Clause 16 - Reviews and appeals relating to Part 2

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 5th July 2022.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:30 pm, 5th July 2022

I beg to move amendment 15, in clause 16, page 11, line 30, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause stand part.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The clause is about reviews and appeals relating to part 2. We heard about the relative power in the industry from some of the witnesses. There are some very big organisations, and hopefully some smaller enterprises coming forward that are able to operate in the sector. We want a system that is fair to all. We want to make sure that the appeals system does not disproportionately benefit, possibly unintentionally, those who have the most resource to make the system work for them.

The clause begins to lay out what an appeals system under the Bill might look like, but once again the fine detail is left to secondary legislation. We want to be able to see and scrutinise any delegated powers in the area, and that is what amendment 15, which is similar to a number of the other amendments, would do. It is an important clause, and I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Member laid out, the amendment seeks further parliamentary scrutiny of the reviews and appeals conferred by part 2. He will not be surprised to hear that I do not feel the amendment is necessary. What it proposes would not, in our view, be a meaningful use of time. I want to assure hon. Members that the power does not signal a change in policy, as all key substantive requirements of the review and appeal processes are set out in the Bill. Therefore, it is appropriate for the regulations to be subject to the negative procedure.

We are committed to bringing in appropriate safeguards to ensure that decisions affecting a person’s ability to market a precision bred organism are correct, and to provide for an appropriate and efficient mechanism to challenge decisions. To achieve that, the clause requires regulations to provide for a mechanism for reviews and appeals. That mechanism can be used if the appellant considers that certain decisions made by the Secretary of State were based on an error of fact, wrong in law or unreasonable.

The clause covers decisions not to issue a precision bred confirmation or a precision bred animal marketing authorisation, to revoke a precision bred confirmation, or to revoke or suspend a precision bred animal marketing authorisation. It aims to deal with such issues in a sensible fashion. Having a review mechanism allows the Secretary of State to review the decision and to uphold or reverse it in a quick and cost-effective manner, without the need for legal proceedings. A subsequent right to appeal to the first-tier tribunal ensures that, where the appellant is not satisfied with the outcome of the review, said person can ask an independent tribunal to adjudicate.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I hear what the Minister says. I am still nervous about this. It is striking that a lot in the Bill is on the appeal and challenge processes, but without the earlier detail—which would make it easier to envisage how things work—to explain how we might get to that point in the process. I worry that that will benefit those with the resources to use the system effectively to make their case in a way that others might not. That is sufficient to say that we would want to see this again, rather than just let it go through under the negative procedure. We will therefore proceed to a vote on this one.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 8 Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill — Clause 16 - Reviews and appeals relating to Part 2

Aye: 4 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.