Motion to Approve
My Lords, the purpose of this statutory instrument is to ensure that, in the event of the UK exiting the EU without a withdrawal agreement, the system for the recognition of EEA and Swiss professional qualifications in the UK for the purpose of access to regulated professions continues to function effectively, and that existing recognition decisions for EEA and Swiss professionals remain valid. The effect of the statutory instrument is to create a system which retains the best aspects of the current system while providing regulators with more freedom to rigorously check the standard of qualifications prior to granting access to a profession. The instrument will provide certainty to individuals with recognised EU professional qualifications already working in the UK, and the businesses and public sector organisations employing them. Furthermore, it will ensure that the future supply of professionals into the UK in certain key sectors can be maintained. The instrument makes changes to existing regulations using the powers conferred by Section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Before I turn to the detail of the statutory instrument, I will provide noble Lords with some relevant background on European Union directive 2005/36/EC, which I will now refer to as the directive. The directive sets out a reciprocal framework of rules for the recognition of professional qualifications across borders. It applies to the EU member states, as well as to EEA EFTA states and Switzerland. The directive provides several routes for recognition of qualifications, including automatic and general systems for the purposes of establishment and a mechanism for those who want to work on a temporary or occasional basis. The directive covers a very large number and wide range of regulated professions.
The directive is implemented in UK law by a number of pieces of legislation, including the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the earlier European Communities (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2007 in respect of Switzerland, and a number of pieces of sector-specific legislation for certain professions. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the directive will no longer apply to the UK and the domestic legislation implementing it will not operate effectively because it will place obligations on UK regulators that they will not be able to fulfil outside the EU. It is necessary to lay this statutory instrument to ensure that the domestic legislation underpinning the recognition system operates properly.
I will now set out the effect of the statutory instrument in more detail. First, it will protect recognition decisions already made before EU exit and allow applications for recognition which have been made before exit to be concluded under the pre-exit rules, as far as possible, after exit. Secondly, it will also enable professionals who have started offering services on a temporary or occasional basis before EU exit to complete this service provision. Thirdly, it will enable qualifications to be recognised in the future. The changes we are making will retain a version of the general system for recognition, where UK regulators will be required to recognise EEA and Swiss qualifications which are of an equivalent standard to UK qualifications in scope, content and level.
However, it should be noted that some things will change under this statutory instrument. First, we are amending the scope of the existing regulations so that the basis of recognition will be determined by where the qualification was obtained as opposed to the nationality of the applicant. Secondly, UK regulators will no longer be obliged to offer compensation measures and partial access to professions in circumstances where EEA and Swiss qualifications are not deemed equivalent to UK qualifications. Thirdly, we are also removing the obligation on UK regulators to offer EEA and Swiss professionals a mechanism for providing services on a temporary and occasional basis. Finally, farriers and certain health and care professionals, such as physiotherapists, will no longer be in the scope of the amended 2015 regulations. These professions will now be addressed in related sector-specific legislation, to which I now turn.
It is important to note that this statutory instrument and the amended 2015 regulations do not apply to nurses, midwives, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, architects and veterinary surgeons, who are entitled to automatic recognition on the basis that their qualifications meet the EU’s minimum training conditions. The systems for qualification recognition for these professions are currently implemented by legislation that is, fortunately, the responsibility of Ministers in other government departments.
In conclusion, the statutory instrument is vital to maintain the operability of the framework for the recognition of professional qualifications and provide certainty to businesses and professionals. The impact of this SI on businesses and the public sector will be minimal. I look forward to listening to noble Lords’ comments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome the regulations but I will ask a number of questions. The first is, obviously, what are the reciprocal arrangements for the rights of British professionals affected by the terms of these regulations in other EEA countries and Switzerland? Is that matter currently ongoing in the Minister’s department and the other relevant departments for those professions to which he has referred?
There is a reference on page 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the situation of lawyers. I must declare an interest because I practised in two separate firms in Brussels as an EU lawyer, as I would call it, with the qualification that I had then as a member of the Scottish Bar—I am now a non-practising lawyer. Could the Minister confirm that the Explanatory Memorandum refers on, I think, page 4 to the statutory instrument relating to lawyers that has already been adopted? What is the exact relationship between the SI that we have already adopted and the regulations before us? What is the position overall of European lawyers from EEA countries and Switzerland wishing to practise here and of British lawyers wishing to practise post Brexit in other EEA countries and Switzerland?
The position of teachers has long posed a particular problem in countries such as Germany. In the consultation that I am sure my noble friend and his department will have done, were any issues raised about reciprocal rights for teachers, and have any issues been raised by existing EEA-national or Swiss-national teachers currently practising their profession in this country? I think my noble friend has answered this question, but the Explanatory Memorandum says that such issues will be the duty of others—for example, paragraph 17.9 says that the Department of Health will look at EEA and Swiss doctors, nurses, midwives and dental practitioners who wish to come and work here. If I have understood that correctly, what will the position be regarding the recognition of EEA and Swiss professionals in Northern Ireland, with there currently being no devolved government there? Is that something his department will look at? For example, the Explanatory Memorandum says specifically that farriers in Northern Ireland will not be covered. I would be very grateful if he would help me to understand particularly how farriers will be dealt with in that regard.
My Lords, I remind the House of my membership of the board of the General Medical Council. I want to follow the noble Baroness by focusing on doctors in discussing this SI. As far as the GMC is concerned, the SI provides welcome legal clarification and certainty on the supporting framework governing how EEA-qualified doctors will enter the UK medical register if the UK leaves the EU on these terms—in other words, under a no-deal Brexit. We hope it will help to manage any potential disruption to the NHS medical workforce in those circumstances.
However, can the Minister confirm—I think he did so by implication in his opening remarks—that the regulations will be of only limited application to the medical profession? They will apply only in so far as they make transitional provisions for applications made or actions taken before exit day and which have not been fully determined by then.
The Minister will be aware that there is continuing anxiety in the health service about the uncertainties caused by the current state of negotiations. Given the reaction of many EU nationals working in the NHS to the climate of opinion in this country, I think we have to be really concerned about future staffing and the workforce pressures that will come around the corner very quickly.
My Lords, before going into detail, I acknowledge that the General Medical Council, the Law Society, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Engineering Council have welcomed these proposals. I suspect this is more in sorrow than anything else, since this is better than the uncertainty that would exist without them.
My understanding of secondary legislation and its role—I fear I am treading into Adonis country here—is that it should be about technical, non-controversial issues. When you consider that the 2005 directive paves the way for free movement, you realise that this is actually quite a controversial instrument. In essence, it is here to make up for the fact that, outside the EU, we can no longer treat the European Union as a most favoured nation under WTO rules and will have to strike out the movement opportunities of EU 27 citizens. I understand that; that is why I tabled Amendment 66 to the Trade Bill. I know the Minister was not the beneficiary of that debate or speech but, for the sake of completeness, I am sure he would like to consult Hansard from about this time last week. He will see that free movement has important benefits and this SI tries to mitigate their removal. For that reason, I would say that this is not non-controversial and it is not, strictly speaking, just a technical piece of legislation. Therefore, we should probably not be using this instrument to discuss it, but here we are again.
I am sure the Minister has had a chance to look through Hansard for the other place; his colleague Richard Harrington, the Under-Secretary of State, piloted the debate through that House. A number of issues came up, which have already been touched on. One of these was about the Internal Market Information System, or IMI, of which we will no longer be members after exit. This is an important registry of skills and the way they relate to each other. It is not clear what we will replace it with—an Excel spreadsheet, perhaps—or who will hold it and be accountable for its veracity. I suspect it will be the Minister’s department, but this is not clear.
Reciprocity was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. The debate in the other place seems to indicate that there is no guarantee of reciprocity or process by which it is being sought or managed. If that is the case—it seemed to be the view of the Under-Secretary of State—why not? What are the Government doing to protect the interests of British citizens?
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. We managed to get it on the record from my noble and learned friend Lord Keen that there is no reciprocity. Reciprocity remains a matter for negotiation. Perhaps the Minister could confirm this, but my understanding is that all those professionals who happen to be British and wish to practise, or continue to practise, in EEA countries and Switzerland will not be subject to reciprocity. This will have to be negotiated at some future date.
I thank the noble Baroness for her intervention, as that seemed to be the tone of the debate in the other place.
More importantly, at that time the Minister was asked how many British citizens are affected and what was being done to inform them. He then gave a series of off-the-cuff answers. There has been time now for the department to get to some substance, given that that debate occurred some time ago. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how many there are or how one can go about finding out how many are involved. What level of the information process is going on? As we know, the European Union has said that individuals currently practising abroad on this basis will have to register with the relevant bodies within the European Union. This is worrying, and worrying for British citizens. The Minister should take this seriously and explain what is going on.
The issue regarding the medical profession will be very important indeed. It is about making sure that we do not just continue to recognise the qualifications of current employees in the health service, but have a smooth and seamless way in which future employees can be qualified to operate in it.
On the subject of farriers, it is not clear to me why farriers are included, but in another off-the-cuff comment the Minister in the other place made a joke. He said that one Member of the other place who was a qualified accountant was lucky because he was not a farrier. That seemed to imply that farriers were providing a second-class service to that of chartered accountants. Perhaps the Minister can dispel that myth.
My Lords, the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, have raised a number of significant issues. The first point to make about the issues involved, which are to do with the recognition of professional qualifications or the potential non-recognition of them in what will be only six weeks’ time, is that it seems impossible to say that these issues are purely technical. There is nothing technical about whether people’s professional qualifications are or are not going to apply, and whether they will or will not be able to work in a matter of months. The noble Baroness said, rightly, that the response of the Government is that further negotiations should take place on this. We are six weeks away—six weeks—and I doubt that the Minister is going to pretend, since his honourable friend in another place did not, that these matters can be resolved in the next six weeks.
The noble Lord follows these issues even more closely than I do. Does he share my anxiety that from what we learned this afternoon of what the regulations set out, there will have to be separate statutory instruments for all the professions that fall under different departments, such as doctors, vets, architects and so on?
That is a very good question. My understanding—but I am not the Minister and he will have to tell us, since it is hard enough for us to understand without my trying to answer for him—is that the provisions of this statutory instrument give all the relevant regulatory bodies dealing with professional qualifications the power to determine whether those bodies will admit EEA and EU nationals and their qualifications. If the noble Baroness is right, it is much more complicated than I thought. I had thought that this one statutory instrument simply conferred all those powers, in so far as they are granted by the state, but if in fact further statutory instruments will be required that will be of huge concern to many professionals.
We are told that all these statutory instruments are technical. I emphasise that there is nothing technical about these issues at all. Indeed, the scale of the issues became apparent to me only on reading the debate in another place, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Fox. If I may, I will read quite a chilling exchange between my honourable friend Chi Onwurah and Richard Harrington, the Business Minister, on this very important question of what will happen to UK nationals who have jobs on the continent which, at the moment, depend upon the automatic and mutual recognition of qualifications. We are saying, quite properly, that we are going to immediately roll over the recognition of qualifications of EU nationals here and we have the power to do so—of course, we have no power to do so and enforce this in respect of UK nationals who practise on the continent. The House can imagine the concerns that they have.
I will read the exchanges from the other place. My honourable friend asks the Minister,
“given that British citizens living in the European Union will be required to regularise their professional qualifications, does the Minister envisage that there could be circumstances in which they would not be able to continue working without doing so?”,
to which the Minister replied:
“I envisage that there could be those circumstances … the only way that that could not happen is for there to be no crashing out … the hon. Lady has made valid point; I would not say it was a ridiculous point”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, 4/2/19; col. 11.]
This is a matter of huge concern. This Parliament is not in a position to be able to guarantee that—we do not even know the number.
The noble Lord is completely correct, but the Minister was incorrect in saying that by voting for the current deal this would not be an issue. The political declaration says that free movement of people will end. Therefore, this issue remains on the table whether or not there is a deal, whether we crash out or have a deal.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. What makes it even more extraordinary is that we are debating this as some kind of technical change, when in fact it is potentially fundamentally affecting the livelihoods of UK citizens abroad, which Her Majesty’s Government have a duty to protect. That is one of the fundamental duties of the state: to protect the interests of citizens going about their lawful business. The Government do not even know the numbers. The Minister for Business in another place said:
“I do not know how we would know which UK nationals were working abroad”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, 4/2/19; cols. 11-12.]
If this was being properly prepared for, it is within the resources of Her Majesty’s Government to be able to make estimates to consult with the relevant professional bodies and invite those affected to make representations. However, all the preparation of these instruments has happened in secret, so there has been no opportunity to do so.
With the situation we are facing in respect of this instrument it is fundamentally irresponsible for us to be proceeding down this course. I doubt whether the Minister will be able to keep a straight face and say that this is purely technical—it clearly is not a technical matter that Her Majesty’s Government are not in a position to guarantee the right of UK citizens to continue in their employment on the continent after 29 March. I anticipate that he will say that he has no choice because if we crash out there is no alternative. But there is an alternative: for us not to crash out on 29 March. The Government should do what they have been resisting for months; in the event of us not having a deal by the end of March—and the Government are running down the clock now, deeply irresponsibly—they should, in good order, apply for an extension of Article 50 so that we do not crash out.
This statutory instrument brings into very sharp relief the reasons why it is so much the duty of the Government and the state to do so. We are not in a position otherwise to guarantee the fundamental and legitimate rights of UK citizens, unless we have a continuation of the current regime of European law. We have no basis to do so; Ministers have accepted that. Because we have good relations with our European neighbours, we are hoping that they will not start imposing new requirements or that their relevant professional bodies will not start nit-picking or introducing new requirements.
Not only do we not have a guarantee—the noble Lord, Lord Fox, used the word “guarantee”—we do not even have any assurance. I can understand that it might not be possible to guarantee it, but because there has been no time to have any of these discussions, we have no assurances whatever that the existing qualifications of UK citizens on the continent will be recognised. Nor do we have any assurance that there might not be sudden changes. Let us make some fair assessment of what will happen. I will be astonished if existing employers try to turf out UK citizens from their jobs on 29 March. However, it is perfectly possible.
Some of us are acquainted with professional bodies on the continent. They are sticklers for their processes. Sometimes they can be a tad nationalistic in their approach to these issues, which is part of the reason for our being in the EU. They can decide to start protecting their own, and they will have an absolute right to do so once we do not have these rules in place. Profession by profession, in all kinds of technical and perhaps even surreptitious ways, I can easily see them start changing the rules, which will quite rapidly close down options for UK citizens to be able to take jobs on the continent. These are not technical issues; these are fundamental issues.
Does the noble Lord agree that if we allow our regulators sector by sector to supervise the application process and grant access or stop access on the basis of their rules, that is exactly what will happen in all the countries of the EU 27? The danger of restrictive practice such as he suggests is very real.
The noble Lord makes a very good point, because, yet again, there has been no proper process of consultation. I am becoming a bit of a connoisseur of how consultation has been conducted under these statutory instruments and I can tell your Lordships that this one is unique in that it does not even have a paragraph that says what the consultation was. Paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Memorandum is simply headed: “Consultation outcome”. It continues:
“Consultation between Devolved Administration officials and Government officials, supported by Government Legal Advisers, took the form of regular meetings and engagement specific to the amendments made by this instrument”.
It does not say what that consultation was, with whom it was conducted, what the results were, or anything. However, I note that quoted by my assiduous honourable friend Chi Onwurah in the debate in the other place was the briefing given to her by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which said—I suspect there have been many such representations:
“’Elements of the SI are open to interpretation. A UK regulator could refuse an EEA applicant by saying the EEA qualification is not equivalent in some way. There is a chance that EU members states will notice this and potentially do the same in their provisions for considering UK nationals/UK qualification holders’”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, 4/2/19; col. 7.]
That goes to the fundamental point made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, which is that Her Majesty’s Government have no means of requiring our professional bodies to continue recognising the qualifications of EU nationals. Indeed, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which represents one of the most numerous and significant professions in the country, says—it is not us scaremongering —that under these regulations regulators could choose to vary their requirements in respect of mutual recognition and that, if they do so, the legitimate expectation is that regulators on the continent do tit-for-tat responses in respect of their countries.
Let us be clear—we are debating this statutory instrument some six weeks before it comes into effect: we are talking about hundreds of professions, thousands of professional qualifications and 27 other countries, all of which will have discretion to act as they see fit in the matter of these regulations after 29 March. This is profoundly irresponsible. It is just one facet of the whole business of crashing out with no deal, but I could not conceivably be a party to agreeing it today. If the noble Lord, Lord Fox, chooses to divide the House on it, I shall certainly not support the regulations.
My Lords, I feel strongly about these matters along the lines sketched out vividly by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Adonis—as I think will a number of other Members across the House—because of the chaos behind these SIs and the way in which the Government are presenting them: inadequately and sometimes improperly drafted, and without proper explanation of the provisional import of their content and detail. There are many other examples.
It is even worse in this example, because of the humanitarian effect on British citizens in the EU, and citizens of other EU countries coming to work here, in the future if this is wrong. The Government have failed to reassure opinion. I notice that this matter is beginning to get into the press. Secondary legislation rarely attracts the attention of our newspapers, particularly the more right-wing ones, which are more like comics. The serious ones, such as the Daily Mirror, the Financial Times and the Guardian have not tended to reflect these matters in the past, because all they have time and space to write about is the central Brexit crisis, rather than detailed secondary legislation and instruments.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who has had time to study a lot of these documents. He and other noble Lords have found the weaknesses in them. The Government must face up to and explore this serious matter. They must reassure the House with more detail, not just on this instrument but on the ones coming later this week and next. There will be a general all-day debate on Wednesday on a review of the Brexit negotiations. That will be an opportunity for the House to consider the impact of inadequate and improperly written secondary legislation.
I am concerned that the Government will begin to say that they have started to reassure people, that people over here feel better about it and that nothing will be too difficult. That is simply not true when you consider the expert opinion on these matters found overseas in the English language idiom. I live in France as well, because I thought it was important to live in an EU country. I am glad that I did it many years ago. It is now even more important to live in another EU country, in case disaster strikes us at the end of March. This country faces an awful fate with this ridiculous, self-harming nonsense of Brexit. There are now more and more comments about the need for an extension to Article 50 and for us to stay as members of the European Union.
Living in France I have the pleasure and privilege of frequently reading the well-known monthly English language newspaper, the Connexion, and its supplements on these complicated matters. To judge by articles and readers’ letters, British citizens living in other EU countries are far from being reassured. It is simply not true that the tone is gentler and the anger has subsided. The anger continues to grow in those people, many of whom are highly qualified professionals. They live mainly in the bigger EU countries, but also in eastern European ones and elsewhere, working hard and contributing enormously to the local economy. You read lots of comments about how they now feel abandoned by this Government, not reassured, and are worried about the future. Their anger is equal to that felt by people who, having been in those countries for more than 15 years, were not allowed to vote in the flawed and dodgy referendum.
The Government must now reassure the public about this document and in more general terms.
My Lords, we have covered a lot of ground in the last half hour or so. One important point which has not been made follows on from those made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and other noble Lords. It is puzzling that the Government have chosen to ignore the question of how our important services trade will survive, both in the event of a no-deal Brexit and, more generally, if and when we leave the EU. This SI in some senses plays to that concern.
In the Trade Bill, which is currently paused in your Lordships’ House and may reach Report shortly, there is virtually no mention of trade relating to services at all, yet that is 80% of our GDP and consumes a huge amount of our resource and activity. At the heart of services activity is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which we are members of through our WTO membership and which will apply to us once we leave the EU. However, without any statement at all in the Trade Bill and no confirmation that the Government understand and support the very important services work that relies so heavily on professionals and their ability to move and support their work, knowing exactly where the Government are coming from is a bit puzzling.
My noble friend Lord Adonis is right to raise the connection here between the right to free movement of persons and the freedom of establishment, which are key pillars of the GATS deal. He is also right to ask why the opportunity was not taken in this SI—as, indeed, it has not been taken in the Trade Bill—to support those who must deliver services in this country, in the EU and wherever they trade to generate the return and income we will need if we are to continue to enjoy our current standard of living. In that sense, the idea that somehow, through this statutory instrument, we will encourage non-tariff discrimination and barriers seems perverse. I hope that the Minister will have some answers to that question when he responds.
Paragraph 7.16 of the Explanatory Memorandum sets out the issue but then ducks out of it, for all the reasons given by others in this debate. It is not just about farriers, although it is a curious feature of life that they are not regulated in one part of our United Kingdom but they are in the other three. Discriminating against the rights of free movement, persons and services and the freedom of establishment to provide those services is one thing. However, we currently enjoy a system—whether through the EPC or through the EU’s general regulatory arrangements—whereby established regulated professionals in professions with established training standards automatically qualify to trade wherever they are able to do so. We are trading that for the system we are introducing, which will be devolved to professional bodies. Admittedly, some of these are of great stature and longevity and will, I am sure, act in the first instance. However, because it is not a national system and will not be subject to national standards, it is bound to be variable and to raise the concerns mentioned by my noble friend and raised in the other place of a possible tit-for-tat arrangement under which regulations made in this country—regarding accountants or lawyers, for example—are seen as unsatisfactory by others in the EU, who may introduce tit-for-tat regulatory change to prevent our nationals qualifying. That seems an extraordinary situation to open up and I would be grateful if the Minister would respond to that point.
The underlying issue is the approach we will take if we leave the EU—with no deal or with a deal—to protect the way our citizens are treated. My noble friend Lord Adonis is right: it would be a strange Government who set out deliberately to devalue the possibility of their citizens earning a living and a valuable income for this country in the way this instrument appears to suggest. This is probably not the place to raise all the wider issues mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, but he certainly has a point when he asks why we are going through the pain to achieve something that does not seem in any sense optimal for those involved in it. Clearly, minimal consultations were carried out and were mainly focused on whether these regulations will apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without difficulty.
I would be grateful if the Minister would respond to this statement towards the end of the Explanatory Memorandum:
“Devolved Administrations have confirmed their agreement for UK Parliament to lay this legislation UK wide”.
That is what this statutory instrument does. It goes on to say:
“This has been sought under the terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement”.
I am not sure which intergovernmental agreement that refers to, but if the Minister could write to me with the details, I would be grateful.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, put it, this is not about farriers—I will not deal with that question, unfortunately; my noble friend Lord Gardiner will possibly have to deal with it on some other occasion—or about why they are not regulated in Northern Ireland but are regulated in England, Wales and Scotland. I do not think anyone knows the answer to that question, and I will not try to answer it, just as I do not know why, for example, hairdressers are regulated in Italy but not here. In France, they are doubly regulated; you find that if you want to be a hairdresser who makes home visits you must have one form of qualification, and if you want to operate from a shop, you must have another. Again, we do not consider that necessary, but obviously we have to make provisions for UK citizens who want to work abroad to do so when that is possible.
However, before anyone thinks it is all sunshine out there under the current system—the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Adonis, in their little exchange seemed to imply that as a result of these regulations we would get further restrictive practices—I remind noble Lords of the restrictive practices that happen already. One has only to look at the position of UK ski instructors—to take one example from the 600 or so professions that can be affected—and the problems they have had trying to operate in France, where, for some reason, throughout these wonderful years restrictive practices have always come into effect to try to exclude UK ski instructors from operating.
No, it will not, but we are making it quite clear that we believe that we will offer that unilateral ability to operate over here—not that there are that many ski instructors here, although I believe there are north of the border. The noble Lord should welcome the unilateral nature of these regulations.
We will talk about no deal; as I said, we hope that with a deal we will be able to cover all the other 600 or so professions or quasi-professions that are covered. However, I make it clear that I will not deal with other professions, which are, quite rightly, a matter for other departments. Therefore I will not answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about doctors, because that will be a matter for regulations from the Department of Health and Social Care that either might have already gone through or will go through, and the same is true of my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s concerns about legal services. The legal services SI and the BEIS SI are separate legislation, laid by the Ministry of Justice, and are an effect of the legal services directive and the establishment directive. These alternative routes for recognition of lawyers exist now and, as I said, that is a matter for them.
I shall start off with numbers—the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and other neighbourhoods, expressed concern about numbers. As the noble Lord will be aware, the European Commission maintains a database of the number of qualification recognition decisions awarded to most professions across the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. It does not tell us exactly how many professionals are working in the European Union at any given time, but it gives an indication in the form of the number who have sought recognition of their qualifications. That database tells us that in the 10 years from 2008 to the end of 2017, approximately 20,000 UK professionals have successfully had their qualification recognised in the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, and of those 20,000 decisions, about 12,000 related to qualifications in the scope of this statutory instrument. Further, I can tell the noble Lord that the top five professions having their UK qualifications recognised are: secondary school teachers, with approximately 3,400; lawyers, with approximately 1,600; doctors, with approximately 1,500; primary school teachers, with about 1,500; and, going back to Italy and France, 1,400 hairdressers.
The European Commission has said that decisions on the recognition of UK qualifications in EU countries before exit day are not affected, so if those decisions have been made, that is fine. Following the UK’s exit from the EU in a no-deal scenario, UK citizens who have not yet had their qualifications recognised in their host member state will have to follow the rules applicable to third-country nationals in that member state; some member states may implement transitional agreements.
I turn to the perennial question about consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is right to raise it. I always want to ensure that, even where there has been no formal consultation, departments always follow the appropriate advice: we follow the existing Cabinet Office principles, and details of any consultation are explained in the Explanatory Memoranda accompanying the statutory instruments—though obviously not in this case, as the noble Lord has spotted. We have, however, engaged regularly with all the UK regulators. I repeat what I said to the noble Lord in the debate on a previous SI about how often those regulators are in the department and how often they talk to us. We have also talked to the various professional trade associations and the UK National Recognition Information Centre regularly while drafting the statutory instrument.
The views of stakeholders have been mainly positive. They welcome the plan for continuity in the event of no deal and many of the competent authorities are also very positive about the changes we propose. For example, they are happy that they have to make a choice about whether to offer compensation measures or whether they are not obliged to do so.
I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. He is talking about the consultation that took place with UK regulators and professional bodies. What consultation has there been with UK nationals who work on the continent, who could well be affected by the lack of reciprocal recognition of qualifications? It is their interests that are entirely unprovided for in the statutory instrument.
I do not think it will be possible to consult them in the way that the noble Lord suggests. I accept that they are affected. We are making the order—a one-sided order—so that those coming to the UK can benefit from it. Obviously, UK citizens abroad are in a different position, but I hope they will take appropriate advice.
I am very grateful to the Minister. He mentioned that 12,000 UK citizens were awaiting professional recognition abroad and that 20,000 had thus far had their accreditation accepted in the European Union, as if to imply that that was an inevitable and inexorable acceptance which would continue. Does he accept that for all the 32,000 UK citizens working abroad, according to his estimates, should a reciprocal decision to that taken here be taken by European Union countries—to allow their professional organisations to make the decision—all those 32,000 UK citizens could be subjected to changes in the accreditation system in future, thus threatening the jobs, positions and livelihoods that they hold at present?
I think the noble Lord has misunderstood what I said. Over the past 10 years, according to the EU’s database, 20,000 qualified professionals have had their qualifications recognised in the EU or the EEA. Of those 20,000—it is not a question of adding the two figures together and getting 32,000—12,000 related to qualifications within the scope of this statutory instrument, the implication being that the other 8,000, whether they were farriers from Northern Ireland, doctors or whatever, were not within the scope of this SI; they were within the scope of another. We are talking about 12,000 UK citizens who at some point over the past 10 years have gone to work in the EU. I am advised that the largest proportion of them are teachers, and the same is true of those coming back here. I have given figures for secondary school teachers and primary school teachers. Lawyers and doctors are not within the scope of this SI. I mention also hairdressers, where we can never have reciprocity because, as the noble Lord will be aware when he goes to his barber, we do not regulate hairdressers and barbers, whereas that is the case in Italy, France and no doubt in Luxembourg and other countries. I do not have the precise details of which of the other 27 countries regulate such things.
I do not know whether my barber is regulated or unregulated but, looking at the outcome of his work, I suspect he is unregulated. I thank the Minister for clarifying his figures, but will he now address the substantial point that the 12,000 who have previously been accredited and are employed in jobs, presumably across the European Union, could in the future, if the EU does the same as the Government are doing, which is to pass the power of accreditation down to the professional organisations on the continent, find themselves without accreditation for their livelihood because the professional associations in Europe may well be tempted into what would be the equivalent of a trade war by protecting the interests of their own members vis-à-vis those who come from the United Kingdom? That is precisely the point that people in this Chamber are worried about.
I apologise to the noble Lord.
There has been guidance from the European Commission on this matter. Decisions on the recognition of our qualifications made by another EU member state before exit will not be affected by our withdrawal from the EU. That is what the Commission has said. Therefore those 12,000, should they still be there, will be perfectly all right. Obviously, for any new person it will depend on what arrangements come into effect. We are dealing with our own arrangements for people coming into the UK. I hope that finally answers the noble Lord’s point.
I am grateful to my noble friend. I hope he will come on to respond to the precise point about reciprocity. I think that what the noble Lord was trying to say was the question I put to my noble friend earlier. We are proceeding ahead of our European partners. We are ahead of our EEA and Swiss partners for the purposes of this statutory instrument. I think my noble friend will confirm that those new applicants will not have reciprocity because it is a matter for negotiation. Is that the case?
My noble friend has it. We are saying to the large number of French ski instructors who want to come here that they can. It will be up to the French skiing authority. I mention ski instructors because this is just one area where what the noble Lord seemed to think was working perfectly quite obviously was not. I use that, possibly flippantly, just to make that point. French ski instructors will be able to come to Aviemore and qualify. That is what these regulations are about.
I remind the Minister that in 1938 that is exactly what we did in Britain. I had a number of colleagues who became great scientists and medics and who were refused their qualifications when they came to this country as refugees. For example, my boss worked as a housemaid for three years before she was able to start looking down a microscope. This is a real issue, not just for ski instructors but for people who are highly qualified as well.
The noble Lord hits the point absolutely on the head. That is what the regulations are doing. That is why we are saying we will recognise their qualifications. Obviously I cannot say that France will recognise the qualifications of a UK ski instructor, or something more important. That has to be a matter for the French authorities, and we hope they will follow what we are doing.
Can I move on to deal with just one or two of the other points? I see that the House is filling up and, I think, wants to move on to other business.
Perhaps it does not. I will continue.
I have already mentioned the guidance from the Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, was concerned that existing qualifications would be recognised, and I mentioned what the Commission said in published guidance about the recognition of other qualifications. We have every faith in that. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, complained that this should be technical and non-controversial—
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. These are extremely serious matters. These figures are huge: 20,000 professionals currently have their qualifications recognised, which means that many thousands more will want the same in due course. The Minister referred to what the Commission said. Richard Harrington, the Minister in another place, said:
“In a no-deal scenario, the recognition of qualifications”—
UK nationals’ qualifications on the continent—
“will be assessed under host member state rules. In that scenario, after exit day, our nationals will not be able to provide temporary and occasional professional services as they previously could under the directive, but that will be subject to their host member state’s laws and regulatory frameworks”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, 4/2/19; col. 11.]
Those words could not be clearer. We have no basis whatever for being able to offer assurances, let alone guarantees, to UK nationals that their qualifications will continue to be recognised for the purposes of new employment after 29 March. I need hardly point out to the House that what the Minister, Richard Harrington, said will come to pass in six weeks’ time. Any responsible Government would not be putting regulations of this kind to the House unless they had made proper provision in that respect.
My Lords, we are bringing these forward in the event of no deal. We are saying, “We will take in all your qualifications”. The Commission, as the noble Lord acknowledges, has said that it will recognise existing qualifications from UK nationals out there.
The noble Lord will have to wait until I have finished answering this point. He can then interrupt me if I decide to give way, but I think I ought to be allowed to answer a point fully before I take another one.
I will now quote from a letter that my honourable friend wrote to his opposite number following the debate on these regulations in another place:
“Therefore, UK citizens living in EU countries who are working in regulated professions or under protected titles, and who are doing so under a recognition decision under the MRPQ directive, will not have their recognition decisions affected by our withdrawal from the EU and they will not seek further recognition in order to be able to continue working or using their title”.
I will now give way to the noble Lord.
I thank the Minister for giving way and apologise for being so enthusiastic. Richard Harrington said in the other place that,
“the Commission has advised holders of UK qualifications living in the EU to obtain recognition in an EU27 member state before exit”.—[Official Report, Commons, Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee, 4/2/19; col. 11.]
Is the Minister saying that that is wrong or is he saying that his colleague in the other place is right?
My noble friend is being incredibly generous and I am most grateful to him. I asked what his department is doing on a reciprocal basis, given that this is a matter of negotiation. The example given earlier was of a biomedical scientist, which falls within the scope of this directive, but it could equally be a clinical dental technician or a dental nurse. What is the department doing to ensure that there is two-way traffic and that we quite rightly ensure that EEA and Swiss nationals can carry on or make new applications here? Will he put our minds at rest that that is precisely what the Government and his department are doing for our nationals in the EEA, Switzerland and the EU?
I assure my noble friend that my department and the other relevant departments—this does not just affect BEIS—will seek reciprocity. We cannot offer reciprocity in a no-deal situation. What we are trying to offer in that situation—which is all these regulations are about—is protection for those who want to come into the UK. It is a one-way offer and one would hope others will take it up.
Lastly, I want to deal with the point of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, as to whether there is a GATS risk. The current system is based on the nationality of the professional rather than the nationality of the qualification. To keep in line with WTO rules, we have to change that at exit day to avoid being in breach of them. WTO members can recognise professional qualifications gained in other countries provided certain conditions are met. This recognition can be gained unilaterally but it must not operate in a discriminatory way, so we cannot retain a system that provides preferential treatment simply on the basis of a professional’s nationality—it has to be on the qualification.
I believe that I have answered most of the questions put to me. These regulations are important and it is necessary to get them on the statute book.