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 now has now that we have left the European Union.
My Lords, 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, and very many pieces of financial services legislation and so on.
And 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 strengths or weaknesses – into the same structures. hey were very often overly detailed and prescriptive.
Moreover, the results of those negotiations, those laws, usually either had direct legal effect in the UK or were passed into our law through secondary legislation and either way, with very limited genuine democratic scrutiny.
My Lords, this Government was elected to get Brexit done and to change this situation and that’s 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.
So to begin it, we asked my RHF 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 RHF 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, will deposit it in the Libraries of both Houses and it will be available very shortly on gov.uk.
My Lords, I now want to highlight some of the most important elements of these plans.
First of all, we are going to conduct a review of so-called “Retained EU law” and by this, I mean the very many pieces of legislation which we took onto our own statute book through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 and we must now revisit this huge, but for us, anomalous, category of law.
In doing so, we have two purposes in mind. First of all, 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. Now some of that is already under way – for example our plans to reform the procurement rules that we inherited from the EU, or the plan announced last autumn by my RHF the Chancellor to review much financial services legislation. But we are going to make this a comprehensive exercise and I want to be clear: our intention is eventually to amend, to replace, or to repeal all that retained EU law that is not right for the UK.
That problem is obviously a legislative problem and accordingly the solution is also likely to be legislative. We are going to 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.
Second, my Lords, 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.
And 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 RHF the previous SofS for Culture announced on the 10 September a consultation which is the first stage in putting new rules in place. We intend to review the inherited approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which in our view is too restrictive and not based on sound science. And my RHF 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, based on outdated EU legislation, giving a major boost to the UK’s world-class R&D sector and getting patients access to new lifesaving medicines more quickly. The MHRA which is a world class regulator as we know, is already reforming the medical devices regulations to create a world-leading regime in this area.
My Lords, we will unleash Britain’s potential as a world leader in the Future of Transport. And my RHF 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 – which is 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.
Third, my Lords, as recommended by TIGRR and Penrose Review and as promised in the current consultation on Reforming the Better Regulation Framework, we will be putting in place much more rigorous tests within Government before we take decisions to regulate. Now that we have control over all of 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 recedes.
Finally, my Lords, Brexit was about giving everyone in this country – once again – a say in how it is run. That is true in this area too and 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 they will only be able to make recommendations in one direction – in the direction of reducing, or eliminating, burdens. I hope 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.
My Lords, 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 you on progress, and more importantly to set out our further intentions.
My Lords, 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 promote growth, productivity, and prosperity and that is what we intend to do.
I do recognise 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 and I hope everyone will join us in doing so.