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General Committees

Debated on Monday 21 November 2022

Delegated Legislation Committee

Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No.16) Regulations 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Carolyn Harris

† Benn, Hilary (Leeds Central) (Lab)

Browne, Anthony (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)

† Costa, Alberto (South Leicestershire) (Con)

† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)

Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab)

† Gideon, Jo (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Con)

Greenwood, Margaret (Wirral West) (Lab)

Hardy, Emma (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)

† Harris, Rebecca (Comptroller of His Majesty's Household)

† Jones, Mr David (Clwyd West) (Con)

† Mitchell, Mr Andrew (Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

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

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

† Sambrook, Gary (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)

† Wakeford, Christian (Bury South) (Lab)

† Walker, Mr Robin (Worcester) (Con)

† West, Catherine (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)

Anna Kennedy-O’Brien, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 21 November 2022

[Carolyn Harris in the Chair]

Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 16) Regulations 2022

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 16) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022, No. 1122).

It is a pleasure to serve under your wise chairmanship, Ms Harris. The statutory instrument was laid before Parliament on 2 November. It was brought forward under powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, and amends the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

I will start with the oil price cap. Through the amendments made by these regulations, the UK and our international partners will continue to put immense pressure on Putin and Russia. This is part of the largest and most severe economic sanctions package that Russia has ever faced. Working with our partners across the world, the UK continues to impose a range of sanctions on Russia. This legislation is a further important step undermining Putin’s ability to fund his illegal war in Ukraine.

We are now further targeting one of Putin’s most significant sources of funding, oil. The regulations build on existing bans on the import of oil to the UK. Oil is a key sector for the Russian economy, and plays a vital role in funding Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Crude oil and oil products are Russia’s most lucrative export, accounting for 10% of GDP in 2021. About 75% of those products were transported by sea. The new powers allow the UK to move in lockstep with our allies to limit the revenues that Russia can derive from the sale of oil transported by sea.

It is important, however, to protect vulnerable countries for which energy security is critical, so while this measure targets Russia, it also aims to maintain the flow of oil at a stable price in order to manage the inflated global energy prices that are the direct result of Putin’s actions. The regulations implement a core part of the policy that will prevent countries from using the UK’s services to transport seaborne Russian oil and refined oil products unless it is purchased at or below the oil price cap set and agreed by the price cap coalition, consisting of the G7, the European Union and Australia.

Importantly, the UK and our coalition partners will not be purchasing Russian oil. We and our partners have introduced our own domestic import bans on Russian oil from 5 December. Instead, this measure is about ensuring that UK, European and G7 services cannot be used to facilitate the trade in Russian oil.

The legislation’s ban on services, including insurance, brokerage and shipping, will be coupled with a general licence providing the basis for an oil price cap exception. That will allow third countries to continue accessing services only if they purchase Russian oil at or below the cap. The measure will therefore restrict Putin’s ability to fund his illegal war in Ukraine, while allowing oil to flow in a tight market, which will enable all countries—lower-income countries in particular—to purchase affordable oil.

A key element of the regulations is the UK’s world-class insurance sector. It provides important services that enable the movement of oil by sea—in particular, protection and indemnity insurance. There, our reach is significant: the UK is a global leader in the provision of third-party liability insurance, writing no less than 60% of global cover. Together with our G7 partners, the 13 protection and indemnity clubs collectively write about 90% of such cover.

The potential impact of the measure, and the central role of the UK, cannot be overstated. The ban on providing services for Russian seaborne oil will come into force on 5 December. A further ban on providing services for Russian seaborne refined oil products comes into force on 5 February—a date that ensures alignment with our international partners.

I strongly support the measure. On a point of clarification, I looked at the two commodity codes: 2709 and 2710. Do they extend to products such as lubricating oils, which enable ship engines to operate?

That is an extremely good question. The answer is yes, and I will elaborate on that when I wind up the debate.

This important measure will be enforced by the office of financial sanctions implementation, based in the Treasury; the office will work closely with industry. That robust enforcement regime will be backed up by prosecutions if necessary. Together with actions taken by our partners in the G7, the EU and Australia, the measure represents one of the single biggest sanctions placed on Russia, targeting its largest source of revenue. The regulations demonstrate our determination to target those who participate in or facilitate Putin’s illegal war of choice, and we will continue to introduce further sanctions, hopefully with the approval and support of Opposition parties, which have so far been absolutely steadfast in giving such support. I thank those on the Opposition Front Bench for that, and commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Harris. I thank the Minister for his speech on the changes to the UK’s sanctions regime. I am sure that the entire Committee would agree that last week’s events in Kherson, and the retaliatory air strikes unleashed by President Putin on civilian targets in Ukraine, illustrate both why we are here, and exactly what we are defending. Since he lashed out following Kherson’s liberation, the situation in Kyiv and other major cities has deteriorated to an alarming state; millions across Ukraine face blackouts as we enter the depths of winter. Ukrainian state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo reported that 40% of Ukrainians were experiencing difficulties due to damage to at least 15 major energy hubs across the country.

That deliberate and callous tactic, in flagrant disregard of the laws of conflict, is by no means a new feature of the way that Putin wages war. At every setback of his army, Putin attacks Ukraine’s civilian population with more airstrikes. The message is clear: Putin is digging in, and clearly upping the ante daily. The regular drumbeat of the war is being repeated in Kherson: there was liberation, closely followed by Ukrainian investigators uncovering bodies that bear signs of torture. Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky stated that he expects many more dungeons and burial places to be uncovered in the coming days.

We must be clear about the context of today’s debate and decision. With that callous brutality from Putin and his thugs, our support has never counted for more and must not waver. It is critical that we press on through the difficult winter ahead and stand resolute in support of the Ukrainian people, whether that means shoring up our diplomatic coalition against the war, maintaining our material and humanitarian support, or ensuring that our sanctions regime against the Kremlin and its backers is airtight, so Labour will—as we have always done in the wake of the illegal and senseless war that Putin has thrust on the world—of course fully support the measure, and we will not seek to divide the Committee.

We welcome the fact that the implementation of the ban on the importation of liquefied natural gas—LNG—will be brought forward from January to the beginning of December, although it was striking that there was such a delay at all. Can the Minister say why there was that initial delay, and outline the steps being taken to ensure that there is not a prolonged delay in the implementation of any of our other sanctions? Those who prop up Putin’s regime will seek to exploit such delays, so it is critical that changes such as those we are discussing be instituted rapidly, and that proper guidance be offered to partners in the private sector to prevent any issues. I hope that the Minister can provide reassurance on that.

Labour fully supports the Government’s decision to prohibit the supply or delivery of shipments of oil products originating from Russia to ensure that we deny Russian businesses access to UK vessels that could facilitate the transportation of oil products. We also welcome the steps being taken to prohibit UK businesses from providing financial insurance and other services to facilitate the movement of oil products. We need to not only cut off the source of those transactions, but prevent people from simplifying these processes. That is the right thing to do, and we are very pleased to support the measures.

There seem to be exceptions to the prohibitions, including when a person provides the justification to the Treasury, within the relevant period, that the act is dealing with an emergency. Could the Minister outline what other exceptions will be included, and what constitutes an emergency? Could he give examples? There will, of course, be legitimate exceptions, and it is right that there be a mechanism to accommodate them, but perhaps he could elaborate on this point in winding up.

We must be mindful that there are many powerful interests in Russia and beyond who will exploit exceptions to the hilt if it means that they can continue to have unfettered access to UK vessels and other services in transporting oil. As we have all come to recognise, oil is a centrepiece of the Russian economy, and its export is integral to not only Putin’s war machine, but his criminal regime. Will the Minister please outline to the Committee in detail the nature of these exceptions, and say how the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in conjunction with the Treasury, will ensure that they are not exploited, to the financial benefit of Russia’s oligarch class?

Finally, I thank staff in the FCDO, OFSI and beyond who are working determinedly to fulfil the vision of the recommendations of the Russia report. They are not only ensuring that the UK sanctions regime is rigorous on paper, but doing the difficult, necessary and painstaking work of implementing it. The Government should be removing all barriers from their path, so that officials can do their job effectively.

The Minister will have read the report of our debate last week with his colleague, the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan). The point that we made together was simply that we need to maintain the resources for this issue, and ensure that we have enough to make the sanctions very effective. We are watching this area like a hawk, because it will be very important in stopping the war.

The Labour party has been clear since before the invasion, and indeed since the Russia report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, that we should take a tougher line. The Kremlin’s malign regime constitutes a significant threat to our security, so we are actually improving our security by putting these measures in place. On the surface, they are for Ukraine, but they also strengthen our position.

I did not receive a full answer to a question I asked last week about the timing of the implementation of the report’s other recommendations from this Minister, the right hon. Member for—

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield is familiar with the recommendations of the Russia report, because he was a member of the all-party group on anti-corruption. The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 was very welcome, but I know that the Minister shares my concerns that in some places it did not go far enough. Certain measures, such as the reforms to Companies House, are taking forever to be implemented. I hope that now that he and the Minister for Security hold the positions that they do, they will together push the Government much harder on reforming Companies House, and on other measures, so that we can ensure that our system is as secure as possible.

Labour Members see no legitimate reason why the recommendations have not been implemented, but we hope that the Minister can finally provide more clarity today. We also hope we can continue to work closely with Ministers, so that we can play a fundamental role in helping Ukraine to weather the storm, win the war and build a future that is secure, prosperous and free.

First, I shall answer the question asked by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, whom I used to shadow many years ago. He asked whether oils and downstream products were included. The answer is yes. He asked specifically whether that included lubricating oils for ship engines and so forth, and the answer is that they are indeed included; I can give him that full answer.

I thank the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green for both the spirit and content of her excellent speech, which were extremely welcome. The unity across the Front Benches on not only this SI but the issue generally will be noticed, both by those joining us in imposing such sanctions, and by those against whom the sanctions are directed. In this great House of Commons, we often do not agree on much, so it will be doubly noticed that, on this issue, there is complete agreement.

The hon. Lady asked at least three questions, and I will answer three, but if I fail to answer any other point she made, I will of course write to her and make that letter available to all members of the Committee. I will take her points in no particular order. She is absolutely right in her point about Companies House: she and I, as well as the Minister for Security, complain continually that it is a library, not an investigating body. I can tell her that I have taken a meeting today with officials on that very subject. I am delighted to tell the hon. Lady that I think that there will be significant progress on this matter through the second economic crime Bill—the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill—which is before the House. She will want to look at that progress, but many of the arguments that she and I have put to the Government have been accepted. I can claim no responsibility for that, because I joined the Government after those decisions had been made.

Most importantly, the hon. Lady asked about any delay to the oil import ban. I can tell her that there has been no delay; the ban has been brought forward from 31 December to 5 December to align with the oil price cap. I hope that she will be satisfied on that point.

Thirdly and finally, the Lady asked whether I could think of any exceptions and whether any action might therefore need to be taken. We are not aware of any, but I have no doubt whatever that the Treasury will watch the issue with the greatest possible care. If such a situation were to arise, the Treasury and the Government would be entirely reasonable. On that point, I rest my case and invite the Committee to support the instrument.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Armed Forces (Tri-Service Serious Crime Unit) (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 Draft Armed Forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Yvonne Fovargue

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

† Baillie, Siobhan (Stroud) (Con)

Carden, Dan (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)

† Double, Steve (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

† Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)

† Eastwood, Mark (Dewsbury) (Con)

† Greenwood, Lilian (Nottingham South) (Lab)

† Jarvis, Dan (Barnsley Central) (Lab)

Mangnall, Anthony (Totnes) (Con)

† Metcalfe, Stephen (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)

† Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con)

† Monaghan, Carol (Glasgow North West) (SNP)

† Moore, Damien (Southport) (Con)

† Murrison, Dr Andrew (Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families)

† Penning, Sir Mike (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)

† Pollard, Luke (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)

† Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)

Kevin Maddison, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 21 November 2022

[Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

Armed Forces (Tri-Service Serious Crime Unit) (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2022

On a point of order, Ms Fovargue. One of the papers before us is an impact assessment which, when I look at it, is about the ban on the provision of maritime transportation and associated services for Russian oil, which does not seem to relate to the statutory instruments before us today. In making his opening remarks, can the Minister clarify whether or not there is an impact assessment for those instruments? The instruments themselves say that no full impact assessment has been prepared. It is useful to have somebody else’s impact assessment, but not tremendously helpful to the scrutiny that the Committee is supposed to apply to these instruments.

Thank you. I will now call the Minister to move the first motion and speak to both instruments. At the end of the debate, I will put the question on the first motion, then ask the Minister to move the second motion formally.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Armed Forces (Tri-Service Serious Crime Unit) (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2022.

With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Armed Forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022.

On the point of order, the impact assessment we have been provided with is fascinating—indeed, it could be more fascinating than the subject matter of this debate. However, the explanatory notes to the statutory instruments state:

“A full impact assessment has not been prepared for this instrument as no, or no significant, impact on the private, voluntary or public sectors is foreseen.”

There is no impact assessment, but it is nice to see this particular impact assessment, as it looks very interesting indeed.

There are two statutory instruments for the Committee to consider.

The explanatory notes say that

“A full impact assessment has not been prepared for this instrument”,

which suggests that some kind of work has been done on the impact. Is the Minister able to give the Committee a copy of what impact has been assessed—not a full one, but a partial one?

I think this might be a matter of semantics, but I can tell the hon. Lady that no impact assessment has been published or produced. I hope that is satisfactory, and I hope that in my remarks, I will be able to clarify why that is and reassure her that there is no need for such an exercise, if that is of any help.

The first of the SIs we are debating today is to establish the tri-service serious crime unit; the second deals with changes to court martial rules in the service justice system. The first SI makes a minor consequential amendment to regulation 8(1) of the Armed Forces Regulations 2009, which in turn was made under the Armed Forces Act 2006. That change is required to support the establishment of the defence serious crime unit, otherwise known as the DSCU. It does so by ensuring that the new Provost Marshal and service police personnel of that tri-service unit are governed by the same legislation as the existing three single-service Provosts Marshal and single-service police forces.

The instrument amends regulation 8(1) to include any reports prepared by, or provided to, the tri-service crime unit to be provided to a person’s commanding officer when referring that person’s case to the Director of Service Prosecutions. This is not new; it is simply something that has arisen as a consequence of the creation of the defence serious crime unit. Although this is only a minor and consequential amendment, the original set of regulations it amends is subject to the affirmative procedure, meaning that this SI must also follow that procedure.

Page 3 of the explanatory memorandum—item 10, “Consultation outcome”—says that there was “no formal consultation”. It does, however, say that

“A range of stakeholders have been consulted”,

so could the Minister say what the Provosts Marshal said by way of response?

I saw the Provost Marshal of the defence serious crime unit last week, and the regulations have been worked up by, among others, the Provost Marshal’s service. As I will go on to explain, although I hope it is not controversial, the Armed Forces Act 2021 establishes something quite new and innovative and, as a consequence of the Lyons and Henriques reports, a unit for serious crime. The Provost Marshal, among others, was consulted in the process of drawing up the Armed Forces Act and the regulations that stem from it, which we are debating today. They have not arisen de novo. They are the result of widespread consultation to make sure we get this right. I will come on to this later, but they align what happens in defence more closely with what happens in civilian policing and prosecutorial institutions. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman.

I will provide an update on what is happening in the formation of the DSCU if it is of interest to the Committee. A lot of this will not be new to the Committee, but it is worth covering it. Those who were involved in the Armed Forces Act will be familiar with it. Nevertheless, it is important that the Committee is apprised of where we are with the organisation that is about to be stood up.

The Armed Forces Act set out a framework for the establishment of a tri-service serious crime unit for service police and enabled the appointment of a new Provost Marshal. Under the direction of the new Provost Marshal, who was appointed in January and whom I met last week, the MOD has undertaken the necessary prep work for the new tri-service unit to become operational next month. The work has focused on the structure and resourcing of the DSCU and has included the establishment of a defence serious crime command—a strategic command headquarters for the DSCU based at Southwick Park, Fareham, which is home to the Defence School of Policing and Guarding. It has been operational since April.

The defence serious crime command will sit outside the single-service chain of command, ensuring operational independence, giving greater reassurance to victims and building trust in service justice. It will provide strategic direction to the DSCU, allowing the unit to focus on the delivery of serious crime policing. One strategic aim is to improve the capability of defence to deal with the most serious offences. Reservist service police, the majority of whom are civilian police officers, will be better utilised, lending their experience and knowledge, in keeping with a general trend in the use of reservists, which I commend to the Committee, while fessing up that I am myself a reservist.

For staff joining the DSCU, external placements with Home Office police forces will be used, and there will be a continued focus on building single-area specialisms as part of career development. That will be supported by the adoption of civilian policing qualifications in accordance with College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council guidance. I hope right hon. and hon. Members have spotted a theme in benchmarking best practice and ironing out the potential for discrepancies, to which I am committed.

It is very welcome news that the unit is about to be stood up next month. Can the Minister give the Committee an idea of what the staffing capacity will be? It is good to have the unit, but it has only a couple of people and has to wait for embedded reservists to be trained up. That might not be as effective as we would wish, so can he give us an idea of its budget and staffing capacity?

The thing will be stood up on 5 December. I confess I have not visited it yet, but I intend to do so very soon. It will have very senior service policemen plus support staff. I cannot give the hon. Lady a figure, but it will be pretty comprehensive. It will include reservists because they are in large part civilian policemen. Although some police choose to join the reserves and become something completely different, the bulk of them continue to serve as police. There is no question of training them up; they are trained already, and the flow of expertise is the other way round, that is to say, from the reservist police to the defence serious crime unit. That comes back to my earlier remark about the need to ensure that we have a level playing field, and that best practice in the service criminal justice sector and the civilian criminal justice sector are broadly speaking the same. I have no reason to suppose that they are not, and Henriques, and before him Lyons and Murphy, suggested that they are.

Nevertheless, it is important that the two sectors operate more or less on the same level, and in particular that some of our service police are exposed to College of Policing disciplines. That is one of the intentions behind the formation of the unit. There will be training— that is ongoing—but I would not want to suggest to the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood that we need to train people specifically for this task. For the most part, they will be doing this already. It is just that we are standing up this separate unit to deal with serious crime. That recommendation stems directly from Lyons, Murphy and Henriques. I hope that that is of some help.

Does the Minister agree that it was excellent news that a former Policing Minister changed the rules so that serving police officers could serve in the reserves, and bring that expertise across—not that I, a former Policing Minister, would have any knowledge of that?

My right hon. Friend knows a lot about the issue; indeed, he is too modest, and I entirely agree with the point that he makes. In the time that it has taken him to make his intervention, my extremely good officials have told me that the answer to the question from the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood is approximately 370, which is good. There is significant resource being put into this. I look forward to meeting some of them when I visit Southwick Park very shortly.

I am glad to see the Minister back in position. He has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, but I hope that he is in post for a decent time. I think the purpose of regulations is to require the new tri-service police force to provide a copy of any reports to the commanding officer of those accused of serious crimes. That does not sound very similar to how civilian police forces operate. Will the Minister explain that requirement and what advantages it has? Is there any risk that the person might be tipped off, and that that might hamper the investigation?

I thought that somebody might ask that, so I asked my officials before coming to Committee. This is a consequential statutory instrument, which simply replicates what is currently the practice under the Armed Forces Act 2021. Without it, the new defence serious crime unit would not be doing the things that service police are already doing. One could argue that commanding officers should not be provided with reports about people under their command. However, in the 2021 Act and its predecessor, the Armed Forces Act 2006, Parliament decided that such a report should be provided. That is the reason we are doing this now, and changing primary legislation is not the function of this Committee. I am sorry if that is an unsatisfactory response to my hon. Friend, but I am very pleased he asked the question because, as I said, I had asked the same.

I think that the Committee will be interested in the victim and witness care unit, which will be set up under the DSCU. The unit will deliver support to victims and witnesses of crime. The unit is being developed in consultation with specialist external organisations, such as the Survivors Trust and the office of the Victims Commissioner, and is expected to be fully operational in early 2023. The regulations deliver on the recommendations of the Henriques review, and mean that the Ministry of Defence will be in a stronger position to respond to serious crime. We will be able to combine resources and specialist skills across the single services under one unit, and will provide an independent, more effective and collaborative approach to policing across defence. I will seek to provide further updates after the DSCU has become fully operational and, in particular, after I have visited in the near future, which I look forward to.

I welcome the points that the Minister is making. I think I am right in saying that the Government have said that the DSCU will be independently inspected by His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. The Minister will know, as I do, that every branch of the armed forces takes seriously the issue of how their performance is evaluated and how they can seek to do things better in future. Can the Minister confirm that there will be an independent inspection? If that is the plan, does he envisage that the findings of the independent inspection, when it takes place at some point in the future—I am mindful that the unit has not even been set up yet—will be published?

Yes, I anticipate that this will be dealt with in exactly the same way as for any other constabulary, if that is helpful. I will move on to the second statutory instrument that we are debating, the Armed Forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022, because I am quite sure that they will be of interest to the Committee. The SI consists of the changes to the rules that apply to courts martial that were contained in schedule 1 to the Armed Forces Act 2021, with three of the four changes implementing recommendations from the Lyons review of the service justice system.

The first rule change implements Lyons’s recommendation that a six-member board should be required if the offence is a schedule 2 offence. These are serious offences, such as grievous bodily harm, which must always be referred to service police for investigation rather than being dealt with by a commanding officer, or that carry a maximum penalty of more than two years’ imprisonment. His Honour Shaun Lyons found that there was widespread agreement that the five-member boards, which currently try schedule 2 offences and offences carrying a maximum term of over seven years’ imprisonment, should be increased in size to six and reach qualified majority verdicts, rather than a simple majority verdict in which at least five of the six members have agreed.

His Honour Shaun Lyons also recommended that those boards try schedule 2 offences and offences carrying a maximum of over two rather than seven years’ imprisonment. He recommended that smaller boards, which will continue to consist of three or four members, should try all other cases and deal with sentencing in all cases where the defendants have pleaded guilty, as they do now. We accept this recommendation, which will allow the three-member boards to focus on the great majority of the service disciplinary offences contained in the Armed Forces Act 2006 and the less serious criminal offences that would normally be heard in the magistrates court in a civilian criminal justice system. Six-member boards will deal with the relatively small number of disciplinary offences that carry a sentence of over two years’ imprisonment, such as assisting the enemy or mutiny, as well as criminal conduct that would normally be tried in the Crown Court. We do not anticipate that lowering the threshold for when a six-member board is required—when the offence attracts a punishment of more than two years—will place an untenable resource burden on the single services, since the existing pools of personnel provided for court martial service are sufficient to meet the new requirement. However, we will monitor the situation for the first 12 months after introduction and consider whether any adjustments to the approach outlined might be required.

The second rule change has its background in the pingdemic that occurred during the covid pandemic, which highlighted the concern that three-member boards hearing cases lasting several days can be vulnerable to the unexpected loss of one member of the board. To deal with this, the Armed Forces Act 2021 gave judge advocates the power to add a fourth member to a three-member board.

Can the Minister tell the Committee how many cases were delayed as a consequence of the loss of a member of a three-member board?

I cannot, but the judge has discretion to decide whether the court martial board should be stood down or whether it should continue regardless. I will elaborate on that later.

Judge advocates will have wide discretion to appoint an additional member whenever they feel that it is necessary in view of the expected length or location of the proceedings. This approach is closely based on the existing rule, which currently allows up to two additional members to be appointed in cases that are expected to last more than 10 days, or more than five days in the case of trials being heard outside the UK and Germany.

The third rule change implements Shaun Lyons’s recommendation that there must be a mechanism to cope with the death, sickness or other absence of a member occurring during a trial, which would reduce a six-member board to five members. This reflects section 16 of the Juries Act 1974, under which the default position is that a Crown court trial continues despite the loss of up to three jurors, but the judge can instead choose to discharge the jury, which touches on the point that the hon. Lady made in her intervention. The new rule gives judge advocates the power to direct that proceedings with a four or six-member board should continue

“in the interests of justice”

despite the loss of a member, and this direction can be made at any point after all the members have been sworn in.

The final rule change implements the provision in the Armed Forces Act 2021 to allow personnel at other ranks 7, or OR-7, to sit as members of a court martial. These are senior non-commissioned officers at chief petty officer, staff or colour sergeant, and flight sergeant or chief technician level. This was another recommendation made by Shaun Lyons. Currently, only officers and warrant officers can be members of a court martial, and, unlike a jury in a Crown court, the members assist the judge advocate in sentencing. Sentencing within the service justice system has a number of purposes, not least punishment, deterrence and the maintenance of discipline. OR-7 ranks have the experience and understanding of command and rank, and they are well placed to be involved in the sentencing exercise, which is something in which civilian jurors do not participate.

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for giving way; he is being very generous. He is referring to the SI implementing a number of recommendations of the Lyons review. My memory of it is that it made a recommendation to move the prosecution of serious crimes committed in the UK, such as murder, manslaughter and rape, from the military courts to the civilian courts, but the SI is not doing that. I think the Government rejected that recommendation. Will the Minister tell us why that was and whether anything has changed in the interim?

I think we had this conversation on 31 October during the urgent question. The Government take the view that service justice is best discharged using the current arrangements, and Henriques appeared to be comfortable with that. Although I suspect that the hon. Lady will not like the answer, it is felt that the status quo is probably acceptable at the moment, and Henriques has certainly opined favourably on the quality of justice dispensed by the current mechanism. As we discussed on 31 October, there are no current plans to change that, but as with everything, matters are kept under review.

We need to ensure that the quality of justice being dispensed using the parallel justice system is commensurate with, and equal in quality to, that which is dispensed in the wider civilian criminal justice system. From my remarks today, I hope it is clear that my view is that we should ensure that, wherever we can, we have systems with a great deal of overlap—that is to say that one can check off against the other—to assure ourselves that what is being done in one system is not radically different from what is being done in the other, and that the quality of justice dispensed is not different.

I will continue talking about the rationale for extending eligibility for board membership to OR-7s. Doing so will mean that the single services have a wider pool of experienced personnel to draw on, and we will support the new rule to increase the representation of women on court martial boards, which was debated in Committee on 26 October. It may also reduce the burden on officers required on boards where the defendant is of an other rank. The existing rule about all members being senior to the defendant is unchanged, meaning that OR-7 personnel will only be able to serve on boards hearing cases where the defendant is of the same, or a lower, rank.

To sum up, three of these four rule changes were recommended to the Department by Shaun Lyons, a highly respected retired senior Crown court judge. The other rule change reflects a sensible business continuity measure for three-member boards—that is, the additional member to cover the unexpected loss of one of them.

The Minister is being very generous with his time. Coming back to his earlier point about seeking consistency of outcomes, why has the Minister not adopted the proposal of the Government-commissioned Henriques review that the deputy Provost Marshal of the DSCU ought to be a civilian?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. The first reason is that service police have a jurisdiction overseas that civilian police do not, which it is usually done on the basis of status of forces agreements that allow service police to do things that civilians cannot; the second is the rigour of some of the locations in which our servicemen and servicewomen operate. On consideration, bearing in mind that the Government have accepted the overwhelming majority of Lyons and Murphy, and of Henriques, it was felt reasonable to continue to appoint a service policeman as the deputy.

To come back to the point I made earlier, there is a considerable amount of civilian interplay with the new serious crime unit because of the employment, by design, of reservists who are policemen. The effect of the changes we are making following the Armed Forces Act 2021 is to increase the amount of civilian interplay with the service criminal justice system, if that is of any comfort to the hon. Gentleman.

I hope that I have explained both of these statutory instruments to the satisfaction of the Committee, and that Members will be able to accept the steps that we have taken in the interests of service justice: ensuring that there are checks and balances on what we do in defence, and making sure that what we do in defence passes muster compared with what is done in the wider criminal justice system in this country. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue, and I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the SIs and answering so many of my colleagues’ questions about them. It is good to see him in his place, even if it does mean that I have lost my co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the National Trust, who will be replaced in due course. I warn the Minister that the last time my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent and I served on a statutory instrument Committee together and I said good things about the Minister, the hon. Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton), she was sacked only hours later. It was sad to see her go, so I will be careful about how positive I am about the Minister today, because I would like him to stay in his place a little longer.

I think everyone in this House agrees that our service personnel deserve a system that is able to investigate and prosecute crime effectively, but there have been clear challenges to that system, and clear holes that have appeared over the past couple of years. It is good that the Government are looking at this issue, because there are serious flaws in our service justice system that need to be looked at. We need only to have read the news over the past few months and seen the lived experiences of many of our service personnel, especially women, to realise that it is not just the execution of justice at the end of a criminal inquiry, but a culture within our armed forces, that has enabled many of the most serious offences to be covered up and sidelined, or not get the attention that they should have done from commanding officers and peers within our armed forces. It is welcome that a journey has started, but more still needs to be done.

Reform is needed, and Labour will not be opposing either of the statutory instruments. However, I have a number of questions that I would like to ask the Minister, the first of which is about the Armed Forces (Tri-Service Serious Crime Unit) (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2022. It is right that each branch of our armed forces has a service police that investigates crimes, and I put on record my thanks to the highly motivated staff for the work that they do. I am concerned that reports and investigations into many of our service police forces have found that personnel cannot be considered proficient in investigating serious crime due to their lack of experience. That is the conclusion reached by the Government’s commissioned review from 2020, conducted by the former chief constable of Merseyside Police, Sir Jon Murphy.

Labour welcomed the provision for the tri-service serious crimes unit during the passage of the Armed Forces Bill, and we note that the extension in today’s statutory instrument is a step in the right direction. I do have concerns, though, about the capacity of the defence serious crimes unit to do enough to remedy the legitimate concerns that we and service personnel have about restoring trust. It is in that spirit that I am going to ask questions of the Minister.

My first question is about staffing and resourcing of the defence serious crimes unit. I note that in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood the Minister made the case that it would be 370 personnel. That is a sizeable commitment and is very welcome. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out where the expertise is coming from within that 370 personnel and where those personnel are being drawn from. Are they simply being transferred from other service policing, or is there a specific form of recruitment that the Department has undertaken to find the gaps in expertise and fill them with some of those 370 people?

Will the Minister set out what the unit’s annual budget will be and, importantly—because we are in an era where the Defence Secretary has accepted annual real-terms cuts in the defence budget—could he set out whether the budget that the defence serious crimes unit will have will be the same this year, next year and every year until the end of this spending period? Having 370 personnel sounds good now, but if that is to be cut by the same proportion as the day-to-day cuts to the armed forces that we are seeing from the Government, that figure will be lower at the end of the spending review period. Will the Minister tell us what the staff capacity will be when the unit opens next month? Is 370 the establishment figure that the Department is aiming for, or will it be 370 people at their desks, operational, by the time it opens in December?

In relation to civilian expertise, we all recognise that there are pockets of expertise in our armed forces, but also in civilian policing. Finding ways to share expertise is really important. The Government have said that the DSCU will have access to civilian expertise, a promise that must be kept in light of the expertise deficit that was found in the Murphy review. The Murphy review also said that short, informal training placements are no good. Can the Minister confirm, when he talks about adding civilian expertise to the defence serious crime unit, the length of the embedding expected of reservists? Murphy highlights that short placements will neither benefit the overall operational capacity of the DSCU nor help the individual who is placed.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent about the recommendation of the Henriques review that the deputy Provost Marshal should be a civilian. I note that when this instrument was debated in the Lords, and the question was raised, the Minister replied that the embedding of reservists who are police officers in the Home Office police forces will be a way of adequately coping with the lack of civilian oversight, and will bring in more civilian expertise.

I want to test the Minister on the precariousness of the Ministry of Defence relying of the availability of reservists who are civilian police officers with relevant experience. Those people are really important. It is a welcome change that police officers can serve as reservists in our armed forces, but we should be drawing from the with the relevant expertise. I want to understand from the Minister how many of our reservists, on a tri-service basis, have police expertise in investigating serious crimes.

On a point of clarity, I think the hon. Member will find that we are not talking just about reservists from the 43 authorities that come under the Home Office. It will be British Transport police, nuclear police, port police and others—that is where this expertise will come from, not only from the Home Office.

I am grateful for that intervention. That is useful to know. In relation to where the specific expertise comes from within those forces—the Home Office and other forces—we need to understand how many of the 370 will be reservists and how many will come with specific experience, because there is a big difference between drafting in a reservist with many years of experience as a traffic officer and drafting in a reservist with many years of experience of investigating serious crimes, particularly serious sexual offences. I would be grateful if the Minister spelled that out, because the backfilling of the expertise that we need seems a bit woolly.

Paragraph 7.1 of the draft explanatory memorandum says that specialist investigative support will be provided to the DSCU. Can the Minister expand on what he means by specialist investigative support when it comes to additional civilian expertise? Who will that come from and on what basis? What expertise will be provided, or will it be commissioned on an ad hoc basis depending on each investigation? What budget will be allocated for it? With the addition of specialist investigative support and the embedding of reservists, the Government are seemingly putting a lot of weight on cavalry coming over the hill to resource the unit, rather than the expertise being built and trained in establishment figures every day. I would be grateful if he set out what he means by that in particular.

I would also be grateful if the Minister said what he means by embedding reservists. Is that on a case-by-case basis? Is it a formal drafting or a secondment? Will police officers who are reservists be moved into the posting? Will those individuals be given much choice about it, and how will that work? I want it to work; my concern is that a lot of emphasis is seemingly being put on something that we cannot quite understand the true extent of. I would be grateful if he set out what that will look like. Will he also set out the seniority of the civilian officers he expects to be embedded, and how they will be managed? Will it be part of the normal structure, or will there be another structure? Will a minimum threshold of training and expertise in handling serious crime be required to be embedded, or will the qualification simply be that of being a police officer in one of the forces, and being a reservist and having passed the necessary training?

In response to the initial intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood, the Minister said that there has been no impact assessment, but given the heavy reliance that the Ministry of Defence is placing on reservists it seems to me that some work will have been done to look at the overall capacity and availability of personnel to fill that role. I am not quite convinced by the argument that no impact assessment or work has been done to provide that information, because if it has not been done there is a real risk that it may not work, despite the Government’s good intentions.

I welcome the Minister saying that he would like more of the process to be aligned with civilian processes. That is a good principle, notwithstanding the unique environment in which many of our armed forces operate, but he also said that the DSCU command, as well as being operationally independent, will look at civilian policing qualifications for DSCU officers, I imagine to try to get greater experience and expertise across from civilian police forces. That seems welcome. Is there a similar ambition for service police? I am working on the expectation that many of the 370 personnel in the DSCU will be drawn from service police forces. Is it the intention that the training in civilian police qualifications will happen when they are moved into the DSCU, or will there be an attempt to match that qualification on to the DSCU feeders, which will be the individual services’ policing operations? It would help to look at that when ironing out discrepancies, as the Minister talked about.

The final thing that I want to understand regarding the DSCU is gender balance. The Minister was right that, when we discussed a previous statutory instrument about personnel not only on courts martial and other boards but in investigations, there was a discussion on the gender mix and the experience that can be brought to bear. That is especially true when we are looking at the large number of crimes against women in our armed forces. It is about ensuring that those who prosecute offences have appropriate lived experience, for the sake of the victims of those offences. Will the Minister set out the expectation for the gender balance in the overall unit, and whether there will be any specialist trained officers or personnel in that unit who will deal with serious sexual offences, if they will be investigated?

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central raised an important point on inspection, and I want to probe the Minister a bit further on that. It was said in the Lords debate on this SI that the DSCU would be

“independently inspected by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 November 2022; Vol. 825, c. 566.]

but the Minister did not concretely say that the findings would be published publicly. He says they will be published in the usual way, but I would be grateful if he could commit to them being publicly published, so that people can look into them.

On the extent of the scrutiny and inspection, section 104 of the Murphy review says that all three service police have

“an arrangement whereby from time to time they negotiate with HMICFRS as to what they consider they should be inspected upon. This arrangement could be regarded as ‘cosy’ and does not exist in civilian policing”


“Chief Constables have no say in when they are inspected or on what subject.”

Will the Minister set out whether the same cosy relationship will apply in the case of the DSCU inspection regime, or whether it will be sufficiently different? If the Minister is making the case that civilian policing and the operation of the DSCU should be parallel, such a cosy relationship should not be allowed with the DSCU—or, indeed, with the service police.

The Minister said that the SI had been introduced because of the Armed Forces Act 2021. That was three or four Ministers ago, and it has taken a long time for these small but important changes to be brought forward. Will he set out what other changes from the Act we are still waiting for? The reforms are moving at a snail’s pace. He will know about the regularity of armed forces Acts, and I do not want him to get to another one before many of the provisions from the last one are implemented. That means having a clear timetable for implementing the provisions.

The Minister said that the DSCU’s victim and witness care unit would be operational by early 2023. Will he set out more detail about the timetable for that and what will happen in the meantime? That may be only a few months away but, knowing Government timetables and what “shortly” sometimes means, I know that early 2023 could be at any point in 2023. Getting some specifics on the timetable is important to build trust.

I turn to the Armed Forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022. Labour will support these rules at the end of the debate, but I would be grateful if the Minister could provide answers to a few questions. They are worth asking, and they complement the discussions that many of us in this room had only a few weeks ago on the most recent SI on service policing.

The court martial system is one part—an important part—of our service justice system, but for service personnel, veterans and the public to have confidence in the whole system, every part of it must work properly. The prosecution of serious crimes in the service justice system is not working as well as it should. The conviction rate for rape cases tried under court martial was just 9% between 2015 and 2020, whereas the figure in civilian courts is 68% for parallel charges. If we look at the quality of justice, as the Minister suggested we do, we see a gaping divide between the expected outcomes in service justice on the prosecution of rape cases, compared with those in civilian justice.

This is a very difficult comparison. The Crown Prosecution Service decides which cases go forward, and its bar for that, particularly in rape and sexual assault cases, is very high. It wants to have confidence that it will win the case. There is no Crown Prosecution Service here, so, as former Victims Minister, I find the comparison of like for like slightly difficult to accept.

I am grateful for that intervention, because it allows me to challenge the Minister. If we are seeking to provide greater continuity between service justice and civilian justice, we need to question why those large gaps exist. Is the decision on whether to try a case based on the threshold of evidence presented in that case, or is it about the outcomes of the procedures within the justice system? We have a parallel justice system, and unless someone has been through it or operated in it, there is little public awareness of military justice compared to civilian justice. Notwithstanding what the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead has said, I think it is fair to try to understand what gaps exist to challenge the quality of justice.

The point was made well by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood about which recommendations of the Lyons review the Minister has decided to accept. In our last SI discussion, I asked the hon. Member for Wrexham, who was sitting in the Minister’s seat at the time, about the recommendations for moving manslaughter, murder and rape from military courts to civilian courts. That recommendation was made in not only the Lyons review but the Defence Committee report that the former Minister drafted when she was on that Committee, to which more than 4,000 serving women and veterans contributed. The Government opposed the amendments on moving manslaughter, murder and rape and other sexual offences when we debated the Armed Forces Act last year.

If we are to look at the two systems in parallel and consider which is most effective, I am not convinced that the argument has been made as to whether we should be looking at simply defence of a system or at defence of an outcome. If we are to look, as the Minister has invited us to do, at the quality of justice and the quality of outcomes for murder, manslaughter and rape, we should perhaps look at that in relation to where this sits.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are talking about the court martial rules. We are perhaps going a little off scope here.

I am grateful for that advice. If we are to look at court martial for serious offences, we need to look at whether things should be in the military system or should be dealt with via the civilian system, but I will go with your ruling on this one, Ms Fovargue.

If we are talking about courts martial, I invite the Minister to look again at the make-up of military panels. He mentioned the provisions for what should happen if a member were to become sick or otherwise indisposed and therefore not able to look at a case. Something that was heavily debated in relation to our last statutory instrument was the gender balance of those court martial panels—the provision brought forward was for a woman to be on the panel. Will the Minister set out whether the gender balance of the court martial panel would need to be looked at if the woman was disposed of by illness or other things? Will the guidance that his Department provides cover whether the gender balance of a depleted court martial board should be a reason for a trial to be re-resourced? What guidance will be provided?

I turn to the capacity of the service justice system to deal with the changes proposed in the statutory instrument. Dropping the level from seven to two seems logical. Looking at the number of personnel needed on a panel, the changes proposed seem to make sense. Will the Minister set out whether the increased numbers that would be required fit within the estimates of available personnel, and how those estimates were made, given that the Government have made no impact assessment? I am not convinced that without any work being done, it is sufficient for the Minister to say, “It will all be fine on the day,” when he has told this Committee that no impact assessment has been made. What assurances can the Government provide that the expansion of six-member boards will not contribute to a backlog in hearings? What assessment has been made of that?

Will the Minister look at the territorial extent of the regulations? As set out in paragraph 4.1 of the explanatory memorandum, the regulations deal with the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the British overseas territories, except Gibraltar. The Minister has probably been told by his officials that I ask this question fairly regularly. It seems that we are building up a large deficit of updated regulations that apply to Gibraltar. In the past, it has been said that is because the Gibraltar regiment sits outside the rules, which is an argument that I can understand. However, that does not apply to UK armed forces stationed in Gibraltar.

Will the Minister set out whether alternative provisions apply to Gibraltar for UK personnel stationed or based there, whether those provisions apply to the Gibraltar regiment or UK armed forces personnel stationed at a base in Gibraltar separately, and how the improvements being offered by the SI apply to UK armed forces personnel in Gibraltar? It seems that there is a deficit in relation to Gibraltar. It says in the territorial application—I say this for those who are following online; I am sure the debate makes good listening—that there is an ability for this to apply to courts martial held around the world. I understand that it does, but I would be grateful if the Minister could set that out.

Finally, in our last debate on these statutory instruments, it was obvious that there was a lot of cross-party interest from Members of all parties. However, there was not a huge amount of experience in defence justice. I suggested that the fantastic armed forces parliamentary scheme, which is co-ordinated between the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust and the Ministry of Defence, could look at a component relating to defence justice. The previous Minister said that she would take that up. I would be grateful if the Minister who has taken her place could also look at that.

Although there are many parallels between defence justice and civilian justice, the approaches are very different. Some of the assumptions about how justice is delivered in our armed forces are sufficiently different that an introductory session into defence justice would make a useful addition to the experience provided to Members of Parliament in the AFPS.

The Committee will be pleased to know that I do not want to detain them for very long. I should declare my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; I am the director of a law firm, even though I am not legally trained.

It is for the Minister to defend many of the points raised by the shadow Minister. However, as the former armed forces Minister—I have a lot of former ministerial titles—may I defend reservists? Many of the comments from the shadow Minister were about reservists’ experience. Modern armed forces around the world cannot operate without reservists. Those reservists can come under myriad different contracts. When I went to Afghanistan and Iraq, most of the American troops that I bumped into on a daily basis were reservists in some form. I used to be a reservist myself, but I am too old now—fortunately, for the armed forces.

The skills that reservists bring into the armed forces are often replicated inside the armed forces, but they often bring in skills that would be difficult for the armed forces to hold on to in terms of capacity. For that reason, it is a bit like when medics in our armed forces train inside the NHS, because we just cannot do that in military hospitals in the way that we used to many years ago.

Different contracts will be brought in, and it will be right for this specialist unit to bring in those skills—whether that is under a six-month or a two-year contract for a reservist is entirely up to the unit and the armed forces reserve to decide. But those skills are vital. I listened carefully to the shadow Minister. I am very proud of our armed forces. We could not have done what we have done around the world in peacekeeping terms without them. I recently visited Cyprus and the UN troops there, and our troops were reservists. That is very important.

Secondly, on the College of Policing, it is fantastic news that other police forces in this country that are not part of the 43 territorial police forces can make use of skills, training and qualifications from the College of Policing, because that never would have happened before.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for giving way. Reservists do a brilliant job, and the blended force that we have between regulars and reserves is really important. The point I was making is that having the—

Order. Can we curtail the debate on reservists? I think that is out of scope. We all appreciate that we are talking about the composition of the board and this statutory instrument on courts martial, so I think we need to curtail the debate on reservists and move back within scope.

On a point of order, Ms Fovargue. There are two statutory instruments here. One is about the court martial board and the other is about a specialist police unit inside the armed forces that has reservists in it. Naturally, I will go along with whatever you say, but I think that is what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and I were trying to help with.

I am quite happy to talk about the serious crime unit, but I think we were straying into wider territory.

I am very grateful, Chair, and my right hon. Friend’s insights into these matters are very valuable indeed.

I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, who speaks for the Opposition. He has asked a lot of questions that I will do my best to answer. If I do not give him satisfactory responses, I am more than happy to write to him.

I also thank the hon. Gentleman in relation to his comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham. Although she served for only a very brief time, I think she made an impact, particularly in relation to her report on women in the armed forces, which we debated on 31 October. I will not rehash that debate here today—I think we gave that subject a fairly good airing—and some of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made today were probably dealt with then.

It is important, just for context, to insist that this measure is a consequence of Henriques and Lyons, and their comprehensive review of this piece of service justice. We have genuinely attempted to incorporate their significant recommendations. I believe that the result is an improved service justice system, and I am convinced that the defence serious crime unit will be part of that.

It is also important to say that this unit is made up of elements of service police drawn from across the three services. I think that the Henriques’ concern was that we did not have a specific unit to deal with serious crime. We have seen reflections of that in civilian policing, too, with an increasing concentration of expertise to deal with crimes of a particular nature, especially when those crimes are serious.

In a sense, that is what we are doing here today. We are drawing together into one organisation the elements of service police who deal with serious crime, and I think that right hon. and hon. Members will understand the advantages and focus it will bring to the most serious three crimes in particular.

That said, it is important to put this matter into some sort of perspective because, in general, our service population is pretty law-abiding and does not engage in the sorts of crimes that we are chiefly concerned with today. Nevertheless, when such crimes happen, they need to be dealt with properly and in a way that is comparable to the way they are dealt with in civilian life.

May I deal with the point about reservists? Reservists are going to be important in this process for the reason that I have explained. They will be drawn from all elements of policing. We have very little control over that, in fact. It depends on our ability to recruit and retain reservists which, Ms Fovargue, I am certain you would call me out of order if I were to dilate on now.

However, reservists will be in addition to the 370. Regarding the length of time that they will serve at any one time, of course that will be in accordance with the reservists’ terms and conditions of service. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport will know that reservists are being used more and more these days in our armed forces. I recently came back from the Falklands, for example, where I saw, much to my surprise, reservists providing something like a third of manpower. I think that is extraordinary; I was not anticipating that at all. Very often, they are on three or four month-contracts, as it were, depending upon their civilian commitments.

I suspect that chief constables across the land would be rather concerned if their officers were disappearing for three or four months. Nevertheless, I anticipate that the service police will utilise their 24-day-a-year standard reserve commitment, and perhaps a little more depending on their agreement with their service and their civilian employer. The important point to make is that these reservists contribute now to service policing and will continue to do so in this new unit, but I hope in a rather more focused way.

On training, it is important to say that the constituents of the defence serious crime unit are already service police. They are trained, and in the main they do a good job. Under the Provost Marshal for serious crimes, the unit will focus its training more than is the case at the moment to ensure that College of Policing suggestions and guidance are carried out, and more courses will be provided to those who deal with serious crime from among that cadre. I hope the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport welcomes that.

Like the hon. Gentleman, I have an affection for Gibraltar. He is right that there appears to be a bit of an incongruity with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and the Falkland Islands Defence Force—perhaps another could be cited. The Armed Forces Act applies to British forces everywhere, including Gibraltar. It applies to the Royal Gibraltar Regiment when it is operating with British armed forces with regular reservists from the UK. It is important to make that point. Otherwise, Gibraltarian law is by and large commensurate with that which applies to the UK.

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that point. That is not what the explanatory memorandum says, however. It says:

“The extent of this instrument (that is, the jurisdiction(s) which the instrument forms part of the law of) is the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the British overseas territories (except Gibraltar).”

It explicitly says that it does not include Gibraltar. I hope the Minister is correct, but if he is, the wording of the explanatory memorandum may need to be revisited.

The Armed Forces Act covers British forces everywhere, including Gibraltar. It applies to the Royal Gibraltar Regiment if it is operating with British armed forces. Otherwise, it does not in the same way, but the Gibraltarian Government have ensured that their legislation covers pretty much the same ground. I know it is untidy, but that is the reality of it—[Interruption.] Well, I am telling the hon. Gentleman what the situation is, and I hope he will accept that. He may wish to write to me, and if he wants me to write to him to clarify it further, I am more than happy to do that.

We are not relying on reservists in the defence serious crime unit, but we believe that, as elsewhere in defence, they will bring important value added to what we do. Obviously, that will evolve over time.

The hon. Gentleman asked what ranks are involved. Again, we are reliant on who the reservists are and who is tempted to join them. I obviously proselytise for them all the time, but we have to work with what we have got. That means that there will be a mixture of uniformed police and detectives, and we have to try to accommodate that as best we can. The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that we will provide training where necessary to ensure that nobody in the reserve cadre is exposed to tasks for which they are not properly trained or equipped.

The hon. Gentleman perfectly reasonably asked about the budget. I will have to write to him, I am afraid, but he will have drawn from what I have said that, because the unit is constituted from officers from across defence, there will be a saving in those parts of defence, which will be translated to this unit. It is perfectly reasonable for him to ask about the additional costs that will be occasioned by setting up the unit, and I will write to him on that.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that no cavalry is about to charge over the hill. Again, I want to caution him. I do not want to give the wrong impression about service justice as it is. We have put a lot of effort into getting very senior judges to look at service justice and, in general, it is felt to be fit for purpose. The European Court of Human Rights, for example, has opined on the matter and has said encouraging things, although there is never any room for complacency. I think that the terminology, although I appreciate that it is well meant, is perhaps inappropriate. We are trying to improve the current situation and, in particular, enact the Henriques recommendations as much as possible.

On His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services, I would expect those findings to be published in exactly the same way as the publication of any other Home Office constabulary findings. I would refute the suggestion of a cosy relationship, and, if I find evidence of it, I will certainly deal with it, because that is not the way, in my experience, that His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary usually operates.

On the delay in the setting up of the victim and witness care unit, obviously, I would like it to be set up as soon as possible. I think that “early in the new year” does mean, “early in the new year”. I do not think that there is much plasticity in that, but I am absolutely resolved that this thing should be set up properly. That is why we are consulting with the Survivors Trust and the Victims’ Commissioner’s office in the hope that we can set it up as soon as may be.

However, I am sure the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport will agree that we do not want to set this up, only for it to go off half-cocked; I want it to be done proper. Certainly, authorities such as the Victims’ Commissioner ensure that what we end up having will be something that will pass muster when it is compared with its civilian equivalents. I hope that gives the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.

The hon. Gentleman asserted that the prosecution of service crime is not working. Again, I just want him to be a little bit careful, because his suggestion is that the system is broken. I do not believe that is the case. In fact, we appear to be getting through cases more rapidly than our beleaguered civilian criminal justice system at the moment.

Conviction rates for rape—again, we covered this on 31 October—range from 4% to 75% on an annual basis over the past decade. Those figures are interesting, and, possibly, are the result of the relatively low numbers involved and so, to an extent, might be artefactual. However, what does appear to be the case, and the hon. Gentleman will know this full well, because he will have got briefing notes, just like me, is that we refer more cases to the prosecuting authority than is the case in civilian life.

The reasons for that are complicated. We will see how this develops over time, but one reason might be that awareness of the unacceptability of this, among the service population, is being heightened. I do not want to be complacent, but I am hoping that our efforts towards zero tolerance are working. If so, I would expect the referral rate to be as it is. I think that it might be an indication, although it is always easy, with data, to draw the wrong conclusions.

The fact of the matter is that more cases are referred than in civilian life, and you can deduce, Ms Fovargue, that that means that cases that would not have been referred in civilian life are being referred through the service justice system, and that, when they get to the prosecutor—because we want commonality between civilian and service life—proportionately more of those are not successful.

I think that would be one reasonable conclusion to draw but, because of the relatively small numbers, I think we need to be cautious about drawing conclusions. However, in all of this—running through it like a vein through a block of granite, I hope—is an insistence that we need to do better when dealing with serious crime, in the round, and particularly with sexual offences, as we know full well from what we have seen in the media recently.

On who should have jurisdiction, it is important to note that the final decision is always made by the civilian authority. In areas of doubt, a protocol, which is currently being worked up, will determine whether a civilian or service prosecutor has jurisdiction. However, if there is any doubt or disagreement, the civilian prosecuting authority will have the final say. Also—this has not been mentioned so far, but it is important to say—there is always recourse, ultimately to the Supreme Court. I think it is clear that there is a big interplay between both systems. I would encourage that, and think it will get greater over time. Indeed, everything that we have debated, from the 2021 Act through to these regulations, would underpin that.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport asked what happens when women are disposed of. I am sure he did not mean to say that, but I know what he means. In other words, what happens when the woman on a court martial board has to stand down, through illness or for whatever reason? The answer to that question is that the judge has discretion. He has to weigh what is in the interests of justice. If he feels that the court martial board should be stood down and reconstituted, he will do that. He may think that the court martial board should continue, presumably because it has gone through a great deal of the evidence and is a long way through the process; he may take the view that the interests of justice are best served by the board continuing.

In respect of the new rules on the number of members and whether that will create a disproportionate burden on defence, I do not believe that it will; I think that the benefits far outweigh the costs. However, we plan to keep it under review over the next 12 months to see how it goes. The fact of the matter is that we are extending this to OR-7s. In my parlance, that is chief petty officers; in others’, it is staff sergeants, colour sergeants, and so on. That will increase the cadre of people and, bluntly, the experience and expertise of court martial boards.

Going through the list of things that the hon. Gentleman raised, it is important to make it clear that specialist capabilities, such as forensics, will be provided more or less as they are now, from the Service Police Crime Bureau. I think that the hon. Gentleman was concerned about where the specialist input comes from. Again, we are simply translating what we have at the moment but focusing it under the new unit.

I wonder whether I have missed anything out. I think that I have addressed most of the hon. Gentleman’s points, unless he wants to come at me again. I hope very much that I have answered his points. If he has anything more, I would be more than happy to—

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that that is not a matter for me. However, I am very sure that the defence serious crime unit will be more than happy to have a relationship with the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which is run by my excellent hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) and is a very fine organisation that has benefited a great deal of right hon. and hon. Members. I will be amazed if it does not take an interest in this. Indeed, I hope very much that it will choose to visit Southwick Park and see the new unit after 5 December, when it is stood up.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the draft Armed Forces (Tri-Service Serious Crime Unit) (Consequential Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2022.

Draft Armed forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022


That the Committee has considered the draft Armed Forces (Court Martial) (Amendment) Rules 2022.—(Dr Murrison.)

Committee rose.

Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022 Energy Bill Relief Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement and Miscellaneous Amendments 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mrs Sheryll Murray

† Blomfield, Paul (Sheffield Central) (Lab)

Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

† Butler, Rob (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)

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

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

† Holloway, Adam (Lord Commissioner of His Majesty's Treasury)

Johnson, Kim (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)

† Malthouse, Kit (North West Hampshire) (Con)

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

† Morrissey, Joy (Beaconsfield) (Con)

† Mullan, Dr Kieran (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)

Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Timpson, Edward (Eddisbury) (Con)

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

† Wakeford, Christian (Bury South) (Lab)

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

Rebecca Lees, Kate Johal, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 21 November 2022

[Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]

Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the (Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1101).

With this it will be convenient to discuss the Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1102), the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1103), the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1124) and the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement and Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No, 1125).

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mrs Murray. The regulations in the first three of the five statutory instruments we are discussing were laid before the House on 31 October, and the remaining two measures on 4 November.

Last Monday, my colleague the Minister for Industry and Investment Security, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), set out the details of the Government’s energy support schemes: the energy price guarantee or EPG, the energy bill relief scheme or EBRS, and the energy bills support scheme or EBSS. In Committee today, I will explain the pass-through requirements in respect of the schemes.

The Government have responded rapidly to the unprecedented rise in energy prices by introducing emergency legislation on energy support. That support will protect homes and non-domestic customers across the UK against inflated energy prices so that families and consumers will be supported in their cost of living this winter.

The various regulations have been created under the Energy Prices Act 2022, which gained Royal Assent on 25 October 2022. They are essential secondary legislation to implement the energy schemes. The pass-through regulations ensure that the Government’s energy support reaches families and consumers. Rather than expecting intermediaries to act of their own accord, we are requiring that they must pass on the financial benefit to the end users.

The requirements take into account the diverse range of contracting structures relating to the supply, resale, provision and charging of energy. As such, an intermediary is any individual or organisation that is party to an electricity or gas contract and receives energy price support in relation to that contract, or receives a pass-through of reductions attributable to that energy price support. The intermediary must pass on the costs of energy supplied and any reductions attributable to the energy price support to an end user—for example, landlords or property managers of a residential building.

The various regulations also cover intermediaries supplying a product or service where, contractually, a component of the price relates directly to the use of energy for the supply of heating or hot water—for example, park home managers, heat networks and electric vehicle charging operators. Taken together, the regulations apply to all three energy schemes, the EPG, the EBSS and the EBRS, including customers who are part of heat networks.

Turning to how the pass-through amount should be calculated, intermediaries can adjust the amount they pass on based on charges to end users. They must demonstrate to end users that that amount is just and reasonable. Intermediaries can take into account the extent to which they have increased their charges to end users as a result of the energy crisis. If they have shielded their end users from the impact of increased energy prices, it may be just and reasonable for them to retain some or all of the scheme benefit. For example, if a landlord charges their tenant an all-inclusive rent, incorporating a fixed charge for energy use, heating or hot water, they must pass on the discount in a just and reasonable way.

If the intermediary does not pass on the benefit, the end users can pursue recovery of the benefit as a debt through civil proceedings. Should a court rule in the end user’s favour, they will be entitled to the payment plus interest. The interest is set at 2% above the Bank of England’s base rate. This will begin to accrue from 60 days after the intermediary first receives the relevant scheme benefits. The enforcement approach is the same across the schemes, with a slight nuance for heat networks under the EBRS. If heat network customers do not receive the pass-through or information from their heat supplier, they will be able to raise a complaint with the energy ombudsman.

We have published guidance on the pass-through regulations to help those affected understand how to comply with these regulations. This Government guidance includes advice for landlords on how to meet their pass-through obligations. There are also template letters for tenants, should they wish to raise concerns with their landlords about their energy bills. Another SI will be laid later this month to correct some mistakes in the original heat supplier regulations.

In conclusion, these regulations protect those most exposed to high energy costs. The pass-through requirements allow cost savings to reach the people the Government intend to support, such as tenants and other individuals. Importantly, the regulations also provide routes for energy users to benefit from the discount they are entitled to in scenarios where intermediaries are not meeting their legal obligations. I commend the regulations to the House.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Murray. We seem to be meeting far too frequently these days.

These regulations put right a substantial loophole in the arrangements set out under the energy price assistance schemes. This loophole concerns people who do not pay their energy bill directly—where, for instance, it is paid through an intermediary, such as occupiers of park home schemes. The park home scheme will pay the bill and also get the relief from that bill. It also applies to district heating operators, which are essentially retail companies that pass on to their customers what they have managed to negotiate for the cost of the heat and bill them accordingly, as an intermediary.

All those categories of consumer are in danger of not getting the relief that should be guaranteed under the energy price support schemes and, for businesses, under the energy relief scheme. These instruments attempt to rectify that loophole across the board. It is quite right we should do that and pass these regulations through, and they should operate as soon as possible. These are to come into force the day after they have been laid, so hopefully those schemes can get going as soon as possible.

However, the design of the SIs is really not good enough to deal with the problems that I am sure hon. Members have already heard about, having received letters and correspondence from their constituents. People in very vulnerable circumstances, such as those in park homes or sub-let rented accommodation, have not had a penny of the money that is supposed to be coming their way, and they are still waiting for it. Often they are in very difficult circumstances.

How do the SIs make the payment work? They place a requirement on the intermediary to pass through the payments that it may have received, so that they go to customers in the end. I am talking generally about the regulations, because there are slightly different ways of doing it in different regulations. In general, they require the intermediary to provide a “fair and reasonable” pass-through of what it has received for bills in the first instance. It is not necessarily the whole amount, but a “fair and reasonable” amount, which is not defined in the regulations. That potentially gives rise to enormous complications, because it is not clear what a “fair and reasonable” difference is between what an intermediary has received and what a customer will actually get in the end.

It may be that “fair and reasonable” means that the intermediary has tried to protect the customer from the full increase in the bills in the first place, and could therefore say, “As far as ‘fair and reasonable’ is concerned, I am deducting what I have already protected you, the customer, from in terms of the increase and what I have charged you, and I am going to keep some of that for myself. What I give to you is fair and reasonable.” However, it is very difficult to determine accurately what is “fair and reasonable” under those circumstances, what administrative costs the intermediary has removed from the process in order to be “fair and reasonable”, and so on. There is potentially a big difficulty in implementing the scheme.

From a legal point of view, the second big difficulty arises from the way that the schemes have been set up, because there is no sanction on the intermediary for failing to do what it is supposed to do. According to the regulations, it is supposed to pass the costs through, but if it fails to do so, the customer’s only redress—certainly according to the EPRS part of the schemes—is to take civil action through the courts. The Department has kindly produced some standard letters that customers in that position can send off, but it is difficult to easily conceive of an efficient method for people who are perhaps dealing with a dodgy landlord, who may have, as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee in the other place calls it, an inequality of force of arms. It is very difficult to imagine that there will be any sort of an equal contest between the owner of a park home scheme and a person who has not received any money at all, or who has perhaps received some of the amount but has been brushed off on the grounds that it is “fair and reasonable” to give them only a proportion of the money that is passed through.

It is difficult to see how redress through the civil courts would work in practice. Even though they theoretically have the possibility of redress, the person at plot 38 in a park homes scheme may be no more likely to sue their own landlord for that money than to fly to the moon. There is no sanction as such in the regulations, so the intermediary can probably get away with it while those sums are coming forward to various people. They may face no real sanction for that money not passing through, other than various people saying, “You really ought to pass the money through over a period.”

The way the regulations are structured does not fill me with confidence that they will close the loophole about which we are all concerned. However, in the case of district heating arrangements, the intermediary is in a different position from the intermediary in the case of park home owners, landlords of multiple-occupied houses, and so on. In district heating arrangements, the intermediary receives money under the energy bill relief scheme—that is, the non-domestic, commercial part of the scheme. What is passed on to the customer will therefore not be determined by the energy price cap, but the customer should have passed on to them an appropriate element of what the intermediary in the scheme received.

That, again, is difficult to determine, which may be why, in that particular scheme, recourse in the first instance is to the energy ombudsman rather than legal action through the courts. That is a provision of that particular part of the overall schemes, but there is no reference to the energy ombudsman in the main scheme: a person either gets their amount of relief, or applies through the courts. I do not know why that distinction has been made. It may be because of the nature of the scheme, that is, the indeterminate amount of money that a person might receive, the reference to the business scheme, and the resulting relationship of the intermediary to the final customer. Perhaps the Minister will say that there is a particular part of this scheme that enables the Government to bring the recourse of the ombudsman’s office to bear on this part but not on the other part of the scheme. It may be that the Government have just forgotten to include that recourse in the other scheme, or it may be that there are good reasons for not doing so. I would be grateful if the Minister was able to provide clarity on that. It may be necessary to write to me, but if the Minister has a great inspiration, that would be good.

Frankly, this scheme is unlikely to solve all the problems of pass-through that we have been discussing. It therefore behoves the Government to monitor very closely how the scheme is working in its early days or months, so that we can see at an early stage whether things are going wrong, the pass-through is not happening or people are wilfully using the “just and reasonable” clauses of the arrangement to deny customers proper pass-through. If those abuses are happening, we should be able to pick them up very quickly and take action to stop them by either changing or extending the scheme. Does the Minister have any plans to do that? If not, can he assure me today that the Department will monitor the scheme and report back to this place at an early stage so that between us we can see whether it is working as well as it should? If it is not, we can work out better remedies to make it work in the long term.

We are not opposing the measures today because it is important that they get going, but we reserve our position on whether they will be a great success. We wish to see the Government recognise that there might be problems in the scheme as we go ahead and that, if necessary, they are prepared to do something about it.

I also want to raise a couple of issues about the technicalities of the scheme. I agree with my county colleague, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, that the measures are important and need to be passed through as soon as possible. As somebody who has two sets of park homes in my constituency, I am particularly keen to see them benefit from the subsidies to protect them from an energy point of view.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. These are quite complicated regulations when one ploughs through them—I tried this afternoon. I want to understand what the impact will likely be on individuals who are resident, for example, in a care home and for whom there is a service charge calculation as part of the bill levied on them for their residence in the care home. As I am sure my hon. Friend the Minister knows, in most care homes there are those who are paid for by the state and therefore protected by the state—to a certain extent their charges are supervised by the state—and those who are there on a private basis and might not have families or others who are close to the action and able to see the impact on their bills.

My other questions are about the technicalities. In providing the subsidy at this time to families up and down the land, the Government are recognising that timing matters. Having the money at the point when someone has to pay it out to their energy supplier matters because cash flow for many people is critical. Some of the regulations refer to timing, but the legislation is not as exacting as the obligation it places on what it calls intermediaries—landlords. The best it can come up with is

“as soon as reasonably practicable”.

My hon. Friend the Minister, who I know has a long track record in the property industry, knows that the timing of cash flow, particularly for large landlords such as park home owners, is critical, and it would be possible for them to string out the payment of the subsidies, after having received them themselves for some time, in order to gain a cash flow advantage. As he reviews the operation of the legislation will he consider an absolute requirement that, on receipt, the subsidy should be passed through at the very next billing opportunity, rather than being held for six or nine months? How soon is “reasonably practicable”? “I am terribly sorry, your honour. We were terribly overworked.”

It seems that in a case where the intermediary has received the money, interest is payable to the resident if it has not been paid over within 60 days. Does my right hon. Friend think that that is perhaps an indication of what a reasonable period is thought to be?

It may well be, but, as I say, regulation 3, paragraph 2 in part 2, states that an intermediary

“must ensure that as soon as reasonably practicable after a scheme benefit has been provided”.

As interest rates rise, it would be perfectly possible for a landlord to say, “Do you know what? I’m getting 3% on my money, particularly as it is a large amount. My cost in holding it is only 2%. I have a bit of a carry there.” While my right hon. and learned Friend is right that the 60 days indicated in the legislation is “practicable”, that is quite a long time for somebody to shoulder an energy bill, particularly if there are quarterly billings, for example. It would therefore be possible for me to pay my bill in one quarter and not receive the subsidy until the following quarter, which is a three-month carry—or possibly more, if the timing is not right. Will the Minister comment on that timing?

The other issue I want to raise is about enforcement because, as the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, mentioned, enforcement is through the civil courts, which means the small claims court for most people. That carries a minimum charge of £35, takes time and creates delay. It would be perfectly possible for a landlord to say, “Well, I’ll tough it out. The subsidy is only 200 quid. My tenant has to shell out 35 quid and put in a submission to the small claims court. That will take a while to work its way through the system and then, at the last minute, I will agree to pay.” I do not understand why there is not an absolute liability enforceable on the landlord to pay, either by the local authority or others.

Finally, I want to raise the rather strange obligation on the intermediary to show that

“the pass-through it has effected…is just and reasonable, and in so doing it is entitled to take into account the extent to which its charges to end users reflect the increased cost of energy as a result of the energy crisis.”

We are all aware that lots is going on in the world of energy and that prices have risen. If an elderly resident of a park home has that in their mind, to the extent that they have been assiduous about their consumption of energy—they have turned their heating off and tried to drive down their bill as much as possible—it is conceivable that their energy costs this year could be lower than last year. If they had not read the newspapers or did not know about this legislation, it would not necessarily be clear that they would be entitled to a subsidy, notwith-standing that the cost of the energy they had used this year was lower in terms of the cost to the landlord than it was last year.

I am not a lawyer, although there are eminent lawyers in the room, but in those circumstances would the landlord be able to say, “Last year, tenant, you were paying 400 quid; this year, because you have been parsimonious, you are only paying 300 quid. Therefore, you are better off so I will pocket your subsidy.” I would be grateful if the Minister could address those questions.

I will not be venturing any legal opinion, but I understand that the three national associations of park home residents already provide a certain amount of legal help and advice to residents and residents’ associations. Have the Minister and his colleagues had the opportunity to be in touch with such associations, with the idea of ensuring that park home residents are aware of their rights under these regulations and that they would be able to take action in the county court—maybe even by producing a simple form to report claims, so that that can be done easily?

I understand the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend and I agree with him. However, anything that goes to court, as he will know because he has made a profession of it, is arguable. Obviously, the legislation is drawn to make it arguable; I do not understand why there is not an absolute liability.

I fully understand my right hon. Friend’s point. The problem with this area is the Mobile Homes Act 1983. There have always been criticisms of the relationships involved in park homes, as it is not the same as home ownership or being a tenant. Having said that, the legislation is an attempt to do something in this difficult area to try to ensure that park home residents get their help with energy costs; I wish the regulations well and I would not want to stop them happening. Is there a way of helping some of the residents with the legislation? My right hon. Friend’s point that many of them are vulnerable and elderly is true.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members from across the House for their comments. I will address the points made by the shadow Minister first. He is right to point out some of the deficiencies in the scheme, in that there is great diversity in the number and type of intermediaries. Ideally, we would have liked one ombudsman that covered every sector; instead, we have park home site owners, landlords, electric-vehicle-charger operators and heat-network operators all having different ombudsmen, or sometimes an absence of any ombudsman. That is the challenge behind the measures we are putting in place.

The other challenge is having to design a scheme of such complexity at pace, with a diversity of suppliers and intermediaries. I gently challenge the shadow Minister on the point about park home residents, or people from a different cohort, not having got a penny yet. That should not be the case. Most landlords and park home site operators are decent people who will be doing the right thing and trying to help their residents through a very difficult time. This instrument just legalises and formalises the process. Often in this place we try to legislate to ensure that everyone is responsible for doing the right thing.

The shadow Minister asked about vulnerable customers, as did some other Members—not least my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire. We have engaged extensively with consumer groups, representative organisations, Citizens Advice, local authorities, food bank operators, faith groups and some of the operators behind the park home associations to try to ensure that people are aware of the requirements on them to pass on the support provided.

Heat networks are a separate cohort and an exception in this whole discussion because they are already covered by the energy ombudsman; it is therefore easy to make them accountable to the energy ombudsman. Landlords do not have that kind of relationship with the energy ombudsman, or with any ombudsman. The Government have put forward a consultation and they intend to ask all landlords to be members of a redress scheme. I would have welcomed that move because it would have made the scheme far easier to implement. But at the moment that has not happened, so we have to make these measures subject to the courts. That is the only available method.

I am a little puzzled by this. The ombudsman to whom we are referring is the energy ombudsman, and the energy ombudsman has standing as far as all matters pertaining to energy are concerned. Although I agree that the particular circumstances of intermediaries are different, they are all bound by the fact that the issue is about energy, so the energy ombudsman should have traction as far as those different cases are concerned. My concern that the energy ombudsman appears to act where heat is concerned, but not where electricity is concerned, has not been assuaged. Can the Minister expatiate any further on why that difference is there?

I share the hon. Member’s concerns, but I can only reiterate that the energy ombudsman does not cover landlords. Landlords are not regulated by the energy ombudsman, so there is no recourse to the energy ombudsman. There has to be a relationship between the two. As I have said, moves are afoot to deal with the issue, but if the Opposition have ideas on how we do this more effectively they should write to us, and we can write back to them to say why not.

The shadow Minister asked for sanctions for people who do not comply, but we do not see any way to impose sanctions without regulations having been in place before the scheme was brought to bear. For all those reasons, I think it is not possible to do what he wishes, but as I say, if he has some ideas on how we might, he should write to us.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire made some very good points about care homes, and how their residents will benefit from the scheme. If service charges include energy provision, it would be just and reasonable to pass on the benefits of the EPG or EBRS to those residents. Although we do not want to see residents having to take landlords or the people who provide their accommodation to the courts, I think the courts would take a very dim view if the support had not been passed on to those residents.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire made another good point. What about if someone had been parsimonious and reduced their energy use? Would they still see the benefit? The Government support, as he knows, is provided on a per kilowatt-hour basis, so we would expect support to be passed over on that basis. If someone has done the right thing and reduced their energy use, they should see the full benefit of that, both in terms of the reduction— the energy they have not used—and the cost covered by the various schemes that apply.

On the point about “as soon as reasonably practicable”, I would expect the courts to take a dim view of somebody who had pocketed the money for 60 days and let the interest pile up.

Could the Minister explain why there is not an absolute liability to pay? Why is there interpretation that makes it arguable in court? It could be a case of saying, “I have had £400 on your behalf from the Government for your energy, but I am not giving you £400 directly.” Why is there not a straight pass-through?

The Minister has a long and distinguished history in the property industry. He will know that service charges are subject to reams and reams of detailed litigation in the courts and that the crafting of a service charge bill is an art as much as a science. It can be a question of what people can get away with. I do not understand why we would inject the same kind of negotiability and arguability into what should be a straight pass-through.

My right hon. Friend raises a good point. The difficulty is the different ways energy can be levied to a resident. The landlord might already have passed on the benefit to that individual. They might have already said, “I am not going to put your rent up, because I see a Government scheme coming down the line that means I can shield you from the costs of energy.” At that point in time, it is not easy to determine whether a tenant has or has not already had the benefit from the scheme. It can be expected that people will get the absolute benefit of the schemes, but how the landlord chooses to pass it on is complicated. It is not possible to have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Just to understand, the Minister is saying that a landlord may charitably say, “I will reduce your rent because I see the energy bill rises coming. I feel sorry for you, and I want to protect you as my tenant. Therefore, I will not pass through the full subsidy I have from the energy scheme, because I have already given you that subsidy, effectively, through a rent reduction”?

Even though the tenant may say, “Actually, rents in our area are plunging anyway, so you have taken advantage of a market dynamic”—in, say, Hartlepool or Andover or wherever—“that means you were going to have to take less rent anyway.”

I do not want to labour the point. This is an important measure that needs to go through quickly, so I will not cause too much fuss, but injecting arguability and negotiability into what, for everybody else who is directly contracted to their energy bills—it just comes straight to us—is not negotiable, seems to me to be making these people’s lives more difficult than they need to be.

My right hon. Friend makes the exact point. It may not just be the fact that the rent now charged reflects the increased cost of energy and the Government subsidy. It may also reflect that rents have changed in the area. They may have gone up or down. All these things are subject to market forces. The only way we can practicably deal with this is to require landlords, park home owners, or people who look after care homes to be just and reasonable in passing on the support to the individuals concerned.

There is one thing that the Minister may not have considered so far. The park home owner has 60 days to pass the money on to the park home residents. What would happen in a circumstance where the park home owner’s business went into liquidation and they had already received the funding support for Government but not yet passed it on to the tenant? Is there some comfort that the tenant might have in those circumstances?

My hon. Friend raises an interesting additional complexity, which I am not sure is dealt with in the regulations. However, again, there will still be a requirement for the administrator to pass on the benefit in that circumstance, I guess. That might be something I can discuss with officials and write to my hon. Friend about, if he is sufficiently concerned.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire made a point about engagement with landlords. As I have said, we have done that, and we are certainly very concerned about the passing-through in all these schemes, particularly to the vulnerable. That is why we are working with organisations such as Step Up, Citizens Advice, charitable groups and food banks to make sure those people are sufficiently supported and that benefit is passed on to individual residents.

I suspect the Minister has moved on from addressing my particular concerns, but one question I did raise was the extent to which the Department is monitoring the success or otherwise of these changes. What actions might the Department take to indicate whether they consider the scheme to be a success or not, and if not, whether they want to do anything about it? Is the Minister able to say tonight that after, say, a two or three-month period, he will make a statement to the House—not necessarily an oral statement; it could be a written statement—about what the Department thinks is happening with these schemes and, if it finds adversely as far as their success is concerned, what it might do about it?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. We will always keep this matter under review, and there are many different ways he can choose of holding the Government’s feet to the fire for doing that through their Departments. There are many different mechanisms for that, which I do not need to outline to him. However, I can absolutely make a commitment to the hon. Gentleman that myself and my colleagues in the Department will make sure that these measures are effective and do what we want them to do. Of course, we always have the opportunity to refine our approach through legislation if we do not feel it is working as it should.

In conclusion, the regulations protect those who are most exposed to high energy costs. The pass-through requirements allow cost savings to reach the people that the Government intend to support, such as tenants and other individuals. Importantly, the regulations also provide routes for end users to benefit from the discount they are entitled to in scenarios where intermediaries are not meeting their legal obligations. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1101).



That the Committee has considered the Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1102).—(Kevin Hollinrake.)



That the Committee has considered the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1103).—(Kevin Hollinrake.)



That the Committee has considered the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 1124).—(Kevin Hollinrake.)



That the Committee has considered the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement and Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No, 1125).—(Kevin Hollinrake.)

Committee rose.

Draft Persistent Organic Pollutants (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Stewart Hosie

† Bonnar, Steven (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)

† Carter, Andy (Warrington South) (Con)

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

† Drax, Richard (South Dorset) (Con)

† Glindon, Mary (North Tyneside) (Lab)

† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)

† Hall, Luke (Thornbury and Yate) (Con)

† Jenkinson, Mark (Workington) (Con)

† Jones, Fay (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)

† Jones, Ruth (Newport West) (Lab)

McDonnell, John (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)

† Mahmood, Mr Khalid (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab)

† Mayhew, Jerome (Broadland) (Con)

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

† Simmonds, David (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)

Spellar, John (Warley) (Lab)

† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)

Abi Samuels, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 21 November 2022

[Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Draft Persistent Organic Pollutants (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Persistent Organic Pollutants (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2022.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hosie. The statutory instrument makes necessary, technical corrections to the retained EU regulation on persistent organic pollutants, which I will hereafter refer to as POPs, to ensure that the regulation continues to fully function in Great Britain following EU exit. The technical amendments in the instrument address deficiencies in annex 1 of the retained POPs regulation, reinstate a set of exemptions—also in annex 1—that were omitted in error, and correct some provisions that have no legal effect. I should make it clear that all the amendments introduced by the instrument are technical operability amendments and do not introduce any policy changes.

These corrections are permitted by use of the powers in section 8 of, and schedule 7 to, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We have worked with the devolved Administrations on the draft regulations, which form an essential part of the secondary legislation needed to implement the UK’s commitments under both the United Nations Stockholm convention on POPs, to which the UK is a party, and the protocol on POPs to the 1979 convention on long-range transboundary air pollution. POPs are substances recognised as being particularly dangerous to the health of humans, wildlife and the environment. The instrument preserves the current regime for managing, restricting or eliminating POPs in the UK.

I can hear everybody asking, “So what does the statutory instrument do?” When the Persistent Organic Pollutants (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 were drafted in preparation for the end of the implementation period, some errors were made. This resulted in a number of minor issues, which need to be remedied by this new instrument.

First, a set of derogations that allow specific and time-bound permitted uses of a particular POP were accidentally deleted from the retained regulation during the drafting of the 2020 regulations. Those derogations, which relate to the POP decabromodiphenyl ether, or decaBDE, are reinstated by the new instrument. This is a return to the pre-EU exit position. I want to point out that, if we did not make this correction, it would be illegal to use these exemptions for decaBDE, a flame retardant used in things such as spare parts for aircraft and motor vehicles, and electronic equipment.

Secondly, there are deficiencies for two POPs in the retained POPs regulation. Those substances are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, including its derivatives, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, including its salts and related compounds. These deficiencies, which consist of references to the European Commission, were not corrected by the 2020 regulations. This new instrument corrects the deficiencies by referring to the “appropriate authority”. These two groups of chemicals are used for such things as fabric protections and stain repellents, because they have water, oil, and grease-repellent properties.

Finally, there are provisions in the 2020 regulations that have no legal effect in relation to PFOS. This is due to the EU making changes to its POPs regulation in September 2020 that were not captured or incorporated in time for EU exit implementation day. This instrument just removes those provisions in the retained regulation.

The instrument was not subject to consultation, as it does not alter existing policy. Its purpose is solely to enable the current legislative and policy framework to remain unchanged by correcting deficiencies. In line with published guidance, there was no need to conduct an impact assessment for the instrument because no, or no significant, impact on the private or voluntary sector is foreseen, the instrument relates to maintenance of existing regulatory standards, and the cost of any direct impact is under £5 million.

The Environment Agency is the delivery body for POPs regulations for England, and Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency are the delivery bodies for Wales and Scotland respectively. They have been involved in the development of the instrument, and have no concerns in relation to implementation or resources. The territorial extent of the instrument is the United Kingdom, and its territorial application is Great Britain; the EU POPs regulations apply in Northern Ireland. The devolved Administrations were engaged in the development of the instrument, and have consented to its being UK-wide.

In conclusion—I know that hon. Members will be sorry that I am concluding—let me emphasise that the measures in the instrument will ensure that the UK’s retained POPs legislation will be fully operational, with previous inoperabilities corrected. The Government’s 25-year environment plan has made clear our commitment to support and protect the natural environment, wildlife and human health, and the draft regulations will allow the UK to continue to meet existing commitments relating to POPs and fully implement the Stockholm convention’s requirement to prohibit, eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. It is very good to see the Minister back in her proper place and to join colleagues in debating the draft regulations. The Minister and other hon. Members will be pleased that I can confirm that we will not oppose the regulations, but before we pack up and leave the room, I want to say a few things that it is important to keep in mind.

As the Minister said, the draft regulations correct the errors left by the retained 2019 POP regulation, including deficiencies in relation to the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances PFOS and PFOA. Moves to ensure that the levels of harmful chemicals entering our environment and natural world are taken seriously and, importantly, reduced were a key feature of His Majesty’s Government’s first 25-year environment plan.

That plan was published back in 2018, before I was elected to this House by the good people of Newport West, but I made a point of reading it in considerable detail upon my appointment to the shadow ministry. It committed to a new chemicals strategy to achieve the goal of reducing the level of said chemicals entering our environment. That is a good and noble aim, and it has my support. However, as the Minister knows, the strategy still has no fixed publication date, despite workshops on it being held in the first half of this year. I would be grateful if she could set out when we will have more information and finally understand the steps that she and her Department will take in the weeks and months ahead.

I note that the regulations come into force on the day after they are made, and I welcome the fact that they extend to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I am a proud supporter of devolution and give thanks for the Welsh Labour Government every day, but it is nice to see something being discussed that applies to one and all, right across the United Kingdom.

The Labour party will not push the regulations to a vote—they are a formal and relatively benign set of measures—but we urge the Government, and particularly the Minister, to keep in mind the need to really deliver on the promises made. The future of our planet and our environment depends on it.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hosie, and I thank the Minister for laying out the Government’s position on the regulations.

The Scottish Government have given consent to these technical regulations for the purpose of ensuring a consistent and effective pan-UK approach to persistent organic pollutants. As we know, the EU POPs regulations were converted into retained EU law. Because of the errors that the Minister has identified, that law was flawed, so the POPs regulations have been amended through this SI. In their red tape-cutting exercises, the Government must always be mindful that such issues are not missed.

The Scottish Government’s work co-operatively with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on these matters, both devolved and reserved, highlights that when the UK Government respect the devolved institutions and their interests, we can have a pragmatic, constructive working relationship across the nations of the UK on matters that are important for all of us who share these islands.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this evening, Mr Hosie. I support everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West has said about this matter, and I hope that the Minister can offer us some reassurance and clarification about this SI and how it fits into the broader remit of management of toxic substances. After all, many of us across the Committee are concerned to assure our constituents that we are not letting persistent organic pollutants pop into their lives unpleasantly or unnecessarily.

The Minister sets out that this legislation was required because several things were written in error. That matters, because she will be aware that, as the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill mentioned, this is retained EU law. This House will be debating the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, starting tomorrow in Committee, because of the Government’s demand to delete 4,000 pieces of legislation overnight. That will affect thousands of laws, including this one.

My questions for the Minister are about how this SI will interact with those proposals. Before us we have regulations that are affected by the Retained EU Law Bill. Let me set out for the Minister and her officials precisely what I mean. These regulations edit regulation EU 2019/1021, which is retained EU law. As such, can we therefore presume from the fact that the Government have introduced this statutory instrument that they will not be abolishing that regulation at the end of 2023, as the REUL Bill provides?

These regulations allow the use of decaBDE—I hope I am pronouncing it correctly, because I am sure that will make a difference for the officials when they look up what I mean—when making electronic equipment. I think we all recognise that there may be circumstances in which people want to use these toxic substances. Use of decaBDE was covered by regulation EU 2018/858 of the European Parliament, which is also listed on the Government’s dashboard, so I am sure the officials in DEFRA are aware that it is up for consideration for deletion. If it is deleted, what happens to this statutory instrument and the use of decaBDE in our communities? For example, if local businesses use these chemicals—they might be involved, as the Minister says, in the production of spare parts for cars, or for electrical goods—will these regulations still apply?

Of course, that is not the only question that this SI raises about the EU dashboard and the deletion of 4,000 pieces of legislation. This SI also allows the use of decaBDE under the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2012. Those regulations were made under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, but they do not appear on the EU dashboard.

I know that Ministers and officials from DEFRA have been looking at that closely. We know from press reports that the number of pieces of legislation expected to be deleted overnight by the REUL Bill is closer to 800 than to the original estimate of 500. Can the Minister at least confirm that the Government have identified that the 2012 regulations should be on the dashboard, because they are affected? Will she set out for us how that may affect this SI, which relies on those regulations? If they are not listed, does that mean that the Government are, in fact, hoping to retain them? After all, you, as a Government, have just put before us this SI, which refers to those regulations. I raise these questions not to give the officials a headache, but simply to flag that we are—

Order. All the remarks had better be through the Chair and to the Minister. The officials are, to all intents and purposes, invisible.

But like the toxic substances that we are talking about, they are incredibly important—I am sure you would agree, Mr Hosie.

I raise these questions because I think it is important before we pass such a piece of legislation that we are all confident that it rests on stable legislative foundations. Given the destructive nature of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which comes before Parliament tomorrow—there are no amendments to it that I am aware of, as a member of the Bill Committee, that might address these concerns and therefore address the question whether this statutory instrument will remain in standing after 2023—these seem to me to be fair questions. I hope that now the Minister has had some notes from those invisible people who are charged with dealing with the consequences of a piece of legislation that has been described as being as destructive to our legislative process as the previous Chancellor’s Budget, she will be able to answer those questions.

The Minister said that the draft regulations simply make technical changes to maintain existing regulatory standards. That is only the case if those other pieces of retained EU law remain on our statute book, and at the moment the Government have made no commitment at all to replace any of this legislation. Like these chemicals, might this SI go up in a pop of smoke if we do not have that other legislation?

I hope that the Minister is able to answer these questions. If she would like the details of the retained EU law that is not yet on the dashboard—law that her colleagues at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy perhaps have not yet identified—I am happy to give her those details. All of us want legislation that is sensible, and all of us recognise that a toxic approach to Brexit will create a hazardous substance for us all.

First, I thank the hon. Member for Newport West for her kind wishes. I must say that it is great to be back and to find her still here so that we can have our debates. I am delighted that the Opposition will not oppose the instrument. These are just technical amendments.

Let me touch on the chemicals strategy, which the hon. Lady rightly referred to. Interestingly, I had a meeting about it just today. It is absolutely correct that we will produce a chemicals strategy. We have committed to doing that and there will be more details about it in due course, to use parliamentary language. Of course, it is complicated, and it is very important to get it right, particularly given that we have left the EU and its registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals, or REACH, system and rolled over those regulations to UK REACH. We are now working on our bespoke system for UK chemicals, and we are working very closely with the industry.

I understand parliamentary terminology, but the chemicals strategy has no fixed publication date, despite the workshops being held earlier this year. Can I press the Minister on when it will be published? We desperately need it.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. That is why we are working hard on it but also really engaging with industry. This matter is so critical to a whole lot of businesses, not to mention all the products we use, and of course it is very serious stuff in terms of the hazards, risks and dangers that chemicals represent to us as a society. It is incredibly important. It is interesting that more than 95% of all manufactured products in the UK contain inputs from the chemical industry, so this is a huge thing that we are working on. But trust me—the strategy will be out in due course.

On that point, the hon. Member for Walthamstow talked about safety. I think it is wrong to scaremonger to people. We are taking this matter extremely seriously. Yes, we have left the EU and its system, but we will have our own very safe system. We are working with the Health and Safety Executive as well on our future chemicals regime. We are not deleting thousands of laws. Of course we have the Retained EU Law Bill. I will be going through all the laws that relate to my portfolio in DEFRA, which includes chemicals. We are taking that very seriously indeed.

The Minister does not quite recognise the seriousness of the questions that I ask if she thinks that it is scaremongering to ask them. She said that she is going through the Bill, so can she confirm that the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2012 and Regulation (EU) 2018/858 should both be on the dashboard? One is and one is not, but both are affected by this SI. Ministers should not confuse being scared of answering these questions with being asked to be accountable for the detail of the consequences of their actions.

I will write to the hon. Member with the detail so that we get it correct. She needs the exact details, so I will get back to her about the 2012 regulations and their treatment under the ongoing regime of the Retained EU Law Bill. I think that is the best way to leave that, so that she gets a satisfactory answer.

Of course, under the Retained EU Law Bill, we will be going through all the laws and retaining everything that needs to be retained. We will also look at whether some laws need tweaking, altering or changing, and make sure that we have a whole regime that is bespoke to us.

I thank the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. As he recognised, we have worked very effectively on the draft regulations across all the devolved Administrations.

I think I am going to leave it there. I thank all hon. Members who have taken part in the debate—

Before the Minister sits down, will she take into account all the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow and get back to Committee about them? Obviously, there has not been time to answer them all, but I hope that the Minister will address them all. She may want to refer to Hansard later to get all the details.

Can the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s intention to replace the relevant regulations—which I cited—that this SI depends on? Yes or no? It would be incredibly helpful if she could clarify that, as it would mean that this SI was rooted in a firm piece of legislation.

I thank the hon. Member for that. I will put it in writing; I just think that is altogether safer. At the moment, we are dealing with the details of this particular SI; I think she is moving into other territory and not sticking to what we are supposed to be talking about, which is very particular.

I have outlined—I am part of this, as the Minister in DEFRA—that we have already conducted a detailed scoping exercise on the Retained EU Law Bill. We are in the process of analysing all those laws, as I have already pointed out to the hon. Member, and we will of course be looking at all the laws that are critical to keeping not just us, but wildlife and the whole environment safe.

Let me get back to the regulations we are debating today. We have made no changes to existing policy to tackle the restriction and management of POPs. This instrument will ensure that we have the operable regulations that we need to continue to protect the current and future health of the population, wildlife and environment of the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. As I have outlined, all the changes introduced by the instrument are technical operability amendments that are required to ensure that the UK is able to continue to implement the Stockholm convention to prohibit, eliminate or restrict the production and use of POPs. That is the critical thing that I point out to the hon. Member for Walthamstow. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.