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General Committees

Debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Health Security (EU Exit) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mrs Sheryll Murray

Andrew, Stuart (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

† Argar, Edward (Minister for Health)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Crosbie, Virginia (Ynys Môn) (Con)

Fellows, Marion (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)

Johnson, Dame Diana (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

Jones, Mr Marcus (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household)

Lewis, Clive (Norwich South) (Lab)

† Madders, Justin (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

† Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Mann, Scott (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

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

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

Sharma, Mr Virendra (Ealing, Southall) (Lab)

Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Nicholas Taylor, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 13 July 2021

[Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]

Draft Health Security (EU Exit) Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I remind Members about social distancing regulations. Spaces available to Members are clearly marked. Mr Speaker has stated that masks should be worn in Committee, when Members are not speaking. Hansard colleagues would be grateful if Members sent any speaking notes to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Health Security (EU Exit) Regulations 2021.

It is a pleasure not only to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mrs Murray, but to see you in person again—it has been a long time.

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that sharing information in order to co-ordinate health protection activity between all parts of the UK, as well as internationally, is critical in ensuring that we can effectively prevent and respond to serious cross-border health threats. That has been evident to us all, and of particular importance, during the pandemic. The regulations will ensure that such necessary co-ordination is maintained following our departure from the EU, and will enable us to continue to deliver high levels of human health protection across the whole UK. They modify retained EU law on health security to establish a stand-alone UK-wide regime.

The regulations form part of broader ongoing work to improve our health security capabilities, including through the establishment of the new UK health security agency, which will be fully operational from 1 October 2021. UKHSA will combine key elements of Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre. It will provide overarching leadership to strengthen partnership working and the response at local, regional and national levels. UKHSA will be this country’s permanent organisation to build standing capacity to plan for, prevent and respond to threats to health. It will be able to deploy the full weight of our analytic and genomic capability on infectious diseases. It will work collaboratively with partners around the world to lead the UK’s global contribution to health security.

The regulations will support UKHSA, alongside Public Health Wales, Public Health Scotland and the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland, in quickly identifying and responding to a wide range of health threats. They will ensure that we maintain a robust and consistent UK-wide approach to health security that enables international working and links to international surveillance systems, which is so important.

I will briefly set out a little context. As hon. Members will know, on 24 December 2020, the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement was announced. These regulations will support the UK in meeting the health security arrangements in that agreement. The TCA provides a strong basis for the UK and the EU to continue to co-operate closely on health security, including: a commitment to inform each other when new public health threats are identified in the UK or the EU; ad hoc UK access to the EU’s database for sharing alerts, known as the early warning and response system; a provision for the UK to attend the EU Health Security Committee; and a commitment to co-operation between the UK and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, including through the inclusion of a memorandum of understanding, which is being negotiated. It is because of these arrangements that the UK was given access to the EWRS for covid-19 from 1 January 2021, ensuring continuity after we left the EU, and we attend the Health Security Committee. Our current access has avoided any disruption in the flow of public health data during the pandemic.

While we were a member state, the UK was required to co-ordinate with the EU, and to share with it certain types of information on health protection, such as early alerts on newly identified threats. As health protection is predominantly a devolved competence in the UK, in order to effectively meet these obligations, the four UK nations had to co-ordinate and share the required information with Public Health England, which is the UK’s focal point for communication with the EU. However, following the end of the transition period, this retained EU law relating to health security no longer operates effectively to set rules for such co-ordination on a UK-wide basis. Therefore, the proposed regulations modify and transfer functions previously carried out by the EU to a new UK health protection committee and to UKHSA, working in co-operation with their counterpart organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Let me set out the key ways in which the regulations do this.

First, we recognise the importance of early alerting. That has been clearly illustrated by the pandemic. It is imperative that when a threat is identified, information is rapidly shared to enable the quick implementation of control measures that will reduce transmission rates in the general population and protect individuals. To ensure we have a robust early alerting system in the UK, these regulations require the UK’s public health agencies to notify the UK’s focal point—PHE, which will become UKHSA—within 24 hours of any new threats being identified.

For the purpose of these regulations, PHE is designated the UK’s focal point, with that function transferring to UKHSA on 1 October. In this role, UKHSA will be responsible for receiving alert notifications of serious cross-border threats to health from the different parts of the UK, and then working jointly with them to conduct rapid risk assessments and put in place co-ordinated response measures as necessary.

To meet our obligations under the TCA, UKHSA must notify the EU of any threats occurring in the UK that may present a risk to EU member states. In return, the EU will notify the UK of any emerging threat in Europe that may present a risk to us. If the UK and the EU agree that it would be beneficial for the UK to have access to EWRS for any threat, and to sit on that committee, UKHSA will be responsible for uploading and receiving related information to ensure continuity of flow.

Secondly, it is critical that we continue to conduct UK-wide epidemiological surveillance on known communicable diseases. The regulations therefore make provision for the UK’s four public health agencies to conduct surveillance of communicable diseases on a shared list and related special health matters.

Thirdly, the regulations require the UK Government, the devolved Administrations and the UK’s public health agencies to consult each other with a view to co-ordinating their respective monitoring, early warnings and responses to serious cross-border health threats. They must inform each other of any substantial revisions to preparedness and response planning.

Finally, to support the implementation and functioning of these regulations, we are establishing the UK health protection committee. The committee will regularly meet representatives from all parts of the UK, and will provide advice on the list of communicable diseases and related special health matters that are subject to UK-wide surveillance, and on the associated operational procedures. The committee will be accountable to the UK chief medical officers group.

As health security is an area of devolved competence, we have obtained formal consent for these regulations from the devolved Administrations, as the shadow Minister and the Committee would expect. In parallel, we are working together to develop a common framework that will further strengthen UK-wide governance arrangements on the prevention and control of serious cross-border health threats to complement these regulations.

To conclude, I must emphasise that these regulations are critical in ensuring that we continue to take a consistent and collaborative approach to health security in all parts of the UK and, importantly, with our European friends and neighbours. The regulations will help ensure that the UK can meet the obligations on health security that we recently agreed in the TCA, and represent an important step forward in the protection of our citizens and those across Europe.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mrs Murray. I thank the Minister for his introduction, and for setting out the effect of the regulations. As he says, in the last 18 months, we have all agreed that we cannot fight transmissible disease alone. We see that in the worldwide effort to develop a vaccine, in the way that covid has gone around the world in waves, and in the fact that most countries with the lowest deaths have been those with the strongest border controls. In many examples, the greater interconnectivity of the world has been one of the biggest challenges, as well as one of the biggest opportunities.

Turning to the substance of the regulations, the Minister will no doubt be aware of the comments by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, as set out in the explanatory memorandum:

“Although the Explanatory Memorandum (EM) provided is full of information on future EU-relations, it does perhaps overestimate the average reader’s knowledge of the UK’s plans…Because of the pandemic, coordination of health surveillance is more important than usually, and an EM needs to make it absolutely clear to the House what it is being asked to agree to.”

I have had many concerns about the detail of regulations that have been introduced, so this is not a new issue. The Minister did a valiant job of filling in the gaps, although his speech was a little acronym-heavy at times, but we have some questions outstanding.

We no longer have unconditional access to the EU’s early warning and response system, or the EWRS, as the Minister preferred to call it. The trade and co-operation agreement states that the UK may be granted access to that system on an ad-hoc basis on written request. Will he set out the fall-back position if there is disagreement about a request, or if there is delay in responding to such requests?

The Minister referred to the need for early warnings and early responses. Sometimes, early warnings and an early response are not what we get, although they are clearly critical. Does he have anything to say about how we would deal with that situation? We would hope, of course, never to be in that position, but it is important to understand the Government’s thinking about safeguards in those circumstances. There was also no reference to the World Health Organisation’s role in all this. I wonder whether he can say anything about that.

As we heard, the draft regulations refer to the newly created UK health security agency, or UKHSA, as it will no doubt be commonly known. It will of course undertake functions in relation to future infectious disease threats, but there are still gaps in the detail of how that will work. The Opposition are concerned that the decision to abolish Public Health England and give its role to a security-focused agency could result in important areas of public health not getting the focus and attention that they need. Social inequalities have been clearly exposed by covid, and life expectancy has stalled for almost a decade. Those matters are far too important to be a footnote in UKHSA’s remit, so anything that the Minister can say about that, or even when we can expect more detailed debate about the agency’s role, would be appreciated.

Finally, our four nations continuing to work very closely is just as important as international co-operation. The draft regulations, as the Minister pointed out, set up some measures in respect of that, but putting them into practice is a different thing. There have been many examples over the past 15 months of divergence in the measures taken against covid. Often it is a difference of tone; sometimes it is a difference in timing. Whatever it is, I am afraid that those differences do not recognise that the world is greatly interconnected, and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are even more so.

I give one current example: face coverings on public transport, which have been debated recently. I will not drag the Minister into a debate about whether those laws should remain in place, as that is clearly outside the scope of the draft regulations, but it is a very pertinent example of how closer working really should be aimed for. My constituency of Ellesmere Port and Neston is very close to the Welsh border. Many people on both sides of that border travel across it to work. If I were to get on a train to Wales, because of the different approaches to public health there, I would not be legally required to wear a face covering until I reached the Welsh border, but would have to put one on once I got over it. Clearly, that is nonsense position. I think all of us here hope that people will continue to take sensible precautions, and will wear a face covering on public transport, whatever the legal default position. That is a good example of why it is far better for us to work together more closely on public health measures.

Finally, what can be done to ensure that the ambition of joined-up thinking clearly set out in the regulations is reached? In conclusion, we will not oppose the regulations, but I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to my questions.

I am grateful to the shadow Minister for a well researched and pragmatic response to the regulations; it was typical of the responses that he has given on multiple Delegated Legislation Committees we have been on together. We may not agree on everything, but I agree with him on a huge amount in this case. I suspect that, in this space, we agree on rather more than many might suspect. He is right to highlight that diseases, including the virus in this pandemic, do not respect borders. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to work together—not just internationally, but as he says, with our friends and colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions. He mentioned the explanatory memorandum; he and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee make a fair point. I suspect that because we all consider regulations almost every week—or feel like we do—the detail under- pinning them is etched on our minds. However, the Committee is right that the explanatory memorandum’s purpose is to make that accessible to members of the public, and Members of the House who may come to these matters afresh. I hope that in my remarks I added a little flesh to the bones of how this will work and what sits behind the regulations.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the EWRS, the Health Security Committee in Europe and how it will work—that is, how getting access worked this time; he also asked what would happen and what the fallback position was if access were refused. We received confirmation of the TCA over Christmas and new year; at the start of this year, I instructed officials to formally request continued access to EWRS and to the committee. If I recall, that was granted within a matter of hours, if not minutes. At a pragmatic level, therefore, there is genuine recognition and desire from both the EU and the UK to work in a sensible, grown-up way and achieve the results that all our citizens expect.

The hon. Gentleman asked “What if?”, which is fair. The TCA provides a framework for the UK to request access where we think it is in our interest to do so in responding to a serious cross-border threat to health. If the EU rejected that request—on the basis of experience, I would not expect that—the UK would continue to receive the critical information and notifications on public health risks and incidents through our parallel access to alternative international surveillance systems, such as the event management system operated by the World Health Organisation.

That takes me to the hon. Gentleman’s second point, which was about the WHO. We are talking about additionality; the measures in no way replace our commitment to working with the WHO through the Epidemic Intelligence Service, and through our obligation to comply with International Health Regulations 2005, which link closely with the WHO’s work. Our commitment to working collaboratively and openly with the WHO remains and is parallel to what we seek to do with the regulations.

The shadow Minister asked why we are putting UKHSA together, and voiced his concern that it might switch the focus to health security, and away from broader public health considerations. One of the reasons why we are putting it together is that over the past year, we have taken a huge step forward in our diagnostic and testing capability in order to meet the challenges of this pandemic. The measures will bring that test and trace capability into a new organisation, and establish it formally as a proper agency of Government, with the appropriate internal Government arrangements to ensure that it is joined up.

On the hon. Gentleman’s second point, yes, health security is hugely important; that is obviously top of our mind at the moment, given what the country and the world has seen over the past 15 months. As a former council cabinet member for adult social care and health, including public health, I recognise the importance of broader drivers of public health outcomes, and of reducing health inequalities, and UKHSA will absolutely continue to focus on that in parallel with its health security responsibilities.

On the point about debate, the shadow Minister and the Opposition Back Benchers are always welcome to seek a debate on this subject; I say that with relaxed confidence, because I suspect I would not be the Minister answering. Those routes are, of course, open to him on the Front Bench and to Opposition Back Benchers.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the need for internal UK co-operation to match the openness with our EU friends and colleagues. He is absolutely right. That is one of the reasons why I was so keen, as he would expect—we were obliged to, but it was the right thing to do—to engage with the DAs on these regulations to make sure that they work. We are not replacing the public health bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; they will work with PHE, and then UKHSA. They will be full partners in that, because of course we will have to co-operate. They will have an equal say on which diseases go on the list of those we monitor, those we take action against, and those we transmit information on. That is the national list, but that does not prevent a devolved Administration from being able to decide to monitor an additional disease in its territory, so the devolution settlement is respected.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned divergence of tone and timing on occasion during the pandemic. That is a reflection of the fact that going into a set of regulations, it is very easy to move forward as one, but as he said, areas come out of regulations in different ways and at different times, to reflect what is going on in different parts of the country. We have seen that, and we have seen slight tonal differences, but looking at this from within the Department of Health and Social Care, I see that whatever the rhetoric at political level, there has been incredibly effective co-operation beneath the surface, at medical expert and official level, to make sure that the UK continues to do everything that it can to keep citizens safe, wherever they live.

To conclude, as the shadow Minister said, diseases do not respect borders. It is absolutely right that we co-operate internationally and across the United Kingdom. We negotiated a good deal with the EU in respect of the TCA and health security; the regulations give effect to the deal, and will help protect our citizens for many years to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: †Mr Philip Hollobone

Byrne, Liam (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)

Creasy, Stella (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op)

Davies, David T. C. (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales)

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

Duguid, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Fletcher, Mark (Bolsover) (Con)

Freer, Mike (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)

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

† Maclean, Rachel (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

Osborne, Kate (Jarrow) (Lab)

Richards, Nicola (West Bromwich East) (Con)

† Rimmer, Ms Marie (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)

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

Sambrook, Gary (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)

Spellar, John (Warley) (Lab)

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

George Wilson, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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

Ferrier, Margaret (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 13 July 2021

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Draft Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I would like to remind hon. Members to observe social distancing and only to sit in places that are clearly marked. I would also like to remind Members that Mr Speaker has stated that masks should be worn in Committee unless Members are speaking or if they are medically exempt. Hansard colleagues would be most grateful if Members could send their speaking notes to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

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

The regulations that we are considering today will support the continued smooth operation of essential channel tunnel traffic and provide long-term certainty, clarity and confidence to cross-border operators, both current and prospective, regarding the future operator licensing framework for the channel tunnel. They will do so by making the necessary legislative amendments to enable the implementation of a bilateral agreement between the UK and France on the recognition of rail operator licences for the channel tunnel.

The regulations amend the Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2005, which updated the rules for the licensing of rail operators in Great Britain by introducing a new EU form of licence. That was done to reflect changes to EU operator licensing laws. The regulations also amend the Railway (Licensing of Railway Undertakings) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which were introduced to correct deficiencies in the 2005 regulations arising from the UK’s departure from the European Union. As well as converting the EU form of licences issued by the Office of Rail and Road to “railway undertaking licences”, the 2019 regulations provided for the continued recognition in GB of European licences for a period of two years from exit day, that is until 31 January 2022, to facilitate a smooth transition.

Following the end of the transition period, there is no longer automatic mutual recognition of licences between the UK and the EU. The recognition of UK licences for the channel tunnel is currently provided for by temporary contingency arrangements, which expire on 30 September 2021.

The operator licensing regulations, and the proposed bilateral agreement that they will implement, will ensure the continued recognition of operator licences for the channel tunnel when the current temporary arrangements expire. That will have a significant positive impact on cross-border operators, providing them with certainty and reducing the administrative burdens on them considerably by enabling them to operate within the channel tunnel and the cross-border area without the need to hold two separate licences, one issued in GB and one in the European economic area.

Under the regulations, EU licences will be recognised up to the first border crossing station in the UK only, which is Dollands Moor for freight and Ashford International for passenger services. That mirrors the extent of recognition of UK licences in French territory under the proposed bilateral agreement and will ensure equivalence. The regulations, and by extension the agreement that they will implement, are fully compatible with the Government’s fundamental red lines in the channel tunnel negotiations with France, which are designed to support the continuation of cross-border services while conferring no role for the EU courts or the European Rail Agency in UK territory and avoiding dynamic alignment with EU law.

Information-sharing provisions are included in the regulations to give effect to requirements of the proposed bilateral agreement. Under those requirements, the Office of Rail and Road will be able to share relevant information with the equivalent French authorities, for example regarding the validity of cross-border operator licences.

The regulations will also ensure a level playing field regarding the licensing requirements for operators on the UK and French sides of the channel tunnel and cross-border area. They will do so by disapplying the current UK requirement to hold a statement of national regulatory provisions, which covers issues such as third-party insurance for EU-licensed operators of channel tunnel services up to Dollands Moor or Ashford International only. They will ensure no equivalent additional licensing requirements will be in place for UK licensed operators on the French side. We are clear that that change will have no impact in practice on passengers or freight.

The regulations will reduce administrative burdens on cross-border operators and enable them to plan their businesses into the future with confidence. Most importantly, they will support the long-term continued smooth operation of cross-border services through the channel tunnel, which, as I am sure hon. Members agree, bring significant economic and social benefits to the UK.

I commend the regulations to the Committee.

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

I want to address the future of rail passenger and freight services using the channel tunnel and the high-speed link to London. The statutory instrument is all about the licensing arrangements for the operation of the services, but surely the more salient question is whether there will be a viable service to license. The Opposition firmly believe that the Eurostar service has a central role to play in our post-pandemic transport system, and we support the shift of international passengers from air to rail wherever possible.

High-speed rail is responsible for 80% less carbon emissions than the alternatives and I have been consistently calling for a huge rolling programme of electrification across the rail network, and a post-diesel railway. High Speed 1 must remain a central part of that clean, green future; it was the first high-speed link, but it must be the first of many across the UK. And yet the Eurostar service is under threat.

There is a real danger that the licensing regime under consideration today will have nothing to license if Eurostar goes under. The facts are stark: a 95% fall in demand; one service a day, instead of 50; a collapse in revenue from £1 billion in 2019 to just £180 million a year later; and the company is struggling with huge debts and the need to raise finance from shareholders and loan facilities. For example, in May this year the shadow Transport Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), wrote to the Transport Secretary to point out that stations in Kent have been closed for the Eurostar service; UK jobs lost; and that the company was operating at less than 3% of its normal revenues.

The situation is not merely one in which Ministers are slow to respond, intransigent or that the focus has been elsewhere. No, it is much worse than that. The Secretary of State’s appearance before the Select Committee on Transport let the cat out of the bag when he said:

“It is not our company to rescue”.

It is true that the Government divested themselves of their shares in Eurostar back in 2015, but privatising the British people’s share of that vital public service has left us without the levers to protect it. Yet again, we witness privatisation driven by ideology, not practical common sense. Today, it is simply not good enough for Ministers to divest themselves of all responsibility and to turn their backs.

We will abstain on the SI. I invite the Minister to address my questions. Does she see a long-term future for Eurostar? What communications has she had with her French counterparts? What discussions have Transport Ministers had with the Treasury to devise a rescue package? Will she guarantee today that Eurostar will not collapse under her watch?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the Minister for her opening remarks.

The regulations we are considering relate to an issue on which the Select Committee on European Scrutiny, of which I am a member, recently reported, namely, the Government’s plans for the operation of the channel tunnel now that the UK has left the EU. Before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, EU law applied in specific areas on the fixed link, and Brexit necessitated new arrangements. The economic and societal importance of the channel tunnel cannot be overstated, and I am pleased that the Government have introduced the regulations.

I thank the Minister for writing to the European Scrutiny Committee and providing draft copies of the regulations. As the Minister will recall, she gave evidence to the Committee on the issue in December when we expressed our particular concerns about the European Commission’s suggestions for how the channel tunnel could operate after Brexit. As the regulations illustrate, a solution has been reached directly with France, and I note that all affected channel tunnel stakeholders and rail industry experts strongly support the regulations and recognise their importance to securing the continued smooth functioning of channel tunnel services. Any concerns that were raised were either outside the scope of the regulations or related to the geographical scope of recognition in the UK.

Can the Minister update the Committee on the progress of negotiations with France? Will further regulations be required to give effect to new arrangements for the channel tunnel? If so, can she provide further details?

I thank hon. Members for their consideration of the draft regulations and for their helpful, constructive comments and questions. I thank my opposite number, hon. Member for Slough, for supporting the regulations contained in the SI.

The regulations will make the necessary changes to ensure that the UK is able to implement an agreement with France on the recognition of rail operator licences for the channel tunnel. That will ensure a long-term future for those vital Eurostar services, as the hon. Gentleman said. He will be in doubt of the Government’s commitment to the green industrial revolution and of transport and the rail sector’s contribution to decarbonising our economy. That is why we have set out a number of ambitious plans, and will be publishing our transport decarbonisation plan shortly. That will set out a holistic view for the rail sector.

The hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) asked for detail on further regulations. Ongoing negotiations are being conducted with the French to cover all the regulatory structures that we need and I am very happy to write to her Committee as those talks progress.

The hon. Member for Slough asked about financial support, and although that is outside the scope of today’s debate, the Government are clear that all companies must have exhausted all other options before being considered for financial support from British taxpayers. Any support must be given on terms that protect the taxpayer, so we welcome the announcement from the company, its shareholders and lenders about a new financing package which will help to secure the company’s future. We have continual discussions with all stakeholders, including the operators. We believe that the regulations allow cross-border operators to continue operating as they do now, providing certainty, clarity and confidence.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their consideration of the regulations and I hope that they can join me in supporting them.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Road Vehicle Carbon Dioxide emission performance standards (cars and vans) (amendment) (eu exit) regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: †Rushanara Ali

Abrahams, Debbie (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)

Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

Champion, Sarah (Rotherham) (Lab)

Dowd, Peter (Bootle) (Lab)

Duguid, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

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

Hendrick, Sir Mark (Preston) (Lab/Co-op)

Jones, Mr Marcus (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household)

† McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol East) (Lab)

† Maclean, Rachel (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Mann, Scott (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Rimmer, Ms Marie (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)

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

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

Joanna Dodd, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 13 July 2021

[Rushanara Ali in the Chair]

Draft Road Vehicle Carbon Dioxide Emission Performance Standards (Cars and Vans) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021

Some quick announcements: Mr Speaker has said that masks should be worn in Committee, except when Members are speaking or unless they are exempt. Please send your speaking notes to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Road Vehicle Carbon Dioxide Emission Performance Standards (Cars and Vans) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ali.

The draft regulations will be made under the powers provided by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to deal with matters arising from the Northern Ireland protocol. The statutory instrument amends regulation 2019/631 and regulation 114/2013, as amended by a prior EU exit SI. The regulations set the carbon dioxide emission standards for new cars and vans in Great Britain, as well as the rules for applying for a derogated target.

Regulation 2019/631, as amended, currently sets manufacturers of new cars and vans in Great Britain CO2 emission reduction targets and allows for assessment with those targets. The provisions were set in Great Britain only as the regulations were originally listed in annex 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol, meaning Northern Ireland would continue to be captured by the EU regime following the transition period.

The current fleet average CO2 emission reduction target for cars is 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre and for vans it is 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Manufacturers can still be set individual targets above or below those figures providing that they average out to the fleet average targets, as aforementioned. Individual targets are based on the mass of a manufacturer’s fleet compared with the average mass of the entire GB fleet. The heavier the fleet, the higher the target and vice versa. The fleet average targets for both cars and vans will further tighten in 2025 by 15% and in 2030 by 31% for vans, and 37.5% for cars, when compared with the 2021 baseline. Fines, called excess emission premiums, are levied for non-compliance with CO2 targets. Flexibilities exist within the regulation to help the manufacturers reach their target.

One such flexibility enables smaller manufacturers to apply for a derogation from the “normal” target, and be given one that is more in line with their technical and economic capability. Pooling is another flexibility by which manufacturers can join together for the purposes of the regulation and be given one CO2 target. Manufacturers can also receive a limited amount of credits for deploying CO2-reducing technologies in their vehicles, such as LED bulbs.

Further, more credits can be received up to a certain value if a manufacturer puts more zero and low-emissions vehicles on the market. Those are called super-credits and are only available from 2021 to 2022.

Regulation 114/2013, as amended, is a tertiary piece of legislation that further sets out the rules and procedures for manufacturers when applying for a derogated target. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retained EU regulation 2019/631 and 114/2013 in their entirety into UK law. Those regulations were corrected for by a prior EU exit SI, SI 2020/1418, which set obligations in the GB only.

The EU regulations were removed from annex 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol on 17 December 2020, leaving Northern Ireland without regulation. The draft instrument we are considering extends the regulations to Northern Ireland from 1 September, in effect creating a UK-wide regime. The amendments throughout the regulations primarily swap references to GB for UK. However, an additional provision was added stating that new car and van registrations in Northern Ireland prior to 1 September were out of scope of the regulations, including all CO2 target calculations. The SI is essential to ensuring that CO2 emissions from new cars and vans in Northern Ireland are regulated and held to the same standards as elsewhere in the UK.

The regulations before the Committee are essential to ensuring that the UK achieves its net-zero carbon ambitions and legally binding carbon budgets. I hope that colleagues will join me in supporting those regulations, and I commend them to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Ali.

As we know, transport is the single largest contributor to UK emissions. That was the case before the pandemic and continues to be case even with the significant drop in journeys taken during lockdowns. We need to act, and I look forward to seeing, finally, the much delayed transport decarbonisation plan, which I gather will be published tomorrow, accompanied by a statement to the House.

Improving the CO2 performance standards for cars and vans is an important part of keeping emissions from surface transport in check, and getting manufacturers to reduce the carbon footprint of their vehicles. Following our departure from the EU and the end of the transition period, we have now this legislation before us. Labour did not object when the EU emission performance standards were rolled over, and we will similarly support the SI today, as it merely extends those standards to Northern Ireland, which has previously abided by the relevant EU regulations.

I continue to have concerns, however, about the lack of ambition that accompanied the rolling over of the EU standards. The EU regulations saw manufacturers given CO2 targets based on the average mass of their fleet compared with the average mass of the EU fleet, and that continues to be the case. However, the UK’s average vehicle weight is above the EU average, meaning that UK standards are now weaker than they would have been if the UK average weight had been used instead.

It is disappointing to note that, rather than embracing strengthened emission standards, the Government opted to retain the weaker formula, despite our changing political circumstances. The Government were fully aware of this issue because it was highlighted in responses to their consultation. As I understand it, they dismissed the alternative as “too challenging”. Unfortunately, that appears to be another instance of the Government shying away from more ambitious action, despite their failure to address transport emissions over the past decade. Those emissions fell only 1% between 2009 and 2019. Even with the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles, we are still facing nine years of new polluting vehicles making their way to UK roads—14 years if we include hybrids.

The Climate Change Committee recently highlighted how much could and should be done by the Government. In its annual progress report, it called for ambitious regulations on new car and van CO2 intensities, requiring a 55% reduction by 2025 and a 97% reduction by 2030. That is the level of ambition that we need to deliver the green transport of the future, yet all we have today is a reiteration of the status quo that has failed to make a dent in our emissions. There is still time to change that, and I would welcome the Minister taking the opportunity to spell out now what will be done to increase UK ambitions on surface transport emissions.

Labour recognise the necessity of the regulations and agree that they should be extended to Northern Ireland, and we will give our support to today’s measure. However, we fully support the CCC and other environmental stakeholders in their desire to see much more from the Government to address emissions and pollution from cars and vans.

I sincerely thank the hon. Lady for her support for the regulations, just as she supported the relevant prior legislation and accompanying regulations.

The hon. Lady is right to say that tomorrow the Government will be publishing our transport decarbonisation plan, which takes into account the advice from the Climate Change Committee, which she and I have discussed on many occasions. She will see from that plan the full detail of how we intend to meet our environmental objectives for the transport sector.

On regulations, we have always been clear that when we left the EU, we would strengthen our CO2 emissions reductions regime. In the light of that, we have brought forward our 2030-35 phase-out date—that would not have been possible were we still EU members. We are leading the world in terms of setting our objectives and phase-out dates. There will be much more detail in our transport decarbonisation plan, which will answer the other questions that the hon. Lady put to me.

The SI is necessary to ensure that the emissions from new cars and vans in Northern Ireland are subject to the same stringent regulation as elsewhere in the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.