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General Committees

Debated on Wednesday 8 December 2021

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Philip Davies

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

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Clarke-Smith, Brendan (Bassetlaw) (Con)

† Docherty-Hughes, Martin (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)

† Frazer, Lucy (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

† Huq, Dr Rupa (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)

† Johnson, Dr Caroline (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

† Lewer, Andrew (Northampton South) (Con)

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

† Marson, Julie (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)

† Murray, James (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Owen, Sarah (Luton North) (Lab)

† Smith, Greg (Buckingham) (Con)

Sultana, Zarah (Coventry South) (Lab)

Wakeford, Christian (Bury South) (Con)

† Whittingdale, Mr John (Maldon) (Con)

† Yasin, Mohammad (Bedford) (Lab)

Guy Mathers, Niamh McEvoy, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 8 December 2021

[Philip Davies in the Chair]

Draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

I remind Members that House of Commons Commission guidance expects people to wear face coverings and to maintain distancing as far as possible. Please give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. That can be done at the testing centre on the estate or at home. Hansard colleagues will be grateful if Members send any speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. Similarly, officials in the Public Gallery should communicate electronically with Ministers.

I beg to move,

That the Cttee has considered the draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2021.

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

The primary aim of the draft statutory instrument is to support businesses’ recovery from the pandemic by delaying for six months the introduction of safety and security declarations on the movement of goods to Great Britain. Before I speak to the SI in detail, I will set out the system operated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

The UK’s customs, safety and security regime is based on the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE framework of standards, which sets out a series of standards to support and facilitate secure supply chains and trade at the global level. Under the framework, goods authorities must collect and risk assess goods data before goods arrive in or depart from their customs territory. In the UK, that information is provided in the form of safety and security declarations. The declarations are usually submitted by the carrier or haulier. The responsibility may be passed to a third party, such as a customs intermediary.

Before the UK left the European Union, the safety and security declarations were not required for imports to and from the EU. The EU, as the Committee knows, forms a single safety and security zone. While the UK was part of the EU, only goods entering or leaving the EU were required to submit safety and security declarations. As the UK is no longer in the EU, since the end of the transition period the Government have been introducing new customs controls for EU imports gradually, to give businesses time to prepare for the new requirements. As part of that, and to account for the unforeseen impact on traders of the pandemic, the Government have waived the requirement for safety and security declarations on goods imported from the EU and other territories, such as Norway and Switzerland, where such declarations would not have been required before the end of the transition period. That waiver runs until 31 December this year.

In September this year, the Government announced their intention to grant a further extension before the introduction of the safety and security declaration requirements. The pandemic has had longer lasting impacts on businesses in the UK and the EU than many observers expected in March. There are also pressures on global supply chains caused by a wide range of factors, including the pandemic. The extension is designed to provide additional support to businesses, which face challenges from unprecedented and long-lasting disruption caused by covid and the related impacts on global supply chains. The draft instrument will therefore extend the waiver for safety and security declaration requirements for goods imported into Great Britain from places where such declarations were not required before the end of the transition period. The extension is for six months, so the waiver will last until the end of June 2022. Safety and security declarations will be required for such imports from 1 July 2022.

Border Force will continue to undertake intelligence-led risk assessments of imports into Great Britain. Safety and security declarations were not required for imports from the EU before exit day. As a result, the extension simply maintains the status quo. Existing intelligence sources will continue to be used to secure our borders in the same way as they are now. There is no significant increase in security risk for the UK as a result of the waiver.

The draft instrument does not affect safety and security requirements in Northern Ireland. Under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, Northern Ireland remains aligned with the EU’s safety and security zone. That means that there are no safety and security requirements for goods moved between Northern Ireland and the EU. The instrument also has no effect on safety and security declaration requirements for goods imported from the rest of the world, for which declarations will continue to be required.

The statutory instrument grants a temporary waiver on the requirement to submit safety and security declarations for goods moved into Great Britain from the EU. It will allow us to support businesses affected by covid and related global supply chain issues, while balancing the need to maintain security standards within Great Britain. I hope therefore that colleagues will join me in supporting the draft regulations, which I commend to the Committee.

Thank you very much, Mr Davies, for the opportunity to respond to this delegated legislation on behalf of the Opposition.

As we have heard, the draft regulations relate to the customs safety and security procedures that apply to the import of goods to the UK from the EU following the end of the transition period. The draft regulations seek to waive temporarily—I use that word with caution—certain customs requirements for goods entering the UK. They extend a previous waiver of the requirement to lodge an entry summary declaration for goods coming into the UK from the EU, and other countries for which a declaration was not required before the UK’s exit from the EU.

We recognise that the waiver may help businesses to avoid extra administrative burdens for now, and that the Government may feel that they need to take action to mitigate delays and avoid disruption to the import of goods to the UK, particularly as so many businesses are feeling the effects of the supply chain crisis and depleted workforces. However, the legislation sits in the context of a series of waivers and waiver extensions on customs oversight that raise serious questions about not only the Government’s competence but their commitment to keeping our borders secure.

After we left the EU and the transition period ended, new security requirements were supposed to be in place for goods entering the UK. The new arrangements were supposed to require pre-arrival safety and security entry summary declarations in respect of goods arriving in Great Britain from the EU’s customs territory; however, the Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 waived that requirement for six months, from 1 January 2021 until 30 June 2021. The Government’s explanatory memorandum to those regulations clearly acknowledged that the information on the safety and security declarations would be

“analysed by our border agencies to…prevent illegal goods from entering.”

Yet, as the June 2021 end of the waiver approached and the security measures were supposed to come into force, I was in Committee with the previous Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), debating the new Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2021, which sought an extension of the waiver on security measures by another six months to 1 January 2022. I questioned him on whether that would be the last extension. He responded that

“it is absolutely not the plan that the regulations should be further extended, and we send that strong and firm signal to international neighbours and industry.”—[Official Report, Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee, 23 June 2021; c. 6.]

Yet here we are again, this time debating the draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2021, through which the Government now seek to further extend the waiver for safety and security declarations for another six months, until 30 June 2022.

The repeated extension of the waiver is not the only way in which the Government’s seemingly cavalier approach to customs is having an impact on security at our borders. In December last year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) was in Committee to consider the Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which provided a six-month waiver extension on exports from the UK to the EU. The Government’s explanatory memorandum to those regulations warned:

“There may be risks associated with using these powers to implement any temporary waivers; for example, to border security.”

The truth is that the Government’s own documents recognise that the security declarations being pushed aside today are needed by our border agencies to monitor what goods are coming across the UK border and to prevent illegal goods from entering; yet Ministers have been prepared to waive the need for those declarations again and again. It is astonishing that today is the third time that Ministers have had to waive border security requirements for goods coming into our country. As I said, it raises questions about not only the Government’s competence but their approach to national security.

Perhaps people have forgiven the Government for a few months’ delay introducing the measures after the end of the transition period, but today the Government are rubber stamping at least a year and half of delay to putting the safety and security declarations in place. The Government are leaving our border agencies without the tools they need to prevent illegal goods entering our country. That is a careless approach to national security and another broken promise.

In the explanatory memorandum, the Government try hard to downplay the impact of the extension. I note that it no longer mentions the threat of illegal goods entering our country. It says that no impact assessment has been prepared because the instrument simply extends existing arrangements. I would be grateful if the Financial Secretary set out whether she believes safety and security declarations are important. Does she agree with the following phrase from the Government’s explanatory memorandum to the Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2019? It states:

“Goods imported to the UK from the EU and other nations will require a safety and security declaration. The information on the declaration can then be risk analysed by our border agencies to monitor what goods are coming across the UK border and prevent illegal goods from entering.”

Assuming she still believes that safety and security declarations are important, and assuming she stands by that phrase from the 2019 explanatory memorandum, I would be grateful if she acknowledged that the repeated extension of waivers on the requirement of safety and security declarations is having an impact on border agencies’ work. Will this extension be the very last?

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury knows, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Britain regaining its independence by leaving the European Union. I am very much in favour of our taking advantage of the freedoms that gives us either to remove unnecessary bureaucratic regulation or to put in place checks that we were prevented from doing while we were a member state. I would be grateful if she told us whether there is information to suggest that when we were not able to impose checks as a result of our membership, dangerous goods were entering this country. If that was not the case, I would ask why we need to impose checks where they did not previously exist, which are bound to increase to some extent the burden on business. I am happy to support the imposition of checks if we have knowledge that the absence of those checks did increase the risk to the citizens of this country.

It is good to see you in the Chair, Mr Davies. I have a few points for the Minister. It was interesting that they wanted to be clear that the checks were not required before we left the European Union. That is a basic reality. I wish to draw clarity with the OBR’s statement that, so far, the data we have seen on the impact of Brexit, especially taking into account the fact that the new trading arrangements came in in January, is broadly consistent with previous assumptions that our long-run GDP would be reduced by around 4%. That is double the impact of covid on the economy.

It was notable that the Minister utilised the terms “Great Britain” or “UK”, but when she mentioned Northern Ireland in relation to the protocol, she did not mention the fact that it has full access to the single market and has seen an increase in trade with the rest of the European Union, while the rest of the UK has seen a dramatic decrease. I bring to the Minister’s attention the points made by the National Farmers’ Union in Scotland that the UK Government’s decision to further delay the introduction of border controls on imports from the EU is, at least from their perspective, a

“bitter blow to Scottish farmers”.

Will the Minister accept the OBR’s statement, recognise the improvement for Northern Ireland from its full access to the single market, and recognise the grave concerns held by farmers in Scotland?

Let me respond briefly. The hon. Member for Ealing North spent some time talking about security. He will note that these requirements were not in place before, so this waiver simply maintains the status quo. There is therefore no additional risk in continuing it. I am sure that he is aware, from having listened to my predecessor in previous debates, that Border Force will continue to undertake intelligence-led risk assessments of imports into GB, as it has done during the current waiver period. I am happy to give him that reassurance.

I must press the Minister on that point. Surely she cannot have it both ways. To follow on from the point made by the right hon. Member for Maldon, either the requirements are necessary, in which case their delay is having an impact, or they are not necessary, which raises the question of why we are here at all.

I am happy to answer that point and those made by my right hon. Friend at the same time. We need to bring in the checks, as well as the staged controls, which we committed to in January, because we are required to do so for customs in the round under the terms of our arrangements. I was addressing the element of security risk. As we are simply maintaining the status quo, there is no additional risk in continuing that arrangement.

I will touch on border security more broadly in terms of migration. Border Force regularly reviews its capacity, plans and resources, and it deploys and recruits staff when necessary to maintain border security. The reason why we are not bringing in and extending those arrangements at this time is simply to do with timing and the disruption that has hit businesses so far.

The hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire mentioned a whole range of issues that really relate to Brexit as a whole. That decision has passed; we have left the EU and we are now dealing with the arrangements that we need to bring in as a result of that decision.

The Minister must recognise the point made by the OBR. Also, GB may have left the European Union, but Northern Ireland has full access to the single market.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, one of the arguments put forward at the time of the referendum was about the opportunity to trade not only with the EU, but outside the EU. He will know that we have entered into more than 60 trade agreements with partners across the world, and that trade with those countries is encouraging. For all those reasons, I comment the draft instrument to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Consumer Scotland Act 2020 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mrs Sheryll Murray

Begum, Apsana (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Cates, Miriam (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)

† Davies, Dr James (Vale of Clwyd) (Con)

† Edwards, Ruth (Rushcliffe) (Con)

† Esterson, Bill (Sefton Central) (Lab)

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

† Hudson, Dr Neil (Penrith and The Border) (Con)

Johnson, Kim (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)

† Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

† Kruger, Danny (Devizes) (Con)

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

† Lewis, Clive (Norwich South) (Lab)

† Menzies, Mark (Fylde) (Con)

† Owen, Sarah (Luton North) (Lab)

† Qaisar, Ms Anum (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

† Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP)

Jonathan Finlay, Gavin Blake, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 8 December 2021

[Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]

Draft Consumer Scotland Act 2020 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2022

Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing as far as possible. This is in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. Please give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. This can be done at the testing centre in the House of Commons or at home. Members should send their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. Similarly, officials in the Gallery should communicate electronically with Ministers as far as possible.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Consumer Scotland Act 2020 (Consequential Provisions and Modifications) Order 2022.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Murray. I must start by apologising to you and Committee members because the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), is unable to attend. He has to go into self-isolation because he has been in contact with someone who has tested positive. He is seeking a covid test. I am afraid that the Committee will have to make do with me today. This will probably be the most sophisticated thing I have put on the record in several years as a Government Whip.

I think I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate these consequential amendments, which will support the Scottish Government’s decision to establish Consumer Scotland as the responsible body for the devolved areas of consumer advocacy and advice in Scotland. The order will establish Consumer Scotland as a non-ministerial body in the Scottish Administration and ensure its new functions are reflected in relevant UK legislation. Through the order, Consumer Scotland will become a non-ministerial office accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The order also provides that the Crown Suits (Scotland) Act 1857 does not apply to Consumer Scotland, with the effect that the Lord Advocate cannot sue or be sued in place of Consumer Scotland. Furthermore, the order adds Consumer Scotland to the list of bodies whose members are disqualified from being Members of the House of Commons under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975.

As Consumer Scotland is required by law to be operationally independent of Scottish Ministers, its establishment cannot continue without this section 104 order and the changes it makes. The order will also give consumers confidence in the independence of this new body. This type of statutory instrument, known as a Scotland Act order, is a form of secondary legislation made under the Scotland Act 1998, which devolved significant powers to Scotland. A section 104 order allows for necessary or expedient legislative provision in consequence of any provision made by, or under any Act of. the Scottish Parliament or secondary legislation made by Scottish Ministers. In this case, provision is required in consequence of the Consumer Scotland Act 2020, which allowed for the establishment of Consumer Scotland as the body responsible for the devolved matters of consumer advocacy and advice. The 2020 Act also created a consumer duty that requires public authorities in Scotland to consider consumers in policy and decision making.

The order ensures the independence of the new body by establishing it as a non-ministerial office independent of Scottish Ministers. The aim of the order is to amend UK legislation to provide Consumer Scotland with full authority in its role dealing with consumer advocacy and advice. Consumer Scotland will take over a range of responsibilities relating to advocacy in the energy, postal services and water sectors currently undertaken by Citizens Advice Scotland. The advice it provides will be on new and emerging issues or matters of general interest to a range of consumers. To be clear on this point about advice, as previously mentioned the draft order will ensure that Consumer Scotland remains independent from Scottish Ministers. Therefore the types of advice it provides will be an operational matter for the Consumer Scotland board.

The order also amends the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, adding Consumer Scotland to the list of bodies whose members are excluded from the House of Commons, to further safeguard the independence of the new body. That will allow for the creation of an independent advocacy body in Scotland that will be the voice of consumers in Scotland. It will provide leadership and support to all those working in the consumer landscape, and a co-ordinated, strategy-led approach to mitigating consumer harm in Scotland.

In summary, this instrument supports the establishment of Consumer Scotland as the new body dealing with consumer advocacy and advice across the areas of energy, postal services and water. The instrument, the policy behind it and its legislative contents have the support of Scotland's two Governments. I commend the order to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mrs Murray—I was elected at the same time as you, but I think this is the first time we have been in this situation. I congratulate the Whip-cum-Minister on her fine delivery of her notes, on a subject that, it is fair to say, both she and I are coming to quite late in the day—this is not my normal brief either. I thank her for confirming my understanding of what the statutory instrument covers, and I have a few questions for her. I understand that she may be able to answer some of them today and that, if not, she will do so in writing later.

The SI was laid as a result of the Consumer Scotland Act 2020, which established Consumer Scotland as a non-ministerial body of the Scottish Administration. It makes provisions in consequence of the Act, which established Consumer Scotland as the body responsible for the devolved areas of consumer advocacy and advice in Scotland. That is the point the Minister made, and I will be teasing out the practical realities as well as the theoretical position that the SI sets out.

The SI is required to ensure that the Scottish Administration’s role in dealing with consumer advocacy is reflected in relevant UK legislation, as well as to amend legislation outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament that will allow Consumer Scotland to fulfil its new role in dealing with consumer advocacy and advice. I understand that this will largely involve changing references to Citizens Advice Scotland to Consumer Scotland. The SI is not controversial, and we support the establishment of Consumer Scotland as a non-ministerial body of the Scottish Administration. We support the SI because it puts Consumer Scotland on a statutory footing.

Scottish consumers must have their interests fully represented, so we welcome the fact that through this SI there is a heightened duty for public bodies in Scotland to tackle consumer concerns and manage trust in business. Consumer Scotland will have responsibilities across reserved and devolved areas, and it is critical that the UK and Scottish Governments work together. Sadly, the SNP and the Conservatives have been more interested in constitutional wrangling than working in the shared interests of people in Scotland. Labour believes that consumer interests are of high importance and that all political parties should champion the interests of consumers by supporting the work of Consumer Scotland. Let us hope that the other parties in Scotland also recognise the importance of supporting consumer rights, as opposed to spending their time on constitutional matters.

I wish to ask the Minister a few questions about the SI and about wider consumer advocacy and protection in Scotland. The success of Consumer Scotland will be in how it acts and to what extent it protects and upholds the interests of consumers. It cannot be another Scottish Government quango. What assessments has the Minister made to ensure that Consumer Scotland’s statutory powers will be impactful and will be implemented to make a meaningful contribution in terms of being on the side of Scottish consumers? Have she or her colleagues discussed with their counterparts in the Scottish Government how Consumer Scotland can be proactive as well as reactive, not only protecting consumers from harm but educating them so that they can avoid being harmed? What relevant impact assessments have been made on the new body by the Scottish Government? What discussions have the Minister or her colleagues had with Scottish Ministers about the devolved areas affected by this SI—energy, water and postal services?

We support the Minister in laying this SI before Parliament. Labour supports the creation of Consumer Scotland, and we believe that public bodies have a responsibility to drive up industry standards and to protect and empower consumers.

I will be brief. We welcome the introduction of the order, and I thank the Minister for her comments.

I found some of the comments from the Labour Front Bench interesting, given the subject. The creation of this new organisation will be of benefit to all and is not a particularly political thing. As far as I understand, nobody in the Scottish Parliament voted against it, so I am not sure how it became quite so political, but that is where we are.

Beyond that, Mrs Murray, it is just a case of welcoming the order and the creation of Consumer Scotland.

I thank all hon. Members and I will try to answer their questions as best I can.

In terms of engagement, the Scotland Act orders show that the two Governments can work together, and it has been confirmed that they have worked successfully together. We have worked with the Scottish Government of the development of this provision, and that has included Minister-led discussions and engagement.

In terms of the regulatory impact assessment, orders made under the Scotland Act 1998 usually do not have a direct impact. The Scottish Government ran a 12-week public consultation on the draft Consumer Scotland Bill in July 2018. However, orders taken under section 104 of the Scotland Act are not usually consulted on by the Government, as they are consequential acts of the Scottish Parliament.

I hope that the benefits of these proposals for consumers in Scotland will be evident. There will now be a focus on advocating for change on issues that particularly affect people in Scotland. The proposals recognise Scotland’s distinct circumstances, such as its rural population and devolved industries. By creating an independent expert voice to speak up for consumers, combined with accountability to Ministers and a strong emphasis on practical solutions, the consumer interest should be better represented to regulators, policy makers and industry. That is our aspiration.

Through our amendments to UK legislation, we are enabling implementation of the Scottish Government’s decision to establish Consumer Scotland as the new body responsible for the devolved areas of consumer advocacy and advice in Scotland. By securing the independence of this new body, we will ensure it is established within the legal parameters set out in the 2020 Act, and give consumers confidence in its ability to act independently.

To close, our support for the Scottish Government on the establishment of Consumer Scotland shows Scotland’s two Governments working together. This order also demonstrates the commitment of this Government to strengthening the devolution settlement and delivering for the people of Scotland. I therefore commend the draft order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Laurence Robertson

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

† Colburn, Elliot (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)

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

† Elphicke, Mrs Natalie (Dover) (Con)

† Farris, Laura (Newbury) (Con)

† Greenwood, Lilian (Nottingham South) (Lab)

† Harrison, Trudy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

† Johnston, David (Wantage) (Con)

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

† Kane, Mike (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)

† Morris, Grahame (Easington) (Lab)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Richards, Nicola (West Bromwich East) (Con)

† Robinson, Mary (Cheadle) (Con)

† Solloway, Amanda (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Thomas, Derek (St Ives) (Con)

Timms, Stephen (East Ham) (Lab)

Chloe Freeman, Stella Maria Gabriel, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 8 December 2021

[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

Draft Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when not speaking and to maintain distancing as far as possible, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. Please give one another and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room. I also remind Members that they are asked by the House to have covid lateral flow tests twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate—either at home or in the House. Will Members send their speaking notes by email to hansardnotes@parliament.uk? Similarly, officials in the Gallery can communicate electronically with Ministers. I call the Minister to move the motion.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Robertson. The regulations will be made under the powers provided by the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018. They mandate that most new private electric vehicle charge points sold in Great Britain be capable of smart charging and meeting minimum device-level requirements. They will play an important role in helping us to meet our transport decarbonisation targets.

As announced by the Prime Minister as part of the world-leading 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the Government are going further and faster to decarbonise transport by phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. From 2035, all new cars and vans must be 100% zero emission at the tailpipe. Cars and vans represent one fifth of UK domestic CO2 emissions, and accounted for 71% of domestic UK transport emissions in 2019. Ending the sale of conventional new petrol and diesel cars and vans is a key part of the answer to our long-term transport, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles do not only present a huge opportunity to decarbonise transport. They also present an opportunity for consumers to contribute to the efficient management of electricity and to share the benefits of doing so. Smart charging will enable that. It enables consumers to shift their EV charging to times when electricity is cheaper and demand is low. It is a win-win, both reducing the need for costly network reinforcement and saving consumers money on their energy bills. Today we are debating regulations that are essential to drive the uptake of this important technology to enable the transition to electric vehicles while minimising costs to consumers.

This instrument could deliver up to £1.1 billion of savings to the power system by 2050. Through this instrument, the Government will deliver four key objectives for smart charging policy by driving consumer uptake; delivering consumer protections; helping to ensure the stability of the electricity grid; and supporting innovation.

I will provide the Committee with some details on the key provisions in the instrument. First, the regulations mandate that most domestic and workplace charge points sold in Great Britain will have the capability to smart-charge so that consumers can benefit from the savings that that offers. Many home charge points already have smart functionality, so this instrument will work with the grain of the market and consumer behaviours to drive significant uptake of the technology and reduce the cost of EV transition.

It is important to note that the instrument maintains consumer choice. It mandates that charge points must have the functionality to support smart charging. Consumers will still be in control of when they charge, and they will of course continue to be able to choose the energy tariff that suits their needs and decide whether they subscribe to smart-charging services.

Some consumers might not engage with smart charging so, to encourage them to charge at times of low electricity demand, the instrument ensures that charge points are pre-set not to charge at peak times. Importantly, the instrument mandates that consumers must be informed and asked to confirm the setting during first use and that they must also be able to edit it at any future point too.

Secondly, the regulations establish new cyber-security and grid protection requirements. The instrument embeds new and more robust cyber-hygiene standards into smart charge points to help mitigate the risk that charge points are hacked and controlled to the detriment of both individual consumers and the electricity system. It also requires a randomised delay function to prevent the synchronised switching on or off of a large number of charge points—for example, in response to a drop in electricity prices. This will help ensure that smart charge points support the integration of EVs into the electricity system and do not destabilise it.

Thirdly, the instrument sets new requirements on how charge points monitor and record electricity consumption. This requirement will help consumers to engage with their energy bills and usage and ensure a charge point is capable of supporting smart services. Many requirements, such as cyber-security, electricity monitoring and the randomised delay function, align with standards developed with industry, namely the British standard for energy smart appliances, PAS 1878.

Finally, we are mandating that, in the event that a consumer switches their electricity supplier, their charge point must retain its smart functionality. This will ensure that consumers are not locked into a specific energy supplier by their choice of charge point. Members of the Committee will note that, across the instrument, we have taken an outcome-focused approach and do not prescribe specific technical implementations. This approach will support ongoing innovation within the charge point market and will help to maintain our position as world leaders in smart technology.

These regulations are essential to ensuring the successful uptake of smart-charging technology and to supporting the electricity grid and consumers in the transition to electric vehicles. I hope that colleagues will join me in supporting the regulations, which I commend to the Committee.

It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I am disappointed that Bolton Wanderers are slipping slightly in the league table, but I am sure they will turn the season round before we know it.

I wish to raise a few points about the statutory instrument. We agree that stopping the sale of non-electric vehicles by 2030 is the right thing to do, but my colleagues and I are concerned that there is no legislation governing the resale of diesel and petrol vehicles in the second-hand market going forward. Another concern we have raised is that, as the Minister has said, the Government have finally adopted Labour’s policy of phasing out the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, but hybrid vehicles will still be sold until 2035. If it is a genuine commitment, there seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking from Government in their policy on this matter. Without sufficient infrastructure and charging points available to all across the nation, we can see people using an electric car for day-to-day journeys and retaining an older, more polluting vehicle for longer trips. I have not checked with the House of Commons Library today, but we currently have about 40 million registered vehicles on our roads. We know our road infrastructure cannot cope with that, but we are worried that people will retain their old polluting cars and get an electric vehicle. We know what savage chaos and congestion that will cause up and down our land.

When we drive our petrol or diesel vehicles 250 miles to see family or for a holiday in this country, we all know that we will be able to access fuel on arrival. Can the same be said for accessing a working charge point everywhere in the country? Fully electric and hybrid vehicle sales have surged this year, making up more than a quarter of new vehicle sales in 2021, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. However, the UK’s charging infrastructure is falling behind and overall funding for charging given out to local authorities has fallen from £15 million in 2019-20 to 6.5 million in 2020-21. Many local authorities are having to use available funds for remaining schemes and not every dwelling has a parking spot.

I do not need to tell anyone in this Room that Storm Arwen, which hit this country almost two weeks ago, has wreaked havoc on the nation’s power supply. This was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) at Prime Minister’s question, and I have the massive Durham contingent of my hon. Friend the Member for Easington and my right hon. Friend then Member for North Durham behind me in Committee today. There are areas in the north of England that are still without power. How can the Government guarantee that in such circumstances there will be capacity to charge electric vehicles? It goes without saying that emergency vehicles must be able to charge their EVs regardless. What can the Government do to provide assurances that essential car users such as carers, NHS workers, police, the fire service, hauliers and food deliverers will be able to charge their vehicles? It has been 10 days since that storm.

We must be mindful of the fact that wi-fi coverage will be necessary to charge vehicles. What steps will be taken to ensure that customers will be able to recharge? I am not alone in not always having mobile coverage in this country. If I want to drive to holiday in the Orkney islands, as I regularly do, will I be able to? That is a 500-mile journey from Manchester, and EV vehicles can currently only cover about half of that journey. In the capital and other major cities, we have excellent mobile signal coverage, but is that the same in our rural areas and highlands? That needs to be addressed by the Minister.

The Government promised a charging strategy by the end of the year. Today is 8 December. Where is it? We need action to address regional inequalities and quickly ramp up charging to ensure that it is both easy to use and accessible to customers. Can the Minster provide an update on that strategy? She is correct in saying that the transition to electric vehicles is a huge opportunity for cleaner, lower emissions, and has the potential to create thousands of good green jobs, highly trade unionised across our country. However, the Government need to think bigger when it comes to charging infrastructure, affordability, and the supply chain.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I have a few general points to make that relate specifically to what the Minister said. The present Government have gone into some type of academic competition to see who can be greener than green, and they have set the ambitious target of 2030 as the date when no non-electric vehicles will be sold. However, let us be realistic; most of our constituents do not buy new cars. They will be reliant on petrol, diesel or hybrid cars for quite some time. Certainly a lot of my constituents, and others in rural communities, rely on heavier vehicles—diesel, mainly—for work, farming, and other things.

I have not yet seen a technology that is going to replace some of those vehicles. We all need to be realistic, and although the Government’s ambition is to be lauded, the reality is that 2030 will not be a sudden cut-off date whereby everything is going to change. That will not be the case—in certain areas, diesel, hybrid, or alternatives such as hydrogen-powered vehicle are going to be the answer rather than electric vehicles.

The Minister talks about the consumer. In certain areas—take North Durham and Easington for example—it may be easy for someone to install a charging point in a leafy, detached or semi-detached house, but in a terraced street in Horden or Craghead, how are we going to install an electric charging point without a succession of cables running across the street to charge people’s cars? I do not think enough thought has gone into this. Many people will have to rely on public charging points rather than installing them in their own homes.

The same applies to inner cities, to people living in blocks of flats, for example. Are we to have cables dangling from a six-floor tower block down to an electric car in the car park? Of course not. If we are to get to a situation where we have only electric vehicles, how are people going to access those charging points? That brings us on to the issue about competition, because those individuals will not have a choice to install a charging point at home and then look for the cheapest tariff. They will be reliant on going to a garage, a local council facility or some other body that sets up charging points. They could be at a disadvantage, because they will not be able to shop around for the cheapest tariff. That needs to be thought about as well. There is not just the added cost, for many of these people, to acquire an electric vehicle, which they may not do for many years. As I have said, many of our constituents do not buy brand-new cars—

The right hon. Gentleman is talking about people—often living in terraced houses—being able to charge their cars. Many of them will be able to charge at work. There are enlightened employers who are providing charging points. I will give as an example Cadent, which is setting up in my constituency a new office development where there will be charging for people at work. There are ways of getting around this issue.

I applaud those employers, but let me examine what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting. Let us say that someone lives in Stanley in my constituency, in a terraced street in Craghead, and they work at the local Asda supermarket, for example. Certainly they could drive their car there, but will all employers be queuing up to provide charging points? A lot of charging points would have to be developed. Actually, only certain people will be able to access such provision. Some enlightened employers may well provide charging points, but we need to think about the individuals I am talking about, because there is going to be a poverty trap for some of these individuals, who will not have the choice to go for cheap tariffs or deals on their electricity accounts, because they will not physically be able ever to put in a charging point at home. That needs to be thought about.

Another issue is that local authorities and car parks are putting charging points in car parks, but some of them have cut-off times when those car parks are closed, for perfectly good reasons, so they will not be open to constituents who do not have access to charging points at home. That will be a particular issue, I think, in rural communities.

The right hon. Gentleman is developing a really important point. Has he considered the possibility for the future of people using community charging points? In exactly the same area that he describes in his constituency, a member of the community might be able to rent out their own charging point to enable those who cannot put one on their own property to use that community one.

Order. Before we continue, I point out that we are getting a little wide of the motion, which is about the actual make-up of the points, which involves smart functionality and the specified cyber-security requirements. I have let this debate go on for a few minutes, but perhaps we could get back to the main point in just a moment.

I would not challenge your ruling, Mr Robertson, but the point is that it is the smart technology that allows people to get different tariffs and cheaper rates, and the people I am talking about will be at a disadvantage.

The hon. Member for Cheadle makes a good point, which I would support; I would have no problem with what she suggests. But again, will people have to drive and leave their car overnight at a community charging point in order to get the cheaper rates from that smart meter, rather than having access to them? I doubt whether they will do that, because there would be security issues in relation to the vehicle and things like that. However, the initiative that the hon. Lady suggests is a good one.

Before I go on to security, I will talk about wi-fi, because it is a related issue in terms of smart technology. The explanatory memorandum says:

“Charge points will rely on a network connection to meet the smart requirements within the legislation, for example using Wi-Fi.”

That is great—if people have access to wi-fi. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East said from the Front Bench, it is patchy, to say the least, in some areas and certainly in rural communities. If we are not careful, it will mean that parts of the country, especially rural communities—I know certain parts of my constituency where wi-fi connection is not good at the best of times—might be disadvantaged, because they will not be able to connect their smart meter to the wi-fi network.

It is okay to agree on the regulations, and I will come to electricity grids in a minute, but there has to be a holistic approach to how things will work. I accept that if someone does not have access to wi-fi or the coverage is intermittent, the meter will still work—that is what the regulations say—but some people will be put at a disadvantage. Again, that needs to be thought about.

I turn to cyber-security. I accept that the regulations say that cyber-security needs to be taken into consideration, but I have a direct question for the Minister. Who is monitoring the components that are going into the smart technology? Following Huawei’s involvement in the telephone network, we found that there could be—I know there is a lot of nonsense said about it—an issue with cyber-security because of the components. I would like to understand who is monitoring the components going into the smart meters, because otherwise we could open up our networks to potential cyber-attack.

I would also be interested to know what the market is, because one of the issues around Huawei was that the Chinese had come to dominate the market over successive years, as Huawei and two other companies were providing part of the technology. Do we have robust enough components and smart metering companies providing the technology, to ensure that there is a real market in which the consumer has choice, which obviously gets cost down, and, more importantly, that there is investment in technology and cyber-security?

The regulations say that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport looked at this issue. I would be interested know whether the components and structure of smart meters have been looked at by the National Cyber Security Centre to ensure that not only the components but the technology and how it works are as robust as possible. That could lead to a vulnerability: if someone got into a network and could close things down or disrupt them in some way, that could have a devastating effect like we have seen recently in the United States, where there was cyber-hacking of the petrol network that supplies fuel. The principle is the same. There, the hackers got in and stopped the pumping of petrol through pipelines. An equivalent of that would be if someone could get into the network and disrupt charging points. Their maintenance and ensuring that the components are safe will be very important for the future; otherwise there could be vulnerabilities, which would be an issue.

Finally, I want to talk about the resilience of the network. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East said, it is fine to have electric vehicles and charging points, but it is no good having an electricity grid that is not robust, as we have seen in parts of the north-east in the last few days. People did not have electricity for 10 days, with some even experiencing their 11th or 12th day without electricity. Again, this is important, and I would like to understand how the issue will be linked to the urgent need to look at the resilience of the electricity grid system, as I have called for this week.

I do not oppose electric vehicles, but we need to get realistic about how quickly this will happen and how safe it will be. More importantly, we should not end up with a two-tier system whereby only some consumers have access to cheap electricity for charging.

I want to briefly raise an important point about that disparity, particularly in relation to people who are less well off. My understanding is that VAT is applied to electricity drawn from community charging points at a rate of 20%, whereas if someone is fortunate enough to have a charging point on their drive, VAT is payable at only 5%. That makes a massive difference. I stand to be corrected, and I look to the Minister for guidance. It is an issue that should be of concern to us all.

My hon. Friend raises a very good point. If that is the case, it is another example of a market where those who can afford least will pay more. That cannot be right. In the gallop towards the nirvana of net zero that the Government are trying to achieve, we cannot create situation where markets will be fixed so that those who can least afford to pay will pay more. Our considerations should not be just about charging points but the whole issue—network security, affordability and some practical issues about where these charging points will work and where they will not.

I fear that we strayed considerably from the technical aspects. As interesting as it was, I recommend that those interested perhaps attend Westminster Hall debates for a comprehensive discussion on the wider aspects of EV charging.

To respond to some questions, the regulatory requirements are aligned with the British standard for energy smart appliances PAS 1878 and build on relevant existing international and European standards. I am more than happy to write to the right hon. Member for North Durham with a comprehensive response on the cyber-security aspects.

On charging, there are 26,000 publicly available charge points, of which 4,900 are rapid chargers. We know more needs to be done, but we are working with local authorities, and I encourage Members across the House to work with me to help their local authorities roll out the necessary charge point infrastructure, which must match, as the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East said, the considerable interest in electric vehicles.

The draft regulations are an essential step in ensuring the success uptake of electric vehicles and, therefore, the decarbonisation of transport. They are particularly about the technical capability to take part in smart charging and assist with managing the electricity system, while saving money on energy bills. This is the first step.

I am afraid I will not, because I know votes are imminent. Work will continue so that consumers can fully access smart benefits and participate in the transition to a flexible system.

On a point of order, Mr Robertson. I thought the purpose of scrutiny was to ask questions that the Minister responds to. She is just reading out the civil service brief in front of her, which is not good enough.

I assure the Committee that this is my work. This will include the continued roll-out of smart meters to households and small businesses across Great Britain, and implementing further protections for consumers and the energy system. I hope the Committee will join me in supporting this statutory instrument.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.