Clause 15 - Powers to revoke or replace

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 24 Tachwedd 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:15, 24 Tachwedd 2022

I beg to move amendment 84, in clause 15, page 17, line 30, at end insert—

“(4A) No regulations may be made under this section unless the conditions set out in section [Conditions on the exercise of powers under section 15 and 16] have been complied with.”

This amendment ensures that the powers to revoke or replace would be subject to restrictions as laid out in NC9.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Llafur, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 85, in clause 15, page 17, line 31, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

This amendment will remove the restriction on the replacement of EU law that states it must not add to the regulatory burden.

Amendment 94, in clause 15, page 17, line 37, at end insert—

“(6A) No provision may be made under this section unless the relevant national authority considers that the effect of the provision will lead to an increase in levels of environmental protection.

(6B) The relevant national authority must consult its environmental governance body before making any provision under this section.

(6C) The relevant national authority must publish any advice it receives from its environmental governance body, as well as the authority’s response and reasons for any departure from this advice, and lay these documents before the relevant parliament or assembly.

(6D) No provision may be made by the relevant national authority under this section until the final version of its policy statement or statutory guidance on

(6E) The relevant national authority must consult persons or bodies representing the interests of those likely to be affected by the provisions before making regulations under this section.

(6F) No provision may be made under this section by a Minister of the Crown until the legally binding targets required under the Environment Act 2021 have been published, and the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a statement setting out how the provision is compatible with the delivery of these targets.”

This amendment sets a number of conditions which must be met before provision under this clause revoking or replacing retained EU law may be made.

Amendment 86, in clause 15, page 18, leave out lines 1 to 7.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 85.

Clause stand part.

Amendment 87, in clause 16, page 18, line 27, at end insert—

“(3) No regulations may be made under this section unless the conditions set out in section [Conditions on the exercise of powers under section 15 and 16] have been complied with.”

This amendment would ensure that the power to update would be subject to the restrictions laid out in NC9.

New clause 9—Conditions on the exercise of powers under section 15 and 16—

“(1) The first condition is that the relevant national authority has consulted such organisations as appear to it to be representative of interests substantially affected by its proposals, and any such other persons as it considers appropriate, on a draft of those regulations.

(2) The second condition is that the national authority has, after that consultation has concluded and after considering any representations made to it, laid a draft of the regulations before each House of Parliament (or, as the case may be, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd or Northern Ireland Assembly), together with a report setting out, with reasons, the authority’s view as to the likely advantages and disadvantages of making those regulations, setting out in particular—

(a) a summary of the objectives and effect of those regulations as compared to the instrument that they will revoke, replace or modify;

(b) any difference as between that instrument and the proposed regulations in terms of protections for consumers, workers, businesses, the environment, or animal welfare;

(c) any benefits which are expected to flow from the revocation or replacement of that instrument;

(d) the consultation undertaken as required by subsection (2);

(e) any representations received as a result of that consultation;

(f) the reason why the national authority considers that it is appropriate to make those regulations, having considered those representations;

(g) the reasons why the national authority considers that section 15(5) (overall reduction in burdens) does not preclude the making of the regulations, explaining what burdens are reduced or increased as a result of the making of the regulations;

(h) the compatibility of the revocation, modification, or replacement of that instrument with obligations in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU, and the likely effect on UK exports of goods or services to the European Economic Area; and

(i) the likely effect of the revocation, modification, or replacement of that instrument on the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU withdrawal agreement.

(3) The third condition is that a period of sixty days has passed since those draft regulations or that report were laid as required by subsection (2) with no account to be taken of any time during which Parliament (or, as the case may be, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru or Northern Ireland Assembly) is dissolved or prorogued or during which either House or that body is adjourned for more than four days, and where they were laid before Parliament, paragraph 8(11)(a) of Schedule 3 shall apply in determining the commencement of that period.

(4) The fourth condition is that the national authority has considered any representations made during the period provided for by subsection (3) and, in particular, any resolution or report of, or of any committee of, either House of Parliament (or, as the case may be of the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru or Northern Ireland Assembly) with regard to the proposals, and has published its reasons for accepting or rejecting any such representations, resolution, or report.”

This new clause requires the relevant national authorities to consult with key stakeholders on proposed regulations revoking or replacing REUL, and to show Parliament their assessment of the impact of the changes.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am afraid we are back to the Homeric length of speech that I regaled everyone with on Tuesday.

This wide range of amendments is designed to do three things. First, amendments 84, 87, new clause 9 and amendment 94 require proper consultation before the revocation, replacement and updating powers in clauses 15 and 16 can be exercised. Secondly, amendments 85 and 86 remove a prohibition in clause 15(5) against the relevant national authority using powers in a way that would “increase the regulatory burden”. Thirdly, amendment 94 adds a new subsection to clause 15 to ensure that the use of powers to revoke or replace retained EU law is made subject to compliance, in addition to consultation, with the environmental governance framework established by the Environment Act 2021. I will consider each of those three considerations in turn.

First, on consultation, as we have already discussed when considering other amendments, many worried stakeholders have voiced deep concerns about the unchecked powers that clauses 15 and 16 in particular place into the hands of Ministers. The Hansard Society has commented that clause 15 includes, with just a few caveats, “Do anything we want” powers for Ministers. I will not denigrate them by calling them Henry VIII powers. The Hansard Society's written evidence says the blank-cheque powers allow Ministers to act without having to observe the same oversight provisions—for example, a requirement to consult—that were required by the very legislation they are replacing.

Clause 15 also permits sub-delegation, the creation of a criminal offence or the imposition of a monetary penalty providing that any new regulations “correspond” or are “similar to” the original retained EU law. What such terms as “appropriate”, “correspond” and “similar” mean in practice is left entirely up to Ministers—“Do anything you want.” The duty to consult those bearing the brunt of the changes should be one of the most basic to a Government who have now been in power for more than 12 years. Carrying out such a process should not be viewed as burdensome; it is, or should be, a basic requirement of good and proper governance.

Our new clause 9 would remedy that defect by setting out a proper, good governance process of consultation. After consultation, Ministers would need to report to Parliament on the comments and representations made, and explain their objectives, their reasons for accepting or rejecting comments and any differences between the proposed and original regulations, in terms of protections for consumers, workers, businesses, the environment and animal welfare. They would be required to explain what burdens are reduced or increased as a result of the new regulations and to list the anticipated benefits they expect from the revocation or replacement, state whether the revocation or replacement is compatible with the trade and co-operation agreement, explain the likely effect on UK trade with the European Economic Area and, finally, set out the likely effect on the Northern Ireland protocol.

I hope the Minister agrees that those are all perfectly reasonable things to consider. If so, I hope she will either accept our amendments or, if she prefers, could make a commitment now that that will be part of the Government’s process.

Secondly, there is the whole vexed issue of the so-called regulatory burden. Although the rest of clause 15 amounts to “Do anything you want,” it places one limit on ministerial discretion. Subsection (5) prohibits Ministers from using the clause 15 revocation or replacement powers to increase regulatory burdens or impose obstacles to trade or innovation, increase financial costs and administrative inconveniences, impose obstacles to efficiency, productivity or profitability, or impose sanctions that affect the carrying on of lawful activity. The clause thus imposes what amounts to a regulatory ceiling, which is very apt. We can see that it may well have originated with Mr Rees-Mogg.

The Minister and her colleagues have repeatedly sought to reassure the Committee that there is much retained EU law that is not fit for purpose, as they put it, and that they are eager to make lots of improvements. They seem to claim that they will improve standards, rights and protections far faster and to a much higher level than those we have enjoyed as an EU member state. We have been able to cite numerous examples of critical standards, rights and protections that are at risk of being lost, so it is strange that so far the Minister has not yet given us examples of the many improvements that Departments are queuing up to make as soon as the Bill is passed.

Perhaps I can help the Minister with some examples. Our ethical understanding of the impact of human activities on animals is constantly evolving and developing. As a result, we have vastly improved the conditions in which farmed animals are kept, such as by moving on from battery cages and sow stalls. We need to ensure that our UK standards for animal welfare continue to move in line with advances in our understanding of animal welfare. Potentially, we could do that ahead of EU standards. Will the Minister explain how that can be achieved in a way that would not fall foul of the clause 15 ban on increasing the regulatory burden? Those two things seem to be in conflict.

The Minister might attempt to explain that clause 16 is there to allow such regulatory improvements, but it refers only to changes in technology or developments in scientific understanding, neither of which seem to cover ethical advances. Furthermore, as the Hansard Society pointed out, it is left to ministerial discretion to decide whether a change in technology or a development in scientific understanding has occurred. Additionally, changes to the law would have to take account only of technological and scientific developments.

Also, clause 16 can be exercised indefinitely. Unlike other powers in the Bill, it is not sunsetted. Added to that, the negative scrutiny procedure means that changes will not require active parliamentary approval. Yet again, it is a case for Ministers of “Do anything you want.”

On amendment 94, the Minister sought to reassure the Committee in the debates on our earlier amendments that there was no need to carve out critically important environmental protections from the Bill. She claimed that the Bill will have no impact on UK REACH—registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—policy and sought to pass on assurances from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that it is working on a model that will somehow magically reduce costs to business while maintaining human health and environmental protection. She did not mention that the work on REACH is itself running substantially behind schedule.

The Minister said:

Retained EU law reforms will not come at the expense of our high environmental standards” because:

“Our Environment Act has strengthened regulation”.––[Official Report, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Public Bill Committee, 22 November 2022; c. 159-160.]

But she also accepted that there is “no doubt” the Bill requires

“a considerable amount of work” ––[Official Report, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Public Bill Committee, 22 November 2022; c. 158.]

right across all Departments. When it comes to DEFRA, that is precisely the problem, because of the vast quantity and range of environmental, food, air, water and animal welfare protections and standards that are covered by retained EU law. The considerable amount of work created by the Bill comes on top of the Department’s extensive work programme, which was already lagging years behind schedule even before the right hon. Member for North East Somerset dreamed up the Bill that we now have to drag though. The problem is that 12 years of Conservative chaos have left DEFRA mired in delay and missed deadlines. It is not surprising that we lack confidence that it will be able to save key environmental protections from the 2023 cliff edge, 13 months from now.

The chair of the newly created Office for Environmental Protection wrote to the Secretary of State when it became clear that the Department would fail to meet the legal deadline of 31 October to set long-term targets for air quality, water, biodiversity, species abundance, resource efficiency and waste reduction. The letter says:

“as I wrote to your predecessor, failures to meet environmental law deadlines undermine the recently enacted framework and delay measures to drive environmental improvement…a failure to meet this deadline presents a significant risk of a knock-on effect of delaying the first review of government's Environmental Improvement Plan due by 31 January 2023…We therefore see it as imperative that the targets are in place by the end of this calendar year at the very latest. Further delay risks unduly the implementation of important environmental policies so much needed to fulfil government’s commitments to environmental protection.”

The OEP chair’s letter has a long list of other missed deadlines and delays across the Department, including in respect of waste water, river basin management, environmental impact assessment and air pollution—I could go through them all. They are a legacy of years of intense consultations followed by missed deadlines and a lack of action.

This week, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne, wrote about the missed targets deadline, and included even more examples of what his letter called a

“culture of delay in the Department”.

I remind Conservative Members that he, too, is a Conservative. He wrote:

“The dire state of rivers in England requires urgent action, and the delay in establishing a new statutory target does not augur well for the current administration’s resolve to tackle this issue. We hope that the full suite of statutory targets can be published before the opening of the second stage of COP15, the United Nations biodiversity summit, which is to take place in Montreal next month.”

I think the first day is 5 December. Those are the words of the Select Committee Chair.

The Select Committee Chair went on to give a further long list of policies

“where progress appears to have stalled”,

including producer responsibility for packaging waste, which is now delayed until 2024; the statutory environmental principles policy statement; the chemicals strategy and UK REACH; the national action plan for pesticides; and the deposit return scheme for drinks containers. I remember the deposit return scheme first being consulted on in 2019, and we have had perhaps six consultations on it.

The Select Committee Chair’s letter concluded:

“In view of what appears to be endemic delay in making progress on important environmental policies, the Committee has asked me to request, by return, a clear timetable giving the dates by when each of the documents listed in this letter are now expected to be issued.”

Given such a depressing record of endemic delay and of blithely ignoring legally required deadlines, we feel it is necessary for the Bill to be clear that no action can be taken to revoke or replace existing environmental protections until DEFRA has at least completed the work it already has on its overloaded plate. Amendment 94 would therefore require any revocation or replacement to lead to an increase in environmental protection; for the OEP and equivalent devolved bodies to be consulted, and any advice published; for no revocation or replacement to be made before the statutory policy statement on environmental principles has been laid before Parliament or the relevant devolved legislature; and for no revocation or replacement to be made until the legally binding targets required under the Environment Act 2021 have been published. Those targets are now, by my count, 25 days late and counting.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 3:30, 24 Tachwedd 2022

We come to the rub of the matter. When Brexit happened, we were told that we wanted to make our own laws. Any of us who were concerned that that might lead to a reduction in standards or protections were told we need not worry: being out of the EU, which was holding us back from making our own laws, was also holding us back from having higher standards.

Fast forward to 2022 and clause 15, and we know the truth. The clause writes the obsession with deregulation into law. If the Bill passes in its current form, all that our constituents can look forward to is the slow trickle of their rights being watered down and washed away—all in the name, allegedly, of reducing burdens on business. Let us be very clear: business does not want a no-regulation environment. That is a recipe not for competition, creativity and entrepreneurship, but for bad actors running riot over well-established industries and ruining entrepreneurship and creativity. Business wants better regulation. It wants good regulation.

When a law talks of a “regulatory burden”, we know that it does not speak to our economy; it speaks to an ideology that is holding this country back. At a time of economic boom, that would not be a sensible measure. At a time of economic crisis, it is genuinely destructive. Clause 15 means that all the things we were told during the Brexit referendum about higher standards were not true. It means that the promises that environmental protections would be better if we left the European Union will not be kept.

For the avoidance of doubt, that is not an argument about returning to the European Union or undermining the referendum, and nor is it saying that we should not have left the European Union—that debate has been had. It is an argument for holding to account all who claimed during the referendum campaign that somehow things would be better. The Bill demands that they must not be, because it insists that a regulatory burden cannot be created, and what it defines as a regulatory burden is a better standard.

The amendments in this group are therefore designed not just to hold to account all those Brexiteers who made such rash claims, but to protect the right of the British public to have the standards that they want, especially when it comes to the environment, workers’ rights or consumer protections. On Tuesday, Ministers spent much of the time telling us about their record of improving our legal standards and the rights of our constituents. Indeed, the Minister said:

The UK regime sets some of the highest standards of consumer protection in the world, and this will continue to be the case.”––[Official Report, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Public Bill Committee, 22 November 2022; c. 168.]

This clause means that that is not necessarily the case.

The clause says that we cannot improve our consumer protections. Indeed, we have already seen that from how the Government have reacted since we left the European Union. The European Union tried to bring in various regulations about sustainability of goods—frankly, about ensuring that if someone is sold something, it is not tat. Our Government have refused to implement those regulations. Indeed, if the Bill is passed as drafted, we could not introduce them. In this brave new world, we could be sold as much tat as we like and not know that it is tat, all because the Government are determined that deregulation is what the country wants. Again, that is not something I ever saw on the leaflets that came out during the referendum campaign.

Amendment 85 deletes the ratchet provision, and amendment 86 is consequential to it. Between them, the amendments would allow Ministers to replace existing retained EU law with more stringent measures to allow us to have the higher standards that we all say we want on environmental issues, so that we can protect and conserve our precious species—dare I say it, even the killer shrimp. That would help to make the promise a reality.

The Minister might suggest that new burdens should not be pushed through without consultation, and that the minimal parliamentary scrutiny given the potential impact is not a problem, but deregulation is not value-neutral. The loss of a protection can and will create as much of a burden for businesses as not having a burden would do. When we open the door to lower standards, we open the door to bad actors. Good legal protections for workers’ rights, consumer rights and environmental rights help to ensure that the market is fairer. They give businesses certainty and encourage creativity, because they allow people to plan without worrying that they will be undercut.

Given that, the Minister needs to be clear about the definition of a burden in what the Government are doing. For example, is it a burden for a business to pay new parents during their parental leave, regardless of how long they have been employed? In that case, is it deemed undesirable? Is it a burden to have to record whether any materials known to be harmful to human health are involved in a cosmetic product, and therefore is it something undesirable? Are rules governing how many hours employees are allowed to take off possibly a burden? Is reporting on the ethnicity pay gap in an organisation a burden, and therefore something deemed undesirable by the Bill?

If we are reviewing all retained law—it is debatable whether we even have the time to do so in the timetable set out by the Government—we should use the opportunity to usher in the higher protections that Ministers have assured us are the Government’s ambitions. They are things that my and all our constituents deserve. Here are some of the places where, without subsections (5) and (6), Government regulations could improve rights and standards in the UK.

We could have stronger protections for agency workers, many of whom work in the creative industries and have been hit hard by covid and the cutting of our ties with the European Union. That is something that many musicians, actors and performers would benefit from.

We could have higher standards on equal pay. I was born shortly after the equal pay legislation was introduced in this country, and it is a source of shame for many of us that we still do not have equal pay. However, we could finally use the freedom that comes from taking back control to do that. The Government have fallen behind on their own commitments, and that is nothing to do with retained EU law—they failed to publish a report on the gender pay gap, which we were promised. We could use this gap and the fact that we are abolishing all the existing laws to bring in higher standards. On Tuesday, the Minister spoke passionately on how she has been supporting those campaigns.

We could bring in the legislation sponsored by Dame Maria Miller, and ensure that pregnancy and maternity discrimination does not happen in this country.

We could improve monitoring of the use of hazardous materials in cosmetics, and we could raise those standards. Indeed, we could raise standards on animal testing, and that would mean something to many people. We could have higher standards on energy efficiency. We will all be trying to tell our constituents how to save £1 here or £10 there in their use of electrical goods, so let us set higher standards for electrical goods and help them to save that money.

There are many ways that we could use the so-called freedom that comes from being out of the European Union to raise standards, but not if clause 15 remains. These amendments would enable us to do so. The Minister spoke of the world-leading Environment Act. Requiring any regulations under this Bill to comply with the legally binding targets mandated by the Act will not happen if the clause goes through unamended. The Government could choose to use this mechanism not to remove protections, but to ensure that we follow best practice. This programme could happen, but we cannot do it if we are determined that any change to improve standards is a burden. The Minister could accept amendment 92 as an opportunity to equal or even better the EU in our environmental regulations, but they have not yet said whether they will do so.

New clause 9 goes back to the theme that we talked about earlier: our ability to debate, discuss and learn from industries about how we can make better regulation and drive up standards. The new clause would require any consultation on the revocation, replacement or updating of retained law to be made with both Houses and devolved Administrations.

Clause 15 drives a coach and horses through the sunny uplands that the Brexit debate always promised to our constituents, but our constituents deserve sunny uplands—they deserve higher standards. The Minister would find support across the House for revising clause 15 to remove the push for deregulation and instead bring in better regulation. The Opposition amendments would help to lead her toward that. If she accepts and recognises that and works with us all, at least one of the challenges of this legislation—that it forces one-way traffic towards deregulation—could be removed.

I know that Conservative Members want to be able to tell their constituents that they will bring in better standards now that we are free from the yoke of the European Union. If they vote for clause 15, as unamended, that would not be the right thing to say, because it would not be the truth about the Bill. I hope that even if amendments are not made to clause 15 now, they will be in the other place, to take away that push and that threat.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary) 3:45, 24 Tachwedd 2022

A long time ago now, it seems, I was a member of my local planning authority for a number of years. We used to get dozens and dozens of planning applications for consideration, and there was often a lot of discussion about whether councillors who were uncomfortable with an application should attempt to draft conditions that had to be honoured before the application could be approved. A lot of those conditions were perfectly reasonable; we would put in conditions to ensure that housing development was road-safe, for example. An important piece of national guidance that certainly applied in Scotland—I do not know if there was an equivalent in England—was that if someone had to burden a planning application with a huge, complex set of conditions in order to make it acceptable, the application should be refused and the applicant invited to come back later with a better one. That is where we are with clause 15. The official Opposition clearly feel that the only way to make clause 15 even vaguely acceptable is to restrict it in so many ways, and with so many amendments, that it would effectively tear the heart out of the clause.

Although I certainly will not oppose any of the amendments that the hon. Member for Leeds North West wants to press to a vote, we will oppose clause 15 when the question on it is put, whether it is amended or not. It is an utterly dreadful piece of legislation. Can Members imagine any circumstance in which it could be considered good governance to give an individual or a national authority the right to repeal 4,000 pieces of legislation, knowing perfectly well that they have no intention of bringing anything forward to replace them? That is what clause 15 effectively aims to do.

As the hon. Member for Walthamstow pointed out earlier, subsection 5 of clause 15 gives the lie to the entire argument about why the Tories wanted to be allowed to regulate for themselves. It was never about being allowed to have better standards of employment law than the rest of Europe, and it was never about being allowed to apply better standards of environmental protection, consumer protection, animal welfare or anything else. It was always about pandering to what my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute has described as the wide-eyed enthusiasts of the European Research Group, and those who are so far to the right of the ERG they cannot even get elected to this place. In clause 15, and particularly in subsection (5), theirs is the agenda we are being asked to follow.

I am really interested to hear the Minister explain why she feels it is necessary to have an Act of Parliament that potentially allows a national authority to tear down 40 years of protective legislation, with the intention of replacing it with nothing, and with the extreme risk that we will run out of time to replace it with anything. We should remember that we have barely a year from now, never mind from when they start to tear apart the legislation.

When we look at the restriction in subsection (5) and then look over the page at what some of the terms in the subsection mean, we find that they are hair-raising. Legislation that imposes a burden that could include a financial cost is not allowed. There is no threshold and no limit on how many people would need to be affected by that financial cost. For example, the personal protective equipment non-provider PPE Medpro—it was slated in The Guardian this morning and in the Chamber earlier—made a profit of £76 million by supplying to the Government PPE that was not fit for use. If the Minister had been minded to bring in replacement legislation, it would have reduced PPE Medpro’s overnight profit from £76 million and tuppence to a mere £76 million. The Bill would say that was a financial burden. It would therefore be an increased regulatory burden, and it would not be allowed.

Subsection 10(b) refers to “an administrative inconvenience”. Well, good luck to the lawyers who want to decide what is an inconvenience and what is not. Again, there is no threshold and nothing about proportionality. There is nothing to say whether it imposes a disproportionate administrative inconvenience on a substantial section of the economy. That would be a reasonable protection to want to build in, but anybody who claims that that is inconvenient administratively could then challenge it in court. In fact, there is nothing written into the clause that says that the burden has to affect the private sector in order to make it unlawful.

If the burden applies to the civil servants that are trying to administer the new legislation, that is an administrative inconvenience to the civil service, especially if there will be 90,000 fewer of them than we had last year. I am talking about improving legislation that allows one person out of 60 million in these islands to say, “That’s a bit inconvenient for me”, and an entire piece of secondary legislation can be struck down. Despite some of the things I have seen from the Conservative party in my time, I genuinely do not believe that that is what it wants, but I know that that is what some people want.

My fear is that people who cannot get elected to this place are pulling the strings of those who did. Those people are looking to use the clause, and particularly subsection (5), to achieve their dream of a tiny bit of the world where all regulations can be struck down at the stroke of a pen, and once they are struck down it is impossible to replace them with anything. There are people who, at times, have been very close to the seat of power in this place—their donations have helped to change the course of political history in the last 10 years—who do not want there to be any workers’ rights whatever.

A former member of the Government, on whose watch this Bill was drafted, is on the record as saying that he does not think workers have an automatic right to paid holidays. That is the kind of ideology we are dealing with here.

Clause 15 is not about achieving a reasonable objective; it is about completely tearing down 40 years of legislation, some of which we might not welcome but much of which has helped to make the four nations of the United Kingdom more modern and democratic. For that reason, I can understand why some people would happily see all that legislation torn up and replaced with nothing. I genuinely do not believe that is what the Minister wants, I genuinely do not believe it is what the majority of Conservative party members want and I can say with absolute certainty that it is not what the people of Scotland want, and it is not something that the people of Scotland will accept.

I will support any amendments that the Opposition are minded to press to a vote but, amended or unamended, I will seek to divide the Committee on removing clause 15 from the Bill.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I beg that the Committee rejects amendment 84 and does not press new clause 9 or amendment 87.

It may surprise the Committee that English is not my first language—I was not born in this country—but it has never occurred to me that the words “regulation” and “standards” are the same. Members can look them up in a dictionary, but they are definitely not the same.

Clause 15 is about ensuring we have the right regulations in place, by removing those regulations that are unduly burdensome, outdated or not fit for purpose in the UK. How about swapping them for proportionate, high-quality and agile regulations that help the UK economy, and all of us who work in it, to be nimble and competitive?

I remind the Committee that Departments will be able to maintain the current level of regulation where it is considered appropriate. Only where existing regulations are considered to be unnecessarily burdensome and not fit for purpose may a lower level of regulation be introduced. I will validate that in a moment.

The concerns of hon. Members regarding the scope of the Bill’s powers are unfounded, as the powers to revoke or replace are important cost-cutting enablers of retained EU law reform. The dashboard has identified more than 2,500 pieces of retained EU law, and it is therefore right to have a power of this scope that is capable of acting on a wide range of REUL covering a variety of policy areas. The powers have several safeguards that mitigate their use, namely any legislation made under clause 15(2) that recreates a delegated power or a criminal offence present in REUL is subject to the affirmative procedure. Legislation made under clause 15(3) is specifically subject to the affirmative procedure, which will ensure that changes to policy objectives can be actively approved by Parliament. In addition, a sifting procedure will apply to legislation where Ministers choose to use the negative procedure.

The clause 16 power is intended to facilitate technical updates to retained EU law, to take account of changes in technology or developments in scientific understanding. This ongoing power is not intended to bring about significant policy change. It is instead designed to ensure the UK keeps pace with advances in science and technology over time.

The amendments would add a significant amount of time to the process and, ultimately, could risk Departments being unable to maximise the use of their powers to revoke or replace retained EU law across all policy areas, until such powers sunset. The Bill has been drafted to ensure that legislation made under these powers is subject to robust scrutiny procedures that are proportionate to the scope of the powers, as highlighted above.

I ask the Committee not to press amendments 85, 86 or 94. As I mentioned, the Bill is an enabling Act. Amendment 94 would place a number of environmental requirements on UK Ministers or devolved authorities when they intend to use the powers to revoke or replace, irrespective of the policy area. This amendment would therefore preclude Departments making reforms in policy areas unrelated to the environment, which would significantly impact the opportunity to use these powers.

On amendments 85 and 86, we have sought to ensure that the powers to revoke or replace cannot be used to add to the overall regulatory burden on this subject area. In her evidence to the Committee, Professor Alison Young noted that combining

“a number of earlier burdens, turn them into one burden with a higher standard, that is also not increasing the burden.”––[Official Report, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill Public Bill Committee, 8 November 2022; c. 19, Q33.]

The requirement not to add to the overall regulatory burden has been drafted to allow the relevant national authority to determine how best to achieve the desired policy outcome. For example, removing regulations or administrative requirements that are deemed unnecessary or unsuitable will make it possible to add new regulations with a higher standard—shock, horror—where it is deemed necessary or desirable, provided that the overall regulatory burden is not increased. The reforms that these powers will enable are vital to allow the UK to drive genuine reform and seize the opportunities of Brexit.

We had a repeat of the debate about animal welfare. As I mentioned the other day, the Government remain focused on how best to deliver the “Action Plan for Animal Welfare” published in 2021, which builds on our existing high animal welfare standards. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Leeds North West to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00, 24 Tachwedd 2022

The Minister and Conservative MPs expect us to trust them, when they have repeatedly voted against our attempts to preserve the most basic legal rights and protections for consumers, workers and the environment in Committee so far. In fact, no Government should be trusted with the sweeping powers that this Bill will grant, with minimal parliamentary oversight or scrutiny. Instead of wasting time debating their trustworthiness, our amendments were designed to move beyond the trust that the Government have failed to earn and allow for greater transparency. I will push amendment 85 to a vote, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment 84.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 85, in clause 15, page 17, line 31, leave out subsections (5) and (6).—(Alex Sobel.)

This amendment will remove the restriction on the replacement of EU law that states it must not add to the regulatory burden.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 11 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill — Clause 15 - Powers to revoke or replace

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 7 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 7.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Rhif adran 12 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill — Clause 15 - Powers to revoke or replace

Ie: 7 MPs

Na: 6 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 6.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.— (Joy Morrissey.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 29 November at twenty-five minutes past Nine o’clock.