Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)

Part of Integrated Care Regulations – in the House of Commons at 10:24 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice Conservative, Camborne and Redruth 10:24 pm, 18th March 2019

No, I do not. Having worked in DEFRA for five and a half years, I have tremendous admiration and respect for all those people. Although they work very hard through the night, somebody will mark and check their work the next day. That is how our civil service works, and it has made a sterling effort to make sure we have all these regulations in order.

As a general rule, almost every regulation of these two statutory instruments substitutes “Secretary of State” for “European Commission”. These regulations are not complicated but rather straightforward. We often hear a lot about so-called Henry VIII powers in such debates, and there is a suspicion that, through the use of statutory instruments, we might be making changes to primary legislation that should not be made.

In truth, the most pernicious use of a Henry VIII power in modern times has been section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, which has run rampant through whole pieces of primary legislation, even important flagship Acts that predate our membership of the European Union. We are in a rather odd situation in debating on the Floor of the House whether it is okay to change “European Commission” to “Secretary of State”, as the original powers implied by these statutory instruments were imposed by the European Union without any debate in this House, typically through either an implementing Act or a delegated Act, and therefore with little or no scrutiny by the European Parliament and often with little or no scrutiny by the European Council. The role of this Parliament, if it was lucky, was to receive an explanatory memorandum but, by and large, only ever to receive letters to the European Scrutiny Committee advising on what the European Union had done to us.

Nevertheless, this is what taking back control means. It means that our Parliament, for once, is starting to take an interest in these matters, rather than leaving them to the European Union.