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Debated on Thursday 10 December 2020

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Caroline Nokes

† Britcliffe, Sara (Hyndburn) (Con)

† Bruce, Fiona (Congleton) (Con)

Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)

Jarvis, Dan (Barnsley Central) (Lab)

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma (South Shields) (Lab)

† McFadden, Mr Pat (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab)

† Newlands, Gavin (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

† Nici, Lia (Great Grimsby) (Con)

† Norman, Jesse (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

† Russell, Dean (Watford) (Con)

† Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Simmonds, David (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)

† Smith, Greg (Buckingham) (Con)

† Smith, Henry (Crawley) (Con)

† Smith, Jeff (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)

† Williams, Craig (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

Yasin, Mohammad (Bedford) (Lab)

Sarah Rees, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fourteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Thursday 10 December 2020

[Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Before we begin, I remind Members to observe social distancing. You are all sitting in places that are marked, so I thank you for that. Hansard colleagues would be grateful if Members sent their speaking notes to I ask you to observe social distancing particularly when you are leaving. Thank you.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

It is a delight to see you in the Chair, Ms Nokes, and to serve under you.

As the Committee will be aware, this statutory instrument is technical and will give the Government a tool they may need to alleviate any disruption at the border that arises after the end of the transition period. The instrument must be understood in the context of the current regime for managing the safety and security risk of goods entering and leaving the United Kingdom. The UK is guided in this regard by the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE framework of standards to mitigate risks associated with the import and export of goods. SAFE stipulates that before goods arrive in or depart from a territory, data must be collected and risk assessed by customs authorities. This data is submitted in the form of entry and pre-departure declarations. These declarations are currently managed through the Union customs code, retained in UK law after the end of the transition period by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

While we have been part of the EU’s safety and security zone, these declarations have been required only when goods are moving into or out of the EU. When the transition period ends on 31 December 2020 goods moved between Great Britain and the EU as well as the rest of the world will require these declarations. As part of the staging in of customs controls, the Government have waived for six months the requirement for the submission of an entry summary declaration for movements into Great Britain from the EU or another territory where such a declaration is not currently required.

Before goods are moved out of the country, carriers are obliged to submit safety and security information to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for risk assessment. As well as managing risks that involve the movement of weapons and illicit goods, the information is used to regulate other international obligations, such as the rules governing the movement of live animals. The information is normally contained in a customs export declaration. In cases where a fiscal declaration is not required, such as businesses repositioning empty trucks or packaging, a stand-alone exit summary declaration is required.

The SI will give HMRC commissioners the ability during the six months of the staging-in period to publish public notices waiving the requirement for safety and security declarations for goods exported from Great Britain. A public notice could also be used to alter the pre-departure timing requirement for the submission of declarations. The powers can be used only to alleviate border disruption that may arise, and only during the staging-in period. The powers can be deployed in a targeted way: for example, the Government could use them to waive the safety and security export declaration requirement for a specific sector, or a port, or for a given time period. The powers would be used only where it was necessary to ensure the smooth flow of goods across the border. The Government would consider the balance of risks of border security with the impact on border flow before introducing a waiver. The Government will update Parliament as appropriate when making use of the powers, if any are in fact used.

The Northern Ireland protocol means that there are no safety and security requirements for goods moved between Northern Ireland and the EU. Under the protocol, EU UCC—Union customs code—rules will apply in Northern Ireland. The public notice powers provided by this instrument would not affect safety and security requirements for goods exported from Northern Ireland. The movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the world will be subject to safety and security requirements.

As I have said, the Government would use these powers only where absolutely necessary to preserve the smooth flow of goods at the border and after due consideration of any risks arising from their use. The powers, which are time limited and can be deployed in a targeted fashion, will help to give the Government the appropriate ability to respond to manage disruption at the border if that should arise at the end of the transition period. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Nokes.

The Minister, for whom I have great respect, as he knows, describes these regulations as technical, but I must differ from him. I think they are more than technical. They are very significant and a graphic example and symbol of the mess the Government have got themselves into as we approach the end of the transition period. I say that because through these regulations the Government are acknowledging that they cannot guarantee that the current safety and security requirements on exports can continue to be met without causing disruption to border security. They have put themselves in the invidious position of having to introduce regulations that compromise our security to guarantee the free flow of goods at the border.

The regulations respond to that dilemma by granting HMRC the power to waive the need for these pre-departure declarations, or to modify the time limit for their submission. In tabling these regulations, the Government are openly acknowledging that they are taking powers that, if used, would water down the safety and security requirements we have in place for exports through our ports. The explanatory memorandum that accompanies the regulations —these things are normally pretty dry explanations of the technicalities involved—is clear about the possibilities. Paragraph 7.4 states:

“There may be risks associated with using these powers…for example, to border security.”

There you have it. The regulations are not technical. That is not an allegation from me. It is not an allegation that the Opposition have made. It is a quote from the Government’s own explanation of what they are doing.

What exactly are these risks that the Government have identified? What exactly are the risks that the regulations could enhance? Why have the Government found themselves proposing a policy with such potential consequences? What a trade-off to put the country in to, really. To avoid disruption to trade, we have to take measures that potentially put our border security at risk. I repeat that that is not an allegation from me; it is the Government’s own explanation, before the Committee right now, of what they are doing with these regulations.

At the moment, as the Minister said, pre-departure declarations enable the UK to meet international standards for safety and security relating to the movement of goods, following the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE framework. The organisation began in 1952 as the Customs Cooperation Council and the UK was a founding member, yet today’s regulations would hinder our country’s ability to support the SAFE framework. We are literally opting out, on a temporary basis, of something called SAFE. That is what the Government are doing.

What does it say about the Government’s management of this process that in order to help business avoid the impact of disruption to exports at the border, they are taking powers to risk our border security in this way? Why should the price of free-flowing trade be the introduction of a smugglers’ charter that increases risks to us all? The regulations say that this will only be the case for up to six months, ending on 1 July next year, but can the Minister guarantee that? Can he guarantee that he will not be back here or that the Government will not extend the waiver beyond the first six months of next year in some other way? What if there is ongoing friction at ports? Will Ministers continue to waive the requirements for these declarations in the future?

What discussions has the Minister or the Treasury had with the Home Office about this in order to minimise the impact on border security? He mentioned weapons, I believe. Will he clarify what he meant when he mentioned weapons and how the regulations will affect them?

The volume of pre-departure declarations is likely to be greater after the end of the transition period because they will need to be made for goods exported to the EU as well as the rest of the world. What extra capacity is being put in place at HMRC from 1 January to process this uplift in pre-departure declarations, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of the security and safety requirements creating border disruption?

It is often said in this House that keeping our country safe and secure is the first duty of any Government. It is often said because it is true. It is an indictment of the party that used to call itself the party of law and order that in government it has laid regulations that Ministers openly admit will compromise our border security. What an indictment of the handling of this situation. The powers, if exercised, would have that effect. That is the admission that the Government made today. I therefore have to disagree with the Minister’s view that the regulations are just technical measures. They are a graphic example of the mess that the Government have found themselves in.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Nokes.

I share the concerns voiced by the shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden). I have scored out three questions that I was going to ask that he has already asked, so I look forward to the Minister’s response, particularly on the border security concerns that the right hon. Gentleman rightly raised.

I am not sure if anyone at all outside Government thinks that the Government are in any way, shape or form ready for 1 January. The very fact that this SI is before us today shows that they clearly expect chaos at the borders from January, yet they are pushing on regardless. Yesterday’s related troubling announcement of a suspension of lorry drivers’ hours regulations has drawn concerns about the safety implications of that decision. Lorry drivers are potentially paying the price for the UK Government’s Brexit chaos and the delays, which this SI seeks to—to use the Minister’s word—alleviate. I should add that that was yet another important Department for International Trade announcement made without a parliamentary statement and parliamentary scrutiny, but I digress; that lies outside this Committee’s scope.

HMRC estimates that it may need to process 270 million customs declarations from 2021, compared with 55 million currently—a 500% increase. In June, the Government announced that, regardless of whether they agree a trade deal—that looks less likely by the day—new checks on EU goods entering GB would be phased in over six months from January 2021 to give firms “time to adjust”. However, the National Audit Office has been scathing. It says that there is still “uncertainty” over where new border infrastructure will be located and whether it will be ready. It is concerned that traders will not be ready for the full checks on UK exports that the EU plans to implement from the start of 2021. It is also concerned—I cannot read my own writing; my high school teachers at would not be surprised—about operational issues that require resolution, including ensuring that hauliers can use a planned online service allowing them to declare that they have the correct documents for the EU border and thus obtain a permit to drive on certain roads in Kent. The NAO cites the Government’s latest worst-case scenario planning figures, which estimate that 40% to 70% of lorries crossing the channel will not be ready. Have those figures changed? Are they now more likely to represent the best-case scenario?

The Public Accounts Committee has also been scathing and accused the Government of “taking limited responsibility” for the nation’s preparedness as the clock ticks down. Last month, Rod McKenzie, policy director for the Road Haulage Association, told a Scottish Parliament Committee that his industry had

“been badly let down by the UK Government from beginning to end.”

He also noted that the information given to hauliers to help them to implement the international permits they will require in the event of no trade deal being reached had been “quite often totally incomprehensible”. That description of the Government’s approach over the past weeks, months and years is an apt place to conclude my remarks. We will not oppose this sadly all-too-necessary SI, but we mourn the need for its existence.

I thank the Opposition spokesmen for their comments. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East says this is not technical. Of course, by “technical” I do not mean that the law may not have some impact. Of course, this is a power that we do not anticipate necessarily having to use; it is a tool that the Government think is advisable to be used in some very constrained and particular circumstances in the event of unanticipated disruption. We are going through a major change in our trading arrangements. It is sensible to make contingency arrangements.

The right hon. Gentleman may have forgotten that when it comes to safety and security declarations, data is not gathered by the UK in regard to trade with the EU, because we have been part of the EU internal customs and internal market. From that point of view, nothing changes. He and others have asked whether there will be some great compromise to security. We do not anticipate a great compromise to security.

The Minister has just said that nothing changes in terms of relations with the EU because we are part of the single market. From 1 January, we will not be part of the single market so quite a lot changes.

No, what I have said is that, since we do not gather data at the moment, what we are doing is continuing a system that already exists for a period of time—or we would be if we put in place these powers—and that does not represent a change from what we do at the moment as we do not gather the data at present. As I have already said, our trading arrangements of course do significantly change.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the Home Office, and I can reassure him that of course these measures are developed in consultation and consideration and discussion with the Home Office. The SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, seemed to be having a few operational issues with his own handwriting—I am not quite sure if that is true—so he is well placed to speak on operational issues. Let me just say one thing: as far as I can tell, the numbers that he quoted were from external organisations, the NAO and so on. It is for them to comment on whether the numbers they come up with should be updated. From the Government’s standpoint, the numbers are as they have been published. With that in mind, I invite the Committee to support the motion.

The Minister has not answered a couple of questions that I asked. One was whether he can guarantee that there will not be an extension of these provisions beyond the first six months of next year, and the other was the question of weapons that he mentioned in his opening remarks. Can he explain exactly how these regulations will affect the export of weapons?

Sure. What I was saying, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall, as regards duration is that they last for six months. Of course, to seek a guarantee in such circumstances is a classic political request. No guarantees can be given, but we certainly do not anticipate extending the regulations. They are specifically designed to be a contingency tool to be used in specific circumstances, for specific purposes, and for a time-limited period.

In relation to weapons, all I said was that the existing arrangements had in part the goal of monitoring the transfer of weapons. As I have said, data gathering does not at present exist on the safety and security declarations, and that will not change as a matter of fact for a period of time, but of course Border Force and other agencies that are concerned with the flow of goods across the border continue to be engaged, and from that perspective we think that the border remains well defended and well supported. Of course, we have made significant infrastructure investments in order to make sure that that is the case.

Question put and agreed to.

11.50 am

Committee rose.

Draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 Draft Health Protection (Coronavirus, testing requirements and standards) (england) Regulations 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Christina Rees

† Anderson, Stuart (Wolverhampton South West) (Con)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

† Churchill, Jo (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)

† Double, Steve (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)

Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)

† Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)

† Mangnall, Anthony (Totnes) (Con)

† Moore, Damien (Southport) (Con)

† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Richardson, Angela (Guildford) (Con)

Spellar, John (Warley) (Lab)

Sturdy, Julian (York Outer) (Con)

† Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Trott, Laura (Sevenoaks) (Con)

Twigg, Derek (Halton) (Lab)

Whittome, Nadia (Nottingham East) (Lab)

Seb Newman, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Fifteenth Delegated Legislation Committee

Thursday 10 December 2020

[Christina Rees in the Chair]

Draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

I remind Members to observe social distancing, and to sit only in places that are marked as available. Hansard colleagues would be most grateful if Members could send their speaking notes to

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Health Protection (Coronavirus, Testing Requirements and Standards) (England) Regulations 2020.

The draft Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 will remove covid-19 test services from Care Quality Commission regulatory requirements. Existing exemptions result in certain covid-19 testing providers being within scope of CQC regulation, and other providers being exempt. We want to tidy this up by removing this requirement, while introducing a requirement to apply to the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. This will simplify the complex regulatory system for covid-19 test providers.

The second statutory instrument, the draft Health Protection (Coronavirus, Testing Requirements and Standards) (England) Regulations 2020, will impose requirements on private test providers to become accredited by UKAS and to reach specified stages in the process towards accreditation within a specific timeframe that starts on 1 January 2021.

Last week, the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency recommended authorising Pfizer-BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine for use. While we wait for vaccine deployment, testing and contact tracing remain among the most effective ways of controlling the spread of the virus. The more rapidly we can identify people at risk of infection, the more effectively we can reduce the spread of the virus and get life back to normal. During the pandemic, we have built the largest diagnostic network in British history via Test and Trace, but we will defeat the virus only if the public and private sectors work together.

The private sector has a critical role to play in achieving this, and has shown its value time and again throughout the pandemic. It is at the forefront of testing innovation and is keen to support Test and Trace. It is vital that we look to open up our economy, and that NHS Test and Trace suppliers are focused where we need them most, taking pressure off the NHS. However, people must also be assured of the safety and reliability of services. The Government therefore support developing the private testing market, so that we can ensure that everyone has access to simple, effective, high-quality, affordable and reliable tests and test services, whether from a Government or private provider. As the demand for testing continues to grow, the need for public confidence in testing remains as important as ever. We need to support the system so that providers can enter quickly and efficiently, and so that we can meet demand without compromising the quality of testing services or undermining customer confidence.

There is a requirement in England for parties to register with the CQC if they are involved in the removal of bodily cells, tissues or fluid samples, or the analysing or reporting of those samples, for covid-19 testing. That requirement is subject to a number of exemptions. Notably, it depends on the type of covid-19 test sampling and analysis, and on the entity undertaking the sample collection. That has resulted in inconsistencies around requirements, and a degree of confusion. Test providers have voiced concerns about the complexity surrounding entry to the covid-19 testing market, and we have listened.

The first statutory instrument before the Committee will remove the requirement for covid-19 testing providers to register with the CQC by exempting covid-19 testing from being a regulated activity under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. As the CQC is an English regulatory body, this does not apply to any other nation in the UK. The removal of the requirements will prevent confusion over regulations from causing restrictions in total testing capacity, which we are keen to ensure is sufficient. It is vital that we neither restrict testing capacity nor compromise on quality. The change from CQC to UKAS will provide the necessary agile but robust requirements to ensure that testing capacity is not restricted.

I turn to the second statutory instrument. UKAS is the sole accreditation body in the UK, independent of but appointed by Government. Accreditation by UKAS is the recognised gold standard for organisations that offer test services. Recognising the time it can take to gain full UKAS accreditation and the urgent need for high-quality private testing, on 27 November my Department and UKAS launched an adapted three-stage UKAS accreditation process for private test providers, ensuring that new and innovative providers can be accredited faster without compromising on rigorous safety standards.

The instrument requires providers that provide tests commercially to undergo this staged UKAS accreditation process within the specified timeframes. All providers offering test services to the English market will need to gain stage 1 applicant status by 31 December. After 31 December, new entrants to the testing market will be required to achieve UKAS applicant status before offering any test to the English market. The instrument also requires providers to achieve stage 2 UKAS appraisal and stage 3 UKAS accreditation status within a given timeframe.

Employers that provide test services only to their own staff, and organisations that supply tests at no cost, will not be required to gain UKAS accreditation. I would, however, advise that they endeavour to do so, thereby ensuring that their tests are of the highest possible standards.

From 15 December, international arrivals will be able to opt in to testing to release, and all test services used for this purpose will be required to work towards completing, and to have completed within the timeframe, the three-stage process.

Before I set out my final justification for the regulations, let me thank the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which scrutinised them so quickly. I want to explain how tests for the presence of antibodies are covered by the regulations. Current forms of tests for antibodies are not covered by CQC legislation and will not be covered by UKAS legislation. The regulations do not leave any regulatory gap with regard to testing for antibodies, as no legislation existed, but test providers for the presence of antibodies to covid-19 can choose to apply for accreditation if they wish.

The new UKAS accreditation scheme will simplify the process of looking for a commercial test for the presence of covid-19. Consumers will be able to identify providers capable of delivering a quality end-to-end service. From booking to sample collection and reporting results, individuals and businesses will be able to get the assurance they need. We strongly advise that consumers and organisations procure test services only from gold standard providers that have started their journey through the UKAS accreditation, and a list of all those providers will be available on

In conclusion, this legislation will simplify the testing landscape for test providers and regulate the market with consistency. This will help to protect consumers and help test providers. We are enormously supportive of employers who have already chosen to begin testing their staff. They help reduce pressure on the NHS and ensure that Test and Trace can focus on situations where it is needed most. But wherever testing is done, it must be done properly, using the right test for the right purposes. These regulations will help the public to identify the right test services for their purposes. They will also help test providers to enter the market at a time when their services are vital to the country. I therefore commend the regulations to the Committee.

It is pleasure to debate these draft regulations under your chairship, Ms Rees. As we have heard, the two sets of regulations combine to replace the CQC registration requirements for covid-19 test providers with end- to-end accreditation through UKAS. The explanatory memorandum states that the change

“will allow testing providers to qualify for COVID-19 testing and analysis quickly and simply, allowing the market to expand more rapidly….it will also accredit a far wider range of COVID-19 testing-related activities”,

and will be cheaper. I have seen from the Government consultation feedback from stakeholders that that has been positively received, and have not heard of any strong reservations, so we do not intend to oppose the change; indeed, we support it. It is a good thing to do. It takes something quite complicated and newly emerging and makes it quite simple and effective.

I have points on which I seek assurance from the Minister. I am conscious that I tend to pepper my speech with these questions; it may be that not all of them can be addressed today, because some of them are granular, so I would appreciate it if those were followed up in writing.

As the Minister said, certain test providers were out of the scope of CQC regulation. If the service provider was taking blood samples via pinpricks or from veins, and the sample did not need lab analysis, it was out of scope; the same would apply if it was taking blood samples or external tissue with a swab, or just analysing or reporting such samples, and was already registered with the CQC for something else. There is quite a gap there, and an uneven playing field; it is possibly quite confusing.

With the market growing, and a growing number of technologies, a universal system is welcome. It also makes sense to broaden the system to cover all parts of these activities, end to end. That can only be of benefit, from a regulatory standpoint. Do the regulations mean that the end-to-end process will cover all entrants, and that all those undertaking those activities will be treated similarly? I wrote my speech before hearing what the Minister said; I think I heard her confirm that, but I want to make sure.

The staged process makes sense, in terms of ensuring quality at the beginning, and making sure that we do not have to wait long periods for providers to enter the market. Providers entering the accreditation process have to meet a range of standards, which include meeting Departments’ minimum standards for private testing, having a clinical director and meeting requirements under the Medical Devices Regulations 2002. I understand that the requirements were updated in November, a month after they were initially published. Is this the final list, or does the Minister intend to update them again?

Existing providers will need to achieve stage 1 by the end of the year. After that date, new providers must achieve stage 1 before they can deliver testing. Will the Minister give a sense of how long it will take a new provider to enter a market? Stage 2 will require existing providers to meet UKAS’s requirements to ensure that they are progressing towards full accreditation by the end of January, or new providers within four weeks of completing stage 1, if that is later. The 13 key requirements include having carried out a gap analysis in relation to the relevant International Organisation for Standardisation standard; having access to relevant clinical expertise; and having demonstrated meeting technical performance characteristics consistently. Can the Minister confirm that, having talked to providers, she feels that four weeks is adequate time to meet those requirements, particularly for new entrants to the market? What will happen if they do not? Will they get more time? Do they re-enter the system from the beginning? I would be interested to know what happens in the case of failure.

Stage 3 is full accreditation to the relevant ISO standard, whether for lab-based or point-of-care testing. Stage 3 must be met within four months or by 30 June next year, whichever is later. Of course, achieving the standard is really important, and goes a long way to assuring us about fundamental standards of quality and safety, but in such a fast-moving market, if the process takes about six months in total, that is quite a significant window.

Will the Minister share her assessment of the likelihood and the impact of testing providers entering the market at stage 1 or 2, and then failing to achieve stage 3? Are those stage 1 and 2 tests, in her judgment and that of the Department, robust enough to ensure that a risky product will not be out there for months? What safeguards prevent an unscrupulous or low-quality provider from re-entering the stage 1 process with a slightly different product, with no good-faith intention of ever achieving stage 3?

I have no doubt that those in the CQC will be the people who are most cheered by this. I suspect that, given the significant burdens on their time, they will not miss these responsibilities at all. Of course, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so the regulations will bring more responsibilities to UKAS. Again, I wonder what assessment has been made of the capacity for UKAS to effectively deliver this scheme—certainly at the beginning, a lot of people could be making applications—and of the resourcing implications of ensuring that UKAS can act effectively, in terms of the business interests, and safely in all our interests.

I am conscious that I have peppered a good dozen questions into my remarks, as I always do. These are important points of clarity, however, because this is such an important area. As the Minister says, we all hope and pray for the vaccine every morning, but in the meantime testing is the significant aspect. It is right, as we wish to do more things, that private businesses—the Minister used the example of businesses—want to do testing, for staffing purposes. However, it is important that we proceed in an effective manner. This is a market that is growing and has little precedent. Even a year ago, we had no idea that we would now need such a market in this country. Risks can come with that. What the Government are doing today to put a shape around that is very sensible; we just need to make sure that it works.

Thank you, Ms Rees; I will indeed. I will canter through the questions. As the hon. Member for Nottingham North knows, we work effectively together, and if I have missed anything I will come back to him.

The hon. Gentleman was right that all parts of the process, end to end, are treated similarly. I thank him for the measured view he took of what the measures seek to do, which is sort the market out, so the answer to his question is yes. He asked about the list. Yes, this is the final list. He asked about the process. Sign-up on 27 November through to 31 December is stage 1. Stage 2 is that existing providers have to meet the checklist of key requirements for the testing services by 31 January. New providers will need to complete this stage by 31 January or within four weeks of completing stage 1, whichever is later. Providing that the providers pass all assessments and are fully accredited for testing, the instrument will mandate that existing providers should meet stage 3 by 30 June or within four weeks, whichever is later.

We have worked very closely with UKAS to ensure that it has capacity to do this work within the four weeks. We have been assured that the current providers in the market can meet that. UKAS is a recognised mark of gold standard, and that is why we are working closely with it. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working with it to ensure that people can access advice on quality assurance of tests and so on, and become accredited. What is being seen here is a slight lag to make sure that we get this right and introduce the legislation. As I say, my officials have been working with UKAS to ensure that we get the right balance. There are checks and balances in making sure that the adapted three-stage approach allows entry at speed, but also has a check. If a provider has not passed at four weeks, they do not get to move on any further. This preserves the gold standard, and UKAS embraces the innovation, but wants to make sure that its accreditation stays at that standard. Providers that continue to provide and have failed to meet the criteria will be committing an offence that is punishable on summary conviction by an unlimited fine.

If passed, we will review these regulations after six months to ensure that they are suitable and efficient. The hon. Gentleman and I have regular dialogues; if he has any input, I am always happy to listen to it.

That has probably cleared off the majority of the hon. Gentleman’s questions. I thank him for his contribution to this important debate. The Government have been clear that the highest priority is saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus while aiming to get life back to normal as soon as possible. The measures and amendments that we have debated today are necessary and proportionate to ensure that everyone can access simple, effective, high- quality testing services that they can count on. Testing is not a silver bullet. It is not the sole solution to the pandemic. However, it is part of the broader solution, and it is helping us to protect jobs and keep businesses open.

Testing is enabling hospital treatment to continue and transport to keep running, and is keeping our children in education. It is vital that we continue to open up the economy, and that NHS supplies are saved for the situations in which they are needed most. To ensure that, we need to enable the provision of new, innovative tests that are as reliable and effective as possible. To that end, the services that wrap around them need accreditation. The regulations will ensure that. They will provide public confidence in testing, and support private providers in entering the market.

As I have said, we need to create an agile regulatory environment for testing providers. We can enable that by removing CQC regulatory requirements for them and replacing them with the gold standard of UKAS accreditation. The measures will simplify the complex regulatory system for test providers, and simplify the process of looking for a commercial test that is reliable, assured by providers, and gives individuals and employers essential assurances about the test that they procure.

In conclusion, this legislation will simplify the regulatory landscape for test providers and regulate the market in a consistent manner. This is beneficial to consumers and test providers alike. I reiterate my thanks to the covid-19 test providers for their pivotal work in the past few months. We review these regulations regularly and assess them in the light of developments. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.



That the Committee has considered the draft Health Protection (Coronavirus, Testing Requirements and Standards) (England) Regulations 2020.—(Jo Churchill.)

Committee rose.