Delegated Legislation Committee
Draft Blood Safety and Quality (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Mr Virendra Sharma
† Brine, Steve (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)
† Cartlidge, James (South Suffolk) (Con)
† Churchill, Jo (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)
Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)
† Docherty, Leo (Aldershot) (Con)
† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)
† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)
† Hodgson, Mrs Sharon (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
† Johnson, Dr Caroline (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)
† Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)
† Lefroy, Jeremy (Stafford) (Con)
† Moore, Damien (Southport) (Con)
† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
† Rimmer, Ms Marie (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab)
† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)
† Whitford, Dr Philippa (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
† Wood, Mike (Dudley South) (Con)
Rob Cope, Kevin Candy, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 19 December 2018
[Mr Virendra Sharma in the Chair]
Draft Blood Safety and Quality (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Blood Safety and Quality (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
It is nice to see you, Mr Sharma.
The draft regulations are made under powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to make the necessary amendments to the UK’s Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005. The instrument will correct those regulations to ensure that the UK is prepared in the unlikely event that it leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March next year.
The UK regulations set out the safety and quality requirements that cover all steps in the blood transfusion process from donation, collection, testing, processing and storage to distribution. The short shelf life of such products means that an uninterrupted process of donation and processing is needed to ensure that the UK has a safe continuity of supply for blood and blood components. Patients rely on the treatments every day, and many people would not be alive today if it were not for the generosity of blood donors—I want to place that on the record.
As a responsible Government, we have been preparing for all scenarios, including that we leave the EU without a deal in March. The draft statutory instrument will ensure that the regulatory regime for blood safety and quality continues to function effectively after exit day. It is important to make the changes for the continued donation and processing of blood and blood components such as plasma and platelets to facilitate a wide range of essential and often life-saving treatment. In addition, the donated plasma is a component of blood that can be used to manufacture medicinal products such as clotting factors and immunoglobulins.
To be clear, the instrument is limited to the necessary technical amendments to ensure that legislation is operative on EU exit day. It confers powers—from the EU Commission to the Secretary of State—to make the technical changes. However, no policy changes are made through the draft regulations, and at this point we have no intention of making any. I commend the regulations to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma, and to be in Committee on another SI. We were at it this morning and yesterday, if not with this Minister, with his colleague. A few in the room, such as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and our team’s PPS, are seemingly doing both, or all, stints. We were at it yesterday as well. I understand that a few SIs are going on across the Committee Rooms at the moment.
As I said this morning, I would prefer that we did not have to do any SIs because we are leaving with a deal and do not have to worry about no deal. As a matter of contingency planning, however, it is only right to be in Committee to discuss the changes as a just-in-case measure.
Having said that, people will be rightly concerned that we are even having to make contingency plans in the event that we have a no-deal Brexit, so what assurances will the Minister give patients, in particular those with rare diseases who receive important blood and blood components? Will the Minister give assurances that the changes will not affect the safety, quality or supply of blood and blood components in the UK, and that the standards we enjoy now will be maintained? The UK has set the regulatory benchmark for the EU, so it is important that that is not impaired post Brexit.
I understand that regulation 8 means that a UK establishment, rather than an EU establishment, will be responsible for labelling, recording and storing blood from the EU. Will the Minister confirm that the UK has the capacity to label, record and store blood, and which UK establishment will be responsible?
I hope the amendments will not be needed in the end, but I appreciate that the Government have to make them and are keen to get it right. I therefore hope the Minister will consider everything that has been mentioned and will give us assurances.
All of us with constituents who have suffered under the contaminated blood scandal recognise the absolute importance of maintaining the standard of blood for transfusion, as well as other donated tissues and organs. I welcome the draft regulations and that we will maintain the standard. The issue will be in paragraph 7.12 of the explanatory memorandum on technical updates under article 29: as technology develops and issues arise, will we continue to match that standard? The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West asked who in the UK will take on that responsibility.
I notice in section 7.3 of the explanatory memorandum that approximately 6.5% of plasma is imported from the EU, although the UK is largely self-sufficient in blood itself. I take the opportunity to remind people, whether or not they are blood donors, that there is still time to donate a wee pint of blood before we go into Christmas. As a surgeon I can say that we always run out or come close to running out. There is still time to save a life. How will we compensate for that 6.5% of plasma that we import for direct clotting factors and immunoglobulins, to which the Minister referred?
The explanatory memorandum states that there will no longer be an obligation on UK authorities to report serious adverse effects. Although I understand there would not be an obligation once we are outside the EU, I would have thought it was still good practice to share information on serious adverse effects that have occurred here and that might occur elsewhere in Europe and, similarly, to encourage the sharing of information so that if there is an adverse event, we are given that information in return.
I am slightly surprised that, in section 7.9 of the explanatory memorandum, Gibraltar is defined as a third country—it defines EU member states as third countries, but also Gibraltar. I am a little confused about why it would be considered a third country.
I welcome the draft regulations in general, but there seem to be a few little threads hanging. I would be grateful if the Minister could give us comfort on those or further information either from reviewing it or by sending it to us later.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire made both the points I intended to make. Very briefly, the situation of Gibraltar as a third country strikes me as very odd. On the obligation for the maintenance of communication of serious adverse events, although I understand that it should no longer be an obligation, it should still have to happen. It is absolutely vital that that takes place. Will the Minister say how he intends to ensure that it will?
Finally, I refer to something that I often speak about in the context of the very sad case of our leaving the European Union: the importance of maintaining research across borders of blood diseases and all kinds of health problems we are tackling, because they know no borders. We have to continue and strengthen that. Could the Minister briefly comment on that in the context of these draft regulations?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I have a couple of brief questions of the Minister.
First and foremost, the point that has to be made about this scenario is that there is no majority in the House of Commons for us to leave with no deal. That needs to be underlined. If we do leave without a deal, it will be entirely the fault of the Prime Minister.
That aside, what implications does this treatment of the UK as a third country by the European Union have down the road? Has the Minister considered that? What about continued supply? Are we in competition with other European countries? Is supply likely to be interfered with? Will priority be given to EU countries over us for that supply? I might be worrying unnecessarily, but I would like to know whether the Minister has given that any consideration, or whether it is in fact the case.
Similarly, on future improvements in standards, technology and knowledge, will we keep up under article 29 with technical improvements in the field? Will we mirror that in this country? How will we keep ourselves at the forefront of medicine in this area to ensure that we do not fall behind our European neighbours as a consequence of not being part of the collective that deals with such issues under article 29 of the European treaty?
The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West, my shadow from the Labour party, talked about regulation 8. Each blood establishment will be responsible for the labelling, storage and so on of blood. There is no change; the only change to regulation 8 is from “European Union” to “third country”, which of course is what we would become in the event that that happened. We have made sure that the UK blood establishments have capacity for labelling.
The hon. Lady also asked about patient safety. The statutory instrument will ensure that the existing high standards of safety and quality of blood and blood components is continued. There is no increased risk to patient safety.
The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Eltham both talked about supply. The draft regulations will not affect the supply of blood or blood components in the UK. As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire from the Scottish National party said, the UK is largely self-sufficient in blood and blood components. We do not routinely import or export blood components.
One exception to that is blood plasma—we import about 6.5% of our total blood plasma units from the EU, as has been said, as a safety measure against BSE for people born after 1996. We are putting contingency plans in place to ensure a continuing safe supply after 29 March. NHS Blood and Transplant will be stockpiling plasma centrally to ensure continuity of supply.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire is absolutely right about the importance of that in ongoing medicine and in keeping people safe, which is why I feel confident in saying that there will be no adverse impact on patient safety as a result. That involves fast-tracking shipments at ports and alternative routes being prepared, while partners stockpile alternative medicinal products and consumables.
The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West talked about regulatory benchmarks. She is absolutely right to say that that is our work—we have been a member state for 40 years, and we have no intention of diverging from that, because we wrote most of it. One of the reasons why, through this SI, we are updating the powers to give the Secretary of State power to amend the regulations is so that, on exit day—if that happens as we hope it will not happen—we would be in exactly the same place.
Obviously, if the ongoing review in the European Union 27 of the future of blood and blood component products decides to make changes, we would also be in the position of being nimble enough to make changes ourselves to ensure that we stay close to them in a regulatory benchmark way. My views on EU exit are well known, but I do not think anyone voted in order to diverge from our closest partners on blood supply.
Gibraltar is making its own EU exit legislation. The Gibraltar Government have been closely engaged with the Department, and we with them. Gibraltar meets the same standards as the UK, and I see no reason for that not to continue.
On the devolved Administrations, because blood is a devolved competence, the SI confers the EU Commission’s regulation-making powers on to the Secretary of State and on the relevant DAs, with the devolved Administration’s consent. We are engaging with the blood establishments, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the DAs to ensure that there is day-one operability for blood safety and quality legislation.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—dealing with the civil service in the latter—have provided their consent for this instrument, and they have been closely involved in its development over the past six months. I place on record my thanks to those in Scotland and Wales, and the civil servants in Northern Ireland, who have worked well and closely with us to ensure that this is done safely and sensibly.
In answer to a point made by the hon. Member for Eltham, we will go all out to ensure that we do not need the draft regulations. Dare I say it? The best way to avoid no deal is to have a deal, and Members will get the opportunity to agree one when we come back in the new year.
Question put and agreed to.
Draft Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Mr Nigel Evans
† Bradley, Ben (Mansfield) (Con)
† Docherty-Hughes, Martin (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)
† Foxcroft, Vicky (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
† Gaffney, Hugh (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab)
† George, Ruth (High Peak) (Lab)
† Heald, Sir Oliver (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)
† Heappey, James (Wells) (Con)
† McMorrin, Anna (Cardiff North) (Lab)
† Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con)
† Norman, Jesse (Minister of State, Department for Transport)
† Quince, Will (Colchester) (Con)
† Thomson, Ross (Aberdeen South) (Con)
† Turner, Karl (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)
† Watling, Giles (Clacton) (Con)
† West, Catherine (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
Medha Bhasin, Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 19 December 2018
[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]
Draft Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Aviation Safety (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans. I wish you, Committee members and the Clerks a very happy Christmas.
The draft instrument will be made under the powers conferred by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and will be needed if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal next March. Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU after the referendum in 2016, the Government have been working hard to develop a positive future relationship with the EU. The Department for Transport has undertaken a significant amount of work with respect to the withdrawal negotiations themselves, and to prepare for the full range of potential outcomes from the negotiations. As Committee members will be aware, the best outcome will be for the UK to leave with a deal, and hon. Members will know that a draft withdrawal agreement is being considered. We remain confident that that agreement will enter into force at the end of March next year.
However, we must, of course, also make all reasonable plans to prepare for a no-deal scenario. To that extent, we have conducted particularly intensive work to ensure that there continues to be a well-functioning legislative and regulatory regime for aviation. We set out how this will work in the technical notices published in September, and the draft instrument will provide the means to deliver some of those outcomes.
The draft instrument corrects five principal EU regulations relating to aviation safety, together with several Commission implementing regulations made under them. As Committee members will understand, and as you will appreciate, Mr Evans, these are rather technical matters, but it is important to be clear about them. The most important of the regulations is EU regulation 2018/1139, more commonly known as the EASA—European Aviation Safety Agency—basic regulation, which establishes a comprehensive regulatory framework for aviation safety in the EU. In particular, it provides for the continued establishment of EASA and the adoption by the European Commission of implementing regulations on aviation safety. These implementing regulations also ensure that EU member states can meet their obligations under the wider convention on international civil aviation, known as the Chicago convention.
There are 13 implementing regulations dealing with different aspects of aviation safety that will be corrected by the draft instrument. These cover the design, construction, maintenance and operation of aircraft; the licensing of flight crew, maintenance engineers and air traffic controllers; the provision of air traffic management and air navigation services; and the design and operation of aerodromes.
The other principal regulations are: regulation 3922/91 on technical harmonisation, which has largely been replaced by the EASA basic regulation, although the flight and duty time limitations established under the regulations still apply to the crews of aeroplanes undertaking air taxi, emergency medical service and single-pilot commercial air transport operations; regulation 2111/2005, which establishes the list of air operators banned from operating to the EU on safety grounds; regulation 996/2010, which sets requirements for the investigation of air accidents and incidents; and regulation 376/2014, which establishes requirements for civil aviation occurrence reporting.
The draft instrument will correct deficiencies in the retained EU regulations that I have listed. It will also correct domestic legislation made to implement aspects of those regulations. These changes should ensure that the statute book continues to function correctly after exit day. Many of the corrections are to make clear that the retained legislation applies only to the UK. For instance, references to
“the territory to which the Treaties apply”
are replaced with “the United Kingdom”. References to “the competent authority” are replaced with references to “the CAA”. Other amendments relate to the relationship between member states. For example, requirements on mutual recognition are deleted, as are requirements for co-operation and the sharing of information.
The draft instrument will also reassign functions that currently fall to EU bodies. The majority of regulatory functions required under the EU regulations are currently undertaken by the competent authorities of the member states. Those include licensing pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance engineers, certifying the airworthiness of individual aircraft, certifying airports and airport operators, approving production, maintenance and flight training organisations, and approving air traffic management and air navigation service providers.
However, EASA is responsible for a number of functions, which include preparing proposals for new technical requirements and for amendments to existing technical requirements; approving organisations that design aircraft and aircraft engines, and certifying the design of aircraft and engine types; approving organisations based in third countries—for example, flight training and aircraft maintenance organisations; and functions relating to the management and oversight of the aviation safety regulatory system, which include managing the mechanisms for the exchange of information and auditing the application of technical requirements by a member state’s competent authorities.
The Civil Aviation Authority will take on those functions, with the exception of those relating to the management of the EU safety regulatory system. While design certification has formally sat with EASA since 2008, it is not a capability that the CAA has totally relinquished, and we are confident that it will be able both to meet the needs of industry and to fulfil the UK’s international obligations as the state of design. The CAA is implementing contingency plans to ensure that it will be able to undertake the new functions effectively from exit day. In all, the CAA will need to take on around 59 new staff.
The European Commission also has a number of functions under the EU regulations. Most notably, it has the power to adopt regulations, to adopt or amend technical requirements, and to make limited, specified amendments to the principal EU regulations. Those functions will be assigned to the Secretary of State. The power to amend the retained principal EU regulations is very limited, and is designed to ensure that the regulatory system can adapt to technical developments and changes to the international standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Those powers mainly relate to the annexes to the regulations.
Most notably, the Secretary of State will have the power to amend the essential requirements contained in the annexes to the EASA basic regulation by making regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure. The essential requirements are the high-level safety objectives, which are implemented through the technical requirements. Amendments can be made only where it is necessary to reflect technical, operational or scientific developments or evidence in the relevant technical field to the extent necessary to achieve the objectives of the EASA basic regulation. In addition, the draft instrument revokes four implementing regulations that set out internal procedures for EASA, as they will not be relevant to the UK after EU exit.
Finally, I should stress that none of the amendments changes any of the technical requirements established by the retained EU regulations. All certificates, licences and approvals issued by EASA or EU/European economic area states prior to exit day will remain valid in the UK by virtue of the withdrawal Act if valid in the UK immediately before exit day. The draft instrument provides that such certificates shall be treated as if they were issued by the CAA. With the exception of certificates relating to aircraft design, the instrument also limits the validity of such certificates to two years after exit day, after which CAA-issued certificates will be required.
I do not want to detain the Committee for long. I have a question on the amendment of regulation 2111/2005, on the banned operator list. At the moment, the banning of an air carrier is based on information from right across the EU, so if an air carrier has performed badly in eastern Europe, it could well be banned. Will we in the UK have access to that sort of information when deciding who should be banned in Britain, or will it be a less full process?
It is a fair question. As my right hon. and learned Friend will be aware, we are discussing a context in which we do not have a deal with the EU, so this is a contingency that is not covered by the main case. Even in this contingency, however, there is every reason to think that the very extensive information sharing that exists would continue, even if only informally, for a period until the necessary protocols could be retained. He will know that the CAA was itself one of the progenitors of EASA, and there are extremely close working relationships between the two sides.
The restriction I have described is necessary, as the CAA needs to issue the safety certificates to have full oversight of aviation safety in the UK, in accordance with our obligations under the Chicago convention. We are working to achieve a positive deal with the EU, but this instrument is an essential element of our contingency planning for a no-deal exit; it will enter into force on exit day only under those circumstances. The instrument will ensure, in the event of a no-deal EU exit, that the UK’s aviation safety regulatory regime continues to work effectively and the aviation industry has clarity about the regulatory framework in which it would operate. I commend this instrument to the Committee.
It is always an absolute pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Evans. I will be relatively brief. As ever, I will be grateful if the Minster could address some brief points.
As the Minister intimated, aviation regulations are part of the many aspects of EU law that will fall into UK law under the Government’s EU withdrawal Act. The draft regulations relate to the passing of EU Commission powers exercised by EASA to the Secretary of State for Transport, to be exercised by the Civil Aviation Authority. As he said, none of the changes will change the technical requirements and standards established by the original legislation.
Having consulted with many aviation stakeholders, the shadow Front-Bench team has received the message that the draft regulations are necessary. For that reason, the Opposition will not oppose them, but I wonder whether the Minister could answer a few points. Associate membership of EASA was something the Prime Minister set out in her Lancaster House speech, so can he explain why this seems to no longer be on the table? Does he believe that the UK will lose influence in terms of aviation safety regulations and rule making? That appears to be a real possibility.
Because of the ongoing chaos, the Government ramped up their no-deal planning rhetoric recently. However, we welcome today’s news that the EU is to allow airlines to fly point to point between London and European cities—the most basic form of landing rights—and that aviation safety certificates are to be temporarily extended. Will the Minister tell us what steps are being taken to mitigate any potential problems for our aviation industry that a no-deal Brexit could cause?
We are now only 100 days away from Brexit. Will the Minister confirm how many more of these aviation regulations are required? Does he think that there is enough time between now and March to put on to the statute book all the regulations that might be required? The aviation sector has been asking for reassurance and clarity for two years. With only 100 days to go, it still seeks that clarification. It would be good if the Minister could give the industry some assurances today.
Before I finish, on behalf of the Opposition, I wish a very happy Christmas to you and your advisers, Mr Evans, to the civil servants and, indeed, to Government Back-Benchers.
I wish a merry Christmas to you, Mr Evans, and to everyone else in the room. Briefly, and on top of what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East said, the Scottish National party will not oppose the draft regulations. Anyone who opposes a move to maintain safety standards after no deal frankly undervalues their importance. While I might not agree with no deal, I think we all agree on the criticality of safety. Given that we are discussing the draft regulations on the day of the commemoration of Lockerbie, it is important that we recognise the many issues that the aviation industry faces.
Will the Minister give some clear assurances about how he will lock in the high standards that we already expect in civil aviation certification if no deal takes places? As we have heard, the CAA has been a major driver of those safety standards across the whole European Union, which we are still a member at the moment. Articles 60 and 61 of the UK-EU political declaration relate to aviation, with article 60 covering market access, investment and so on. Article 61 says:
“The Parties should make further arrangements to enable cooperation”.
Article 24, on regulatory aspects, states that the parties
“will also explore the possibility of cooperation of United Kingdom authorities with Union agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”
Specifically, as the CAA assumes these new rules and regulations outwith the European Union, if that is what is to progress, will the Minister give any consideration to strengthening its independence as a certifier of aviation safety, given that it is funded by the industry itself?
I thank the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull East and for West Dunbartonshire for their questions. I know it was a temporary slip of the tongue that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East failed to wish a happy Christmas to those on the Government Front Bench, but I know, as an old friend, that he did so, and I am happy to take that in the spirit in which it was not intended. I thank both hon. Gentlemen for the support that the Labour and Scottish National parties are giving this important piece of implementing contingency legislation.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East raised the question of associate membership of EASA. I remind him that we are making plans against a contingency; there are continuing conversations between the UK and the EU on the relationship with EASA, and we are hopeful that those will be satisfactorily concluded. It is important to say that nothing has specifically changed from that point of view.
Will the UK lose influence? I think that is unlikely; the form of our direct relationship to EASA itself may change, but the UK remains a very large international and national market for aviation services and a leader in aviation technologies, so I expect its influence to remain very substantial.
The hon. Gentleman welcomed the news that has come today from the EU about basic landing rights, and he is right to do so. It reinforces the picture that he, I and other colleagues have discussed in previous Committee meetings about the generally positive trajectory of discussions. We heard the announcements that the European Commission made on 13 November about periods of visa-free staying in the EU for UK nationals, which of course will be reflected on both sides. The Committee will also recall that, at that point, the EU made it clear that it was comfortable with the overflying of EU states, which is important.
There is a positive trajectory here. It is important to say that we are looking at the proposals with a degree of caution, because they are not yet fully implemented; they are proposals from the Commission, and it is not absolutely clear that member states will not have their own ideas about these things. Possibly they will be more liberal and open than the Commission anticipates.
The hon. Gentleman asked how many more SIs there will be. We have four more SIs remaining in the area of aviation. We—and the Government, looking across the piece—do not anticipate any interruption to the flow of secondary legislation in this area.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the industry’s concerns about the lack of clarity, and we fully recognise that this inevitably complex process has a lack of clarity associated with it. I hope he and the Committee will understand that, between the technical notices, the withdrawal Act and the various other commitments the Government have put in the public eye, as well as the implementing legislation, we have sought to reduce any obscurity and to create as much clarity and stability as possible for the sector.
I am also grateful to the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire for his questions and, as I have said, for the SNP’s support. I can give him a very strong assurance that, as we have done in this contingency arrangement, we will not really be carrying over the standards of EASA, many of which were, of course, originally derived from CAA standards and are the product of UK regulation over many years, but we see no reason why there may not, in time, be scope to lead a conversation about improving standards across the European continent, whatever the status of the country.
The hon. Gentleman’s point about strengthening the independence of the CAA is well made. Of course, it is an independent body, funded by the industry; it has been supported a little in the past year by some taxpayer money to deal with contingency planning, but his point is well recognised. As an expert agency, it is important that it remains appropriately independent of any political influence.
To wind up, we remain confident that we will reach an agreement with the EU, but it is important that we, as a Government, prepare for the unlikely outcome that we may leave with no deal. This instrument is essential to ensure that a crucial part of the regulatory framework for civil aviation continues to work effectively from exit day in this country, and, as hon. Members have mentioned today, that we have a high level of safety, irrespective of the outcome of negotiations. I hope the Committee has found this sitting useful and will join me in supporting the regulations.
I should hate to be left out, so may I wish everyone present and those watching via the ether a very merry Christmas and a happy 2019?
Question put and agreed to.
Draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 Draft Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 Draft Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Graham Stringer
† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
† Coaker, Vernon (Gedling) (Lab)
† Day, Martyn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
† Doyle-Price, Jackie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)
† Eagle, Maria (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
† Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)
† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)
† Heaton-Jones, Peter (North Devon) (Con)
† Hodgson, Mrs Sharon (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)
† Huddleston, Nigel (Mid Worcestershire) (Con)
† McKinnell, Catherine (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab)
† Mak, Alan (Havant) (Con)
† Morris, David (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con)
† Morton, Wendy (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con)
† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
† Philp, Chris (Croydon South) (Con)
† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)
Dominic Stockbridge, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Third Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 19 December 2018
[Graham Stringer in the Chair]
Draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the draft Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Stringer—even though it is a bit early for some of us.
We are debating three sets of regulations that will be critical to maintaining patient safety in respect of organs, tissues and cells used to treat patients as we leave the European Union. They are no-deal statutory instruments: they have been developed as part of contingency planning and will be needed in the event that we leave the EU with no agreement in place. If the UK reaches a deal with the EU, the Department will revoke or amend the instruments to reflect the deal. The instruments will ensure that UK law on organs, tissues and cells functions effectively after exit day and maintains the same high standards of safety and quality. The instruments are being made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. They make appropriate amendments and revocations to correct deficiencies in UK law and retained EU law.
I will go through the amendments in detail. First, in the event of no deal, the UK and the EU will consider each other to be third countries; the regulations redefine the term “third country” to include EU countries and Gibraltar. As a result, licensed establishments will need to make administrative changes to continue to import organs, tissues and cells from EU countries and Gibraltar.
A small number of organs are shared with EU and non-EU countries, with fewer than 30 organs on average being imported or exported each year. Despite the small numbers, we need to ensure that an appropriate legal regime is in place. Tissues and cells are imported from and exported to EU countries less often than they are imported from and exported to countries outside the EU. There are about 5,000 imports of tissues and cells from the EU in a typical year. That includes about 600 imports of stem cells and 3,000 imports of bone products. The UK imports donated sperm primarily from commercial sperm banks in the USA and Denmark.
Secondly, the regulations amend a number of references in current UK legislation that will no longer be appropriate once the UK withdraws from the EU. That includes references to obligations with which the UK must comply as an EU member state and some references to the EU, the European economic area, the European Commission and EU law. The regulations also modify how some of the requirements in the directives, which are referred to in domestic legislation, are to be read post exit.
Thirdly, these instruments propose a conferral of powers from the Commission to the Secretary of State and the devolved Administrations, where that is within devolved competence, permitting the Government to respond to emerging threats, changing safety and quality standards and technological advances. Legislative competence for the donation, processing and use in treatment of human reproductive cells—sperm, eggs and embryos—is reserved to Westminster. Competence in respect of all other human tissues, cells and organs is devolved; the relevant instruments are being made on a UK-wide basis, with the agreement of the devolved Administrations. The proposed amendments have been fully discussed with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved Administrations, and they have given formal consent to the draft statutory instruments.
The instruments are intended to maintain the current regulatory framework, so that UK organisations such as hospitals, stem cell laboratories, tissue banks and fertility clinics will continue to work to the same standards that they worked to prior to our leaving the EU. The impact of the instruments on businesses and public bodies will be low. Only establishments that import from or export to EU countries will be affected.
There is no impact for organ transplant centres. NHS Blood and Transplant and the Human Tissue Authority are working together to ensure that the new arrangements are put in place properly. Licensed establishments that import tissues and cells will need to put in place new agreements, so that they can continue to import tissues and cells from EU countries. The draft regulations give a six-month transition period so that they can do so. UK regulators will continue to advise and support all tissue establishments in preparing for exit day.
The draft regulations will allow us to continue with business as usual while leaving the European Union. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to be in this room to discuss these draft regulations.
It concerns me that we have to have contingency plans in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I certainly hope that all of us in this room would prefer us to leave with a deal, so that we can have an element of certainty. However, in lieu of any certainty, I understand and acknowledge that the draft regulations are very much needed and are the next option. I am sure that the public will also be concerned. What assurances can the Minister give patients, who will inevitably be concerned about these contingency plans? Will she give assurances that the draft regulations will retain—and in some cases even improve—patient safety?
I understand that the draft regulations will come into effect on 30 March 2019 in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, these changes must be effectively communicated to the affected agencies in a timely manner. Do the Government have a deadline for doing that? The draft Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) regulations include a six-month transition period, with provisions to ensure that imports may continue while licences and agreements are put in place. Can the Minister please elaborate on what those provisions will consist of?
The draft regulations must not affect the safety, quality or supply of organs, tissue or cells. We know how the healthcare system depends on there being a constant supply of those, so it is crucial that there is no interruption in that. Hopefully, the draft regulations will not be needed—but if they are, I hope that all these issues will have been considered by the Government.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I appreciate that these are emergency draft regulations, and I will not oppose them, but I think it is madness that we have been brought to the point of having to rush through hundreds of these regulations because of the Brexit process. All this could have been avoided if we had stayed in the single market and customs union or—better still—if we were not leaving the EU at all.
However, I have one question. We do not know what the exact process will be for licensed establishments to apply for a new import-export relationship. The Government need to make that process clear as soon as possible, so that those establishments can prepare if they need to. Will the Minister elaborate on that?
May I say what a pleasure it is to be here this morning serving under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer? I concur with the questions and remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West, and with the question from the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk.
I have one or two questions for the Minister about some of what I have seen in the draft regulations and the explanatory memorandum. She rightly says that only a small number of organs are shared between EU and non-EU countries, with fewer than 30 organs imported or exported on average. However, the draft regulations will come into force in a no-deal scenario, in which there will be no transition period and all the borders will go up. Only a small number of organs might come and go, but they are vital; many are a matter of life and death for the individual who will receive them. What arrangements has her Department made to make sure that those organs can get through?
The Government’s own preparedness documents suggest that there are going to be queues at borders. It is very easy to see how this kind of time-critical matter could get caught up in bureaucracy at borders. I know that the regulations are just about making arrangements, but I did not find anything in the Minister’s remarks or the explanatory memorandum to say what contingency arrangements the Government were making to ensure that the organs get through. That time-critical matter is often one of life and death. I would be grateful if the Minister said something about that.
There is no impact assessment because the Government have taken the view that the financial impact is lower than the £5 million threshold for which such documents are prepared. It would be helpful to have some idea of the extra cost that the arrangements provided for by these instruments would impose on the authorities that take on the job currently done by the Commission. Do the Government intend to reimburse them the extra money that that will cost? A six-month period is provided in the instruments for the new administrative arrangements, if necessary, to be made, but there is no reference—and the Minister did not make one—to whether the Government intend to reimburse those authorities for the extra work.
A small number of organisations import and export human tissue and organs, but I do not know how many there are. Can the Minister tell us and have the Government been talking in detail with them about precisely what they will need to do? There is the six-month period, but what precisely will those organisations have to do? I would be grateful for a little more detail from the Minister before we take a view on these instruments.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I agree with the comments made by everyone. We are all disappointed that we are where we are and that we have to come forward with these measures, although it is only right, given where we are, that we make contingency plans. In line with my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood, I believe it would be helpful for the Committee to have a bit more detail.
As the Minister said, only a small number of organisations are involved, but if someone needs an organ, cornea or cell, that is a critical matter. Without the support of masses of civil servants, it is difficult to understand the situation. Will the Minister confirm that there is no change in anything here—it is just a simple transposition of law? Will she also confirm that the Secretary of State has gained no additional powers? A huge number of regulatory powers are given to the Secretary of State.
There is sensitivity around these issues and the Acts referred to; we know about the debates on embryology, reproduction and research. Has anything changed in that area? References to a subsection of a subsection of a subsection sometimes mean that there is a change somewhere. The Minister’s confirmation would be helpful. My hon. Friend mentioned the transition arrangements of six months. What happens at the end of that if nothing has changed?
I had to look for the technical note. That was not referred to, yet it includes important information that relates to the SI. For example, it says:
“Further information on the agreement process will be published in November.”
I cannot find that further information. Has it been published? What are the written agreements? Who is supposed to be making them? Again, I am not opposed to what the Minister is saying, but if it says on her own website that further information will be published, where is it? My hon. Friend has obviously been looking for it, too.
The website also says:
“We’ll be publishing more information and instructions on putting written agreements in place in November 2018.”
Presumably, individual companies are supposed to be producing these written agreements, not the Government. So what has happened with those companies? Do they know? What discussions have taken place with them?
I have been reading in the media today that business is expressing a lot of concern—whatever the rights and wrongs of where we are—about what they are, or are not, supposed to be doing. Given the importance of this matter, who is producing these written agreements?
The website goes on to say:
“The aim is to give organisations, businesses and individuals as much certainty as possible, as soon as possible, and to ensure that any new requirements are not unduly burdensome.”
To be honest, Minister, the Committee could have done with seeing what the information is—given that it was supposed to have been published last month, and given its importance. Some clarity on that would be really helpful.
The technical note also says that
“This notice is meant for guidance only”,
but then goes on to say:
“You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.”
I do not know what that means. Why would anyone need separate professional advice if everything was carrying on exactly the same as before? The situation has just moved on and people should just carry on. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified what the separate professional advice is. As my hon. Friend has just asked, who is paying for that?
I come to my last point. Yesterday, the Department published a note on funding for different health organisations, entitled:
“EU Third Health Programme funding if there’s no Brexit deal”.
Are all the organisations affected by this SI going to receive funding under that health programme funding arrangement, so that they can address some of the issues that will arise if there is no deal, which we all hope will not be the case?
Clearly, this is an important SI. As my hon. Friend has said, these SIs are all hugely important, because down the road we will suddenly find that something has changed or that there should have been a written agreement—even though it is on the website, nobody has asked what those written agreements actually are or what they are supposed to contain. Again, I would be grateful if the Minister clarified some of that.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. My hon. Friends have made very pertinent points about the draft regulations, and I absolutely agree with the contribution from the Front Bench by my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West.
I used to be Public Health Minister, and this is one of the policy areas I used to cover. Does the Minister agree that one of the aspects of this subject is the contribution the UK has made to wider EU policy in this area? Some of the standards we have set have been very positive in promoting wider understanding among the 27 countries, plus us, in the European Union about the necessity for safety and precaution in this area.
Unfortunately, we have heard terrible stories about how lax systems can lead to all sorts of consequences for individuals and for health policy generally. The UK and some other EU members have played a positive part in addressing that. Does the Minister agree that, in many respects, although we are transposing this policy into UK law, it is actually a law that we were at the forefront of pushing in the first place?
It is absolutely right that the Government should take a precautionary approach to ensure that, in the event of no deal, we have adequate provisions on the statute books to continue to provide services and maintain the safety of current arrangements. However, does the Minister agree that, for all sorts of reasons, there is a danger of a combination of factors leading to a no-deal situation by default, even though a majority of Members claim they do not want that?
The answer to all this is for people to work together across parties for a satisfactory deal, to ensure that we give certainty to businesses and those in public policy areas—particularly social and health policy—that when we reach the end of March there will be a transition period in which more detail on other arrangements can be sorted out, and to allay people’s fears about falling off a cliff edge. It seems to me that there was cross-party support for that—in fact, my party argued for a transition period and many Members, including some of my colleagues here today, also argued for avoiding a cliff edge.
As someone who is on the organ donor register and is a blood donor—I hope everyone else in the room is, too—I think it is really important that we address the positive here. As we leave the European Union, we should get a positive deal that asserts our independence but recognises that, in areas such as this, working across 28 nations within the EU, we have developed some law that we want to continue, regardless of whether we are in or not.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Don Valley. I do not think I disagreed with a word she said. I recognise that, for some Members, it is a matter of regret that we are leaving the European Union. None the less, we are committed to delivering the instruction given by the British people in the referendum. I think I speak for most people in the room when I say we would prefer to do that on the basis of an agreed deal with our European allies, but we need to be ready for the eventuality that we are not able to secure such a deal. That is why we introduced these SIs. I am grateful to Committee members for their pertinent questions. They are evidence—if only the public could see it—of how seriously we are taking the challenges of a no-deal Brexit, which of course we all wish to avoid as best we can.
A number of Members expressed concerns about whether affected establishments had been properly communicated with and were ready for the changes in these regulations, and about costs. We issued a technical notice to all affected parties in August to give them due notice to be able to prepare for the regulations. As was referred to, there is a six-month implementation period, but we expect that preparation to have been undertaken now. Given that it effectively will be business as usual, we expect that preparation to be relatively straightforward. Some of the things we have put in, such as the six-month transition period, are really just a sort of legal process to set deadlines, but we expect all those affected to be compliant almost immediately.
On the issue referred to in the technical notice of whether establishments might need to seek separate advice, we expect establishments just to engage with the regulators. Again, this will be business as usual, but the regulators stand ready to give all those affected as much advice as they need to be able to comply.
The hon. Member for Gedling is quite right that the updated information was not published in November, but it has now been published. It was published on 7 December, so it was slightly delayed—that is not unusual when it comes to things associated with Brexit—but it can be found online, and I will draw his attention to it.
Google has its limitations, it has to be said.
On whether costs need to be reimbursed, it is worth noting that we expect the costs incurred by establishments to be extremely low. The main impact of the draft regulations relates to agreements that establishments have to put in place with whomever they trade with, but most establishments already hold import licences and are well used to making and applying such agreements. We expect them simply to roll over their existing written agreements. Again, however, NHSBT and the Human Tissue Authority will work with and support establishments to put those agreements in place. There will be no impact on organ transplant centres, and in the case of non-reproductive cells we think all the establishments concerned will already have such agreements in place. On that basis, we do not expect any establishment to incur significant costs, so there will be no need for any reimbursement.
The right hon. Member for Don Valley and the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West mentioned organ donation. Clearly, the 30 organs that come in and out of the country every year are a matter of life and death. It is of considerable concern to me that we have sufficient provision in place to ensure that that can continue. Much of that movement is between the Republic of Ireland and the north, and at this stage we do not anticipate significant problems there, but there is good reason to worry about Dover-Calais.
We have all heard the concerns about whether things will be able to get into the UK through that entry point. We are working with the Department for Transport to ensure that things such as medical supplies, including organs, can get through if there is traffic congestion. We are making such provisions—contingency plans will be in place. I hope we do not get to the point of having no deal, but we are determined to ensure as best we can that, if we do, it will be business as usual and that, for example, couriers are escorted so they can navigate traffic more quickly. It is very much on our agenda to ensure that we can enable that to happen.
Question put and agreed to.
draft Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
That the Committee has considered the draft Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)
draft Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
That the Committee has considered the draft Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)
Draft Humane Trapping Standards Regulations 2019
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Philip Davies
† Coffey, Dr Thérèse (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)
† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)
† Fellows, Marion (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
† Goodwill, Mr Robert (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)
† Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con)
† Hoare, Simon (North Dorset) (Con)
† Leslie, Mr Chris (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op)
† Martin, Sandy (Ipswich) (Lab)
† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)
† Reynolds, Emma (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab)
† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
† Streeting, Wes (Ilford North) (Lab)
† Sturdy, Julian (York Outer) (Con)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)
† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)
† Trevelyan, Anne-Marie (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con)
Mike Winter, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 19 December 2018
[Philip Davies in the Chair]
Draft Humane Trapping Standards Regulations 2019
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Humane Trapping Standards Regulations 2019.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Davies. The regulations amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to implement in Great Britain the trap welfare requirements contained in the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. The European Union is a party to the agreement. However, there is no implementing legislation at the EU level, so the UK is obliged to implement the welfare standards directly.
What is the agreement about? In 1997, the EU concluded two international agreements—an agreement with Canada and Russia, and an agreed minute with the USA —to establish humane trapping standards that would facilitate trade between the parties in wild-sourced pelts and manufactured goods incorporating such pelts. The agreement covers species commonly trapped for their fur in the territory of the contracting parties. That is why species farmed for their fur, or trapped only for predator or pest control purposes, are not covered.
Although the primary function of the agreement is to ensure that the trapping of animals for fur is humane, it also covers trapping for wildlife management and conservation purposes. Many hon. Members hold principled views about the trapping of animals and the trade in their pelts, but the regulations are not about the policy issue of whether or not that is right; they are a means of improving the welfare of those animals in that process.
The humaneness standards and rigorous trap-testing procedures in the agreement will ensure that the United Kingdom adheres to that internationally recognised benchmark for animal welfare. The agreement requires that the UK establishes appropriate processes for testing and certifying traps in accordance with the humaneness standards and procedures set out in the agreement. It also requires that manufacturers identify certified traps, provide instructions for their appropriate setting, safe operation and maintenance and, finally, ensure that trappers are trained in the humane, safe and effective use of trapping methods.
In the UK, the trapping standards apply to five species: the badger, the beaver, the stoat, the pine marten and the otter. Those five species occur in the wild in parts of the UK. Beavers are not recognised as being wildlife specifically, but they are now well established in Scotland and are, of course, being reintroduced under trials in certain parts of England. Certainly, no decision has been made so far on the protected status of the beaver in England. However, we recognise that with the licensing of the trials there will be times when beavers may need to be trapped, and it was important to include the species so that their welfare could be accounted for. As I said, the regulations in no way affect the status of beavers in England, but they ensure that any traps used will comply with the welfare standards.
Of the five species, only the stoat is regularly and widely trapped in the UK, and it is the only species for which lethal traps are commonly used. A UK-wide consultation on the implementation of the agreement took place in spring 2018. Stakeholders broadly supported the welfare improvements outlined in the agreement. However, many trap users believe that there will not be sufficient numbers of compliant stoat traps available when the regulations come into force.
Many of the traps used in the UK to kill stoats do not meet the standards outlined in the agreement, but so far it has not been possible to identify a suitable compliant stoat trap used by other contracting parties to the agreement. I have to admit that that was one of the first issues I came across when I was appointed Minister. Since 2016, the Government have been supporting industry stakeholders in the development and testing of new compliant stoat traps, and I am pleased to say that from 1 January 2019 compliant stoat traps will be available for sale and use.
The Government have delayed implementation of the regulations—for stoats only, for a year, until 1 April 2020. That is a pragmatic step, which signals to manufacturers and trap users that they must transition to compliant traps for stoats while recognising that they will need time to do so—in particular, to ensure that manufacturers have sufficient time to produce the numbers required. Implementation will primarily impact on people who sell, manufacture, import or use stoat traps in the UK, as most will need replacing. The total cost to business is calculated to be £1.1 million.
We have existing legal mechanisms in place for regulating the use of traps. The agreement simply improves the standards to which traps must comply before they can be used, and it extends the scope of current trap offences to two additional species: stoats and beavers. Implementation does not require the introduction of new offences or penalties, and the current licensing mechanism would be used to authorise the use of compliant traps. Licences are already required to trap all UK species covered by the agreement, except for stoats and beavers. We propose that the trapping of stoats by using compliant traps should be permitted under a general licence, which will result in much lower costs for the licensing authority and provide the least burdensome approach for trappers.
The Government are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. As the Prime Minister has set out, we will make the United Kingdom a world leader in the care and protection of animals as we leave the European Union. The agreement contains minimum humane trapping standards and rigorous trap-testing procedures, creating an internationally recognised benchmark for trap welfare. It is important that we implement those standards in this country. For those reasons, I commend these regulations to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I am delighted that the Minister is in her place. Happy Christmas to everybody—it may not be so happy when I finish, but let us start as we mean to go on.
This is an interesting piece of secondary legislation. It is the sort of thing that could pass through on the nod without people taking much notice, because in a sense it is just doing what was agreed some time ago with the EU. Why has it taken quite so long to get here? It was laid down in 2016, and the original agreement dates back to 1997. I am a little intrigued about why, within three months of our potentially leaving the EU, we have this piece of secondary legislation now. I have always thought that the idea of humane trapping is an oxymoron, but I will pass over that quickly.
I want to raise a number of issues. Clause 108(1) in the Government’s excellent draft legislation to replace the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is about the prohibition of leg-hold traps:
“It is an offence to use a leghold trap for or in connection with the purpose of killing, injuring or capturing a wild bird or other wild animal.”
The Government are clear that they want to outlaw these things. It is disappointing that the primary legislation has not been introduced, which would mean at least that we had clarity. The Minister will have to answer this: should we reject this legislation, would it make any difference? We have an indication that the Government want to outlaw leg-hold traps when they introduce the primary legislation.
Are we putting ourselves in jeopardy as regards the international agreement? Clearly, this is one agreement that we will, supposedly, have to renegotiate: it is between the EU, Russia and Canada, not the UK. The Minister will have to persuade me that we have some clarity on how we will go about doing that—otherwise, why are we all here today? We could have left it until after March and done our own thing in due course.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich might have some other things to say about the consultation, because he pointed it out to me. The consultation was a bit one-sided: respondents included every estate that can be imagined and only a very small number of animal welfare organisations. In the main, they shrugged and said, “Well, if it’s coming, it’s coming,” but they were not overjoyed at some of the proposals.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the accompanying impact assessment, which I thought was the most interesting document of the lot. On page 11, on currently approved spring traps that are rarely used and not compliant, it says:
“We should be restricting the continued use of non-compliant traps to the minimum necessary to enable the continued trapping of stoats”—
as the Minister rightly said, the regulations are mainly about stoats—
“prior to implementation. The remaining traps approved for stoat have been out of production for some time and are not used in meaningful numbers to trap any permitted target species.”
Out-of-date traps are therefore still being used—presumably, to trap stoats—yet we currently have no real intention of outlawing them, even if we pass the SI. If we are not outlawing, to some extent, these traps, what are we doing today?
Page 16 of the impact assessment says:
“There is significant evidence that the public value animal welfare”—
there’s a surprise. It goes on:
“Research by the University of Reading…conducted a small survey on animal welfare.”
That research found that 96% of respondents thought that animal welfare was a very good thing—I do not know about the other 4%; there always people who are contrary to the public will—and were prepared to pay extra for animal welfare to be put in place. I am not sure how that relates to the trapping of wild animals, but in my view we need animal welfare to be in line with not just the letter of the law, but the practicalities of how animals are treated.
Obviously, any trap in which an animal is kept for only five minutes can do limited damage. Nothing that I have read, however, says that the traps are time limited: an animal can be trapped for days, during which time it dies, yet that trap is apparently treated in exactly the same way.
That is what happens in theory, but of course other people put traps down for slightly nefarious reasons. Yes, I know that gamekeepers have a strict way of doing things, and I accept that the regulations relate largely to gamekeepers. Within current law, however, others can trap and catch wild animals. On the one hand, we are trying to reintroduce stoats into certain parts of the country—sadly, their numbers are very small, despite being one of our native species—and on the other, we are trapping stoats in other parts of the country. That is just an observation.
Before I sit down, I will make a couple of other points. There is a real lack of clarity about why the regulations are being introduced now and what their impact will be. I mentioned the time limits for keeping an eye on caught animals, but there is no mention of animals caught by accident. Clearly, with any trap, any animal—dare I say, even a human being—can put its foot on a trap. Some ask whether that is an appropriate way to manage our wildlife.
The League Against Cruel Sports has been critical of the continuation of trapping generally, and, in particular, of the way that the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards operates. It wants greater clarification on how we intend to move forward—we are talking about a new traps regime. I am not totally sure who pays the £1.7 million cost of providing the new traps. Is it the industry, or are the Government prepared to put some money where their mouth is?
Perhaps alternative ideas could have been explored and brought forward. There are a number of questions. Where are the Government going with their animal welfare legislation? No doubt this issue would have been wrapped up with the animal welfare Bill if we had got it to the stage of being debated, in which case we would not have had to have this debate at all. Since we are having it, if the Opposition were to vote against it, would that put us in any international jeopardy or can we do our own thing, when appropriate, after March—if that is when we have some freedom—and adopt even higher standards of animal welfare? That could include looking at alternatives to trapping. Trapping is a very difficult exercise and we will always check to see that it is done in the most humane way possible. That is the whole point about this legislation.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I have very little to say and I will say it quickly. The Scottish National party supports this statutory instrument because it seeks to improve animal welfare, removing trapping methods that do not meet international human trapping standards, and it has been agreed in consultation with the public and trappers.
As a party, we have a high regard for animal welfare and we recognise that as a key theme in the responses received in the public consultation. The SNP also understands that a transitional period is required for manufacturers of stoat traps, to allow them to produce a sufficient number that comply with the new standard. Although we recognise that a time period is required to do that, there should be a clear signal to trap manufacturers that they must use this time to bring their traps into compliance with the regulations.
In Scotland, the SNP Government continue to seek to improve animal welfare; we will have a consultation shortly on the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. We are already in contravention of our international obligations and have been since 2016. We have had since 1999 to implement this provision, so I am not quite sure why there is a sense of urgency to do it now.
Badgers, otters and pine martens are already protected under our pre-existing UK regulations and there are not yet sufficient beavers in the wild for them to be affected. Basically, the only species that will be materially affected by this statutory instrument is the stoat. It is stoats for whom the trapping regulations are being delayed by a further—and, I argue, unnecessary—year. Unless we introduce regulations for stoats at the earliest opportunity, I cannot see the point in passing the statutory instrument. Even if we pass it, we will still be in contravention of our international obligations until the new traps are in place and the new regulations are enforced on stoat trapping.
I cannot really understand what Government Members have against stoats; the date of 1 April 2019 for the new compliant traps should be perfectly achievable. I cannot see the point of passing this statutory instrument and continuing to allow stoats to be trapped in inhumane traps.
I thank the hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. It is unusual to have two Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople speaking, but I recognise they may have wanted to raise different points.
Why has the statutory instrument taken so long? The Commission was going to issue a directive, but it changed its mind so we had to do it through domestic regulations. Does it really matter? I think it does: it will improve the welfare of animals, as the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw rightly recognised. Dare I say to my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Ipswich, that his comments show that he does not represent a rural area? He does not represent a constituency where this is an issue and these traps are being laid. He has not spoken to the gamekeepers or the people who manufacture these traps. There are other traps in the world, but they are not appropriate for the environment here. We demanded higher standards, and that is what we are determined to bring forward to ensure that animal welfare is respected. I am conscious that it has taken some time, but it has taken quite a lot of time for the manufacturers to ensure that they are designing suitable traps relevant to the environment in parts of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman says there are not enough beavers around, but there are plenty around that still need careful management. In particular, certain beavers in parts of the country were recently trapped and tested for a particular disease because the person who brought them in contravened the voluntary code of practice. He sourced them from a place that has the disease and, unfortunately, one of the beavers trapped was found to have that disease. If transferred to humans, which it can be, that disease is lethal. That is why we actively need traps for animals. That example may be rather extreme, but on a daily basis it is normal practice in conservation management to use trapping. It is part of our approach to conservation.
As I am sure the hon. Member for Stroud will be aware, leg-hold traps are already outlawed. We have an operability statutory instrument that will come into force in the spring when we leave the European Union to ensure the continued functioning of that regulation, but the standard goes wider than just leg-hold traps.
On whether we would renegotiate the agreement again, we have to accept that we will continue to trap in this country. That is why we want to ensure that we have high welfare standards. I am conscious that the welfare standards are not good enough for stoats at the moment. That is why we need to make the changes.
I was asked who needs to pay. The industry needs to pay for the new traps that will be coming in. In some circumstances, for animals caught by accident—or “nefariously”, as someone called it—anyone who lays a trap is legally obliged to check it every 24 hours, as my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed pointed out. I accept that the hon. Member for Stroud believes that not everyone does that, but if there is good evidence, people should present it to the police. It matters that we take these things seriously.
Finally, the hon. Member for Stroud referred to the animal welfare Bill. Animal welfare is split between three Ministers in DEFRA. I am responsible for wild animals; the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), is responsible for farmed animals connected to the agriculture industry; and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), has responsibility for domestic animals.
There is only one of me here.
The House is passionate about improving welfare standards. One of the slight risks of our leaving the European Union is that we have been at the forefront of promoting high animal welfare standards across the EU, and we will continue to do so. I am on my way to the Environment Council tonight, and I will continue to encourage my friends from other nations to keep up the good practice that we wish to set in place.
As I said earlier, the regulations do not have anything to do with the policy of trapping; they are about raising welfare standards for the policies currently in existence. I hope that the Opposition will support the regulations; I would be somewhat surprised if they were happy for animal welfare standards not to be so high in future. I am sure they recognise that.
Question put and agreed to.
Draft Payment Accounts (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Andrew Rosindell
† Beresford, Sir Paul (Mole Valley) (Con)
† Dodds, Anneliese (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
† Duffield, Rosie (Canterbury) (Lab)
† Green, Chris (Bolton West) (Con)
† Hair, Kirstene (Angus) (Con)
Hepburn, Mr Stephen (Jarrow) (Lab)
† Jenrick, Robert (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury)
† Merriman, Huw (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
† Smith, Jeff (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
Smith, Laura (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab)
† Swayne, Sir Desmond (New Forest West) (Con)
† Thewliss, Alison (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
† Tomlinson, Michael (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)
† Walker, Thelma (Colne Valley) (Lab)
† Warburton, David (Somerton and Frome) (Con)
† Whittaker, Craig (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
Williamson, Chris (Derby North) (Lab)
Ben Sneddon, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 19 December 2018
[Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]
Draft Payment Accounts (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Payment Accounts (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018.
There is no better way to round off the year than with another statutory instrument. As the Committee will be aware, the Treasury has been undertaking a programme of legislation to ensure that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period, there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime for financial services in the UK. This instrument will fix deficiencies in UK law on the regulation of payment accounts. The approach taken in the instrument aligns with that taken in other SIs being laid under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018—providing continuity by maintaining existing legislation at the point of exit, but amending it where necessary to ensure that it works effectively in a no-deal context.
The payment accounts directive had three main objectives: to improve the transparency and comparability of fees related to payment accounts; to facilitate switching of those accounts; and to ensure access to payment accounts with basic features for all EU residents. The Payment Accounts Regulations 2015 transposed that directive into UK law. Colleagues will be familiar with payment accounts—they are the day-to-day bank or building society accounts we all use to make and receive payments and to withdraw and deposit cash. In the UK, the most common form of payment account is of course a current account.
In a no-deal scenario, the UK would be outside the EU’s legal, supervisory and financial regulatory framework. The 2015 regulations therefore need to be updated to ensure that the provisions work appropriately in that scenario. These draft regulations are mostly concerned with removing EU references, so the impact on consumers and businesses will be minimal. However, I will go into a little more detail about the changes governing payment accounts with basic features—“basic bank accounts”, as they are more commonly known in the UK—because the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the House of Lords Grand Committee drew particular attention to them.
It is important to emphasise that the draft regulations retain the requirement for the UK’s nine largest current account providers to provide basic bank accounts free of charge, in sterling, to customers legally resident in the UK, regardless of their nationality, if they do not hold a current account at a UK bank or are not eligible for a standard current account. However, as the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s single market in financial services after exit day, the instrument removes the requirement on those nine basic bank account providers to offer those products to customers resident in the EU or to offer EU currency services as a standard feature on any basic bank account.
It will be at the discretion of the nine providers whether to continue to offer basic bank accounts to customers resident in the EU after exit day, or to keep existing basic bank accounts of EU residents open. Although firms will no longer be compelled to provide non-sterling services on basic bank accounts, conversations with the industry suggest that they are very unlikely to withdraw those services.
The SLSC and Members in Grand Committee in the other place asked for reassurances that, should the nine providers choose to close the bank accounts of customers resident in the EU, those customers would not be placed in financial difficulty as a result. There was particular concern that although that might not affect many customers, it could have a significant impact on the small number of individuals affected. Taking into account the comments made in the Lords debate, I will explain briefly why the Government do not expect that these changes will significantly disadvantage customers.
First, the nine providers must give customers at least two months’ written notice if they plan to close an account, which should give customers adequate notice to open another account. Secondly, a customer’s right to a basic bank account is EU-wide, so customers should be able to open another basic bank account in the member state in which they reside. To be clear, the right of access to a basic bank account depends on residency alone, not nationality.
Under the 2014 payment accounts directive, a customer legally resident in the EU, regardless of their nationality, still has the legal right of access to a basic bank account within the EU. What may change is the cross-border right of access to a basic bank account, which under this SI will no longer be mandated on the UK side because the UK will no longer be part of the single market.
The Treasury worked very closely with the Financial Conduct Authority and the Payment Systems Regulator when drafting the regulations. It has engaged the financial services industry and leading consumer groups, and of course it will continue to do so.
In summary, the Government believe that the draft regulations are necessary to ensure that the Payment Accounts Regulations 2015 continue to function appropriately if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. Most importantly, they mean that fee-free basic bank accounts, which are a key financial inclusion product, will remain robustly regulated and available to all eligible customers legally resident in the UK. I hope colleagues will join me in supporting the draft regulations, and I commend them to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I am grateful to the Minister for his helpful explanation.
Once again, we are in a Delegated Legislation Committee debating a Treasury-related statutory instrument that makes provision for the financial regulatory framework after Brexit in the event that we crash out without a deal. In each of those debates—there have already been many—I and my Labour Front-Bench colleagues have spelled out our objections to the use of secondary legislation in this manner, as well as the challenges of ensuring proper scrutiny of the sheer volume of legislation that is being passed. We have expressed frustration many times that we must spend time and resources creating a framework that might never be used. The fact that, as of last night, an additional £2 billion will be spent on no-deal planning, all for the sake of a dangerous game of brinkmanship, is not lost on those whose schools, hospitals and other public services are struggling.
It is disappointing to hear the tone the hon. Lady is striking. Does she not see that this is sensible contingency planning, as the Minister set out? We need to be ready for all eventualities, and that is exactly what we are doing. I look forward to her constructive comments on this measure.
I have spoken in many of these Committees, and I will go on to speak constructively about the details of the measure. However, I reiterate that there is considerable concern in the nation about what is happening. To many of us, the prospect of no deal appears closer than it has in recent days, and that is enormously concerning. If we cannot reflect on that concern in this House, I do not know where we can. I believe we do a service to our constituents—businesses as well as individuals—by expressing their worries. [Interruption.] I beg your pardon? I think the hon. Gentleman wants to say something.
I absolutely agree—of course we need to be ready for it. That is why the Opposition have spent so much time going through, to the extent of our abilities, every piece of delegated legislation that has been delivered to us. There will be up to 70 pieces of delegated legislation relating to financial services, so that has been a challenge. Much of that legislation has been delivered at the last minute, without the appropriate documents alongside it and so on, but we are doing our very best to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be in the event of no deal, given the considerable disruption it would create for us all.
Much of this particular piece of delegated legislation is straightforward and merely amends existing legislation to create regulatory equivalence. None the less, I have a number of questions for the Minister. The first issue is the gap in reporting between the potential no-deal date and 2022. I am unclear why regulation 13(b) will omit regulation 43(1)(b) of the Payment Accounts Regulations 2015, which commits the FCA to reporting back to the Treasury every two years on
“compliance by the Money Advice Service with the requirements of regulation 12”
of the 2015 regulations. Regulation 12 states:
“The Money Advice Service must provide consumers with access, free of charge, to a website comparing fees charged by payment service providers”.
There is no indication in the 2015 regulations, or in the draft regulations we are considering, why that is in any way necessary or in keeping with the rest of the measures. Perhaps the Minister will explain that.
I note that Baroness Drake raised the issue of the transparency of fees and charges in the other place, but the Minister there did not respond to her question, although he responded to other issues she raised. Will this Minister explain why an alteration is being made in that regard when, in theory, as he said in his introduction, this measure is meant to be a simple transposition of responsibility?
The second issue is that, at least as of this lunch time, the impact assessment has still not been published, despite the fact that this SI was debated by the Lords last week. Will the Minister explain why it has not been published and why we are being expected to pass a measure when we have not even seen an impact assessment? That approach is becoming common across Government, and it is a worrying development. Just last night, we saw that, in relation to the most fundamental power of a Government—the ability to deprive people of their liberty; in that case, people who are mentally incapacitated—an impact assessment was provided only the day before, and it was already out of date.
We have procedures in this House to prevent the passage of flawed legislation and ensure democratic scrutiny. The Opposition are well aware of the pressure that our civil servants are under. They are working in incredibly difficult circumstances, which the Government created. We cannot stand by and let our capacity to scrutinise measures be reduced by information not being made available to us. I hope the Minister will inform us when the impact assessment will be provided and explain why it was not available before the Committee sat or the Lords considered this measure.
Baroness Drake pushed the Minister in the other place on the impact this SI may have on UK citizens resident in other EU countries. We are all aware of the necessity of bank accounts for everyday activities. Even with the two months’ notice period that the Government have stressed applies to this measure, it is worrying that banks could close accounts in the event of no deal. The Minister in the other place seemed to suggest that would be a commercial decision, and this Minister suggested it would be at the discretion of banks—I think that was his terminology. Will he provide deeper assurances that the Government will consider the people who may be negatively affected? I appreciate that there have been conversations—to use his language—but we need something stronger.
In the other place, we were informed that only a very small number of people would be affected, but the impact could be very significant. As my counterpart in the other place, Lord Tunnicliffe, rightly stated,
“for the people it affects, it affects them 100%. If you cannot get a basic bank account, that is pretty close to catastrophic in the modern world”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 12 December 2018; Vol. 794, c. GC88.]
I am not sure about the situation in the UK, as I have not been in that situation myself, but in other countries it is difficult to conduct certain transactions without a domestic bank account. Paying Government bills or bills to public service providers can get very complicated without a domestic bank account. Even with the international bank account number system, it is still very difficult.
I can imagine a UK citizen resident in an EU27 country needing a UK bank account to pay for services or goods consumed by an elderly parent—almost like an emergency bank account. If that account were closed, the UK citizen would have the hassle of searching around to find another bank that was capable of providing an account to them. Presumably, they would have to do that on their own—they would need to shop around themselves, potentially at a time when they were nervous about their ability to use their existing account over the next two months and about needing to get a new one to pay for the items their parent required.
Will the Minister consider asking the FCA or another body, if such circumstances arise, to ensure that people who are affected by closure of their account can at least access information about which other providers may be willing to provide such an account to them as residents in the EU27? Will he look at ensuring that there is some continuing availability if all the banks decide that, commercially, it is not worth the candle and they do not want to provide an account? That may be the outcome.
The Minister in the other place stated that, although there had not been a formal consultation process about these measures with consumer associations beyond sending them the SI and accompanying information, he suspected that there might have been some contact from consumer organisations following the debate in the other place seven days ago. Will the Minister tell us whether there has been contact with consumer organisations? If so, what was their feedback? Are they happy with the change? We need that kind of information before we can be happy with this measure.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Rosindell. I agree with many of the comments by the hon. Member for Oxford East; I will not reiterate them all. To pick up a point that was made earlier, yes, we need to do this. Late in the day though it is, we need to be prepared for the worst, because it seems the worst is coming.
I have a few concerns about the SI. It mentions that power to enforce compliance will be moved to the FCA. I have asked other Ministers in other Committees whether the FCA has the capacity to do that. If we say it has to but it does not have the capacity, clearly there will be a huge gap in our financial system, which we cannot afford.
I also note that there are issues with the cross-border opening of accounts. The explanatory memorandum states at paragraph 2.14 that the SI
“removes the requirements for PSPs to facilitate the cross-border opening of accounts”,
and at paragraph 2.17 that
“it will be at the discretion of the nine designated credit institutions whether to offer non-sterling services to customers of a payment account with basic features, and they can continue to charge a reasonable fee for those services.”
Will the Minister say a little more about how the cross-border opening of accounts will work in the event of a no-deal Brexit? What will happen to people who have existing accounts?
I declare a slight interest—my parents have an account in France. Will that account continue to function? Will they be allowed to make transactions? Will arrangements be put in place for the millions of people with accounts across Europe, and will those arrangements be reciprocal? If we do something at this end, we cannot guarantee that individual EU member states will not make different decisions. We may have 27 different approaches as a result of what we do here, and the Minister needs to tell us a wee bit more about what discussions have been had about that.
It seems clear to me that people will get less of a service. They will also get less protection, for the reasons the hon. Member for Oxford East mentioned to do with advice agencies and everything else. How will people continue with their business or personal banking in the event of their bank accounts being closed with two months’ notice? Will they be able to get another bank account, or will the door be firmly closed to them? How do they go about restarting all the transactions that happened through their old account, if they have no certainty that the new account will be good in the future?
As I have noted previously in SI Committees, under the Government’s hostile environment, many non-EU nationals in this country have been prevented from having bank accounts to make it as difficult as possible for them to live here. I have just come from the Chamber, where the Home Secretary made a statement about immigration that suggested to me that European economic area nationals in this country will be treated in pretty much the same despicable way as non-EEA nationals. What assurances can the Minister give us that the draft regulations will not be used as part of a hostile environment for EU nationals?
It would be good to have clarity about the number of people affected by the draft regulations. What research has been done on exactly how many EU nationals hold bank accounts in the UK and how many UK nationals hold bank accounts in EU countries? We need to know that to know how many people will be impacted. As the hon. Member for Oxford East said, we have not seen an impact assessment. We really ought to have one.
I note finally that the European Commission seems to have been trolling the UK Government today. It tweeted earlier that it is making cross-border payments in euros across the EU easier and cheaper, which is more of a future than the UK is willing to offer its own citizens and citizens of EU countries.
I am grateful to the hon. Members for Oxford East, and for Glasgow Central, for their comments. I will try to respond to as many as possible.
As we have heard, it is only prudent of the Government to make sensible contingency plans for no deal. Frankly, I would be surprised if any hon. Member did not wish us to do so, given that, although our preference is to leave with a deal, leaving without one is the default position—it is the legal position—and is entirely possible, if not necessarily desirable. In this statutory instrument, we are making modest preparations to ensure that equivalent provisions are in place in the event of no deal.
It is interesting; if the Opposition Members who have been protesting actually supported the deal, we would not be in this situation and would not have to worry about this. I must use this opportunity to congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, because I understood every word she said.
Well, let me answer the questions asked by the hon. Member for Oxford East. She mentioned the gap in reporting between exit day and 2022. That is because the Money Advice Service reports to the Treasury, which then reports to the European Commission, and it is that provision that is deficient. I assure the hon. Lady that there are no changes to the requirement for the Money Advice Service to host a price comparison website—that has already been launched—so to answer the question that she perfectly understably asked, there should not be an issue.
There is no reduction in the requirement for transparency on fees. The only change is that the FCA is taking over responsibility for the regulation of the documents from the European Banking Authority. We have of course worked with the FCA, so I can say in answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central that it is willing and ready to take on those responsibilities.
On the wider question about UK citizens living in the EU27, we expect the number of individuals affected by the measure to be very small. We have had conversations with banks on the arrangements that we will put in place; the hon. Member for Oxford East mentioned the subject. It is worth remembering, as I said in my opening remarks, that any individual legally resident in an EU27 country will have the right, under EU law, to access a basic bank account in that country. If they had been using their basic bank account from the United Kingdom solely, and then no longer had access to that—an unlikely scenario, and one that would affect a very small number of individuals—they could, as of right, open a basic bank account in the country in which they are legally resident. We see no reason why they would not be able to do that.
I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, but surely the question is not whether certain people would become completely unbanked as a result of the changes, but whether they could still carry out the kind of transactions that are very difficult to do, in whatever country, unless one has a domestic bank account. If one does not, it can be very difficult to pay certain kinds of bills and make certain kinds of transactions and so on—and there are normally additional charges involved.
Those people would be able to open a bank account in the UK at the commercial discretion of a UK bank. We do not think there will be many, if any, examples of individuals having their bank account withdrawn, but of course it is technically possible that a bank might choose to do that. We think it is unlikely that these individuals would continue to use their UK-based bank account as their sole current account. If, say, a Spanish student came to study in the United Kingdom, opened a UK basic bank account and then returned to Spain, it would be a costly bank account for them to continue to use as their current account, because they would have to pay currency charges whenever they transferred money. The situation that the hon. Lady alludes to would apply only in a limited number of circumstances. I take her point that there could be such circumstances, but we do not think there will be a substantial number.
It is worth remembering that our duty in this instance—I am sure the hon. Lady would support this—is to maintain equivalence, not make policy changes. We are ensuring that any individual resident in the UK will have access to a basic bank account, but we are not making a change to ensure that UK citizens resident in third countries can have access to a UK basic bank account; that would be a policy change, because it would of course be applicable beyond the EU27 to any country in the world in which a UK citizen might choose to reside. I hope that she is reassured that our intention is to act within the confines of the law—not to go beyond it and take action that might apply to a British citizen resident in, for example, Canada or the United States who wished to maintain or open a UK basic bank account.
The hon. Lady also asked a question about consumer organisations and industry consultation. In drafting the statutory instrument, the Treasury engaged confidentially with industry representatives to make them aware of these changes, and to allow them the opportunity to comment on any of them. We have not received any queries or comments on the proposed changes from those groups, or from any consumer groups, since publication, so we can only assume that they are content, but of course we will continue to work, and to be open to comments, should any come forward in the weeks and months ahead.
I think that I have answered most of the questions posed by the—
The hon. Lady is absolutely right, and I will come on to that as my final comment. First, I will answer what I think was the final comment from the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, in respect of potential discrimination against EU nationals resident in the UK. What she suggests is not the case under this statutory instrument. Any resident of the United Kingdom who is legally resident in the United Kingdom will have access to a basic bank account, just as they would if they were living elsewhere in the EU.
This is the very point that I was making, though. The issue is the “legally resident” part. I have many non-EU national constituents who end up in dispute with the Home Office, and who could fall foul of being not seen to be legally resident. The Government are now throwing EU nationals into that pot as well, and there is every risk that they could be not legally resident in the eyes of the bank or in the eyes of the Home Office. That is the problem with this situation.
With respect, the hon. Lady is not correct. The position under this statutory instrument will be exactly the same as the position today. Anyone legally resident in an EU country and anyone legally resident in the United Kingdom after exit day will have access to a basic bank account, so nobody will be disadvantaged as a result of the SI. The Treasury is working very carefully to ensure, for example, that bank accounts are available to those who are homeless and to ex-offenders as they leave prison. The Government are working carefully with difficult and vulnerable groups to ensure that they have basic bank accounts, but people must be legally resident in the UK. It goes without saying that we cannot legislate for those people who are illegal. We have to work on the premise that this will apply only to those who are legally resident in the UK, just as the existing EU rules do.
The hon. Member for Oxford East asked about the impact assessment. We have prepared an impact assessment, as she would expect, and we hope to publish it shortly. The impact assessment is with the Regulatory Policy Committee for consideration, along with a series of other statutory instruments. Together, they form the second tranche of statutory instruments coming from the Treasury. This is the first one, as I understand it, from that tranche that has come before the House. We will publish the assessment once the committee’s opinion has been received. We have tried to ensure that impact assessments have completed all the usual processes in time to be published before debates, but that has not always been possible, for the reasons that the hon. Lady helpfully gave. The sheer quantity of statutory instruments coming forward is placing pressure not just on the civil service, but on the Regulatory Policy Committee, which is a relatively small organisation. These statutory instruments are being prepared at pace, to ensure that we have a robust stand-alone regime in place before March 2019.
This statutory instrument is needed to ensure that consumers in the UK continue to benefit from the regulation of the payment account market, and that the legislation functions appropriately if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. I hope that the Committee has found this afternoon’s sitting informative and will join me in supporting the regulations.
Question put and agreed to.