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House of Commons Hansard
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General Committees
08 October 2019

Delegated Legislation Committee

Prospectus (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Ian Paisley

† Dodds, Anneliese (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)

† Duncan Smith, Mr Iain (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)

Farrelly, Paul (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab)

† Fellows, Marion (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

Fitzpatrick, Jim (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)

† Freer, Mike (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Glen, John (Economic Secretary to the Treasury)

† Harrison, Trudy (Copeland) (Con)

† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)

† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

† Penrose, John (Weston-super-Mare) (Con)

† Rowley, Lee (North East Derbyshire) (Con)

† Selous, Andrew (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

† Smith, Jeff (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)

† Sobel, Alex (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Walker, Thelma (Colne Valley) (Lab)

† Yasin, Mohammad (Bedford) (Lab)

Rob Page, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Eighteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Prospectus (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Prospectus (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019, No. 1234).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. The Government had previously made all necessary legislation under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to ensure that, in the event of a no-deal exit on 29 March 2019, there was a functioning legal and regulatory regime for financial services from exit day. Following the extension of the article 50 process, new EU legislation has become applicable, and under the EU withdrawal Act that new legislation will form part of UK law at exit. Further deficiency fixes are therefore necessary to ensure that the UK’s regulatory regime remains prepared for exit.

This statutory instrument amends the EU prospectus regulation and related legislation, including a previous EU exit instrument—the Official Listing of Securities, Prospectus and Transparency (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, or “the official listing instrument”. The official listing instrument fixed deficiencies in the prospectus regime as it applied before 21 July 2019. This instrument will ensure that the UK continues to have an effective prospectus regime after exit, taking into account the new EU prospectus regulation, which applied across the EU from July of this year.

The EU prospectus regulation contains the standardised rules that govern the format, content, approval and distribution of the prospectus that issuers must produce when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market in a European economic area state. Deficiency fixes to the new EU prospectus regulation are necessary to reflect the fact that, after exit, the UK will be outside the EU single market and the EU’s regulatory and supervisory framework for financial services. The amendments in this instrument follow the same approach as the amendments made in the official listing instrument to the UK prospectus regime as it applied before 21 July 2019.

First, in line with the approach that the Government are taking to all onshored financial services legislation, this instrument transfers functions currently within the remit of EU authorities—in particular, the European Securities and Markets Authority—to the appropriate UK bodies. Such functions—for example, the development of technical rules on certain provisions of the EU prospectus regulation—will now be carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority. That is appropriate, given the FCA’s expertise in applying the UK prospectus regime and the major role that it has already played in the EU to develop technical standards. Where the EU prospectus regulation confers a delegated legislation-making power on the Commission, the powers are converted into regulation-making powers conferred on the Treasury. Use of those powers by the Treasury will need the approval of Parliament.

Secondly, this instrument removes the obligation for UK authorities to share information with the relevant EU and member state authorities. The obligations will no longer work appropriately once the UK is outside the EU’s joint supervisory framework. For the purposes of supervisory co-operation, that means that the EU will be treated like other third countries. The FCA will still be able to co-operate with EU regulators, using the existing framework in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, as it currently does with other third countries on a discretionary basis. The UK is committed to maintaining a high level of supervisory co-operation with the EU and its member states after exit.

Thirdly, post exit, EEA issuers wishing to access the UK market will be required to have their prospectus, or their registration document—the part of a prospectus that contains information on the issuer—approved directly by the FCA, as any other third country issuer would. Currently, an EEA issuer’s prospectus or registration document approved by another EEA regulator can be passported for use in the UK.

This instrument introduces transitional arrangements that will allow any prospectus approved by an EEA regulator and passported into the UK before exit to continue to be used, and supplemented with additional information, up to the end of its normal period of validity. The instrument also permits registration documents passported into the UK before exit to continue to be used as a constituent part of a prospectus in the UK, pending approval of the full prospectus by the FCA after exit. For both a full prospectus and a registration document, the period of validity is usually up to 12 months after it was originally approved.

An exemption for certain public bodies from the obligation to produce a prospectus under the EU prospectus regulation is maintained, but is extended to the same set of public sector bodies of all third countries post exit. That is in line with the approach taken in the official listing instrument previously. Members of the Committee will remember that this issue was discussed during the debate on that instrument in March; I think that the hon. Member for Oxford East raised these points then. Like then, I believe it makes sense to extend this exemption more broadly to ensure that UK capital markets continue to be attractive to public body issuers.

The EU prospectus regulation allows issuers to incorporate information from certain documents that are available electronically elsewhere, by making reference to them in a prospectus. This includes information approved by the regulator of another EEA state. To provide a smooth transition, this instrument sets out that information contained in relevant documents approved by an EEA regulator before exit day can continue to be incorporated by reference in a UK prospectus going forward. Any prospectus that incorporates information in this way will still require FCA approval before it can be used in the UK.

Lastly, the instrument ensures that matters in relation to the UK prospectus regime and transparency framework will continue to apply to Gibraltar as they did prior to the UK’s departure from the EU. This is in line with the approach taken in other EU exit instruments. Throughout the drafting process, the Treasury has worked closely with the FCA and engaged with the financial services industry—TheCityUK in particular, as a convenient body to develop this instrument.

Before I conclude, I want to address the procedure under which this instrument has been made. Along with three other financial services exit instruments, it was made and laid before Parliament on 5 September, under the made-affirmative procedure provided for in the EU withdrawal Act. This is an urgent procedure that brings an affirmative instrument into law immediately, before Parliament has considered the legislation. But the procedure also rightly requires that Parliament must consider and approve a made-affirmative instrument if it is to remain in law.

The Government have not used this procedure lightly, and it must be remembered that across Departments we have already laid over 600 exit SIs under the usual secondary legislation procedures. However, as we draw near to exit day, it is vital that we have all critical exit legislation in place, including legislation necessary to ensure that our financial services regulatory regime continues to function effectively from exit. It would have been reckless to leave that until the last minute. Industry and our financial regulators need legal certainty on the regime that will apply from exit. Without addressing the deficiencies that will arise from the EU’s prospectus regulation, there would be significant legal uncertainty and disruption for issuers and regulators. Confidence in the UK’s role as an international hub for the issuing of securities would be undermined.

To conclude, this Government believe that the legislation is necessary to ensure that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK’s prospectus regime can continue to function appropriately post exit. I hope colleagues across the Committee will join me in supporting these regulations. I commend them to the Committee.

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It is a pleasure to serve on this Committee with you, Mr Paisley, in the Chair. As ever, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanatory remarks. As he indicated, the instrument tries to deal with some of the issues relating to passporting to the extent that these have changed with what are essentially updates to the prospectus regulation on the EU side. As he set out, it creates a transition period of 12 months for prospectuses passported into the UK. It makes provisions that mean EEA issuers wishing to issue securities in the UK will be required to secure approval of their prospectus from the FCA. Most of the changes appear to be technical, but I would like to probe a couple of issues a little further with the Minister. He has already mentioned some of them and can probably anticipate the ones that I want to ask about.

My first question is about the issue that the Minister mentioned a moment ago—the provisions in regulation 32 that extend exemptions of certain public bodies in EEA states to the same set of public bodies in both the UK and all countries outside the UK. Obviously, in various other instruments the Government have chosen to apply exemptions to countries only with equivalent regulations to those adopted by the UK. The explanatory notes suggest that restricting the exemption to UK public bodies only was the only other possibility considered. I am curious to know why that is the case. Even under World Trade Organisation rules it would have been possible to adopt the same approach overall, which would have been to say that there would be an assessment of equivalence. It is not necessary to have a free-for-all.

Will the Minister outline what analysis has been done of the different options for this exemption and the potential impact of opening this up to all countries? It seems to constitute a material change and it is questionable whether it is coherent with the withdrawal Act. I accept that I lost that argument before, but it would be helpful to understand whether the Government have done more work on that, because it seems to me to be a major issue.

Secondly, I am confused about the process for ensuring the equivalence of accounting standards, which seems to be going round in circles. I am sure the Minister will remember that back in February, I raised the point that it appeared that the Government were not going to carry over the presumption that international financial reporting standards would be sufficient. That would potentially have placed a big burden on Ministers, who would have had to work through whether those standards would be sufficient and assess different accounting standards and so on.

The Government seemed to acknowledge that situation in April, which was great. As the explanatory note lays out, the Government

“laid a Direction in Parliament stating that IFRS as adopted by the EU would be considered equivalent...for the purpose of preparing a prospectus”

and so forth. However, the explanatory note also notes that

“this Direction will be amended to refer to the EU Prospectus Regulation”

and that

“this amendment is not contained within this instrument.”

More work still needs to be done to clarify that it will be possible to continue to assume that IFRS standards as adopted by the EU will be equivalent. Will the Minister enlighten us on when the amendment referred to in the explanatory note will be laid? As I am sure the Minister is aware, his Government have imposed a particular timetable.

Finally, as the Minister mentioned, the regulations create a 12-month transition period for approved prospectuses and registration documents approved by an EEA regulator. That clearly gives a 12-month breathing space, but we still do not appear to have a clear indication from the Government about their long-term view of passporting and seeking equivalence. The Minister referred to legal uncertainty for issuers. I would argue that that uncertainty is already there in the concern about what will happen after a year.

I am sure the Minister is aware of recent research that indicates the fastest and deepest fall in financial services over the last few months since the time of the global financial crisis. That is linked to some of the issues about regulatory equivalence tied to market access. I would be grateful to hear about that from the Minister; we did talk a little about it last night. Will he provide an indication of the Government’s thinking on equivalence on financial services into the future? That is the context; the regulations are clearly trying to set up an interim situation for one year, but I am sure that any issuers and others involved in financial services will be saying, “Well, we really need to know what the situation is going to be after a year.” We have not had an indication on that from the Government as part of their description of the current negotiations that they are having with the EU. As I have already said, financial services did not seem to be really mentioned at all last week.

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The SNP’s position is quite clear. The statutory instrument is part of an attempt to patch up the damage to our financial services caused by a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for. I note that, as ever, the hon. Member for Oxford East makes good and cogent points; she is well able to pick holes and to identify what could be problems for the Government. She brought back memories of my youth, when I studied financial regulations—they are not, it has to be said, always happy memories.

The Government should realise the damage that exit from the EU will do and has already done to the Scottish economy. As the hon. Member for Oxford East said, there is a real lack of confidence in the financial sector as a result of this round of EU exit negotiations, and the lack of clarity for businesses in the sector is having an effect. Since 2016, $1 trillion-worth of assets have been moved from the UK to the EU, and that money could have been used to help bring a better future to the UK, and especially to Scotland. It is another piece of Brexit red tape, the pace of which continuously demonstrates how poorly the Government is prepared for Brexit.

The Government are changing a vast number of regulations, and this change increases the regulatory burden on businesses that are already suffering from Brexit uncertainty. Can the Minister respond to the technical points raised by the hon. Member for Oxford East? We are all very interested in the answers. Does the Minister really think that this is the best way forward for the UK and Scotland?

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I appreciate the three points raised by the hon. Member for Oxford East. In typical fashion, she has got to the heart of some of the core matters of the SI. I will address regulation 32, the accounting standards and the wider point she makes about the 12-month transition. I will then deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw on the broader effect of this process on the financial services industry.

On the first point—the consideration we have given to the risk of extending public bodies exemption to all third countries—we have worked closely with the FCA in the drafting of the instrument to ensure that investors remain suitably protected, and we believe this approach offers the most appropriate balance between investor protection and maintaining the attractiveness of the UK’s capital markets. It is in line with the approach taken in the previous official listing SI that we discussed.

As with all investments, there is a risk that public bodies offering securities could fail, and a prospectus might help an investor to understand that risk. However, there is generally more information available to potential investors on public bodies, such as sovereign issuers and state bodies that currently make use of the exemptions, than on corporate entities. For that reason, we feel that it is justified. We will, of course, keep the arrangements under review and consider them if they appear to expose investors to disproportionate risk—there is no complacency on that point.

The hon. Member for Oxford East made a second point on accounting standards. She raised the issue of the appropriateness of the Government to specify the accounting standards deemed equivalent to UK international accounting standards, and she asked whether we are making new decisions. Unlike the delegated Act under the EU prospectus directive, the delegated Act under the EU prospectus regulation does not explicitly state which third countries’ accounting standards have already been deemed equivalent for the purpose of preparing a prospectus. The ambiguous drafting of the EU prospectus regulation leaves the position unclear, which might create uncertainty for market participants on which accounting standards are permitted post-exit.

To ensure consistency and clarity for market participants, the instrument explicitly provides for a new article on the accounting standards that are permitted to be used when preparing a prospectus for use in the UK, and its introduction is supported by the FCA. The article does not go beyond what is currently permitted under the EU regime; it does not designate any new third countries’ accounting standards that were not previously explicitly stated in the prospectus directive, as equivalent for the purpose of preparing a prospectus. All the current equivalent regimes for accounting standards will continue to be equivalent after exit.

The hon. Member for Oxford East asked about the 12-month transition and suggested that there is a gap and an inadequacy in the long-term view, and that this impacts on the resilience of the City. I recognise that uncertainty is unwelcome, and the Government are working to secure a deal. In a situation where that is not secured, there will need to be a considerable amount of additional work in the light of the new reality. At the suggestion of many groups in the City, we have started a review that looks at an air traffic control mechanism to deal with all the regulations that exist coming in from the City. That call for evidence will conclude on 18 October, and there will be a series of further regulatory reviews, but their nature and scope will be determined by the outcome of the process that we are in during this month.

A lot of work is going on to look at the financial services industry and its competitiveness. What we need to do is get that balance between systemic stability, which all parties have been committed to ensuring since the crash, and the future.

The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw referred to her party’s position on Brexit. In the interest of time and of trying to get the heart of the concerns about the financial services, I will focus on the area that I am familiar with. I have grave sympathy with her for having had to study these matters, but I guess that was her choice.

The hon. Lady refers to the $1 trillion of assets that has been moved offshore. The City has made modest and consistent contingency arrangements. There is no denying that it would be undesirable for extra costs to accrue, but in the context of this significant decision of the UK as a whole—although I acknowledge that her view on that is different—those decisions have been made.

This process actually avoids red tape, because it keeps us completely aligned with where we are as members of the EU. The fact that a de minimis assessment was made illustrates that it will not cost the industry additional sums. I take seriously the footprint of financial services across the United Kingdom—including in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where it is significant, as the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw knows better than I. We will do everything we can to take appropriate measures in all circumstances to safeguard the health of the financial services industry.

In conclusion, the instrument is needed to ensure that the UK has an effective prospectus regime and that the legislation functions appropriately after the UK has left the EU. I hope that I have answered the points thoroughly, that the Committee has found the sitting informative, and that it will join me in supporting the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Philip Davies

† Bradley, Ben (Mansfield) (Con)

† Brereton, Jack (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

Coyle, Neil (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab)

Daby, Janet (Lewisham East) (Lab)

† Dent Coad, Emma (Kensington) (Lab)

† Dhesi, Mr Tanmanjeet Singh (Slough) (Lab)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)

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

† Kawczynski, Daniel (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)

† Killen, Ged (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† Mak, Alan (Havant) (Con)

† Matheson, Christian (City of Chester) (Lab)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Thomson, Ross (Aberdeen South) (Con)

Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Nineteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Philip Davies in the Chair]

Draft European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. The draft regulations make sensible provision to ensure that, following our participation in the European parliamentary elections earlier this year, the administrative processes necessary after the poll can be carried out and completed. One example is the requirement for relevant electoral officers to store ballot papers and other election documents for 12 months after the poll.

The proposed change will provide for legislation governing European parliamentary elections to remain in place until 31 December 2020, rather than being repealed on exit day, as an earlier statutory instrument—the European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018—provides. For clarity, the draft regulations will apply both to the United Kingdom and to Gibraltar.

Under the 2018 regulations, the legislation relating to European elections will be repealed on exit day, set at 31 October 2019. However, it is necessary for that legislation to stay in place to ensure that we can complete all the poll processes. I have already mentioned ballot papers, but the legislation also covers matters that the Electoral Commission may wish to investigate and the ability of political parties to inspect and obtain the marked register for the next 12 months. Importantly, there are also provisions concerning payment to returning officers for the costs of running the poll. If those provisions were no longer in force, the Government would no longer have the legal authority to reimburse returning officers, so the costs incurred in running the election would end up falling on the local authority concerned, which I am sure the Committee agrees would not be appropriate.

The 2018 regulations include provisions that are not linked solely to the holding of European parliamentary elections, but our approach has been to leave all those provisions on the statute book for a limited period because we believe that keeping the whole of the legislation in force has the benefit of being clear and making it simple for electoral administrators to understand and implement. It also minimises the risk of any adverse unintended consequences. However, I confirm that once we have left the EU, the UK will no longer have any Members of the European Parliament or take part in European parliamentary elections, whether scheduled or by-elections, as the EU law obligation to do so will have fallen away. The draft regulations will not change that position.

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Having looked carefully at the explanatory notes, I cannot see anything that needs to remain in force for more than 12 months from the date of the poll. Will the Minister explain why the regulations are remaining in force until the end of next year, rather than just a year after the poll?

Secondly, the Minister said that certain things in the regulations are not specifically connected to the European elections. Could he set out their scope, not in detail but briefly, just so that people can work out that there is no funny business going on and that nothing is being smuggled in under cover?

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There is no funny business being smuggled in. A report by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments covers some of the areas that my right hon. Friend may wish to look at, but there is certainly no funny business being smuggled in. However, it was felt easier to retain the whole piece of legislation, rather than leaving electoral administrators to satisfy themselves which parts of it are still in place.

Why are we retaining the legislation until the end of next year, rather than for just a year? As my right hon. Friend will be aware, if the law were quite tight about finishing off within the year, it would effectively bring to an end any investigation that had started just before the year deadline. There are also issues relating to payments to returning officers that might take slightly longer than a year to resolve if there were a dispute. We believe that, by 31 December next year, all processes should have been concluded, allowing some time for challenge or even, perhaps, for a brief extension, which could be granted by a court. At the moment, we are not aware of any processes that are there. However, there would be a final deadline of a year for those. It therefore makes sense to retain these provisions slightly beyond the end of the strict year of legal limitation.

It is possible, for example, that a police investigation started shortly before the year’s deadline could apply to a magistrates court to extend that deadline. Setting the deadline at a year would effectively bring a statutory bar into concluding that process. If we were still, for example, debating a payment amount with a local authority—or returning officer, effectively—we would not be able lawfully to make the payment if the legislation had been repealed. We believe that 31 December next year gives not only the year but more time to resolve any outstanding issues, and it is a clear and understandable date for repeal; the legislation will be enforced through 2020, but will then be repealed on 31 December 2020, bringing clarity to the process.

It is probably worth saying that the Cabinet Office has engaged on the proposed change with the Electoral Commission, representatives of the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, the Wales Electoral Coordination Board, the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Government of Gibraltar. The Electoral Commission and other bodies agree with the Government’s approach in the instrument and consider it sensible, given that the UK took part in the European parliamentary elections in May 2019. We have also kept the parliamentary parties panel informed of the position with the instrument. I therefore commend the instrument to the Committee.

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May I say what a great pleasure it is to once again serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies? This statutory instrument is a result of the Government’s mishandling of the Brexit negotiations. They attempted to push an unacceptable Brexit deal through the House on three separate occasions, meaning that we were forced to take part in European elections at short notice and at a time of political turmoil.

The Government are now required to extend elements required for the European Parliament’s post-election processes, which relate to storing documents, filing spending returns and investigating potential electoral offences. We do not oppose these necessary provisions, but it is crucial that the Government recognise that their chaotic mishandling of elections cannot continue. The integrity of our electoral system is paramount to the strength of our democracy, yet the Government continue to put our system at risk.

The Government’s attempt to push through a half-baked Brexit deal, without compromise, caused havoc on the country. The former Prime Minister’s grandstanding with the public ran the clock down while the Government refused to entertain the idea that we would partake in European elections, leaving electoral administrators tasked with delivering a national poll at extremely short notice, to ensure that eligible electors could exercise their democratic right to vote. Once again I pay tribute to those administrators in local authorities up and down the country who managed to achieve that, despite difficult timescales. However, the Government failed to deliver.

On polling day, many EU citizens living in the UK found that they were unable to vote because they had not completed a second piece of paperwork transferring their voting rights from their home member state to the UK. The Government are solely to blame for this chaos, having ignored the advice of the Electoral Commission to streamline the two-step registration process like other European countries did after the previous set of European elections.

Labour repeatedly warned the Government that EU nationals were not given enough time and notice to complete the necessary paperwork because of the short timeframe within which the election was called. However, the Government refused to listen, and their response was to tell EU citizens to vote in their own country; of course, for many EU citizens, the United Kingdom is their own country, having lived here for several decades in some cases. Not only did that add to the anger and sense of exclusion that many EU citizen residents of the UK felt but the Government were asking people to register to vote in a country where they might not have lived for decades and where voting registration might have already closed. This is not a Government who respect electoral integrity. This is a Government committed to power by any means, which means discarding voters who are unlikely to vote Conservative.

The statutory instrument claims to be about ensuring the integrity of the electoral system. In the explanatory documents that accompany the SI, the Government talk about extending post-election processes to uphold electoral integrity, but they have not scratched the surface when it comes to safeguarding the integrity of the electoral system.

Electoral integrity is not just about fulfilling administrative processes and investigating potential breaches of the law, which the Minister spoke about during one of his explanations to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean; it is about ensuring that every eligible person is able to vote. However, we know that the Government have engaged in voter suppression. Perhaps they believe that those struggling at the margins of society are less likely to register to vote, and if they did vote, would be less likely to vote for a Government whose austerity policies have had such a damaging effect on the public services that such people rely on more than most, cutting welfare benefits to the most vulnerable in our society and failing to properly invest in our NHS.

The Government have no interest in increasing voter registration because they believe it would not be politically beneficial. Similarly, they had no interest in ensuring that EU citizens were able to vote in the European Parliament elections. The Government announced only on 7 May that the UK would be taking part in the European elections, yet in order to take part in those elections, EU citizens needed to have returned their forms to their local authority by 7 May, declaring that they would not vote in another EU member state. Many people said that they were not sent the form by their local authority and received it just days before the deadline, meaning that councils then failed to process the forms on time. Others said that they were unaware of the process altogether.

The Government made no effort whatever to educate, inform or prepare eligible voters to register, because by admitting that we were going to have to take part in the European elections the Government would have offended a large part of their core support, whose voters we then saw defect to the Brexit Party Ltd. This comes at a time when improving voter registration is more important than ever. A new study published last week by the Electoral Commission shows that up to 9.4 million people are not correctly registered to vote—an increase of 1 million voters since the Commission’s previous estimate. EU citizens entitled to vote in the UK were disenfranchised as a result of the Government’s failure to reach a satisfactory Brexit deal—just one incident in a long line of repressive measures undertaken by this Government.

On closer reading of the explanatory documents for this SI, there is a reference to the Government

“continuing to work with the Law Commissions, as well as other stakeholders such as the Electoral Commission, to consider ways to streamline and clarify our electoral system in order to make elections easier to administer and therefore more resilient to errors or fraud.”

What progress have the Government made in those discussions and what plans do the Government have to enact the Law Commission’s recommendations, because at the moment, we cannot find any evidence of progress. It is widely accepted that the laws setting out how UK elections are run and regulated are not fit for the modern age—the digital age, the age of social media— with some provisions dating back to the 19th century. We on the Opposition Benches strongly agree with the Law Commission that the current laws governing elections should be rationalised into a single, consistent legislative framework to govern all elections, but it seems that the Government have not yet responded to that important body of work. Perhaps the Minister might clarify that.

Although we accept the reasonable and necessary provisions in today’s statutory instrument, we do not accept the Government’s mishandling of the European elections, done for their own narrow political purposes and certainly not for the good of the United Kingdom.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. Sadly, it does not give me pleasure to be debating this particular statutory instrument. On the walk in this morning, I was reminded of a tweet from the Better Together campaign in 2014 that said,

“What is process for removing our EU citizenship? Voting yes”,

yet today we find ourselves debating another exiting the European Union statutory instrument. How things have changed over the past five years!

I offer the Committee its regular reminder that Scotland did not vote for this. In the 2016 referendum, we voted to remain a part of the European Union, but once again we find ourselves being dragged out by this British Government. As the hon. Member for City of Chester said, we were told that we would not be having European elections in 2019, yet of course we had European elections because the Government messed things up. I suspect that this week, we will see them mess things up once again when the Prime Minister’s proposal to Michel Barnier is rejected.

When we talk about European elections, we hear these typical arguments from the Conservative Government or Conservative MPs about unelected MEPs and bureaucrats in Brussels. I remind them that in European elections, we directly elect Members of the European Parliament, yet in this place we have the House of Lords, which none of us has elected. In this Committee Room, albeit less frequently now, we also debate the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, whereby we are trying to prevent the Government from reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600. While they are busy putting through legislation like this and saying, “We’re not taking part in the European elections, because all these powers are coming back to the UK Parliament,” the Government are simultaneously trying to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons to scrutinise the Government.

In 2019, Scotland elected 50% of its MEPs from the SNP. I end with a prediction that, come the next round of European elections, Scotland will once again send Members to the European Parliament—but this time as an independent state within the European Union.

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It is always interesting to be in a Committee where hon. Members make such strong speeches condemning the Government, but then say, “Actually, we’re going to vote for what you propose.” There is always a slight irony in that. I have to say that the comments of the hon. Member for Glasgow East came as no great surprise, although at least his party has been consistent and coherent in what it argues for on the issue.

I do not intend to delay the Committee unduly by responding to all the points made by the hon. Member for City of Chester. I am sure that, like me, he is looking forward to seeing the new deal that the Prime Minister will secure and getting into the Lobby to support it. There was a slight irony in his comment that failure to achieve a Brexit deal meant that EU citizens could not vote in European elections; if a Brexit deal had been achieved, we would not have had European elections, so no one would have voted in them. That was the Government’s original goal.

Let me address some of the hon. Gentleman’s more serious points. We expect the Law Commission’s final report in the early part of next year. It will set out the details and announce our intentions in the usual way; it is a very detailed piece of work, as he will realise, given the nature of the law. With any change to electoral law, it is important that we get it right rather than rushing it. We need to ensure that it is immune from certain legal challenges and that it is a robust piece of legislation, but is not so complex that it makes it difficult for people to engage in our democracy. Not every candidate for election—I am thinking particularly of independent candidates in parish and local elections—would benefit from or should have to obtain detailed legal advice merely to stand to represent their local community. The Government will carefully consider the Law Commission’s report, as I am sure Parliament will in due course.

To modernise our election law, we have already committed to bringing in a digital imprint regime. Once the technical work is completed, we will look to bring it forward. We have also committed to a consultation later this year that will focus on the rules on election spending, which I have discussed several times in the main Chamber. It will be open to all feedback, not just from Opposition parties but from stakeholders in society, about how we can tackle the challenges that a modern digital campaigning landscape presents to elections and ensure that our rules on who can fund and finance elections are modern and up to date.

I welcome the outbreak of consensus about the reasons for the draft regulations. I commend them to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Roger Gale

† Cartlidge, James (South Suffolk) (Con)

† Ellwood, Mr Tobias (Bournemouth East) (Con)

† Gaffney, Hugh (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab)

† Graham, Luke (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con)

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

† Heald, Sir Oliver (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Hussain, Imran (Bradford East) (Lab)

† Jones, Mr Marcus (Nuneaton) (Con)

McMorrin, Anna (Cardiff North) (Lab)

† McLoughlin, Sir Patrick (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)

† Morton, Wendy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)

† Prentis, Victoria (Banbury) (Con)

† Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

† Slaughter, Andy (Hammersmith) (Lab)

† Stevens, Jo (Cardiff Central) (Lab)

† Western, Matt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)

† Whittaker, Craig (Calder Valley) (Con)

Clemmie Brown, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Twenty-first Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019.

The draft order makes provision for separated migrant children to be eligible for legal aid for civil legal services for non-asylum immigration and citizenship matters. This important piece of legislation will help to ensure access to justice for vulnerable children.

Let me set out the purpose of this statutory instrument. For those not familiar with the provision of legal aid, legal aid for civil legal services is available to an individual if the service is in scope—in other words, if it is described in part 1 of schedule 1 to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. In addition, legal aid may be available on an exceptional basis where there would be a breach, or risk of a breach, of an individual’s rights under the European convention on human rights or any enforceable EU rights. This is known as exceptional case funding, or ECF.

Eligibility for legal aid, both for in-scope matters and for ECF, is subject to statutory means and merits assessments. Under current arrangements, separated migrant children who are seeking to regularise their immigration or citizenship status in the UK can apply for ECF to receive legal aid for help with their citizenship application, immigration application form or subsequent appeal. However, following litigation and engagement with key stakeholders, including the Children’s Society, this draft instrument will bring these matters into the scope of legal aid. That means that separated migrant children will no longer have to make ECF applications to receive legal aid for citizenship and non-asylum immigration matters.

Let me turn to the scope of the amendment. Since 2018 officials have been working closely with other Departments and children’s charities to finalise the terms of this amendment. It makes provision for separated migrant children to be eligible for civil legal services in relation to their immigration applications for entry clearance, leave to enter and leave to remain in the United Kingdom under the immigration rules. It also provides civil legal services in relation to separated migrant children’s immigration applications for leave to remain where the application is made and determined outside the immigration rules. That would include applications for discretionary leave to remain, leave to remain on medical grounds, as well as exceptional circumstances or compassionate and compelling factors, which may warrant a grant of leave outside the immigration rules.

Further, legal aid will be available to those children in relation to relevant applications for entry clearance, leave to enter or leave to remain made under the immigration rules by another person, including family members and extended family members, and granted either under or outside the immigration rules. Such applications are determined on the basis of exceptional circumstances under article 8 of the ECHR—the right to respect for private and family life—or because of compassionate and compelling factors. The amendment includes legal aid applications for registration as a British subject or citizen, a British overseas territories citizen and a British overseas citizen.

Let me briefly touch on the procedural and technical amendments. There are some amendments that relate to the procedures for applying for different forms of civil legal services. They are grouped into different categories: gateway work, controlled work and licensed work. The changes ensure that for controlled work and licensed work, separated migrant children who require legal representation in proceedings before a court or tribunal covered by this amendment will be able to receive it. There are also some technical amendments to other instruments relating to the merits and financial eligibility criteria. The changes ensure that the tests applied to immigration matters currently in scope for legal aid are also applied to this amendment.

The statutory instrument takes the normative definition that a child is any person under the age of 18. Where the age is uncertain, the individual is treated by the director of legal aid casework and the legal aid provider making the legal aid determination as being under 18. For the purposes of this amendment, a child is separated if they are not being cared for by a parent or someone with parental responsibility for them. It also accounts for children who are looked after by a local authority, or who are privately fostered but for whom parental responsibility has not been determined. It also acknowledges that some separated children may be in other informal caring arrangements or, indeed, caring for themselves.

A written ministerial statement was laid on 12 July 2018, outlining the Government’s intentions to introduce the legislation. Following that statement, legal aid providers were advised that in the interim they should continue to apply for legal aid via the ECF scheme. To provide clarity for Legal Aid Agency caseworkers and providers, Lord Chancellor’s guidance was issued, specifying that there is a strong presumption under article 8 of the European convention on human rights that separated migrant children require legal aid for non-asylum immigration matters and that, in the light of that, applications for legal aid on behalf of those children did not need to be supported by detailed evidence regarding their vulnerabilities and ability to participate in proceedings.

The draft instrument makes important changes, bringing citizenship and non-asylum immigration matters into the scope of legal aid for separated migrant children. It is a vital piece of legislation that will help ensure access to justice for a highly vulnerable section of our society.

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The Minister mentioned litigation very early in her speech. Would now be a good time to put on the record that the only reason that the instrument is before us today is because the Government lost litigation that was brought by the Children’s Society?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I think I made it clear earlier in my speech that the draft instrument was introduced following litigation and engagement, and that is why we are here today: to bring this element into the scope of legal aid.

I hope that you agree, Sir Roger, that the statutory instrument is necessary, and I commend it to the Committee.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. This is the first time that the Minister and I have been together in Committee, and I welcome her to her new role.

The plight of vulnerable unaccompanied and separated children—many fleeing truly desperate and dangerous situations around the world—who have sought safety, refuge and sanctuary in the UK should alarm us all and induce us to action. The Opposition unreservedly support today’s measure to bring those cases involving separated children back into the scope of legal aid. However, we must note not only that access to legal aid should never have been taken from this vulnerable group, but that the Government never intended to introduce today’s measure, and would never have done so if left to their own devices.

We must be clear that we are here this morning to consider the order not because the Government have, all of a sudden, had a change of heart and realised that the misery, pain and suffering that they imposed upon the children affected was too great, but because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central alluded to, of a legal challenge to their decision under the 2012 LASPO legislation to remove separated children from the scope of legal aid by the Children’s Society, an independent, third-sector charity, supported by lawyers, barristers and other legal professionals.

The Government have not introduced the draft order willingly and out of their own compassion; they did so because they have conceded to the legal case that was brought against them, fearing another damning defeat. Migrant children are among society’s most vulnerable groups, and unaccompanied children are even more so given the unique migratory factors at play and the particular vulnerabilities that they have as children without caregivers. Indeed, the Government’s own impact assessment for this statutory instrument states that these children have “distinct vulnerabilities” and needs. According to the previous special rapporteur on human rights of migrants, writing in his final report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, children who are unaccompanied or separated from their parents are “particularly vulnerable” to human rights violations and abuses at all stages of the migration process. Even the Children’s Commissioner for England has stated that children arriving unaccompanied in the UK are some of the most vulnerable that they deal with, due to the triple vulnerabilities they face.

Yet despite that, and despite the fact that children need access to high-quality immigration advice to regularise their status and protect themselves while being unable to properly represent themselves, the Government have kept unaccompanied migrant children out of the scope of legal aid for six years. Consequently, vulnerable children have been forced to represent themselves in legal cases, even though representing themselves properly is impossible due to their age, language barriers and vulnerability. That is a complex enough cocktail of factors before we even get on to the myriad immigration rules and the intricate nature of immigration law.

That has led to unaccompanied children now being at a heightened risk of having to support and represent themselves through legal processes and procedures, being more likely to receive an unfavourable legal outcome, being less likely than other children to be able to fund and apply for legal advice, and also being at increased risk of exploitation through the need to fund legal services, as the Children’s Commissioner for England has found. This is damming. It is no way to treat vulnerable children. It is no wonder that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has declared that

“the Government’s reforms to legal aid have been a significant black mark on its human rights record”

and that children more generally are being denied the use of the law to assert their rights and legal needs following the changes under LASPO.

Where free legal support does exist, many children are also restricted and frozen out of it due to the postcode lottery of legal support that sees most free legal advice concentrated in certain areas such as London and the south-east, while the number of law centres and other advice services is in decline across the whole country.

Together with the scale of the challenge faced by these unaccompanied children and the urgency of the need to address their inability to access legal aid in order to prevent abuses of their human rights, we are also deeply critical of the length of time it has taken the Government to lay the order before the House. A year went by between a Minister making a written statement conceding that removing separated children from the scope of legal aid was a reprehensible decision and the order being laid in order to reverse the changes under LASPO. Yet the Minister responsible at the time had declared in her written statement:

“The amendment will be laid in due course”.

When dealing with such sensitive issues and such vulnerable children, we should expect a speedier response, particularly considering that the Government are doing nothing new; they are simply restoring what had been taken away by LASPO. Will the Minister identify just how many separated children have been unable to access legal aid support to bring their cases to court since July 2018, when that written statement was published?

I expect that the Minister will response to that question by repeating the words of her predecessor, the hon. and learned Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), in that written ministerial statement:

“Legal aid for other immigration matters is available via the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme”—

something to which this Minister has also alluded today—

“which is intended to ensure legal aid is accessible in all cases where there is a risk of a breach of human rights.”—[Official Report, 12 July 2018; Vol. 644, c. 47WS.]

However, if the Government were anticipating breaches of human rights as a result of their changes under LASPO, why did they enact those changes in the first place? Is the ECF scheme sufficient, and has it been so, given that the Children’s Society and the review of the Bach commission on access to justice found that it had failed to provide a safety net and still left children vulnerable? The Government’s own figures show that thousands of children and young people would have been helped through the exceptional case funding. The reality is that the number helped through that fund is in the tens, not the thousands. Again, the Government have some serious questions to answer on that.

Although we will not oppose the order—

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Well, no; you have just spoken in favour of it.

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We will certainly not pat the Minister on the back and congratulate the Government, given that it has taken them more than a year to lay the order before the House after conceding defeat in the legal case, and almost a further three months to bring it forward for debate. During that time, inevitably, many more children have been unable to access the legal aid support that they have a right to, and many more children will have suffered as a result by being removed from the UK and returned to the desperate and dangerous conditions that they escaped from.

By putting off and delaying the order, the Government have neglected their duty of care to those vulnerable children and discarded their own humanity. We must never forget that, just as we must never forget that the Government removed those children’s access to legal aid to begin with, which put us in this sorry and deplorable situation. They cannot be proud of correcting such a colossal mistake and they must hang their head in shame that it has taken them so long to bring the matter back to the House.

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I am grateful for the contributions to the debate and I will endeavour to respond to them as best and as carefully as I can. I thank the hon. Member for Bradford East for his warm welcome and sincerely hope that we continue to meet at the Dispatch Box for some time to come. I also thank him for indicating his support for the statutory instrument.

It is important to say that access to justice is a fundamental right. Last year we spent £1.6 billion on legal aid to support the most vulnerable. On the hon. Gentleman’s point that legal aid should never have been taken away, access to legal aid was and is available for those children under exceptional case funding. As I set out earlier, between the written ministerial statement and now, the Lord Chancellor issued a very clear direction and guidance.

It has taken so long to lay the order because we have been determined to have discussions across Government and with children’s charities to make sure that we get this vital legislation right. It is better to take the time to get it right and to address the issue. I reiterate that ECF has been available during that time.

The hon. Gentleman asked how many children have been affected. Again, between the written ministerial statement and today, ECF has been available for those children with that guidance. Due to those children’s circumstances, it is often difficult to assess the number of separated migrant children who have been affected. ECF data is not always routinely collected, but we will monitor that as we move forward.

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Is there a reason why ECF data is not collected? That seems strange.

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If I may, I will respond to the hon. Lady in writing. I have asked that question.

Finally, as a responsible Government, we must be informed by evidence of what works, provide value for money and focus on the breadth of support that is available to ensure that everyone can access support when they need it to resolve their problems.

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The Minister is making an important point and pushing forward a powerful piece of legislation. The measure is aimed at legal aid in England and Wales, but immigration is obviously a reserved function of the entire United Kingdom. Can she outline now, or later in a written statement, how services will be funded in Scotland to support migrant children coming through there?

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My hon. Friend has far more knowledge of devolved Scottish matters than I do. I will certainly write to him, if he is okay with that.

I conclude by reiterating that the statutory instrument is an important part of the Government’s work to ensure access to justice for all, particularly the most vulnerable in society. I therefore hope that hon. Members will agree that it is necessary, and I commend it to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: David Hanson

Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

† Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)

† Fysh, Mr Marcus (Yeovil) (Con)

† Green, Kate (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)

† Heaton-Harris, Chris (Minister of State, Department for Transport)

Kinnock, Stephen (Aberavon) (Lab)

† Maskell, Rachael (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

Phillips, Jess (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Rashid, Faisal (Warrington South) (Lab)

† Shelbrooke, Alec (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)

† Swire, Sir Hugo (East Devon) (Con)

† Tredinnick, David (Bosworth) (Con)

† Warburton, David (Somerton and Frome) (Con)

† Watling, Giles (Clacton) (Con)

Peter Stam, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Elphicke, Charlie (Dover) (Ind)

Twenty-second Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. This instrument is the first in a series of three, along with the Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019 and the similarly named Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 3) Order 2019. Although order No. 2 will be debated later today and No. 3 is subject to the negative procedure, the Committee should consider the whole package when looking at the first order. Together, the orders support the effective management of Operation Brock and strengthen the enforcement regime that underpins it.

As many members of the Committee are aware, the Government have supported partners in Kent to develop Operation Brock: a co-ordinated multi-agency response to situations of cross-channel travel disruption when capacity for heavy goods vehicles to leave the UK through the port of Dover or the channel tunnel is significantly restricted. We have, of course, been preparing to use Brock should cross-channel disruption occur because of the UK’s departure from the EU without a negotiated deal, although it could be deployed as a result of disruption resulting from bad weather or industrial action. Brock replaces Operation Stack and has been specifically designed to keep the M20 motorway in Kent open in both directions, with access to junctions even in periods of severe and protracted disruption.

Operation Brock consists of three phases. The first—Brock M20—is a contraflow queuing system on the M20 between junctions 8 near Maidstone and 9 near Ashford. The contraflow system enables all other traffic to travel in both directions of the M20 on the London-bound carriageway when cross-channel heavy goods vehicles are stored on the coastbound carriageway. When the M20 queuing system reaches capacity, phase two—Brock Manston—would kick in, and cross-channel heavy goods vehicles bound for the port of Dover would be diverted to Manston airport. If needed, phase three—Brock M26—could be used as a last resort to store trucks heading to Europe via the channel tunnel.

The Kent Resilience Forum, which comprises bodies such as the county council and the local police force, is responsible for Operation Brock plans. Any decisions relating to the activation and timing of the different phases of Operation Brock will be taken by Kent police as the gold command in consultation with the Kent Resilience Forum. Although we are undertaking significant activity to inform traders and hauliers of any new requirements resulting from our departure from the European Union, there is a concern that widespread non-compliance could lead to serious congestion on Kent’s roads, as was experienced in 2015 when Operation Stack was deployed for an extended period. That was down to strikes and weather. Almost a third of cross-channel HGVs avoided the traffic system, causing serious traffic problems on the local road network, with part of Kent becoming gridlocked.

The Department has held, and is continuing to have, regular discussions over the past year with the forum and other stakeholders in Kent who are very keen to see measures to strengthen the enforcement of Brock introduced. It is crucial, therefore, that these instruments are brought into force in time for a potential no-deal Brexit to ensure that the scheme operates as efficiently as possible and to reduce the impact on businesses and local communities in Kent.

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I am listening to the Minister with great interest. Have the Government made an environmental impact assessment of this new proposal?

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May I come back to that in a second?

I am grateful that time has been found for these debates to take place quickly and also for the speed at which the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has scrutinised the instruments.

We consulted on the package of measures this summer and targeted all sorts of people, including key Kent stakeholders such as Kent County Council, the port of Dover and Eurotunnel. The responses received were broadly supportive while providing helpful points of detail that assisted us in drafting the orders as well as raising wider points on the deployment of Operation Brock. I thank everybody who took the trouble to respond.

I will set out the order we are considering today, as well as the other two orders. The No. 1 order confers new powers on traffic officers in Kent. That would enable traffic officers to require the production of documents to establish the vehicle’s destination and readiness to cross the border; direct drivers to proceed to a motorway, removing the vehicle from the local road network; and direct drivers not to proceed to the channel tunnel or the port of Dover, except via a specified road or route. Document checks to help make sure a haulier has the right documents on the M20 will be carried out by temporary traffic officers contracted by Highways England and under its direct supervision. Broader traffic management and enforcement will be dealt with by permanent staff from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the local police.

The order also sets out the amount of the financial penalty deposit, which will be issued and taken immediately at the roadside by the police or staff from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. If a driver cannot make the deposit, their vehicle will be immobilised. That does not mean it will be stuck in a queue forever; rather, it will be stickered and escorted away to a point out of the queue where further action will be taken. The amount of the deposit for breaching traffic restrictions introduced by the other two instruments, or for failing to comply with the traffic officer exercising the new powers, is set at £300.

To provide an overall perspective, I will briefly outline the traffic restrictions that the other two orders introduce. Order No. 2, which will be debated this afternoon, prohibits cross-channel heavy goods vehicles from using local roads in Kent other than those on the approved Brock route. Order No. 3, which has been laid using the negative procedure, prohibits cross-channel heavy goods vehicles from accessing the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between junctions nine and 13, unless the driver is displaying a permit. That permit will be used in the Brock queue between junctions eight and nine, enabling a driver to demonstrate they have followed the approved Brock route and have complied with any border document checks that may be undertaken in the queue. It also sets the amount of the fixed penalty for offences relating to this series of instruments at £300. We have provided that the new powers and traffic restrictions in the orders will cease to have effect on 31 December 2020, in a sunset clause. This coincides with the end of planning permission for Manston airport to hold heavy goods vehicles and it is important we have that in place until that time.

Crucially, these instruments introduce powers that allow for enforceable border readiness checks to be conducted. If a no-deal Brexit happens, the UK economy will become a third country to the customs authorities in EU member states, enabling them to introduce EU border and customs rules. Traders will need to complete processes for customs and provide documentation to their hauliers, who will need it when carrying goods to let those goods move smoothly across this new border. The border readiness checks would look to see if a haulier has those documents.

That is important because, without the right documentation, drivers may not be able to complete their journey in the European Union. The UK port might turn them away because they do not have the required documentation. For example, some of the customs documentation needs to be scanned at the Eurotunnel check-in before the vehicle can board a train or they may be blocked from progressing through an EU port by a member state customs authority. Vehicles could be delayed or fined or returned to the UK, or goods could be destroyed, so that is vital.

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I hope that the Minister is going to come back to my question on environmental assessment, but I want to ask him another question. Will those checks, particularly in respect of what might be needed at the EU port or subsequently, include checks on whether the driver has the appropriate European driving licence?

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I was coming back to that, but I will answer both questions at the same point.

Highways England has undertaken the environmental assessment for the M20 Brock as well as individual sites such as Manston—so yes, environmental assessments have been concluded. I am sorry: I have forgotten the hon. Lady’s second question.

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Will there be checking on this side for European driving licences?

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Yes, there will. Currently, there are more than 50. A host of pop-up sites has already gone up, giving documentation out to hauliers and others to tell them what the checks might be. Yes, they will need a driving licence and a passport, and obviously some documentation for customs declaration. All that is highlighted in the documentation they are receiving now. They should be able to check that they are border-ready well before they get to the border.

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I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again and I am grateful for both his answers. Has the environmental impact assessment carried out by the Highways Agency been published and is it possible for us to see it—or to have it placed in the Library, if not?

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I believe it is. I will find it and try to repeat that in my concluding remarks so that it is on the record, if that is okay.

I was talking about the various checks and why we need to ensure that our hauliers are border-ready. If the Brock queues are stationary, we propose conducting border readiness checks on the M20 and at Manston airport. A haulier deemed ready to cross the border will be given a permit that allows them to go to their port. Unready hauliers, who try to go to the port without a permit, will be stopped, directed to the back of the Brock queue and receive the proposed on-the-spot £300 fine issued by the police or DVSA.

The orders are of vital importance to allow sensible traffic management in Kent. They help demonstrate to the public and business that Operation Brock will be ready, fully operational and enforceable on day one, should it be needed, to deal with the impact of cross-channel disruption. I commend them to the Committee.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson, as we debate this order. I look forward to debating further episodes in this trilogy. I also welcome the Minister to his place.

The Government are not shying away from taking us off a cliff edge with a no-deal Brexit, and I note that at this eleventh hour they are still bringing forward legislation to try to prevent chaos at our borders and far deeper into Kent. The delay in bringing forward the legislation does not just predict chaos in Kent but highlights chaos in Government in not being well prepared for their no-deal Brexit.

In the light of the risks already highlighted under Operation Brock, further legislation is before us today to highlight extended powers of traffic officers to direct traffic through congestion. Operation Brock provides for a contra-flow queuing system on the M20 at junctions 8 and 9, a lorry park at Manston airfield and, if necessary, holding traffic on the M26.

Paragraph 2 of the order forms the essence of this instrument, where a traffic officer may require a person driving a heavy goods vehicle to provide documentation of the origin and destination of their journey, as well as documentation relating to the goods on board. That must all be visibly displayed. That is a form of border check at a non-border. In addition, the traffic officer can then direct the vehicle to a specific route or waiting area and guard against the routes it is meant to travel along, unless it is local traffic or the lorry is refuelling.

That is clearly to stop the minor roads of Kent from snarling up and to enable non-HGV traffic to flow on major routes. Through that process, officers will also determine whether certain consignments proceed to the channel tunnel or ports, or not. That highlights how consignments of food or medicines could be seriously compromised should the powers in this statutory instrument be required. Manufacturers of goods should also be concerned that goods could be seriously delayed at the borders.

The order would give powers to the traffic officers to inspect documentation. Failure to provide that, or being in breach of directions given, could result in the driver receiving a summary conviction with a penalty of £300. The legislation is due to come in, possibly by the day after 31 October, and it will remain law until December 2020. I seek clarification from the Minister that that date is to coincide with the end of the transition period, as it currently is in law.

The legislation is a fall-back position for times of severe disruption. Even the threat of that proves the scale of the risk that border chaos could cause. The vast majority of goods flow through Kent, but are similar provisions being made around other ports in the UK, including the enhanced powers of traffic officers? If so, which ports?

How will traffic officers police the process? How many more will be deployed in Kent to manage the process? Will new officers be recruited or will officers be transferred from other places?

The Minister also referred to DVSA staff. Will more DVSA staff be recruited? I know the service is already under severe staffing pressure. If traffic proves to be more severe than set out in the order, do the Government plan to bring forward further legislation? Again, that is unclear. The order highlights the serious risks associated with a no-deal Brexit, and for that reason Labour is focused on ensuring that the Government take it off the table.

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May I ask a couple of questions? What processing capacity does the Minister expect for HGVs in the junction area of the M20 that he mentioned? I am concerned about whether that is enough.

Secondly, what facilities will be available at the places where the documents are being inspected so that HGVs with loads can become compliant and Brexit-ready by virtue of obtaining, for example, a transit accompanying document? Where they can offer the load up to be inspected, should HMRC wish it to be?

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Much preparation is going on to prepare the haulage industry and business for the Brexit deadline. Does my hon. Friend the Minister have any indication or feedback on whether hauliers are taking that seriously, given that so many parties on the Opposition Benches are trying to prevent us from actually leaving the EU? Is that standing as a barrier to businesses being ready? They are perhaps getting the impression from this Parliament that it will do everything it can to stop a Brexit result.

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I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for bringing the order to the House. Representing Dover, which is literally on the Brexit frontline, I think it important that measures are taken to ensure an orderly Brexit.

I have a few questions for the Minister. First, what exactly is a traffic officer? It is important to ensure the orderly control and flow of traffic throughout Kent, not only on the A2/M2, but on the M20. If the Department and the Government as a whole are settled on trying to get people to Manston and to intermediate parks along the way, it is important not only that Kent police are designated as traffic officers, but that local authorities have traffic officer powers.

For example, let us say that a lorry has parked across a box junction in Dover—not a Highways England piece of road—and Kent police are busy elsewhere and do not have any officers available. It is advisable for the local authority to have traffic officer designation so that it can appoint people to be traffic officers to ensure that box junctions are kept clear and that the townspeople of Dover are able to get about their business, whatever the state of the main roads. That is important not just from the point of view of suppliers getting through, people getting to their jobs and emergency services getting access and so on; it is also important from the point of view of the orderly flow of traffic in the towns, and not simply along the main motorway arteries. I hope the Minister can give me some comfort on that.

The Minister will know that the leader of Dover District Council and I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport on the subject. I hope the Minister will be able to provide some comfort and perhaps even some level of direction and assurance. Perhaps he can even get the Department for Transport to focus on the issue to give the appropriate powers in due course.

The other key issue is that we know there are those who doubt that we can manage to leave the European Union. We know that the Opposition are strongly of the view that we should cancel Brexit and simply remain—they have basically said that time and again. We know what they are up to and we can see it. We also know that the transit convention that we extended in the event of no deal will mean that there is no need for any checks at Dover or Calais. There is no need for any “Project Fear” from the Labour party, which uses fear as a cloak for their true belief that we should remain under all circumstances, whatever the people voted for, scything, as they do, at the very foundation of our democracy.

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If Brexit were cancelled because of a fear of congestion, in leave parts of the world—I believe a great deal of the south-east was leave—there could well be demonstrations holding up the traffic and taking direct action, leading to the same congestion that is feared by the Labour party.

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Order. Before the hon. Member for Dover replies, I should say that a number of points have been made that go beyond the scope of this No. 1 order—into No. 2 or No. 3 orders, or the general debate about Brexit. We really have to focus on the No. 1 order.

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I appreciate that, Mr Hanson. My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell tempts me to talk about the importance of making sure that the traffic flows, even when there are demonstrations. That is part of the reason why we need these traffic officers. If someone comes to Dover and glues themselves to the roads, as the Extinction Rebellion people did the other day, it creates a problem. We want to have the powers for people to ensure that the roads are kept open and free.

The key point that I am trying to make about traffic officers is that we will need fewer traffic officers and fewer powers provided that we make sure that we are entirely ready for a smooth Brexit, using the transit convention and making sure that HMRC has done its bit. To conclude, the ideal would be that clearances were done at the factory floor, which is possible, using the transit convention and making sure that HMRC is fully ready, rather than checks at Manston.

My other concern is that the Government’s idea of using Manston is problematic. Let us say that Stanislav from Krakow is driving a lorry—many lorry drivers are from eastern Europe and do not have the best grasp of English, but they know where the port of Dover and the M20 are. They will head there come hell or high water. The problem is how on earth we are going to tell them to go somewhere else. How on earth can we tell them that they should sit at Manston and be there, potentially, for days on end?

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I, too, have very serious concerns about the idea of Manston featuring at all in a solution to this, which is why the capacity issue for the processing en route is so important. I think there is a serious danger that if EU hauliers—after all, 80% to 85% are from the EU—find that inconvenient and get fined £300 unless they go to Manston, and that completely upsets their schedules and working time allowances which will get them to a certain point in Europe, they may abandon the route entirely.

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That is my prime concern—to make sure that the traffic is free-flowing. The focus really ought to be on making sure that HMRC is ready to give the clearances from the factory floor, rather than on producing a situation at Manston. I am concerned, as are many colleagues in Kent, that if the procedures aimed at directing lorry drivers to Manston are implemented, it will be very hard to persuade lorry drivers for whom English is not their first language to go elsewhere. That is my one concern about this.

I broached this subject because I want Brexit to succeed—unlike the Labour party, which wants to cancel it and to remain under all circumstances. I want Brexit to succeed, so we have put forward solutions to make the best advantage of the transit convention and avoid the need for quite so many traffic officers.

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I thank hon. Members for their contributions and questions. I will try to take on all of them. If the hon. Member for York Central does not mind, I will start with my hon. Friend the Member for Dover, whose constituency would be more affected than that of anyone else in this room, were Operation Brock to stand up. He has rightly been very helpful in raising legitimate questions of the Department about the powers that might be required by individuals. He has also represented his constituents, who should expect—and, I hope, if Brock is stood up, can expect—that even though their life will be slightly different, business and life will continue, basically, as normal.

My hon. Friend mentioned using transit. The common transit convention is used for the movement of goods between member countries, and that includes the EU27 and European economic area states. In the CTC, customs declarations are not required at each border, duties are paid only at the final destination, and some procedures can be completed away from the border. So, obviously, it is very sensible for big hauliers or big traders to ensure that they use transit, and we are communicating with them all to try and persuade them that using the transit procedures is the best way to go.

My hon. Friend spoke wisely about getting hauliers, and the traders that use them, border-ready—compliant —way before they start. We are looking at all the ways we can do that, including from a simple communications campaign point of view, to ensure that every single driver who uses the short straits crossing, or another UK crossing, understands what the new processes will be.

I talked about pop-up sites appearing at motorway service stations, at ports and on ferries—and, indeed, at sites in the European Union where we know that many such drivers commence and finish their journeys. The whole point of such sites is to talk to those drivers. We have documentation being translated into 11 different languages. The hauliers’ handbook has been not only translated into those languages but road-tested by different road haulage associations—the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association—to ensure that it works for the people it is aimed at. It is in, not simple language, but the language that people use in their everyday jobs, so that they know what they are expected to do.

We are really trying to get to everybody beforehand. That is why my hon. Friend will have seen signs on motorway gantries reminding people, especially hauliers, that the paperwork that they need may change on 1 November. It is not to make a fickle political point; it is for them to go back to their place of work, and to the traders that use them, and say, “I will need this to make my living—please ensure that you are ready,” and to enquire as to how ready they are.

There is a big reason for pointing people in that direction. If traders complete the necessary process, and give hauliers the right paperwork so that they can take their goods over the border, that helps the flow of goods. Our measures are contingency measures, and if there are no problems at the border, as we hope there will not be because the whole campaign of communications and education will have worked, there will be no need to stand up any of these measures. However, as we saw in 2015, problems may occur whether or not we are in the European Union, so it is sensible to have such contingency measures anyway.

My hon. Friend also asked what a traffic officer was, and whether local authority staff could have powers. That is a genuinely interesting point. As someone who has struggled with traffic wardens in the past, I am not sure how much extra power I would like to give them, but a traffic officer is designated by the Secretary of State to support the management and operation of the strategic road network. That is the definition. Highways England has recruited more staff for border-readiness checks. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the police and Highways England are sourcing staff from outside the south-east, which is obviously where Brock will be stood up and where any problems are most likely to occur. That answers the question by the hon. Member for York Central about why it is just for Kent. All modelling suggests that if there are problems, they will be in Kent. We have done modelling for all the other ports around the country.

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My hon. Friend is giving some positive and excellent answers to my questions. I believe that under section 3 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, a traffic officer can be designated in relation to any relevant road in England if he is designated by or under the authorisation of the Secretary of State—not simply for the strategic road network. Highways England needs to think a little way beyond its own personal little interests in running motorways, to the towns with the roads that it does not manage, and the designation by the Department for Transport of traffic officers should be extended to local authorities to manage local roads.

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My hon. Friend makes a fair point; I will get feedback from officials on the point of law. We are doing everything, but we are completely open; if he or other Kent MPs, or others from the Kent Resilience Forum, believe that there are other things that we can do to make the process simpler and more helpful and to keep things fluid within the county, we are completely up for looking at those suggestions, but we do believe that the contingency measures will be enough to deal with the levels of lorries, on which I have some numbers for my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil in a moment.

Highways England has recruited staff for the checks and the DVSA will be deploying 130 officers, 60 of whom will come from outside Kent—there will be a lot of people surged into the Kent area for this process. I would very much like to think that that is welcomed by Kent.

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I thank the Minister for the clarity on the number of additional staff who will be deployed to Kent. Are those people being transferred from other functions and elsewhere in the UK or are they new, additional staff?

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It is a bit of both. Some are new staff being recruited and some are being transferred from other functions across the United Kingdom.

I hope I have answered most of the questions; I will come back to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover on those I have not. We have a forum later today with Kent MPs and I will have the answers to any questions I have not answered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil asked me what we are doing to make lorries compliant. I hope I answered that in my comments on the comms campaign. We hope to be using the pop-up sites to tell drivers that they are border-ready. Currently, the message is about making sure that they understand what they need to do. Where the sites are popular and being used properly, and when we get to 1 November, we hope to move on to messages around, “Yes, actually that is a border-ready document; you should move down to Kent and you shouldn’t have too much of an issue to maintain flow.”

I want to give hon. Members a rough idea of the numbers of vehicles that could be in the Brock process in Kent. The slip road at Eurotunnel has capacity for 450 vehicles. The holding area at the Port of Dover has capacity for roughly 1,100 vehicles. The capacity of Brock M20 will be up to 2,000. Manston airfield will hold around 5,800. The Dover traffic access protocol has capacity of about 300, and if we needed it, the Brock M26 would hold 1,700 or so vehicles.

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The plans for many thousands of lorries to be parked as part of Operation Brock are well and good, and I understand that the plans are for the worst-case scenario, as is much of Operation Yellowhammer. I recently made a trip to the continent and I have seen the lanes cut off for Operation Brock up and down the M20. If something goes wrong or something does happen, as happened to me on my way to France, all the traffic that would have been on the M20 will go through the lovely lanes of Kent. What is in place to prevent that happening across rural Kent?

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Brock will be in place to stop that happening. The powers we are discussing today will be the powers that the police and the representatives of the highways authorities will be using to stop lorries from doing exactly that. That is why we are here today to examine this statutory instrument and the other two with which it is associated. There are powers that can be used in bits, but, realistically, this is the law that the Kent Resilience Forum and others have been calling for, to stop exactly what my hon. Friend has described in his intervention happening.

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I thank my hon. Friend for giving way; he is being incredible generous.

My hon. Friend’s previous intervention makes exactly the point that I am concerned about. Highways England has a habit of thinking only about its motorway network; it does not think what happens when people duck off to go through side streets and rat-run through villages. It is not Highways England’s road network, so it is not interested. That is why we need designation of traffic officers or direction of Kent police to do their job properly in east Kent, because they do not always do it as well as one might want them to. In the case of Operation Stack and so on, we need that designation to ensure that there is enforcement of lorries that seek to rat-run, or that obstruct roads in towns and villages.

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I understand my hon. Friend’s point. To answer his earlier point, and hopefully this point at the same time, he is quite right to say that designated traffic officers can work on local roads, but they are mainly meant to be relieving problems on the strategic road network. However, we are considering designating Kent County Council officers to support Brock in this circumstance—it is not Dover Council, which I think is where his question came from, but Kent County Council officers. I hope that is of some assistance to him.

I want to finish on a couple of additional points that the hon. Member for York Central raised. She made a point on the timing and asked why the plan was timed to end at the end of December 2020. It is actually nothing to do with the transition period; it is when the planning permission allowing us to mount the operation at Manston finishes. It is about planning; it is not about any transition period should we get a deal. Why is it so important that it is done in Kent? Well, 80% of the UK’s freight goes through the Kent ports—a big percentage of our trade goes through them.

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If there is serious congestion at Folkestone and Dover ports, haulage companies will look to other locations through which to cross the channel or the North sea. Are discussions under way about contingencies in those areas, should they become the key route that traffic flows through in the future?

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Yes. That is a legitimate question about what would happen should Folkestone and Dover get very busy. My personal belief is that if I was running a business—I used to import wholesale fruit and veg for a living, and I have used the short straits crossing a huge amount in the past for my business—and was worried about there being a problem, I would divert my route. That is why the Government have already announced that an extra £9 million is being made available to local areas and major ports, so that they are ready for us to leave without a deal. Some £5 million of that will be given to local councils that either have or are near major air, land or sea ports, to ensure that they can continue to operate effectively when we leave the EU. We have also done the traffic modelling and shared it with the local resilience forums in each of those individual areas, and we are working with them to ensure that they are completely ready for when we leave the European Union later this month. It is a completely legitimate and fair question, and I appreciate the hon. Lady’s asking it, so that I could clarify that point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell asked me a vaguely political question, but there was a sensible question within it: are hauliers taking this seriously? It is not that the political question was not sensible; I just do not want to be told off by you, Mr Hanson, tempted though I may be to leap in. I can honestly say that hauliers are taking this seriously. I have been in lots and lots of meetings with both business representatives and organisations of the freight and haulage industry, and indeed with big and small individual companies, and they all understand what impact this might have if it were to go wrong. They all understand that if they and everybody else get the paperwork right, there would not be the problem we are discussing and we would not need the contingency plan—Brock—because flow would continue. We need to continue—we will do this as a Government and, I hope, as individual Members —to say to anybody we meet from a haulage company, “Are you Brexit-ready?” The Government should have written to them a number times through different Departments, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and so on. They should have seen the adverts that have been in the papers and on motorway gantries. There are pop-up sites up and down the country, and we are using the trade press. They have all sorts of opportunities to notice them. It is their living.

I used to work with the haulage industry, importing fruit and veg, and I know that, although hauliers put things off to the last minute because they do not want to take on board the extra expense, when they know that it is about their livelihood and those of the people who work for them—they might be a small operator with one or two rigs—they take notice. They do not want to be held up. There are not massive margins in the haulage industry, so delay costs could cost them business and therefore profit, or their living. I believe that they are absolutely taking this very seriously.

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The Minister is being very generous in giving way. Was he going to come back to my question about whether there will be facilities for hauliers to undertake customs-readiness en route? My concern is that if the capacity fills up in Folkestone, Dover and Ashford—where there are customs processing facilities where they can get their documents right in the evenings when they fill up with the hauliers from Europe who want to stay the night—there will potentially need to be some en route capacity in the areas where the trucks are being held; otherwise, they will have to divert to different places, and they will not want to.

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Although that is not necessarily part of this debate, I would like to answer it. I mentioned, but probably did not emphasise enough, that we are looking at changing the very popular pop-up sites that we have for this basic communications campaign—the ones where we get a huge amount of footfall—so they can check the paperwork, as my hon. Friend describes, and inform drivers about whether they are border-ready and have the appropriate paperwork. If they get into Kent, there are turnaround sites, which HMRC is setting up, on top of the numbers that I mentioned in my previous answer to my hon. Friend. For people who believe that they can get ready to cross the border within 24 hours, there will be facilities for them to do so.

I apologise for not addressing the question that my hon. Friend asked about facilities. He asked what the facilities will be for drivers and others if we are doing all this. There will be facilities—we will ensure that we look after drivers’ welfare properly—that include toilets and food. At Maidstone, there will be things like access to the internet and printers, so if paperwork needs to be checked and changed, drivers have the ability to do that. We are very cognisant of the welfare of drivers in that industry, which is very important to our nation.

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Before the Minister took the intervention of the hon. Member for Yeovil, he was touching on the heart of the matter: there need not be any problems at the border, and there need not be any traffic officers at all. We need them only against the risk of a punishment Brexit from the other side. Only the European Union, and those in this House that it consorts with on the drafting of Bills and legislation, could cause that kind of problem and undermine our nation and national interests, and act in a frankly unpatriotic way.

My second point, which is key, is that the Minister has kindly confirmed that Kent County Council will be designated to have traffic officers; that is great. Will KCC have the ability to give a sub-designation to local authorities at district council level, should it wish to do so?

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As I hope I said, we are considering the point about Kent County Council officers. We will wait until we actually need to do that before we consider going to other local councils. On the hon. Gentlemen’s first point, a general election will come, and we will all be judged on what we did. The British public are not silly, and they will make judgments themselves. I hear what he said, and I will make my own political points in a more political meeting. I just want to ensure that everybody understands the purpose of what we are doing today with this statutory instrument.

I want to clarify for the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston that when I was talking about drivers’ licences, I was talking about them in the context of Brock—in other words, drivers going out of the country. We will not routinely check at the border for drivers’ licences for people coming into the country; we will maintain the checks that we have now. I think I made that point, but just in case I did not, I thought I should say that.

I hope I have managed to address all the points that were raised in the debate. These instruments are essential to ensure the effective management of traffic in Kent for the benefit of its residents and businesses in the event that we leave the European Union without a deal. I hope the Committee has found this debate informative and will support the order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019.

Committee rose.

Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Joan Ryan

† Afolami, Bim (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)

† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

† Heaton-Harris, Chris (Minister of State, Department for Transport)

† Heaton-Jones, Peter (North Devon) (Con)

† Kinnock, Stephen (Aberavon) (Lab)

† Lucas, Ian C. (Wrexham) (Lab)

† Maskell, Rachael (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Scully, Paul (Sutton and Cheam) (Con)

Smith, Owen (Pontypridd) (Lab)

Streeting, Wes (Ilford North) (Lab)

† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)

† Vara, Mr Shailesh (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con)

† Vickers, Martin (Cleethorpes) (Con)

† Zeichner, Daniel (Cambridge) (Lab)

Masrur Ahmed, Medha Bhasin, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

The following also attended (Standing Order No. 118(2)):

Elphicke, Charlie (Dover) (Ind)

Twenty-third Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Ryan. It is the first time that I have experienced that pleasure, so I hope that I do not cause too much distress to you—or, indeed, to Joe Lenihan, who is a new Doorkeeper just two days into his job. We are expecting a feisty debate, so we may need someone who can take a Member outside and sort them out.

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I sincerely hope not, Minister.

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I really hope not, too.

The order is the second in a series of three, along with the draft Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) Order 2019 and the snappily named Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 3) Order 2019. Order No. 1 was debated at 8.55 am today—the hon. Member for York Central and I enjoyed our 45 minutes together—but order No. 2 should be considered as part of the whole package. Together, the orders support the effective management of Operation Brock and strengthen the enforcement regime that underpins it. Some hon. Members present heard my speech in the debate on the first order, but for the benefit of those who did not, I will repeat some of what I said—not all of it, I promise, although I do happen to have the previous debate pack handy in case they want to hear the whole thing.

As many hon. Members know, the Government have supported partners in Kent to develop Operation Brock: a co-ordinated multi-agency response to situations of cross-channel travel disruption when capacity for heavy goods vehicles to leave the UK through the port of Dover or the channel tunnel is significantly restricted. We have been preparing to use Brock should cross-channel disruption occur in a no-deal Brexit, but it could also be deployed to address disruption resulting from bad weather or industrial action. Brock replaces Operation Stack and is specifically designed to keep the M20 in Kent open in both directions, retaining junction access even if disruption is severe and protracted.

Operation Brock consists of three phases. The first—Brock M20—has a contraflow queuing system on the M20 between junctions 8 near Maidstone and 9 near Ashford. The contraflow system allows cross-channel heavy goods vehicles to be stored on the coast-bound carriageway, while letting all other traffic travel in both directions of the M20 on the London-bound carriageway. If the M20 queuing system were reaching capacity, the second phase—Brock Manston—would be activated, and cross-channel heavy goods vehicles bound for the port of Dover would be diverted to Manston airport. If needed, the third phase—Brock M26—could be used to store trucks on the M26 heading to Europe via the channel tunnel.

The Kent Resilience Forum, which comprises bodies such as the county council and the local police force, owns the Operation Brock plans. Any decisions relating to the activation and timing of the different phases of Operation Brock will be taken by Kent police as the gold command, in consultation with the Kent Resilience Forum. Although we are working hard to inform traders and hauliers of any new requirements resulting from our departure from the European Union, should there be widespread non-compliance it could lead to serious congestion on Kent’s roads, as was experienced back in 2015 when Operation Stack was deployed for 31 days. At that time, nearly a third of cross-channel HGVs avoided the traffic system, causing serious traffic problems on the local road network, with part of Kent becoming completely gridlocked.

The Department has engaged regularly over the past year, and continues to do so, with the forum and other stakeholders in Kent, who are very keen that measures be introduced to strengthen the enforcement of Brock, and that gaps in the legislative framework be addressed. All three orders will therefore need to be brought into force in time for a potential no-deal Brexit, to ensure that the scheme can operate as efficiently as possible and to reduce the impact on businesses and local communities in Kent. I am therefore grateful that time has been found for debates on the orders to take place quickly; I am also grateful for the speed with which the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has scrutinised them.

We consulted on the package of measures over the summer. We targeted, among others, key stakeholders such as the county council, the port of Dover and Eurotunnel. The responses received were broadly supportive, while providing helpful points of detail that assisted us in drafting the orders, as well as raising wider points on the deployment of operation Brock. My thanks go out to those who responded.

I shall now briefly set out, as I did earlier today, details of the order we are considering and the other two orders, to give Members the complete picture. Order No. 2, which we are debating now, prohibits cross-channel heavy goods vehicles from using local roads in Kent, other than those on the approved operation Brock routes. To facilitate traffic flow, the legislation also requires cross-channel heavy goods vehicles to remain in the nearside left-hand lane when using dual carriageway local roads that form part of the operation Brock routes.

Appropriate exceptions to that prohibition have been provided after consultation with the Kent resilience forum and freight associations. For example, a vehicle on a cross-channel journey can make a local collection or delivery, provided that the driver can provide information sufficient to satisfy a constable or traffic officer that the vehicle is being driven on a particular road for that purpose alone.

I remind the Committee that order No. 1 confers new powers on traffic officers in Kent, which would enable officers to require the production of documents to establish the vehicle’s destination and readiness to cross the border, direct drivers to proceed to a motorway—removing the vehicle from the local road network—and direct drivers not to proceed to the channel tunnel or the port of Dover, except via a specified road or route.

Document checks, to help ensure that a haulier has the right documents on the M20, will be carried out by temporary traffic officers, contracted and directly supervised by Highways England. Broader traffic management and enforcement will be dealt with by permanent staff and the police.

This order also sets the amount of the financial penalty deposit—a penalty that will be issued and taken immediately at the roadside by enforcement authorities. If a driver cannot pay the deposit, the vehicle will be immobilised. As I described in the earlier debate, that does not mean that it will be left immobile on the motorway. It will be stickered and escorted to a different location where the matter can be sorted, away from where it was causing any blockage.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Ryan. The Minister mentioned temporary traffic officers. Will he explain where those people will be found? When the A14 in my constituency was undergoing huge works recently, it was quite impossible for local police to recruit or find such people.

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I was unaware of the issues that the hon. Member for Cambridge and his authority experienced. We have been building a recruitment drive for the past few months because we were expecting Brexit to happen a bit earlier this calendar year. We are also looking to give Kent County Council officers powers to help with this. We have surged staff and recruited more staff and we have options to add extra people to help. That is where these people have come from.

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It would be a particular issue if a lorry were to stray off the strategic road network and try to rat run, as it is colloquially known, for instance, out at the Courtwood interchange at the A20, down Folkestone road, and try to sneak through the town of Dover. There is a risk that there may not be traffic officers available to put a stop to such nefarious activities by hauliers. Can I propose that the Department urgently takes forward measures, not only to give Kent County Council powers as traffic officers but to allow district councils, such as Dover District Council, which has lots of staff who would be very happy to be traffic officers, to ensure that anyone rat running or parking on a box junction could be dealt with appropriately?

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My hon. Friend, whose constituency is obviously affected by everything we debate today, is assiduous in these matters. He raised this particular point in the debate this morning. As I said, we are considering going only to the point of county council officers, but I have heard what he said, as have my officials. I promise to take that away and, if need be, we will look at his suggestion as well.

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Will the Minister clarify who will pay the cost of the additional officers? Will they be paid for by the Government or will the local authority be expected to bear the cost?

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The Government pick up the tab for all sorts of Brexit-related activity and, as ever, that will be the case in this instance.

If a driver cannot pay the deposit, their vehicle will be immobilised. The amount of the deposit for breaching the traffic restrictions introduced by the other two instruments or for failing to comply with a traffic officer exercising the new powers is set at £300.

To complete the picture for the Committee, order No. 3, which has been laid using the negative procedure, prohibits cross-channel heavy goods vehicles from accessing the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between junctions 9 and 13, unless the driver is displaying a permit. That permit will be issued in the Brock queue between junctions 8 and 9, enabling a driver to demonstrate that they have followed the approved Brock route and have complied with any border document checks that may be undertaken in the queue. The order also prohibits cross-channel heavy goods vehicles joining the M20 contraflow between junctions 8 and 9 of the London-bound carriageway. It sets out the amount of the fixed penalty for offences relating to this series of instruments.

The new powers and traffic restrictions in the orders will cease to have effect—a sunset clause is included—at the end of 31 December 2020, which coincides with the end of planning permission for Manston airport to hold HGVs. Manston is of course an integral part of the Brock system, so that is a suitable and consistent date for those powers to cease to have effect.

Crucially, the instruments introduce powers that allow for an enforceable border readiness check to be conducted. If the Brock queues are stationary, we propose conducting border readiness checks on the M20 and at Manston airport. A haulier who is deemed ready to cross the border will be given a permit that allows them to go to their port. Unready hauliers who try to go to the port without a permit could be stopped, directed to the back of the Brock queues and given the proposed on-the-spot £300 fine by the police or DVSA.

The orders are needed to allow sensible traffic management in Kent. It is vital that we show that we are absolutely ready and that Brock is ready and will be fully operational and enforceable on day one should it be needed to deal with the impact of cross-channel disruption.

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Ryan. This is the second order in the trilogy of heavy commercial vehicles in Kent, and I look forward to debating the third in due course. This order is about the movement of HGVs through Kent and highlights the exemptions that are to be applied to order No. 1, which was debated this morning. The Committee will be pleased to hear that I will not repeat much of what I said this morning, but I wish to make a number of points.

If traffic officers announce severe disruption and heavy traffic is already travelling along the non-designated route within a two-hour period of the announcement, vehicles will be exempt from any fines. Can the Minister confirm, however, that hauliers will not receive a penalty if, when making their way to the designated route, the traffic is so bad that it takes longer than the two-hour set period?

Lorries will be allowed to travel to make local connections and deliveries and for the purposes of refuelling as provided for by their documentation. How can that documentation be made available? Can it be electronic or does it have to be written documentation, particularly as local HGVs will be making assignments to local companies so they would not have the particular permits that are required under order No. 1?

If a cab is making its way to a port but does not carry any load, the legislation is silent about what restrictions will apply. Since the cab would be travelling to the port to collect an assigned load, it would not therefore have documentation to highlight the destination of the load. How will that matter be treated? Will the same restrictions apply and what documentation will be needed? The order is silent on that.

Again, on documentation, article 3(d) states that if an HGV is being driven on a local road network, the driver must produce

“information sufficient to satisfy the specified person”.

Will the Minister explain exactly what that means? There should be greater clarity in the order about what “sufficient to satisfy” means. That should be far more transparent, because it seems that it is down to the person’s discretion. Local lorries in Kent will be required to get a haulier’s permit from Kent County Council. I wonder how widely information about that additional requirement has been spread.

I have a further question about the welfare of drivers who need to use local routes. The conditions of those working in the haulage industry who have to park at the side of a motorway or on an airfield will still be unacceptable. I heard what the Minister said this morning about there being facilities—internet access, printers and other facilities—at Manston airfield, but drivers could be expected to wait for hours, possibly a day, or even more at the roadside, where suitable conditions are not available, without a decent resting place apart from their cab. If they need a shower or healthcare, how are they meant to access that?

The physical and mental health of drivers must be a priority but, sadly, it has not been. It is not clear from article 3(e)(i) whether there are any restrictions on what happens if drivers move themselves from the main carriageway to address, say, their personal health concerns or needs. I am particularly concerned about the mental wellbeing of drivers. Being away from home for extended periods, being late for family or community events and being isolated already take their toll, and prolonging such situations will have a profound impact. How is the Minister considering that? It seems that not all scenarios have been planned for. It is regrettable that the order was rushed out without consideration being given to these important matters. How will they be accommodated?

How would road repairs or a road closure due to a road traffic accident on the M20 or some other designated route be accommodated? Are contingency arrangements in place? We could end up with a combination of events, such as congestion at the ports leading to the full Operation Brock being put in place, followed by a severe weather event. These measures could be trialled from 31 January or 1 February, when we know the weather conditions may not be that pleasant, so how would such a combination of events be accommodated?

Finally, I wish to make a point about the cost of this whole operation, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham touched on. Can the Minister tell the Committee, and therefore the taxpayer, how much these measures will cost? We have heard about the recruitment of additional staff. Are taxpayers aware that these measures, let alone all the other costs that will be incurred, all add to the escalating cost of a no-deal Brexit? I look forward to the Minister’s response on these important matters.

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I will pick up a couple of other points before I come to the questions asked by the hon. Member for York Central. I say in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover and the hon. Member for Cambridge that 125 contractors will be designated as temporary traffic officers to operate in the queue on the M20 to do checks of border documents. Training is already under way for those individuals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dover also asked who will stop people rat running. As I mentioned, we are considering local traffic officers. However, enforcement will need to be undertaken by the police or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which have expanded resources to support compliance on Kent’s roads.

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The Minister talks about the police being responsible for enforcement; in fact, the Department for Transport has the power to extend the enforceability to other officers. Long experience in Kent teaches us that the police are not always very interested in enforcing on the motorways or the roads—particularly in east Kent; they are more interested in west Kent. Will the Minister enable wider enforcement powers to be given to local authority officers, as has been done in a pilot scheme in Ashford?

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As my hon. Friend knows, we are actively looking at these matters, but I cannot give him a definite yes because I very much hope that we will not need to be in that situation.

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I completely agree with the Minister. None of us wants to be in that situation; all Government Members want a deal. However, in the unfortunate event of a no deal due to the intransigence of the European Union—egged on, sadly, by Members of the Labour party—might we not have £39 billion to help us with the cost of it?

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Minister, perhaps we could remain within the scope of the order.

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I somehow guessed, Ms Ryan, that you would pull us back to the subject. It is a wise thing to do. I do not want to get too excited about that issue, because I really want to answer the points that the hon. Member for York Central made and stress how important it is to everybody in Kent that we get this exactly right. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover makes some very sensible, straightforward political points, and we can have a battle about them another time. I just want to make sure this item is scrutinised correctly.

The hon. Member for York Central asked me a number of questions—nine, I think—and I shall try to answer them all. What happens to lorries travelling down the route or trying to get back on to the route when the two-hour window applies? Well, I am always told that the first rule of policing is common sense. Common sense will apply, and we would like to think that police officers and those enforcing will use it in that time period.

What sort of paperwork would be required to demonstrate that people are driving on local routes? The production of a delivery notice for an address in the local area with the appropriate goods on board will absolutely demonstrate that. That is a relatively straight- forward, “as things are now” answer.

I think the hon. Lady’s third question was: what happens to empty lorries? Some restrictions apply, and they will have to join the Brock queues. We know that 30% of containers on trucks heading back to France are empty, but those trucks will have to join the queue like anyone else, because it is very difficult to distinguish them from any other lorry.

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Often a lorry is a cab without a trailer. Will the same restrictions apply despite there being no load on board?

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I will double-check, but I think the answer is yes. In Kent, that is a very rare occurrence, because the type of movements across the channel are roll-on roll-off movements, and so they take the container with them. My officials are scrawling away. I will lengthen my other replies, and hopefully I can get the definitive answer within the course of the debate, but I believe that what I have said is correct.

The hon. Lady asked what paperwork would be required to satisfy the specified person if an HGV driver was trying to say that they were going down a local route. As I said in my previous answer, they should have a delivery slip—that is not the correct word—or a delivery manifest that demonstrates that the load on their lorry, or part of it, is going to a local address. There is no real discretion; they should have something that demonstrates that what they say is the case.

The hon. Lady asked about local permits being issued by Kent County Council. I have been in meetings where I have been told that they have been very well publicised locally, so haulage companies in Kent absolutely know where to get them. After this Committee, I am going to a meeting with the gentleman who is in charge of these issues for Kent County Council, and I will ask him that exact question. If the answer is not as I have said, I will come back to the hon. Lady.

On welfare, strangely enough, I am with the hon. Lady. As I alluded to in the earlier debate, I used to import wholesale fruit and veg—hauliers were the lifeblood of that business. Without them, I would not have been able to do half the things I was able to do. The job has never been as valued as it should be. We have been working with the industry to determine what might be required for drivers’ health. She made the point about mental health; there is a whole industry focus on the mental health of drivers, because there is a recruitment and retention problem in the industry. It is really important that these things are addressed properly and professionally.

We do not want drivers to get stuck in Brock and, because of something else that is going on, to stay in Brock, when they can move on and get on with their lives. I mentioned earlier that we looked at all the different welfare things that we should and could provide, from printers to toilets to food and water. We do not want to make a community centre out of Manston airport, but we want it to be a functioning workplace where people are treated with the appropriate respect.

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I am grateful for the clarity that the Minister has given on many of my concerns. If lorries are parked along the motorway carriageway, could he say how frequent the spacing out of toilets will be?

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Very frequent. I believe we know the designated spacing and the answer is coming to me. The toilets will be every kilometre. Going back to the point about the vehicle without the container, restrictions will apply to HGVs over 7.5 tonnes.

On the hon. Lady’s seventh question, this is a contingency plan for something that we do not want to happen. The reason we have a massive communications campaign up and down the country as we speak is to ensure that the drivers and traders who use haulage companies are ready. If they are ready, as I hope and believe they will be, there will be no issues with flow and Brock will not need to be stood up. There has been a huge amount of investment on the French side, at the ports of Calais, Coquelles and Boulogne, to ensure flow continues over there as long as we have drivers in a place where the paperwork is ready. Hopefully, this is a contingency that will not need to be stood up.

The hon. Lady asked about road traffic issues—what happens if there is a crash or unexpected emergency roadworks? It is very helpful that the Kent Resilience Forum leads on all that, which is a combination of local councils, the police and highways authorities—a whole host of different agencies and people. They are working together now and their lead police officer, Peter Ayling, is in charge of co-ordinating that. Nothing should happen that they are not prepared for, but they have extensive plans for everything including severe weather and other events that may be concurrent with problems with flow at the port. [Interruption.] I have just been corrected on the spacing of portable toilets—they are at one-mile intervals, not one-kilometre intervals. I will always be more imperial than metric.

Finally, the hon. Lady asked about costs. There is a political point to make here: if the hon. Lady and her political party had voted for the deal, there would not be the extra costs of planning for a no-deal Brexit. However, a responsible Government have to do exactly that. In 2018-19, the cost was £59.9 million, and in 2019-20 it will be about £40 million, although there are still some costs to come as and when Brock gets stood up. I hope that has answered all the hon. Lady’s questions. If I have missed any, I shall write to her, if that is okay. I hope I have answered everybody else’s points.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 2) Order 2019.

Committee rose.

Draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments etc.) (EU exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mike Gapes

† Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)

† Brock, Deidre (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)

† Chalk, Alex (Cheltenham) (Con)

† Champion, Sarah (Rotherham) (Lab)

† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)

Cunningham, Mr Jim (Coventry South) (Lab)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

† Eustice, George (Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)

† Grogan, John (Keighley) (Lab)

† Henderson, Gordon (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con)

† Kerr, Stephen (Stirling) (Con)

† Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)

† McGovern, Alison (Wirral South) (Lab)

† Merriman, Huw (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)

† Morris, James (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

Peter Stam, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Twenty-fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 8 October 2019

[Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019

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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.

This statutory instrument amends retained EU law and domestic legislation on the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products—also known as the common market organisation, or CMO—to ensure a smooth transition to a domestic regime. It also makes minor amendments to retained EU law relating to support for rural development and the maritime and fisheries fund.

The regulations are among those that were deprioritised prior to our planned exit at the end of March, because the bulk of the CMO rules that govern the existing schemes, and the vast majority of the details of them, were fixed and addressed in previous instruments. These regulations address the finer details of the schemes, in particular their administration. It was judged that it was not critical to deliver them by March, but the luxury of time, due to the delay in leaving the European Union to 31 October, means that we have the chance to get the job done and return to some of those issues.

The instrument is therefore technical in nature and limited in scope, as it amends the technical details of the schemes in the CMO, rather than the framework itself. We are upholding standards and maintaining processes; it makes appropriate corrections to ensure that those standards and processes continue to operate in a UK context. Where changes are required, we have endeavoured to ensure that they will have a limited impact on business and other stakeholders.

We have consulted extensively with the devolved Administrations on the instrument to ensure that the legislation that it amends continues to work while, obviously, respecting the devolution agreements. Most areas covered by the instrument are devolved, with powers transferring to the devolved Ministers. In many cases, the Secretary of State can act on behalf of the devolved Administrations should they give their consent. In one or two areas relating to enforcement, Wales has chosen to introduce its own statutory instruments, for example in relation to the administration of an apiculture —beekeeping—scheme and some of the design elements of a school milk scheme.

Some of the functions amended by the instrument that are currently carried out by the European Commission could be exercised in ways that are reserved, such as where they affect trade, or devolved, so we have worked with the devolved Administrations in those cases. We have agreed an approach that respects the devolution settlements but ensures that those functions can be carried out by the appropriate public authorities in the UK after exit, whether that is the UK Government or the devolved Administrations.

The CMO sits in pillar 1 of the common agricultural policy and was set up as a means of meeting its objectives, particularly to stabilise markets, ensure a fair standard of living for agricultural producers and increase agricultural productivity. The main CMO policy areas covered by the regulations can be broadly categorised as aid schemes for fruit and vegetables, and for milk in schools; apiculture aid schemes; marketing standards for olive oil, eggs, poultry, meat and wine; import and export licensing; and the provision of information and notifications.

The changes made by the instrument will ensure the continued operability of existing regulations, largely by replacing references to “the EU” or “member states” with alternative references to “the UK” or “the relevant authority”. The approach when amending retained EU law has been to keep the effect of that legislation as close to the current system where possible.

The instrument also contains provisions relating to rural development and maritime and fisheries legislation, which governs the operational programmes through which payments are made. These programmes were prepared either by the United Kingdom as a whole or by the devolved Administrations and then agreed with the Commission. There are currently four development programmes and one maritime and fisheries programme operating in the UK, providing support to the sectors for the 2014 to 2020 programme.

The instrument makes six minor amendments to the rural development legislation, four of which also concern funding for maritime and fisheries. It omits two references to member states and amends references to Union legislation, and it omits two powers that the Commission has to make secondary legislation where these are now redundant. It transfers from the Commission to appropriate authorities in the UK a power to make secondary legislation concerning the models to be used when reporting on financial instruments. Finally, this instrument also revokes two pieces of retained EU legislation relating to support for the olive oil and table olive sectors, as this legislation will no longer be needed in the UK after EU exit since we do not produce those particular crops.

We consulted extensively with the devolved Administrations on preparing this statutory instrument and have their consent to lay it. I should say that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also undertook targeted stakeholder engagement from November 2018 onwards on the amendments contained in the EU exit statutory instruments so far as they relate to food, as required under article 9 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 of the European Parliament.

In conclusion, these regulations make changes to ensure an operable legal framework for the CMO and rural development and maritime and fisheries programmes, which support the work of farmers and deliver continuity. I therefore commend them to the Committee.

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I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes.

Every time I see the initials CMO, I break out in a cold sweat. We have had this debate so many times that we never know which bit of the CMO we are talking about at any one moment. We debated it on the Floor of the House last week, and here we are again. Can the Minister start by telling us that this is the last time we will be debating an amendment to the CMO? I know that he had a slight interregnum when he was not here, but some of us have stayed the course and managed to debate every one of these CMO amendments, because they come around with ever greater regularity—more so even than buses. I am delighted that we are holding the Government to account over this.

With the best will in the world, it is very difficult for the Opposition to know exactly how these things fit together. It is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, except somebody has thrown away the legend and all these different parts come to us. At one level, we could say, “Well, this is only secondary legislation, so we can just nod it through because it does not really make that much difference.” However, these are important market sectors and there are important elements for how we will, in due course, derive our new agricultural policy. Sadly, the existing agriculture Bill will fall for the second time today. Some of us spent 37 hours of our time on the Bill, which will be no more. No doubt we will start all over again—unless of course the Minister has not managed even to get it into the Queen’s Speech, which would say something about the importance of agriculture in this country.

The Minister knows that I am a bit of a fanatic about the relationship between pillar 1 and pillar 2—I always get interested when he talks about that. Can he clarify that there will be no change, whatever happens at the end of this month, in the Government’s commitment to pillar 2 expenditure—whatever it will be called—and that it will continue? I have said this many times before, but the danger has always been that we have not been good in this country at spending up to the amount we could have done, or at match-funding what was allowed in pillar 2. There has always been a temptation to pour money into pillar 1, which is the direct funding for farmers. That may be a justification for what we are trying to do with some of the changes, and that is partly inevitable. Will he give a guarantee that pillar 2 will in no way be starved of cash as a result of these changes?

The Minister has been clear about the relationship between reserved and devolved matters. Interestingly, Scotland did not get a mention in his initial speech, whereas Wales did—I note that a representative of the SNP is here. What is happening with Scotland? As he knows, Scotland chose, through a schedule, not to be part of the agriculture Bill, but Wales did. What impact will these potential changes have on Scotland?

The Minister said that these are predominantly technical changes, but they encompass some pretty important market sectors. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is now somewhat dated, and it was brought forward on the basis that there would be a deal. In terms of the legislative context, where does this all now stand if there is no deal at the end of the month? If we look at the CMO in context, it does not include the whole fabric of the way in which the common agricultural policy has operated. We will not be part of that, but we will not have anything else in its place at the end of the month. We are leaving it but actually staying in it, which is quite an interesting context. That is about managing market volatility, incentivising collaboration between competitive agricultural producers, and facilitating trade. That is why this is important; it covers a whole range of aspects of how our agriculture has evolved and how it will evolve over time.

With regard to the sectors, I am intrigued about why we always seem to fixate on olives. I do not know why the entire policy is always looking at olives. Last week we revoked something to do with olives. Why are olives no longer part of the scheme? I was led to believe that we do produce some olives in this country—indeed, we produce some of our own olive oil. We are revoking something, but what are we putting in its place to ensure that the market sector—for those of us who like olives—is properly protected and not subject to all manner of issues that could arise?

The Financial Times yesterday referred to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs being under enormous pressure from the Department for International Trade to lower our agricultural standards and environmental protection, because that is the only way we will ever get a deal with the US. The Minister might want to comment on that in passing. There are those who say that will never happen, but if the Financial Times is to be believed, that is going on at the moment.

As for the consultation, it was held well over a year ago. Will the Minister say something about what has happened more recently, given that these changes have come thick and fast? They may be technical in nature but they are of great importance overall. How have the different consultees been updated to ensure that they are complicit in what is going on, rather than left trying to work it out for themselves?

With regard to guidance, I am looking at the physical copy of the explanatory memorandum. Paragraph 11.1 refers to two aspects:

“Producing and labelling food if there’s no Brexit deal”

and

“Farm payments if there’s no Brexit deal”.

But they do not appear in the online version. Is that the Government’s mushroom strategy—keep people in the dark and chuck a lot of stuff of them, on the basis that it will make no difference because they will not know? Why is that in one version but not in the other? Somebody somewhere had better provide a quick explanation. It matters, because farmers need to know, as I said in the Chamber shortly before coming here.

The National Farmers Union has some very strong words on the impact of no deal. More particularly, it clearly wants to be held closer than it is at the moment in relation to some of the repercussions. If this is anything to go by—given the number of mistakes that have been made, the number of changes that have been brought in, and the number of amendments to amendments, and indeed amendments to amendments to amendments —it is very difficult to keep up to date with what is happening and where we are going.

The Opposition will not be voting against these regulations, but we look to the Minister to give us some assurance that no further CMO amendments will be brought forward, even after we finish today’s little episode with another Prorogation. More particularly, will he ensure that the consultation on the changes is genuine and ongoing and that people know what is happening?

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Well, I cannot begin to describe the deep joy I feel at being here once again speaking on a piece of legislation that would never have been needed were it not for the wilful act of self-harm that is Brexit. Here we are again spending valuable time passing legislation to allow the EU support schemes to continue after we leave the EU. That time could be spent more fruitfully examining and passing other legislation that is probably far more needed or, at least, would be far more needed if the UK Government did not have an obsession with the EU and leaving it. Still, here we are.

I hope that the Minister will enlighten us shortly on how the Government see the support schemes for fishers and farmers diverging from the EU schemes in the early years after Brexit, and whether those currently receiving that support will continue to receive it at a level at least equal to what they currently receive. I include Scotland, of course. I will be fascinated to learn how big the real-terms increases in the payments made to the Scottish Government will be and how the Government will reimburse the mislaid convergence cash with interest, remembering that it was paid in euros and so is worth a lot more these days.

I—and, I think, food producers across these islands—want to know the Government’s future plans. We have to keep coming here to repair some small parts of the damage that Brexit is doing, so the least we should be able to expect is that we can get some idea of the future plans.

I want to know whether a divergence from the EU’s food standards is planned, particularly in light of the reports of the new negotiating position of the President of the Board of Trade and what can only be described as “toadying” to the US food lobby. Maintaining support for our food producers is vital, because the new tariffs will cripple their competitiveness, as the Prime Minister made clear when he promised a culling programme for unsaleable beasts, and the new difficulties with produce crossing borders could cripple the fishing industry. That will all be made very much worse if they also have to compete with low-quality produce dumped on our supermarket shelves from the US, so it is important that we hear about those plans.

This SI, like so many others in the crazy race that Brexit has created, will pass. It is only necessary because of Brexit. Of course, the far more sensible course of action—cancelling the whole daft malarkey—is still open to us.

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I will speak very briefly. I welcome this statutory instrument and the many others that have been made. They are a demonstration of what we should be doing in this place—making our own regulations in a sovereign way. This is a very good thing to be doing and this process emphasises that.

I have a couple of queries. First, given that this statutory instrument gives us the power as a nation to operate and set the scope of our own interventions within the agriculture market, will the Minister confirm that we are simply transferring the powers that the EU has to set these bodies and the way in which they operate back into the United Kingdom? As far as possible, will we stick to the existing set-up? Does it also give us the power at a later date to begin to diverge or to improve the way we operate, whether in animal welfare or regarding these particular measures?

Secondly, would it have been possible for Scotland to take up any powers or to have taken the same direction of travel as Wales within this statutory instrument? If so, does the Minister have insight into why Scotland has chosen not to do so?

Overall, this is clearly a solid way forward and a platform for how we will operate in the future. I virtually volunteered for this Committee; I think these are fascinating areas. I am trying to get into practice for when this place once again does what it is supposed to do, which is to make the laws of our land.

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I will be brief, Mr Gapes, and I will try to address all of the points in turn.

The shadow Minister bemoans the fact that, yet again, we are having to discuss another complex and technical statutory instrument relating to the CMO. I hope to get to the end of the process too. I cannot guarantee that there will not be more of these SIs coming down the line; I am sure there will be more. Whatever our views on Brexit, we are all condemned to relive the groundhog day of Brexit debate until we finally get Brexit done and resolve the situation.

Many of the SIs that the shadow Minister has debated in recent weeks, although not this one, will have to be debated again because things have moved on, the EU has changed something over the summer or the dates referred to in the original SI are no longer valid. A lot of the current wave of SIs are a consequence of the dither and delay that Parliament demonstrated in deciding not to proceed with our exit from the EU at the end of March.

The shadow Minister asks about pillar 2 expenditure. We have agreed to keep funding on agriculture, including the pillar 2 schemes, at exactly the same level until the end of this Parliament; as he will know, that will be in 2022. In addition, the Treasury has guaranteed that the current schemes will continue to operate and to accept bids up until 2020, and the agreements entered into will be honoured for their full lifetime. For example, a five-year or 10-year scheme under the agri-environment schemes would be supported for the duration, even though we will have been outside the European Union for some years.

The shadow Minister asks about Scotland, which does not get a mention. That is because Scotland has been happy with these regulations. The body of regulations was made in co-operation with all the devolved Administrations. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor asked why Wales has chosen a couple of areas in which to have its own SIs. That comes down to an element of its devolved settlement; there are some areas that it prefers to do itself and that is its choice. In Scotland’s case, it was content to know that the powers are appropriate for Scotland to act through this SI. To save the hassle of having to draft the same types of SIs over and over again, it made sense for the UK Government, with the consent of the devolved Administrations, to do this on behalf of everyone.

Finally, the shadow Minister asked about olives. The CMO is a complex body of law that has to be written for the whole EU; it is a one-size-fits-all body of law. That means that we end up with lots of provisions that are not relevant to the UK. We have changed the reference about producer organisations for people who produce olives or table olives; we do not produce or grow olives or table olives in this country, so that reference is redundant. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that all the provisions relating to the marketing standards around olives have been brought across and made operable in the way he would expect.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith asked how we might diverge over time. I have to say to her that that will be for the Scottish Government to decide. The Scottish Government will no longer have to sit on their hands, awaiting orders from Brussels about what they can and cannot do. They will have power—the power to act and the power to design schemes that they think are right for Scotland.

Having wrestled with some of these schemes over a number of years, I can say that the EU schemes are far from perfect. In so far as we may—all of us—choose over time to diverge from the EU schemes, it will be to make them better, to make them more effective and to make them deliver for farmers and fishermen. I can give the hon. Lady the example of the fruit and vegetable regime, which is an EU regime that is poorly drafted and often ends up with litigation, both in Scotland and in England, and a complete muddle. We could improve on it over time.

We have examples of some of the local area groups— the LEADER groups—that are bound in completely unnecessary bureaucracy, having to keep all sorts of records, and the EU taking issue with the way we have checked whether they are VAT-registered or not. There is lots and lots of bureaucratic nonsense that can stand in the way of these schemes and really everybody accepts that it is unnecessary. If we talk to the people who have to try to administer these schemes, I think they would welcome a breath of fresh air and more of a common-sense approach. However, it will be for Scotland to decide whether it wants to do that, or whether it wants to stick slavishly to what has been inherited from the European Union.

Finally, I will address some of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor. He is right that the purpose of this SI and all similar SIs introduced under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is to provide continuity. This is not an area where we are trying to change policies in any dramatic way, apart from omitting things that are not relevant to the UK. It is all about continuity, and the power to change and to diverge from these measures will be set out in the agriculture Bill; we have had a dry run of that already, as the shadow Minister pointed out.

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There were a couple of questions that perhaps the Minister has not had a chance to answer yet. I wondered about the support schemes for fishers and farmers diverging from the EU schemes. I asked whether those currently receiving that support will all continue to receive it, at a level that is at least equal to what they currently receive. I wonder whether the Minister can give us an intimation of the Government’s intentions there.

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We have set out that we will not change the budget at all until 2022. Within that, however, and again this would be an issue that Scotland would be able to take a different view on, the UK Government—the English Government for English farmers—have already set out our intention to start diverging from the so-called basic payments scheme, probably from around 2021, and to gradually phase it down and replace it with a new type of support system built around agri-environment payments and support for different approaches to livestock husbandry, for instance. So we have set out our approach there, but the funding guarantees that exist are the Government guarantees to keep the budget the same until 2022.

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Could we have a wee bit of clarity on that, because quite often people say “until 2022”, but of course that is currently the date for the next election? We do not know the future; we do not know what the next few weeks will bring. I have also heard it said by various Ministers that it might be until 2022 or the next general election. Can the Minister clarify which of those it is, or say if it is actually both?

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The hon. Lady is very experienced, so she will know that a manifesto commitment lasts for the duration of the Parliament in question. That may be until 2022, or it may be earlier. She will appreciate that this is not an appropriate place for me to start talking about the next Conservative manifesto; there are other and brighter brains than mine working on those issues. It will be for all parties to decide what level of support they want to indicate they will give to these schemes in their next manifesto, if indeed they want to give any sort of indicative figure at all; that will be a choice that every party has.

I return to the final points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor. As I said, the power to change this measure will be contained in the agriculture Bill. It will have specific clauses to give us the power to modify retained EU law, which would include modifications to improve any of the pillar 2 schemes that we choose to improve. The moment that the agriculture Bill receives Royal Assent, we will have the power through secondary legislation to start the business of improving the common agricultural policy that we have inherited.

I hope that I have been able to address many of the Committee’s concerns, and I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.

Committee rose.