Moved by Lord Holmes of Richmond
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, after “furniture” insert “safely (including a barrier being sufficiently visible to separate the furniture from the pavement and furniture placed sufficiently away from the pavement to allow for the safe passing of pedestrians)”
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate. In doing so, I thank the Minister and officials from the department for their positive and extensive engagement before and after Committee on these amendments and others. In deference to and out of respect for the Chief Whip, I will try to set the pace for the length of speeches going forward. I thank the Minister and officials for listening to and hearing many of the arguments that I and other noble Lords made, which are reflected in the government amendments on national conditions and the significant changes to the draft guidance that have been made.
This is in no sense a work of perfection but it is a huge step forward from where we were before Committee stage. I do not intend to speak to any of my amendments in this group. Safe to say, while there is still work to do on the guidance, which I am happy to participate in, the amendments that the Government have brought forward and the spirit in which they have done so have been more than helpful. Without in any sense wishing to curtail debate or seeking to guide the Government, I wonder whether, at some stage in the debate on this first group, it would be worth the Minister speaking in broad terms about the changes that have been made. This may also help there to be swifter debate on a number of the amendments that I and other noble Lords have brought forward. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. I will speak to Amendment 4, which is in my name and those of my noble friends Lord Hendy, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lord Monks. It is an extremely modest amendment. It simply ensures that employees, trade unions and businesses are consulted and involved before a local authority determines a pavement licence application under Clause 3.
The coronavirus crisis has obliged the Government to set aside years of doubt about the value of consulting either the CBI, which they are sure is a hotbed of remoaners, or the TUC, which they viewed as the awkward squad. Since March, Ministers have consulted both sides of industry about how to keep firms afloat, how to keep workers and customers safe and how to stop supply chains seizing up.
Consultation has now moved on to lifting the lockdown safely and encouraging a confident and safe return to work. Those consultations have proved productive and surprisingly valuable. They have brought to the fore our shared interest in promoting the common good. Robust discussions have generated mutual respect. The Prime Minister’s “New Deal for Britain” speech even borrowed the phrase “build back better” from a TUC policy paper. We all seek inspiration wherever we can find it.
Business leaders accept that the trade union response has shattered the myth that the TUC spells trouble and some of my trade union colleagues have conceded that not all bosses are Neanderthals. Consultation and co-operation have necessarily become the name of the game in this crisis. Last month, the CBI elected a new president, the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and appointed a new director-general, Tony Danker, to take office in November. Britain’s three biggest unions—Unite, UNISON and the GMB—are currently electing new general secretaries. A change of guard is a good time for a fresh approach.
Amendment 4 urges the Government to grasp the opportunity to establish a new framework for co-operation at work—one that makes consultation between business and unions the norm and gives workers a voice inside their workplaces and a say in their own futures. Unions have already demonstrated in practical ways their value in helping employers to get through this crisis. I mentioned some of these in Committee, as did my noble friends Lord Hendy and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. Unions have helped and have come out the other side better placed to thrive, as have employers.
The Communication Workers Union, for which I used to work, has agreed with the Royal Mail Group a four-step process to help employees who have been categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable or as a carer of someone in that category to return to duty. In May, the Food and Drink Federation, the GMB, Unite, USDAW and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union highlighted how partnership between food and drink manufacturers, trade unions and employers has enhanced both the safety of workers and the effective running of workplaces. Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said:
“Partnership between employers and unions has been crucial to continuing production over the last eight weeks.”
Britain’s biggest union, UNISON, has given fresh guidance to its workplace health and safety representatives on how to carry out inspections and investigate potential new hazards, such as Covid-19. It is also talking to employers to ensure that employees with underlying health conditions can work from home or, if that is not possible, are redeployed to roles where they are less at risk. Unite persuaded Rowan Foods to backdate sick pay to
The GMB, Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and Four Seasons Health Care have agreed full sick pay for 15,000 care workers for any coronavirus-related absence. The long-standing partnership agreement between Tesco and USDAW is the biggest such deal in the private sector, covering some 160,000 staff. Tesco has agreed with USDAW that employees will receive contractual pay if they are following government guidelines to stay off work.
In a previous debate, the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that a ministerially led strategy on consultation was unnecessary, yet the Prime Minister wants us to draw inspiration from President Roosevelt’s New Deal, a federal government-led strategy that promised what Roosevelt called relief, recovery and reform. Roosevelt delivered a much more ambitious programme of employee consultation and investment in jobs than the Prime Minister has in mind; sadly, this Bill reflects a lack of ambition in that respect.
I wish to press the noble Earl to explain what exactly is wrong with this amendment and what is wrong with all the trade union agreements I have cited, which make everyone—workers, managers and the public—safer in the coronavirus crisis. Why do the Government not accept that employee consultation on navigating our way through this complex and dangerous pandemic should be the norm, to be officially and statutorily promoted?
This is an extremely modest, reasonable, common-sense amendment. It does not prescribe or constrict employers in any precise method of consultation. It simply states that they should implement it in a way that they feel is appropriate. I cannot for the life of me understand why the noble Earl, who is usually very responsive to constructive points, has not contacted me or my noble friends to indicate in advance his acceptance or, alternatively, to explain that he has tabled a government amendment to achieve exactly the same result in a different way.
My Lords, I declare my interests as on the register. Forgive me if I do not wax as lyrical as the noble Lord, Lord Hain, about the behaviour of the trade unions—especially the teachers’ unions, which have behaved atrociously. My remarks will also be considerably shorter.
First, wearing my hat as chair of the Delegated Powers Committee, I give a warm welcome to Amendments 16 and 87, giving effect to our recommendations that the guidance be converted into SIs. I mention them now so I will not speak on them when they are reached.
While I support what my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond said and while I think that my Amendment 10, setting out a simple minimum requirement of 1,500 millimetres on the face of the Bill, is better than what the government amendment says, nevertheless, the Government have moved considerably on this measure and I am content to accept that, one way or another, there will be sufficient consideration given to the needs of disabled people when setting out tables and chairs on the pavement. My noble friend the Deputy Leader has written to us, saying that
“guidance will make clear that in most circumstances, 1,500 millimetres clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway.”
The word of my noble friend the Deputy Leader is good enough for me. I have looked at the wording that he circulated in paragraph 4.1 of the guidance, which says the same thing. Accordingly, I will not move my amendment.
I also suggest that if the usual channels have an urgent discussion on this, the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Holmes for the Minister to speak early and set out the changes the Government propose would be helpful. Often, when a Minister speaks early, it antagonises the House, but this may be one of those occasions when it helps the House.
Finally, let me say that if, when I am out and about, I find that the gap is not wide enough between the tables, I shall simply bulldoze through them in my armour- plated wheelchair.
My Lords, I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Blencathra would indeed go through in the way he suggests. I will be very brief. I am concerned entirely with the issue of pavement licences, and I raised these matters in Committee a week ago. When new constraints are imposed or new freedoms given—even if for only a very brief period, relatively speaking—it is important that we should know precisely where we stand. That is why I have said, in my Amendment 17, that the Secretary of State should have no discretion on whether he prescribes conditions: he must prescribe conditions. I have gone on to say, in my Amendment 18, that he must have regard for those who will be inconvenienced by these new freedoms and conditions, specifically people who are disabled physically or who are blind or partially sighted.
I am afraid I have not received the letter to which my noble friend Lord Blencathra alluded in his speech, and I therefore look forward to hearing what my noble friend the Minister has to say. I agree with both my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, that this is one occasion—there are few, but this is one—where it might be helpful to have an earlier ministerial intervention than normal.
I want to feel assured at the end of this debate that people who are physically disabled, blind or partially sighted are not going to be inconvenienced by the new freedom that has been granted to people to spill over on to the pavement. In earlier debates, we heard how very dangerous that can sometimes be. We must always have uppermost in our minds the proper protection of those who are not always able to protect themselves and who, perhaps unlike my noble friend Lord Blencathra, do not drive mini tanks fearlessly along the road or on pavements.
I will speak to Amendment 4 and endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Hain said in his powerful speech in support of it. As he pointed out, the striking thing about this amendment is its modesty. All it requires is consultation of relevant trade unions and businesses over the granting of pavement licences. As was pointed out in Committee, for 70 years and three weeks since it ratified ILO Convention 98 on
The need for collective bargaining, particularly at sectoral level, was brought home when we learned of the appalling conditions and pitiful rates of pay—often less than half the national minimum wage—in the sweatshops of the Leicester garment industry. We saw that need again in the agricultural sector, when an outbreak of Covid-19 among workers at a vegetable farm revealed the appalling living and working conditions among the workers there. We know that, in agriculture, conditions and pay are so bad that it was found necessary to fly pickers in from Romania earlier this season, since British workers, even faced with unemployment and the terrors of universal credit, were not prepared to put up with them.
The answer in these and other sectors was explained long ago in the other place by Sir Winston Churchill, who in 1909 introduced legislation to make sectoral collective bargaining mandatory. I will read three sentences from his speech that day:
“It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions.”
“where you have what we call sweated trades, you have no organisation, no parity of bargaining, the good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst”.
He concluded by saying:
“where those conditions prevail you have not a condition of progress, but a condition of progressive degeneration.”—[
Hence, the Trade Boards Act 1909 was introduced and passed.
My noble friend Lord Hain referred to Roosevelt and the New Deal. Part of that was the National Industrial Recovery Act 1933, which introduced sectoral collective bargaining widely in the United States. It is in these circumstances that I stress the modesty of the amendment my noble friend proposes today. There can be no sensible reason not to adopt it, and I commend it to the Minister.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, in supporting the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. This is not only a very sensible and modest amendment; it will provide a new framework for co-operation between businesses and employees, as the noble Lord said. Why not allow employees to have a say over the implementation of pavement licences, as they will be directly impacted upon and charged with the responsibility of ensuring that—shall we say—the letter and spirit of the law is adhered to?
Employees have discharged many responsibilities during the whole Covid pandemic. However, there is absolutely no doubt—and there is evidence-based research to prove—that when employees, employers and businesses co-operate, it boosts performance, production and profitability, lifts living standards and enhances job prospects. We can look to Germany and the role of work councils, which we talked about last week when considering a similar amendment in Committee.
I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Hain, Lord Hendy and Lord Monks. I commend it to your Lordships’ House and ask the Minister to give dutiful consideration to accepting it.
My Lords, now that we have reached Report stage, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I shall be brief. My name is attached to Amendment 20, which is part of a group concerned with safety and accessibility for all who use the pavement. At previous stages of the Bill, I have emphasised the need to set clear and enforceable rules on the use of pavements—and I prefer conditions to guidance.
The Government’s changes may well be a step forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, has explained, but improvements could still be made. Amendment 20 would help to achieve these, and I hope that the Minister will explain how the Government’s approach will deliver the degree of certainty we are looking for to enable our pavements to be accessible for all.
My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 4. As my noble friend Lord Hain said, the Bill misses an opportunity to engage trade unions fully in the measures it proposes, specifically on the issue of pavement licences. In his excellent new biography of Ernest Bevin, which I commend to the House, my noble friend Lord Adonis quotes from a letter from Bevin to the boss of ICI during the Second World War. In it, he proposes a round table for every workplace and says:
“Present methods tend to emphasise the apparent conflicting interests, whereas, if we could get round the table and get that idea suggested, we should get more emphasis on community of interest engaged together on a common task.”
Ironically, this message was better received in west Germany than it was by employers in the UK and other places. Germany’s impressive results are well known to Members of this House.
This amendment covers one small area, but it also looks to pave the way to a round-table approach from now on in the much-changed environment in many workplaces. Working from home, social distancing, protective clothing, and new hygiene standards are now features of work for many. For them to be successful, they need consent, support and active encouragement from all concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to the teachers’ unions. Our message about round tables and partnership is aimed at everybody, including employers, trade unions and other organisations, including local authorities. What has been happening in Leicester? The workshops there show a serious failure in that city—although not just there—to engage workers properly on health and safety and, no doubt, other matters too.
The Chancellor said recently that the Government would look after employers who looked after their workers, but we need more than paternalism. We need a sense that we are all in this together and breeding an idea of partnership. As my noble friends have said, that sense of common endeavour was a key feature of Roosevelt’s New Deal, which the Prime Minister has been extolling. Roosevelt promoted trade union collective bargaining as part of his job creation programmes and the PM’s admiration for the New Deal should not blind him to the fact that it is not an a la carte menu from which you can pick different bits. It is a package, of which trade unions are an essential ingredient. What was good enough for the USA, and is good enough for Germany today, is surely good for the UK. I hope that the Government will recognise the strength of this case, do the right thing, and support Amendment 4.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 10, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, concerning the minimum width left on pavements for pedestrians to pass safely. I welcome the Government’s announcement in Committee that they would be bringing forward amendments to place the conditions of pavement licensing on a statutory footing. I also welcome the acknowledgment in the Bill of the needs of people with disabilities to be able to access streets safely. However, I remain deeply concerned at the speed with which these measures are being rushed through. As the Government were not prepared to extend the consultation period for applications, it is essential that there is a clear requirement regarding the minimum space that businesses need to leave on the pavement for pedestrians to pass safely.
At Second Reading, I outlined the difficulties that people who are blind or partially sighted face as a result of social distancing, as well as many of the new challenges due to altered road layouts and one-way systems, not to mention the rapid rollout of e-scooters on to our streets. As it stands, the Bill risks a significant and barely controlled expansion in the level of obstruction on our pavements, which is especially hazardous for people with a sight impairment or limited mobility.
While putting conditions for licensing into statute is welcome, this will be useful only if the guidance that these conditions refer to is relevant and up to date. It is also vital that the requirement to meet these conditions is clearly communicated to licensing authorities. At present, the Bill’s draft guidance refers to the Department for Transport’s document Inclusive Mobility, which is one of the main sources of information on accessible design for planning authorities in England. In Committee, the noble Lords, Lord Blencathra and Lord Adonis, noted the inconsistencies in the minimum distances set out in that document and the confusion that this will cause. Inclusive Mobility only has limited references to street café furniture. As the last version is from 2005, the references to equality legislation are largely out of date. Most obviously, this guidance was drawn up well before social distancing was a consideration. As well as needing to take into account the minimum physical distance that is required for a wheelchair, mobility scooter or guide dog to pass, further space is surely now required in order that pedestrians can pass in congested areas at an appropriate distance.
The need to update this guidance is obvious, and has been for some time. The coalition Government’s 2012 accessibility action plan set out a goal to complete an update of Inclusive Mobility by 2014, but this did not happen. The previous Government made updating it a goal in their 2018 inclusive transport strategy, but we are still waiting. I strongly urge the Government to see the Bill as a cue for clear minimum distances to be specified. The conditions and guidance will be published only after the new system of licensing is up and running, but this requirement needs to be clear from the outset. Will the Government commit to publishing updated inclusive street design guidance, reflecting the new reality of social distancing and to communicating these changes to planning authorities?
My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. It is important that we make sure that the additional street furniture—the tables and chairs—do not restrict access or movement for individuals, especially disabled people. We must guard against creating potentially dangerous situations where people need to walk in roads, navigate around tables and chairs, or break social distancing rules to get past people on the street because of pavement licences. We need to get this balance right. Applications should not be granted if pedestrians are forced to cross a pavement in a dangerous manner, or if there is insufficient space between tables and chairs to enable disabled people to use the new space comfortably and safely or to pass through it without risk of incident. If properly managed and located, so that the needs of all pedestrians and customers are considered, pavement licences can make outdoor places vibrant and socially distanced safe places to be in the summer.
If the Minister does not accept these proposals and relies instead on the amendment in the name of his noble friend Lord Howe, it is important that he sets out, for the record, a clear framework to give clarity to those who need to enact this legislation on the direction they need to go in, and the guidance they need to follow to get this balance right. Finally, will the Minister assure the House that the relevant stakeholders have been consulted on the Government’s amendment on this issue?
My Lords, at this stage, I would like to suggest something which the Government might include in the guidance. I do not fully support Amendment 1, as is not about access but about erecting barriers, which is often unnecessary and counterproductive. It should be perfectly possible, as in other European cities, to do something as simple as mark the corners of the café’s territory with an object, such as a wooden tub of flowers, so that that territory is fixed in what I termed in Committee an open but rigid structure. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, correctly used the term “segregation” if barriers were installed, although I disagree with his inference. The problem with barriers is that those who have them imposed on them push back against them. They start to move, whereas fixed markers do not.
I appreciate that the reason for extending the café on to the street is to increase business at this time, but it should be done in a way that enhances the community. It is wrong that we insist, even before the local geography is assessed, that the café be cut off and isolated physically from everything else. The Government’s draft guidance only says that the use of barriers should be “considered” by local authorities. However, I notice that markers of the kind that I referred to are not listed in that guidance as a possible strategy. Will the Government consider this? I am not talking about permanent fixtures, just something solid enough to help determine the territory designated but able to be carried off the pavement at night and replaced in precisely the same position the following day.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl. I declare an interest in having had the honour, I think in 2016, of chairing the ad hoc Select Committee on the review of the Licensing Act 2003. When my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh sums up this little debate, could he put our minds at rest that the measures in the government amendments in this group, tabled by my noble friend Lord Howe, will negate the need for the other amendments tabled? I think that will carry the House with him. Does he share my concern that the wide-ranging consultation proposed in Amendment 4, while well-meaning—normally I would be in favour of as wide a consultation as possible on any long-lasting modifications —would in this case negate the whole point of speedy measures, which are, of necessity, of a temporary nature?
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady McIntosh. Appropriate regulation to ensure proper provision for the blind, the partially sighted and the disabled in the allocation of pavement licences is absolutely right. In a civilised society, such measures should be a given. I therefore welcome the moves proposed by the Government in the amendments which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is bringing forward.
It is important that we encourage economic activity. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh said, that must be done speedily if it is to make sense in this context. We should bear that in mind. The provisions brought forward by the Government in this group on access and protecting individuals are appropriate and to be welcomed. We should embrace the wider Bill, which seeks to promote the necessary economic activity I referred to. I will not delay the House further, as there is a long list of Peers who wish to speak. I give this part of the Bill my total support.
My Lords, I stand here as a rather inadequate substitute for my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester to support the thrust of the amendments spoken to very ably by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and a triumvirate of government Back-Benchers. This took me back a few years to when we had to cover access on virtually everything, as every single Bill required it. One wonders why when we have the Equality Act, but apparently we need to put something into this piece of legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has said that he is satisfied with the Government’s amendments, so I feel that we probably should be too. However, there is one other issue—enforcement. Who will undertake enforcement? Access officers have been cut. Who will make sure that the arrangements embodied here are enforced? Clearness of guidance is vital, and, as we hear from the Government all the time, this is emergency legislation. If we have to wait to book someone to come in and have a look, that will take time. Will the police have some enaction? Will someone else do something? How clear will that guidance be?
It is not just those who are disabled or in wheelchairs who will benefit from this, but the entire flow of pedestrian traffic. Anyone pushing a buggy with a child in it or luggage on wheels will be positively affected by these changes. How will we make sure that they are enforced? The Government must answer this question; if they do not, this will become an empty series of words with no action to back it up.
My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 9 and 10, although many in this group which make a lot of sense. I welcome the Government’s Amendment 16 and will possibly welcome what follows on from it even more. I hope so. I cannot better what those who tabled them have said about needing more space on pavements, other than to add that I can think of many more reasons to have one and a half metres of space as well as disability needs.
I welcome Amendment 9 from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, which probes how much scope local authorities will be able to have in what they put on under the conditions. Could the Minister make it clear whether local authorities can stipulate a set of standard requirements in advance that will always apply to every licence? Examples could include space, no smoking or types of barriers, but I am sure that there would be other things for particular circumstances. To have a list in advance that you knew would apply to your licence would be helpful both to those seeking licences and to those who may have concerns. Such sets of requirements are far more easily consulted on. Is it reasonable to expect the public to respond to a continuous flow of licence applications? Will fatigue not set in? Ultimately, responses that should perhaps have been made will not go in.
My Lords, I always take great pleasure in following the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles. I note that we debated many of these issues very well in Committee. Things have come on a great deal, and my noble friend the Deputy Leader has tabled a number of well-judged amendments and concessions in this and later groups.
I wish to reiterate the importance of balance. This legislation is intended to help businesses, particularly in the hard-pressed hospitality sector, so that they can get back to work, lure back customers and support broader economic recovery. We are concerned with temporary measures and must not confuse matters by adopting regulatory amendments, some of which we might feel would be well justified if we were talking about permanent laws. To my mind, we have already gone quite far enough and the detailed draft guidance—I think its extent will make many small businesses blanch—makes it quite clear that where a pavement licence is granted, clear access routes on the highway will need to be maintained, taking into account the needs of all users, including disabled people, as my noble friend Lord Blencathra made clear earlier. The guidance also requires applicants to fix a notice to the premises when they make their application.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made a good point about enforcement. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister on that.
We have to get the economy, our construction industry and our high streets going again if we are not to live through a number of frigid economic winters. In particular, our hospitality sector has been decimated and needs all the help it can get. We must stop debating this Bill with its temporary provisions and get it on to the statute book.
I declare my interest as a vice-president of the LGA. I am quite torn on these amendments, as I appreciate that the Government have moved and accommodated some of the problems, but I also see their compromise as insufficient to address the issues raised so well by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.
The Government’s amendments tend to kick the issues into the long grass, leaving your Lordships to hope that Ministers will made the right decisions at the right time. That might mean bringing in the necessary provisions later through secondary legislation, which none of us likes very much. Instead of the Bill providing certainty that blind people and those with disabilities will be protected from unnecessary obstacles, the government amendments actually create uncertainty.
That uncertainty also exists for the many businesses that will be applying for pavement licences, which will have questions about all sorts of random conditions that might later be applied by central Government to their licence. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Earl the Minister can explain their plans and set out a clear timetable for bringing in secondary legislation for these amendments. Most importantly, I would ask him to give a clear assurance that blind and disabled people will be safe and will not be put into harm’s way by the Bill. I hope that he will do everything in his power to ensure that this remains the case.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl the Minister for bringing forward these amendments. No comment has yet been made in this discussion about Amendment 21, but I welcome the clarification that licensing is not part of the executive function of a local authority. It should be done by an independent panel within the authority.
I want also to support Amendment 4, in the name of my noble friend Lord Hain, and again pose the question again: why is this not acceptable? What this amendment and a number of others in this group are all about is effective consultation, in the instance of Amendment 4 with trade unions and the employees who are affected. It is always better when such consultation happens. It can happen at a reasonably fast pace, but at the least the exercise should be undertaken.
The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has argued forcefully on a number of occasions for a 1.5 metre margin around pavement activities. He is quite right to do so and I trust that that will be made explicit in the government guidance. As I have wandered around my local area over the past few weeks, I have seen able the burgeoning of pavement tables and pavement activity. I welcome that because I like the idea of a much more café culture society. However, as people drink during the course of the evening, there tends to be pavement creep, and the space gets narrower. That is why the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and echoed just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, about the importance of enforcement are so critical. Can we be assured that local authorities will have the enforcement and regulatory officers to ensure that there is no pavement creep of the kind I have just talked about, and that the police will be there in sufficient numbers to provide back-up if required?
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister and his fellow Ministers for the careful way in which they have looked at the points that have been made and for the concessions that they have given. Indeed, if you asked the question, “What is the role of the House of Lords?” this Bill provides a good example of it, because while it went through the Commons in a matter of an hour or so, we have given it detailed consideration and, importantly, the Ministers responsible have looked industry detail and with sympathy at the points that have been made. So I make those points first.
I want to make a couple of points, in particular about Amendment 4. Some noble Lords will remember that I was David Cameron’s envoy to the trade union movement. I know a bit about it because I have been a member since the age of 16. Now the first thing about Amendment 4 is that, of course, there are very few trade unionists in the catering industry. The second point I should like to make about it is that this is Labour virtue signalling. There are plenty of trade unionists who support the Conservative Party. Indeed, in the union of which I am president, BALPA, the majority voted Conservative at the last election. Many trade unionists vote for the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and, in particular, for the Green Party—so what we have here is very much a bit of Labour special pleading.
On that, I am always pleased to hear Churchill being quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Monks, that I believe he was working for the TUC when it turned down the proposals of the Bullock committee to consult unions and have them on the board. So let us have a bit of remembrance. And let us also remember that Labour has decided not to support any Divisions on this Bill. So it is worth remembering when it starts asking, “Can this be done or can it not be done?” that it will not be supporting anything to the point of a Division.
I make all of those points because I would ask the Minister to acknowledge in his summing-up that co-operation is needed from all groups in society, including responsible trade unionists. I am sure that they will be happy to co-operate, whether they are trade unionists or just workers in the catering industry. I look on this amendment as a partisan one that does not add to the Bill; it is so that a group of people can go and wave at the TUC.
I note that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is set to follow me. I will just tell him that on one occasion when David Cameron met a leading member of the TUC General Council, he asked, “Apart from the national minimum wage, which we are not going to abolish, which piece of pro-union legislation that the Blair Government passed are you worried that we might repeal?” The answer was total silence. So let us not have too many lectures about what Labour is going to do for trade unions until some future date when it may even have done something.
My Lords, I have taken part in every stage of this Bill and I believe that we must never forget that its basic principle is to get the economy going and in particular to help the hospitality industry. I do not know how it was for anyone else, but over this last weekend less than half the pubs in Bedfordshire were open to cater for people who wanted to go out on Friday or Saturday evening. Why were they not open? Either they did not have the space or they had not managed to get organised, et cetera. Against that, I pay tribute to what my noble friend Lord Blencathra, and the noble Lords, Lord Holmes and Lord Low, have done to ensure that the Government of the day have taken note of the challenges for disabled people. They have worked tirelessly on this and I say a great personal thank you to them. It is good that my noble friend on the Front Bench has listened and that we now have Amendment 16 before us.
The only other point I want to make is about guidance notes. I have been the chairman and the leader of a local authority and there is nothing worse than guidance notes that are out of date. They do not need to be 300 pages long; they need to be probably 20 clear and short statements of what is necessary in an emergency situation.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and others for continuing to raise the issue of access for disabled people, and I too will not rehearse my arguments again. I welcome the Government’s amendment and I have two questions for the noble Earl the Minister. How will this provision be monitored to ensure that reasonable access is not something that is provided from day one, which is what usually happens when the intention is good, but swiftly erodes as we move further out of lockdown, potentially leaving disabled people with a much poorer level of access than they currently have? My second question is: how will disabled people be able to make a complaint and be listened to if their access has been diminished?
My Lords, at the outset I reiterate what I said at Second Reading and in Committee. I welcome the Bill, which will trigger a revitalisation of our businesses and help people’s well-being. We would like the economy to pick up and create employment for people who have been idle for the last few months. We need to take steps to enable restaurants, pubs and cafés to expand their businesses and provide additional facilities to attract customers. Our hospitality sector has taken a massive hit and we need to assist the sector to get back on its feet. We should therefore give consideration to how we can do this. One way is to allow customers to be served outside the premises and on the pavement.
I support these arrangements but we need to look at certain issues that may cause problems to pedestrians. I am concerned about accessibility and the passage of blind, partially sighted and disabled pedestrians. They must be able to get through the customers outside a premises without being obstructed in any way. Blind and partially sighted people already feel less independent during the lockdown. If we do not have proper controls and make appropriate provisions, they will encounter difficulties. If adequate arrangements are not made, these persons may go on the road, take someone else to go with them or not go out at all.
Some disabled persons are in wheelchairs that need to be carefully manoeuvred. If people are congregating on the pavement without adequate controls, manoeuvring will be difficult and cause distress to the disabled persons. Furthermore, there is the possibility of an accident arising because of a lack of proper spacing for wheelchairs to get through, which may cause injury to a customer or the disabled person.
As far as pedestrians are concerned, in Committee I expressed concern about Muslim ladies who may be harassed or picked on if they are walking through a crowded area. Since my speech in Committee, I have been approached by other Muslims expressing support for what I said. It is therefore important to bear in mind issues concerning Muslim ladies. I have been told that since the lockdown has been eased, there has been a spike in Muslim women being insulted and abused.
In addition, there needs to accessibility for all persons, with a distance of at least one metre for everyone’s benefit and as a safeguard against the spreading of the virus. I therefore support Amendments 1, 2, 5 and 6. I also render support to Amendment 7, which will
“establish a right to appeal the approval of an application” within the time stated in the amendment.
Furthermore, I support Amendment 12 regarding the need for a local authority to investigate a complaint where there are issues of accessibility relating to people with disabilities or other pedestrians. I feel that Amendments 7 and 12 are necessary to ensure that relevant persons with genuine issues are listened to where there are difficulties regarding passage or accessibility.
Finally, I support Amendment 16 as I feel the Secretary of State must
“specify conditions for pavement licences”.
I am sure that in doing so, the Secretary of State will be minded to ensure adequate access and passage of all pedestrians without hindrance.
My Lords, I associate myself with so much that been said in this discussion about the rights and accessibility of disabled people in particular; the importance of employer-employee co-operation in the fight against the virus; the need to return to economic activity; and enforcement. That is perhaps why the swipes at the trade unions were particularly gratuitous and jarring.
The deadly pandemic we are still in the grip of seems to discriminate quite brutally and savagely, so it is particularly important that we do not discriminate in our response to it. If anything, we should work harder—perhaps even more radically—to redress the balance in the discrimination provided by the virus.
The economy exists for the benefit of people, not the other way around, so there ought not to be any real tension between the aspiration of protecting people—all people, the vulnerable in particular—and wanting to bring the economy back and to restore some normalcy in our lives.
I am grateful to Ministers for taking on board the points about disabled access and safety in particular. I hope that in doing so they are reflecting not just an approach to this Bill—which, after all, is primarily about economic growth—but an attitude to coping with the virus in general and to not being irritated by reasonable questions about workplace safety, whether posed by teaching unions or anyone else, and concern about public health and safety foremost in the difficult times ahead.
It seems that too many members of our polity and commentariat have tried to present a zero-sum game between this abstract thing called the economy and people’s lives, including those of the most vulnerable. We have heard really quite eminent voices in newspapers and the media say, “Save the economy and let the elderly or vulnerable shield themselves.” That is not a compassionate approach or one of a civilised society that puts human rights at its heart, so I hope the broad base of comments in this debate will be taken on board and not the more jarring ones. It seems we all love our own rights and freedoms; it is just others’ that we sometimes find a little more difficult to swallow.
My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my interests as set out in the register as a councillor and a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
We on these Benches support the Bill’s intentions to provide some additional business opportunities for construction companies and pubs, bars and cafés, which are often smaller, independent businesses on our high streets and have had their trade curtailed by the coronavirus restrictions.
This group of amendments in general provide for cafés and pubs to apply to extend their sales on to the pavement in front of their premises for a temporary period. In Committee we had an extensive debate about the consequences for people with disabilities, in particular those with a sight impairment. I thank the Ministers—the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh—for the meetings following Committee to discuss these issues of concern.
My noble friend Lord Shipley has succinctly described the purpose of our Amendment 20, to which I also have my name. Our intention is simply to ensure that in the granting of licences, pavements do not become a hazard for pedestrians. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has raised similar concerns and tabled a number of amendments to seek clarification and prevent pavements becoming inaccessible. In particular, we have been concerned about tables and chairs on the pavement gradually spilling over into the area set aside for pedestrians. This is the reason for the suggestions we have made about the requirement for a simple barrier to mark off the area of the pavement licence. I hope that most businesses will make this simple provision.
On another issue, the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, has made an important point in his Amendments 23 and 24: the principle of inclusive design should be the starting point when changes to the built environment are made. I hope the Government take note.
The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, to aid a partnership approach between employers and employees and their trade union representatives states a principle we can easily support. It is good that the Government have listened to these concerns and have tabled several amendments seeking to ensure that pavements are kept clear for pedestrians. Although these amendments do not go as far as we and others have argued, they go a long way to satisfy those of us worried about the potential consequences.
If the Government’s Amendment 16 passes, there will be provision for the Secretary of State to make conditions on pavement licences by regulation. I thank the Government for sending an update of the guidance, which shows their willingness to safeguard the interests of pedestrians. We accept that the Government have moved a considerable distance in resolving these issues and look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests in the register. It is right that the House is again afforded the opportunity to consider the implication of pavement licences. The various amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, highlight the need for inclusive design. I agree with him and am pleased that the Government have also tabled amendments on this theme. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, raise similar concerns, and I am glad that the House has debated them today.
I hope that, in addition to the Government’s amendments, the Minister offers further non-statutory assurances to make certain that accessibility issues are resolved. As my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley noted, applications should not be granted if people are forced to cross a road; they should be able to pass by without incident. Pavement licences, when granted, can result in vibrant social spaces, but relevant stakeholder consultation is essential, as is the role of local authorities in ensuring compliance—as raised by my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. I agree with him that resources will need to be made available to local authorities for the extra work that this will entail.
My noble friend Lord Hain returned to the issue of trade union engagement, and he has the support of these Benches in so doing. As he said, consultation and co-operation have become the name of the game. I associate myself with the remarks of my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti in that respect. It should be the norm and statutorily implemented.
The House is aware from previous stages of the Bill that amendments in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, have been raised about the concerns of trade union members. This amendment would ensure that local authorities consult employees and their unions when determining pavement seating applications. In recent weeks, I have spoken to members of Wetherspoon staff represented by the BFAWU, and it is clear that they are often left in the dark on decisions that have enormous ramifications for their working conditions. I hope the Minister will assure the House that he has at least engaged with trade unions in drafting the legislation and that he continues to during its implementation.
My Lords, the pavement licensing clauses in the Bill will provide vital temporary flexibility to aid the recovery of the 158,000 hospitality businesses that employ almost 2 million people over the summer months. That is the importance of this legislation, as raised by my noble friends Lord Naseby and Lord Sheikh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock.
Noble Lords have voiced concerns over accessibility, which the Government agree is paramount. While the Government have sought to address accessibility from the outset, through robust conditions such as the no-obstruction condition, guidance and enforcement procedures, we have reflected on the strong feeling in this House and recognise that more needs to be done.
In response—and what has been described by “a huge step forward” by my noble friend Lord Holmes—the Government have tabled Amendments 6, 16, 21 and 87, in the name of my noble friend Lord Howe. First, the Government have tabled Amendment 6 to Clause 3, which would insert a new subsection after subsection (6). New subsection (6A) provides that, when local authorities are determining whether furniture put on the highway would be, or already is, an unacceptable obstruction, they must have specific regard to the needs of disabled people and to any recommended distances required for access by disabled people, as set out in guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This puts in the Bill a requirement that a local authority, when deciding whether to grant an application and to exercise its enforcement powers, must have in mind the needs of disabled people and for clear access, as set out in the Government’s guidance.
Secondly, as well as the amendment to the Bill, I appreciate that there has been some confusion over the application of inclusive mobility guidance, so we are going to sharpen the focus. Inclusive mobility draws on a wide range of stakeholder inputs and remains the key piece of design guidance for the pedestrian environment. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Low, work led by DfT is under way that will update inclusive mobility next year. However, we recognise that businesses applying for licences may need clearer direction.
That is why our guidance will make clear that, in most circumstances, 1,500 millimetres or 1.5 metres of clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway. We will also address other concerns raised—specifically, provision of clear barriers to demarcate seating, explicit reference to duties on local authorities under the Equality Act and style of furniture. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, that is the framework within which we are asking local authorities to operate.
We have also set out, in the House, the circumstances when local authorities can use their power to revoke, including where there is a breach of condition or there are risks to health and public safety, as well as highways obstruction. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, there are robust enforcement procedures and local authorities can revoke licences when they give rise to these risks. They will need to have regard to the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act, when devising and implementing the new licensing regime, to eliminate discrimination and harassment. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, disabled people can complain to the local authority, so authorities can act and revoke the licence for breach of a condition, which would be taken immediately. The idea of using markers, as raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, will also be considered in the guidance. That was a good point.
In drafting the guidance, we have consulted key stakeholders, including the RNIB and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, as well as the Local Government Association. These are the relevant stakeholders requested by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Since these measures will come into effect immediately on Royal Assent, it is important that we publish final guidance now, so that local authorities and businesses have regard to these vital considerations of accessibility without delay, as soon as these measures are implemented. However, we have made clear that any new national conditions will be subject to the negative procedure, as I will turn to shortly.
Finally, as a third step, we will be communicating the publication of the guidance to local authorities to make sure that they have sight of it as soon as possible. In so doing, we will point to existing examples of best practice on accessibility, as suggested by the RNIB.
With these steps, the Bill now makes clear that authorities must take the needs of disabled people and recommended distances into account, while guidance will set out further detail on what this entails. This provides very clear direction to local authorities and leaves scope for them to respond to their own local circumstances, while complying with their existing duties under equalities legislation. That delivers the certainty referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, with a degree of local discretion. I have to say, I note that my noble friend Lord Blencathra reserves the right to bulldoze through any obstruction in his armoured wheelchair.
I hope, therefore, that my noble friends Lord Blencathra, Lord Holmes and Lord Cormack, the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, will accept government Amendment 6, and not press their amendments on this matter.
As I set out at Second Reading, the Government have accepted the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and tabled an amendment to replace the Secretary of State’s power to publish national conditions on pavement licences with a power to specify any national conditions for pavement licences in regulations, subject to the negative resolution procedure. This should provide a robust level of scrutiny of any national conditions. I hope that noble Lords will accept government Amendments 16 and 87.
The Government have tabled Amendment 21, a minor and technical but important amendment, to ensure that pavement licence functions are discharged by the authority, rather than by the authority’s executive. This responds directly to an ask of the Local Government Association. It means that these functions can be delegated by the authority to a committee, sub-committee or an officer, or to any other local authority under Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972. This is in keeping with other similar licensing regimes, such as the existing pavement licence regime. In short, this will provide a real practical benefit to local authorities on the ground; it means that decisions can be made more efficiently by an existing committee, reducing the burden on local government. This issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I trust that the House will see the benefit of this to local authorities and hope that Amendment 21 is accepted.
I finish by turning to Amendment 4, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hain, Lord Hendy and Lord Monks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, which seeks to require that trade unions and other relevant businesses are consulted when determining applications. I appreciate the intent behind this amendment and the importance of ensuring that employees are consulted. However, this would make the process unworkable and contrary to the emergency nature of the Bill, which is to speed up decisions. We would expect businesses to engage with their employees, so there is no need to mandate this in statute, a point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Lords will not press Amendment 4.
I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Wilcox, that the Government have worked constructively with unions throughout the pandemic to ensure that workplaces remain safe, and will continue to do so as the UK looks towards economic recovery. The Government recognise that trade unions can play a constructive role in maintaining positive industrial relations, and collective bargaining remains an important form of negotiation in the workplace. However, where possible, we believe that industrial relations should be undertaken voluntarily and not mandated by the state. I will leave the matter there.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this group. It has been a very clear and effective debate that goes to the heart of the changes that my noble friend the Minister has spoken to this afternoon. As many noble Lords have said, although the Government certainly could have gone further, they have indeed gone a considerable distance from their position when the Bill arrived in your Lordships’ House.
I thank my noble friend Lord Blencathra for his traditional clarity and effectiveness in getting across his point of view. It is reflected in the guidance of 1.5 metres, although as my noble friend and I agree, it would have been more helpful across the piece had this been in the Bill. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, for her comments, and thank other noble Lords who have spoken on this group.
I am content with the amendments that the Government have laid on the points that I have already spoken to, and with Amendment 21, the technical amendment. I ask my noble friend the Minister to consider whether further amendments can be made to the guidance. There are issues that could be made clearer, particularly around the application process and the appeals process. Wording could be inserted to make it absolutely clear to disabled people and others that they would be able to make appeals, not least under the Equality Act. It would be helpful to have that spelled out in the guidance.
There are also issues around the whole concept of consultation, not least relating to paragraphs 7.5 and 7.6 in the guidance. This debate has demonstrated that there is a bit of a misconception around consultation in a number of ways. I do not believe that consultation needs to be lengthy, but it needs to be effective and authentic. Although it sounds tautological, it needs to be truly consultative. In so many instances across society, it is not, but rather is something masquerading as consultation, and the reality for those involved is very different. I believe that for individuals and local authorities, it would be helpful if, in the guidance, an affirmative function was clearly set out for local authorities to engage swiftly in consultation and to speak to organisations of and for disabled people and others. That could be done incredibly effectively—it may be a matter of a few phone calls. It does not need to be a massive consultation; it needs to be an effective consultation.
My noble friend Lord Naseby was quite correct when he talked about guidance being seen as a leaden weight around the neck of local authorities. Guidance needs to be conceived to be helpful and seen as helpful. To that extent, will my noble friend the Minister also consider putting in some kind of checklist or flowchart, both at the front of the guidance, setting out what it does in a few bullet points, and as an appendix, to take applicants through the procedure and what they need to consider at each stage. That should be done in a clear, effective and understandable manner.
To that extent, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister and his officials for the positive way in which they have engaged. This will be an ongoing issue. We will obviously have time to see and assess what happens as the Bill lands. In conclusion, I am absolutely, wholeheartedly behind economic growth and getting the economy up and running effectively again. I do not believe in any sense that anything around accessibility, or inclusion and inclusive design, runs counter to that. In reality, inclusion, inclusive design, accessibility, enablement and empowerment are the bedrock of a fully functioning economy and civil society. With that, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Applications
Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.
Clause 3: Determination of applications
Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.