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Lords EU exit regulations: 21 March

22 March 2019


On Thursday 21 March, the House of Lords examined ten statutory instruments preparing for Brexit.

A statutory instrument (SI), a type of secondary legislation, is a law created under powers given by an Act of Parliament. It is used to fill in the details of Acts (primary legislation).

The proposed SIs make changes to laws on:

  1. Railways licensing
  2. Train driving licenses and certificates
  3. Financial services
  4. Electronic commerce and solvency
  5. Nutrition
  6. Cross-border health services and social security coordination
  7. Chemicals and genetically modified organisms

The Brexit SIs under examination on Thursday 21 March were all made under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and are changes to the law to be made in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

All these SIs are made under the draft affirmative procedure, meaning they need to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before they can be made (signed into law) and brought into effect. Draft affirmative SIs can be stopped if either House votes against the government's motion calling for the SI to be approved.

Following the debates in the House of Lords, all of the SIs under consideration were approved.

Motion to regret

In addition to the approval debates, members of the Lords also discussed a motion to regret against an EU exit SI yet to be considered by the House, on the subject of railway interoperability (the ability of systems to exchange and use information).

The regret motion, proposed by Lord Berkeley (Labour), would not have stopped the regulations, but would have provided an opportunity for the House to put on record its regret that the government is making these changes despite:

  • the excessive costs to UK businesses in operating a potentially diverging range of safety and other railway standards
  • the failure of the government to demonstrate any significant benefits

The regret motion also called for the government to present new regulations to enable:

  • compliance with the activities of the European Agency for Rail to provide the best on-going business opportunities for UK manufacturers, rail passengers and freight customers
  • consistent safety improvements and reduced manufacturing costs

Members voted on the regret motion, with 50 in favour and 92 against, and so the motion was not agreed to.

Lords scrutiny

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) examines every SI, including all EU Exit SIs. It publishes reports drawing members' attention to SIs.

SLSC (Sub-Committee B) reported on three SIs making changes to laws on chemicals and genetically modified organisms, train driving licences and certificates and coach and bus services.

Further information

Image: PA