My Lords, the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004, which I will refer to from now on as the justification regulations, provide a framework in which justification decisions regarding ionising radiation are made. Justification decisions are an important part of our regulatory regime surrounding ionising radiation, as they determine whether a practice involving ionising radiation is justified in advance of being first adopted or approved. In addition, it may be determined that a class or type of practice is no longer justified as a result of a review.
The power to make these decisions is currently provided by Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and Euratom, and repeal of the 1972 Act, the justifying authority will no longer retain the power to make justification decisions regarding practices involving ionising radiation. This instrument will correct this inoperability by providing the justifying authority with a replacement power to make such justification decisions. The powers to make this secondary legislation are found in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Before I explain the changes in more detail, it may be helpful to provide background information on the Government’s position in relation to the justification of practices involving ionising radiation. The UK is committed to maintaining an up-to-date and internationally concurrent justification regime, in order to remain a world leader in radiological safety, as well as maintaining our international reputation and status as a trusted partner with whom to trade nuclear skills, services and materials.
The justification regulations are the first step towards regulatory approval for a new class or type of practice involving ionising radiation, including medical treatments and new nuclear reactor designs. These regulations provide a framework setting out how government determines whether the practice is justified. “Justified” here means that the individual or societal benefit of the practice involving ionising radiation outweighs its potential detriment to health. These decisions are taken by the justifying authority. This can be the Secretary of State of the relevant department or, in some cases, the devolved Administrations, in the form of regulations.
The justifying regulations cover activities which fall within both reserved and devolved subject matters. To ensure consistency in how the process for making justification decisions is dealt with across the UK and different reserved and devolved subject matters, the devolved Administrations have to date been content for the UK Government to establish and make changes to the justification regime, using UK-wide regulations. This instrument will allow the UK Government to make UK justification decisions in reserved areas using UK-wide regulations. It will also allow the devolved Administrations to make justification decisions using regulations covering their own geographic areas for activities falling within devolved subject matters. We have received letters of consent from each of the devolved Administrations agreeing that they are happy to proceed with this instrument.
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The purpose of this instrument is therefore to provide the justifying authority with a replacement power to make justification decisions under the justification regulations, once the current power ceases to be available as a result of the repeal of the 1972 Act. Such a power will be created by this instrument using the powers in Section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It is important to note that this instrument does not allow the Secretary of State or devolved Administrations to make decisions in any other way, or with any greater freedoms than they currently do with respect to the justification regulations. Unlike the wide power under Section 2(2) of the 1972 Act, this replacement power is a narrow one that is limited to making justification decisions for the purposes of the justification regulations. It should also be mentioned that future justification decisions which determine that a new class or type of practice is justified will be made by affirmative regulations and therefore will be subject to debate in the House as usual.
Looking forward, my department is currently aware of several potential justification applications that may require a decision by the Secretary of State in the future. These applications will require a functioning justification regime to ensure that they are subject to the appropriate scrutiny procedures. For example, the HPR1000 reactor, intended for use at Bradwell, is a new nuclear reactor design which would require a justification decision before it could be deployed.
I hope that we can reach an agreement that these amendments are necessary to ensure a functioning statute book on exit day regardless of the outcomes of the negotiations. I therefore commend these regulations to the House.