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Environment and Wildlife (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

Volume 800: debated on Wednesday 16 October 2019

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Environment and Wildlife (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to lead this debate today to discuss the Environment and Wildlife (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, provides protection to more than 35,000 different species of endangered animals and plants. By regulating international trade in live animals and plants and their parts, the convention aims to reduce the threat to these species in the wild. Many UK businesses currently trade in CITES specimens. The relevant sectors are diverse and include musical instrument makers and musicians, fashion, antiques, pharmaceutical, floristry and businesses that trade in live animals for aquariums, zoos and pets. The Government’s support for CITES is a key part of our wider commitment to combating the illegal trade in wildlife and tackling loss of biodiversity around the globe.

The draft instrument we are discussing today makes sure that after we leave the European Union the regulations implementing CITES will work in the UK. The regulations make technical, legal amendments to maintain the effectiveness and continuity of UK legislation that would otherwise be left partially inoperable, so that following our exit from the EU, the law will continue to function properly.

CITES is currently implemented in the EU through a number of regulations known as the EU wildlife trade regulations. The EU regulations will become retained EU law on exit day, and we have already made various EU exit regulations to make the legislation work in the UK. This statutory instrument corrects the drafting in one of the previous EU exit instruments. The EU regulations put in place a system of permits and certificates for cross-border movement of specimens of endangered species. The main EU regulation, 338/97, contains a number of derogations—exceptions—from the permitting regime. Further detailed provisions on derogations are then set out in a subsidiary, implementing regulation, 865/2006. The main regulation currently gives the European Commission powers to legislate and the rules are set out in the subsidiary legislation.

Today we are talking about three specific provisions. The main regulation contains derogations in Article 7(1) to 7(3). Those relate to specimens of species born and bred in captivity or artificially propagated, specimens in transit, and specimens which are personal and household effects. Article 7 currently gives the European Commission legislative powers to make further detailed provisions on those derogations, and that has been done in subsidiary legislation, EU Regulation 865/2006.

The derogations cover, for example, the process by which you may be able to import certain artificially propagated flower species without the CITES paperwork and checks that are normally required. They also govern how you might be able to move a personal item, such as a hardwood chest, as part of a family household move from one country to another.

This statutory instrument ensures that the Secretary of State has the necessary legislative powers to amend detailed provisions on key derogations in retained EU law. The SI corrects the drafting in a previous SI: the Environment and Wildlife (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, henceforth referred to as SI 2019/473, which will in turn amend CITES-related retained EU law on exit day. SI 2019/473 provides for the Secretary of State to carry out functions currently performed by the European Commission and to set out the detailed provisions on the relevant Article 7 derogations in writing.

The draft instrument makes two amendments to SI 2019/473. The first corrects a drafting error, so that the Secretary of State can set out the regulatory detail of the derogations “in regulations”, rather than “in writing”. This will ensure that the Secretary of State has the legislative power to amend the retained EU law provisions after exit. This will ensure that we can, for example, amend the detailed derogation provisions to strengthen the controls we have, in line with our policy aims. The second amendment provides that regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of these derogations will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure.

With this SI, we are not changing the rules implementing CITES but simply ensuring that the Secretary of State has powers to amend retained EU law on specific derogations after we have left the EU. The Government have made it clear that our intention is to increase environmental standards when we leave the European Union. This includes our efforts to protect endangered species and our commitment to CITES.

As I have outlined, these amendments are necessary to make clear that the Secretary of State has a power not simply to take administrative action but to legislate and amend retained EU law in respect of these key derogations. It does not introduce new CITES policy and simply makes sure that retained EU law will work. However, this SI paves the way to ensuring we have the future ability, outside the EU, to legislate to set the UK’s direction on the derogations in question—for example, if we want to tighten or strengthen the permitting regime.

This instrument deals with entirely reserved matters and so covers the whole of the UK. A draft of this SI was shared with the devolved Administrations for information.

In closing, I reiterate that this instrument will ensure that the Secretary of State can amend provisions on key derogations in the regime implementing CITES. It provides for regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of these derogations to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the negative resolution procedure. For these reasons, I beg to move.

I thank the Minister for her introduction. I am sure all Members of your Lordships’ House share her enthusiasm for CITES to be implemented fully in this country and for our legislative route to be absolutely clear cut and without any ambiguity. Therefore, from that point of view, nobody could object to what is in front of us today.

However, it seems to be an example, not the only one, of something drafted in haste and repented at leisure—or perhaps revised in haste, bearing in mind that there is only another fortnight to go before it might need to be implemented. I was somewhat reminded of my own experience when I was instructed to write 50 lines before I could go out to play. On presenting the 50 lines, I was told they were not tidy enough and had to write another 50 lines. I very much hope that this is the last time we will change this and that the Government—or the next Government, as the case may be—will move forward with it.

I am encouraged by what the Minister says about giving Ministers the right to tighten bans and regulations. That is good, although it is of course also true that with the power to tighten them would come the power to loosen them. She may want to comment a little on that. Overall, I wonder whether she is not just a little embarrassed at wasting our time on this one.

My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness to her new role. I look forward to working with her on the many hours of primary and secondary Defra legislation that we have before us. I am sure that they will be instructive to both of us. I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, because we accept that this is just an exercise in correcting mistakes. We have always been concerned that errors and mistakes would creep in because of the speed with which some of this legislation is being pushed through, but we would not want to say or do anything that jeopardises the CITES agreement, which is very important to us.

The Minister will be pleased to know that I do not have any questions, but I echo the obvious point, which is that these mistakes should not happen and that there should be a better checking mechanism in the first place. I hope that this will be the last time that we will see this SI and that we can put it to bed.

I thank noble Lords for their comments. I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, about the importance of CITES. It is doing some great work.

I can only apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell. Perhaps I should be writing 50 lines that they can correct if they are wrong and I will have to write them over again. In its defence, the department has had to prepare an enormous number of SIs, most of which have been done absolutely excellently. I can only apologise for these mistakes.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, asked about the dangers in the way the powers can be used. As far as that is concerned, there will always be parliamentary scrutiny, whatever decision is made. We can feel safe in that respect.

I thank noble Lords very much for their queries.

Motion agreed.