Amendment to the Motion

Part of Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations of Hospitality Undertakings) (England) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 12:13 pm on 9th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 12:13 pm, 9th October 2020

My Lords, as we have come to expect, this has been a two-level debate, talking about the hospitality regulations we have in front of us, but with a number of noble Lords taking advantage of it, not unreasonably, to make general points about where we are now with the plethora of confused and confusing regulations that we must deal with, and our being told that the whole system will be thrown up in the air next week when we get a new, three-tier system. We do not know quite how it will work or when we might get what will presumably be a new, all-encompassing regulation to bring it in. As far as hospitality is concerned, I support the comments made by my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Benjamin, and many other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. They are all very important points, to which I hope the Minister will apply his attention.

I want to pick up on one or two other matters, moving away from hospitality except to quote what the Minister said at the beginning. He said that we can keep our hospitality venues open and that no one wants to return to lockdown. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, replied, we are already under considerable lockdown in many places, and what is being proposed for next week is a very substantial lockdown for hospitality in many areas. We have gone past “we can keep our hospitality venues open”. What will be done to support those forced to close, and how will that be decided? Which criteria will be used in different parts of the country under this new three-tier system?

I will briefly revert to two questions that I have asked in two recent debates on regulations, relating to enforcement in places that have two tiers of local authority, the county tier and the district tier. Many of the regulations specifically state that enforcement is a power at county, not district, level, but on the ground—in the communities, the towns—it is the district officers or environmental health officers, who a long time ago were called public health inspectors, who do the legwork and have the information and skills to do it. Yet they do not have the powers to make the fines and do the enforcement, so it must go back to county level, causing delays and difficulties. It is not clear to me in the regulations before us exactly who has these powers. I have asked different Ministers twice and now have a third Minister on the Government Front Bench. Can he take this away and look at whether, when the new three-tier regulations come in, it can be made clear that enforcement powers rest at both levels in two-tier local authority areas, so that the districts doing the work can get on and do the job?

We are to have a debate about the new north of England regulations on Monday. What prior parliamentary consultation will take place on what we understand will be a new, all-encompassing system, which presumably will come in an all-encompassing new regulation? What parliamentary approval will be required before this new nationwide, countrywide, England-wide system is brought in? Also, when the new system is brought in and we have three tiers—if that is what we get—what systems will there be for proper consultation with local authorities and people on the ground before they are allocated to one tier or another? Time and time again, as we have heard from noble Lords during this debate, consultation on what happens on the ground in different places has been and continues to be utterly inadequate. I continue to get complaints from authorities in Lancashire that they are being treated as agents of central government, not as proper partners.

A lot has been said in relation to hospitality about the statistics and where infection is coming from. Clearly, there are very different interpretations of this. It would help very much if the Government could issue a comprehensive and sensible explanation of the evidence of where they think infections are now being spread. Having said that, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.