Subsidy Control Bill - Third Reading

– in the House of Lords at 3:37 pm on 28 March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords), Deputy Chairman of Committees 3:37, 28 March 2022

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Subsidy Control Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

For the benefit of noble Lords, I will first make a statement on legislative consent. As promised to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, on Report and as I have sought to do throughout passage, I would like to update your Lordships’ House on the legislative consent process.

Your Lordships will understand that there remain differences of opinion between the devolved Administrations and the Government. This includes the Scottish and Welsh Governments’ retained in-principle objection to subsidy control being a reserved matter, and their objection to the inclusion of agriculture in the scope of the Bill. It is therefore with regret that I inform your Lordships that we have not been able to convince the devolved Administrations of the need for the UK Government to act in this key area. This is, of course, not the end of our engagement with the devolved Administrations. It is our intention to continue to work closely with them on the future regime, and accordingly our next steps will focus on agreements at working level to support the operation of the Act, including a memorandum of understanding in two parts.

I want to reassure noble Lords that it has never been our intention to proceed without consent in place. Our preferred approach throughout has always been to secure legislative consent Motions. I want to reassure the House that the Government remain fully committed to the Sewel convention and the associated practices for seeking consent. We will of course continue to seek legislative consent from the devolved legislatures when applicable.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge

I am grateful to the Minister for fulfilling his commitment and producing the report for which I asked. It is disappointing, but I am reassured by the latter part of his statement—that engagement with the devolved Administrations will continue. I very much hope that that will produce a more fruitful result than has been achieved so far.

Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru

My Lords, I also express concern that it has not been possible to get agreement. Quite clearly, it is in everybody’s interest that the devolved Administrations and the UK Government should be working in harmony on these matters. There are issues, concerning agriculture in particular, that are causing concern. Could the Minister therefore give an assurance that, as his discussions go on with the Governments in Cardiff and Edinburgh, he will keep the House informed and give us an opportunity to debate, discuss, or at least put questions forward to him on, the outcome of any such deliberations?

Photo of Lord Dodds of Duncairn Lord Dodds of Duncairn DUP

My Lords, could the Minister outline the position as far as the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland is concerned? He mentioned Scotland and Wales, but perhaps he could touch on what the situation is as far as any legislative consent from the Northern Ireland Assembly—before it was dissolved at the start of this week for the Assembly elections. He is aware—this was raised in Committee—of the grave concerns that there is there now a dual subsidy control system: the EU system in Northern Ireland and the GB system now applying to England, Scotland and Wales. This could, as he said in his own letter to the chair of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee on 22 March, cause real problems and confusion for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank noble Lords for their contributions. In response to concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, of course I understand the points he is making. He will be aware that negotiations continue on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol. The noble Lord and I have discussed this a number of times. The Northern Ireland Executive have not been able to respond formally to our request for a legislative consent Motion, given their current status. We will, of course, continue to work closely, as far as possible, with the Executive and with the officials. I will be certain to update the noble Lord when I am able to do so.