Clause 18 - Abolition of business impact target

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:30 am ar 29 Tachwedd 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

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

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

I will be brief, as we have many clauses to get through. Clause 18 abolishes the business impact target in the annual report that the Conservative Government themselves introduced in 2015. Perhaps the Minister could explain the rationale behind the change. Have the Government finally caught up with the pointlessness of this exercise, which has piled unnecessary work and bureaucracy on civil servants over the past seven years? It would be helpful to hear the Minister’s explanation for the change.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

My apologies for being late for the start of the sitting, Sir Gary.

About eight years ago, I bought myself a car. For a long time, the car did pretty much what I wanted it to do, but now it is showing its age and is not really behaving the way I would like, and I am wondering whether it is worth keeping. It would be foolhardy for me to get rid of my car when I have no idea what kind of car I want to replace it with, because I would leave myself open to the possibility either that I am without a car for a lot longer than I expected to be or that a replacement car is much more difficult and expensive to acquire. That is the position the Government want to put us in with this clause.

The sections of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 that the Government want to repeal through the clause are not perfect—as the hon. Member for Leeds North West said, businesses complain that they are too bureaucratic—but they still achieve a purpose. As with most of the rest of the Bill, the Government are saying, “Clear out all that legislation now. At some time in the future, we will bring back something that is better, more effective and less bureaucratic.”

If the Government are so convinced that they have something that works better, they should put it on the table as a replacement. What they have produced does not give us any confidence that they have any intention at all to replace even the good bits of the business impact target. I understand that the Cabinet Office and the Better Regulation Executive are currently working on the matter; why is it urgent to repeal sections of the 2015 Act now? Why are the Government not asking to repeal them and to replace them with something better? Is it because they have not yet thought of anything better?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Minister for Climate) 9:45, 29 Tachwedd 2022

Having left the EU, the UK has the regulatory freedom to ensure that all regulations are designed with UK interests front and centre. To seize the opportunities that come with this freedom, it is important that the Government’s framework for scrutinising regulation—the better regulation framework—is reformed. As set out in “The benefits of Brexit”, we are reforming the system to ensure that we regulate only where necessary. When regulation is needed, it should be designed and implemented in a way that minimises burdens on businesses and households, thereby driving competition, innovation and, ultimately, growth.

The abolition of the business impact target will support the delivery of the reforms by reducing what is currently a disproportionate focus on direct costs to business and allowing—I hope the whole Committee will agree—a more holistic appraisal of the impacts. By increasing the early scrutiny of the flow of new regulation and improving the existing stock of regulation undertaken through the use of powers elsewhere in the Bill, the new system will support the Government’s growth ambitions.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

The Minister has great faith in the new system, but none of us can have any faith in it because we have not seen it. When can we expect to see the intended replacement for the relevant sections of the 2015 Act?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Minister for Climate)

As I said, we expect the reforms to the better regulation framework to set a higher bar for the introduction of regulation and to help to reduce the flow. On the precise timing of when that will be, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman, unless I am suitably refreshed right now. As I say, this is a more proportionate approach, which I think the whole Committee will support. I therefore recommend that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

On the basis of the Minister’s answer, I assure him that we will come back to him in due course and tell him when we are prepared to support clause 18, but we are not prepared to support it yet.

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

Rhif adran 13 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill — Clause 18 - Abolition of business impact target

Ie: 8 MPs

Na: 2 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 2.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.