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House of Commons Hansard
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General Committees
18 February 2019

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Roger Gale

† Campbell, Sir Alan (Tynemouth) (Lab)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)

† Fysh, Mr Marcus (Yeovil) (Con)

† Glindon, Mary (North Tyneside) (Lab)

† Harper, Mr Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)

† Hayes, Helen (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)

† Heappey, James (Wells) (Con)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

† Jones, Andrew (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

† Jones, Mr David (Clwyd West) (Con)

Jones, Graham P. (Hyndburn) (Lab)

† Lopresti, Jack (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)

† O'Hara, Brendan (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

† Stevens, Jo (Cardiff Central) (Lab)

Timms, Stephen (East Ham) (Lab)

† Turner, Karl (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)

Ian Bradshaw, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 18 February 2019

[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Draft Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

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Good afternoon. Hon. Members may remove their jackets if they wish to do so, but preferably nothing else—this is not the “Today” programme. [Laughter.] There is a clue in the title of the regulations. This is not an opportunity to discuss the whole future of the European Union. We have only an hour and a half, and although I wish to be as facilitating as possible, let us confine ourselves to the contents of the regulations.

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Air Traffic Management (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. The draft regulations are made under the powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and will be needed if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This statutory instrument retains the regulatory tools to ensure the continued provision and oversight of air navigation services after the UK leaves the EU and is an essential element of our contingency planning for a no-deal exit. The instrument neither extends nor diminishes regulation; it just ensures continuity.

The draft SI amends single European sky legislation: the four basic regulations that provide the framework for EU air traffic management regulations and the implementing regulations that set out the detailed requirements. As Committee members will have seen from the papers, they are detailed, technical matters, which I will quickly explain.

The implementing regulations cover air traffic management interoperability: the manner in which the UK works with other states to deliver air navigation services; the organisation of airspace; the safety and oversight of air navigation services; new technology and how it is to be used; and a system of performance and economic regulation for air navigation services. The single European sky legislation supports the EU initiative to improve the efficiency of air navigation services while maintaining safety within the European air traffic management system.

The delivery of air navigation services is vital to ensure that congested airspace can be used safely and efficiently. The services regulated by the single European sky legislation support air traffic growth by ensuring the safe separation of aircraft. If services are not provided in an efficient way, it can cause considerable delays to traffic with resultant costs and disruption to airlines and passengers. The instrument will ensure the effective regulation of air traffic management so that the arrangements in the UK continue.

The draft instrument addresses areas where retained EU law will no longer function effectively after leaving the EU by removing the roles of EU bodies that cannot be performed by the UK after exit, and provisions where there is already satisfactory UK legislation. Where possible, roles currently undertaken by the European Commission and EU bodies are being transferred to the Secretary of State or the Civil Aviation Authority; but where they relate to pan-European functions, including air navigation services delivered by more than one state, they are being removed. The instrument includes arrangements to recognise EU-based certifications and authorisations existing immediately before exit day. The certifications and authorisations will be preserved for a maximum of two years, subject to any earlier expiry or termination, providing continuity until another agreement is reached with the EU on such issues.

The single European sky legislation includes a regulatory framework for the development and deployment of new technology and ways of using it: the single European sky air traffic management research and development programme—a mouthful that is abbreviated to SESAR. The EU regulations set up organisations and arrangements in which the UK will no longer be able to participate and which the UK cannot legislate for as a third country. We are, however, retaining requirements for deployment of new technology by UK operational stakeholders, predominantly the UK’s air navigation service provider, NATS—formerly National Air Traffic Services—to ensure interoperability with the EU air traffic management system is retained.

The instrument also ensures that the UK will continue to comply with its international obligations, such as those set out in the Chicago convention on international civil aviation. That is done by retaining the regulations that dictate how we comply with the standards and recommended practices adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation under that convention.

As I said, the instrument is an essential element of our contingency planning for a no-deal exit. It makes no changes to the objectives of the EU single European sky regulations. Instead, it maintains the existing regulatory framework of technical requirements for air traffic management to ensure the continued provision of efficient, safe air navigation services, to uphold the effective regulation of the UK air traffic management system, and to maintain interoperability between the UK and the EU after the UK has left the EU.

Hon. Members may be interested to know that the devolved Administrations and NATS have been consulted on the statutory instrument and are happy for it to proceed. I commend it to the Committee.

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It is always an absolute pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Roger, and a privilege to serve under your chairmanship. I do not intend to detain the Committee long.

As the Minister said, the instrument makes changes to the EU-derived retained single European sky legislation, which arises as a result of the UK leaving the European Union. It will ensure the regulatory framework for air traffic management and the continued provision of air navigation services when we leave the EU. It is vital that the ATM regulatory framework is in place when we leave the EU, and the industry wants it to continue, so we support the instrument.

The big fear for the aviation sector is that we crash out without a deal. The EU proposes in the event of no deal to cap the number of movements between the UK and the EU27, which would be a crushing blow for our aviation sector. A large portion of funding for the single European sky project, SESAR, comes from the EU. As the Minister knows, some of the committed projects, to which millions of pounds of funding have already been committed, run up to 2024.

Can the Minister reassure the Committee that in the event of no deal, all funding commitments will be honoured by the Treasury so that the airports and other parties carrying out such projects can continue to do so with confidence? Does he agree that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for the aviation sector? What discussions has he had with his EU counterparts about the impact of no deal?

My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), the shadow Secretary of State, is currently in the main Chamber asking an urgent question about the collapse of Flybmi over the weekend. As the Minister knows, Flybmi has said that Brexit uncertainty added to its collapse. The Secretary of State cannot be trusted, so will the Minister do the right thing for the aviation sector and tell the Prime Minister that she must take no deal off the table?

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I will detain the Committee for even less time than the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East, who was absolutely right when he said that we live in hope—indeed, we expect—that the UK will not leave the European Union without a deal. We have to be prepared, however, for that catastrophic eventuality, so we too will not oppose the statutory instrument.

The consequences for the UK’s aviation industry of a no-deal exit from the European Union are unthinkable. I fully support what the hon. Gentleman said to the Minister about ensuring that no deal is taken off the table, even at this late stage, because it would have catastrophic consequences for the aviation industry and beyond.

I have looked through the explanatory memorandum released by the Government, and I have a couple of questions for the Minister. I appreciate that the Government have had regular engagement, but from what I can see they have not consulted specific stakeholders other than the CAA. Why is that the case? Are they satisfied that they have taken every precaution and spoken to every stakeholder in depth and at length in putting the SI together?

When was the statutory instrument published in draft form on the legislation.gov.uk website? Does the Minister know how many people viewed it? What changes, if any, were made to it based on the feedback that was received?

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I thank hon. Members for their consideration of the instrument and their questions, which I will try to answer.

On the SESAR funding, if there is a no-deal exit, the Government will underwrite what would have been paid to the UK under the current arrangements. That provides certainty and continuity for those involved.

Our understanding is that the European Parliament does not want to see a capacity freeze on flights to and from the EU. That would be very bad for business. The Commission has put forward an idea that has not been met with much warmth from the European Parliament. We will continue to monitor the situation, but it looks likely that there will not be a capacity freeze. Obviously, that is very positive.

No deal: should it be taken off the table? We have had quite a number of discussions about that in Delegated Legislation Committees and the Chamber, and it is pointless to revisit them. The way to avoid no deal is, of course, to vote for a deal. There is a deal on the table to be voted for. The Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that that it is not possible to take no deal off the table, for reasons that have been rehearsed.

I mentioned in my remarks that the devolved Administrations, NATS and other stakeholders have been consulted. There has been engagement in confidence with the relevant stakeholders. Ministers and officials have had regular engagement with the aviation industry, air navigation service providers and airspace users through meetings, workshops on EU exit and our long-established stakeholder forums. A number of issues relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have been addressed, including plans for making this secondary legislation to ensure the statute book continues to function irrespective of the outcome of negotiations. There has been support for continuity of the regulatory framework among stakeholders, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East said. It is in everybody’s interest to ensure smooth continuity so that this important sector can continue to operate. We work closely with the CAA on all aviation matters, including preparation for EU exit. That work and the consultations will continue.

I think that answers hon. Members’ questions. I close by saying that this is an important SI to land, because we need to prepare for every eventuality, including a no-deal scenario. The instrument is essential to ensure that we have an effective regulatory framework for air traffic management in the UK from exit day. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Shipments of Radioactive Substances (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: James Gray

Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)

† Chapman, Douglas (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)

† Clifton-Brown, Sir Geoffrey (The Cotswolds) (Con)

† Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab)

† Harrington, Richard (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

† Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Hill, Mike (Hartlepool) (Lab)

† Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)

† Jones, Susan Elan (Clwyd South) (Lab)

† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)

† O'Brien, Neil (Harborough) (Con)

† Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)

† Syms, Sir Robert (Poole) (Con)

† Thomas, Derek (St Ives) (Con)

† Whately, Helen (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con)

† Whitehead, Dr Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)

† Wragg, Mr William (Hazel Grove) (Con)

Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 18 February 2019

[James Gray in the Chair]

Draft Shipments of Radioactive Substances (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Shipments of Radioactive Substances (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Usually, for such occasions, Mr Gray, it is written into my speech that it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, but with you it is a real pleasure.

Today, according to the news this morning, MPs are quaffing champagne—we always “quaff” it—on the ski slopes, but here we are not. We have quaffed a few confectionary items, if one can quaff those, but I am in Committee to talk about the draft regulations that were laid before the House on 21 January 2019.

This new draft statutory instrument is being made under powers set out in section 8(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The regulations will address specific inoperabilities arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Atomic Energy Community, which is known more commonly and colloquially as Euratom, and will only come into force on exit day in the event of no deal between the UK and the EU. The draft instrument corrects deficiencies in retained EU law by revoking and replacing Euratom regulation 1493/93 on shipments of radioactive substances between EU member states.

The new draft regulations demonstrate the UK’s continuing commitment to the highest safety standards in radioactive substances’ control. The instrument will apply to the whole of the UK. The regulations will ensure that prior written declarations must continue for shipments of sealed radioactive sources from the EU into the UK in the event of no deal. They will allow the UK’s competent authorities to check that our importers of sealed radioactive sources comply with the requirements for safe storage, use and disposal of sources before shipments are made from the EU to the UK.

The process of advance declarations maintains the oversight of UK authorities with respect to the destinations and recipients of sealed sources that are shipped into the UK. Therefore, in relation to imports, the draft regulations provide continuity for regulators and operators in a no-deal scenario. The instrument will cover the shipment of the sealed radioactive sources from EU member states to importers. For the record, it is important to point out that a “sealed radioactive source” is a radioactive material encapsulated by another material, usually metal, to prevent exposure. In common language, that would be a box—but not just any box.

Sealed radioactive sources are widely used in industry, agriculture and medicine—for example, in special devices to inspect the quality of welds on gas and water pipelines during construction, to kill harmful bacteria in food or cancer cells in medical patients, or to sterilise medical equipment. About 100 businesses in the UK import sealed radioactive substances, and the vast majority of them are in England. The draft regulations do not delay or restrict our ability to import such sources from the EU, as their primary purpose is simply to provide continuity with existing practices.

Following exit, our importers of sealed radioactive sources from the EU will be required, as now, to make prior written declarations to demonstrate that they comply with national requirements for the safe storage, use and disposal of sealed sources before shipments from the EU to the UK can take place. The declaration is sent to the relevant competent authorities in the UK, which will acknowledge receipt, much as they do now. Those authorities are the Office for Nuclear Regulation for nuclear site licences, it being the regulator of such sites; and the different environment agencies for non-nuclear site licences: the Environment Agency in England, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The importer forwards a declaration and acknowledges receipt to the EU-based exporter before the shipment can be made. Declarations can last up to three years and cover more than one shipment, in the same way as under the previous process, and we will continue to recognise all declarations made before exit day following our withdrawal from the EU. Shipments can continue to be made under existing declarations unless and until those declarations reach the end of their life span.

In the event of no deal, as a result of the UK’s no longer being a member state, it will not be possible for the system to continue to operate in exactly the same way, because we will be a third-party state. The instrument will maintain current arrangements in so far as possible, with three areas of operational change. I am sure the shadow Minister will be very interested in those differences, but I have been through them very carefully and I believe they are necessary.

First, the instrument will apply only to imports from the EU into the UK. It will not apply to our exports to the EU, as the Euratom regulation does now, because, unfortunately, it reflects the UK’s position outside the EU. The instrument can cover only the arrival of shipments in the UK, because that would be the only thing within our power in the event of our leaving the European Union without a deal.

Secondly, the obligation for exporters in EU member states to submit a quarterly return of all shipments will no longer apply, because we will not be able to place an obligation on EU exporters to submit such a return to a UK-based competent authority, as the Euratom regulation does.

Thirdly, the instrument places a legal obligation to make a prior written declaration on the UK importer, whereas the Euratom regulation placed a legal obligation to obtain a prior written declaration on the EU exporter. That technical legal change is made for obvious jurisdictional reasons, but it will make no difference to what is required in practice. The practical requirements for obtaining the declaration for UK importers remain the same. The changes do not place any additional practical requirements on industry or regulators.

The shadow Minister normally asks me for an impact assessment. In this case, as the one-off cost to all industry will be between £1,400 and £9,100, the impact will be de minimis and absorbed as part of day-to-day business. It is just about getting used to the new technicalities; the process really is the same.

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indicated assent.

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I do not know whether Hansard can indicate that the shadow Minister nodded, but he did. That happens rarely during my speeches, but in this case it did. He may well have denied it, in which case I would have had to set the record straight.

Subject to Parliament’s approval of the draft regulations, guidance on their operation will be published online in March, alongside targeted operator engagement. Officials have engaged with affected operators and stakeholders through a number of forums and channels, including the Environment Agency’s small users liaison group and the radioactive substances policy group. I am pleased to say that the instrument was drafted in collaboration between officials in my Department and those in the devolved Administrations, as well as the different environment agencies and the ONR.

In conclusion, the draft regulations are essential to demonstrate our commitment to the highest safety standards in the area of radioactive substances control and ensure maximum continuity for UK importers.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but I think the draft regulations are pretty much the last of the various SIs that have been put in place to create a regime in the UK that is as good as the Euratom regime. I did not intend to be quite as kind as this will sound, but I think we have got to a position where pretty much everything is in place. That cannot be said for every area of regulation, but we are almost there as far as the future of Euratom is concerned.

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I can confirm that this is the last Euratom SI for no deal. As usual, the shadow Minister is very well informed.

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There is the small matter of chasing an agreement with Japan, but that is a different matter.

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A mere technicality.

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Indeed.

It would be remiss of me not to welcome the fact that we have now got to the final point, and therefore today we do not want to stand in the way of the regulations proceeding. However, I ask the Minister for a brief explanation of one particular aspect, which is bound up to some extent with the fact that, as he said himself, what was previously a two-way process in regulations now becomes a one-way process, because we have no means of forcing anybody in an EU country to make declarations in a way that we might like, and we will therefore record receipt, rather than across the board, as far as exchanges are concerned.

That concerns me to the extent that the Minister has talked this afternoon of sealed sources of radiation. He stated that those are in a special box. They are effectively in a box, but they are sealed, to make what can be highly dangerous radiation not impactful on anybody who is dealing with it. So it will be sealed in metal, or glass, or whatever, to make it non-impactful on the outside.

The current regulations cover a second category—unsealed sources. That does not mean unsealed to the extent that they are on a paper doily laid out for everyone’s approval. The safety of tose materials should give cause for concern, but they are not in the same category as the materials that have to be sealed so as not to harm anybody outside. They are called unsealed, but they are still protected, and we ought to know about them as far as possible.

The problem is that previously, the transit of both sealed and unsealed material could be traced one way or another, either through the forms that had to be filled in before material was transported, or they would be subject to a three-monthly report of the transit of all materials, which was held within the EU but available to all member states. Now that will not be available to us any more, so in principle we will have no knowledge of what is happening to the transport, both in and out, of unsealed nuclear material.

I do not wish to hold up this particular SI, but I nevertheless invite the Minister to reflect upon whether, for the longer term, that is an entirely satisfactory way to do things. The explanatory memorandum states that that is not a matter of great consequence, but I would have thought that what happens to the transport of these items is important, so that we do not face a possible future scandal of missing material, or material going to the wrong place or into the wrong hands, or performing the wrong role. We ought to have some known record of what is going on.

I may have misunderstood how this SI will work, and perhaps we will in some way have a record, but on the face of it, it looks as though we will have a record only on the basis of voluntary arrangements by the shippers, and not a definite and certain arrangement for those shipments.

On the overall arrangements for sealed goods, I absolutely agree with the Minister, and I also agree with him that there should not be an impact assessment for this SI, because the same things are going backwards and forwards, and it is not a question of there being any serious changes in procedures; it is just a question of how those procedures are being organised. However, there is a question to be answered about sealed and unsealed materials, and I hope the Minister can answer it in a way that puts my mind at rest about the procedures.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I was involved with the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018 and I have sat on a number of related statutory instrument Committees, so it is pleasing to hear that all the building blocks are now in place. As a brief observation, the Minister has done a good job. He has been cheerful and open, and he has got on with it. If other Ministers took the same attitude, the job of Government would be a lot easier.

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I echo my hon. Friend’s comments. The Minister has done a thoroughly competent job and he is well on top of the issue. It is great that we have got to the end of the series of statutory instruments on nuclear decommissioning.

The 65th report of the Public Accounts Committee, on which I sit, about the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority says:

“In 2017-18, the NDA spent £2 billion on activities at Sellafield”

and—this is really serious—

“It expects operations to decommission Sellafield to continue for over 100 years at an estimated cost of £91 billion.”

What consideration is being given to building up more and more of those materials that are taking a long time to decommission at Sellafield?

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I am flattered by the compliments from my two hon. Friends, and by the good grace with which the hon. Member for Southampton, Test has responded throughout the progress of the 2018 Act and the statutory instruments that have followed. Every time, we hope that he will be late so that we can start without him and the illustrious Opposition Whip will have to deal with the issues, but he has never let us down—or at least, he has never let the Opposition Whip down.

The hon. Gentleman’s points are interesting. Being who he is, he will be aware that advance declarations have never applied to unsealed sources, so that is not new.

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Just to clarify, that has always been my understanding. It is a question of what goes into the three-monthly declarations from the EU about all transport—unsealed and sealed. That was previously the source from which one could keep a record of what was going on.

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Perhaps I can answer by saying that that does not pose a concern, because the devolved environmental permitting regime allows the UK environment agencies to require sites that receive sealed and unsealed radioactive sources to record their receipt. Under the EU regulations, as I have explained, the import of unsealed sources was captured only by the quarterly returns. As that is no longer a requirement, unsealed sources are not covered by the regulations, so it is a completely different matter with a completely different system.

To answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds about Sellafield and the Public Accounts Committee report, if he will indulge me, I think it would be better for me to write to him on the subject or for us to meet to discuss it.

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So do I.

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Thank you very much, Mr Gray. With that, I commend the last statutory instrument on Euratom to the Committee.

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The question is—[Interruption.] Mr Chapman is trying to catch my eye.

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I was expecting to be called, as is normal for the spokesperson for the third party in Parliament.

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It is helpful if you stand up, so I can see who is trying to speak.

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We oppose the regulations. We feel that the UK may leave the Euratom treaty on the same day as we leave the EU. Since regulation will still be automatically based in EU law on exit day, and we will no longer be a member state, we have some concerns about the future relationship.

The Minister has mentioned our concerns, but the requirement to make a quarterly return will not be replicated under the draft instrument, and the obligation to make a prior written declaration will apply to UK imports, but not vice versa. We are in favour of retaining relationships that are as close as possible beyond Brexit, but despite the Government’s best attempts to ensure continuity, we oppose the instrument on the basis that we do not believe that the Government have explored all the relationships that we would want to see in place before the regulations are put into practice.

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I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not including him within the bulk of my remarks. To clarify, I think that this might answer his point: the draft regulations are in the event—I hope, the very, very unlikely event—of no deal. The Government’s intention, however—as he and his colleagues would find out were they to vote for the Prime Minister’s withdrawal deal—is to have as close a relationship as possible with Euratom, basically in an agreement as part of the legislation to follow, assuming the Prime Minister’s deal is passed. At that time, I think I would be able to satisfy him—certainly our policy is to do so, and to have a relationship that would replicate so many things in the wonderful relationship we have had as part of Euratom. I hope that will satisfy him for the moment. We are all working on the assumption that the draft regulations—assuming that they are passed by the Committee—will be completely irrelevant and not needed.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Equine (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Virendra Sharma

† Burden, Richard (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Garnier, Mark (Wyre Forest) (Con)

† Harrison, Trudy (Copeland) (Con)

Kyle, Peter (Hove) (Lab)

† Mc Nally, John (Falkirk) (SNP)

† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

† Martin, Sandy (Ipswich) (Lab)

† Paterson, Mr Owen (North Shropshire) (Con)

† Rutley, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

† Seely, Mr Bob (Isle of Wight) (Con)

Smith, Owen (Pontypridd) (Lab)

† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)

† Tomlinson, Michael (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)

† Yasin, Mohammad (Bedford) (Lab)

Jack Dent, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 18 February 2019

[Mr Virendra Sharma in the Chair]

Draft Equine (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Equine (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit)Regulations 2019.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. The draft regulations will make technical amendments to ensure that retained EU law on equine identification remains operable following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, ensuring that the human food chain continues to be protected and that equines can continue to be traded and moved into and through the European Union. The current equine identification system is set out in EU legislation, primarily by Commission implementing regulation 2015/262—the equine passport regulation. I stress that the draft regulations will make no changes to the current policy or enforcement.

I will briefly summarise the draft regulations and the principal changes they will make. Part 2 sets out technical amendments to the text of the retained EU equine passport regulation, to ensure its continued operability following our exit. Part 3 makes similar technical amendments to certain retained Commission decisions also relating to equines, namely on the collection of data for competitions, the recognition of stud books and the co-ordination of information exchange between those stud books. Part 4 amends the European economic area agreement as retained in UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The necessary technical amendments to ensure operability involve changing references to the Union in the current EU regulations to refer instead to the UK, or, where the admission of equines with appropriate ID from the EU is concerned, to refer to equines from both the EU and the UK. References to authorities in member states will be amended to refer to the appropriate authorities in the UK; in relation to Scotland it will be Scottish Ministers, and so forth.

Parts 2 and 3 omit certain articles of the Commission regulation and of Commission decisions because they contain provisions that will no longer have any relevance once section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed. Omitted articles will become redundant. However, where relevant, necessary provisions that have already been given effect by domestic legislation will be preserved and continue to have effect by virtue of the EU withdrawal Act.

I will briefly outline the context in which the draft regulations are set. It is important to understand how rules on equine identification operate, and the legislation that underpins the rules. I will then move on to why the draft regulations are necessary and, indeed, vital. The system of equine identification is long established in EU law.

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The Minister might be aware that my patch in North Cornwall has moorland ponies. I went out with the Redwings charity to do some tagging—moorland ponies breed on the moors and are not chipped. When these provisions are in the gift of the UK, will the Government consider facilitating the chipping of moorland ponies so that these great animals do not enter the food chain?

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I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution; I thought he was going to talk about the derogation, which obviously will continue. I will seek some inspiration and come back to him in my closing remarks.

At present, the EU’s 2015 implementing regulation on horse passports applies directly in the UK, as it does in all member states. The EU law is supported by UK domestic enforcement legislation. After exit day, the EU legislation will be retained under the withdrawal Act. The draft regulations have the important, immediate job of making the necessary technical amendments to the retained law so that the movement of equines into the EU can continue.

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The explanatory memorandum states:

“Equine welfare is enforced by local authority Trading Standards and robust identification information makes it easier to deal with cases of abandoned, lost or stolen equines.”

In my constituency, and many others, horses and ponies are abandoned on private land. One farmer had 70 left on his land, and there was little enforcement by the local authority, because there are not the powers to deal with those ponies and horses and they do not have identification. Post Brexit, will we have a better system for dealing with ponies and horses that are already in our country and whose owners are hard to identify?

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The right hon. Lady makes a good point, to which I will come back later. Clearly, provision is in place under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and in recent years we have made other changes that make it easier to address the issue of stray horses, but also those that have been tethered. We will need to take further steps in that direction.

The draft regulations ensure that the food chain continues to be protected and that the contribution of equine identification to animal welfare and biosecurity continues to be made. EU law requires that equines be identified by way of a passport. In most cases, equines born after 2009 must also be uniquely identifiable by way of a microchip; I will say more on that point in a moment. The passport contains important information about the equine, including its unique equine life number, a microchip number when one has been inserted, and a silhouette on to which the equine’s markings are drawn. The passport also records details of any veterinary medicines administered to the animal and its current food chain status eligibility.

The equine passport is long established, and these draft regulations will maintain the status quo for the vast majority of people. Domestic legislation on the identification of equines—the Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018—has recently been updated. That includes a new provision that equines, regardless of age, must be microchipped. Therefore, we are taking further steps, notwithstanding the fact that we probably need to do more. The devolved Administrations have prepared equivalent instruments.

Having all equines microchipped, except for those recognised and listed as belonging to semi-wild populations —an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall—will significantly enhance our equine identification credentials as a third country and mark us out as a leader among our peers. Underpinned by domestic legislation, the UK’s central equine database was launched at the national equine forum on 8 March 2018 and now contains data about virtually every equine in the UK.

I draw hon. Members’ attention to an additional process change made by the draft regulations, namely the insertion of a new article 15A. As a third country, the UK will be required to generate a supplementary travel document to accompany some equine movements. Equine IDs issued by passport-issuing organisations in the UK will not suffice for that purpose under EU law, because the ID must be issued by the competent authority of the third country—for example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in England. The travel document is likely to be necessary only for unregistered equines, provided that the Commission agrees to recognise our stud books relating to registered equines. The Animal and Plant Health Agency has drawn up a simple, single-page document that will meet the requirements of the legislation and which can be printed off and signed by the vet at the same time as other travel documentation is issued. That would be the export health certificate. APHA has confirmed that it is on track to being fully resourced to accommodate that change.

The House of Lords sifting Committee specifically raised the cost of blood tests for equines moving into or through the EU following UK withdrawal. Let me make the position completely clear. European rules state that third countries must be assigned a disease risk status, and there are seven possible categories, based on the geographic region of the third country and the level of associated health risk. Blood testing is a mandatory requirement for all equines from third countries. The number of tests required reflects the disease risk category assigned to the third country. Given the UK’s high health status and high welfare standards, of which we are rightly very proud, we would expect to be assessed as low risk and therefore subject to the minimum number of such tests. That would limit the cost impacts on the sector, which we understand to be in the order of £200 to £500, depending on the third-country category in which the UK is placed by the EU.

I stress that the testing requirements, as with the need for an additional APHA-issued travel document, are not in any way due to the legislation. Both requirements are a consequence of the UK withdrawing from the EU and becoming a third country, where we would be subject to already existing laws set down for third countries. The equine sector is already very familiar with blood tests. It is the industry norm for current movements from the UK to third countries. The equine sector has been receptive and welcoming of the new equine regime introduced over the past year and has been calling for the changes for some time. The draft regulations will back up those existing rules.

To summarise, the draft regulations seek only to make technical amendments to retained EU law following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, ensuring the continued operability of the rules after exit and that UK horses are compliant with EU requirements for third-country equines. The regulations do not make any substantive change to policy or enforcement. Retention of the system and the rules regarding equine identification are vital to protect equine health and ensure the safety of the human food chain and the continued orderly movement of equines into and through the EU.

I trust that Members will agree that it is important to have the draft regulations in place in order to ensure that retained law is operable following our exit. They preserve our high standards of equine identification, ease of movement, welfare and protections of the human food chain. I therefore commend the draft statutory instrument to the Committee.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. The draft statutory instrument is simply the latest in a flood that is necessary to make provision for the regulatory framework after Brexit and for us crashing out without a deal. Surely part of the point in having the two-year period for the article 50 withdrawal mechanism was to enable all these issues to be dealt with in a measured and careful manner, rather than thrust upon us in a panic without any time or opportunity to consult stakeholders or assess any possible issues or problems.

Labour Front Benchers do not believe that the Government’s approach to secondary legislation is helpful or worthy of a Government who claim to be bringing sovereignty back to Parliament, and we will continue to say so. In particular, the Opposition put on record our disquiet at the lack of notice for these SI Committees and the unreliability of dates even once they have been given. Any process that takes Members of Parliament and outside stakeholders by surprise cannot possibly be as accessible and transparent as it should be.

As with many other statutory instruments, the draft regulations involve considerable cost, duplication, opportunities for confusion and the possibility of future regulatory divergence from the rest of the EU, which would lead to difficulties in trade. That calls into question the wisdom of preparing for a no-deal Brexit when every Member of Parliament, including the Minister, should be doing everything in their power to prevent that eventuality. Will he come clean on what his Department believes will be the cost to the equine industry of a no-deal Brexit? Whatever it may be, it will certainly be more than the £5 million of additional administrative costs quoted in the SI.

As the explanatory memorandum makes clear, the SI would not in itself prevent significant additional costs for those moving horses from this country to the rest of the EU, if additional blood tests or other procedures are required. It is hard to think of any measures that could be taken in this country to ameliorate the effects of a no-deal Brexit on this or any other sector. That is particularly pertinent to the Republic of Ireland, which has close links to the UK in the equine world. How that close link between the UK and our friends and cousins in the Republic will survive all the additional problems arising from a no-deal Brexit is just another problem to add to the serious damage that no deal will do to the UK and in particular to Northern Ireland. What negotiations has the Department had with equine industry representatives from the Republic, or indeed from Northern Ireland?

At present, EU veterinarians have to sign off on various responsibilities during movement, which means that some of the checks will occur outside the UK. After Brexit, most or all of those responsibilities will fall to UK vets, which may increase both the work required of them and the associated costs, assuming movement still occurs at the current rate. The plus side is that UK veterinary standards are the highest in Europe, but the downside is that a high proportion of the vets are EU nationals, some of whom are already deciding to return to their countries of origin. Just when our need for additional vets will grow, we will find ourselves with significantly fewer than we currently have. That will be a problem whether we leave with a deal or not, and we would like the Minister to make clear the plans for dealing with that likely shortage.

The Opposition deprecate the situation in which we find ourselves. The organisation of the process is lamentable. The ability of this SI or any other to provide a future for equine industries that is not significantly worse under a no-deal Brexit is nil. However, there is nothing of substance in the SI to which we object, and so we will not oppose it.

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It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma.

This is not a registered interest, but I think it is appropriate that I declare that my wife is chairman of Aintree racecourse and a steward of the Jockey Club, as it is on the subject of thoroughbred racing that I would like to quickly touch.

The racing industry is our second biggest sport: it turns over £3.5 billion, it employs about 17,500 people directly, £11.5 billion is bet on horses and just fewer than 6 million people attend racecourses. It is a massive industry with enormous consequences. Almost exactly a week after Brexit day, on 6 April, about 75,000 people will turn up at Aintree for the grand national, with 9 to 10 million watching it on ITV and about 600 million watching worldwide. It is important for this country that the grand national goes smoothly, and it is of particular interest to our Irish friends—I am sure you read the Racing Post, Mr Sharma—who have, I think, 47 entries this year.

As I understand it, in the case of the withdrawal agreement going through, the current tripartite agreement will carry on in the implementation period. That agreement has served the horse industry of the UK, the Republic of Ireland and France well for many years. Will the Minister clarify what will happen if there is an agreement? I am also particularly interested in what will happen if there is no agreement. As I understand it, we would become a third country and horses would be able to come into the country.

It is worth touching also on the breeding industry. Some 52% of Irish thoroughbred foals come to Great Britain and 50% of French thoroughbred exports come to the UK as well, so it is not just about racing. However, with the huge international focus on the national, I am particularly interested in what arrangements will be in place by then. I understand from the British Horseracing Authority that there have been very satisfactory discussions with DEFRA, and we had the announcement last week in an SI Committee from the junior Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister that proposals had been going through, but I would like to know how it will work for horses that come into the country for the race, almost certainly from Ireland. I know of only one French horse that might be running, Borice, and he will not be a problem because he is already being trained in the UK.

The tripartite agreement has worked well, effectively giving a derogation from the directives requiring inspection, a route plan and a passport—I understand there will be a replacement passport. Will we be using TRACES—the trade control and expert system—in future? That is the arrangement under which the tripartite agreement currently functions.

Lastly—I hope that I do not catch the Minister out with this—it is not only thoroughbreds that come over. The French have AQPA—autre que pur-sang—horses that mainly go jump racing, and it is also worth mentioning Arab horses, which come over in numbers for racing purposes and for breeding.

I thank the Minister for his explanation of the draft regulations. Will he explain where we will be on horse movements in the event that we do not have a deal and there is no time to immediately replace the tripartite agreement?

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It is a pleasure to serve under your careful stewardship while debating this important matter, Mr Sharma. Following the right hon. Member for North Shropshire, I put on the record Doncaster’s proud racing heritage. The Northern Racing College is actually in my constituency—there are only two racing colleges in the country, and we are proud that the northern one is based in Don Valley—and the St Leger stakes, which is one of the classics, takes place every September at Doncaster racecourse. We have a huge interest in bloodstocks as well, which is important to many people who enjoy the races in Doncaster and to the many businesses that rely on that industry from one year to the next.

I will ask a couple of questions and make a point or two about the draft regulations. I sit on Committees such as this every single week, and I listen with bated breath to hear what will be forthcoming from Ministers and shadow Ministers. It has always seemed total common sense to me to not throw the baby out with the bathwater as we leave the European Union. Where we have established procedures that work for the EU and will continue to work for us in the future, there should be a simple process of transposing into UK law that which we currently share with our EU neighbours. In fact, I suggest that on many occasions, given our rich heritage when it comes to horse-racing and horses more widely, we have been at the forefront of the negotiations and discussions in the EU to ensure the highest standards for the transport of horses and ponies, and for animal welfare. I have no doubt that we will continue to be at the forefront of that debate.

I say gently to those on my own Front Bench that, if it was the other way around and we were in government, we too would try to find a way to sift through the less controversial statutory instruments and regulations, and to focus more time on the more debatable ones. We should not make a mountain out of a molehill on every single occasion.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich made a pertinent point about the number of available vets. My most recent discussion on this issue was in a Public Accounts Committee hearing on our border readiness just last week, at which we had the permanent secretaries for Transport and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I was pleased to hear that the staff at DEFRA have worked so hard on these statutory instruments, and I commend those civil servants and staff for the work they have done in very difficult circumstances to get all these SIs through. If I am correct—I am sure the Minister has the figure to hand—we are almost at the end of the rainbow when it comes to this matter, with only five statutory instruments likely to have to be taken after 29 March, to tie up legislation in certain areas. I commend DEFRA for that work.

However, on the border and the role of vets in licensing and inspection—this is connected to the point my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich made—I have a few concerns about DEFRA relying too much on the market to deliver, without ensuring that it really understands the state of play and the pressures that might come to bear on those working in this field. I would welcome it if the Minister could reassure us that, even at this late stage, every opportunity will be taken to double check that the facilities and services are there.

I thank the Minister for what he said about the microchipping of horses. Throughout my 20 years as an MP, the matter of horses being left, particularly on private land, has been a perennial problem. Local authorities and the police are often hesitant to remove horses that are not getting the best welfare and whose owners are hard to track down. I look forward to that legislation coming into being.

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I will respond to the points that were made in that fascinating series of contributions, for which I thank hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Don Valley spoke with enthusiasm about her racecourse. Credit to Doncaster Rovers, who played incredibly well at the weekend, although they did not quite get the result they wanted.

The right hon. Lady made some important points about the number of SIs that we have to get through. To say that we are at the end is perhaps a bit optimistic, but we are at the beginning of the end. The end is in sight. The contribution that DEFRA officials have made has been extraordinary; they have worked phenomenally hard. Credit to the permanent secretary, whom the right hon. Lady was able to question. There has been a really amazing transformation in what DEFRA does, the number of people being brought on board and the number of projects that are taking place as we onshore our agriculture, fisheries and environment policies. It is an extraordinary endeavour, and I thank her for her comments.

I want to reassure the right hon. Lady, the hon. Member for Ipswich and others about what we are doing with vets and how we are making sure that we are ready for EU exit if there is no deal. We have been working very hard with the veterinary industry, the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The evidence that has been provided to the Migration Advisory Committee strongly supports the return of vets to the shortage occupation list. While the UK prepares to leave the EU, DEFRA is working closely with the Home Office to ensure that there is a long-term strategy for the veterinary workforce as part of the future immigration policy.

To try to take the pressure off our vets in the work they are doing in their official capacity, we are creating the new role of certification support officer, which is designed to provide administrative support to official veterinarians for the processing of export health certificates. That takes work away from the official vets, but the certification support officers will be under close supervision by vets.

A point was made about the number of official veterinarians. The APHA has been working very closely with the veterinary industry to ensure that sufficient OVs are available for certification on day one. The preparations are in good shape.

The hon. Member for Ipswich asked whether discussions are ongoing with Northern Ireland and Ireland. We are having a close discussion with all the devolved Administrations and the Republic about this and many other issues. He spoke about the cost to the industry that this will bring about. There will be changes in the costs associated with vets, but they are not related to the regulations. There are costs in the process. The processes will be designed simply. Our aim is to ensure that the processes enable this to take place effectively, given that the industry often transports animals to third countries already. This is just bringing the EU into line with that approach.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall made a point about tagging. We are sympathetic to the issue that he raised, and we have had discussions with the sector to look at ways in which it can be facilitated. I will gladly meet him separately after this Committee or on another day so that we can talk about it further.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire characteristically made some probing technical points, to which I will endeavour to respond to assure him that the issues he raised are being addressed. He asked whether horses competing in the grand national will be able to return to the EU. I think many people in the country will be interested in that. The answer is yes, absolutely, assuming that the EU provides us with listed status. We understand that that process is moving along well. All equines returning to the EU will need to follow the same process, regardless of where they are going, because we will lose access to the tripartite agreement in the event of no deal.

My right hon. Friend asked whether the tripartite agreement would remain in place in the implementation period. Yes, it would. In a no-deal situation, there would be a process to enable French and Irish horses to enter the UK. Our imports policy will remain the same in principle on day one. Importers will need to pre-notify the APHA of their intention to travel to the UK, but no additional documentation or checks will be required.

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I understand that it will be easy for horses to get into the country, but obviously—the breeding season started last week—they have to get back. As I understand it, they will get back, but they will probably have to go through a border inspection post. I think that would be Dún Laoghaire in Ireland’s case, and possibly Larne in the case of Northern Ireland. Will the Minister confirm that it will be easy to take horses back to their home country?

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Yes, I can confirm that. The processes will be different, but they will be simple. Yes, horses will have to go through a border inspection post.

Finally, my right hon. Friend asked what the export process for AQPS—French non-thoroughbred horses—would look like. The process for export will not differ depending on which EU country an equine is destined for. That means horses moving to France and Ireland will have to follow the same processes as all other equines, which I referred to earlier. Again, that is because we will lose access to the tripartite agreement in the event of no deal. As I said, we will not alter our import policy on day one, so French horses will be able to enter the UK, following the procedures as they are now.

I thank Committee members for their contributions. It is important to ensure the continued operability of retained legislation so UK equines can continue to move into and through the European Union following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. We cannot be left in a situation where our horses may be held up at the border or prevented from moving into the EU. I trust that Members agree about the importance of ensuring that the draft regulations find passage through Parliament, and I once again commend them to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Equine (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Committee rose.