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Brexit Opportunities

Volume 814: debated on Thursday 16 September 2021


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now make a Statement, which is also being made in the other place, on the opportunities this country has now that we have left the European Union.

While we were an EU member, some of the most difficult issues that Governments of both parties faced were over regulatory issues generated by the European Union—to take just some examples, the services directive, the REACH directive, reforms of agricultural policy, very many pieces of financial services legislation and so on. Very often such laws, which had effect in this country, reflected unsatisfactory compromises with other EU member states. We knew that if we did not rescue something from the legislative sausage machine, we would be voted down and risk getting nothing. The laws that resulted were designed to lock every country—no matter its strengths or weaknesses—into the same structures. They were very often overly detailed and prescriptive. Moreover, the results of those negotiations and laws usually either had direct legal effect in the UK or were passed into our law through secondary legislation—either way, with very limited genuine democratic scrutiny.

This Government were elected to get Brexit done and to change this situation, and that is what we intend to do. Much has already changed, even in the last few months, but, given the extent of EU influence over our political system over nearly 50 years, this is a mammoth task. To begin it, we asked my right honourable friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith to lead a team to examine our existing laws in this area and our future opportunities. That team reported back earlier this year, and since then my right honourable friend the Chancellor and I, and other colleagues, have been considering his so-called TIGRR report in some depth. I am writing today to Sir Iain with our formal response to his report and, more importantly, with our plans to act on the basis of it. I am sharing the Government’s response with committee chairs and will deposit it in the Libraries of both Houses. It will also be available very shortly on GOV.UK.

I will now highlight some of the most important elements of these plans. First, we will conduct a review of so-called retained EU law. By this, I mean the very many pieces of legislation which we took on to our own statute book through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We must now revisit this huge, but for us anomalous, category of law. In doing so, we have two purposes in mind. First, we intend to remove the special status of retained EU law so that it is no longer a distinct category of UK domestic law but normalised within our law, with a clear legislative status. Unless we do this, we risk giving undue precedence to laws derived from EU legislation over laws made properly by this Parliament. This review also involves ensuring that all courts of this country should have the full ability to depart from EU case law, according to the normal rules. In so doing we will continue, and indeed finalise, the process of restoring this sovereign Parliament, and our courts, to their proper constitutional positions.

Our second goal is to review comprehensively the substantive content of retained EU law. Some of that is already under way—for example, our plans to reform the procurement rules we inherited from the EU, or the plan announced last autumn by my right honourable friend the Chancellor to review much financial services legislation. We will make this a comprehensive exercise. I want to be clear: our intention is eventually to amend, replace or repeal all retained EU law that is not right for the UK. That problem is obviously a legislative one. Accordingly, the solution is also likely to be legislative. We will consider all the options for taking this forward. In particular, we will look at developing a tailored mechanism for accelerating the repeal or amendment of this retained EU law in a way which reflects the fact that, as I have made clear, laws agreed elsewhere have intrinsically less democratic legitimacy than laws initiated by the Government of this country.

Secondly, we intend to begin a new series of reforms to the legislation we inherited on EU exit, in many cases as recommended by the TIGRR report. Let me give just a few examples. We intend to create a pro-growth, trusted data rights regime, more proportionate and less burdensome than the EU’s GDPR. My right honourable friend the previous Secretary of State for Culture announced on 10 September a consultation that is the first stage in putting new rules in place. We intend to review the inherited approach to genetically modified organisms, which in our view is too restrictive and not based on sound science. My right honourable friend the Environment Secretary will also shortly set out plans to reform the regulation of gene-edited organisms. We will use the provisions of the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021 to overhaul our clinical trial frameworks, which are based on outdated EU legislation, giving a major boost to the UK’s world-class R&D sector and getting patients access to new life-saving medicines more quickly. The MHRA, which as we know is a world-class regulator, is already reforming the medical devices regulations to create a world-leading regime in this area.

We will unleash Britain’s potential as a world leader in the future of transport. My right honourable friend the Transport Secretary will shortly set out ambitious plans, which include modernising outdated EU vehicle standards and unlocking the full range of new transport technologies. We also intend to repeal the EU’s port services regulations—a very good example of a regulation which was geared heavily towards EU interests and never worked properly for the UK.

We will drive forward our work on artificial intelligence, where the UK is already at the forefront of driving global progress. We will shortly publish the UK’s first national AI strategy, which will set out our plans to supercharge the UK’s AI ecosystem and set standards which will lead the world.

Thirdly, as recommended by TIGRR and the Penrose review, and as promised in the current consultation on reforming the better regulation framework, we will put in place much more rigorous tests within government before we take decisions to regulate. Now that we have control over all our laws, not just a subset of them, we will consider the reintroduction of a one-in, two-out system, which has been shown internationally to make a significant difference to how regulation proceeds.

Finally, Brexit was about giving everybody in this country, once again, a say in how it is run. That is true in this area too. We aim to tap into everybody’s ideas. So we will create a new standing commission, under visible and energetic leadership, to receive ideas from any British citizen on how to repeal or improve regulation. The commission’s job will be to consider such ideas and make recommendations for change, but it will be able to make recommendations only in one direction,: the direction of reducing or eliminating burdens. I hope that, in this way, we will tap into the collective wisdom of the British people and begin to remove the dominance of the arbitrary rule, of unknown origin, over people’s day-to-day lives.

Let me finish by being clear that this is just the beginning of our ambitious plans. I will, of course, return to this House regularly to update your Lordships on our progress and, more importantly, to set out our further intentions.

Brexit was about taking back control—the ability to remove the distortions created by EU membership, to do things differently, in ways that work better for this country, and to promote growth, productivity and prosperity. That is what we intend to do. I recognise that Brexit was not a choice originally supported by all in the country, or even, it seems, by some in this House. But Brexit is now a fact. This country is now embarked on a great voyage. We each have the opportunity to make this new journey a success—to make us, as a country, more contented, more prosperous and more united. I hope everyone will join us in doing so.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for advance sight of the Statement. Having read it several times, I find myself underwhelmed. Eighteen months since the UK left the European Union— a moment which the Prime Minister referred to as

“a new act in our great national drama”—

I think we are all left asking the same question: is this it? Dealing with laws that the Government had already promised to address and a novelty engagement exercise is not the ambitious, outward-facing, world-leading plan for prosperity we need. The Government are suffering from a chronic lack of ambition.

While the Minister wants to talk about GM food, he needs to sort out the existing problems for growers in this country first. UK industry is currently dealing with supply chain chaos, a situation compounded by the Government’s mismanagement of our exit. The disruption is leaving business without goods and shoppers with gaps on supermarket shelves. We cannot divorce this from the new barriers at the border, or from driver shortages resulting from a lack of a workforce strategy and a failure to see the foreseeable. We need urgent action, leadership and direction from the Government. Can the Minister confirm whether the Government will now establish an urgent workforce plan to deal with the 90,000-strong shortage of HGV drivers? Have they yet appointed—maybe they have—a government Minister tasked with specific responsibility for tackling the supply chain crisis and co-ordinating across multiple government departments? When will they secure the veterinary agreement with the European Union to limit further disruption?

There is also, of course, the Northern Ireland protocol. Again, the problems were entirely foreseeable by everyone it seems, including the Government, and yet the technological solutions long promised by Ministers have still to materialise. As he was unable to clarify previously, can the Minister now confirm whether, when and in what circumstances he would commence Article 16 processes?

On agriculture, the Minister speaks of opportunities. If only the Government were not jumping from one crisis to another, perhaps they would be able to see the possibilities ahead of them. Just yesterday, on Back British Farming Day, the National Audit Office released a report finding that Ministers are failing to gain farmers’ trust. It is little wonder, given the problems with agriculture visas and worker shortages, but there is an opportunity here to reward British farmers and gain back their trust. The Government should take steps to help public bodies buy more British food all year round, including by passing legislation requiring them to report on how much they are buying from domestic sources with taxpayers’ money. Where was “Buy British” in his Statement? Across rural England, £255 million will be lost this year alone as a result of cuts in grants to farmers, with no certainty about what will replace them. This is putting 9,500 agricultural jobs at risk. The Government need to take notice of the problems facing UK agriculture before livelihoods are lost.

Now is the time for the Government to deliver on the promise of post-Brexit Britain, but if, 18 months in, all we have to celebrate is supply chain chaos and lost jobs, it would be fair to say that the Prime Minister’s “great national drama” is becoming a farce. On rules of origin, equivalence for financial services, creative industries and so much more, the Government are letting Britain down. Instead of sabre-rattling and blaming others, the Government need to stand up, find real solutions and deliver the opportunities we were promised.

My Lords, like the noble Baroness, I was slightly surprised by the Statement, which I thank the Minister for giving advance notice of. When I heard that there was going to be a Statement—and we were told only this morning that there would be one this lunchtime—I was quite excited, because I thought it would be on the much-awaited impact assessment showing the economic opportunities for the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit. The Minister’s colleague on the Government Bench, the noble Lord, Lord True, promised me in correspondence two years ago that this impact assessment would happen. But as we heard during Questions to the Minister, it is the fault of everybody other than the Government that this has not happened. Instead of an economic opportunities assessment, we have a shuffling of the legislative rulebook.

Apart from a bit of revisionist narrative from the Minister about some of these regulations that the UK helped design, and then added to when we put them into domestic legislation, there has also been an enormous increase in the bureaucracy and number of regulations as a result of the Brexit process itself. Even during the Questions we just asked the Minister, we saw that the Government have failed to prepare our borders, failed to prepare systems for businesses to be ready and failed to have a system where businesses will even label the goods that are manufactured in the UK. Why do the Government not tackle these urgent issues first?

The Government have indicated that they wanted to end the legislative sausage machine, but by the end of 2020, Ministers had laid around 960 Brexit SIs, with more this year and more to come. Three chairs of committees in this House condemned the use of broad delegated powers instead of policy detail. Will the Government now rationalise the delegated powers they had given themselves to do all of this, where they had indicated that they need new legislative powers to do so, or will the UK legislative sausage machine increase?

The Minister did not mention in his Statement that the EU now has proposals for higher standards on carbon emissions, chemicals, medical devices and copyright protections. Will we fall in line on those areas? Will we update our own legislation to ensure that we are consistent with these higher standards, or will we fall behind?

Why was there no mention in the Minister’s Statement of copyright protection, which is currently being put in place by the European Union? If we do not follow suit, for generated content the UK will have less protection for copyright than our competitors within Europe.

I understand that we will need to review and then replace continuity trade agreements; the Minister did not mention the fact that we have incorporated into many trade agreements the very areas that he said we now want to review. What is the status of all the trade agreements the Government have heralded that we have made up until now?

On the specific areas the Minister mentioned on GDPR, is it still the Government’s position that in the adequacy review from Europe for 2025 we will still seek to be considered to be adequate when it comes to data? Is that a consideration as far as the Government’s position is concerned?

On GMOs, can the Minister confirm that this is England only? There is no reference to the devolved powers. I think the Minister is listening, so can he state that this is England only or will this now be for Scotland too? On clinical trials, is that England only? There was no mention of Northern Ireland in his Statement, which I was curious about. As we heard in Questions and as we debated in Grand Committee, the Government indicated in their Statement today that

“laws agreed elsewhere have intrinsically less democratic legitimacy than laws initiated by the Government of this country.”

However, Northern Ireland will be continuing under many laws from a foreign entity, with no say over them. When I asked the Minister to set out proposals of how the democratic deficit would be addressed for Northern Ireland, he said to me that

“we have set out the issue without proposing a specific way forward”.—[Official Report, 13/9/21; col. GC 286.]

Finally, then, what is the specific way forward? There are many areas that are not present in the Minister’s Statement today, so when will there be a proper debate to allow us to have proper consideration of the Government’s legislative proposals?

My Lords, I am encouraged by what I have heard from the noble Baroness and the noble Lord because it seems that they share our ambition to do more in this area and are disappointed by the fact that there seems to be less than they had hoped for. I encourage them to read the full reply to Sir Iain Duncan Smith, which I was not able to do justice to in my Statement.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord underplay what we have been doing. We left the transition period only a few months ago, and already we have a new immigration system; we have agricultural reform arrangements that are different from the common agricultural policy; we are putting in place a new subsidy regime; we are planning to reform procurement rules; and we have put in place an international sanctions regime. We have plans for free ports and, as I said, for data and gene editing, and for reforms of port services, HGVs, energy and much more. That is not a bad list for a few months. We note the ambition and will do our very best to keep driving it forward. I note only that it is self-evident that none of these things would be possible if we had remained in the European Union, and they would also largely not be possible if we had remained in a so-called soft Brexit or European Economic Area model of Brexit, which so many parties opposite recommended.

We are pushing forward change. A large number of issues were raised and I am quite pressed for time. We are setting out a plan to increase the supply of HGV drivers. As I have said, we are in constant touch with the EU about equivalence and SPS rules, and if we could make progress that would be excellent. We are taking steps to support our agricultural industry—my right honourable friend the Prime Minister touched on that yesterday. Labelling is certainly something that we are consulting on, and we are supporting our fishing industry after Brexit, and so on.

The question of the devolved Administrations was raised. I have written to my opposite numbers in all the devolved Administrations and obviously I can guarantee that we will work very closely with them where these reforms intersect with devolved competence, and we wish to work as closely with them as we possibly can.

On the question of the impact assessment and the effect on the economy, I note that the economy is the fastest-growing in the G7. We have 1 million vacancies in the economy in this country, and this economy and this country are already prospering vastly under the arrangements that we are putting in place.

I had better wrap up, but I just say that we stand for change as a country and as a party; that is what people voted for. We want to make us a high-wage, high-productivity economy with controlled migration. People have to invest in the skills of everyone in our country. We do not want to be a low-wage, low-skilled economy reliant on cheap labour and where parts of the economy are neglected. We are putting in place reforms, a process of constant change and improvement, and rules that suit this country and will make a big difference for us in the future.

My Lords, I welcome a number of the advantages that the noble Lord has identified of us being able to make our own laws again, but it might have been interesting or even entertaining if he had also listed the things that have not happened as a result of us leaving the European Union, which I have certainly listened to interminably over the last four years. At random, I say that we do not have the half a million unemployed that George Osborne said would occur; I seem to remember that it was said somewhere that the M20 would be a car park; and essential medicines were not going to be able to get into the country as a result of it all. It might be quite useful to have a list of that sort. However, the exhilarating thing in the Minister’s essential remarks is that if the Government make a mess of this, in two or three or maybe fewer years the British people will throw the Government out—they will have the capacity to do that. In contrast, when the EU has made laws via the Commission over so many years, many of them very bad, no one has been able to do that. That is at the heart of what has happened, and it is still exhilarating.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. That is a very good suggestion; indeed, a lot of things have not happened that the gloom-mongers said would happen, and they are not going to happen. He is right that this is about bringing back democracy; if you do not like what we are doing, there are ways of dealing with that. We believe we are doing the right thing for the country and that it will prosper under the agenda we are setting out.

My Lords, will my noble friend give me some comfort? I thought that “take back control” meant an elevation of parliamentary sovereignty. Why are we therefore seeing so many government Bills stuffed with Henry VIII clauses? We had one on Tuesday this week. What we want is the sovereignty of Parliament—Parliament in control—not the sovereignty of the Executive.

My Lords, I have a huge amount of sympathy with the thrust of my noble friend’s comment. It is about bringing back democracy and restoring the authority of this Parliament. I recognise the controversy about the Henry VIII clauses, as he describes them. They deal with a particular situation involving the inherited EU law and the complexities of managing the legal transformation out of the European Union, and I hope that they will be seen in that very specific context.

My Lords, the Minister now boasts on his Twitter feed profile:

“You don’t get something for nothing, you can’t have freedom for free.”

Apparently, it is from a Rush song from “2112”. I do not recall him carrying that message around as he was leading us into Brexit. Since we have heard what we are going to do with that new-found freedom, in the absence of an impact assessment, can he tell us at what cost this freedom has been bought?

My Lords, I do not think it has been bought at any cost. I make no apology for standing up for freedom—free enterprise and freedom to think and debate—and that is what we did not have very much of in the final years of our EU membership until the referendum. It is axiomatic, in my view, that free debate, free enterprise, free economies and the ability to change your Government will always benefit the countries that have those things. There is a lot of empirical evidence around the world that that proposition is correct.

My Lords, the Minister’s predecessors in his position—the noble Lord, Lord True, who is sitting next to him, and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan—gave us repeated promises during the passage of the Brexit Bills through Parliament that the Government had no intention to weaken in any way the social, environmental and consumer protections that were involved EU law. Will he repeat that commitment today? Moreover, if he is not prepared to repeat it in full, will he give us a guarantee, following on from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that these issues will not be dealt with by some tailored mechanism to speed up legislative passage but will be put before this House for full debate?

My Lords, we are a high-standards country. The manifesto on which we won the election in 2019 was very clear about our intention to maintain high standards in all those areas. That does not mean that we do not intend to change them. The world moves on; high standards need to reflect the context in which we are operating. I am sure there will be change, but I do not believe that those changes will result in regression of standards.

On the noble Lord’s second point, I come back to the point I made earlier: many of these laws were not subject to any form of meaningful scrutiny in this Parliament and may have been imposed against the will of the Government. The way we progress on them needs to reflect that fundamental reality.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and the fact that my noble friend is here to give it. I very much welcome the report. I was astonished, when I was a new MEP 21 years ago, by how much big corporations lobbied for precisely these kinds of regulations, almost always because they saw an opportunity to disadvantage a rival by getting standards that they happened to follow anyway. Of course, they did not put it in that way— they would call it consumer rights or environmental protection—but that is almost always what it was, and it is wonderful that we are finally doing something about it.

Does my noble friend agree that the same principle should apply to our trade policy? Does he share my concern that the Trade Remedies Authority’s recommendation to remove some of the steel tariffs brought in by the European Union in retaliation against Trump was overturned? Does he see the same possibility of politics overriding economics, and does he believe that a global Britain should be an engaged, free-trading country where imports are cheap, costs are low and people have more money to spend on stimulating the entire economy?

My Lords, I do believe those things. I have two points in response. On industry support for regulation, one reason that we intend to set up our standing commission is to make sure that we can listen not just to trade associations and big companies, important though they are, but to small and medium-sized enterprises, the people who gain from change and doing things differently, as well as those who gain from things being as they are. On free trade, of course I am a free trader. I believe that this country prospers by free trade; I think the whole Government believe that. On steel, obviously there is a particular situation in the global market in steel which has been discussed elsewhere, but, as a general proposition, we wish to reduce barriers, reduce tariffs, get in place free trade agreements and allow everyone to prosper.

My Lords, the Minister referred to medicines and the MHRA in his Statement. Can he give your Lordships’ House assurances that the issues around the delivery and supply of medicines to Northern Ireland will be resolved in an amicable manner with the European Union? When do the Government expect to bring forward legislation to deal with that issue?

My Lords, we set out our view on that in the Command Paper. It is obviously right and essential that people in Northern Ireland have the same access to medicines as those anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and we intend to ensure that. We think the best way would be to remove medicines from the protocol entirely, and that is what we still hope to be able to agree consensually but, as we have made clear, the tests for using Article 16 are met, safeguards are justified and this is obviously an area where there is a matter of the state’s responsibility to all our citizens. The actions we take need to be seen in that context.

My Lords, I very much welcome this Statement from the Minister. It is one of the reasons millions of people all over the country voted to leave the European Union. I want to ask him about the timescale, because I worry that sometimes reviews get stuck at the bottom of some civil servant’s tray. I would like to make sure that this comes back to us very quickly and that we see the results of leaving the European Union as soon as possible. I ask him to say something about the timetable.

My Lords, there is a complex list of proposals, consultations, ideas for legislation, specific plans for legislation, and so on, so it is hard to generalise. However, I wish to be clear that we intend to pursue all this urgently. That is why it is my responsibility as a Cabinet Minister to make this happen, over and above the departmental responsibilities that other Secretaries of State have. We certainly intend to pursue the review of EU law extremely urgently so that we can deliver results and make a difference rapidly.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s Statement and, like him, I welcome the call from the Labour Front Bench for even more ambitious deregulation. It is healthy that there should be this competition between the two sides to improve and update our legislation, which we had no opportunity to do when we were in the European Union. I suggest that the way to move forward now, on top of the excellent TIGGR report, is to go back to the original briefs that Ministers were given when these directives were being negotiated. Invariably, they said, “Minister, we don’t really want this, but the best thing to do is to try to get it amended a bit here and a bit there”—and, if possible, a bit more than we actually got. If nothing else, there would be a guide to changes we can make just by going back to those briefs.

My Lords, I very much welcome that suggestion from my noble friend. It is an extremely good one and a reminder that in many cases, Governments of both parties opposed proposals that have now become law and to which we are supposed to reconcile ourselves. I will certainly take that up and see what we can find—within the limits of Civil Service record-keeping capacity, which may impose some limits on what we are able to do.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the issue with the protocol in Northern Ireland is not necessarily its operation but its existence; that is the basic problem. Will he confirm that large swathes of the law that he proposes to amend and change will not be possible in Northern Ireland? We had evidence at our committee yesterday to that effect. The gap between the two parts of the United Kingdom will increase, not decrease, as this process goes on.

This is obviously a very significant issue and why we put forward the proposals that we have in the Command Paper to try to deal with the problem. Our proposals for dual standards for goods circulating in Northern Ireland and a different way to manage the governance of the arrangements would, we hope, deal with the anomalies that exist, but, of course, they remain to be negotiated. It is a very significant difficulty which we have debated frequently and hope to resolve.

My Lords, I am not used to this unarmed combat. Will the Minister update the House on the work of the Partnership Council? It held its first meeting on 9 June, since when we have heard nothing. This is despite the series of difficult issues that the council is meant to resolve following our departure from the EU, not least the recognition of professional qualifications. This body has the appearance of being the “long-grass council” where the issues that the Minister has failed to resolve will be left to fester.

My Lords, I am certainly happy to update the House. The Partnership Council met before the summer, as the noble Lord noted. I would expect it to meet again before the end of the year. It is of course the supreme body of a complex substructure and the specialised committees have been meeting. Those that have not will meet over the rest of this month and in October, and will provide proposals and ideas to the council. So, although it may not be as visible as we would wish, there is a huge process under way that is designed to look at difficulties and, we hope, find ways of resolving them, including the question of qualifications that the noble Lord mentioned.

My Lords, the issue of taxation without representation is becoming a bigger problem every day for Northern Ireland. These suggestions and proposals by the Minister, which are very welcome in many respects, simply cannot be applied to Northern Ireland. He must recognise the urgency of this situation. The EU is trying to kick the can down the road until after the Assembly elections next year. Will he act within the very short timeframe that we now have if stability is to be restored and proper democratic accountability for laws made for Northern Ireland introduced?

My Lords, we certainly recognise the urgency of the situation and very much share the noble Lord’s anxiety on this question. The relative stability in Northern Ireland is because our Command Paper proposals are regarded as a good set of proposals that are capable of resolving the problem. Obviously, it is one thing to put them forward and another to see them implemented, so we absolutely need to have a meaningful negotiating process with the EU, which we do not quite have yet, to see whether we can resolve the issues centrally and to know that quickly. If we cannot do so, as I have said, other ways forward are possible.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement by my noble friend. Can he assure us that the Government will be able to respond quickly in certain areas when problems arise unexpectedly—not least on the issue of lorry drivers, which is perhaps a good example at the moment, and the requirements of the CPC regulations? For some lorry drivers who recently retired and are unable to go back into the industry because they do not have CPC regulation, would one of the solutions not be to allow them to operate within the United Kingdom without that regulation if they have a long record of driving safely?

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has of course set out proposals in this area, and I am confident that they will deal with the situation over time. My noble friend’s general point is a good one. There is often a tendency to dismiss problems until they are evident, rather than get ahead of them. A degree of responsiveness, perhaps, via our standing commission—but not only through that—should help us to reap the benefits of the ability to move quickly, which we did not have in the European Union.

My Lords, what would the Minister regard as the essential benchmark of success for the reforms he set out today in a year’s time?

My Lords, the purpose of these reforms is, in the long run, to improve the productivity of the UK by putting in place regulations that are tailored to our conditions, rather than the average. So the goal of this Government is to improve productivity, growth and prosperity for everybody after Brexit. That is obviously one of the metrics on which the British people will make their judgment when the time arises.

My Lords, I am sure that the business community, which faces considerable pressures on costs and competitiveness, will be pleased to hear about the standing commission and the opportunity to address regulatory issues. However, will my noble friend add something about the Government’s quantified objectives in this regard? Last year, not including the effects of Covid, Brexit or Grenfell, regulation on business increased by £5.7 billion while the Government’s target was a net-zero increase. So what kind of objectives are the Government looking for in this regard, and will he and the Government confirm the importance of independent verification of that by the Regulatory Policy Committee?

My Lords, the matters that my noble friend raised in his question are germane to the consultation on the regulatory framework, which I touched on and which obviously is still open—so I do not want to get ahead of that. I certainly very much agree with his general proposition that there is a kind of dead weight that tends to move in one direction, and it takes a lot of effort to push back against it and improve regulatory conditions overall. As I said, the possibility of “one in, x out” is one way of doing that, but there are other ways, and we are looking into how Governments around the world, including national sub-states and so on, have achieved this—so we will have more to say on that question.