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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Health and Sport Committee 16 March 2021

Agenda: European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, Subordinate Legislation, European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, Subordinate Legislation


Contents


European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018


Food and Feed Hygiene and Safety (Miscellaneous and Transitional Provisions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021 [Draft]

Good morning, and welcome to the Health and Sport Committee’s 10th meeting in 2021. We have received apologies from Alex Cole-Hamilton, and David Torrance will be joining us a little later in the meeting.

The first item on our agenda is consideration of a consent notification proposing that the Scottish Government give consent to the United Kingdom Government legislating using the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 in relation to a UK statutory instrument. The regulations in question make the necessary amendment of the authorisation provisions for genetically modified food and feed and feed additives, and clarify that ministerial authorisation decisions are prescribed in the form of legislation. They address the need to amend general food law to ensure that ministers can, when taking emergency measures, capture third-country goods coming to Great Britain via Northern Ireland.

Do members have any questions or comments on the instrument?

I seek some clarification on several points. I thank the clerks who have written the briefing paper on the instrument, because the subject is quite complicated. Paragraph 3 of the letter to you, convener, which is at annex A of our paper, states:

“Please note, we are yet to have sight of the final draft SI and it is not available in the public domain at this stage.”

I am concerned about that. In addition, the notification summary states:

“However the proposals remain under consideration and are subject to change. FSS will provide an update in the event of any changes.”

I am a wee bit concerned about what happens if we simply agree to the instrument and hand it over, given the concerns that I have mentioned. I would like a wee bit of clarification on that.

To summarise my understanding—if I am wrong, I can be corrected—the statutory instrument provides for emergency powers under the Covid-19 regulations to stop the import of genetically modified food and feed and feed additives from entering the four nations—that is, Great Britain—directly from third countries or via Northern Ireland. That is a result of Brexit, the Northern Ireland protocol and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. I want a wee bit of clarification on my summary and the two areas of concern that I raised.

I hear your points. I ask David Cullum, as the clerk, if he would like to comment on those concerns and clarify the position.

On the point about having sight of the final SI, it has been the norm with a lot of these EU exit instruments for the committee to consider them in advance, based on the detail that the Scottish Government has provided following its discussions with the UK Government.

I am afraid that I do not know the answer to the second question. I am not sure what the position is.

I guess that, if there is concern on that matter, we can return to it at our next meeting, as time will, I think, allow us to do so.

I am sorry, convener—I think that the instrument is being laid at Westminster on 21 March. As you know, I always raise these matters in relation to the SIs.

Yes—indeed.

We need to keep an eye on these things. If we were to agree to the instrument and something came up in the SI—David Cullum did not know the answer to my second question—could we rectify any of the issues retrospectively, or would there be nothing that we could do?

We can indicate our concerns, and say that we expect full details to be provided in the notification regarding which provisions of the legislation are being amended and how that will work. We can approve the instrument, but with the qualification that we make it clear that we want the Scottish Parliament to be kept in the loop on all these matters as we move forward.

Okay—I am content with that, as long as the issue is highlighted.

We will take that approach, if colleagues are content that we do so.

Members will have seen the separate briefing paper from the Scottish Parliament information centre and Scottish Parliament legal services, which sets out, at paragraphs 18 to 20, how we may choose to approach the matter so as to ensure that the Parliament and its committees are fully engaged on these matters.

Are members content with that approach?

Members indicated agreement.

We will write to the Scottish Government to indicate that we are content with the regulations, but we will highlight the recommendations as discussed, taking on board the points that Sandra White raised.