Economic Update

James Morris Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am very sorry; I missed the last part of the hon. Gentleman’s question. I am not sure whether he is allowed to say it again, but on the first part of his question I would simply say that when it comes to Brexit the UK grew faster than the eurozone countries since 2016, so I do not accept his analysis.

James Morris Portrait James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)
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I warmly welcome the Chancellor to his place. He, more than anybody else, will be aware of the pressures in the health and social care system as we enter a difficult winter. Will he be able to give reassurance to people working in the NHS and patients across the country that he will maintain the levels of funding necessary to cope with those winter pressures and with the future challenges that the health and social care system will face?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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I am, I think, one of only two Chancellors to have been Health Secretary, so I am very aware of the pressures in the NHS. I am not making any commitments, but when it comes to the NHS the whole country wants to make sure that it can cope not just with winter crises but with the pressures we have had since covid. We will look at that very carefully, but I would also like to see reform in the way NHS funding is spent, because I think we can do better with the large sums that we spend already.

Draft Hazardous Substances and packaging (Legislative Functions and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 DRAFT OZONE-DEPLETING SUBSTANCES AND FLUORINATED GREENHOUSE GASES (AMENDMENT ETC.) (EU EXIT) REGULATIONS 2020

James Morris Excerpts
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

General Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
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Before we begin, I remind hon. Members about the social distancing requirements. Spaces available to Members are clearly marked, and our Hansard colleagues would be grateful if you sent any speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk.

James Morris Portrait The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury (James Morris)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Hazardous Substances and Packaging (Legislative Functions and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Ozone-depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

James Morris Portrait James Morris
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I will take each instrument in turn, starting with the Hazardous Substances and Packaging (Legislative Functions and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The statutory instrument is needed to make small but important changes to ensure that our domestic legislation reflects that the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union. The SI covers two different subject areas. The first is the regulation of hazardous substances in electrical or electronic equipment, or EEE. The second is the regulation of essential requirements for packaging—the requirements that producers need to fulfil if they place packaging on the market, such as manufacturing and composition requirements.

Hazardous substances in EEE are regulated by the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2012, the so-called RoHS regulations that implement the EU’s RoHS directive. The SI that we are debating transfers to the Secretary of State powers that are currently held by the European Commission under the RoHS directive. After the end of the transition period, the powers will allow the Secretary of State to grant, review, renew or revoke exemptions to the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, as specified in the RoHS regulations. Exemptions allow the use of restricted hazardous substances above threshold limits for specific uses, such as solders in medical equipment. The Secretary of State will also be allowed to amend the list of restricted substances and maximum concentration values, and to prescribe detailed rules for complying with maximum concentration values.

Those powers will apply in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland, because the RoHS directive will continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period, as it is listed in Annex 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol. The changes are important, as we are taking powers back from the European Commission to the UK. The SI will allow the Secretary of State to make important decisions on RoHS, and it also amends the RoHS regulations and the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015. It amends both sets of regulations separately for Great Britain and for Northern Ireland. The amendments to the RoHS regulations for Great Britain introduce key measures to ensure a smooth end to the transition period for business, placing manufactured goods on the GB market. They include transitional provisions for importer labelling in order to provide a 24-month period in which importer details can be provided on accompanying documentation, and a similar transitional provision for the application of the new UK marking, which will replace the European Union’s CE marking.

This instrument ensures that, except for qualifying Northern Ireland goods, the automatic recognition in Great Britain of EEE meeting EU requirements will expire 12 months after the end of the transition period. It amends both the RoHS regulations and the essential requirements for packaging regulations, to make provision for access for qualifying Northern Ireland goods to the GB market. The instrument amends the RoHS regulations and the essential requirements for packaging regulations separately for Northern Ireland. The amendments that apply in Northern Ireland are more limited. They are to reflect the fact that the RoHS directive and the packaging directive will continue to apply in Northern Ireland—although not in the rest of the United Kingdom—by virtue of the Northern Ireland protocol. They will allow the UK to meet its obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol when it comes to packaging and RoHS.

We have ensured that the changes for Northern Ireland are as minimal as possible while also allowing the UK to fulfil its obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. However, there are some unavoidable costs for businesses as a result of amendments to the RoHS regulations, including familiarisation and new labelling costs. No impact assessment was prepared for this instrument, as any costs to or benefits for businesses, charities and voluntary bodies were predicted to fall below the limit of £5 million in one year.

This instrument is reserved, as it covers specific technical standards and requirements on all businesses in relation to products, the subject matter of which is covered by EU law obligations until the end of the transition period. This is a reserved matter under all three devolution settlements.

This instrument makes small but important changes to ensure that regulations, processes and systems that deal with packaging and RoHS will continue to operate and be enforceable at the end of the transition period. It ensures that the UK fulfils its obligations on packaging and RoHS under the Northern Ireland protocol and, crucially, returns powers from the RoHS directive back to the UK to allow the UK to maintain its high product safety standards.

I now turn my attention to the second instrument for debate—the Ozone-Depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. This instrument enables the UK to meet the requirements of the Northern Ireland protocol in relation to restricting the use of ozone-depleting substances, ODS, and fluorinated greenhouse gases, F gases, as required for transition period completion day. That will be done by making changes to existing legislation. The instrument also amends dates to prevent errors of law caused by those dates currently falling before the end of the transition period.

Ozone-depleting substances damage the ozone layer, while F gases are powerful greenhouse gases. The UK is a party to the United Nations Montreal protocol, which places controls on both ODS and F gases. The EU ODS regulation implements the Montreal protocol by restricting ozone-depleting chemicals to certain limited uses where there are no viable alternatives. Registration and quota limit requirements apply to those exempted uses. Imports and exports must also be licensed.

The EU F gas regulation cuts by 79% the use of hydrofluorocarbons, the most common type of F gas, by 2030 and implements other measures to reduce F gas emissions. The HFC phasedown is achieved through allocating quota to producers and importers. It underpins UK and EU compliance with international obligations to reduce HFC use under the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol.

The Northern Ireland protocol requires that the EU F gas and ODS regulations remain applicable to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland. This instrument makes necessary amendments to enable the UK to meet the requirements of the protocol. That means establishing quota systems for Great Britain that are separate from the EU systems. Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU systems. Producers or importers will require GB quota to place things on the GB market, with businesses seeking to sell into Northern Ireland needing EU quota.

This instrument introduces provisions to control the movement of F gases and ODS between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The provisions define that the movement will be deemed as imports or exports for the purposes of F gas and ODS trade. Controlling such trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is vital to maintain the integrity of the GB F gas and ODS systems, meet the Northern Ireland protocol requirements and ensure that the UK remains compliant with its international obligations under the Montreal protocol.

This is not about stopping trade. The approach in the instrument has been developed to meet two key principles—first, that we continue to contribute to the UK ambition on climate change through complying with our obligations under the world-renowned Montreal protocol and, secondly, that we impose the most light-touch measures on movements of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain that we can, adhering to the Northern Ireland protocol, while still meeting our international obligations.

The previous EU exit SI—the Ozone-Depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019—as amended by this instrument will transfer powers and functions previously held by European institutions, including the European Commission and the European Environment Agency, to appropriate authorities and regulators in England, Scotland and Wales. The Scottish and Welsh devolved Administrations will have the competence to establish and operate their own ODS and F gas systems, if they choose to in the future. I am pleased to say that all the devolved Administrations have agreed to this instrument.

I also confirm that the Scottish and Welsh devolved Administrations have agreed in principle to the operation of GB-wide ODS and F gas systems. Compliance and enforcement arrangements will remain, as under the current EU regulations, with the Environment Agency and devolved Administration regulators undertaking the same sort of activity as they do at present. We do not expect enforcement costs to increase significantly as the number of companies being regulated will be similar.

The impacts of this instrument are well below the £5 million per annum threshold, which is why no formal impact assessment accompanies it. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the instrument and cleared it without comment on 4 November.

None Portrait The Chair
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We have until 4 o’clock for the debate. I call Ruth Jones.

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James Morris Portrait James Morris
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I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks. She raised three issues in relation to the hazardous substances regulations. On her point about impact assessments, there is a definition of “minimal impact”, which leads to the conclusion that an impact assessment is not required. On her second question about whether the powers to implement the lists will lead to a diminution in environmental protection, my answer is simply no. On the third issue, about public consultation, I will write to her to give her the clarity she requires. I hope that that has addressed some of the questions that she raised.

I trust that the hon. Members understand and accept the need for the instruments. Failure to make these regulations would mean failing to meet the requirements of the Northern Ireland protocol. We would also be unable to control the flow of ozone-depleting substances and fluorinated greenhouse gases that cause so much harm to our planet. The UK would, as a result, be deemed non-compliant with our obligations under the Montreal protocol, where we have traditionally been at the forefront of driving environmental ambition. Domestically, we would jeopardise our legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 and, ultimately, the aim of achieving a net zero economy.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Hazardous Substances and Packaging (Legislative Functions and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

DRAFT OZONE-DEPLETING SUBSTANCES AND FLUORINATED GREENHOUSE GASES (AMENMENT ETC.) (EU EXIT) REGULATIONS 2020

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Ozone-depleting Substances and Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.—(James Morris.)

Draft Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

James Morris Excerpts
Wednesday 4th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

General Committees
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James Morris Portrait The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury (James Morris)
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I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

The regulations were laid before the House on 5 October and amend the Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, on the trade in timber and timber products. The technical amendments in the statutory instrument address deficiencies that have arisen since the 2018 exit regulations were made. They relate, in addition, to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol. The minor amendments in the statutory instrument will ensure that the regulations for the trade in legally harvested timber will operate effectively in the United Kingdom.

I should make it clear that all the amendments made by the statutory instrument are technical operability amendments and do not introduce any policy changes. The policy is considered to be reserved, and we have worked with the devolved Administrations on the regulations.

The licensing regulations address the issues of illegally harvested timber through two measures. On the supply side, the FLEGT regulations provide for a licensing regime with countries that have entered into a partnership agreement, allowing them to issue licences that prove legality of harvest. On the demand side, the timber regulation prohibits the placing on the market of illegally harvested timber and requires businesses to exercise due diligence on timber to ensure its legality.

Illegal logging is a significant driver of deforestation, which is a major contributor to climate change and leads to the loss of biodiversity and critically important ecosystem services. It directly affects rural communities that rely on forests for livelihoods, and results in revenue loss for Governments and legitimate businesses. The timber regulation and FLEGT licensing system are therefore vital tools in preventing the illegal trade in timber and the associated economic, environmental and social costs.

The main purpose of the statutory instrument is to make amendments to the 2018 exit regulations, to facilitate operability within the context of the Northern Ireland protocol. That is achieved by substituting, in several instances, “Great Britain” for “the Community” and “the United Kingdom”. There are several instances in which references to the United Kingdom are retained from the 2018 regulations. That is to do three things: first, the definition of a “partnership agreement” in the UK FLEGT regulations will continue to refer to an agreement with the UK. The UK reference is necessary because a partnership agreement is a treaty, and only the UK may enter into treaties with other states.

Secondly, for the purposes of the UK timber regulation, reference to the UK defines the market on which timber is placed in the United Kingdom. If that market were to be defined as Great Britain, it would have the effect of imposing the obligation to exercise due diligence on businesses importing timber from Northern Ireland to England, Scotland or Wales. That would represent a new check on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, so the definition “the United Kingdom” is retained.

The third retention of “the United Kingdom” is in relation to monitoring organisations. Those are approved businesses that are able to offer access to their due diligence systems to those placing timber on the market. The regulations set out requirements in relation to where businesses must be legally established if they are to apply to be a monitoring organisation. If this area were to be defined as Great Britain, it would preclude businesses in Northern Ireland from being able to apply to be a monitoring organisation under the UK regulations. As such, the definition “the United Kingdom” has been retained.

This instrument also amends the dates on which the first reports on the UK timber and FLEGT regulations are required. This is to ensure an appropriate amount of time between the implementation of the regulations and the first report being produced. Without that amendment, the first report would be due just three months after the regulations came into force.

The regulations also correct a typographical error in the 2018 exit regulations by changing “in” to “by” in relation to sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom on timber imports or exports.

This instrument also amends the reporting period for the FLEGT regulation to the calendar rather than financial year, to bring it in line with other reporting schedules. This amendment was necessary to deal with an amendment to the EU regulations made after our 2018 exit statutory instrument.

Finally, the instrument substitutes “IP completion”—for the implementation period—for “exit” in the context of the date at which existing monitoring organisations established in the UK will retain recognition. This change is simply to correct a deficiency that has arisen since the 2018 exit regulations.

This instrument has always been intended for the affirmative procedure. Both the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee have formally considered the instrument without comment. The instrument was not subject to consultation as it does not alter existing policy.

In line with published guidance, there is no need to conduct an impact assessment for this instrument, as no, or no significant, impact on the private or voluntary sectors is foreseen. The instrument relates to the maintenance of existing regulatory standards, and the cost of any direct impact from the instrument falls under £5 million. The territorial extent of this instrument is the United Kingdom. This is considered a reserved policy; devolved Administrations were engaged in the development of the instrument and are content.

The office for product safety and standards—part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—is the delivery body for the regulations and will continue in that role for both Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It has been involved in the development of the instrument and has no concerns relating to implementation or resources. Its expertise in the enforcement of the regulations, and its history of working with businesses to understand and meet their obligations, will ensure a consistent and transparent transition.

The UK has a long and proud history of work in this area, and the Government’s 25-year environment plan has made clear our commitment to support and protect international forests. These regulations will ensure that we can continue to protect valuable global resources, safeguard the livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable people, and contribute to tackling climate change. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

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James Morris Portrait James Morris
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I thank the shadow Minister for his characteristically detailed contribution. He asked how the UK intends to work with voluntary partnership agreements. I will write to him on that. He also raised a number of issues to do with the Northern Ireland protocol. Again, I will write to him with an explanation of how the instrument operates with the protocol, if that is satisfactory to him.

James Morris Portrait James Morris
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The instrument would make no change to the existing policy to tackle the trade in illegally harvested timber. The Government’s 25-year environment plan sets out our continued commitment to protecting and restoring the world’s forests and to supporting sustainable agriculture. The instrument would ensure that we have the operable regulations that we need to address that.

As I have outlined, all the changes that the instrument would introduce are technical operability amendments to ensure that we can continue to operate the regulations and protect global forest resources after the end of the transition period. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Future of Farming: Somerset

James Morris Excerpts
Wednesday 18th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Morris Portrait The Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury (James Morris)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) for securing this important debate and for his contribution. He is a passionate advocate for his constituents.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strike a balance that works for our independent country—to let go of the railings of the sinking ship that is the EU’s highly bureaucratic common agricultural policy and its irrational system of area-based payments. I also recognise, as my hon. Friend said, that the farming sector currently faces huge challenges with the coronavirus crisis. Our environmental land management scheme will reward farmers for the vital environmental work that they do alongside feeding the nation, helping us to meet the targets that we will set through our Environment Bill so that we can fulfil our legally binding commitment to reach net zero by 2050 and leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.

We are working with farmers, foresters and land managers to make sure that we design a much better way of doing things that works as well on farms up and down the country as it does on paper. Forty trials are live in the first phase and a further 25 will follow in the second. Somerset is clearly part of that collaboration, and it will be critical to getting our policies absolutely right. The farming and wildlife advisory group in the south-west is helping us to consider an approach to paying farmers for their work on floodplain land and water management, and we will continue to refine our systems together over the coming months.

We are optimistic and we are aiming high, so that we create a coherent policy, designed for our farmers, which rewards them properly for their work to improve the environment, creating new habitats, reducing flooding and helping to tackle climate change, and enables them to become more profitable by investing in new equipment, adding value to their product and improving transparency in the supply chain. That is our approach—tackling the causes of poor profitability, not masking them with an arbitrary area-based subsidy, so that farms of every size and in every part of our country, including Somerset, have a chance to thrive. The smaller firms that my hon. Friend mentioned should feel equally optimistic about the opportunities this bespoke way of doing things will bring for their businesses.

Our food reflects who we are as a country. We care about animals hugely, including farm animals, and we value the high-quality, high-welfare, sustainably produced food and drink that we are fortunate to enjoy at home and that is recognised all around the world, including Somerset’s finest. My hon. Friend talked of some of the challenges faced by the producers, but it is fair to say that Somerset has been making cheddar since at least the 12th century, and what could be more quintessentially British than a hunk of west country farmhouse cheddar, washed down with a cold glass of Somerset cider brandy?

This Government will always back British farmers, who are some of the very best in the world, taking care of our landscapes and animals, all while feeding the nation, just as they have done for generation after generation. This is a time of opportunity, but I recognise the challenges for UK agriculture. We understand that these changes can be daunting, as well as presenting opportunity, and we are conscious that farmers need time to plan and adapt for their futures, and support to decide what is right for them and for their business. We will match 2019 levels in every year of this Parliament.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, our Agriculture Bill is making its way through Parliament, and our aim is that it will reach Royal Assent by the summer. This is of vital importance to the agriculture sector, in order to begin a fair, progressive, seven-year transition to a much better way of doing things in 2027.

My hon. Friend made several points in his remarks. On the Somerset Rivers Authority, I will write to him about the implications he described. He mentioned the badger cull, and I will talk to the Secretary of State about the points he raised about that and about the Sedgemoor auction centre, in the context of contingency planning for the coronavirus. He made some remarks about the challenges of upland farming. It is fair to say that the Government are confident that within the new scheme being outlined in the Agriculture Bill, upland farmers will stand to benefit considerably from the new arrangements that the Government are introducing in the Bill.

I would like to close by making this important point. Sustainable farming and food production can and, indeed, must go hand in hand. No one understands this better than our farmers right across the country. After all, the great outdoors is their office, day in and day out. After a hot summer and an incredibly wet winter, they are the first to feel the effects of climate change in our countryside, and they are hungry for change. This is our chance to do things differently and put our farmers, such as those in Somerset, at the very heart of our efforts to tackle the causes and consequences of climate change in a way that helps nature recover too. I hope that hon. Members will all support the ambitious Agriculture Bill currently making its way through this place, so that we can chart a new course for English agriculture for decades to come and a new way of doing things for the world to follow.

Question put and agreed to.