Amendment 37

Part of Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 23 March 2023.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) 6:00, 23 March 2023

My Lords, as I set out in the previous group, which the noble Lord, Lord Fox, described as the amuse-bouche grouping, there are already sufficient checks and balances built into the legislation before any regulations can be made. These include the need to carry out consultations with key stakeholders, including employers, employees, relevant trade unions and their members, who are all encouraged to participate in the consultations—we have some of the regulations out for consultation at the moment—and have their say in setting minimum service levels before they come into effect.

Parliament, including Select Committees, will also have an opportunity to contribute to the consultation and scrutinise the regulations. The Government firmly believe that this is the right approach. It ensures that a wide range of views can be gathered. Parliament can scrutinise regulations without significantly delaying the implementation of MSLs and therefore extending the disproportionate impact that strikes can have on the public.

Amendments 42 to 48 all seek to amend the provisions to make consequential amendments. The Government resist these amendments on the grounds that Clause 3 is a fairly standard clause, used regularly in primary legislation. Let me explain to the Committee what it is for. The power to amend primary legislation within the clause is a standard power with standard wording. Perhaps it will be helpful to give some examples of where it is on the statute book already. It is in Section 182 of the Health and Care Act 2022, Section 47 of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, Section 23 of the Bus Services Act 2017—I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is not here to hear that—and Section 66 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. This power is not unique to legislation introduced under a Conservative Government. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that Section 51 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 also includes the same power. Additionally, the report, The Legislative Process: the Delegation of Powers, published by the Lords Select Committee on the Constitution in 2018, states:

“Delegating power to make provision for minor and technical matters is a necessary part of the legislative process … Delegated legislation, which is subject to less parliamentary scrutiny, should only be used to fill in the details.”

That is exactly what this power is intended for.

I remind noble Lords that the DPRRC did not draw attention to or raise concerns about this delegated power in its report published on 2 February. I know that it did on others, but it did not with this one. The power may be used only to make amendments to other legislation that are genuinely consequential on this Bill. It is there purely to ensure that the legal provisions within this Bill can be maintained after they have received Royal Assent. Therefore, the Committee will understand why I cannot support these amendments.

Amendment 48 seeks to remove the power for the Secretary of State to make consequential amendments to primary legislation made by the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd. The Government again resist this amendment on the grounds that the provisions of this Act will extend to England and Wales and Scotland. Employment rights and duties and industrial relations are reserved in respect of Scotland and Wales. Therefore, it is right that the Secretary of State has the power to make consequential amendments to primary legislation made by the Scottish Parliament or the Senedd, if required to ensure that the new legal framework operates in a coherent way across the entirety of Great Britain.

The disproportionate impacts that strikes can have are no less severe on people in Scotland or Wales than they are in England. They have every right to expect the Government to act to ensure that they can continue to access vital public services during strikes. The Government will of course engage with the devolved Administrations as appropriate. I have met devolved Ministers to discuss the Bill. Obviously, we will engage further if any consequential amendments are required to Acts of the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly. As this clause is completely standard and has been introduced in several pieces of legislation, including by a previous Labour Government, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or not move their unnecessary amendments.

Turning to Amendments 45 and 46, I believe that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is to delay the commencement of regulations providing for minimum services until the Government have assessed the Bill’s impact on recruitment and retention in the public and private sectors, and the impact on those with protected characteristics. However, the amendments as drafted are to Clause 3, which provides a power to the Secretary of State to make consequential provision. Therefore, the amendments would delay commencement of regulations which make consequential amendments to other legislation.

Speaking to what I believe is the intended purpose of the amendment, I say that the Government resist it. As I have already set out in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, the Secretary of State must consult on regulations, and they must be approved by both Houses before they can be made.

Impact assessments will be published for all subsequent regulations on minimum service levels and will, as always, contain a public sector equality duty assessment. I also draw noble Lords’ attention to the already published impact assessments for the Bill and currently ongoing consultations on establishing minimum service levels in ambulance, fire and rescue, and rail services, all of which contain public sector equality duty assessments. I hope that I have convinced noble Lords to withdraw and not move their amendments.