The Retained EU Law Bill is part of the Government’s commitment to put the UK statute book on a more sustainable footing. By ending the special status of retained EU Law, the UK will reclaim the sovereignty of Parliament, and restore primacy to Acts of Parliament.
I am pleased to say that the Government has already revoked or reformed over 1,000 EU laws since our exit. In addition to the list of around 600 we propose to revoke directly through the REUL Bill, the Financial Services and Markets Bill and the Procurement Bill will revoke around a further 500 pieces of REUL. We are committed to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses and helping to spur economic growth, and our Edinburgh Reforms of UK financial services include over 30 regulatory reforms to unlock investment and boost growth in towns and cities across the UK.
I note previous concerns regarding the 2026 subset date. The Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, today announced the government has shelved its plan for thousands of EU-era laws to expire automatically at the end of the year. Alternatively, the cut-off point has been replaced with a list of 600 laws the government wants to replace by the end of the year.
I believe this new sensible and pragmatic approach will still allow the UK to fully take back control of our laws and end supremacy and the special status of EU law.
The regulations provide that, subject to certain exceptions where the nature of the work makes it impractical, employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week averaged, normally, over a period of 17 weeks. It is possible for employees to opt out of this provision voluntarily and in writing, either indefinitely or for a specified period. Employers can request that an employee opts out but cannot terminate their employment or treat them unfairly if they decline.
Ultimately, the UK has one of the best records on workers’ rights, going further than the EU in many areas, and I am determined to build on this progress. By further protecting workers, supporting business to comply with the law, and preventing them from being undercut by a minority of irresponsible employers, the UK can continue to have a high-wage, high-employment economy that works for everyone as we build back better from the pandemic.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 has led to the UK having one of the best records on health and safety in the world, and as the DWP Minister responsible for this, I am confident that this record will continue. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) remains focused on ensuring that regulatory frameworks maintain the UK's high standards of health and safety protection and continue to reduce burdens for business.
Further, the Government is committed to a consumer rights framework that protects consumers and drives consumer confidence, while minimising unnecessary cost to business. Core consumer protections, as set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, remain unaffected by the REUL Bill. The Government will maintain its international commitments on consumer protection. The Government will bring forward proposals to address REUL that impacts consumer protection using the powers in the Bill or other available legislative instruments. The UK regime sets some of the highest standards of consumer protection in the world, and this will continue to be the case.
I am assured by my ministerial colleagues that the Bill will not weaken environmental protections. Indeed, the Government has acted to significantly increase environmental protection.
The Government has acted to significantly increase environmental protection. In 2021, the Government passed a new Environment Act which sets in law a series of environmental targets, enforced by a new Office for Environmental Protection. These targets will ensure progress on clean air, clean and plentiful water, less waste and more sustainable use of our resources, a step change in tree planting, a better marine environment, and a more diverse, resilient and healthy natural environment.
Following on from a consultation, the new legally binding targets have been published.
The thirteen targets include: halting the decline in species abundance by 2030, increasing total tree and woodland cover from 14.5% of land area now to 16.5% by 2050 and halving the waste per person that is sent to residual treatment by 2042. The full list of targets can be found here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2022-12-16/hlws449
In January the Government has published a new Environmental Improvement Plan. This includes new interim environment targets, following approval of the long-term statutory targets. Alongside the Environmental Improvement Plan, a Significant Improvement Test has also been published. This is a commitment to review the suite of statutory environmental targets at least every 5 years and the Environmental Principles Policy Statement, which will guide Ministers in their legal duty to consider the commitment when making policy. Further details about the Environmental Improvement Plan can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ambitious-roadmap-for-a-cleaner-greener-country
Further updates on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will follow in due course.