Exiting the European Union (Environmental Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 4:29 pm, 8th October 2019

I am afraid we are here again, for the second SI in a row, correcting mistakes in previous statutory instruments that the Government rushed through. Just as before, the Opposition will not oppose this SI, because there was a mistake in a previous SI that the Government pushed through, but we did at the time highlight that there could be errors, given the speed.

I welcome the new Minister to his place in the main Chamber, having already done so in a debate in Westminster Hall. I am grateful to him for setting out that this SI corrects the drafting in a previous SI. The rest of his speech was very nice, but it concerned an SI we have already passed. The only thing this SI does is allow the Minister to make regulations. In error, the previous SI said he could only make them in writing, which meant administrative actions which do not carry the same weight as regulatory actions in relation to CITES and other wildlife protection legislation.

There is cross-party agreement that that legislation is very important, and some of the interventions the Minister took were on topics that were also very important, if nothing to do with the SI. The only thing this SI does is correct the mistake of the Minister’s predecessor. I do feel for him a wee bit in that respect because he had to say a lot of nice words before he got to the meat of it, which was: “Here’s another mistake we’ve made, and we’re going to correct it.”

I am grateful to the Whips for putting this in the main Chamber, rather than a Committee. Had it been in Committee, no one would have known that the Government had yet again made a mistake in their statutory instruments. Instead, they have given us a platform for all the countless people who like watching SIs on parliamentlive.tv to watch one in the Chamber.

I have high hopes for the Minister. I hope that his insurgent and provocative manner on the Back Benches to drive change from the Government on animal welfare in particular will pay dividends. In the past, we have had lots of soundbites, promises and consultations, but very little action—[Interruption.] And many Ministers, as my hon. Friend Sandy Martin says. I have high hopes that he will not accept the rum deal that his predecessors were putting out.

As with the Minister in the previous debate, I know that this Minister will be robust in this regard, and I hope this will be the last time that either has to come to the House to correct an SI that has been pushed through too fast without proper scrutiny or work. I suspect other errors will be found, however, particularly in the surge of SIs around February and March. This is not the first, the second or the third time the House has had to correct a drafting error in an SI.

I politely say to the Minister that a piece of work could usefully be done by DEFRA officials, who, to be fair, have had the most SIs to get through. Though no blame is being attached to them, the speed at which the SIs were reviewed will inevitably have let through some gremlins, such as this one. This was an important one to catch because the powers in article 7 that he set out are important. We need to make sure the Secretary of State has the ability to correct and make regulations, rather than just make administrative pronouncements.

I encourage the Minister not to accept any such errors and to make sure there is a robust process in place, because I suspect that this will not be last time he has to stand at the Dispatch Box to correct an SI that has gone wrong. That said, I also encourage him to carry on fighting the good fight, because there is lots to be done on animal welfare and climate change in his Department. The Opposition wish him well in that. There is cross-party support for more robust animal welfare action, and, as we have seen from the protestors outside, more robust action on climate change.