Clause 28 - Functions of the CMA under this Part: general provisions

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 2:02 pm, 15th September 2020

Dame Rosie, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I rise to talk to amendments 28 to 30 in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

When the Institute for Government warned that

“it is not clear how disputes around the functioning of the internal market will be managed”,

it opened up the yawning and damning gap in the plans for the governance of the internal market. As a result of ditching co-operation over common frameworks, this Government propose to fill the gap with an Office for the Internal Market—an unelected quango. I will return to the composition of that body shortly. The Office for the Internal Market will have an effective veto over the Scottish Parliament, and the subsequent result is that devolution will be hamstrung. This is yet another step in introducing a system where standards are set by Westminster and they must be accepted by Scotland in devolved areas.

Analysis by the Scottish Government has revealed that successful Scottish policies such as alcohol minimum unit pricing, our policy on tuition fees and the ban on smoking in public places would be among the Bills referred to the Office for the Internal Market. That has been opposed by many bodies who have shone a light on this. The National Farmers Union Scotland has raised a series of concerns about the function of the Office for the Internal Market’s dispute resolution mechanism in managing policy differences, ensuring that the UK Government do not have the final say on areas of devolved policy, including agriculture, and enabling the devolved Administrations to act where it is considered that a policy aligning in a particular manner is unfavourable to devolved interests such as agriculture.

Of course, it would not have to worry about that if the UK Government had simply continued work on common frameworks. Common frameworks are designed to manage cross-UK divergence where EU law and devolved competencies intersect, including in relation to the functioning of the UK domestic market, together with existing processes for regulatory impact assessment and existing structures for regulatory co-operation and information sharing. Let us be clear: they do not need to be supplemented or undermined by a new, unelected body.