Welsh Government raises fears that EU law bill is another power grab by UK Government
The Welsh Government has raised concerns over a new Bill that could see the UK Government legislate in areas of devolved responsibility without the consent of Welsh Ministers or the Senedd.
It has also warned it could lead to reductions in standards, and uncertainty for people and businesses.
The Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons yesterday.
The Bill contains a series of wide-ranging powers that would allow UK Government Ministers to change or delete a vast body of laws in devolved areas that date from the time of EU membership, almost all of which were agreed by previous UK Governments. The timescales set by the Bill mean that there is a real risk that key laws and protections could disappear at the end of 2023.
The Counsel General wrote to Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, earlier in the week to outline his concerns about the legislation, and to stress the need for a different approach.
“As currently drafted, this legislation could see UK Government Ministers given unfettered authority to legislate in devolved areas – contrary to the democratically established devolution settlement,” Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said.
“It also risks the reduction of standards in important areas including employment, health and the environment.
“We are disappointed the Bill has reached this stage with such little engagement with the Welsh Government about its most important aspects, and we call on the UK Government to bring about the legislative changes that will ensure Wales’ constitutional integrity and devolution settlement is respected and preserved.”
The Welsh Government’s intervention comes after the Scottish Government raised concerns about the same bill yesterday.
Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson wrote of his deep concern at the wholesale ‘sun-setting’ of retained EU law by 31 December 2023, warning it “carries an unacceptably high risk that vital law, on which the smooth functioning of sectors of the economy and society depends, simply drops off the UK statute book”.
The introduction of the bill risks removing restrictions on the use of decontaminants on meat, such as the chlorine washes on chicken and businesses’ minimum hygiene standards, he said. It could also jeopardise protections in relation to the safety and compositional standards of baby foods.
Holiday pay, safe limits on working hours and parental leave could also become open to deregulation. The letter also warned that the bill represents a significant further undermining of devolution, by allowing UK Government ministers to act in policy areas that are devolved, and to do so without the consent of Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Parliament.
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