Margaret Greenwood MP has spoken out in parliament about a “pernicious” piece of government legislation which would see ministers given the powers to scrap a whole host of legal protections.
The Wirral West MP was speaking during a debate on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. She spoke in support of Labour amendments which would have ensured that existing protections for workers, consumers and the environment remained in place.
The bill would completely overhaul a body of UK domestic law known as “retained EU law” (REUL) which came into existence at the end of the post-Brexit transition period at the end of 2020 to provide legal continuity and certainty for individuals, government, businesses and other organisations.
The bill would, among other things, place a “sunset” on REUL, causing most of the legislation to expire at the end of 2023, and provide delegated powers to UK government ministers to revoke, restate, replace or update thousands of laws via secondary legislation, making meaningful scrutiny in parliament much more difficult.
A recent report by the independent Regulatory Policy Committee found that the government’s impact assessment of the bill is not fit for purpose because it has made no attempt to quantify the impacts of the individual pieces of legislation being ‘sunsetted’ and no commitment has been made to do this later in the process.
In her speech, Margaret Greenwood raised concerns that the bill contains provisions for the government to scrap a wide range of legal protections, including the regulation of the safety of children’s toys and electrical equipment and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The Wirral West MP described asbestos an “an extremely dangerous substance” and said that it is “a matter of real concern that the government might seek to water down control of it.”
This followed her recent written parliamentary question to the government on asbestos when she asked whether an assessment had been made of the potential impact of this bill on asbestos-related legislation.
She described the government’s response to that question as “vague” and pressed the minister present in the debate for a guarantee that controls on asbestos will not be weakened.
She also paid tribute to Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group for the vital work that they do in supporting victims of asbestos locally.
Ultimately, amendments put forward by opposition parties were defeated by the government and the bill passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons. It will now be considered by the House of Lords.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “The government is seeking to give itself the power to scrap a whole host of legal protections that we currently enjoy, including hard-won employment rights, environmental protections and consumer protections. This is totally unacceptable.
“The laws in question cover areas including environmental protection, food safety, health and safety in the workplace, employment law, parental leave, product safety, private pension protections, vehicle standards and noise pollution.
“The government doesn’t even know how many current laws the bill applies to; it has estimated around 2,400, but reports suggest it could be as many as 4,000.
“I am very concerned about what the bill could mean for asbestos regulations. When I have previously questioned the government about this, the minister has talked of ‘removing disproportionate burdens for business’ and ‘simplifying the regulatory landscape’.
“That is a matter of real concern, and I am extremely concerned about what deregulation could mean in relation to asbestos.
“It is very disappointing that the minister did not give any guarantee that there would be no watering down of regulations in relation to the control of asbestos when I asked her.
“Asbestos is a particular problem for Merseyside because of its use in ship building and I know that local campaigners will be very concerned about the lack of reassurance from government.
“The bill as a whole is an incredibly damaging piece of legislation that poses an enormous threat to many of the rights on which we rely.
“We must keep important legal protections in place. The government should withdraw this bill immediately.”