Amendment 7

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:34 pm on 28 February 2023.

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Baroness Randerson:

Moved by Baroness Randerson

7: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at beginning insert “Except for the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts by Children in Front Seats) Regulations 1993 (S.I. 1993/31),”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment excludes the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts by Children in Front Seats) Regulations 1993 from the sunset in Clause 1. The Regulations protect children from serious injury or death in vehicle accidents.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, this group includes four pieces of transport-related retained EU law, simply to illustrate how fundamental it is to our own protection, both physically and as consumers, with compensation and assistance when things go wrong.

There are many regulations from our 40 years of EU membership that I could have chosen because they have reduced death and injury on our roads. In Amendment 7, I focus on the 1993 regulations on the wearing of seat belts in the front seat of cars by children. These regulations were a consolidation of earlier ones that, in 1983 and 1989, had gradually enforced seat-belt wearing for children.

There are also detailed EU-derived regulations on child car seats, specifying designs by height and weight. Children are not just small adults: they are proportioned differently, their bones are not fully formed, their skeletal structure does not protect their internal organs in the same way, and their necks and heads need greater support. Child car seats reduce the chances of a child’s death in an accident by nearly half, in comparison with them wearing a regular adult seat belt.

I hope that the Minister will clarify that the Government have absolutely no intention of reducing car safety standards for children, but this example illustrates that one person’s deregulation is another’s lifesaver. These regulations have been developed over many years. It is 40 years since the introduction of compulsory seat belts, but it was recently possible for our Prime Minister to be so unaware of their importance in saving lives that he was happy to record a video sitting in a moving car without one. Even today, around a quarter of car occupants killed in road accidents are not wearing seat belts. In the case of young men, it is a third of deaths.

Noble Lords cannot take for granted that our Government will want just to maintain existing regulations. We also need to look at the need to upgrade them. The Bill incorporates a fundamental principle that there should be no increase in regulatory burdens. That is clearly at odds with higher safety standards on seat belts and child seats. We received a letter in the last few minutes from the Minister that states quite clearly that the Government’s definition of “no additional regulatory burdens” means that one can upgrade one aspect of a regulation but, overall, within an SI, there can be no increase in administrative burden. As technology moves on, that will be jolly difficult with something such as seat-belt wearing.

Amendment 24 refers to the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2020. These ensure that new cars, buses and goods vehicles comply with high standards of safety and environmental protection. If these regulations were to be revoked on 31 December, those vehicles would not be able to be registered from 1 January next year, thus stifling the development of new vehicle design and greater efficiency.

The recently published GB type approval scheme would be revoked before its mandatory application date of 1 February next year, wasting two years of government/industry collaboration. The key point here is that the subsequent lack of environmental and safety regulations would immediately strike at the competitiveness of UK vehicle manufacturers and retailers. New entrants to the market would not be required to meet current high standards, and there would be no requirement for further improvement. Will the new GB type approval scheme be considered a new regulatory burden and, hence, revoked before it even starts?

Furthermore, there is now a package of 50 new measures planned for adoption in the EU this summer. To compete internationally, our auto manufacturing industry needs to keep up with the best. Before Brexit, the UK would have adopted that package as a matter of course. What plans do the Government have to mirror those standards in UK law? Everyone using our roads deserves the safest possible vehicle with the lowest possible emissions, and that is what these new EU regulations are about.

Amendments 8 and 9 are a sample of the various regulations that set out consumer law on air travel and holidays, including airlines’ liability requirements in the event of accidents, loss or damage to baggage, and disabled passengers’ rights to assistance. Amendment 8 deals with compensation for cancelled or delayed flights. The importance of these rights was underscored last summer as aviation struggled to recover from the pandemic. Regulation EC 261/2004 establishes common rules on compensation and assistance for passengers. Clearly, common rules are important in an international industry.

Amendment 9 is on the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, which modernise previous protections for customers buying package holidays. They broaden the scope to include so-called linked travel arrangements, reflecting the way that many of us now buy our holidays online. Package holidays transformed the international holiday market, opening it up to a much wider customer base, but its success relies on customer confidence that the company offering the package, to which you pay your money, will take responsibility for the whole set of arrangements, pass on your money to hoteliers, purchase the flights and rescue you from disaster when something goes wrong. The volcanic ash cloud of 2010 illustrated the importance of this type of arrangement. In December, Mark Tanzer of ABTA, the largest travel trade body, said that:

“The protections afforded by these regulations are essential to maintaining consumer confidence” and that the

“sunset deadline … has the potential to destabilise the travel industry.”

I am especially looking forward to examining exactly what the Minister says in response to Amendments 8 and 9, because last year the Department for Transport consulted on plans to reduce customer rights to compensation for internal flights. Can the Minister confirm whether the department is proceeding with this plan? It will, of course, be fully in line with the principles of reducing the regulatory burden that underlie this Bill, but it would damage consumer confidence in domestic airlines.

When I last looked, there were 424 pieces of Department for Transport-related law on the dashboard to be considered by the end of this year. In a world of rapid technological change we should spend our time upgrading our legislation, not retreading the past. The Department for Transport is already puffing along behind the rest of the field, unable to keep up with world leaders.

For example, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee identified a 20-year delay in transposing maritime legislation on to our statute book. Since the Brexit vote, the output of our auto manufacturing industry has halved. Time and again, manufacturers have stressed that to remain competitive they have to go to the countries that are most technologically advanced, and integration with the large EU market is a key factor. Following the same rules is an obvious part of that integration.

There are 4,000 pages of aviation legislation buried in the dashboard. They enable our airlines to fly and our aerospace industry to sell its planes. These industries do not want this legislation dismantled. They want it updated in a regular and timely manner. Until recently the UK has been a leader in setting high environmental and safety standards in aviation, which have been the bedrock of so much investment in the UK.

These are just four examples from the 424 pieces of Department for Transport-related EU legislation. I look forward to the Minister’s response and to the rest of the debate.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business) 4:45, 28 February 2023

My Lords, I support Amendments 7 to 9 and 24 in this group, signed by me and my noble friend Lady Randerson, who gave an excellent speech setting out very serious points on these issues.

During the last Committee session, a number of serious points were raised. Aside from the unmitigated chaos that sometimes emerged on the Government Front Bench, there were three major, standout learnings. I make no apology for retreading them slightly because they apply to this and some other groups of amendments that we will debate. The Minister himself described British law as a “mishmash” of UK and EU-derived laws that operate together. That point, made by many of your Lordships, is also our point: how can you change one part of the mishmash without it having an effect on everything else?

Many of us raised the element of case law—the legal interpretation of the Minister’s mishmash. Last week highlighted the vital point that even assimilated law, essentially the same as the EU-derived law it replaces, loses the case law that was built around it to date. The Government seem not to have found a way of porting legal interpretations to new, assimilated laws under this Bill. We await further details of the Government’s plans from the Minister, as promised.

As my noble friend said, we got a letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, some moments before we arrived here; some of us were already in here when we received it. It sheds some light on some of the other points that I was going to raise. The first is around the dashboard. There was complete confusion as to the status of this dashboard and when a definitive list of the retained EU law covered by this Bill would be published or available. We now have clarity. The dashboard

“presents an authoritative catalogue of retained EU law, not a comprehensive list of retained EU law.”

Can the Minister explain what an authoritative catalogue is in relation to a comprehensive list?

If, as the Minister describes it, it is “not a comprehensive list”, we are back to square one. When will we get a comprehensive list of all the laws covered by this Bill—and how long before the end of the period when these laws are automatically revoked? At the moment there seems to be no intention to publish an authoritative list, so we will never know some of the laws that are going to be revoked. We suggest that any such list should be tabled in Parliament, and there are a number of amendments coming up that will seek to achieve that change.

The third point that is also addressed in the letter is the status of Clause 15 and how regulatory burden is to be measured. Is it law by law, or will there be some net figure across a group of laws? As my noble friend pointed out, it was suggested from the Front Bench last week that it was going to be all of them, but now we hear that the laws are going to be divided up by SI, and each SI bundle will be allowed to have ups and downs as long as the net total is no more than the Government’s calculation of what a regulatory burden is.

It is still not clear to me how you calculate or rate a regulatory burden. How do you weigh a burden on two people versus a burden on 3,000 or 3 million? How do you rate one burden that saves lives against another that merely enforces a less life-saving regulation? The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, promised a letter about this issue, with worked examples. We look forward to that letter and to those workings. I do not know whether noble Lords remember maths exams where you had to show your workings, but this is definitely a situation where the Government have to show their workings.

There was one further point in the letter regarding the product safety review, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, responded to. In a sense, safety is one of the issues in this group. The noble Baroness stated that that review would be published later this spring. That is welcome, although it is about a year later than we were expecting. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case and perhaps give us a clear timetable for how the product safety review might come to your Lordships’ House and then be put into effect, given the nature of the Bill, the regulatory burdens that we have just been talking about and the point that my noble friend Lady Randerson made?

Last week the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said from the Front Bench:

“I would say that the sunset was introduced to incentivise departments to think boldly and constructively about their regulations and to remove unnecessary regulatory burdens”.—[Official Report, 23/2/23; col. 1821.]

I request to know—I believe there was a request last week as well—what guidance departments are receiving when it comes to regulatory burdens, how they will be calculated and what is expected of them.

As long those these three questions remain open, it is impossible for any Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that the Government will maintain this or that law and this or that regulation. Quite obviously, it is not in the Government’s gift. All retained laws, even the assimilated ones, are open to interpretive change. In any case, we may never have a definitive list of all the laws that will be changed or revoked until it suddenly happens, and we do not yet know what constraints Clause 15 actually puts on the changes and amendments that will happen to those laws that are amended. This uncertainty is as true for this group as it was for the previous ones that we have debated so far.

Given the Minister’s excellent brief, I am not going to focus on specific areas, but I would like to talk about non-compliance. Speaking today, the Lord Privy Seal said, with regard to the Windsor Framework, that

“we will take further steps to avoid regulatory divergence in future”.

Very good—so what further steps to avoid regulatory divergence will there be in this regulation? This specifically points in the exact opposite direction to the direction signalled by the Lord Privy Seal not an hour ago. Could the Minister please explain how those two particular things are squared?

Various UK Ministers have committed to ensure that the operation of the Bill does not jeopardise international and environmental commitments—we will be talking about the environmental ones shortly—but, as a matter of law, these statements provide no real reassurance or protections. One area that I come back to is manufacturing in the automotive sector. I am on the executive of the All-Party Motor Group, so it is something I know something about.

The automotive industry is subject to a large number of sector-specific regulations, as well as many cross-sector business regulations. These are held across several government departments. The critical regulatory framework underpinning the industry and its huge economic contribution must not be put at risk—but that is what could happen, as my noble friend Lady Randerson alluded to. There needs to be a concerted process of detailed work to make sure that we do not accidentally end up in non-compliance, with our industry unable to access external markets because of deliberate or accidental regulatory divergence. That requires of course the Government and the industry to understand the scope, function and potential interdependency of all legislation in scope of the Bill. Can the Minister confirm that those talks will open up with that industry, and indeed other industries where this will become an important factor in whether these businesses can make things in this country and export them to the European Union?

Regulatory reform and development should occur in a managed way, with clearly defined road maps and priorities. Even a potential extension to June 2026 under the Bill is extremely challenging in any timescale to try to do that managed process. It needs proper regulatory reform on a scale that requires industry consultation and real scrutiny. So can the Minister confirm that this is understood and that proper consultation with industry will open up?

Once again, this group of amendments illustrates the complexity that the Bill brings to just one facet of our life and national livelihoods. Once again, it gives the lie to Mr Rees-Mogg’s declaration that this is a technical tidy-up. This is not tidy.

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her expertise in this area. I intend to speak not as an expert in transport at all but as somebody who goes on holiday and flies to places in Europe. I would like to know whether I am going to be able to claim compensation next year if my plane is delayed or my luggage is lost.

As all noble Lords will know, European Union regulation 261/2004 gives us rights to compensation, care, assistance and information in case of cancellation, involuntary denied boarding or delay. Has that continued as a right that we all have as air travellers? It is retained EU law and it continues—this bit is from Google—“for the foreseeable future”, which presumably in this case means October, December or whenever, to give passengers the same rights that they previously had.

Many noble Lords will remember those rights being introduced, because you can get a reasonable amount of money in compensation and it is fairly straightforward to claim it. This

“includes rights created by past EU case law (such as the right to compensation for delay created in the controversial Sturgeon case), which will continue to bind lower UK courts”.

I mention that because it raises the question which the two noble Lords who have already spoken asked: what happened to case law in this case?

I suppose one question is: what does the travel industry have to say about this? ABTA and Which? have certainly said that they are very concerned about it. What do we do when we are booking our holidays in 2024? Thousands of flights and millions of people are affected by this regulation and what happens to it. I know that the Minister will not be able to say whether this is in or out, because the Government are not telling us that. But it is worth saying, as ordinary consumers, that this is a matter of some concern to us.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 5:00, 28 February 2023

I chose to speak on these amendments because I want to talk about the reality of the Bill, which is best exemplified here, rather than later when we will talk about the environment, when I will talk as chair of the Climate Change Committee.

First, I want to understand how a Conservative Government could produce the Bill. As far as I believe, in the Conservative Party we believe in continuity and evolution rather than revolution. Evolution means that you take what you have and improve it; you do not throw it out hoping that you will have time to put something else in its place. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, made about case law is crucial here. If you do not retain all that you want, you do not retain the case law, so you do not know what it is that you are doing. That is a very un-Conservative thing to find oneself doing.

The second issue, as a Conservative, is that I do not understand the explanation about regulation. As things are defined in this letter many of us have just had, it suggests that all regulation, by its nature, is somehow wrong. We have a regulation which says that you drive on the left-hand side of the road. That is a sensible regulation. It would be a mistake to cast it into doubt. There are many regulations which are essential for civilised life. Indeed, you cannot imagine civilised life without regulation. Conservatives, I thought, believed in civilised life. Therefore, regulation is an essential part of that.

When you come to judge regulation, you do not judge it by its weight or the number of phrases or words; you judge it by how effective and appropriate it is, how much it fits the present, and how it grows out of the past. If you are a Conservative, that is what you do. I believe there are many who think differently, but as a Conservative that is how I think of regulation.

We are now told that the regulation burden must not be increased. I do not mind that—if we define “burden”. It does not seem to be a burden to have to drive on the left-hand side of the road. That seems to be a necessity.

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Perhaps my noble friend could address the amendment he is talking to specifically.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

I hope the Committee agrees that I am addressing the amendments.

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear!

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

I am talking about the left-hand side of the road and the first amendment is about motor vehicles. The second one is dealing with the rules of the compensation system for passengers. I say to my noble friend that this is a series of amendments to draw attention to the fact that the Bill does not follow a sensible programme of defining “burdens”. We have just had a letter about it, and I intend to talk about that letter. The fact of the matter is that this is not a sensible way of defining “burdens”. “Burdens” should be defined by whether they are a burden or not.

I come to the examples here. It is inconceivable that the Government will remove the requirement for a child to wear a seat belt, so why do we have to consider it at all? Why do we not accept that we should keep many of the things that we have? We have now thrown into doubt a whole detailed series of regulations that, if I may say so, will not be changed. But we do not know that, and we do not know which ones will be changed. We are now suggesting that this discussion will be conducted by civil servants and, in the end, Ministers.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

My noble friend is making a serious point—namely, that we do not know the identity of the regulations that will be in doubt. But the point here is that, if you do not know the identity of the regulations, you cannot consult the stakeholders, which is a very serious deficit.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

It is a very serious deficit. I will apply it to this amendment, as my noble friend the Whip insisted. I have chosen this amendment because it is so obviously true that the Government will not change that requirement, so why do we throw this into doubt? Why do we say to civil servants that they have to go through all this in a very short period of time, including requirements that we will not change? As chairman of the Climate Change Committee, I am aware that almost all departments are struggling to do what they have to do anyway. If we add this, they will do it rather than what they ought to do—and what I, as chairman, am desperate for Defra, for example, to do—because this has a sunset clause.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

We talked about the regulations that might fall off after the sunset and those that might be thrown out by a Minister, but the last part of the letter that the noble Lord referred to also says that

“the powers in the Bill could be used to preserve, extend and reform retained EU law”,

and then that:

“Anything preserved will be subject to clauses 3-6 of the Bill which repeal retained EU interpretive effects”.

What does the noble Lord think about that? Even when a Minister says that we will keep a law or regulation, does everything that has built up, in terms of case law, get thrown out?

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

I almost dare not go down that line because it has been suggested that what I have been saying is not applicable to these amendments. I think it is applicable, and we have to talk about this principle if we are to discuss the Bill properly. On what the noble Lord rightly put forward, all this throws everything into doubt, and it is very un-Conservative. I have never known a Conservative proposal to throw aside all the interpretation that has grown up over the years, because that is exactly what life is about: learning through the years. Citing the fact that it happens to be interpretation of European Union laws is to ignore the history. We have been a member of the European Union, and we are no longer; I am sorry about that, but I am one of those who wants to draw a line underneath that and behave sensibly from now on. I do not want this appallingly reactionary approach, which says, “Because it’s got ‘EU’ on it, there’s something wrong with it”. Let us consider it properly and separately.

So if we are not going to get rid of the first point about motor vehicles and seat belts for children, let us therefore have a different way of doing it. Let us decide that we will have a reform of the laws in general and that we will bring before this House proposals for what those changes will be in a timetable which is sensible and which the House can deal with. Therefore, we would not do the last non-Conservative thing, which is so outrageous as to be almost inconceivable: taking the power over law from Parliament and giving it to Ministers. I can think of nothing less Conservative than that.

Let me put it like this: we are not even giving it to these Ministers; we are going to give it to whichever Ministers are there—and they may not be the same lot. All I want to say is that no Conservative in my knowledge of history has ever proposed that the decision on something as important as, for example, children wearing seat belts shall not be our job in this House and in the elected House, but the job of Ministers alone.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and I support every word that he said. I too will react to the letter we got minutes before we started this Committee debate—if I am allowed to do so without an intervention from the Government Front Bench. My noble friend Lord Fox referred to how the letter says that the dashboard

“presents an authoritative catalogue of retained EU law, not a comprehensive list of retained EU law”.

So I hope that the Minister, in her response, can give us a precise explanation of the difference between “authoritative catalogue” and “comprehensive list”, because, for my part, I cannot really understand how it can be authoritative if it is not comprehensive.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

I suggest to the noble Baroness that this is about the Government allowing themselves wriggle room.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

I could not possibly comment on any wriggle room that the Government are giving themselves. However, because there is some justice in what the noble Viscount has said, I still want an explanation on the record from the Minister of how it can be authoritative if it is not comprehensive. Indeed, it cannot be authoritative at the moment because we know that it is still in the process of being added to.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Yes, indeed, when is a catalogue not a list? It would be really helpful if the Government could explain that.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, referred to how this is not a Conservative Bill because it is revolutionary. Yesterday, I found myself using the adjective “anarchic”, because the Bill is revolutionary and anarchic; we have an anarchist revolution from a Conservative Government, which is quite an interesting development. Another way of putting it is that it is a complete mess.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

It is a chaotic mess. They are making it up as they go along. We understand that officials are not only still dabbling around desperately trying to find EU law but thinking about what to do with each instrument once they have found it—whether it should be junked, preserved or altered. That is an odd way of putting the cart before the horse. Why was the Bill ever submitted if there was no idea of what was going to happen to EU law? I will add to my adjectives: the Bill is higgledy-piggledy and all over the place.

Finally, I wanted to raise another point for the Minister to answer. I am grateful to George Peretz KC for raising this point. We will come back to Clause 1 in future groups, but it is entirely relevant here to raise it. The definition of EU-derived subordinate legislation that is to be sunsetted in Clause 1(4) is

“any domestic subordinate legislation so far as … it was made under section 2(2)” or another provision of the

European Communities Act 1972, or … it was made” otherwise, in

“implementation of EU obligations”.

But one problem is that sometimes an SI was made partly under Section 2(2) of the ECA and partly on another legal basis. Are those all going to be, whether this list is authoritative or comprehensive, or when it is finally arrived at—

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative 5:15, 28 February 2023

There is also the problem of gold plating. I was very familiar with that when I was in the Ministry of Agriculture. Very often, officials did more than was required by the European Union. At that point, one has the interesting question of whether it is EU law or ours.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Absolutely. George Peretz refers to the bits of an SI that were not made to implement an EU obligation. Do they remain as what he calls “bleeding chunks”, because of the “so far as” caveat? He calls them Frankenstein SIs, which may or may not make any sense as law. If an SI has been partially made to implement an EU obligation, will it be on the catalogue or list or whatever?

In a meeting yesterday I mentioned one problem, and I shall mention it here now. I had a Liberal Democrat colleague in the European Parliament, Chris Davies, who consistently raised the question of what were called in the jargon “correlation tables”. What that meant was traceability—being able to see how EU law was being implemented in all the member states. That had various advantages, and one advantage that it would have now is that we would not have hundreds of civil servants scurrying around Whitehall who should be doing more important work than trying desperately to find out what is retained EU law, because the EU measure being implemented is not cited in the SI or even in primary legislation.

That is one problem that we have now—and I will repeat an example that I have given before, which is something that I know something about. The Extradition Act 2003 implemented the European arrest warrant. You will not find the term “European arrest warrant” in the Act, which just referred to Part 1 and Part 2 countries for extradition. Part 1 was broadly about European arrest warrant countries, but an ordinary person opening up the Extradition Act would not have had a clue that it was implementing the European arrest warrant. So I am afraid that successive Governments have made a rod for the back of the present Government, and all those poor civil servants, and the National Archives and everybody else who is being dragged into this absurd exercise.

There has been a failure for a variety of reasons, one of which is the gold plating. There would be some dusty project in a Whitehall drawer somewhere, and then an EU measure would come along that was a wonderful vehicle for it. They could never justify to Ministers putting it through in a Bill, so they thought, “Aha, nobody will notice. When we implement it through Section 2(2), we’ll blame the EU or we’ll kind of hide it among all this stuff”. So I am afraid that chickens are coming home to roost with regard to the 4,000 or however many thousand measures. We do not know what is in the scope of this Bill. More importantly, all the people out there in the real economy—the businesses, the trade unions, consumer organisations and travel firms—do not know what EU law they are going to be continuing to operate, and that frankly is a disgrace.

Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Crossbench

My Lords, I return to the by now infamous letter, which I too opened a few minutes ago. As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, said, when we talked about regulatory burden we asked for some worked examples, because it is only when you have the worked example with the actual numbers—maths homework—that you can actually see how it is going to operate. When I opened the letter, I thought for a moment it was a spoof, because it says:

“There is no definition of regulatory burden in the Bill, as … such a definition could unnecessarily constrain departments”.

It also says—this is helpful—that decisions about the regulatory burden

“will take place on a case by case basis and it will be an ‘in the round’ consideration that encompasses the vector of considerations in clause 15(10).”

If that is the worked example then, my God, we need a bit of help. I hope that when we get the real letter, rather than a spoof letter, it will actually tell us how this trade-off between a bit more regulation there and a bit less regulation over here is going to work.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I think we could debate this for much longer. I do not believe in conspiracy theories but I definitely believe in the cock-up theory of history, and this is certainly one of those cases. When I was thinking about how to respond to the debate, I decided that the subject matter of these amendments is vital, because it is about confidence—the confidence of business, the confidence of consumers—and people knowing what the law will be. And not tomorrow; they want to know what is going to happen next year. These are businesses that rely on planning one or two years ahead, and possibly more. One thing I realised is that we have constantly used Committee to seek clarity and a better understanding of what is behind this.

Take aviation, for example. My noble friend raised a question about booking holidays. We know what the EU regulations provide for, and people have some confidence in that. When we left the EU and we had the Bill that kept retained law on the statute book, the travel industry did not face a cliff edge then; everyone understood that continuity was important.

By the way, I am not a Conservative, as the noble Lord will know. I call myself old-fashioned new Labour, and that is exactly what this is about. Sadly, we have a situation here where I do not think that the Government know what they are doing. I think this should unite us all, across the Benches, whether you are a Brexiteer or a remainer—those are debates we have had in the past. On this legislation, we should all be united about its impact.

Aviation is an important industry, and it has already suffered huge consequences. It relies on the confidence of the people who book their holidays, and they are certainly not getting that. One of the things I did before we came down was to read Aviation Consumer Policy Reform, the consultation that the Department for Transport issued last January. It took it a long time to assess the responses to that consultation, and then we got the summary in July. There has been no idea since July about what the department is going to do about that, although all the indications are that the protection that is being offered through EU regulation will not apply to domestic flights—the sorts of protection that we get. A business or consumer will be thinking, “What does this Bill really mean?” They hear Ministers saying that we will keep the good bits, but when they look at the practice of the Department for Transport they cannot be filled with confidence. It is just crazy.

Let us turn to the letter, because it is really important. I assumed that this Government knew what they were doing when they published this Bill and that each department would have the responsibility for examining the regulations within its responsibility and thinking of the way ahead. That is not the case. What examination is taking place? This letter says that the National Archives is doing a search of what regulations exist. I suspect that it has done a word search and come up with all the regulations with “EU” in their titles. There has been no proper analysis by a department. Can the Minister—he is shaking his head—tell us what departments have properly examined that dashboard? What are its implications? We do not know whether it is an exhaustive list or what it will or will not include, and we are stuck with a timetable that is impossible for departments to meet. We also have that description of how this list and dashboard have come about.

On the regulatory powers, as the noble Lord mentioned, the letter says:

“It will be for the relevant Minister or devolved authority to decide if they are satisfied that the use of the power does not increase the overall regulatory burden in a subject area.”

It is absolutely crazy. I do not understand what that will mean. What are the implications for the transport and aviation industries? Tell us what the implications are. It seems as though, if we keep that benefit of retained EU law, we will lose something else in the aviation industry. Do not book your holiday next year because you do not know what will be protecting you. That is what the Government are saying to the people of this country and it is totally unacceptable.

At the end of the letter, which we got as we started this discussion in Committee, we read about the preserved law and what is retained. As the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, we have a history of legal regulations that have been interpreted by our courts—no one else—and they have agreed case law that has been established. Now the Government are telling us that they will keep that EU regulation but all that history and continuity that has been built up will be thrown out of the window. It is like year zero. What are we talking about? Is this the way to introduce and maintain laws? This is not the way that this country has done it.

It is absolutely appalling that the Government have produced this Bill without any idea of its consequences. They have not thought it through, and it should be thrown out by all sides.

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Conservative

My Lords, I am sorry to intervene at this point. I think everybody on my side knows that I do not like this Bill and that I have amendments later to discuss the general principles that apply to it. Therefore, I am rather disappointed that those who have put forward amendments in Committee on specific exemptions from the sunset clause, such as on package travel and linked travel arrangements and the issues of assistance to passengers denied boarding and cancellation or long delay of flights, et cetera, do not seem to have made a case at all on the specifics of their amendments. Am I wrong, or is it not right that in Committee we deal with specific amendments and make the justification for them, and then deal with the principles when amendments that contain discussion and arguments on the principles come up?

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:30, 28 February 2023

I hear the noble Lord, and I just want to clarify that I did speak to the specific amendments, because I was talking about transport and travel. I am particularly concerned about the impact that the Bill will have on the tourism and aviation industry, which has suffered a lot. I was talking about why we need to ensure continuity and stability in a market that has been affected. The problem is that without being very clear that we are going to keep that EU regulation to protect this industry, people cannot have confidence in booking their holidays for next year; some people book it even further in advance than that. That is why I am talking to the specifics here. However, we cannot ignore the fact that when we are talking about the specifics, we have had a letter literally presented to us that throws even more doubt on what the Government are doing. That is why we need to make that general point.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business)

Just to add to that, I say to the noble Lord that if he reads back through Hansard, he will see that my noble friend Lady Randerson dealt specifically with all four of those amendments in detail. I believe that that was not a very fair assessment of her contribution.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I shall start on a slightly different note by sharing in the tributes that have been made to the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd. She was a real inspiration for young women like me at the time who were learning to contribute to public life in different ways.

Turning to this group, we have already made it clear during this Committee stage that the Bill is an enabling Bill. The measures in it, including the sunset, will provide for the UK and devolved Governments to review and then preserve, amend or revoke their retained EU law as they see fit. There is no inherent need for policy or legislative exclusions to the sunset in the Bill. To respond to my noble friend Lord Deben, I feel comfortable with what we are doing as a Conservative and as someone, as he knows, who understands regulation. We will be making our legislation more appropriate, updating it where necessary, improving the quality and getting away from gold-plating as appropriate—while maintaining, as I said, necessary protections.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

Can the Minister explain to us what a sunset enables? Surely it restricts rather than enables.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

A sunset gives us an idea of the timing of the measures. It has precedent elsewhere. We have brought forward the Bill, and I think it has great value, because we are now looking across the board at the 3,700 regulations that are the subject of this debate.

Just to finish my point to my noble friend Lord Deben, he will remember from his own time in Brussels, which was extensive, as was mine—we were sometimes there together—that some of the regulations that were made could be improved, with others preserved and extended. To respond to what has been said, each department is carrying out a review of its own regulations and will do so responsibly. The National Archives has come in, if you like, as a cross-check, as it retains the Government’s regulatory records. EU law, as we all know, goes back to the 1970s, so to bring the National Archives in and make sure that we look at its records to add to the list seems to me to have been a very sensible thing to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, is right to say that it can be useful to look at examples and that we should move on to transport and try to clarify things there. As my noble friend Lord Kirkhope said, we should try to tackle specifics, so let me turn to Amendment 7, which I think is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, but was spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson—no?

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

Before the noble Baroness turns to the specifics, would she deal with the general point that has been made? Does she regret that a letter which can be described only as obfuscatory, tautological gobbledegook was delivered to Members of this House about an hour after this debate started? How can we honourably be expected to digest that letter in particular if this House is treated in that way?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I think my noble friend sent the letter to try to be helpful, following the discussions that were had on the first day of Committee. I hope that others will look at the letter at leisure. I am sure there will be further discussions and debates in Committee, so if I may—

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

My noble friend was kind enough to mention me and our work together in the European Union. We have now read this letter; evidently, we are to do something which we would never have done in the European Union. In other words, we are going to decide what will remain on the basis of whether there is room, in weight, for the legislation on seat belts for children, as compared against other legislation. That is what this letter means. It is not surprising that we have moved into a rather wider explanation, because what my noble friend and I did in the European Union we are now doing totally differently here.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I do not think it was entirely different. As I recall, in those days we were trying to cut red tape and regulatory burdens being imposed by Brussels. We will come to Clause 15, where I think the regulatory reference appears, in due course.

I would like to make progress, because we have lots of amendments to get through today, and return to Amendment 7, which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was sponsoring. To make a general point on motor, in reviewing our retained EU law, the Government will make decisions in the best interests of UK citizens, and the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts by Children in Front Seats) Regulations will be no exception. I agree that this is an essential element of our law, and one that we intend to retain and to assimilate into UK statute.

The seat-belt wearing requirements are crucial to the safety of our roads; we are agreed on that. We know that even though seat-belt use is high, it still represents a disproportionately high impact on the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The noble Baroness gave a figure for those who were killed not wearing seat belts which was very arresting. Therefore, this law is clearly still necessary.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

Very much to the point the Minister is making, because seat-belt legislation is 40 years old, there is a bit of a lacuna in the law—which is out of step with other similar road safety law—in that not wearing a seat belt is not something for which you get penalty points. There are strong calls to update the legislation to ensure that you get penalty points for failing to wear your seat belt. Would the noble Baroness judge that this would be considered by the Government as increasing the regulatory burden?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Of course, we need to keep things up to date. As part of our consideration of a call for evidence on road traffic offences and their policing, we are considering testing proposals to make not using a seat belt an endorsable offence. Not everything in the world of regulation is being done in this Bill. I hope I can reassure the noble Baroness that work is continuing and is important. The UK was instrumental in the development of these regulations, and they are compatible with our policy objectives that recognise road safety as a key objective for this Government. I am trying to go through these areas and give an appropriate answer. For this reason, rest assured that we have no intention of removing—

Photo of Baroness O'Grady of Upper Holloway Baroness O'Grady of Upper Holloway Labour

The Minister says that it is self-evidently right that we should give that guarantee now that the law on seat belts will be retained, and that she can give a cast-iron guarantee on that today. I genuinely do not understand why she cannot do the same for workers handling asbestos, for example, which seems equally important. On what basis is she making that judgment: that she can give that guarantee, which is very welcome, on seat belts but not on incredibly important health and safety legislation derived from the EU—and, indeed, case law —that workers rely on?

Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench

My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me. I have put my name down to the Clause 1 stand part debate and various other things, but I have a family crisis and I have to go. I just want to make a few brief points a little out of sync.

My noble friend Lady O’Neill—a highly intelligent woman—just said to me that this is the most chaotic debate she has ever heard in this House. This House is being expected to have a serious debate on individual amendments that are terribly important: seat belts for kids, aviation and so on. The problem with the Bill—as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, whom I support 100% in what he said—is that there is nothing in it. There is no information in it. There is a wholesale sunset clause and wholesale referral for Ministers to decide what to retain, what to reform and, if so, how, and what to do with each and every policy area covered by this enormous Bill. As for the idea that Clause 1 should stand part, it seems fairly obvious to me that you cannot just sunset all this at the end of the year, but that clause makes way for Clause 15, where the wholesale referral of all matters to Ministers is set down.

I have appealed, and I will just say it once more, and I will not say it again, I promise—forgive me, your Lordships—that I hope the Government will have the self-respect to withdraw the Bill, go away and do the work that needs doing, because an enormous amount of work needs to be done, and then bring back a Bill which can be debated by Parliament. I just want to make again the constitutional point: Ministers have consistently said, during the passage of the Bill in 2018, the memorandum to this Bill and so on, that the purpose of this Bill and what became the 2018 Act was to shift policy-making power from the EU to the UK Parliament, to make the UK Parliament central to our policy-making. The Government have not done what they say they want to do; they have transferred all power to Ministers. I therefore appeal to Ministers to do what they apparently want to do. I do not expect the Labour Party to intervene on this: I feel this is a matter for the Government, and I just say, “Please, Government, do what I think you all know you need to do”.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I think the noble Baronesses for their interventions and understand their depth of feeling. I should explain that this is a framework Bill, and it has been presented as such. The regulatory process will be gone through, and this House will then get a chance to look at the SIs.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

I follow up the impassioned speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. We were given a very good example yesterday of what to do with a lousy Bill. Why cannot we follow that example today?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The noble Baroness, Lady O’Grady, mentioned asbestos as another example, and of course we dealt with that area yesterday: we have been going carefully through in a reassuring manner. I have been trying, in this transport debate, to respond helpfully where I am able to do so. I feel that this is not being appreciated, so I shall try to make some further progress.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 5:45, 28 February 2023

I assume the Minister is about to move off Amendment 7 and on to Amendment 8. Before that, could she explain to us, in the context of the letter we have received, a point about a single instrument, as referred to in Amendment 7, increasing the regulatory burden? The letter says that,

“it will be possible for a single instrument made under the power … to increase the regulatory burden, so long as this increases offset by a decrease of regulation in the same subject area.”

What is the scale of the subject area in relation to seat belts for children? For example, do all the amendments in this group fall into the same subject area, or are there subdivisions within it? If not, this letter, which was supposed to be helpful, is meaningless.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I think exact groupings of the regulatory area will be a judgment for the relevant Minister. The letter was trying helpfully to point out that there was the possibility of some increase in burdens in some areas, provided there were compensating decreases, because what we are trying to do, following our exit, is to implement regulations that work better for the UK, while maintaining our high standards. People seem to have forgotten that there can be problems with regulations.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour

I am two sentences behind the Minister in what she says permeating my consciousness, but on this business of the regulatory burden, how will we know and where will the discussion take place about the Ministers weighing up comparative regulatory burden—the apples and pears—and coming to a conclusion about what can be increased, enhanced and improved and what must go as a result? As she said, we will see statutory instruments for changes but, for things that simply drift away, get amalgamated and disappear, where do we see them and how do we judge whether the Minister has come to a good decision about comparative regulatory burden?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

To make progress, I should make it clear that Clause 15 is the main clause and that there are a number of amendments on that group, on which we can no doubt have a longer discussion, but I should like to make progress on transport.

Photo of Lord Clarke of Nottingham Lord Clarke of Nottingham Conservative

I understand the noble Baroness’s impatience, and she has been very generous and helpful. Did I hear her just a few moments ago, in response to an intervention, say that in each and every case, once a ministerial decision has been taken, the statutory instrument being repealed or amended will come to this House—which I assume means it gets the approval of this House and the House of Commons? How does the Bill provide for that in each and every decision, because it seems at the moment to give an enormous amount of ministerial discretion in its text? How can she guarantee that Parliament will have the last say over repeals and amendments in every case?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

There is a sifting process. The regulations will come to this House. There will be some that people are entirely happy with, because they will be taking EU law and, perhaps, changing a date that is out of date. There will be others that are to be extended. There will be others where there is substantive change, where it is necessary to have consideration and debate.

Photo of Lord Clarke of Nottingham Lord Clarke of Nottingham Conservative

So it will not be the negative procedure in every case?

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

And there will presumably be some that the Government are going to abolish altogether, in which case, nothing will come to this House: we will never have the chance to express a view.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

In fairness, the noble Lord is right: there is the scope for some sunsetting, but the direction of travel has very much been—

Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Crossbench

I seek clarification. Is it the case that Parliament can or cannot amend an SI?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The Government cannot amend an SI but they can debate one. We will debate these arrangements in our debate on a future group.

Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Crossbench

The question was whether Parliament can amend an SI, not whether the Government can amend an SI.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I think the Minister confirmed that Parliament cannot amend an SI. We can block an SI.

Photo of Lord Lisvane Lord Lisvane Chair, AI in Weapon Systems Committee, Chair, AI in Weapon Systems Committee

My Lords, I direct the Minister’s attention to the Civil Contingencies Act. While she thinks about that, in view of the excoriating criticism levelled by a number of your Lordships’ committees at framework Bills, I also ask her to reflect on the irony of defending this beta-gamma piece of legislation on the grounds that it is a framework Bill?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I think we have heard a number of general points—I just want to maintain the level of humour. I therefore want to move back to transport and try to complete my response on these amendments.

Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

I agree that we need to get to specifics here and that progress is important, but I think that the Minister actually getting some answers for us is probably more important at this stage. On this issue of case law, specifically around seat belts, the letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, clearly states:

“Anything preserved will be subject to clauses 3-6 of the Bill which repeal retained EU interpretive effects.”

I interpret “interpretive effects” to mean case law. Am I right about that?

On this specific issue, the Minister has helpfully indicated that the Government intend to retain the measures on seat belts, as highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. But there is substantial case law on the wearing of seat belts by children when that can be a mitigating factor, for example when the seat belt is faulty or the vehicle is old. Many measures in relation to seat belts are dealt with by case law. What are the Government going to do about that?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I apologise to the noble Baroness, but in our debates on future clauses we are going to discuss in an orderly way how these interpretive effects are going to be kept, where appropriate. We can probably come back to this.

Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am sorry, but the letter clearly says that the interpretive effects are not going to be kept, hence why we are asking this question now.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Is the noble Baroness talking about supremacy and the general principles?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am advised that the interpretive effects are not case law; I thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for that. I do not really want to cause more confusion on this important point. I will reflect on this and perhaps come back on it at the end of this debate or in a debate on a future amendment. I am clear that we have no intention of removing these safety requirements on seat belts. I will reflect on the question asked by the noble Baroness and come back on it as I do not want to cause confusion. There are two issues here: case law and interpretive effects. They are both dealt with in later amendments.

I will move on to Amendment 8. Where Ministers, including Ministers in the devolved Governments, see fit, they will have the power to preserve retained EU law from the sunset. This holds true for the regulations specified in Amendment 8 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. There is no need for a specific exemption for the regulations establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding or the cancellation or long delay of flights. If the Minister decides that preserving these provisions is in citizens’ best interests, that can be achieved by using the powers to preserve the legislation and to restate relevant retained law as appropriate, without carving it out from the Bill as a whole.

Similarly, in relation to Amendment 9, I assure the noble Baroness that the Department for Business and Trade has processes in place to review the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 and will provide more details on this in due course.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

Can I have clarification, then, on why the Department for Transport consulted on removing or reducing the right to compensation of people flying internally if it was not a firm proposal from that department?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I thank the noble Baroness for raising that; I will have to take it up with the Department for Transport and get back to her.

On Amendment 24 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Fox, the Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulations 2020 are part of the recently created GB type approval scheme. These regulations were made under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act and therefore fall within the scope of the sunset as EU-derived subordinate legislation; they are essential to ensure that the GB type approval scheme can be enforced. The Department for Transport is committed to ensuring that our vehicle type approval scheme creates high standards of safety for vehicles and road users, is robust and will remain fit for purpose alongside future developments in road vehicles. We are developing an ambitious plan supported by evidence and engagement with our stakeholders to reform the way in which vehicles are regulated, creating an agile system that keeps pace with technological developments and innovation in a dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape.

I hope this provides some reassurance. We do recognise the importance of many of these regulations.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business)

I do not think the Minister was coming on to this point; if she was, I apologise. I asked a specific question about regulatory divergence. The Lord Privy Seal was clear that, going forward, the Government will put in place steps to avoid regulatory divergence with respect to the Windsor Framework. What steps are being put in place in this Bill to avoid regulatory divergence?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I thank the noble Lord. His was a general question; I was not going to seek to reply to it. Obviously, the extent of divergence that we might or might not have depends on different areas.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee

May I suggest an answer to the noble Lord’s question? One way of avoiding regulatory divergence would be to remove every common framework from this Bill because, if common frameworks are included and we lose part of the SIs that underpin them, the invitation to diverge in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be pretty impressive.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Again, we come back to individual decisions, although we have an amendment on the devolved Administrations later on; I hope we will reach it today. To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, assimilation will be discussed fully in our debates on later groups.

On the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, about whether the dashboard is authoritative, I can confirm that it is. This is because it has gone on an extensive, cross-Whitehall process and has been agreed at ministerial level. It is not comprehensive because, as noble Lords will know, the process is still ongoing. We have made a promise to update the dashboard accordingly as we go along; the next update is planned for spring 2023.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

I still do not really understand the difference. How can it be authoritative if it is not comprehensive? That mystery will have to live with me for the rest of the day, I suppose. Can the Minister tell us when the list will be comprehensive? When will the Government say, “The list is now, in our terminology, comprehensive”?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

We can confirm that it is authoritative. The version that will come out in the spring—the next version—will be authoritative. The comprehensiveness of it will come when the archives have finished their process and so on. A lot has been made of this point, frankly. The key regulations are on the dashboard; for me, the key thing that matters is what departments do with them.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

Can my noble friend confirm that there will be consultation?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

If we have new regulations then the normal form in departments is to consult on them.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative 6:00, 28 February 2023

Will they have time within the deadline?

Photo of Baroness Wheatcroft Baroness Wheatcroft Crossbench

The Minister says she can confirm that all significant regulations are on the dashboard, because it is authoritative. However, if it is not comprehensive, and work is still going on to see what regulations should be on the dashboard, how can she confirm that all the important regulations are there?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Departments have been looking at these regulations for a number of years. Some time ago, when I was previously a Minister, I was looking at the regulations to see how they might be changed post Brexit. I have tried to explain that we have 3,700 regulations. They have been gone through and most of the regulations are there, but we are also looking with the National Archives to see if there are others. If they are known only to the National Archives, the chances of them being really important is—to express a personal view—probably quite small, but of course I could be proved wrong.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee)

On a technical, legal point, it would be helpful if the Government could set out the methodology that they have used to ensure that everything—whether it be by directive, by tertiary legislation or by any other way—has been identified. A detailed analysis of the methodology would be extremely helpful because we need to know how it has been done to know what level of assurance we can have in it. I have tried it myself and found it quite difficult. I would like to know what has been done. It obviously cannot be done now, but a detailed methodology would be very helpful.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

As always, the noble and learned Lord is very helpful. I will think about that and about what we can say about the methodology that has been adopted. It is helpful that he mentioned that it was not the easiest thing for him to find this. That is confirmatory.

Photo of Baroness Chapman of Darlington Baroness Chapman of Darlington Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Perhaps I can assist the Minister. We had an informative round table yesterday, convened by the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, where we were told that the methodology involved going to the National Archives and doing a keyword search for “Europe”. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, shakes his head, but that is what we were told at the meeting. The Minister will forgive us if we do not have the utmost confidence in the process that has been undertaken.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am sure that they were trying to make a helpful point. We have got to help one another to get through this. I have undertaken to look at what is being done about methodology and the approach that has been adopted in one area. A plethora of wide-ranging points has been raised, including on consultation, which we will come on to in one or two of the later amendments. We have discussed transport. With this in mind, I ask noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The Minister raised the question of aviation. It is one of the most serious points here because it is about business confidence, consumer confidence and consumer protection. The problem I have, and which she can take back to the Department for Transport, is this. We had a consultation that started at the beginning of last year on changing levels of compensation. Ideas were thrown up in that about reducing it substantially for domestic aviation. We had a summary of the responses published in July last year, and nothing from the Department for Transport about what its true intentions are. That raises serious issues about what the Government’s intentions are around the EU regulations that protect us all when booking holidays abroad next year. I hope that the Minister can go back to the Department of Transport and ask to be told what the true intentions are. People need to know. The simple fact is that this Bill and these clauses create huge uncertainty for a very vital industry of this country.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business)

The presence here of the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, is a good indicator of what we will get in the next group: the appropriate department covering the appropriate amendments. These amendments were not put down yesterday. This is not a letter that you receive from a Minister—we gave warning of these amendments. A Minister from the relevant department, the Department for Transport, should and could have been here to answer the questions, instead of a Minister saying, “It’s not my department. I can’t answer”. I am pleased to welcome the noble Lord for the next group but perhaps, as a lesson going forward, we could have the right Ministers here.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee

We have been searching for some clue as to the criteria for what will be retained and what will be revoked, but we have not had any clarity—hence these hours of debate on safety of seat belts and so on. The Minister used the term “unnecessary” regulations and, in the famous letter, we have the line:

“For example, through removing unnecessary or unsuitable regulations or consolidating multiple regulations into one, it will be possible”,

and so on. Can we have a definition, in writing, of what the Government consider to be an unnecessary or unsuitable regulation? That may give us a clue as to the direction of travel on which regulations will be kept and which will be lost.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I thank the noble Baroness for another general question. On transport, the DfT published the Aviation Consumer Policy Reform consultation in January 2022. I did not labour the Committee with all the material on that, but I am very happy to talk to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about it separately. It included proposals relating to enforcement of aviation consumer protections, redress for breaches of consumer rights, and reforms to compensation for delays and for damaged wheelchairs and other mobility equipment—which I get postbags about—allowing us to consider what works best for the UK domestically, for consumers and industry. We are considering our responses and will respond to the consultation shortly. This is a concrete review and reform that we can look at. I am sure that we will move things forward in an appropriate way.

With the agreement of the Committee, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench

I do not think that the Minister gave a substantive answer to the point that I raised. I am happy that there should be no substantive answer now provided that we get one at some stage today. I asked what parliamentary procedure, approval and scrutiny will be available where, having done the sift and the consultation, a Minister decides—perhaps because he is interested in removing obstacles to efficiency, productivity or profitability—that a piece of our law should be abolished? What procedure will enable Parliament to debate that decision? The idea that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best, to coin a phrase, was one that I thoroughly approved of when I worked in Whitehall; I have slightly gone off it now.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

It is the gentlemen and ladies in Whitehall and in the European Commission. If I may, rather than prolong this discussion, I will reflect on the point that the noble Lord has made.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

The noble Baroness could say that the Government will support Amendment 32, which would enable Parliament to have a word in the matter.

Photo of Lord Wilson of Dinton Lord Wilson of Dinton Crossbench

I have listened to this debate and some important points are still left in the air. I may be slow, but there is an awful lot that I still do not understand, which needs to be resolved. Would it not be better—I have said this before—for the Bill to be withdrawn and for the Government to do the work and then come back and tell us what they want to keep, abolish and amend? If they cannot withdraw the Bill, put it on ice. We have a good precedent for putting Bills on ice. Why do the Government not do the work, rather than trying to grapple with questions that are almost unanswerable?

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

We will try to answer the questions of your Lordships’ House. I am conscious that the Bill went through the other House very quickly.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench

I do apologise for intervening again, but would it not make sense for us to debate the group starting with Amendment 32 before we debate the granular amendments in the next three groups? That group deals with issues of principle that could resolve the complaints that are being made.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

We have debated issues of principle, notably at Second Reading, when noble Lords made some very important points. We are going through the Bill and will get to these various points. I have been trying to focus on individual subject areas and would like to move on to the next, because my noble friend Lord Benyon has been sitting here patiently, ready to talk about the environment. We have noted the tenor of the debate and I thank noble Lords for their contributions.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I think this is a case of “follow that”. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, starting with my noble friend Lord Fox, who quoted the gem of ministerial gobbledegook about the status of the dashboard; it is an “authoritative catalogue”, not a “comprehensive list”. I have had time to look it up in a thesaurus and I do not want to disappoint the Minister but a catalogue is a “complete list of items”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, referred to the importance of consumer confidence, which I was attempting to draw attention to in the precise details I included in my amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, referred to the importance of case law. I greatly regret that the Government have got themselves so far on the back foot with the Bill that there was an attempted ministerial intervention to shut down the debate and force him to draw his comments to a close. This was of course rather ironic, given that we have not been provided with a specialist Transport Minister on the Front Bench to answer on the specific transport issues that I was trying to raise. I have some sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in his crisis over his Conservative identity—but that is not my business.

My noble friend Lady Ludford made some important points about identifying what is actually EU law. We will come on to this later, but there are some real doubts about what law is EU law, because it has been incorporated into other aspects of our law.

I sympathise with noble Lords who suggest that the Government should give themselves a break, park the Bill for a few weeks and work out how it will work before they bring it back. I would like it to go altogether, but I am trying to take a reasonable line, from the Government’s point of view.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, suggested that the letter we had was a spoof. One reason why the debate has been as it has is that that letter was designed to raise far more questions than provide answers.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, also referred to the issue of confidence. I assure him, from evidence that came to the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee, that it was pretty evident that National Archives did a word search to find the list. It is no good noble Lords shaking their heads; that is how National Archives got to the list.

I turn very briefly to the Minister’s valiant efforts and thank her for the reassurances that she was able to give. I will read Hansard very carefully and hope that there will be a follow-up letter, if not from her then from the Department for Transport, clarifying its plans. But this is not reassurance for us; it is reassurance for consumers, passengers, drivers, the automobile manufacturing industry and the aviation industry generally.

My understanding is that legislation passed by the devolved Administrations is not included in the dashboard. The Minister said that what was not on the dashboard was not important, but I say that legislation passed by those Administrations is just as important as legislation passed for England.

Finally, whether it is a child sitting in a car, a worker planning their well-deserved summer holiday or a manufacturer looking internationally for a site for their next factory, they all deserve a UK Government with their eyes firmly fixed on the highest standards for the future. With this Bill, the Government are condemning Parliament, the devolved Administrations, the Civil Service, the business community, citizens and civil society to months and years of wrangling over the decisions of the past, when we should be looking to the future and modernising. This is an ideologically driven wrecking Bill that will undermine key sections of our economy and our expectation of a safe and modern society.

The Government think they have a cunning plan to ensure that these fundamental changes to legislation, across almost every sector of our economy and society, will ensure that no future Government are able to rejoin the EU; the task would be simply too great. But, like all Baldrick’s cunning plans, it has backfired, because the Bill has alerted ordinary citizens, civil society and the business community to the importance and value of EU legislation. It simply confirms to many people who probably had not thought about it much before, the growing view that Brexit was a disastrous mistake. I will of course withdraw my Amendment 7, but I am sure that we will come back to these issues on Report.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.

Amendments 8 and 9 not moved.