06/03/2017 Lords Questions


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My lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the


order paper, and in doing so I declare my interest is chair of the


Leeds University Law schools advisory board. My lords, as the


legal profession in England and Wales and the bodies that regulate


it are independent from Government, we have not made any assessment of


the solicitors' regulation authority's recent approvals. Set


out in 2007, it will be for the legal services board to determine


whether to approve changes to the legal qualification for solicitors


should the regulation authority set to proceed with its proposals. My


lords, I thank the noble lord for that reply, but is he not aware of


the widespread concern that the selectors regulation authorities


proposals will mean that universities have to teach to the


solicitors qualifying examination if they are to remain competitive,


potentially restraining the Brits of the curriculum that can be taught as


part of the degree and stifling curriculum development? We do not


believe that it would have such a stultifying effect on the University


law schools to which the noble lord refers, and I would observe that


there are currently 110 qualifying law degree providers, and 26


providers of the legal practice course, and no consistency of


examination at the point of qualification. My lords, given the


massive cuts in legal aid on the rising cost of tribunal and court


proceedings on the difficulties resulting from the consequential


growth are the number of unrepresented litigants, shouldn't


any qualification programme include a requirement to provide pro bono


advice and representation? My lords, as I have already indicated, the


question of what qualification requirements there should be is a


matter for the Solicitors' Regulation Authority, and for the


legal services board. And of course they are concerned to pursue their


statutory obligations, which includes the requirement to have


regard to the demands upon the profession. We are seeing something


of a turf war between the SRA and the law society at the moment. One


can see the case for separation with the SRA is regulator and the law


society governing the profession, but the position at the moment is


the SRA wants to control standards for entry into the profession, and


the law society's concern is not to lower those standards. Does the


Government have a view on how those issues can be resolved given the


public interest in maintaining standards of legal practice? My


lords, the Solicitors' Regulation Authority has no desire to see any


diminishing in standards. Its concern is to increase access to the


profession in order that we can have a more effective and diverse


profession. As regards the test at the end of the day of what will be


appropriate for the regulation of access to the progression, the Legal


Services Board will make a determination in light of the SRA's


determination. Does the noble lord notice that there is a distinct lack


of guidance from the Legal Services Board, for one hand the barristers


are taking this opportunity to upgrade the qualifications, while


the solicitors are going in there other direction, and given that


there are very few jobs for new solicitors, that ought to be a


moment to upgrade of qualifications as well. Does he agree with me it is


high time for a review of the legal services board which seems to have


failed in the last Venney is to produce any of the reforms and


improvements that were promised at the outset? My lords, we do not


consider that there is a need for a further review at this time. As the


noble baroness will be aware, the legal education and training review


was jointly undertaken by the Solicitors' Regulation Authority and


the bar standards board on the chartered Institute of legal


executives, and that review resulted in a report which was published in


June 2013. The review did find weaknesses in the current system of


legal education, and the SRA are seeking to address those in their


submissions to the Legal Services Board. Can I draw attention to the


register in the members register of interest. Perhaps I could tempt the


noble lord the Minister to reflect on the question that my noble friend


Lord low raised earlier, which is the narrowing of the curriculum. I


accept entirely that the SRA and the legal services board are


independent, but wouldn't it be of national concern if family law, if


disability rights, if social welfare law, were to be squeezed out in the


narrowing of that curriculum? My lords, I understand the point made


by the noble lord, and agree that we should not see a narrowing of the


curriculum, but where people undertake study at a university,


whether it be a law degree or some other form of degree, they did do so


for the sole purpose of passing a professional examination. They do so


in order to broaden their understanding in general, and in


order to extend their education and their understanding of the law. So


for example a study of jurisprudence may not regard it as absolutely


essential to passing examinations set by the solicitors regulatory


authority, but nevertheless is appropriate for anyone expecting to


pursue a career in the law. My lords, I beg leave to ask the


question standing in my name on the order paper. My lords, the


Government recognises allotments as valuable assets that lay an


important role in bringing communities together to live


healthier lifestyles. Before disposing of allotments, councils


must satisfy a range of statutory criteria set by the Government.


Moreover, there is a range of measures through which communities


can help to safeguard their allotments, including the National


planning policy framework, neighbourhood planning and the


community right to bid, all hopefully keeping the allotments


free of Japanese knot weed. The 1908 act which smallholdings and...


Sorry... They still apply, where more than six people ask for an


allotment, were they not given one? My lords, my noble friend is right


of the importance of the 1908 allotments act, and subsequently the


1925 act, and the Government has subsequently tightened the statutory


duties on local authorities in the 2014 statutory guidance, which


ensures that existing allotment holders are protected where the


local authority wishes to dispose of the allotments. That protection is


there, my lords. While allotments make available contribution, public


parks play an even larger part in encouraging health and well-being.


The Heritage Lottery Fund warned in October that council cuts were


endangering the condition and health of public parks, and last month the


committee warned of cuts of up to 97%, with some parks facing a return


to the neglect suffered in the 80s and 90s. What is the Government


doing to mitigate this threat to amenity and public health? My lords,


as always, the noble lord is absolutely right about the


importance of green spaces, which as he will know are well protected in


the housing white paper which is open for consultation until the 2nd


of May, and I have no doubt that my noble lord will be consulting that.


Myla Rose, I declare an interest as a plot holder in Saltaire. We have


talked about the benefits to the community of communal spaces and


Gardens. Does the Government give encouragement to developers


developing new housing about moving back from individual gardens and


individual houses towards a greater density of houses with communal


space and communal gardens, which is exactly what allotments are, given


the current long waiting list in so many parts of the country for


allotments? My lords, first of all on green spaces in general, as I


have indicated, they are the subject of consultation in the housing white


paper, and my noble lord is right about the importance of appropriate


density provision but with those green spaces. An allotment in


particular we give special consideration and have done since


1908, and if anything that production has been ramped up in the


2014 guidelines. With regard to the waiting list, I have spoken to the


National allotment society, and pressure has eased an allotment


waiting list, there is still waiting list but it is not as long as it was


ten years ago. Would my noble friend recognise that private landowners


are often very well placed to make land available for allotments, and


given that, would he encourage Defra to promote discussions between


councillors and the NFT and other representatives of landowners to see


if they can find ways to promote private provision? My noble friend


makes a very important point. Having spoken with the National allotment


society, they are at the moment discussing and bring to fruition a


plan with British Telecom making available a lot of land that has


previously been now disused telephone exchanges, I think 1200,


which will be used for allotments, which is very heartening. But I do


take on board what my noble friend has said and echo it. 100 years ago


last month, the Germans declared unrestricted U-boat warfare on this


nation and almost starved us to death, and allotments became very


important as they were in the Second World War. Whilst allotments are


wonderful things, does the noble lord the Minister not feel that


protecting our merchant shipping and having enough warships might be more


important? It's like a round of Mornington


Crescent with the noble Lord, he always succeed in bringing it in but


of course I agree about the importance of allotments, and


ensuring we have appropriate food supplies. Whilst there are massive


numbers of houses planned for the future, and I have seen no reference


in the literature about that about the provision of allotments for news


housing -- new housing which will be appended to many small communities


which have plenty of provision but there is nothing on the map to show


what will be added to that provision when the new houses are built. My


noble friend I'm sure will take comfort from the fact that in


neighbourhood planning, which of course those it rude to the localism


act of 2011, many areas are bringing forward plans for neighbourhood


allotments, Exeter, Norwich, Edward Heath just to give some examples. My


Lords, further to the question from his noble friend, if the noble Lord


aware that the National Trust provides some allotments and that


there are a number of charities that have communal gardens to help people


with mental health problems and that rooting around in the soil and


seeing plants grow and harvesting them is a wonderful rehabilitative


practice. My Lords, the noble countess makes a very valuable point


about all of the benefits of allotments, and that is why we


provide special protection for them and give such importance to them in


neighbourhood planning, community right to bid and the planning


framework I spoke of. My Lords, again referring back to the question


from the noble Viscount Hailsham, would the noble Minister agree that


one of the great benefit of allotment is the diversity of what


is grown on them and the effect that has the are pollinators which is


extremely important to agriculture and is he not think that is a good


region to encourage farmers to make land available? My Lords, the noble


Baroness makes important point about pollinators and the variety of


plants and vegetables in allotment and I had the opportunity to see


this with my own brother and I hope he is listening so I can benefit


from it again this year. My Lords, in the London area in the past the


obligations were less for the local authorities also is that still the


position that London is treated differently? The noble Baroness


understands London like few others and she is absolutely right that


that was the position in the 1908 act but I think since the 1925 act


London is dealt with on exactly the same basis. If I am wrong on that, I


will write to her and put a copy of the letter in the library. Does the


noble Lord agree with me that once we have left the European Union are


probably going to have to grow a lot more of our own food? And therefore


we are going to need many more allotments in which case we need to


look at the law again but can you tell me whether the Department for


exiting the EU had this on its agenda? My Lords, first of all, I


think as I have indicated in relation to an earlier response, I


think growing our own food is of importance anyway. I don't know if


we are looking at this particularly through the Department of exiting


the EU but it is of extreme importance, as are all the other


benefits we have from allotment and why they are so important as has


been indicated today. This is my noble friend aware that concerned


about public parks to which the noble Lord made reference is widely


shared across the house? Can he say anything about what the government


is doing now to safeguard their future while this consultation


exercise grinds along? My Lords, I do share the view that this is


extremely important as my noble friend as indicated as I said, this


is acknowledged in the housing White Paper, we have many challenges,


building more houses at the same time as predicting Green Belt and


public parks and as I say, it is open for consultation to take views


from people until the 2nd of May. My Lords, I beg to ask the question


standing on the order paper in my name. My Lords we know the careers


advice still there is usually even though there is a lot of good work


underway and that is why we will publish a comrade 's career strategy


for all ages later this year. We want to build on the progress so


far. The careers and enterprise company has made an excellent start


and is boosting the level of employer input into schools and


colleges and the National careers service continues to provide free


impartial support across the country and has excellent customer


satisfaction rates. My Lords, there is a great need in this country for


skills and many 16-year-old and others are not aware of the


vocational education opportunities available. I recently met with the


aerospace industry you are combining together with what other


organisations and trade is to offer training and vocational


opportunities. Can I say to the Minister that these opportunities


are not always, people are not always aware of these opportunities


for training and vocational education and suchlike and to ensure


the government publicises the many opportunities that are available in


this country for training, education and vocational. I share the noble


Lord's concern about the lack of awareness in some cases in these


opportunities and of course we are determined to increase the status of


technical education which we are discussing in the technical and


further education bill and we have accepted an amendment from Lord


Baker in that built to require schools to allow principles of


institutions offering technical education to come into the schools


to meet the pupils. My Lords, in a recent report by the young women's


trust on apprenticeships it was found that young women received less


average pay, less on-the-job training and were more likely to be


out of work after their apprenticeships than their male


counterparts and are declared an interest as a trustee of the young


women's trust. Part of the problem is the occupational segregation that


occurs so will be noble lord say what the government is doing to make


sure that young women received the appropriate careers advice? I share


the noble lady's concern about this. Our reforms to career guidance are


based on schools connecting with pupils to understand the breadth of


opportunity available to them and particularly in relation to girls,


we welcome initiatives like the inspiring women campaign run by


inspiring the future and we also have a lot of activity underway to


stimulate more interest in the stimulating physics network and a


further mass support group which provides support to schools with a


particular focus on engaging girls. My Lords, I believe there is


something like 58% of graduates who are employed in what is described as


non-graduate jobs will I suggest part of the reason for


that is that there is not an efficient functioning of guiding


young people at university into career areas which are suitable for


them and indeed, as comment date --, dead, people are not aware there is


advice at university. I hope the government will think hard about how


it can improve that and actually make our graduates get into the sort


of jobs they are suitable for. My noble friend makes an extremely good


point and I note might colleague Minister Johnson is very focused on


this -- I know. I remember being told that we are the worst country


in Europe for aligning courses in universities with jobs available and


we believe that the plans on the higher education bill will make


students much more focused on what are worthwhile occupations. A few


months ago the noble Lord without the technical further education Bill


in which he had accepted a cross-party amendment which means


that from September all state funded school in England must provide


access to a range of education training providers and it was very


much welcome by all those in committee but in that debate he


said, our career strategy will not be effective unless schools and


colleges are held to account for the quality of their careers provision.


Stead had an important role to play in this regard. -- Ofsted. With the


noble Lord accept that when this comes into effect, Ofsted should


only give an overall good or outstanding rating to a school or


college if it concluded the careers advice providing by them is of a


good or outstanding standard? There were about 30 different categories


of ratings when we came into government and we were keen to


simplify the arrangements. They have sharpened their approach


specifically to careers and continues to remind inspectors of


the importance of effective information advice and guidance and


careers provision features within three of the four graded judgments,


if that Mr -- effectiveness of leadership and management, personal


element, behaviour and welcome and outcomes. My Lords, what advice is


provided for minority women who want to break out of the stereotypical


jobs towards which they are normally encouraged to move and actually do


careers who are not normally assumed to be their domain? What support


once they make those choices in order to enable them to continue? I


have already referred to the inspiring women and stimulative


physics network and the further mass support programme which particularly


focused on encouraging women into this. And of course schools should


be organised to particularly encourage their female pupils to see


a wide range of career opportunities for them and support them further to


make sure that they are encouraged to go on visits and trips which, as


we know, is sometimes not easy. Does the Minister agree that one of the


things... My Lords, we all wait for this


competitive strategy with great anticipation. Would the Minister


agree that part of this, Brent of strategy should ensure that there is


properly trained people who give face-to-face advice to people and


secondly, the importance of careers and jobs and enterprise at primary


school level? I agree that careers advice should start at an early age,


it depends on how you pitch it but certainly all schools should be


identifying their children's passions and interests and


attitudes. It's interesting what he says about face-to-face advice,


there is clearly evidence that if that is all one is relying on it is


a very ineffective strategy and most studies have concluded that the best


careers advice comes through activities with employers and there


is evidence that five or more employer engagement during secondary


school means that students are seven times less likely to be meat.


I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the order


paper. My Lords, the OTS's current VAT simplification review will not


consider these issues. The review is focused on identifying opportunities


for simple negation of the VAT system and establishing whether the


system is working to minimise tax compliance burdens. The government


has gone to great lengths to promote healthy eating, drinking and


lifestyles, announcing a new soft drinks industry levy and a sugar


reduction programme to help address childhood obesity. My Lords, I'm


grateful to the noble lady for a reply but disappointed and I'm


wondering whether in fact she might not be persuaded to reflect on the


need for a further examination of this subject. Wilshere agree that in


fact Brexit provides the opportunity for us to look at the 18th, customs


and excise duty and whole range of taxes and a much more flexible way


than we have been able to do before when linked to Europe -- will she


agreed. Though she agree that we have a major problem with the cost


alcohol is causing to the NHS and one of the ways we might change that


is by the ways we might change that is by endeavouring to persuade


people to move from the high-strength drinks down to lower


strength drinks and that now we have this flexibility coming, there is a


strong case to effect such a change? My Lords, I have some sympathy with


the point the noble Lord makes. The government believes that alcohol


duties should be related to the alcohol strength of drinks but as he


says, EU law currently restricts changes to the rates and indeed the


structure of alcohol duties. We have already said that we would like any


future changes to allow duty on wine to rise in line with alcoholic


strength. We are constrained until we leave the EU but we will


certainly consider this issue carefully in the light of EU exit.


My Lords, the noble lady, my noble friend will be aware that the health


Minister made reference to the ad hoc scrutiny committee on the


licensing act 2003 to the effect that customs and excise duty would


be reviewed precisely in this regard. Given the hard work that the


noble Lord Brooke has been doing over many years in this regard, what


plans does the government have to look at pricing, taxation and


potentially minimum unit pricing is at staple controlling alcohol,


predicted a harmful effect on all age groups of alcohol and excessive


alcohol abuse? The Government obviously looks


forward to the work being done by the committee looking into the


licensing act, learning from what has worked well and what has worked


less well, and I think it's fair to say that the Government has done a


whole range of things to try and tackle the problem of cheap alcohol,


the lower strength drinks have lower rates, there are higher duties on


higher strength beers and ciders, we took action to ban sales in England


and Wales below duty and vat, we amended the definition of ciders


that only products with a minimum 35% apple or pear juice can be


called cider for tax purposes. And we have worked with the Home Office


and the police to take a whole load of measures which I think are very


important. Noble Lords will know that I used to be in the retail


industry, and this was an area that exercised me a lot, and indeed we


supported the minimum unit from pricing which came in in Scotland


and is now the subject of court action. I share the disappointment


of my noble friend and the Ministers' reply. I understand what


the Minister says when it is about signification, but it is also an


opportunity. If the Education Minister can devote a levy to


schools, a levy upon soft links to school sports in order to tackle the


problem of obesity, why on earth can we not look at VAT to see ways in


which we can ensure that the issues of heavy drinking and alcoholic


drinks is tackled as being quite an acute health problem, and it needs


the resources. Alcohol is a problem, and I think I gave a positive answer


in relation to the direction of travel. Outlining the issues that


there are in relation to the EU rates and structures of alcohol


duties. The truth is that alcohol, obesity, our problems right across


the board, and that is one of the reasons why local authorities have


?16 billion for public health over the spending review period, and that


is in addition to the Ph.D. Funding, and what the NHS itself spends on


invention. Our GPs do a marvellous job, and I have been very struck by


the way they support the measures that we need an alcohol. But I take


the point that the licensing and tax regime are also important. My lords,


could the noble baroness inform us if the Government is content with


the way white cider is currently being marketed and taxed? Whiteside


is in fact not cider at all, and many bottles have the equivalent of


11 units of vodka in them. In some shops, it is cheaper per litre than


milk. I understand that there is potential to increase tax on this


within the EU guidelines to reduce its destructive effect, particularly


on young people. We have made the changes in the rules that I


mentioned. We have had a number of representations including Whiteside


in the context of the budget. And I would only add of course that the UK


cider industry is an important part of the Rock economy. It uses almost


half of the apples produced in this country. -- the rural economy. The


Sheffield research group has suggested that a 50p minimum unit


pricing for alcohol together with a duty escalator could save around 700


lives a year from alcohol-related causes. Wouldn't it therefore be in


the interests of the country, the NHS and the Treasury to introduce


such policies? We have of course already banned sales in England and


Wales are low duty and VAT, but the minimum unit pricing introduced in


Scotland is actually subject to an appeal in the Scottish courts, and


whilst that is continuing, the introduction of unit pricing in


England and Wales has to remain under review.


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