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

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 5:45 pm, 15th September 2020

That is why I am going through the clauses and amendments at Committee stage to keep the focus on what is so important—what businesses expect us to do. I will not go through all the clauses, for reasons of brevity, but I am happy to follow up with anybody who wants to do that as we go through the rest of the Bill’s stages.

Amendment 30 would require the Secretary of State to obtain the agreement of the devolved Administrations before the Secretary of State specifies the level of financial penalties in secondary legislation in cases of non-compliance with the information-gathering requirements of the CMA. I am happy to reassure the Committee that the Government are committed to not taking any steps to bring the financial penalties into effect by commencing the clause until there is clear and credible evidence that there is a need to do so to enable the CMA to fulfil its internal market functions under the Bill. The amendment would also require the Secretary of State to consult with other relevant persons before making the necessary regulations. I want to confirm that the devolved Administrations would be consulted as other persons the Secretary of State considers appropriate, so they do fit within that.

On new clause 2, we are committed to maintaining high standards across the UK. That is absolutely vital. There are effectively two strands of this debate: first, the devolved Administrations; and secondly, concern—understandable concern—about standards. We have said repeatedly that we are committed to maintaining high standards across the UK, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to set out how we are already working with the devolved Administrations to ensure that this will be done.

I thank the hon. Members for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome) and for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) for their passionate remarks in favour of common frameworks and the high standards that we have here in the UK. The new clause, though, seeks to fundamentally alter the nature of the common frameworks programme, the design of which was agreed by the UK Government and devolved Administrations in October 2017 at the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. The principles agreed made it clear that the common frameworks are based on consensus and are designed to establish continuing dialogue between the UK Government and devolved Administrations. This dialogue facilitates policy development in a range of policy areas where powers returning from the EU intersect with devolved competence.

My hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire rightly asked what underpins those common frameworks. Common frameworks provide an agreed approach to ensuring regulatory coherence across the UK in specific policy areas where powers are returning from the EU and intersect with devolved competence. The Bill, on the other hand, works alongside these common frameworks to provide a broader structural underpinning, and offers additional protections to the status quo of UK trade, ensuring certainty for businesses and investors in the form of a backstop—if I may say that—of regulatory coherence. The UK Government continue to work closely and constructively with the devolved Administrations. It would not be appropriate to create a legislative underpinning for UK common frameworks because this is about consultation, collaboration and working together with the Administrations rather than legislating to push them to do so.

In conclusion, in the debate we have had today, we started off with some misunderstandings about common frameworks—we have five frameworks coming before Christmas, including for food standards. We have talked about whether water and the national health service were at risk in Scotland, both of which are not within the scope of the Bill. This is really important: when one starts reading the Bill, one has to get to the last page, because that is where the schedule of exclusions is. It is important to do that, before we posture here in this House about something. As I say, businesses are crying out, “Do not do the politics. Let us trade across the UK.” That is what they are crying out for. That is what they want. So I hope that the amendments will be not be pressed and then we can get on with getting this Bill through the House.