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General Committees

Debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Livestock (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr George Howarth

† Cunningham, Mr Jim (Coventry South) (Lab)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

Farrelly, Paul (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab)

† Huddleston, Nigel (Mid Worcestershire) (Con)

† Keegan, Gillian (Chichester) (Con)

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

Pearce, Teresa (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)

† Philp, Chris (Croydon South) (Con)

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

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

† Scully, Paul (Sutton and Cheam) (Con)

† Seely, Mr Bob (Isle of Wight) (Con)

† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)

† Swayne, Sir Desmond (New Forest West) (Con)

† Syms, Sir Robert (Poole) (Con)

† Twigg, Derek (Halton) (Lab)

Jack Dent, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Tenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 26 March 2019

[Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Draft Livestock (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Livestock (Records, Identification and Movement) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Mr Howarth, it is, as always, a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 enables the Government to provide continuity and legal certainty by bringing EU legislation into UK law as retained EU law and to fix any legal deficiencies in the retained texts that exist as a consequence of EU exit.

The statutory instrument makes operability amendments to retained EU legislation on the identification and traceability of livestock, especially for cattle—all bovines—sheep and goats, so that it continues to function correctly on our statute book after the UK exits the European Union. Pigs are not mentioned in the SI, because EU legislation on pig identification and traceability has been fully transposed into UK law, as it originated in a European Community directive.

EU legislation in this area consists of an EU Council regulation for bovines, and one for sheep and goats. Underneath them sit Commission regulations or decisions that set out more technical details. In summary, the Council regulations prescribe regimes to help to control disease outbreaks by ensuring that the movements of farmed bovines, sheep and goats can be traced. To do that, they say how and when animals are identified, what records their keepers shall maintain and when they must report movements to a competent authority. The Commission regulations that sit below them address such details as criteria for selecting farms for compliance inspections, rules on ear-tagging and passports for bovines, and technical standards for electronic ID tags used for sheep.

I should make it clear that the changes being made to the retained law are technical operability changes. They include such matters as changing references to “Member States” to “the appropriate Minister” or to “the United Kingdom”, “Community rules” to

“rules set out in retained EU direct legislation”

and so on.

The EU legislation to be retained is directly applicable in each member state. As animal health policy and its delivery are a devolved competence, each territory of the UK enforces them via its own separate existing SIs, and will continue to do so with the retained law. The devolved Administrations were fully involved in the preparation of the instrument, and their Assemblies have consented to its being made.

I should also emphasise that the SI does not introduce new policies. The current rules that livestock keepers or businesses must comply with will be unchanged by the SI. The UK Administrations have plans to modernise our respective livestock traceability systems and rules over the coming years—for example, to make them more digital. That work is not affected by the content of the SI, which is about maintaining the status quo.

I will now address points made about the SI by the Committees that sifted it as a negative procedure SI in December: the Commons European Statutory Instruments Committee and the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Both Committees considered that it met the requirements to be changed to an affirmative SI, because they saw it as conferring significant new legislative functions on Ministers and allowing Ministers to charge for certain controls.

On the first point, the Committees considered amendments made by the SI as conferring new legislative functions on Ministers in the UK, in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or in the UK devolved Administrations. In practice, animal health policy is a devolved competence in the UK. How that function is exercised is therefore already a matter for devolved Ministers. The changes made by the SI simply clarify that the delivery of livestock ID and movement functions will, as now, be for the appropriate Ministers in the UK: the Secretary of State at DEFRA, Welsh and Scottish Ministers, or Ministers in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.

The transfer of legislation-making functions—the ability to make policy changes in the future—from the Commission to appropriate Ministers in the area of retained animal health law is effected by a different affirmative SI, which some of us may remember, that was approved by this House on 27 February: the Animals (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The hon. Member for Bristol West shows how assiduous she is in her duties by remembering that SI. Excellent! That is particularly good at such an early hour in the morning in Parliament.

On the second point, both Committees noted that the draft SI contains a charging power, with the Commons sifting Committee noting that Regulation 4(12) has the effect of allowing Ministers to charge to cattle farmers the costs of systems set up to identify and register cattle and trace their movements. I simply note that although that possibility is set out in article 9 of the retained Council regulation on the identification and registration of bovines, charging for those controls is not the policy of present and past UK Administrations. There are no plans to make it so.

The power to make EU exit SIs exists to fix deficiencies in retained law that there would otherwise be as a consequence of EU exit. The existence of the charging power is not such a deficiency. The change that article 4(12) of the draft SI makes to that provision is to change the term “Member States” to “appropriate Minister”. The SI has also been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which has made no observations on it.

Key stakeholders, including farming unions and sector bodies, were informed in the early stages that this instrument was being prepared. None has commented on drafts of the instrument during its preparation. Given that it is concerned simply with ensuring that the retained EU legislation is operable, and as the changes it makes entail no changes to the day-to-day rules that keepers comply with or to the systems they use to record and report movements, that is understandable. The stakeholders have been much more focused on, and involved with, our plans to develop our livestock movement tracing systems over the next few years but, again, they are not part of the SI. An impact assessment has not been produced for the draft instrument, as it will have no impact on the livestock or other sectors.

The SI will ensure that the law on livestock identification and traceability, as retained, will continue to function correctly after we leave the EU. For the reasons that I have set out, I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. It is good to see the Minister in his place—I am glad he is still there and that DEFRA remains intact, unlike most other parts of the Government. We are thankful for that at least.

I give the usual caveat: that the draft regulations are one of those bits of secondary legislation that in themselves are minor, but if the Government get them wrong they shut down the country. We saw that with both BSE and foot and mouth. It is therefore not unimportant that we give the correct scrutiny.

I am intrigued by what the Commons European Statutory Instruments Committee said about the draft regulations. I slightly disagree with the Minister. To quote from the Committee’s report of 27 November, paragraph 4.5,

“The Committee disagrees with the Department’s position set out in the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum to this proposed negative statutory instrument, which states that the amendments made by this instrument are ‘minor and technical’. In the Committee’s view, this instrument makes significant amendments, and is required by law to be subject to the affirmative procedure”—

Which, of course, is why we are in Committee today. The draft regulations were seen to be of greater importance than the Government placed on them in the explanatory memorandum.

The important functions we are looking at, to go back to what the sifting Committee said, include

“determining mandatory time periods; extending time periods, derogating from obligations, and adding to criteria set out in legislation; creating obligations; and laying down rules on penalties for breaching obligations set out in legislation.”

We will start with charges. The Minister said that the Government have no intention of charging for cattle, but the draft SI—unless I am wrong—will give the mechanism by which the Government could impose charges. That is why we need to be careful about what we allow through today.

As always, I have a number of queries and questions, which relate to the nature of the disease control that we are talking about, how to report animal movements and which competent authorities are to look at how that will be done. I start with the obvious point: this will not be carried out at no cost. What are the financial implications of the transition? What authoritative body will oversee the costs of databases and new mechanisms for monitoring the movement of animals? Will it be the Rural Payments Agency or some other body?

The Lords sifting Committee was particularly critical about some of the issues. It picked up on the fact that the Government have the means to charge fees to cover the cost of identification and registration of cattle—the point is not that they will, but that they have the means to do so. I have already touched on what the Commons sifting Committee said.

Regulation 1760/2000 is amended by two different instruments because it covers two discrete areas: identification and registration of bovine animals, and the labelling of beef and beef products. These areas have been worked on separately by DEFRA. Although we are looking at one SI today, it is something of a composite because the two different areas have been brought together.

What are the timetables for these two different areas and do they coincide? Is there any flexibility in how the timetables can be operated? Again, the instrument makes it clear that this is a devolved matter. It is good that the Scottish National party is represented here; no doubt it will have something to say about the impact on Scotland.

Will there be transparency between the different Administrations? So far, England and Wales seem to do reasonably similar things; Scotland does its own thing; and Northern Ireland is completely hamstrung by the absence of an Administration—effectively, it is being administered through Whitehall. Will there be transparency in how this new arrangement will work as we move from being a member state to being an independent nation looking at our own thing?

The Government have said that no charges apply for different animals—sheep, goats and pigs. Nevertheless, there are 12 separate legislative changes in the instrument. Who will defray the costs? There is a change, and we will come to what the National Pig Association says. The Minister said this does not relate to pigs, but why not? Pigs should be covered. The NPA said that the direction of travel through the Agriculture Bill implied certain things, and yet pigs are left out of this SI. The NPA’s point is that we want to improve public health, manage microbial resistance and cope with zoonotic pathogens, but where is the incentive to ensure that that is done properly?

The Minister will be pleased to hear that I am coming to my final points. They relate to our usual questions about the database. DEFRA has revealed that the livestock traceability system will be operational from 2019. If we crash out next week, what will the interim arrangements be? The Livestock Information Service will identify and track animal movements—initially cattle, sheep, goats and pigs—using electronic IDs.

Is the database on schedule? Who is doing the work? It is replacing the AML2 movement licence system. Are we going to change the tagging system at all, or is this going to be completely capable of dealing with the tagging system? Are we going to share our information with our current friends in the EU or are we going to keep our own information and see what happens? Clearly, animal diseases do not respect territorial borders—they come and go. We are facing a real challenge at the moment with African swine fever, which is coming our way shortly. It is important to know what the mechanism will be, if and when we leave the EU, for sharing information with our current colleague states and what information we expect from that. Presumably, the Livestock Information Service will be compatible with current arrangements; otherwise, we will find all sorts of problems with how we can exchange information, which is the only way to bear down on disease. One hopes that that will be the case, otherwise there will be some attempt by other countries to use that for non-tariff barriers.

In conclusion, my biggest concern is where we are with the IT. Is the replacement system on track to be introduced this year? If not, why not? If not, what do we do in its stead, given that, presumably, we have to go back to relying on the EU to allow us to continue to use some of its systems? Although we will not be voting against the instrument, which is minor in its context, the wider ramifications are important. That is why it is here under the affirmative procedure and why we make no apologies for asking these questions.

Thank you, Mr Howarth. Like the hon. Member for Stroud, we will not be opposing this statutory instrument. However, I gently remind the Minister, who talked about the devolved Assemblies, that Scotland does not have an Assembly: Scotland has a Parliament. That is an important distinction—particularly when talking about the devolution of agriculture, which I will come to in a moment.

We will not oppose this SI. If Brexit has to happen, it is important that preparations are made, and we have to be seen to be doing the right thing. We accept that this instrument will ensure that retained EU legislation on the identification and registration of livestock will continue—it is vital that it does—and that, if we are to leave the EU, the law has to change with regard to traceability, disease control, how species are identified, what records keepers must retain and what reports there are of animal movement. We also accept that the relevant authorities must be able to record the information on a central basis. We recognise how important that is.

However, I have a couple of questions for the Minister. He said that no impact assessment was deemed necessary. Then he said that the introduction of a new central database will have an impact and the fact that the legislation allows for the introduction of charges means that there could be an impact further down the line. The Minister needs to explain a bit more about the charges. If there is no intention of ever using them, why are they there? What groups, stakeholders and industry bodies were consulted on the matter? Did they agree with the Minister that there would be no impact on the industry? If so, what was their input into the discussions when they came to that conclusion?

Finally, can the Minister guarantee that, through this SI, the devolution settlement will be fully respected and protected, with absolutely no threat to the Scottish Parliament’s rights with regard to agriculture?

Before I start, I wish to declare an interest: my little sister is a sheep farmer who farms rare breed sheep in Cornwall. She does a brilliant job.

I have two questions for the Minister in relation to Regulation 1760/2000. The first one relates to 5(c)(ii) of these regulations, in which

“The appropriate Minister may not make use of an electronic identifier compulsory as one of the two means of identification provided for in paragraph 1 before 18 July 2019.”

Will the Minister set out why 18 July 2019 is an operable date? What happens if the commencement date of this statutory instrument is on exit day? What happens in respect of the ability to deploy electronic identifiers if exit day and 18 July 2019 do not align?

In relation to Regulation 1760/2000 (6), these regulations state:

“In Article 4a, for ‘Member State in which the animal was born’ substitute ‘appropriate Minister’”

I have been looking on the EU website and this provision does not seem to fit with the language of that article—this is in relation to ear tags worn by the animal. This could be a drafting error. Will the Minister state whether that is the correct wording? It seems to sit slightly awkwardly with the wording of the regulation itself.

I thank hon. Members for their contributions. A number of important points have been made. Yes, these are minor technical changes but they come against a landscape of important Government policy, so I take seriously all the issues raised. I reassure Committee members that these changes are very technical: they do not change the day-to-day processes that keepers currently have to comply with.

I reassure the hon. Member for Stroud that the SI does not change powers that already exist. The Government have no plans to change the balance of funding between the taxpayer and the industry, except in the matter already announced: sampling fallen stock for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE. That accounts for about £15 a year on average for farmers.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute asked why the ability to charge was being transferred across. We are trying to maintain continuity in the law and to minimise the number of changes; we want to make only changes that need to be made. I reassure the hon. Gentleman again. As I said on my opening remarks, what he mentioned is not the current policy of present or past UK Administrations and devolved Administrations, and there are no plans for it to be. The issue is continuity.

The hon. Member for Stroud was concerned about why pigs are not included in this statutory instrument. I reassure him—I did try to get this across in my opening remarks—that the operability fixes for domestic pig movement were in a negative SI that has already been approved. They have been taken care of in another piece of legislation.

The hon. Member for Stroud also asked about changes to beef labelling and timetables of bovine identification. The SI regarding changes to beef labelling references was approved yesterday. It is complicated: we are discussing several different SIs at any given point. The hon. Member for Stroud, and other Members, were concerned about a new database. We are working in partnership with the industry to improve animal health with a new database. We are working closely with industry partners on taxpayer-funded programmes, and we want to encourage our partners to share data. The system is in development. Our current systems remain in place, and both function for international trade, including with the EU.

Another issue raised by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute related to the amount of consultation. There had been an active dialogue. I meet with the National Farmers Union every week along with other food industry trade bodies. They have been engaged in the early stages of this SI, but no issues came up because it is so technical. There has been much more active engagement on new plans for the future related to livestock tracking, and that might have been confusing. That relates to future plans, and is not included in this SI.

I am seeking inspiration so that I can answer the questions from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. He will be pleased with my answer: could he please repeat the question? I think that means that I will come back to him in writing. I know that he takes these questions very seriously; rather than giving him an answer on the fly, I will give him a full answer, if that meets with his approval.

I am very grateful for that. The hon. Gentleman asked a question about the date of the introduction of bovine electronic identification. The date comes from the EU Council regulation, and we have retained that date.

I think I have answered nearly all the questions—except for some; we will respond about the technical ones.

Very quickly, one question that the Minister has not answered is about the impact on the devolved Parliaments and the Welsh Assembly. Can he guarantee that there will be no impact in respect of agriculture?

That was an oversight on my part. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no impact.

I am grateful to Committee members for their valuable contributions to the debate. To summarise, these regulations are making technical changes to ensure that existing EU law operates appropriately once we leave the EU. For those reasons, I commend the statutory instrument to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

draft Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) (amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Ian Paisley

† Afolami, Bim (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)

† Campbell, Sir Alan (Tynemouth) (Lab)

† Churchill, Jo (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)

† Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)

† Esterson, Bill (Sefton Central) (Lab)

† Harper, Mr Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)

† Hoare, Simon (North Dorset) (Con)

† Hollingbery, George (Minister for Trade Policy)

† Johnson, Dr Caroline (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

Johnson, Diana (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

† Knight, Sir Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)

† Lopez, Julia (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con)

Mann, John (Bassetlaw) (Lab)

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

† Slaughter, Andy (Hammersmith) (Lab)

† Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Warman, Matt (Boston and Skegness) (Con)

Anwen Rees, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Thirteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 26 March 2019

[Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Draft Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The regulations are necessary to maintain the ban on trade in cat and dog fur following withdrawal from the European Union. Without them, the legislation imposing the ban would be inoperable. The regulations were laid before Parliament on 4 March and are made under the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The Committee knows, given the context, that the powers are limited. All that they allow us to do is to correct technical deficiencies in existing EU law that, by the operation of the Act, will be retained in UK law following withdrawal.

Most of us would welcome the continuation of the ban, but is the Minister looking to widen the issue in any way? There is a growing campaign against the consumption of dog meat and I wonder whether he has given any consideration to banning the import or consumption of dog meat.

The simple fact is that today we are able to deal only with the legislation before us. We are bringing the regulation across operably into the UK context. In fact, we are specifically prohibited under the withdrawal Act from considering further policy implications. That does not mean that the Government do not have an interest in the area, although policy judgments on that front would fall not to the Department for International Trade but to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am sure that my right hon. Friend’s remarks will have been heard in the right quarters and I will ensure that I mention them to the Secretary of State when I see him next.

As I was saying, the regulations will correct such deficiencies, for example, by replacing references to the European Union, its institutions and its legislation with the appropriate UK references. To ensure that the ban on the trade in cat and dog fur is maintained, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley, on an issue that is of extreme interest to many of our constituents. The brevity of the Minister’s opening remarks possibly does not do justice to the size of the mailbag that many of us receive on such occasions.

I was struck by how odd it was that we were given this statutory instrument to scrutinise while we have not been asked to scrutinise certain others, such as the 42-page and 79-page trade remedies statutory instruments that the Minister’s Department laid before the House of Commons on 5 March and brought into force the following day, missing the 21 days for which it is custom and practice to let such instruments be laid before us to consider and, if we so wish, object to. It is odd to compare such a small, uncontroversial SI as the one that we are considering—we will support the Government in what they propose—with such significant documents as those on trade remedies, with their far-reaching implications. Frankly, that shows what a bizarre situation we are in.

Order. I will not allow the Committee to stray from the scope of the legislation that we are considering, as much as that will be a temptation, if not to the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps to others. I will give the shadow Minister some rope, but I do not want to hand it out such that others hang themselves.

I will keep my remarks focused on this Committee. Is not the reason why we are considering this statutory instrument that the European Statutory Instruments Committee, which scrutinises the range of European statutory instruments and makes a judgment about whether they should be considered using the negative or affirmative procedure, decided that it should be considered in this way and, I presume, that the others should not?

I shall not be drawn too far in responding to that intervention, Mr Paisley, but of course it is not just the statutory instruments Committee that can decide whether an SI is considered using the negative or the affirmative procedure. The Government can decide, in the first instance, whether an SI is dealt with using the affirmative procedure.

We will move on. The detail of the European Union’s impact assessment, when it brought the regulation in, acknowledged just how straightforward, important and uncontroversial that was, and its assessment was extremely thorough. That is in stark contrast to the fact that the Government did not feel the need even to revisit what was in the EU’s impact assessment of some years ago and to make similar points about the desirability of these regulations in removing the trade in cat and dog fur and the implications for trade in the fur of other animals. It is regrettable that yet again we have an SI without an impact assessment, especially given the quality and depth of the EU’s work, even on something so straightforward and uncontroversial.

I shall explain why I am raising the matter now. I am sure that all hon. Members will reach the same conclusion: this measure is straightforward and clearly something that we need to adopt in UK law and will all want to support. However, without the evidence that we could have been given in a thorough impact assessment and without the engagement of a full consultation process, how can we, as laymen and women without the necessary expertise, really be in a position to judge whether these regulations deliver the technical detail needed to achieve what the Government say they want to achieve? We are having to take this as an item of faith, without the necessary scrutiny to back up the decision making. I place on record that that is a concern we have, but we will have to put that to one side later on.

I am aware that this instrument replaces a similarly named instrument previously laid and subsequently withdrawn because of a technical error. That sort of makes the point that I was alluding to about concerns regarding the technical nature of such regulations. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister could advise the Committee of what error was made in the initial drafting and how the amended drafting rectifies the errors or individual error.

That said, the regulations before us seem right and proper to ensure that the UK maintains the existing ban on the import and export and placing on the market of products that use cat or dog fur, with the attached criminal penalties for any breach of the ban. It is entirely right that steps are being taken to ensure that the ban remains in place once the UK has withdrawn our membership of the EU and where we are no longer covered by the existing legislation, which comes by way of EC regulation 1523/2007 as adopted in domestic law under the Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008.

The issue brought to our attention by the sifting Committee is the power conferred on the Secretary of State to

“make regulations allowing the placing on the market or the import or export of cat and dog fur or products containing such fur for educational or taxidermy purposes.”

I therefore ask the Minister whether the Government have any plans to bring forward regulations to that effect, and if so, how they propose to determine the intended purpose of such imports and how they would ensure that any such future concession is not subject to abuse.

The ban was introduced due to public indignation and moral outcry about the trade in fur products and is considered a potential test case for future efforts to end the trade in furs, pelts, skins and other products that have been subject to animal cruelty concerns about the way in which they are harvested. As the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire pointed out at the start of the Minister’s remarks, there is great public interest in this—so much so that 400,000 people signed the “Fur Free Britain” petition.

It would be helpful to know the Government’s policy intention in that respect and whether the regulations may be followed in due course by other measures to bring about an end to the fur trade or the importing of goods that are considered to be in contravention of our domestic standards on environmental animal welfare or sanitary and phytosanitary grounds. Recent public opinion polls suggest that fewer than one in 10 people in the UK find it acceptable to buy or sell dog, cat or seal fur products.

There is, of course, a risk that cat and dog fur products may still enter the UK market, having been mislabelled or otherwise, and I ask the Minister to clarify what efforts the Government are making to police that. He will remember that great concern was raised in the European Union’s impact assessment about the challenge of products from outside the EU in the trade in cat and dog fur. What efforts have been made and what analysis have the Government carried out to determine how much of a problem this trade from outside the EU has been, and what plans do the Government have to address that after we have left the EU?

My party has been clear that a Labour Government would ban fur imports entirely. Do the Government intend to bring forward their own policy proposals in that respect? Article 20 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade lists the general exceptions under which members may introduce restrictions on trade, which include measures:

“(a) necessary to protect public morals”


“(b) necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health”.

As such, the EU and US bans on cat and dog fur products have not been challenged through the World Trade Organisation since their introduction more than 10 years ago.

The hon. Gentleman just made a point about the Labour party’s policy. If we were to have a permanent customs union with the European Union, would a Labour Government be able to introduce a unilateral ban on dog and cat fur without the European Union’s permission?

We are very clear that we want to maintain minimum standards and alignment with the EU as part of that customs union, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows. It is as important to influence what goes on in the European Union as it is to develop our own domestic policy.

I promise I will desist shortly, Mr Paisley. The problem is that if we are in a permanent customs union and are no longer in the European Union, we will have no say over the rules. If the European Union did not want to ban this stuff, we could not do it unilaterally, and if the European Union woke up one day and decided to allow this stuff to be imported, we would have no ability to stop it if we were in a permanent customs union. Is that not correct?

I will say what I should have said in answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s first remark: it is not membership of the customs union, but access to the internal market that would affect such regulations. I was making a point about the WTO, and perhaps the Minister can tell us about the assessment his Department has made of the likelihood of a challenge being made against the United Kingdom as a consequence of the regulations being transferred from the EU to UK-only competence. Assuming that the Minister confirms that such a challenge is unlikely and certainly could not be successful, will he explain why the Government have not sought to ban other imports into the EU such as hormone-fed beef or chlorine-washed chicken in line with existing EU bans once we have left the EU? There is a clear and demonstrable public opposition to such imports on morality and animal welfare grounds, let alone outstanding questions about the impact on human health.

I am about to conclude my remarks. We welcome the Government’s efforts to introduce these measures. There are serious concerns about the Government’s future policy intentions. When the Minister responds, perhaps he will address those concerns and state whether he will rule out imports of agricultural products now or in the future, including those that I mentioned, that are not produced to the same standards as our own and that offend our national moral sentiments.

Exactly. I will briefly answer one or two of the questions that I was asked. The hon. Member for Sefton Central asked about an impact assessment. I can do an impact assessment in front of this Committee instantly: if we do not transfer these regulations today, there will be no control on the import of cat and dog fur into the UK, and the impact will therefore be that it is lawful to import cat and dog fur to the UK for sale at any time by anybody, wherever they wish. I suspect that the Opposition would not particularly want that to happen.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the Secretary of State’s right to bring forward a statutory instrument to allow importation for education and taxidermy—indeed, that is part of the current EU legislation. The Secretary of State taking on the duty has taken that away from the slightly complex solution in which countries report to the European Commission, and so on. I confirm that the Secretary of State has no plans to bring such exceptions forward. We will not be using that part of the legislation, but it is brought through simply because we cannot change policy through the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act that allow us to do what we are doing today.

Policing of the importation of cat and dog fur is done through DNA analysis. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs conducts inspections at the border under the powers in the 2008 regulations. That will continue to have effect. HMRC will continue to have the same role that it had previously. It can seize goods and start criminal proceedings, and so on.

I have made no particular assessment about the World Trade Organisation and any potential challenge, but if I stood in front of the Committee today and said that there has never been—

Can the Minister give us any indication of the number of investigations being undertaken by HMRC in this area and the extent to which it has asked for additional resources post-Brexit to cope with a potential increase in the need for inspections?

The straight answer is that I do not know. Plainly, that is in the hands of the Treasury and HMRC. If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to write to HMRC to make such an inquiry, I would be very happy to do so. All I can say finally is that I welcome the Opposition’s support for the motion.

Who would have thought that Delegated Legislation Committees could be such fun?

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Heavy Duty Vehicles (Emissions and Fuel Consumption) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Roger Gale

† Beresford, Sir Paul (Mole Valley) (Con)

Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Cadbury, Ruth (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)

† Costa, Alberto (South Leicestershire) (Con)

† Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab)

† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)

† Drax, Richard (South Dorset) (Con)

† Foxcroft, Vicky (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)

† George, Ruth (High Peak) (Lab)

† Heappey, James (Wells) (Con)

† Herbert, Nick (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)

Mahmood, Shabana (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab)

† Morris, Anne Marie (Newton Abbot) (Con)

† Norman, Jesse (Minister of State, Department for Transport)

Powell, Lucy (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Thomas, Derek (St Ives) (Con)

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

Jeanne Delebarre, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fourteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 26 March 2019

[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Draft Heavy Duty Vehicles (Emissions and Fuel Consumption) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Heavy Duty Vehicles (Emissions and Fuel Consumption) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. The draft instrument is extremely straightforward. It ensures that inoperabilities are corrected in EU regulation 2018/956, which concerns the monitoring and reporting of carbon dioxide emissions from and the fuel consumption of heavy-duty vehicles, or HDVs, so that there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime in the event of no deal.

The statutory instrument requires all relevant data that is calculated in line with the set certification methodology to be monitored, reported and published. The data will be made available to all stakeholders, to allow transport operators access to information on the performance of HDVs of different makes with similar characteristics, thus enabling them to make better informed purchasing decisions. Vehicle manufacturers will also be able to compare their vehicle’s performance with those of their competitors, thus providing an increased incentive for innovation. The draft instrument also continues to provide for analysis of vehicle data, which will support the proposed future CO2 emissions standards for HDVs.

The main policy content, including the purpose and objectives of the current EU regulations, remains unchanged. Provisions on the monitoring and reporting timetable, the data to be monitored, HDVs in scope, fines and publication data will also remain unchanged. The amendments that the SI makes simply ensure that the EU regulation continues to apply after exit day to HDVs registered in the UK, and transfer responsibilities from the Commission to the Secretary of State. For example, after EU exit, manufacturers will need to report data for new HDVs registered in the UK to the Secretary of State and not the Commission. Any fines will be levied in pounds, rather than euros.

As these are minor changes, a formal consultation has not been carried out, but the Government have made stakeholders in the relevant trade associations aware of the draft instrument and its planned introduction into UK law. I commend the instrument to the Committee.

As always, it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, and to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. My remarks will be very brief.

As the Minister has outlined, EU regulation 2018/956 requires EU member states and EU heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers to monitor and report to the European Commission data relating to the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new heavy-duty vehicles registered in the European Union. The draft instrument effectively transfers the powers and obligations of the Commission to the Secretary of State. The regulations are absolutely necessary, and the Opposition support them.

I am very grateful for the Opposition’s constructive support, but I am sad to note the SNP’s absence from this Committee on an important statutory instrument relating to the EU. I commend the instrument to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Food and Farming (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: James Gray

† Antoniazzi, Tonia (Gower) (Lab)

† Blunt, Crispin (Reigate) (Con)

† Brock, Deidre (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Dhesi, Mr Tanmanjeet Singh (Slough) (Lab)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

† Fysh, Mr Marcus (Yeovil) (Con)

† Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con)

† Hollinrake, Kevin (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)

† Kendall, Liz (Leicester West) (Lab)

† Latham, Mrs Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)

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

† Spellar, John (Warley) (Lab)

† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)

† Timms, Stephen (East Ham) (Lab)

† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)

† Vara, Mr Shailesh (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con)

Mike Winter, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 26 March 2019

[James Gray in the Chair]

Draft Food and Farming (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Food and Farming (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

It is an honour to serve with you in the Chair again, Mr Gray. These regulations group elements of four policy regimes: spirit drinks, wines, genetically modified organisms and agricultural direct payments. The purpose of this statutory instrument is to make purely technical or operability corrections, ensuring that these regimes continue to function as intended. The corrections deal with removing or amending references, converting EU procedures to UK procedures, and transferring EU functions to the UK.

For genetically modified organisms, the SI makes purely technical changes, to keep the retained EU legislation operable on exit from the EU. The operability changes will allow us to continue to regulate and enforce the applications process for consent to market genetically modified organisms in the UK. It will also allow us to continue to regulate the export of genetically modified organisms—both those that originate in the UK and those merely passing through the UK. The SI also seeks to correct minor errors in EU exit statutory instruments that have already been made.

I seek a bit of clarity from the Minister; I was just looking through the documentation. Will we just carry on with the EU-directed regime, which is based not on science, but on hysteria against genetically modified organisms—particularly genetically modified crops? Alternatively, will we be able to use Brexit to get a policy based on science and agriculture, which would embrace that technology where appropriate?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Obviously, science will underpin our approach to genetically modified organisms, but it is worth noting that there are no genetically modified products in the approval pipeline, at least in the UK, and none is anticipated.

My intervention will be somewhat different. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no watering down of the standards that we currently enjoy with regard to food and farming as a result of this statutory instrument?

The hon. Gentleman also makes an important point, one that the Opposition Front Benchers—perhaps I should call them the three musketeers—have consistently been making, with support from the Scottish National party spokespeople, too. I stress—as I have on numerous occasions, but it is worth doing it again for the record—that there is no intention whatever to water down our standards. I wanted to make that point, because it is easy to get concerned about these issues. As the hon. Member for Stroud will recognise in his remarks, these regulations are about operability changes; they are not about changing policy.

There is a world of difference between watering down regulations that are clearly of proven scientific benefit to consumers, animals and the environment, and policies that are based purely on campaigns with a heavy degree of hysteria—particularly those against genetically modified crops, which have no proven negative impact on the health of the individuals consuming them. Is the Minister suggesting that we are not going to take the opportunity? There may not be an application, and that may be because the current policy is dictated by one or two European countries. Will we not become a bit more progressive and take a science-based approach?

Order. If the Minister wishes to answer that question, he must do so strictly in the context of the statutory instrument before us.

With the guidance of Mr Gray, I will answer the right hon. Gentleman quickly. We will let science be our guide. However, as I said before, this statutory instrument makes no changes to policy, but purely to operability. I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s point and I think I have answered it. We can have a long debate about GMOs, but this is not the day to do it—unless Mr Gray feels that it is.

Order. Mr Gray feels very firmly indeed that this is not the moment for wider discussion of GM policy.

Thank you for the clarification, Mr Gray.

With respect to wines, this instrument will amend EU retained law to make it operable from the day of exit. The changes to existing EU law will allow us to continue to apply or enforce provisions relating to detailed winemaking practices, including the blending and analysis of wine. This SI will enable us to continue to ensure consumer confidence in wines, maintain our trade and production of wines, and protect the significant contribution this sector makes to the UK economy.

On spirit drinks, this instrument makes operable the regulation, protection of and methodology for analysis of spirit drinks once we exit the EU. The changes specify protection for the UK’s geographical indications. This instrument will make the necessary operability amendments to ensure ongoing protection of US spirit drinks Bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey, following the signing of the UK-US spirit drinks agreement in January. The instrument will also prevent the EU27 spirit drink geographical indication from being automatically protected in the UK after leaving the EU.

The amendments to spirits, together with those for wine, are part of establishing a geographical indication scheme in the UK. These changes are a component of a wider sweep of DEFRA legislation on geographical indications. For those who have been on the journey, these include the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, debated and approved on 13 March, and the Food and Drink, Veterinary Medicines and Residues (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, debated on 20 March.

Finally, this instrument will also make minor technical amendments to roll over currently existing provisions in retained EU law on DEFRA’s direct payment statutory instrument. The corrections relate to environmentally sensitive permanent grassland, buffer strips, field margins and the strips of eligible hectares along forest edges without production; the ratio of permanent grassland; and criteria for ecological focus areas. No policy change is made by the corrections, however. They address drafting errors in two of DEFRA’s EU exit statutory instruments relating to direct payment. An error was made when we laid the earlier instruments and we have sought to rectify these errors at the earliest possible opportunity. I apologise to colleagues and members of the Committee for those minor errors, but these are necessary corrections and we must get the legislation right.

It is worth noting that this statutory instrument was originally laid under the negative procedure. However, the Lord’s Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee recommended that the regulations be made under the affirmative procedure. The recommendation was based on the Committee’s view that the proposed amendments go beyond what is required to maintain the operability of the law after EU exit by conferring a new duty on the Secretary of State in respect to GIs, which they believed could have a considerable commercial and economic impact. As a result of this view, DEFRA Ministers subsequently agreed that the instrument be made subject to the affirmative procedure.

This statutory instrument will apply to all devolved Administrations. DEFRA has consulted devolved Administrations on the amendments in this instrument and, where appropriate, they have consented to its coming into force. The policy on GIs is reserved, as it is about intellectual property, but, as we discussed last week in a similar Committee, the Government have been working closely with devolved Administrations to ensure that we have a well-functioning system across the UK.

Decisions to release or market genetically modified organisms are a devolved matter in Wales and Scotland, and a transferred matter in Northern Ireland. The devolved Administrations have been consulted throughout the process for bringing this instrument into force and they support that approach.

We have engaged extensively and listened to stakeholder views on the policy areas addressed in this legislation. The Government launched a public consultation in October 2018 seeking the views of stakeholders and the public about the proposed new UK GI rules, which this SI helps to bring into place. The majority of respondents supported the Government’s proposals and we have engaged with any concerns raised by stakeholders. There was no consultation undertaken for direct payments and GMOs because the changes are entirely technical and intended to ensure that current provisions continue to be available after EU exit.

A technical notice and further guidance was recently published for GMOs. This SI makes minor corrections to earlier GMO-specific regulations. In October, DEFRA engaged with parties with an interest in GMOs, such as umbrella industry organisations representing agricultural-biotechnology companies, research establishments and NGOs. An impact assessment has not been prepared for this statutory instrument because minimal impact on business is expected.

The purpose of this SI is to make purely technical or operability corrections to ensure that the policy regimes for GMOs, wines, spirit drinks and direct payments remain able to operate after our exit from the EU. For the reasons I have set out, I commend the statutory instrument to the Committee.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. We are at it again—now we are revising the revisions. Mistakes were made in earlier Committees, so we have had to come back and review them. In correspondence with me, and I am sure with the Minister, the Green Alliance has said:

“The pace at which draft legislation has been processed has been relentless, with many different areas covered each week. Parliamentary scrutiny has been creaking at the seams with MPs and peers often admitting they haven’t had enough time to review the legislation thoroughly.”

I strongly concur, because we are here doing it morning, noon and night. This is the second of my three SI Committees today; no doubt the Minister and I will be engaging later, unless he is being given time off for good or bad behaviour.

The pace is a worry, because the legislation has been so rushed that mistakes were bound to be made, as we have been saying. As much as we love and trust the civil service, the rate of knots at which it is having to work begs the question of what will happen if some of it goes wrong. In this case, some of it has already gone wrong and we must correct what we did.

The Minister says that these are minor amendments—amendments of amendments—and I understand that. On 5 March, however, which is not that long ago, the European Statutory Instruments Committee noted that the explanatory memorandum says that the instrument

“will, as far as possible, provide that retained EU law has the same effect as current legislation, ensuring that consumers and businesses are able, after exit day, to provide and make use of the same information, presented in the same way as before”.

I am not sure whether that is legal, political or something about interpretation, but it does not give me the greatest confidence that what we are doing will be completely right. It may be that some of it is not right and that we will be back here again next week amending the amendments.

In many respects, the regulations are fairly technical. I will not argue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley, who may have different views on GM. In fact, as we are not changing the policy—at least, I do not think we are—we cannot have that argument, as the Chair would tell us.

Such an argument would be unseemly, particularly within the Labour Benches, and this would not be the appropriate place.

I have several things to say to the Minister, because some points need to be brought out, including on minor amendments. Although he has said time after time—we have been here before—that there is no change in policy, the implication of the instrument is that there could be, and to some extent it opens the door to what the future policy changes could be. It is interesting that we are doing this now. As he said, we would not necessarily disagree with the direction of change, but the rate at which change is happening is significant.

I ask the Minister again what the implied costs are of the instrument. It is always said that there is no cost, which is why we do not have a regulatory impact assessment, but according to the European Statutory Instruments Committee, which scrutinised the instrument and moved it from negative to affirmative on 5 March,

“a significant new duty is being conferred on the Secretary of State.”

We cannot all be right. Either significant new duties—not powers—are being imposed on the Secretary of State, or they are not. I would welcome it if the Minister said something about that.

Again, the problem is that there has been little engagement with other organisations. By chance, I had a meeting with the RSPB this morning. I said, “We’re not getting much from you about SIs. We rely on you being the eyes and ears because you are dealing with how this will be implemented in practical terms”. The answer was, “We just can’t keep up with them. We have no capacity.” That was the RSPB, which has 2 million members. It has a fair number of staff and they cannot keep up. The NFU cannot keep up. It says something when the Opposition have to struggle through the policy issues and the organisations working on them with lots of specialists cannot keep up with the rate of change.

There have been some comments from the Nature Friendly Farming Network, which makes a point about the complexity of layers of policy changes, and the different way of looking at things. We are extracting things from EU legislation and bringing them into UK law. This may be a consolidation, but the Nature Friendly Farming Network implies that the changes afoot need to be scrutinised in much greater detail. Its biggest concern is the lack of requirement for independent scientific evidence and input in respect of the replacement of the European Food Safety Authority by competent authorities. I assume “competent authority” means our own Food Standards Agency, but does it have the capability, capacity and interest to be able to take on some of these great changes?

I may disagree with some aspects of GM, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley is right that those who believe that the agricultural industry has to change are looking at the science and technology—not necessarily genetic modification, but other ways of looking at how plant breeding takes place.

We have discussed pesticide regimes in a separate SI; those are very important in the regulation of GM. The Nature Friendly Farming Network argued that there should have been much more consultation with farmers and scientists on what is happening and how.

The major concern of the NFU is with no deal and its implications for British farming. It worries that some of the changes have been made in such a hurried way that the impact of a no-deal exit will create uncertainty; I know the Minister will lecture us on why we could have a deal, but we have to look at the uncertainties. The reason why they matter is that this legislation could be enforced sooner rather than later. If it is not right, somebody somewhere is going to pay for the consequences. It is very important that we continue to ask these questions; I have not asked many today, because this legislation is more straightforward and we are revising the revisions.

However, the regulations are important. I am not impugning the civil service, which will understand them, but others who are involved in the issues have to understand them as well. It is vital that we get this right. I am worried about how this issue has come back. Are we getting it right, and what do we do if we get it wrong?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I have concerns about the geographical indications for spirits. To be honest, I have concerns about the Government’s generally cavalier attitude to protected products and about the adverse effects that it may have as we plunge down the Brexit cliff towards the waiting rocks.

Specifically, I have concerns about the explanation offered in the explanatory memorandum that spirit drink geographical indications for products from the EU27 nations will be gone after Brexit and that we will retain only the UK ones. Why would that be considered a good thing? It is better for consumers here to know that the drinks they are consuming—especially alcoholic drinks—are the genuine article. If someone in Leith fancies a Calvados after dinner, they should be confident that it is Calvados, just as they would be confident in a good Scotch.

That decision is especially strange alongside the decision to recognise spirits from the US and the stated intention to recognise two Mexican spirits when negotiations are complete. That seems so strange that there must be some intent behind it. Is there something that has not been made clear to us that would necessitate such a specific diminution of the relationship with EU spirits producers and such a specific improvement in the relationship with US producers?

The curiosity of that anomaly is not lessened by the notes on engagement at the end of the explanatory memorandum. Under the GMO bit, there is a fair deal of engagement with companies interested in developing GMOs, with “establishments”—a strange word to use—interested in researching them, with NGOs and with environmental campaign groups. On wine, the devolved Administrations were involved in the detailed drafting and the provisions in the regulations, and industry and producer stakeholders were kept informed. On direct payments, stakeholders in England were consulted. On spirit drinks, though, the full text says:

“Defra has engaged with industry throughout the development of the new replacement regulation for 110/2008, and although no formal consultation has taken place with industry or the Devolved Administrations, stakeholders have been kept informed of progress.”

Why was there no formal consultation? Why was there no involvement of the devolved Administrations in the detailed drafting? Scotland, after all, has the bulk of the distilling industry, including 70% of the gin distilled in the UK. I very much hope the Minister will offer us an explanation for this strangeness and some greater insight into why such an asymmetrical decision has been taken.

I also wonder what effect this approach will have on our own spirits that are sold in the EU27 after we leave. Is whisky’s protection going to be diminished? Will Plymouth gin lose its protection in the EU? There is also a huge list of spirits drinks—nine full pages of the list in the EU regulation—that will no longer be protected in the UK. Will we now be open to poor-quality imitations?

Much of this SI seems fairly straightforward, but this issue needs some serious explanation before we are asked to approve the regulations. What is the rationale behind what appears to be a very strange idea?

I thank hon. Members for their contributions. We have discussed some of these issues in similar Committees before.

In response to the hon. Member for Stroud, who made points about the view of the House of Lords sifting committee on this particular SI, it is worth noting that this SI was laid, as I said, under the negative procedure, and it was then recommended that it be laid under the affirmative procedure. That is what we have done and, clearly, we are debating it today.

Again, I just want to point out that the suite of legislation on geographical indications under the EU withdrawal Act confers new duties on the Secretary of State; that is in consequence of the Secretary of State taking on functions from the European Commission as a result of withdrawal. However, it is not the instrument that we are considering today that confers new legislative duties. For spirit drinks, for example, that was the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which we debated earlier this month. This instrument confers only administrative functions on the Secretary of State from the EU Commission.

The hon. Gentleman asked about costs. As I said in my opening remarks, there are no legislative duties being imposed on the Secretary of State by this instrument. In terms of the administrative duties that result from this instrument, there are no costs associated with those duties.

The hon. Gentleman asked about scientific advice particularly around GMOs. At the moment, decisions on things such as commercial cultivation of GM crops and the marketing of GM products are taken at EU level, with each member state having a vote, and the European Food Safety Authority issues an opinion on the application. For the UK, that EFSA opinion is considered by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, a statutory body of experts that provides Ministers with independent scientific advice that informs UK votes. If we are to leave, EFSA opinions are publicly available, so we will continue to have access to them. ACRE will continue to have a role in advising the UK Government on applications made to, for example, grow a GM crop in the UK. The final decision will be taken away from the EU and made in the UK.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith made some important points, particularly on spirit drinks, and we have discussed some of them before. She asked about the consultation that has been going on. I assure her we have a very strong relationship with the industry, through the Scotch Whisky Association. I was fortunate to meet the SWA in Edinburgh last November. That visit was one of the first things I did when I was able to get time away from the estate. We have a close dialogue with the Scotch whisky industry.

We recognise the geographic indication of Scotch whisky is pivotal to the industry and vital for the UK economy and the Scottish economy as well. We have not yet announced a decision on how EU GIs will be treated if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place. The UK is not obliged to protect EU GIs after exit. The Government look forward to negotiations on the UK’s future economic partnership with the EU, during which we will be able to discuss the relationship between the UK’s new GI schemes and the EU schemes. In addition, we will warmly welcome any application from member states of the EU27, as we would from producers in the UK or from other countries around the world.

Is the Minister saying that current protections for those spirit drinks from Europe, which we have recognised up to this point, are no longer guaranteed to continue, and that it is very much dependent on negotiations?

I will reiterate what I said, because these are important matters: the UK Government have not announced how EU GIs will be treated if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place. I also said that we look forward to further negotiations on the UK’s future economic partnership with the EU. All these things will be considered in that round.

I apologise, but I meant to mention that the annexe of geographical indicators is where most, if not all, of our specialist branded goods appear. What will happen to those? Will we have our own annexe to some future piece of legislation? Will we still be able to go to the EU and ask it to put various UK products on its list? I do not know if the Minister has a ready answer to that, but that issue was picked up by the Committee.

We will create our own UK GI scheme, which will protect UK GIs within the UK. We will publish guidance on the day that we leave. I talked about how we will recognise EU GIs in answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith. All those things will need to be negotiated and reviewed as we go further forward. However, I assure Committee members that we are working closely with key stakeholders, not least the SWA, as we take this work further forward. I promised the hon. Lady that I will meet her to discuss this in more detail. We will fix that up shortly. I know that this is a key interest for her, both in her role as a spokesperson and as a constituency Member of Parliament.

Once again, I am grateful for the contributions that have been made. This SI sets out operability changes that are technical in nature, important as they are. As a result of what has been said, I once again commend this SI to the Committee.

Question put.


That the Committee has considered the draft Food and Farming (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Committee rose.

draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (miscellaneous amendments, etc.) (eu exit) Regulations 2019 Draft Common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and common agricultural policy (miscellaneous amendments) (eu exit) regulations 2019 Draft Agriculture (Legislative Fuctions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Nigel Evans

† Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)

† Benyon, Richard (Newbury) (Con)

† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)

† Drew, Dr David (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

† Eustice, George (Camborne and Redruth) (Con)

† Ford, Vicky (Chelmsford) (Con)

† Goodwill, Mr Robert (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

† Jones, Darren (Bristol North West) (Lab)

† Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

† McMorrin, Anna (Cardiff North) (Lab)

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

† Seely, Mr Bob (Isle of Wight) (Con)

† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)

† Villiers, Theresa (Chipping Barnet) (Con)

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

† Whittingdale, Mr John (Maldon) (Con)

Dominic Stockbridge, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 26 March 2019

[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.

As a farmer myself, and given the family business’s participation in an agri-environmental scheme, I should mention my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The three statutory instruments amend retained EU law setting out the overarching framework for the common organisation of markets in agricultural products, and retained EU and domestic legislation on related wider common agricultural policy provisions. They also amend retained EU law on organic food and feed, and on imports and exports of processed agricultural goods. The amendments will maintain the effectiveness and continuity of retained EU law and domestic legislation that would otherwise be deficient following our exit from the European Union, and will ensure minimal disruption for businesses and other stakeholders.

The legislation is technical in nature and limited in scope. We are upholding standards and maintaining processes, and the legislation makes appropriate corrections to ensure that those standards and processes continue to operate in a UK context. Where changes are required, we have endeavoured to ensure that they will have a limited impact on businesses and other stakeholders. All three instruments apply across the whole UK, and we have consulted extensively with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the legislation on the common organisation of the agricultural markets continues to work, while respecting the devolution agreements.

Two of the instruments, the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, operate in areas of primarily devolved competence, with the appropriate powers transferring to the devolved Ministers. In many of those cases, the Secretary of State is able to act on behalf of the devolved Administrations, should they give their consent. However, in some circumstances that does not apply to Wales. Due to certain provisions specific to the Welsh devolution settlement, in certain instances allowing the Secretary of State to legislate or otherwise act on behalf of Wales would have implications for devolved competence for Wales. The Welsh Government have carefully considered whether the Secretary of State should be able to act on their behalf in respect of each of the functions concerned, and the drafting reflects the outcome of that consideration.

The other instrument, the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019—[Laughter]amends only provisions relating to reserved matters.

There will be an opportunity, I am sure.

All three instruments concern the common organisation of the agriculture markets, more commonly referred to as the CMO. The CMO sits in pillar one of the common agricultural policy, alongside direct payments, and it was set up as a means of meeting the objectives of the CAP—in particular, to stabilise markets, ensure a fair standard of living for agricultural producers, and increase agricultural productivity. Over time, it has broadened out to provide a toolkit that enables the EU to manage market volatility, incentivise collaboration between and competitiveness of agricultural producers, and facilitate trade.

The first statutory instrument, the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, amends the overarching framework for the CMO rather than the details of each policy area, and is intended to lay the groundwork for the more detailed amendments in other CMO instruments. The policy areas in the instrument can be described as public intervention and aid for private storage, aid schemes, marketing standards, producer organisations, import and export rules and crisis measures. The instrument also deals with the basic legislation for the scheme for the promotion of agricultural products, EU regulation No. 1144/2014.

The second statutory instrument in the grouping, the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, ensures the operability of certain provisions relating to the reserved policy areas of regulation of anti-competitive practices; international trade; imports and exports; and intellectual property law.

The second set of regulations amend provisions in legislation on the common organisation of the agricultural markets and the wider common agricultural policy, as well as in EU legislation relating to imports and exports of processed agricultural goods that largely mirrors the relevant provisions on non-processed agricultural goods within the CMO. The regulations also confer legislative functions held by the Commission on the Secretary of State in reserved policy areas, to enable the smooth functioning of related schemes for producers, traders, importers and exporters of agricultural goods.

In particular, the second statutory instrument contains amendments to: recognise producer organisations that provide exemptions from certain aspects of competition law across all agricultural sectors; make operable requirements for written contracts in the dairy sector; provide for an appeals route in the domestic courts relating to protection of a name as a designation of origin or geographical indication for wine; confer powers on the Secretary of State to make regulations about checks relating to protected designations of origin and geographical indications for wine; facilitate and regulate the import of beef and veal, wine, hops, fruits and vegetables, and ovalbumin and lactalbumin; facilitate and regulate the import and export of fruit and vegetables; and make operable rules relating to the granting of export refunds for processed agricultural goods.

The third statutory instrument in the group, the draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, amends EU legislation relating to CMO schemes; CAP financing, management and monitoring; and organic food and feed. Under the amendments, functions currently exercised by the European Commission will instead be exercisable by public authorities in the United Kingdom. That will enable those legislative functions to continue to be used at a national level after the UK leaves the EU.

The instrument relates to EU regulations covering the common organisation of agricultural products and related CAP provisions, as well as organic food and feed. The EU regulations confer various functions on the Commission, so that it can develop the technical details required to operate a specific regime. Examples of those functions include: specifying forms to be used; setting financial limits or prices; defining scheme eligibility criteria; establishing key dates; and defining programmes or scheme periods. After EU exit, without amendment, the legislative functions in these retained EU regulations would be inoperable. That would prevent the UK Government and, where applicable, the devolved Administrations from being able to make any necessary changes to these policy regimes to keep them up to date. This instrument uses powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to correct that deficiency, so that the functions can be exercised by UK public authorities.

I will try to pre-empt some of the questions that I suspect I might get from the Opposition. I am sure that they will want to ask whether the instruments will also be needed if we agree a deal with the EU. Yes; they make operability amendments that will be necessary for the retained EU law to function, and to maintain the integrity of our statute book, either at the end of an implementation period, or sooner if we leave the EU without a deal.

I know I will be asked whether a formal consultation has been carried out. I make it clear to the Committee that we have not carried out a formal consultation, as the changes are technical in nature and do not describe any change in policy. There will be no concrete changes. We continue to engage with stakeholders; indeed, I am meeting the chiefs of the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association later in the week.

I might be asked when the Agriculture Bill will be coming back. I make it clear to the Committee that we wish to bring the Agriculture Bill here as soon as possible. It would be helpful if we could get the withdrawal agreement through at the third time of asking. That would clear the House and enable us to get these important bits of legislation through. I may be asked how we can change what is the statutory instruments. Once we have left the EU, we can amend and change the provisions; the SIs are about maintaining the status quo, including any changes that may flow from the Agriculture Bill, or other changes we wish to make.

In closing, the instruments make appropriate changes to ensure an operable legal framework for the CMO on leaving the European Union. The changes are deliberately minimal, and will commence only when necessary to ensure operability and address deficiency.

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans, and I welcome the Minister to his place. This is my third SI of the day, so if I sound tired, it is because I am tired—rather tired of SIs. Given that the Minister has worked out all the questions I was going to ask, my job could be relatively short. I had better think of some other questions, just to make sure that the civil servants earn their pay for the day. I also welcome the former Minister, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth, yet again. We have a double act here. He does this for free now, but he should not tell his colleagues that; they will think it is a good way forward, and we might get a few more of them acting in that way. We will say nothing more about that.

I state my usual caveat: we are doing these things in an incredibly rushed way, and mistakes will be made. In fact, the previous SI we considered was all about the mistakes in an SI from last week, so we are going back over what we went over. That will happen, given that we are going through these SIs at a rate of knots.

I am a simple soul, so I will take the SIs in some sort of order; otherwise I will get confused. There are four instruments, but effectively three statutory instruments. I am still trying to struggle through them, but I will try to make my explanation as simple as I can. The first is the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which the Minister mentioned. Much of the subject matter is devolved, and I am intrigued about the extent to which there is an attempt to pull back to the centre some of the changes coming from the EU. The Minister touched on this and made the point about the Administration in Cardiff. I would like him to at least allay my fears that the devolved Administration are losing out in some way. I am sure that the Scottish National Party spokesman will have something to say about that.

This whole area of market structure is not easily picked up; I found it complex—perhaps I am not that clever. I know enough about pillar one, and the way it has worked for a long time, having studied it for a long time. There are issues to do with the lack of clarity on how this will be restructured, even though we are talking about just a transfer of powers, according to the Government. We are told these are technical regulations, but at least some stakeholders disagree with that and feel that there is a change in the relationship. Given the attempt to conflate all these SIs, we have to pick through them carefully.

The Minister outlined the different things covered by market organisation—public intervention, aid for private storage, aid schemes, marketing standards, producer organisations, import and export rules and price measures —all of which are covered by the transfer of powers, as far as I understand. As I said in my rant to the Minister’s colleague in the last SI Committee, the Opposition struggle because all the non-governmental organisations are struggling to keep up to date. I am glad that the Minister is meeting the NFU and CLA, but the various non-governmental organisations to whom I have spoken say that they do not have the capacity to undertake any scrutiny of these SIs because of their complexity and the speed with which they are moving through the House.

The NFU has, however, commented on the first SI. It sees producer organisations as being very important, so continuity as the European legislation becomes UK law is important, as is remaining exempt from competition law; if there is no exemption, it will complicate matters. That is particularly true of horticulture. I would welcome hearing from the Minister on that, so that we can be sure that there are genuinely no changes.

EU member states have been encouraged to work on strengthening routes to market; I know from talking to farmers that they see that as being where they should go. How will these SIs, which are all about market structure, encourage farmers to move closer to the marketplace without raising food prices? We have to be well aware of that. The issue is the degree to which these SIs touch on competition law, and whether the UK will have to revisit its competition law.

The second SI, the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, seems to anticipate future SIs. What are those future SIs and changes? How will they impinge on the way the market operates? Given that this has a lot to do with producer organisations, where is the financial analysis? That is the question that I always ask. Can we be assured that the burden will not fall on the producer organisations, which already suffer from market precariousness? In the short term, there will be churning in the policy vacuum—and there is bound to be a vacuum; things may operate seamlessly, but various questions will remain.

We have to look at where we are, and where we want to be, and make sure that policies are as fair, open and transparent as possible, because any unfair trading practices will undermine the point of trying to encourage producer organisations. That is borne out by what the NFU said to me. It believes that producer organisations are the way in which farm businesses should be moving, so that they can negotiate more successfully with retailers and directly with the customer.

Greener UK asked me a series of questions about the regulations. I will not go through all of them. It is concerned about how the effect of the changes on the environment will be monitored and measured in a fully transparent fashion. It wants to know how the searchlight will be turned on, and how we will make sure that procedures are fully operative as early as possible. That is all linked to the implementation of environmental law and policy. It is also interested in how we will deal with possible breaches, and that will reflect how citizens or civil society organisations will look at this. Greener UK has views on the fairness or unfairness of how things work. Producers and representatives of customers have questions about transparency, accountability, and what to do when things do not work as they should.

The draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 are much more about the structure itself, but concern such aspects as organic production and labelling, which we have talked about in previous Committees. It is important that we recognise that that sector needs greater protection, because it will undergo considerable changes. Although we have our own organic regulators in this country, so much of it is about commonality with the rest of the EU, and that will have to change.

The main issues are diverse, and extend to the functioning of age schemes, including for school milk and the fruit and vegetable scheme, which is of course about providing good-quality food to children, and subsidising the industry, to put it bluntly. The question is how can the Government realistically think that anyone, especially key stakeholders, can cover that? There is such a wide range of elements in the SI. The Minister said that the Government did not need to consult, but it would be interesting to know what consultation, if any, has taken place.

All we are doing with the SIs is substituting “a member state” for “national authority”, or replacing “Commission” with “the appropriate authority”, simply to make the existing regulations operable. The real question is where was our ability to scrutinise the original EU regulations that were imposed on us? Nobody generally bothered to look at them, barring the Ministers who were there at the time.

The answer is that we could always do it better, and now we have no reason not to. It puts the onus on us, which is why the SIs are important. If we do not get it right now, it will come back to haunt us, either because we will have missed an opportunity or because we will have to revisit the SIs, as we did with those laid just a week or so ago. I accept what the former Minister says, but a whole series of market segments are affected by the CMO and the way in which the SI will operate.

The Government say that there are no costs, but somebody, somewhere, has to bear some of the costs, because there will be new regulatory burdens. As yet, the Government are not clear on how those burdens will be set up, and what form they will take. It would be interesting to understand the Government’s thinking on that, because unless we get the market structure right at least some of the different segments within the food industry will suffer, at least in the short run. Some of the legislation really matters, because it is about emergency measures, which we all ought to know about because of what has happened in previous food scares.

The Minister will be pleased to hear that my final point will be my usual entreaty about databases. We are looking at how we will set up a new databank—in this case, of isotopic data—to detect fraud. The current one is based on samples taken by the member states; we will have to replicate that in a UK context. It would be interesting to know where we are with all the wonderful IT innovations that the Government are trying to introduce, also at a speed of knots.

There is no date for this, so I do not know whether we will borrow stuff from the EU. Clearly, they have collected and stored a lot of material on, for example, the authenticity of wine and what level of sugar has been added, and how much water is in the wine. There is something biblical about that. If we are starting from scratch—I do not know whether we are—can we just bring all the information across, or do we have to pay for it? Alternatively, can we use comparable databases?

It is the usual questions. Where are the databases? How advanced are they in terms of their operation? Who will have access to them? If there is evidence of fraud in the way these different market sectors are operating, what do the Government intend to do? I have nothing more to ask. This is one of the more complex SIs of the many we have been through. As the Minister answered many of my questions to start with, I have come up with a few different ones, but I welcome that we are now getting the answers as well as the questions. It makes my job that much easier.

It is a pleasure to see you in the chair, Mr Evans. I had a thorough speech that I was going to give, but the hon. Member for Stroud has gone through everything. He spoke of the authenticity of wine. Most Members attending these SI Committees dread coming, but if we were getting to check out the authenticity of wine, we might find there were more volunteers.

In the Scottish National party, regardless of our opposition to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in principle and in its entirety, we understand that it is important to have instruments to establish and preserve the framework around the status quo, so I will not seek to divide the Committee this afternoon. Given that this is another DEFRA SI of the several coming forward at the moment, I wish to reflect on the general landscape around Brexit.

During the Brexit campaign, a string of false promises was made to farmers, in particular in Scotland. The Tories have been involved in constant scaremongering that payments will not be able to be made to Scottish farmers post Brexit if a legislative consent motion is not given to the Agriculture Bill, whenever it appears. The Cabinet Secretary in Scotland has confirmed that is simply untrue and payments can and will be made.

When we think about the chaos that emanates from this shambolic Brexit process and in particular the threat of no deal, I reflect on the comments from the president of NFU Scotland, Andrew McCornick, who said

“a no deal Brexit must be permanently taken off the table and a workable solution identified by MPs and government as a matter of urgency to deliver some kind of order”

out of the current chaos. Parliament will take control of the agenda tomorrow and we might see some of that.

In conclusion, the stockpiling of food in preparation for Brexit demonstrates how drastic an effect Brexit has had on all of the most basic human requirements. People in Scotland will look on this process and see how being governed from this Parliament, and the absolute chaos emanating from this place, only emphasises our view that Scotland is a nation and nations are best served when they govern themselves.

As the Minister is double acting with his former Minister, he will excuse me if the shadow team does the same. I have only a few technical questions.

In the draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, explanatory note 7.5 on page 4 states:

“The Secretary of State may also exercise the functions on behalf of a devolved administration, but only with their consent.”

Can the Minister provide clarification with regard to the concerns he raised earlier about the functions being used in relation to powers in Wales? What type of consent does the Minister need to seek? For the sake of clarity, can the Minister set out whether he can exercise those powers in Wales without the consent of the Welsh Assembly due to the devolution settlement being confused?

The Minister, and certainly his predecessor, will know that I have been critical about the wording of impact assessments throughout this entire process and the phraseology that said there is no or no significant impact was used in earlier statutory instruments. As we are coming to the end of these DEFRA SIs, I wish to put on record that impact assessment paragraph 12.3 on page 5 is significantly better than the wording when we started the process. I am grateful to officials for beefing that up. I am also especially grateful for the addition of the understanding about the financial threshold and the impact the instrument suggests. In this case, it states that

“the change in regulation falls below the £5m p.a. threshold for net direct costs to business.”

In my mind, £5 million seems to be a significant impact for businesses. I believe that threshold level is still too broad, but it is good to see that a threshold level is being inserted at all.

On the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, can the Minister explain the revocations in part 4? My understanding is that this SI revokes geographical indication protection for a series of incredibly posh wines that I have not been fortunate enough to try, including Bürgstadter Berg and Monzinger Niederberg, which according to my friends at Google is a wonderful Riesling. I would be grateful if the Minister set out whether those protections are replicated elsewhere, or whether what we are doing here is removing geographical indication protections. As the Minister will know, and the former Minister will certainly know, I am a big fan of keeping geographical indication protections so that the GI status of, for example, Cornish pasties can be protected after whatever form of Brexit we have. I am concerned that revoking protections on certain types of wine will be the start of a reduction in GI protections that could encourage our European friends to further remove protections on UK products.

Finally, in the explanatory memorandum for the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, paragraph 7.3 on page 4 states:

“With exit day less than one year away, and in the continued absence of a Northern Ireland Executive”.

That is technically correct—three days is certainly less than one year away—but I wonder how long this SI has been sitting on the books. There is a point here about how late we are looking at so many of these SIs, ahead of what was previously exit day on 29 March. That sentence suggests to me that this SI has been sitting around for a long time.

Perhaps officials in the Department could foresee that Parliament would baulk at the idea of leaving without a deal. “One year” might be a reference to the extension.

I am grateful to the former Minister, who is again backseat driving the Minister’s role. I would like to think that officials are that prescient about the Government’s inability to bring forward a deal that they can get a parliamentary majority for, but I suspect the answer is that this SI has been sitting on a desk in DEFRA for some considerable time, and we are waiting until the last moment for these SIs to be given the scrutiny they deserve. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said, driving through so many SIs means that the level of scrutiny that stakeholders and the Opposition can give them is more limited than if we had been given more time. However, I would be grateful if the Minister set out answers, particularly about the geographical indications and what they mean for the read-across of UK protections.

I will take the questions in reverse order, starting with those asked by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. He specifically asked about the functions that the Secretary of State exercises on behalf of the devolved Administrations. I repeat the point I made in my opening remarks: the Welsh Government have carefully considered whether the Secretary of State should be able to act on their behalf in respect of each of the functions concerned, and the drafting reflects the outcome of that consideration. I met with the Welsh and the Scots yesterday, and I think we have a good working relationship with the devolved Administrations. We wish above all to respect the devolution settlements, and we understand the importance of decision making at that level. Indeed, part of the wish expressed by the British people in the referendum was to have control of our own affairs, and not be controlled from another capital. I am sure that people in Edinburgh would sympathise with that, although we wish to keep the United Kingdom together as one country.

To quickly address the wine situation, the Government have not announced a decision about how non-UK GIs will be treated if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place, but we recognise the cultural and economic importance of geographical indications. The hon. Gentleman talked about the day on which we will leave the European Union; maybe we should have a sweepstake in the Committee to see who gets closest. However, as far as I am aware, we will leave on 12 April in the event of no deal, and on 22 May if the deal can be delivered. Those who are concerned about no deal face a simple choice: they should vote for the deal, to enable us to leave in an orderly way. If we do not leave the European Union as instructed in the referendum, I do not believe the people of this country will treat any party kindly.

To respond to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Glasgow East, I have already mentioned how we respect the devolution settlement. Voting for the deal is the best way of avoiding any chaos that he may predict.

The hon. Member for Stroud talked about mistakes that may have been made. As I said, there may have been mistakes, but they can be corrected very easily. Many of the changes that we may need to make in future will be the result not of mistakes, but of the need to keep up with changes at an EU level. He said that these measures are complex; that is true, but the changes being made are simple. Most of these regulations received scant scrutiny the first time they were presented to Westminster, having been decided in Europe, but in future we will be able to amend them in our sovereign Parliament without needing another 27 countries to agree to our way forward.

The hon. Gentleman raised the NFU’s concerns about producer organisations. Those are important to us, but no change is being made. In many ways, the power in this country tends to lie with the supermarkets, so I am not worried that producer organisations will misuse the exemption. Indeed, the Competition and Markets Authority is looking at how supermarkets are exercising their powers—[Interruption.]

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming

Before we were so rudely interrupted, I was trying to rush through my comments in order to get to the end before the Division, but I can now take a little more time to explain the situation and to answer the questions comprehensively.

The hon. Member for Stroud talked about anticipating future SIs. Changes will need to be made to keep up with changes to EU legislation, as I already said, but the SIs before us today make no fundamental changes. They are about changing EU authorities into the relevant UK authority.

The hon. Gentleman also asked why we are rolling over the articles, rather than starting afresh. With regard to future competition law as it relates to agriculture, the articles covering the EU producer organisation regime are being amended by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act in order to be made operable, but will eventually be repealed and replaced by domestic successor legislation using the powers in the Agriculture Bill.

Greener UK were concerned about any reduction in our very tight environmental standards. The Secretary of State has made it clear on several occasions, and I can reassure the hon. Gentleman, that there will be no change. There will be no reduction in our standards. Indeed, with our new method of agricultural support delivering public goods, in my opinion we will have the greenest agriculture in Europe.

The hon. Gentleman talked about organic production. Of course, we will continue to respect EU standards, but many of the licensing bodies in the UK, such as the Soil Association, have even more stringent requirements. The Agriculture Bill will give us the opportunity to help those farmers who may well want to convert to organics. The chance to have better trade relations with the United States will be a great opportunity for UK food, particularly organic food, to be sold into the United States market.

We are transferring powers on organic regulations to the UK from the European Commission. The powers include measures to implement the prohibition of genetically modified organisms, measures to implement rules for production, conversion, processing, approval of certain products, exceptional production, labelling, and precautionary and control measures, which will ensure the notification of UK organic operators, and measures to set out the forms and methods of communication. I think we have a comprehensive approach to the issue of organic production.

A question was asked about school milk, which EU funding supports to an extent. We want children to be healthy and well-nourished, and regular dairy consumption makes an important contribution to that. I have a glass of milk most days myself, as it is the cheapest beverage in the Tea Room—it says a lot for the way that milk is taken for granted that a glass of milk in the Tea Room is a third of the price of a cup of tea. Alongside participating in the school milk scheme, the Government are doing a great deal nationally to promote children’s dairy consumption through, for example, the much larger national free nursery milk scheme, and ensuring the availability of milk for pupils under the school food standards, including free milk for disadvantaged pupils.

At the moment, the money might come from us, but it goes via the EU. Is the Government committed to continue to fund that? Has that been agreed with the Treasury?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question, which leads me smoothly on to my next point. Regardless of whether we have a deal with the EU, funding will be available under the scheme for at least the next few years, and we will keep the position under review.

My last point is on the database and IT availability for a whole variety of areas. We are working very hard as a Department to make sure that we have IT systems up and running. I am very optimistic that they will work well.

I know the history. The hon. Member for Stroud can shake his head, but we know that this has been a problem for various Governments. A lot of the systems have been run at the beta phase—the testing phase—and they have worked well, including in my previous Department, Education, for the nursery scheme. That system worked very well after a few initial glitches.

The operability amendments made by the regulations will maintain the effectiveness and continuity of this legislation on the common organisation of agricultural markets and wider CAP provisions that would otherwise be inoperable following our exit from the European Union, as well as the provisions covering organic food and feed, and imports and exports of processed agricultural goods. They will ensure that we can continue to operate schemes under these regulations for our vital farming sector and maintain the standards they set, which support confidence in our farmed goods on domestic and international markets. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products Framework (Miscellaneous Amendments, etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019


That the Committee has considered the draft Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products and Common Agricultural Policy (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019


That the Committee has considered the draft Agriculture (Legislative Functions) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.—(Mr Goodwill.)

Committee rose.