Meeting date: Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee 18 September 2019
Agenda: European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, Implications of Brexit (Agriculture)
- European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
- Implications of Brexit (Agriculture)
European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
Animal Health and Genetically Modified Organisms (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/1229)
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the committee’s 25th meeting in 2019. I am sorry for the slightly late state, which was due to a technical issue. I ask members and others who are present to make sure that their mobile phones are on silent.
The first agenda item is consideration of a United Kingdom statutory instrument that has been laid under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We have received a consent notification and accompanying correspondence in relation to the instrument. Given that the Scottish Government has already consented to the instrument being made, the committee can now only consider retrospectively whether it is content that consent was given. We might want to respond to the Scottish Government to that effect or to take alternative action. The committee may also wish to ask the Scottish Government about the new UK replacement for the trade control and export system, as our paper suggests.
Before I invite comments—I believe that members might have a couple—as the instrument relates to agriculture, I must refer members to my entry in the register of interests, which states that I am a member of an agricultural partnership. That is also relevant to the second item on the agenda.
Likewise, I need to declare that I am a member of a farming partnership in the north-east of Scotland.
Thank you. Do members have any comments?
I have a registered agricultural holding of miniscule size: it is 4 acres.
I want to make one comment, which I will preface by saying that I support what is being done here. At the end of the day, I have no issues; what is being done is the right thing to do. I am not criticising, either, the way in which the Government has dealt with the matter at ministerial level, but I note that in her letter to us, the date of which I cannot quite read—it was written in August, anyway—Mairi Gougeon said:
“Please note, we are yet to have sight of the final SI and it is not available in the public domain at this stage.”
That is a pretty uncomfortable position to be in. Although the officials of the two Governments were working together and seeing drafts of the instrument and were saying to the minister, “It’s going to be okay,” the minister found herself having to comment on an instrument that she was unable to see, the contents of which she was therefore unable to guarantee. I want to put on record the fact that that is a pretty uncomfortable position to be in, even if everybody is good-hearted in their intentions and is trying to do the right thing. I am not recommending that that should lead to our taking any particular action; I regard it as sufficient to have put that point on the record.
As was mentioned in the conversation that we had before we went into public session, in general, it is not satisfactory protocol for the committee to be asked to note something for which consent has already been given. However, I note the extraordinary circumstances in which the instrument was presented to us and to the Scottish Government, and I appreciate the correspondence between the two Governments on the matter.
Given that there might be further instruments of this nature before 31 October, I ask that the committee stresses on all parties that it is preferential for it to be given adequate notice to review such instruments in advance of ministerial authorisation or approval being given, rather than after the fact.
The point that Stewart Stevenson made has been duly noted on the record. I think that it would be right for the committee to say that it would appreciate seeing such instruments before consent is given, although it understands that there might be circumstances in which that is not possible.
Those two points having been made, does the committee agree to write to the Scottish Government to confirm that it is content that consent has been given?
Members indicated agreement.