Exiting the European Union (Environmental Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:18 pm, 8th October 2019

I thank my hon. Friend very much. I have heard a bit about what his council is doing and it does sound inspired. I would love to take him up on his very kind invitation. We will talk later. Now I am going to make some progress.

The Government’s support for CITES is just one part of a much bigger and wider commitment to tackling the catastrophic loss of biodiversity we are now facing. At the UN General Assembly a couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced a new £220 million international biodiversity fund to protect and restore biodiversity. The new fund will provide support for, among other things, a new biodiverse landscapes initiative, substantial uplifts to the world-renowned Darwin fund, and work to combat the illegal wildlife trade, including for the IWT Challenge Fund. He also announced a doubling of international climate finance to £11.6 billion. That will provide for a massive scaling up of nature-based solutions to climate change, which are vital if we are serious about averting the threat not only of mass extinctions, but of climate change. The proposed legislation makes sure that after we leave the European Union, the regulations implementing CITES will work in the UK.

CITES is currently implemented in the EU through a number of regulations known as the EU wildlife trade regulations. Those EU regulations will become retained EU law on exit day. We have already made various EU exit regulations to make the legislation work in the UK. This statutory instrument corrects the drafting in one of the previous EU exit instruments.

The EU regulations put in place a system of permits and certificates for cross-border movement of specimens of endangered species. The main EU regulation, No. 338/97, contains a number of derogations—exceptions—from the permitting regime. Further detailed provisions on derogations are then set out in a subsidiary, implementing regulation, No. 865/2006. The main regulation gives the European Commission powers to legislate and set out these rules in subsidiary legislation.

We are talking here about specific provisions. The main regulation contains derogations in articles 7(1) to 7(3). These relate to specimens of species born and bred in captivity or artificially propagated, specimens in transit, and specimens that are personal and household effects. Article 7 currently gives the European Commission legislative powers to make further detailed provisions on these derogations, and that has been done in subsidiary legislation—EU regulation No. 865/2006.

These derogations cover, for example, the process by which someone may be able to import certain artificially propagated orchid hybrids without the normally required CITES paperwork and checks, recognising the low conservation risk that that trade has. They also govern how someone might be able to move a piece of rosewood furniture when a family moves from one country to another.

This SI ensures that the Secretary of State has the necessary legislative powers to amend detailed provisions on key derogations in retained EU law. It corrects the drafting in a previous SI, the Environment and Wildlife (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019—henceforth referred to as SI 2019/473—which will in turn amend CITES-related retained EU law on exit day. SI 2019/473 provides for the Secretary of State to carry out functions currently performed by the European Commission and for her to set out the detailed provisions on the relevant article 7 derogations “in writing”.

This proposed SI makes two amendments. The first corrects a drafting error, so that the Secretary of State can set out the regulatory detail of the derogations “in regulations”, as opposed to “in writing”. That will ensure that the Secretary of State has the legislative power to amend the retained EU law provisions after exit. This ensures that we can, for example, amend the detailed derogation provisions to strengthen the controls that we have in line with our oft-stated policy aims. The second amendment provides that regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of these derogations will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure.

The Government have made it clear that the intention is to raise the bar for environmental standards when we leave the European Union. This includes our efforts to protect endangered species and our commitment to CITES.