Welsh government ‘power grab’ fears over new UK government legislation
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.
The UK government has introduced the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill designed to remove the special features of EU law that remain in the UK legal system.
The new Bill will amend the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which provided continuity by incorporating former EU law into the UK legal system after Brexit as ‘retained EU law’.
Retained EU law currently covers most aspects of UK law that were previously derived or influenced by EU legislation, including environmental regulation, data protection, employment law, intellectual property, financial services and competition law.
The Welsh government warned the new Bill could lead to reductions in standards, and uncertainty for people and businesses.
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.
Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution said:
“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.”
“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 Scottish government has also expressed “deep concern” over the introduction of the Bill.
In a letter to new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Jacob Rees-Mogg, 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 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill risks removing restrictions on the use of decontaminants on meat, such as the chlorine washes on chicken and businesses’ minimum hygiene standards. 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 Scottish government has said
The letter also warns that the bill represents a significant further undermining of devolution, by allowing UK government ministers to act in policy areas that are devolved.
Mr Robertson pressed the UK government to reconsider the bill and its implications for the Devolved governments.
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