Delegated Legislation Committee
Draft Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 Draft Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Mr Laurence Robertson
Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)
† Crosbie, Virginia (Ynys Môn) (Con)
† Daly, James (Bury North) (Con)
† Dines, Miss Sarah (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)
† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)
Grady, Patrick (Glasgow North) (SNP)
† Jones, Fay (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
† Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)
† Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)
† Mumby-Croft, Holly (Scunthorpe) (Con)
† Prentis, Victoria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
† Roberts, Rob (Delyn) (Con)
Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
† Stafford, Alexander (Rother Valley) (Con)
Sultana, Zarah (Coventry South) (Lab)
† Zeichner, Daniel (Cambridge) (Lab)
Elektra Garvie-Adams, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
First Delegated Legislation Committee
Monday 30 November 2020
[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]
Draft Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Before we begin, I remind Members to observe social distancing and to sit only in the places that are clearly marked. Hansard colleagues would be most grateful if Members could send any speaking notes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.
With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson, even though I confess that many of us would quite like to be listening to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the Chamber. The draft Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 and the draft Import of, and Trade in, Animals and Animal Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 were laid before the House on 2 November and 20 October respectively.
The first instrument amends our existing system of official controls on sanitary and phytosanitary imports to ensure that they work after the end of the transition period. It makes amendments to EU retained regulations governing official controls on imports to Great Britain of animals and animal products, plants and plant products, including food, and other imports relevant to the agrifood chain. The amendments set out in this instrument will allow regulations in this area to continue to be fully operable once the UK completes the transition period. They will allow us to continue to deliver controls and checks on all imports subject to SPS checks according to risk.
The second instrument makes amendments to ensure that provisions relating to the import of live animals, including horses, animal products, reproductive material used for animal breeding, and the non-commercial movement of pets continue to work at the end of this year. It also makes minor technical amendments to five previously made EU exit SIs and 30 retained EU instruments. It also revokes a previously made EU exit SI and eight retained EU instruments to ensure that our imports will continue to function at the end of this year.
The changes are, for example, to ensure that references to EU regulatory bodies become references to the Secretary of State or other appropriate authorities. Amendments also include changes to reflect the status of the European economic area as a third country and to introduce the Government’s phased approach to import controls on goods arriving from the EEA.
The Government previously announced that we will phase in border controls on imports from the UK beginning in January. That will prioritise flow at the border and give both businesses and industry longer to prepare for the introduction of full controls. We remain fully committed to the World Trade Organisation and our international trade obligations. The phased approach is temporary and pragmatic in order to support our international trade and to avoid border disruption. We will have controls in place for controlled goods from January 2021 and for all goods, both controlled and standard, in place from July next year. We have taken the decision to list the EEA to import live animals and animal products because, following an assessment of the EU’s SPS regime, with which we are of course very familiar, we do not believe that the risk will change on 1 January next year.
The statutory instruments will ensure that legislation to protect our biosecurity will continue to function in Great Britain after the transition period, and that we will continue to have a functioning imports system that guarantees our high standards of food and animal safety, while ensuring frictionless trade and movements. For the reasons I have set out, I commend the regulations to the Committee.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I echo the Minister’s opening comments: I think we are all keen to hear the action going on in the main Chamber. These SIs appear to be largely technical and uncontroversial, although I am always loth to say that when I read through the many pages of changes—and I will come to that in a moment—but the Opposition will not oppose them, because we, too, want to ensure that UK trade remains as robust as we can make it after the end of this period.
However, these are very important issues, and it is hard to overstate the importance of sanitary and phytosanitary controls. There has, of course, been considerable controversy on this around the links between GB and Northern Ireland and, of course, safety issues are in our minds given avian flu and, sadly, the African swine fever in much of the rest of the world. Getting these things right and making sure that our defences are strong are really important, so there are some important questions.
Turning to the official controls SI, paragraph 2.2 of the explanatory memorandum outlines our current
“appropriately designated border control points and other points of entry”
and says that controls are
“also carried out at other locations, such as slaughterhouses, to verify the compliance of imported SPS goods with Official Controls Regulations”.
Will the Minister say a little more about where those kinds of places are? I cannot quite imagine exactly how that works, so I would be grateful if she will explain that. There is not much more that I wanted to ask about other than the impact question because—Labour has made this point with other SIs—it seems hard to imagine that there are no impacts.
On detail and the accuracy, I could not help notice that the previous time this matter was discussed—in the pre-no-deal discussions when it was in the form of SI 2019/1488—the then Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee highlighted a couple of things that were, in effect, errors or needed clarification. I just wonder how we can be sure, as one looks through the huge array of changes, that it is all entirely correct. I suspect it is not, but that is no criticism of those who are doing the drafting. I do not think that we in this place have the capacity to scrutinise such things closely enough. If someone wanted to slip something through, it really would not be hard to do, and it would be hard for people to spot it. We rely on people elsewhere to draw attention to these things, but there is nothing else on the official controls SI that requires further questioning at the moment.
Moving on to the second SI on the import of and trade in animals and animal products, I have one or two questions around the pre-notification requirement, which appears to be changing. Paragraph 7.5 in the explanatory memorandum—I think the Minister touched on this—recognises that imports into Great Britain using existing health certificates will be maintained
“for a period of time after 31 December 2020”,
without any reference to how long that process will continue. Again, the Minister may not have the answer to hand, but there is always a danger that temporary and interim arrangements can drag on in the future. It would be good to have some clarification and on how long that situation may last.
On the impact side, an impact is actually recognised with the import and trade SI, specifically on the pre-verification procedure and the differing computer systems that will be needed. It is estimated that the change will
“add to the staffing costs of a proportion of the 21,600 firms who are estimated to be involved in”
these import activities. Will the Minister give us some indication of the level of those additional staffing costs? It clearly is not the case that things are going remain exactly the same.
The Opposition do not see anything further to clarify at the moment, and we will not oppose the measures.
I will try to answer the questions in turn. On inland sites, which I think the hon. Gentleman asked about to start with, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has confirmed it will require two inland border control posts in England, both in Kent. One will be for Eurotunnel at Sevington, and another is required for the port of Dover.
On impact assessments, none was produced for the first SI as it maintains existing border controls and therefore does not introduce new policy. We have, however, estimated costs as a result of the policy being applied progressively more widely as a result of the phased introduction of border checks, and that is set out in the explanatory memorandum. The border operating model was published in October this year and sets out our phased introduction. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to that document, and I am happy to share it with him later, if that helps.
The import of products, animals, food and feed computer system, which is being set up, will allow importers or agents to create import notification of consignments bound for Great Britain before arrival. Notifications will be received by port health authorities or the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which can then record checks on the system. I recently asked for an update on how that was progressing, and I was told, “Extremely well,” so I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman on that.
These statutory instruments are critical for ensuring a functioning imports regime at the end of the transition period. Without them, there would be a threat to Great Britain’s biosecurity and lack of clarity for industry. I therefore commend them to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
THE DRAFT OFFICIAL CONTROLS (ANIMALS, FEED AND FOOD, PLANT HEALTH ETC.) (AMENDMENT) (EU EXIT) REGULATIONS 2020
That the Committee has considered the draft Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food, Plant Health etc.) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.—(Victoria Prentis.)
Draft Jurisdiction, Judgments and Applicable Law (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chair: Sir David Amess
† Ahmad Khan, Imran (Wakefield) (Con)
Begum, Apsana (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)
† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)
Cadbury, Ruth (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
† Chalk, Alex (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
† Clarkson, Chris (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
Cummins, Judith (Bradford South) (Lab)
† Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North) (Lab)
† Evans, Dr Luke (Bosworth) (Con)
† Gullis, Jonathan (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
Kawczynski, Daniel (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)
† Simmonds, David (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
† Spencer, Dr Ben (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
Thompson, Owen (Midlothian) (SNP)
Twigg, Derek (Halton) (Lab)
Liam Laurence Smyth, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Second Delegated Legislation Committee
Monday 30 November 2020
[Sir David Amess in the Chair]
Draft Jurisdiction, Judgments and Applicable Law (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Jurisdiction, Judgments and Applicable Law (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.
May I begin by saying what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David? This statutory instrument forms part of the Government’s ongoing work to ensure that there are functioning domestic laws that deal with cross-border civil and commercial and family law matters in place at the end of the transition period, and that they are consistent with the UK’s obligations under the withdrawal agreement.
The instrument is made under sections 8 and 8B of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It amends a number of statutory instruments made to remedy deficiencies in domestic legislation arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The amendments address minor defects in those instruments, clarify the interaction of international conventions and domestic law after the end of the transition period, and ensure that two of those instruments are consistent with the provisions of the withdrawal agreement.
First, the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 revoke the Brussels Ia regulation—the key EU instrument dealing with jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in cross-border civil and commercial matters. The Government’s exit policy intention is to replicate, as closely as possible, the Brussels Ia employment jurisdiction rules, modified only as necessary to make them work in the UK.
However, in relation to one ground of the special jurisdiction rules, the rule has been inadvertently broadened to cover employees without a habitual place of work in any one part of the UK, rather than employees without a habitual place of work in any one country, as is the case in Brussels Ia. The effect is that a larger group of employees would be able to sue employers in UK courts under this rule. That does not reflect the Government’s policy intention, and neither is it a desirable public policy outcome. This instrument addresses that issue by amending the civil regulations to ensure that the Brussels Ia employment jurisdiction rules are correctly transposed into domestic law, modified only as necessary to make them work in the UK context. It does not represent any reduction in the protection available to employees; it merely properly replicates the existing EU rules.
Secondly, the Jurisdiction and Judgments (Family) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 revokes: the Brussels IIa regulation, which is the main EU regulation dealing with jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in parental responsibility cases; and the maintenance regulation, which is the main EU regulation dealing with jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in maintenance cases. In their place, the UK will move principally to the 1996 Hague convention, for cross-border parental responsibility matters involving parties from EU member states; and to the 2007 Hague convention, for the cross-border recognition and enforcement of maintenance involving parties from EU member states. Where there are no applicable Hague convention rules, the family regulations make provision for the rules that will apply. In the case of maintenance jurisdiction, these are largely the rules as they existed prior to the relevant EU rules taking effect.
Two minor errors have been identified in the amendments made to domestic legislation by the family regulations to reinstate the pre-EU jurisdiction rules for maintenance cases in Scotland. The first error is the carrying through of a reference to
“actions for adherence and aliment”.
These concepts have been abolished in Scots law, making this reference obsolete. This instrument addresses that by simply deleting the reference.
The second error has the unintended effect that, from the end of the transition period, certain applicants seeking maintenance—referred to as “aliment” in Scotland—would be disadvantaged. This would be where that claim is not connected to divorce or other proceedings, and the applicant in such a case would be unable to bring the proceedings in Scotland and would have to pursue the paying party in the courts of the country where the paying party is domiciled.
That problem is addressed in this instrument through an amendment to the family regulations to restore the jurisdiction of the Scottish court to hear claims for aliment where the applicant is domiciled or habitually resident in Scotland. We have worked closely with the Scottish Government to identify these errors and agree suitable remedies via the instrument that we are debating today.
This instrument addresses these areas of uncertainty through amendments to the family regulations to make it clear, and put beyond doubt, that the saving and transitional provisions apply to intra-UK maintenance matters and that the relevant Hague convention rules take precedence over the domestic jurisdiction rules in cases that properly fall under the relevant Hague conventions.
Thirdly, the Cross-Border Mediation (EU Directive) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 revoke or amend, as appropriate, domestic legislation that gave effect to the EU mediation directive—other than court rules and matters within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. One of the domestic instruments amended by the mediation regulations—namely, the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998—has, subsequent to the making of the mediation regulations, been amended further by the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. This amendment came into effect on 27 January 2020. As such, the mediation regulations do not take account of it. This instrument therefore amends the mediation regulations to take account of that later amendment, ensuring that the meaning of the relevant provision in the Northern Ireland order is clear once it is amended by the mediation regulations.
Fourthly, the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and the Court of Protection Rules 2017 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 make amendments to the family procedure rules and the court of protection rules that are consequential upon the main civil judicial co-operation exit instruments. The instrument that we are debating today addresses some minor technical errors in the rules regulations, re-establishing a link between the family procedure rules and the transitional provisions in the civil regulations in respect of maintenance cases arising under the 2007 Lugano convention, and fixing a cross-referencing error in, and omitting an erroneous reference to “EU member state” from, the amendments to the court of protection rules.
Fifthly, in addition to these corrective and clarifying amendments, this instrument amends two of the civil judicial co-operation exit instruments to ensure that their provisions are consistent with the UK’s obligations under the withdrawal agreement. The first of these instruments is the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations and Non-Contractual Obligations (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which amend the Rome I and Rome II regulations. The other instrument is the aforementioned family regulations, which I have already described. This instrument amends the Rome regulations and the family regulations to align these instruments with the UK’s obligations under the relevant provision of the withdrawal agreement—article 66 in the case of the Rome regulations, and article 67 in the case of the family regulations.
I should add that this is the first of two instruments that will amend the CJC exit SIs to ensure that their provisions align with the requirements of the withdrawal agreement. The second of these instruments is still being finalised and will be laid before Parliament shortly.
Finally, I will turn briefly to the impacts. As I have indicated, the amendments in this instrument correct minor technical errors and clarify ambiguities in the civil, family, mediation, and family and court of protection rules regulations, and will ensure that the family regulations and Rome regulations are consistent with directly applicable provisions of the withdrawal agreement. As such, they are not expected to have any significant impact on business, charities or the voluntary or public sectors. Indeed, as a result of the errors and ambiguities being corrected, the amendments will ensure that the civil, family, mediation, and family and court of protection rules exit SIs have the impact intended by the Government when they were laid before Parliament, and as is reflected in the explanatory memoranda for those instruments and, in the case of the civil, family and mediation exit SIs, in the impact assessments published in respect of those instruments.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I thank the Minister for outlining his proposed changes in considerable detail—I am pleased that he did not go through all 13 of the pages that he claims to have prepared for the occasion. This statutory instrument corrects technical defects in several SIs made in relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The amendments are extremely technical, as we have just heard, so I will not go into the detail again.
However, it is important to recognise that we would not be in this mess if the Government had anticipated these defects when the original instruments were drafted. We all understand and accept that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU necessitates a large volume of legislation, some of which will of course be delegated, but just because the legislation is being dealt with in significant volumes and at pace does not mean that it should not be dealt with properly and diligently.
It is worrying that these defects slipped through the first time, but even more worrying is the fact that in at least once instance the defect had to be brought to the attention of the Ministry of Justice by an external legal expert. I am talking about the amendment to the civil regulations that corrects an error relating to the grounds on which an employer can be sued by an employee—a very important piece of legislation.
It is also pretty disgraceful that the Government have to rely on external experts to bring such defects to their attention. That should simply not be the case. Even one such defect would be cause for concern, but unfortunately Government incompetence goes further. In this SI alone we are fixing defects in the civil regulations, the family regulations, the mediation regulations, the Rome regulations, and even the rules regulations. Is the Minister satisfied that all the errors have now been ironed out, and that we will not find ourselves back here in a few weeks’ time trying to correct further errors?
At least we on the Opposition Benches are keen to provide the public with as much stability and certainty as possible as the transition period comes to a close. I wish that the same could be said of the Government, as we are drawing ever closer to 31 December and still so much is up in the air—a far cry from the promised “oven-ready” exit deal.
Although it is regrettable that these defects were not picked up by the Government when the original instruments were being drafted, we accept that these changes must be made in order to provide legal certainty at the end of the transition period, and therefore we will not oppose them.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for supporting these regulations. They correct minor technical defects, and we are of course grateful to those who have pointed them out. I do not recall the Labour Opposition pointing out these defects with alacrity at the time, but we welcome the sinner that repenteth. I would like to express the Government’s appreciation for the assistance that we have had from the family law stakeholders who raised the issues. We welcome their input and advice, as we also welcome the input and advice of our colleagues in the Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments. I commend this instrument to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.