to increase. I am unaware, and I have checked with the officials, that there was any lobbying from the drinks industry on this. It is an issue of retailers and small shops having different levels of regulation about not selling to people under the age of 18. This is something that is for under-16s. This was identified, as part of the Red Tape Challenge, as a piece of law that was not necessary and would not be missed.

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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: If the Minister were to check the notes that go with the Bill, he will see that the only people who asked for this were from the industry.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I will certainly check that. I recognise that the wider issues that the noble Lord has raised about alcohol in other food are serious. I can promise only that I will take that away and consider it. I do not know how much alcohol there is in these new sorbets, let alone in rum and raisin ice cream and other such things. It may well be that the amount of alcohol in sorbets could be quite considerable. I promise to take that away. We will see whether we can respond to the noble Lord on that or whether it is a developing problem. Liqueur chocolate is not a developing problem: there is no sign that very much is sold or that more will be sold.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Brooke raised a serious point. The Minister just said he was quite clear that there was no lobbying from the drinks industry on this. He implied that it was not clear that it came from retailers—I am not sure whether he is saying that the retailers lobbied, but that it came from concerns for retailers. If he has erroneously informed the Committee, as my noble friend referred to, will he write to all Members of the Committee and make clear, either in Committee or on the Floor of the House, that that was a mistake and that there has been lobbying from the drinks industry?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Certainly, I am very happy to do so. My understanding was that this was very much part of the Red Tape Challenge. I am told it is a piece of legislation under which there has been one prosecution in the last five years and no convictions. As a piece of legislation which might on occasion be used inappropriately, it seemed a good idea that it would be one of those that we might now strike out. I was not aware that the law had been introduced only in 1961. Some of the laws that we are hoping to strike out in this Bill as part of the Red Tape Challenge date back a good deal earlier than that.

My information is that you would have to eat the equivalent of 20 Mars bars rather than nine to become drunk on liqueur chocolates. The amount of alcohol allowed in 100 grams of confectionery—

5 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon: The noble Lord may be aware that Mars bars have reduced in size considerably in the past couple of years.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I think I last ate a Mars bar about 40 years ago, so I had not noticed the shrinkage. The maximum amount of alcohol allowed in 100 grams of confectionary is 20 millilitres. This alcohol can be up to 57% alcohol by volume. Any confectionary containing alcohol in a greater proportion than 200 millilitres per kilogram is defined as alcohol and no one under the age of 18 can buy it. That is probably the answer to the noble Lord’s question

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about sorbets; any sorbet that had a high proportion of alcohol in it would be covered by the same regulation. However, the noble Lord raises a number of interesting points which deserve a considered reply.

This pragmatic clause is intended to strike out a piece of legislation which can be used against chocolate retailers, small shopkeepers and others because it is on the statute book as an offence to sell liqueur confectionery to a child under the age of 16. I very much suspect that the number of occasions on which retailers sell liqueur confectionery to children under the age of 18 is actually very small. We do not consider that this has wider implications. The noble Lord raises the prospect that it could, which is something that we might discuss further in terms of developing trends in the food industry.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that he will write to us with some of the evidence. One of the issues he relied upon for removing this legislation is that there are few prosecutions; that is an entirely valid point. However, could it be that there are few prosecutions because the law is working?

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: There is a deterrent effect.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I can only say that that surprises me. I think that the demand for liqueur chocolate remains small and is likely to remain so. I see no evidence that there is a pent-up demand that is not being satisfied. The noble Lord may want to say, “Well, that might develop; it might be a new fashion among food manufacturers actively to advertise”. I note the noble Baroness’s point about alcopops being a new development we worried about. I am happy to talk further to the noble Lord about this, but we are proposing a small, limited deregulatory proposal to knock something off the statute book which is rarely used but is a potential irritant to small retailers.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: The important point I am trying to make is that, while there are not many prosecutions, it is a deterrent. That is the effectiveness which has come from this legislation. What I am uncertain about, on which I would welcome the opportunity of a discussion with the Minister, is if that goes, what deterrent is left to prevent food and drink manufacturers increasing the amount of alcohol they are putting into their products which would be available for sale to under-18 year-olds on a wider front than at present? If there is legislation that would prevent it, maybe I would be happy with that.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I understand that that is the thrust of the noble Lord’s argument. It is a much wider point, but I will take that back. With that assurance, I hope noble Lords will agree that this clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 55 agreed.

Clauses 56 and 57 agreed.

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Amendment 76

Moved by Lord Wallace of Saltaire