Clause 2 - Extension of sunset under section 1

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 22nd November 2022.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy) 4:00 pm, 22nd November 2022

I beg to move amendment 72, in clause 2, page 2, line 5, leave out “Minister of the Crown” and insert “relevant national authority”.

This amendment provides devolved assemblies the power to make the decision to delay the sunset of legislation, and not just a Minister of the Crown.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 31, in clause 2, page 2, line 8, at end insert—

“(1A) Subsection (1) has effect in relation to provision which is within the competence of the Scottish Ministers as if, after “A Minister of the Crown”, there were inserted “or the Scottish Ministers”.

(1B) A provision is within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of this section if—

(a) it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were contained in an Act of that Parliament, or

(b) it is provision which could be made in other subordinate legislation by the Scottish Ministers, the First Minister or the Lord Advocate acting alone.”

New clause 5—Extension of sunset to 2026 under section 1 by Scottish Ministers—

“(1) The Scottish Ministers may by regulations provide that section 1, as it applies in relation to a specified instrument or a specified description of legislation within section 1(1)(a) or (b), has effect as if the reference in section 1(1) to the end of 2023 were a reference to a later specified time.

(2) In subsection (1) “specified” means specified in the regulations.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may not specify a time later than the end of 23 June 2026.”

This amendment would give the Scottish Ministers a power to extend the sunset date for devolved retained EU law equivalent to that conferred on a Minister of the Crown by Clause 2 of the Bill.

New clause 6—Extension of sunset to 2029 under section 1 by Scottish Ministers—

“(1) The Scottish Ministers may by regulations provide that section 1, as it applies in relation to a specified instrument or a specified description of legislation within section 1(1)(a) or (b), has effect as if the reference in section 1(1) to the end of 2026 were a reference to a later specified time.

(2) In subsection (1) “specified” means specified in the regulations.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may not specify a time later than the end of 23 June 2029.”

This new clause confers a power on the Scottish Ministers to modify the date that the revocation of EU-derived subordinate legislation and retained direct EU legislation may take effect, to a date no later than 23 June 2029.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy)

I will not detain the Committee long. We have ventilated a lot of the arguments about amendment 72 already in relation to why the 2023 deadline —or cliff edge—is unacceptable. The amendment would give the power that UK Government Ministers feel able to retain for themselves to extend the cliff edge to 2026 to the devolved authorities. There is no reason why we should have a different approach in the devolved authorities from that of the UK Government. Again, when we get into questions of devolved competency, it is clearly appropriate that those provisions should apply to devolved nations as well. We have already discussed these issues at length so I will not detain the Committee any longer.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I shall speak to amendment 31, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes. The amendment is crucial and goes to the heart of the whole debate. It seeks to clarify exactly which provisions the UK Government consider devolved and would therefore fall under the competence of Scottish Ministers, and which provisions would be reserved to the UK Secretary of State.

When this place passed the Scotland Act 1998, it listed areas of competence that were reserved. Everything that was not on that list was considered to be devolved. Yet in terms of the Bill, and with particular reference to the Government’s published dashboard, remarkably we still do not know exactly which areas the UK Government regard as reserved and which they consider to be wholly devolved.

Of course, it could be argued with some justification that the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 knowingly created that confusion, and deliberately blurred the hitherto clear lines of demarcation between powers that had been devolved and powers that were reserved. Prior to the passing of the 2020 Act, it had long been accepted that environmental health, food standards and animal welfare were wholly devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but since its passing we have seen a significant encroachment by the UK Government and Ministers into policy areas that hitherto have been wholly devolved. That not only goes completely against the spirit of devolution, but directly contravenes the Sewel convention, which in 2016 was given statutory footing in the 1998 Act.

As a result, the Bill, in tandem with the 2020 Act, threatens to further undermine the devolution settlement by giving primacy to UK law in areas that have been wholly devolved, meaning that legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament to keep us in lockstep with European Union regulations could be overruled by the Government in Westminster, so I have a number of questions for the Minister. If the Scottish Parliament decides that we will remain aligned to the European Union and re-ban the sale of chlorinated chicken, but this place decides that cheap imported chlorine-washed chicken is acceptable, will the Scottish Parliament have the power to stop lorryloads of chlorinated chicken crossing the border and appearing on our supermarket shelves—yes or no?

Similarly, should the UK agree a trade deal that allows the importation of hormone-injected meat, but the Scottish Parliament decides to protect Scottish consumers and farmers by adhering to the standards and protections that we have now, can the Minister guarantee that under the provisions of the Bill the Scottish Government will be able to prevent hormone-injected meat from reaching Scotland’s supermarkets—again, yes or no? If we decide to retain long-established best practice in the welfare and treatment of animals entering the food chain but Westminster chooses to deregulate, will she give a cast-iron guarantee that the Scottish Parliament will be able to stop animals whose provenance is unknown and whose welfare history is unaccounted for from entering the food chain—again, yes or no?

Under the terms of the devolution settlement, the answer to all those questions should be an unequivocal yes, but despite us and the Scottish Government asking several times, we have been unable to get those guarantees. That is why amendment 31 is vital. I would be enormously grateful if the Minister could give clear, precise and unambiguous answers to my questions.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I ask hon. Members to reject the amendments and new clauses. Amendments 72 and 31 seek to make the power to extend available to devolved authorities as well as Ministers of the Crown. That power, exercisable under clause 2, will allow Ministers of the Crown to extend the sunset for specified pieces and descriptions of in-scope REUL, both in reserved and devolved areas, up to 23 June 2026. We therefore do not consider it necessary for the power to be conferred on the devolved authorities.

Conferring the power on the devolved Governments would introduce additional legal complexity, as it may result in different pieces and descriptions of REUL expiring at different times in different jurisdictions in the UK, across both reserved and devolved policy areas. I am sure that hon. Members understand how that would create a lot of confusion. Ministers of the Crown will also have the ability to legislate to extend pieces or descriptions of retained EU legislation in areas of devolved competence on behalf of devolved Ministers. That is to minimise legal complexity across the jurisdictions, as previously described.

Turning to the new clauses, the Bill already includes an extension power in clause 2. There is no need for an additional extension power solely for Scottish Ministers. Moreover, new clause 6 would change the sunset extension date from 23 June 2026 to 23 June 2029, in effect allowing REUL and revoked direct EU legislation otherwise subject to the sunset date to remain on our statute book in some form until the end of the decade. We have every intention of completing this ambitious programme of REUL reform by 31 December 2023. However, we are aware that complex reforms sometimes take longer than expected, and we will need to consult on new regulatory frameworks that will work best for the UK.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 4:15 pm, 22nd November 2022

Could the Minister clarify the answer she has given? I think she said that because of the confusion that could arise from different regulatory frameworks operating in different Parliaments and different jurisdictions, UK law will take primacy, and there would be nothing that the Scottish Government could do to prevent us from having chlorinated chicken, hormone-injected beef or animals of questionable provenance. I am not clear on that; I am looking for a simple yes or no.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Well, it was not a simple question, and it was full of contradictions. During debates on previous amendments, we have spoken to the high levels of animal welfare that we have here in the UK, and the level of scrutiny that will take place.

To the point that the hon. Gentleman raised, conferring the extension power on the devolved Governments would introduce additional legal complexity. Specifically, it might result in different pieces and descriptions of retained EU law expiring at multiple different times in different Administrations across the UK. Those pieces of retained EU law may cover a mix of reserved and devolved policy areas, and policy officials are still working through how the extension power will work in practice, but we are committed to working collaboratively with devolved officials. I am keen to discuss this policy as it progresses to ensure that the power works for all parts of the UK. The amendment would work against everything we are trying to achieve through the Bill, which is why I ask the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston to withdraw it.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

The Minister’s clarification in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute’s questions has been about as clear as mud. On the basis of that response, I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will stick to his guns, move his amendment and push it to a vote. Either the Minister genuinely does not get devolution, or she gets it and is trying to roll it back, because the whole point of devolution is the recognition that there are four distinct identities, at the very least—four distinct sets of needs and priorities—within the four nations of this Union. Arguably, England could be split into several autonomous regions as well if the people of those parts of England so desired.

I think the fault line is that the Minister continually expects the people of Scotland to be reassured when she says, “This is not what the Government intend to do with this new power. This is not what the Government intend to do with this new legislation.” I mean nothing personal against this particular Minister when I tell her that the people in Scotland do not trust this Government. The people in Scotland have never trusted a Tory Government and never will, so if the reassurance that the Minister wants to give my constituents and constituents of other colleagues in Scotland is “We promise you that although we’ve got this power, we will not do it to you”, that will not be enough. The one way to make that promise credible is to say, “We are so determined not to do this to you that we are not going to take the power that would allow us to do it. We are going to make a law that would prevent us from doing that.”

The Minister still has not answered my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute’s questions, so maybe I can ask them in a different way. Who does she believe should have the right to decide whether chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-injected beef should be allowed to be sold in shops in Scotland? Is that a decision that rightfully belongs with the Parliament of Scotland, or does it belong to this place?

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy)

To follow on from what the hon. Member for Glenrothes has said, I think the Minister misunderstands the point of devolution if her main argument against these amendments is that we cannot have different deadlines and laws in different jurisdictions. The whole point of devolution is that each devolved nation is able to decide the laws that sit within its devolved competence. I will not push our amendment to a vote, but the answers we have received this evening are pretty inadequate.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

We will press amendment 31 to a vote. I am far from satisfied with the answer that the Minister provided. We recognise that there is a power grab taking place and this Government are coming for the powers of our Parliament.

Shortly before Second Reading, I met the National Farmers Union Scotland in my constituency of Argyll and Bute. It recognises that this legislation is a potential death sentence for the Scottish agricultural sector. In rural areas, such as my constituency, the farmers require a hefty subsidy to manage the land, keep their lights on, provide employment and stem rural depopulation, while producing high-quality, high-value beef, lamb and dairy products. This legislation is a death sentence for Scottish agriculture.

Tomorrow morning I will again meet a delegation from the National Farmers Union Scotland here in Westminster, and I will be sorry to have to report to them that we have received no assurances whatsoever about the protections that this vital industry needs. That is why it is essential that we push amendment 31 to a vote.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 31, in clause 2, page 2, line 8, at end insert—

“(1A) Subsection (1) has effect in relation to provision which is within the competence of the Scottish Ministers as if, after “A Minister of the Crown”, there were inserted “or the Scottish Ministers”.

(1B) A provision is within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of this section if—

(a) it would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if it were contained in an Act of that Parliament, or

(b) it is provision which could be made in other subordinate legislation by the Scottish Ministers, the First Minister or the Lord Advocate acting alone.”—(Brendan O’Hara.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 7 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill — Clause 2 - Extension of sunset under section 1

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment 29, in clause 2, page 2, line 11, leave out “2026” and insert “2029”.

This amendment changes the date that the revocation of EU-derived subordinate legislation and retained direct EU legislation may be extended to, up to a final deadline of 23 June 2029.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The amendment is in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes. It seeks to extend the date at which revocation can take place to 23 June 2029.

As we have heard from many, many hon. Members, this Bill is a bad piece of legislation that has been badly drafted and ill conceived. As I have said, we will vote against it, as we have throughout this Bill Committee, and as we will again when it returns to the Floor of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes has laid out in pretty thorough detail what a confused mess of a Bill this is, both in terms of what it is trying to achieve and how it has been so hurriedly thrown together. That is why we will soon get on to Government amendments that seek to correct basic mistakes. As my hon. Friend correctly pointed out a few moments ago, if there are that many mistakes in this legislation, goodness knows what is yet to appear and what will be missed in the coming 13 months if we are to stick to the insane timeline that the Government are working to.

Having said that we will oppose the Bill every step of the way, we feel duty-bound to highlight its most glaring deficiencies and to suggest amendments. If the Bill has to pass, it should do so in a form that does the least damage to the people who will have to live with its consequences.

It is in that spirit that we tabled amendments 32 and 29. Amendment 32 would remove clause 2(3) entirely, and amendment 29 would change the final deadline from 2026 to 23 June 2029. As we have heard many times today, arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines are rarely, if ever, useful. I again suggest, as many others have, that Government Members canvass the opinion of the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth on arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines.

The cliff edge makes no sense whatsoever. It appears to have been inserted into the Bill by the zealots who were then in charge of the ship, and were merrily steering it on to the rocks, as a way of preventing cooler, more rational heads from looking at the Bill and coming to the same conclusion as the rest of us: it is unworkable, ideologically driven madness. If the Bill is to work, there must be adequate time for its provisions to be put in place.

Surely all but the true believers will see the sense in the amendment. Although it would not improve the substance or intent of the Bill, it would allow for a far more reasonable timescale, and would ensure that mistakes are not made, or that when they are people are not left exposed, which will almost inevitably happen given the way the Bill is currently written; things will almost certainly be missed, and will fall off the statute book. I encourage the Minister to see this as a helpful amendment to a thoroughly rotten Bill. It is an attempt to make the Bill ever so slightly less unpalatable.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I ask hon. Members to reject amendments 32 and 29. In short, they delay and deny Brexit. As the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute has said himself, he opposes every step of the Bill. Amendment 32 would leave out clause 2(3), which would remove the extension mechanism’s deadline, and effectively allow retained EU law to be extended for ever more. Amendment 29 would push the date to 2029. Conservative Members are here to deliver Brexit, not to deny it. I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I thank the Minister for her answer. As I have often said, it satisfies me not one jot, but I understand and was expecting that answer. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Joy Morrissey.)

Adjourned till Thursday 24 November at half-past Eleven o’clock.

Written evidence to be reported to the House

REULB22 National Parks England

REULB23 Professor James Lee

REULB24 Ian Wood

REULB25 Glasgow Loves EU

REULB26 Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

REULB27 National Trust

REULB28 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)

REULB29 TheCityUK

REULB30 Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements (“the IMA”)

REULB31 Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)

REULB32 Dr Viviane Gravey, Senior Lecturer in European Politics Queen’s University Belfast, and co-chairs of Brexit & Environment, an ESRC funded network of academics investigating the impact of Brexit on the environment (supplementary evidence)

REULB33 William Wilson, Barrister, Wyeside Consulting Ltd

REULB34 The Angling Trust

REULB35 Which?

REULB36 International Meat Trade Association (IMTA)

REULB37 John Ratcliffe

REULB38 City of London Corporation

REULB39 Energy UK

REULB40 Oxford University

REULB41 John Bell

REULB42 Planning and Environmental Bar Association

REULB43 IEEP

REULB44 Focus on Labour Exploitation

REULB45 Ernst and young LLP

REULB46 Office for Environmental Protection (OEP)

REULB47 UNISON (supplementary submission)

REULB48 British Copyright Council

REULB49 The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA)

REULB50 JUSTICE

REULB51 Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), co-authored by Dr Oliver Garner and Dr Julian Ghosh KC

REULB52 The UK Musicians’ Union

REULB53 Charles Whitmore, Research Associate, Cardiff University – Wales Governance Centre & Wales Council for Voluntary Action (supplementary submission)

REULB54 The Society for Radiological Protection

REULB55 Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd (CLA)

REULB56 The Law Society of Scotland (further submission)

REULB57 UK Music

REULB58 ESB Generation and Trading

REULB59 IP Federation

REULB60 Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Storrington & Arun Valley Regional Group

REULB61 Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)

REULB62 Make UK

REULB63 Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

REULB64 Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)

REULB65 CIWM

REULB66 British Standards Institution (BSI)

REULB67 UK Metric Association

REULB68 Border Reform and Research Group (BRRG)

REULB69 Ms Viviane Doussy

REULB70 Christine Lindsay

REULB71 Mrs Suzanne Ewers

REULB72 United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)

REULB73 Health Food Manufacturers’ Association

REULB74 Exeter XR Biodiversity Working Group

REULB75 Cruelty Free International

REULB76 Institute of Acoustics

REULB77 UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)

REULB78 Directors UK

REULB79 Institute of Food Science & Technology

REULB80 BMA (British Medical Association)