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Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords]

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2021

Second Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Services are a critical part of our economy, our trade and our lives. UK-qualified professionals in sectors including architecture, law and medicine, among many others, are at the forefront of their fields globally. It is a testament to their success that the UK is today the second largest exporter of services in the entire world. Good regulation is essential in providing the confidence that the market needs to grow. Good regulation is essential in providing the confidence that the market needs to grow. The Bill supports that endeavour so that services can not only thrive but provide excellent jobs in the future.

The British Dental Association has warned that the Bill could water down the standards required to practise. What are the Secretary of State’s thoughts on that? What assurance can he give the House that standards will be maintained?

I assure the hon. Lady that many such issues were rightly addressed and debated at great length in the other place. I have seen the concerns of some of our professional bodies. I feel that the Bill gives a measure of support, and I feel strongly that it is proportionate. It is on that basis that I am introducing the Bill and begging leave for it to be read a Second time.

I turn to the Bill’s elements—perhaps through these remarks the hon. Lady may get some reassurance. First, the Bill will revoke the current EU-based approach, temporarily retained from the end of the transition period, which often gives unreciprocated preferential access to holders of European economic area and Swiss qualifications, and put in place a new system that is global in outlook and can be tailored to the UK’s needs. The Bill is not a rejection of the valuable skills offered by EU professionals. On the contrary, it will ensure fairness and put them on an even footing with applicants from around the world. Professionals who have already had their qualifications recognised and work in the UK can continue to do so provided that they meet any ongoing practice requirements.

The Bill will also enable the Government and devolved Administrations to act promptly where shortages in services may occur and where consumers may well face unreasonable delays and charges. That is particularly important for regulated professions in the public sector. For example, in a 10-year period, just under a quarter of all UK recognition decisions were for secondary school teachers alone. Let me be clear, however, that the Bill is intended to complement, and not simply to replace, the Government’s ambitious domestic skills agenda.

The Bill will also support our trade agenda and boost UK businesses exporting services all over the world—in short, it will help spread our skills, innovation and expertise abroad. It will ensure that the UK can implement professional qualification provisions in the future trade deals that we all anticipate with enthusiasm. It will also ensure that UK regulators can be empowered to strike deals on recognition with their overseas counterparts while taking full advantage of provisions in such future trade deals. Finally, it will help professionals, both at home and from overseas, to access global markets.

We are working collaboratively with the devolved Administrations and devolved regulators, and I very much hope that we will come to a resolution on legislative consent by the time that the Bill leaves the House. Of course, our regulators’ expertise underpins all our professions, and that is the very reason why the Bill has the protection of regulator autonomy at its very heart. Regulators agree that that is the right approach, and in general they have voiced hearty support for the Bill.

This Bill is about ensuring that the regulation of professional qualifications works for the whole of the country’s interests. It is about fairness, ensuring that wherever professionals may come from, they have an equal opportunity to practise their professions; and it is about making access to professions more transparent, as well as supporting our own UK trade agenda. On that basis, I commend it to the House.

Having the skilled workforce that our employers need is essential for the economic success of our country. The shortages of lorry drivers, carers, nurses, doctors and vets, and the shortages in hospitality and in farming, are well documented. Some are covered by this legislation, which, as the Secretary of State said, replaces EU law and allows the recognition of qualifications in other countries, so that workers can come here and fill the gaps in our economy. The requirements for our future economic success include the need for mutual recognition of qualifications to the benefit of our domestic businesses, public and voluntary sectors. Our success as we recover from covid will depend on the boosting of our prospects for trade internationally, for instance through the ability of UK professionals to apply their expertise abroad.

Regulators must remain independent, and it would undermine them and the high British standards they uphold were the Government to force them to accept professional qualifications awarded overseas which were of a lower standard. I shall return to that point, and explain how the Bill has been amended in the House of Lords.

The public will expect high standards of health, public safety and consumer protection to be maintained. We need to address shortages of key skilled staff, but the overseas qualifications that have been recognised in the UK by professional bodies need to have been accredited by the regulators themselves on the basis that they meet or exceed our standards, and not because the regulators are pressured into lowering standards by the Government as a consequence of poorly conceived international agreements. The Conservative peer Lord Bourne said that these were far from unreasonable fears, and I therefore hope that this issue will be explicitly addressed. The Government have made promises that standards will be maintained, and those promises need to be kept.

Most of the changes for which the Bill provides are designed to be implemented through secondary legislation. The use of statutory instruments has become the Government’s favourite method of legislating, and it is essential that all changes made through secondary legislation can be scrutinised in full.

Attracting talent to the UK is essential for public services and the wider economy, but we are currently facing a skills shortage. The recognition of overseas qualifications is not a silver bullet to end that shortage; nor is it a long-term answer. A neglect of skills by this Government has seen further education funding halved and 200,000 apprenticeships lost since 2016. The Government must invest in skills at home and must do so in a strategic way, with a long term view. Indeed, a national and ambitious strategy would be very welcome, and is surely a part of any serious levelling-up agenda—if the said agenda is to become more than a slogan.

The shortage of intermediate and advanced-level technical skills has been highlighted for many years by business, trade unions and the Labour party. The need for overseas skilled workers, at least in the short to medium term, is one result, and when there are regulatory difficulties in recruiting from overseas, the scale of the problem becomes apparent. The most recent NHS figures reveal that there are about 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England. The president of the British Veterinary Association, James Russell, has said that between 400 and 500 vets working part time will be needed to fill in additional export health certificates for meat and fish products—from sausages to salmon—shipped to Northern Ireland alone, with many more needed owing to other increases in demand. The occupations of nurses and vets are among the 205 covered in the Bill.

Labour would seek regulatory equivalence for financial services and mutual recognition of professional qualifications, because we absolutely recognise the importance of looking after our world-class financial and professional service businesses. Our ability to trade internationally, not least to maximise our trade in services, is essential to our long-term economic prospects, to the creation of good jobs at home and to the prosperity of people and communities across the UK.

The initial version of the Bill did not stand up to scrutiny. The Financial Times reported the way in which the Government introduced it as a

“chaotic handling of a post-Brexit regime for recognising the qualifications of foreign professionals”,

in contrast to the Government’s claim that it would help to make Britain

“the best place in the world to work”.

I want Britain to be the best place in the world to work. I want us to buy more, make more and sell more in Britain, but serious concerns have been raised about the Government’s mismanagement of such an important piece of legislation. One concern was that the Bill as originally presented was not going to give British employers what they needed to ensure that our economy and our people could thrive.

Remarkably, the Government admitted introducing the Bill to Parliament without knowing which professions were in scope of the legislation. Labour argued in the Lords that we had to know who and what was in the scope of the Bill. It stands to reason that the relevant regulators and professions need to be aware of these changes. That was why we tabled amendments in the Lords to ensure that this information was made public. But the disarray continued. Having initially listed 160 professions and 50 regulators affected by the legislation, the Government twice published a revised list, ultimately increasing the numbers to 205 professions and 80 regulators. Due to the increased number of regulators in scope of the legislation, the Government also had to publish an updated impact assessment, with the total cost to regulators increasing by nearly £2 million. That is hardly the way to inspire confidence that the legislation will help businesses or skilled workers.

The Government were criticised from all sides in the Lords, including by those on their own Back Benches. Conservative peer Baroness Noakes said that

“it has all the hallmarks of being a Bill conceived and executed by officials with little or no ministerial policy direction or oversight…we learn that the Bill was drafted with a far-from-perfect understanding of the territory that it purports to cover. This is no way to legislate.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 22 June 2021; Vol. 813, c. 149.]

My Labour colleague Baroness Hayter said of the list:

“I understand that it has taken BEIS a little time to get it right. I think we have had two updates of the list, with some regulators added and some gone. I see that the pig farmers have gone from the latest list and the aircraft engineers have also disappeared, as have analytical chemists. However, we have in their place chicken farmers, schoolteachers and waste managers—so it seems that the Government can turn flying pigs into chickens.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 November 2021; Vol. 815, c. 1696.]

Given the shambolic way in which the Bill was introduced, it would have come as no surprise if someone had accused Ministers of making a right pig’s ear of the legislation. It is little wonder, then, that with wonderful understatement the Government spokesman, Lord Grimstone said—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State might want to hear this from his own Minister in the Lords. Lord Grimstone said that the errors and various revisions had made him feel “uncomfortable”, and that he had listened to the criticism with “a certain lack of enjoyment.” To the credit of Lord Grimstone, he had the grace to confess his embarrassment at the mistakes made by the Government.

I return to the matter of regulatory autonomy. Consistent arguments were made by peers that this legislation must not undermine the autonomy and independence of regulators. Independence is essential to protect domestic standards and consumers. Labour’s amendment in the Lords sought to guarantee regulator autonomy, and our amendment was supported by the Conservatives Lord Lansley and Baroness Noakes, and indeed across the parties. As a result, the Government amended the Bill to provide statutory protection for regulator autonomy. I was hoping that that was where the Secretary of State was going to go in his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), but he did not go quite that far.

We are told by the Government that their changes to the Bill should protect domestic standards across 205 regulated professions and ensure that regulators are not obliged to reduce standards due to provisions included by the Government in free trade agreements. The change made to the Bill was welcomed by regulators and stakeholders. The Bill has been improved, thanks in large part to my Labour colleagues in the Lords. However, there remain outstanding concerns, including about how the Government will consult and seek the consent of devolved Administrations. We believe that the Bill should be amended to ensure that the devolved Administrations have a proper voice when the powers in it are used. We will press these points in Committee, as we did in the Lords.

We as a country have serious shortages of skilled workers. Some, such as those related to heavy goods vehicle drivers, are well documented, but there are many others. To give just one other example, the most recent NHS figures reveal that there are about 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England, with many unfilled posts. The number of nurses from the European economic area joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register has fallen by more than 90%, from 9,389 in the year to 31 March 2016 to just 810 in the year to 31 March 2021. Thousands of nursing shifts each week cannot be filled because of staff shortages, according to hospital safe staffing reports. That is unacceptable.

Of course, this is an area that requires attention from other Departments if it is to be addressed, but given the severity of the situation and the fact that the shortages were often predictable and predicted, it is essential that the Bill gets it right and ensures that our country has the skills it needs today and in the future. The Government’s approach to the Bill so far does not inspire confidence that it will play its part in addressing the shortage of nurses or, indeed, care staff, many grades of whom are also covered by the Bill.

The Bill provides a framework to allow mutual recognition of professional qualifications between regulators and professional bodies in the UK and the equivalent organisations overseas. The provisions in clauses 3 and 4 will allow for the implementation of regulator-to-regulator mutual recognition agreements and of the recognition arrangements in new international trade agreements. Importantly, the Law Society advises that the Bill will enable the mutual recognition agreement provisions in the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement to be implemented, but it raises concerns about the arrangements. It says that the provisions for mutual recognition agreements in the TCA are largely based on the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement, but no mutual recognition agreements have been signed between the EU and Canada in the three years since CETA came into force.

The concern that the Law Society raises is that the fact that no mutual recognition agreements have been signed using similar provisions may mean that the arrangements in the TCA are not sufficient for setting up such new agreements as are needed to encourage professionals to make up the shortages of nurses or vets, or those in 203 other professions. The Law Society therefore wants assurances from the Government—we will pursue the same point in Committee—that additional support, co-ordination and guidance will be available, if needed, on how to make the most of the provisions in the trade and co-operation agreement, not least in case they are to form the benchmark for future free trade agreements. I trust that the Minister, in winding up the debate, will address the very real concern about how to ensure that mutual recognition agreements are put in place in a timely fashion.

As it was the Law Society that carried out the analysis about the need for additional attention to be paid to how mutual recognition agreements will be negotiated, let us remember that legal services in the UK contribute £4.29 billion to our international trade each year. We are a global legal centre, and solicitors in England and Wales are respected the world over. The Minister with responsibility for professional services—the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley)—is not here, but perhaps his colleague who is responding to the debate can tell us, on his behalf, what assurances the Government can offer the Law Society, which wants legal qualifications to be recognised abroad and needs mutual recognition agreements to be secured but fears that, without additional Government impetus, none will be.

There is much still to do with this Bill. Lord Grimstone had the decency to accept its shortcomings and some of the changes needed, with Labour’s help, on regulator autonomy, but there is more to do in Committee and on Report in this House. On consultation with the devolved Administrations, we need the Government to come back to us. On the maintenance of high standards of health, public safety and consumer protection, on keeping promises that regulators will not be pressured by the Government into lowering standards, and on scrutiny of changes made through secondary legislation, we need assurances. On being able to attract professionals and fill the holes in our labour market, the Government need to do much better now, while putting in place a plan to address skills shortages in the long term.

The Labour party will address the concerns of employers, to support our economy, professional workers in this country and those who wish to work abroad. This is in our national interest. I hope that the Government will engage with us in that spirit and address the concerns raised in the Lords, by the professional organisations that need this legislation to be effective and by the devolved Administrations. I also hope that Ministers will address the shortcomings that we have identified in a way that delivers a system of mutual recognition of professional qualifications that is fit for purpose.

May I start by outlining that although the Scottish National party is not against the principles of the Bill, we cannot support it as it stands? I am not looking to divide the House at this stage, because I hear from the Secretary of State that constructive engagement is taking place. We will be happy to look at what we can agree as the Bill progresses through Committee and its remaining stages, but it is certainly worth putting it on the record that there are concerns in the Scottish Government and in elements of Scottish civil society—I do not think that anyone is in any doubt about that.

The Bill’s intention is to facilitate the cross-border recognition and regulation of professional qualifications so that we can ensure an integrated system for the transfer of professionals. It is certainly welcome that the Government are addressing the issue; the regulation and recognition of qualifications from abroad is particularly significant to smaller countries such as Scotland that seek to attract incredible skills and expertise from our neighbours. As an example, the world-leading Scottish food and drink industry, and indeed that of the whole UK, has traditionally been very heavily reliant on the services of EU-qualified vets, who were able to bring their skills to Scotland under the terms of EU rules on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who bring their qualifications and skills to contribute to our industries, which is precisely why it is so crucial to recognise consistency in qualifications to support working across countries. SNP Members’ preferred solution, of course, would be to recognise Scotland’s democratic vote in 2016 and rejoin the European Union, but it might be pushing it a bit to persuade Government Members to do that. In the meantime, it is important that we have legislation in place to ensure that skills and experience are not lost in any steps that we take.

The SNP supports the key principles that the Bill seeks to address, but there are technicalities. Technicalities often matter a great deal more than principle, and unfortunately the Bill is another example of the Government using technicalities to undermine devolution and hoping that no one will notice. I will come back to that point shortly, but it is worth running through some of the Bill’s devolved implications more generally.

The whole Bill applies to Scotland. Certain professions and qualifications are reserved to this place, but plenty are not, including teaching, the legal profession and some social care professions. The Bill does not make separate provision for devolved and reserved professions; it applies to all regulated professions active in Scotland, whether they are reserved or devolved. I appreciate that the Government recognise that point to a degree and are seeking legislative consent from the devolved legislatures to clauses 1 to 10 and 15, as they should. However, there are other clauses that evidently fall within devolved competence but for which the Government are not seeking permission from the devolved Administrations.

Clause 13(1) provides that a power to make regulations under the Bill

“includes power…to make consequential…or saving provision.”

That the UK Government can consider a clause relating to consequentials as outwith the Scottish Parliament’s competence is a bit surprising, to say the least.

Clause 16 is really the devolution buster. When the Bill was originally introduced, it defined “appropriate national authority” as

“the Secretary of State or the Lord Chancellor”,

forgetting that Ministers of a devolved Government are also appropriate national authorities for provisions that fall within devolved competence. As the Law Society of Scotland notes:

“The Scottish Ministers are also an ‘appropriate national authority’ in relation to regulations under the bill which contain only provision which are within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.”

Clause 16(3) helpfully remembers that Scottish Ministers are also a relevant authority. That is encouraging—it is progress—but there is still no provision requiring consent from a UK Minister to act in those areas.

In practice that means that any power conferred on the appropriate national authority in devolved areas can be exercised by UK Ministers. There is no requirement for UK Ministers to seek consent from the Scottish or Welsh Governments when exercising those powers. When the Secretary of State makes regulations under those powers, they would be subject to procedures in this place instead of the Scottish Parliament. The Bill alters the Executive competence of Scottish Ministers by enabling the Secretary of State to act in devolved areas without the requirement for consent. It is not the first time that that has happened, and for as long as Scotland remains part of the Union, I am sure it will not be the last.

The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, which was passed in this place despite the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd’s refusal of consent, treats devolution as an inconvenience to get around, rather than as a backbone of our constitution. Through that Act, the Government have given themselves power to subject

“healthcare services provided in hospitals”

in Scotland to market access principles, without needing the Scottish Parliament’s consent. It creates an external Westminster body that is responsible for testing whether a Bill in Holyrood would affect the UK internal market. Power has been taken from Scotland’s elected Parliament and placed in the hands of unelected bureaucrats—I am sure that sounds familiar from somewhere.

The Bill falls into a pattern of power grabs. As I say, we do not seek to oppose it at this stage, but I urge the Minister and the Secretary of State to take those points on board. When the devolved nations raise concerns about consent being ignored or not required, the response we have tended to get time and again from the UK Government is that they do not intend to use those powers without consent. However, we need more than pinky promises when it comes to what does or does not require consent. In that way, the Government avoid clashing with the devolved nations and are forced to keep their promises. Indeed, the only possible reason they would not do it is that they do in fact intend to meddle with devolution without consent. If that is not the case, I look forward to amendments being tabled to make that case solidly, and I say to the Government: prove me wrong.

In conclusion, I urge the Government to take these simple steps. Our asks on the Bill are relatively straightforward. The Scottish Government are currently recommending that the Scottish Parliament does not give its consent to the Bill. Its provisions are only required because we are leaving the EU—something Scotland voted against—and it adds insult to injury by trampling on devolution, which Scotland overwhelmingly did vote for. The Government do not have to be hellbent on making the Bill controversial and unconstitutional, and I urge the Minister and the Secretary of State to table amendments to bring it into line with devolution.

I will not detain the House for long, but I put on record that I think the brevity of this afternoon’s debate more reflects concern about the rise of the omicron variant than it does a lack of interest in this important subject. Professional qualifications are a key part of many sectors of our economy and public realm. They are significant factors in the protection of service users, from consumers to covid patients. The Bill promotes mutual recognition and professional qualifications. It increases opportunities for many, including nurses and lawyers, to work here and abroad.

Many Members of the House will have constituents who could be impacted by the Bill. Newcastle has many professionals who may benefit from the recognition of their qualifications, and many businesses that might look to recruit international talent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) emphasised, it is essential that we maintain our high standards and recognise that qualification recognition, although important to our public services and economy, will not solve our skills shortage. The Government must invest in skills and also give our regions the power to do so. I emphasise that because Labour wants Britain to be the best place in the world to live and to work. The Bill started in the other place and my Labour colleagues’ work on it certainly reflects that. Their scrutiny and amendments have significantly improved the Bill by securing statutory protections for regulator autonomy and statutory consultations with regulators. Regulating key professions is not a market option; it is essential to protect service users and professionals.

Unfortunately, it remains the case that far too much of the actual content of the Bill will be passed as secondary legislation. That is unacceptable. In addition, as emphasised by the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson), the devolved Administrations are not adequately consulted and must have a voice. The Government have a duty, indeed, to consult them and to seek the consent of devolved Administrations as the Bill passes through the House.

The Government’s handling of the Bill has been chaotic. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) said, they introduced the Bill without knowing which professions were in its scope. We have a weak Prime Minister without the support of his own Back Benchers. But it is absolutely essential that we protect our regulators’ autonomy to ensure that our standards are fit for purpose and that we protect the professional standards that British citizens have come to rely on. Labour is therefore demanding that the Government amend the Bill to ensure that Parliament is given the opportunity to scrutinise secondary legislation appropriately and that the devolved Administrations are included in the regulation-making process. I look forward to the Government recognising the validity of our concerns as the Bill passes through this House.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah). I thank everybody who has spoken during the debate. [Interruption.] Yes, all the people in this extensive debate.

This Bill will support trade through allowing regulations to implement trade agreements and allowing our own professionals to enter new markets. It will also support our work to meet domestic need, such as addressing national shortages, while ensuring that professional standards are maintained and regulator autonomy is protected.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rightly noted the relevance of the Bill to supporting international trade for our world-leading services sectors. Provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications can make it easier for UK professionals to provide services overseas—for example, by making it easier for regulators to agree recognition agreements with overseas counterparts. With trade partners, the Government would look to agree provisions that could require regulators to operate routes to recognition. Our deals with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, for example, include this type of measure. But I can reassure the House that in any agreement regulators’ existing autonomy to set standards and assess them against these deals would be maintained. Regulators are not obligated to enter into recognition agreements with counterpart regulators overseas.

Turning specifically to the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement, this secures continued market access across a broad range of key services sectors, including professional and business services. It also includes the framework to agree professional-specific arrangements on the recognition of professional qualifications. BEIS has established a recognitions arrangement team that provides advice and support to regulators if they pursue these arrangements. The hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) talked about legal services, in particular. The TCA with the EU secures continued market access across a broad range of key services sectors, but on legal services we negotiated unprecedented provisions for UK lawyers to practise in the EU using their UK title in both UK and international law.

The UK proposed ambitious arrangements on professional qualifications with the TCA, but regrettably the EU did not engage with them. However, on legal services we do, as I say, have unprecedented provisions. The Bill is also consistent with our other international commitments, including the common travel area with Ireland. The Bill does not alter the Government’s determination to uphold our CTA commitments. The Government are also working closely with the Irish Government and regulators to ensure that UK and Irish professions have continued routes to recognition.

The hon. Member for Sefton Central, and others, talked about skills and skills shortages. I thank him for his point on that. However, it is important to be clear about how the Bill fits into the Government’s overall skills strategy. The Bill allows regulations to be made requiring a regulator to be able to receive applications, assess individuals’ qualifications and experience gained overseas, and decide on whether to treat them as if they had the required UK qualifications or experience. That can be done only where there is a clear unmet demand for the services of a regulated profession.

Separate from the provisions of the Bill, the Government can, when necessary, consider short-term measures to deal with skills shortages, as they have in the case of HGV drivers. The Bill also plays its part in making sure that aspiring and qualified professionals can find the information they need to access professions, including transparency requirements for regulators to have clearer information online, and it provides for an assistance centre to help professionals directly.

But neither the Bill nor such short-term measures take the place of our domestic skills strategy. Our lifetime skills guarantee will enable anybody to acquire the skills to do those jobs wherever they live and whatever the stage of their life. The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill currently going through Parliament will set up the country for success by giving people the skills and the education they need for work. It puts employers at the heart of the skills system to make sure that local skill provision meets local needs, so that people can thrive where they live.

I will respond to the points raised by the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) on concurrent powers in the Bill and securing legislative consent motions for the devolved Administrations. I want to reassure the House that the Bill has been carefully designed to respect the devolution settlements. The inclusion of concurrent powers ensures that professions that fall within devolved legislative competence but are regulated on a UK-wide basis can be dealt with efficiently and appropriately under the Bill by the relevant and appropriate national authority.

The UK Government are working hard to seek common ground with the devolved Administrations. The devolved Administrations rejected our previous proposal of a formal duty to consult before regulating in areas of devolved competence, but we have now offered to place on the face of the Bill a stronger duty to consult. The amendment would require the Secretary of State or the Lord Chancellor to consult with devolved Administrations before making regulations under the Bill that contain provisions that could be made by devolved Administrations themselves, and then to publish a report on the consultation to be agreed with those devolved Administrations.

We have also offered to table an amendment to carve the Bill out of schedule 7B of the Government of Wales Act 2006, allowing the Senedd to remove UK Ministers’ concurrent powers if they deem that to be necessary. The Welsh Government will still be required to consult with the UK Government on the removal of those powers.

The Government’s approach demonstrates our commitment to transparency and scrutiny, and to preserving the balance of the devolution settlement while maintaining a coherent approach across the UK. Let me make it clear: it is not the Government’s intention to make regulations in relation to matters on which the devolved Administrations could legislate without seeking their views.

I hope that hon. Members from across the UK can support the Bill. We will continue to work in collaboration with the devolved Administrations and devolved regulators to ensure an approach that works for all parts of the UK. I look forward to discussing the Bill in Committee, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords] (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords]:


(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 20 January 2022.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Andrea Jenkyns.)

Question agreed to.

Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords] (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(1) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by a Minister of the Crown; and

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.—(Andrea Jenkyns.)

Question agreed to.

Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.


That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(a) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Secretary of State, and

(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.—(Tom Pursglove.)

Question agreed to.