Category Archives: Hansard

Financial Inclusion – Question | Lords debates

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that financial inclusion brings not just economic benefits to the individual but economic, social and psychological benefits to all of us? To that end, does she agree that it is high time that we revisit the question of a “have regard to” financial inclusion duty for the FCA?

Financial Inclusion – Question | Lords debates

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that financial inclusion brings not just economic benefits to the individual but economic, social and psychological benefits to all of us? To that end, does she agree that it is high time that we revisit the question of a “have regard to” financial inclusion duty for the FCA?

Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill [HL] – Second Reading | Lords debates

My Lords, I welcome Rosamund to the Public Gallery; I congratulate her on everything that she has achieved in this area and condole with her on the fact that she has had to. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on bringing the Bill for us to consider.

I will give some words from history: “We saw the lungs of little ones not developing to full size, projecting that, by age 50, they would have the lungs of someone aged 65 and all the attendant health issues that would result”. Other writing details a young person in hospital with pneumonia being strongly advised to leave the city if they did not want their life to be foreshortened because of the air that they breathed. Is this from Victorian times or are they Elizabethan writings? No, it is testimony from today for today. On the basis of that at least, it is high time that we pass the Bill in short order.

There is nothing new in clean air: the first legislation was passed in 1306. But the most famous Act, which is slightly newer, is the Clear Air Act 1956, which was a result of the Great Smog of 1952. At this stage, the United Kingdom was world leading in this area, but we are not today.

We have heard from noble Lords what the Bill does. It could not be simpler: it enshrines the right to breathe clean air. It is impressive in many ways, not least because continuous improvement on the levels of the pollutants listed, year on year, is built into it. It is also impressive because it looks not just at pollutants that harm humans but at pollutants that extinguish our environment.

Part of the problem with clean air is its intangibility. If water came out of our taps that was brown in colour and foul in stench, we would not go anywhere near it; air is more complex, but just as significant to the health of everyone in this country. What will be the consequence or fallout, if you will, if we do nothing? The situation will continue: some 9,500 lives will be ended before their time in London, and that will be multiplied across the country. Clean air, or the lack thereof, is the largest environmental health threat in the United Kingdom.

I say to my noble friend the Minister that we need to look at what education can do. I urge him to speak to the Schools Minister to have the nursery rhyme reintroduced and urgently updated in our schools: not “London’s Burning” but “London’s Choking”. It should be rewritten for the cities up and down our country.

Similarly, what can we ourselves do in terms of education? A fabulous app, Tenzing, tells us the most polluted streets and roads in our capital and across our country. I advise avoiding cycling on Euston Road and the Strand, to name but two. This shows what we can do with data in real time and how technology can help us in this fight for a better environment for the benefit of all of us. The nitrogen oxides in Kingston park are 40% lower than in Green Park in the centre of our capital city.

This is a comprehensive and impressive Bill. It is appalling that we need it, but we do. I will give another example: a marathon runner contracting asthma on our streets as a result of simply trying to keep fit. One individual testimony from someone running on our streets should go to those who are running our streets. But it is for more than our athletes or those suffering from asthma: clean air is so self-evidently for everyone. We often talk about the beating heart of our city, but we should talk much more about the collective lungs. From Storrington to Swansea, Warrington, Brentford, Bristol and beyond, breathing clean air is a human right for all of us.

But it is for more than just our cities: this is for our country. There could barely be a more fundamental right than breathing clean air, yet millions are denied it daily. It is high time to act, for all of us, so that we can breathe more easily—in short, to clear the air. I ask the Minister just this: will he support the Bill and save our breath?

Amendment 1 | UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL] – Report | Lords debates

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 7 and 10 in my name, but before I do I join others in congratulating my noble friend the Minister on tabling the government amendment on energy efficiency. It speaks to an amendment that I and others tabled in Committee, and it is certainly welcome that it will now, rightly, be included in the Bill.

Amendment 7 would insert just three words: “nature-based solutions”. There is a lot in the Bill about climate and carbon, but the reality is, as noble Lords are well aware, whatever we do and must do on that front, we will still be left with a pressing, urgent need for nature-based solutions. As other noble Lords have mentioned, we have “roads” in the Bill. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, has just pointed out, I do not think anybody would necessarily be against roads as a secondary, tertiary or lower-level aspect of an infrastructure project—to get to the shoreline for offshore wind, to give another example. However, that is at best a tertiary part of the bank’s investment, or of that particular infrastructure project, yet it is in the Bill. If “roads” can be there, surely “nature-based solutions” has at least an equal place in the Bill. Would my noble friend consider including “nature-based solutions” and, in exchange, taking “roads” out of the Bill? That would be a thoroughly good thing.

Finally, in similar terms, my Amendment 10 would insert “clean air”—perhaps one of the most significant, precious and essential parts of our infrastructure. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that it would not be difficult or controversial, and that it would be a thoroughly good thing, to have “clean air” on the face of our infrastructure bank Bill?

Amendment 6 | UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL] – Report | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to open this group of amendments and to move my Amendment 6. This amendment boils down to just one word, which predates the investment principles of the bank, the objectives of the bank, the strategy of the bank, the framework document of the bank and everything else associated with the bank: additionality. That is the bank’s raison d’être—no additionality, no bank.

As mentioned in the first group of amendments, we have “roads” in the Bill but nothing about additionality. My Amendment 6 would seek to set out exactly what additionality means, how it covers crowding out as well as crowding in, and what multiple Treasury should set on that crowding in.

Government Amendment 23 is purely an amendment to review what the bank has done on crowding in after seven years. It says nothing on crowding out, hence why I support Amendment 24 in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes, which I will say no more about.

My Amendment 6 covers both the end-point—the review—and the beginning, the mission the bank needs to be on. It is all well and good to have a review at the end of 10 years, or now seven, but without Amendment 6 the review is just the spectre of an individual walking backwards into the future, wringing hands about what the bank has done, either positively in achieving additionality or negatively. Although a review is significant and important, it always arrives a little too late to influence what has just happened.

It is critical that additionality is in the Bill for the benefit of the bank and for the private sector, which would have the confidence to know that the bank would operate to the threshold of additionality, which would have to be achieved or that specific investment would not be entered into. If the Minister cannot accept my amendment, would she commit to meeting with me between Report and Third Reading to look at what we can do to get additionality in the Bill to strengthen the position of the bank, to make projects far more likely to crowd in and not crowd out funding and, ultimately, to benefit everything we are trying to do in this infrastructure space? I beg to move.

Amendment 6 | UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [HL] – Report | Lords debates

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this group, and particularly my noble friend Lady Noakes for bringing forward Amendment 24. I shall summarise what the Minister said: that additionality is pretty much impossible to define, but the bank will definitely do it—so that is good. It is unfortunate that we cannot have that in the drafting of the Bill given that, as I said in opening the group, this is the raison d’être of the bank: its only ultimate purpose is additionality. As other noble Lords have said, not having this could lead to less rather than more, and taxpayers’ money being put to that purpose.

It is desperately disappointing that we cannot have additionality in the Bill. I will withdraw my amendment but, in doing so, I gently, politely and respectfully request that my noble friend the Minister considers not moving government Amendment 23 and working to meld it with my noble friend’s Amendment 24 to come up with something that actually covers both crowding out and crowding in. Certainly, as drafted, government Amendment 23 does not do this. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 6.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Amendment 97 | Schools Bill [HL] – Committee (4th Day) | Lords debates

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this group, and a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I not only thank him for his kind words about my report on the disabled students’ allowance but thoroughly and full-throatedly support his amendments, particularly Amendments 97 and 99 in this group. Everything that he said in relation to deaf and hard-of-hearing students was absolutely right and applicable to partially sighted and blind students and, indeed, all SEN and disabled young people in our education system. I will speak to Amendments 163 to 166 in my name, all of which largely come out of the review that I conducted earlier this year.

Amendment 163 deals with that horrific—shocking in the 21st century—educational attainment gap for our young people with special educational needs and disabilities. According to key stage 2 stats, at age 11, only 22% of SEN students are achieving the appropriate level in literacy and numeracy. At GCSE, they are achieving pretty much half of what their non-disabled counterparts are achieving. When one looks at the progression rate—that is, young people going into higher education—the rates are over 47.5% for non-disabled students, 20% for those with SEN, and 8% for those with an education, health and care plan. If we go further and look at those progressing to Russell group universities and the higher-tariff providers, it is 12% of non-disabled students, but only 3% of those with SEN, and 1% of those with an EHCP.

This is all about levelling up, or the lack thereof, and what needs to be done to close that educational attainment gap for our SEN and disabled young people. The amendment proposes a review into this, and indeed a plan, reviewed every year, until we close the educational attainment gap by the end of 2027.

Amendment 164 speaks directly to the disabled students’ allowance and what should be happening in our schools and colleges right now to promote it, so that our SEN and disabled young people can be aware of it and can know that higher education is a route for them where they will be supported and enabled to succeed and fulfil their potential. Only 29% of disabled people in higher education currently take advantage of the DSA. One of the main reasons cited for this low take-up was lack of knowledge or awareness of its existence. That is why this is recommendation 1 of my review. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that an information and awareness campaign in every school and college about the existence of the DSA and what it can do for our disabled young people would be a thoroughly good thing, and is very much supported by the Student Loans Company, among others?

Amendment 165 speaks to the idea of a passport that disabled people could carry through their education and higher education and, indeed, into their working lives, to cut through the bureaucracy of having to constantly declare what their disability is, what their needs are, how that impacts on their education, higher education and work experience, and what needs to be put in place.

It seems to me that all of this could be enabled through a passport, not least now in a digital real-time format, cutting bureaucracy and time at every beat point of the interaction that the young person would have with the state, and cutting costs. All too often, young people are asked to provide evidence, and they have to pay to get it from one part of the state—be it the NHS, a doctor or whatever—and present it to another part of the state to get a particular allowance. I believe a passport is overdue and would be beneficial to all concerned. I know there is an excellent pilot under way between higher education and access to work, but I believe that, if we are to gain all the benefits and lay out a seamless process for all our young people, it should run right through school and higher education and into work.

Finally, Amendment 66 looks at consistency of terminology and the need to have consistent language through every beat point, not least through school and into further and higher education and into work. All too often, we have some language based on medical concepts—the so-called medical model—some more positively rooted in the social model, and some somewhere else. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that it is high time we had language that is enabling, empowering and consistent through every beat point? Again, going back to my review, many young people with special educational needs had no idea that they could be entitled to disabled students’ allowance because of that complication of language, lack of consistency and lack of a smooth journey through all the points of the education, higher education and work journey.

Amendments 163 to 166 would each make a material difference to the experiences of our disabled and SEN young people. Taken together, I believe they would be transformational, enabling and empowering all our young people with SEN and disabilities to succeed—because of the system rather than, as is all too often the case, too few being able to succeed and having to do so in spite of it.