Framework for Better Regulation (UK)

The government yesterday initiated a consultation on its plans to reform its Framework for Better Regulation. The consultation is here.

Better Regulation is a principles-led process of evaluating legislation before it’s proposed and enacted, and then after it is enacted. Better Regulation also exists at EU level.

In the UK, (per the explanation in the document) –

Better Regulation is designed to ensure that government regulation is proportionate and is only used where alternative non-regulatory approaches would not achieve the desired policy outcomes. The framework enables ministerial decisions to be based on robust analysis of the costs and benefits of different options, including the direct costs on businesses, and means that decision making is clear and transparent. The framework helps ensure that new burdens are only imposed where there is clear evidence they will generate sufficient benefits for society, and that measures are implemented and enforced in a way that is easier for businesses to deal with.

The revisions propose increasing the outcomes orientation of regulation –

(1) delegating more power and discretion to the UK’s regulatory bodies, removing many of the detailed rules in the existing statutory frameworks to make them less prescriptive (replacing them with outcomes to be achieved), and allowing the regulatory regime to be shaped more by case law.

(2) Parliament should set out only what is prohibited or the outcomes to be achieved, in plain English, and set out any parameters within which regulators would need to operate to meet these outcomes, but then giving regulators appropriate powers and discretion over how to do so, rather than legislation setting out all of the rules that businesses have to comply with in detail.

(3) regulators would still set out some detail in rules and guidance but would have flexibility to change these without having to petition the Government to introduce further legislation. This would give regulators the freedom to regulate based on whether the outcomes set by Parliament are being achieved rather than whether a particular rule has been followed. Where regulators provide for detailed rules or processes, they would also be able to provide for exemptions and waivers to reach the outcomes set out by Parliament in the most sensible way.

The Government wants to identify areas where the envisaged benefits of a move to a less codified, more common law focused approach are likely to be the greatest, and areas where the Government should be more cautious about adopting such an approach.

The government is also seeking responses on its proposals to replace the Precautionary Principle with a Principle of Proportionality. Pages 21 and 22 in the consultation document set this out. This would be a major departure.

Please read the other sections of the document for further questions.

Consultation ends 1st October 2021.

[if the focus changes to a more outcomes-led Regulation in the UK (Britain) in this manner, then we would, in Cardinal Environment, need to start analysing and reporting on case law (i.e. the common law as this document puts it) in this jurisdiction]

New Energy Performance Bill (UK)

A new private members’ bill is starting in the House of Lords on 21st July. The bill is titled ‘Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill’. The Bill document is here.

In its policy statements, the Government has said –

• Homes should be Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2035 where practicable, cost-effective and affordable

• All Private Rented Sector (PRS) homes should be EPC band C by 2028

• Mortgage lenders should ensure an EPC band C average for their portfolios by 2030

• The Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to assist owner occupiers to achieve EPC band C

• Non-domestic commercial lettings are to achieve EPC band B by 2030

The Bill aims to set these into law.

For a Private Members’ Bill to become law, the government has to support it (in effect take it over).

I will post again if this happens.

A Private Members’ Bill of similar title is also started in the House of Commons (text not available).

PPE Duty amendment (Britain)

The HSE has today (19th July) launched a consultation here, on proposed changes to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPER). Consultation closes on 15th August.

Currently, employers have a duty to their ‘employees’ in respect to PPE – changes to the PPER will ensure this duty also extends to ‘limb (b) workers’, and will apply in England, Scotland and Wales.

In the PPER, PPE is defined as “all equipment (including clothing affording protection against the weather) which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects the person against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety, and any addition or accessory designed to meet that objective.”

This Blog does not extend to employment law, but note in Britain there are two main employment statuses for employment rights: ‘employee’ and ‘worker’. Employees are defined as limb (a) and workers are defined as limb (b) in the Employment Rights Act 1996 s.230: [we do not supply the ERA or advise on it]

..an individual who has entered into or works under– (a) a contract of employment; or (b) any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer or any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual. [my bold]

According to the HSE consultation document – Generally, limb (b) workers:

• carry out casual or irregular work for one or a number of organisation(s),

• receive holiday pay, but not other employment rights such as the minimum period of statutory notice, after one month of continuous service

• only carry out work if they choose to

• have a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward (the contract doesn’t have to be written) and they only have a limited right to send someone else to do the work, for example, swapping shifts with someone on a pre-approved list (subcontract)

• are not in business for themselves (they do not advertise services directly to customers who can then also book their services directly)

Specific PPE required and provided for in the below health and safety regulations is not part of this HSE consultation – PPE required in relation to:

• lead exposure – Control of lead at work

• ionising radiation – Work with ionising radiation    

• asbestos – Managing and working with asbestos   

• substances hazardous to health in the workplace (for example: chemicals, fumes, dusts, non-water vapours, non-water mists, nanotechnology, and/or gases) – Control of substances hazardous to health

• noise – Controlling noise at work

FTA UK & Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway (UK)

Thursday 8th July, trade ministers from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK. Conclusion of negotiations on an FTA had been announced on 4th June, and Norway had published the text (English language starts at page 105).

The UK trade minister made a statement to Parliament (8th July) – here.

Norway’s minister of trade and industry remarks at 4th June press conference on the matter – here, Norway’s press release (4th June) here.

The signed legal text will be published in the UK shortly, along with the Explanatory Memorandum that is a statutory requirement under the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act.

The Explanatory Memorandum provides the context, explaining what the new treaty is meant to achieve, what legislation (if any) will be needed to implement it, when it will take effect, the financial implications, and the territorial application of the agreement.

I will blog post again when the further documents are published.

EU announcements re NI Protocol (Northern Ireland)

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland (often referred to in the UK as the Northern Ireland Protocol), as an integral part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, was agreed jointly and ratified by both the EU and the UK. It has been in force since 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

The EU has announced the following re Northern Ireland (as respects the NI Protocol):

(1) the EU extends the non-application of third country rules (grace period) for meat products to 30th September (1st October is the date when the UK will apply its own ban on chilled meat imports) – the EU declaration is here – the UK declaration is here.

This will mean that meat products can continue to move from Britain (a third country in EU terms) to Northern Ireland (a part of the UK subject to the NI Protocol).

This temporary solution is subject to strict conditions. For example, the meat products that are subject to the channelling procedure referred to in the United Kingdom’s unilateral declaration must remain under the control of the Northern Ireland competent authorities at all stages of that procedure. These meat products must be accompanied by official health certificates issued by the UK competent authorities, can exclusively be sold to end consumers in supermarkets located in Northern Ireland, and must be packed and labelled accordingly. (EU declaration)

(2) the EU will change its own rules so that regulatory compliance functions for medicines authorised by the UK for the Northern Ireland market, in accordance with the NI Protocol, may be located in Britain, subject to specific conditions ensuring that the medicines concerned are not further distributed in the EU Internal Market – the European Commission will put forward a legislative proposal in the early autumn (the grace period runs out at the end of 2021)

(3) the EU will facilitate the movements of guide dogs accompanying persons travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland – this is communicated to the UK authorities and it is for the Northern Irish competent authorities to define the details for its implementation on the ground

(4) the EU waives the obligation to show the motor insurance Green Card for drivers from the UK – applicable for Northern Irish motorists crossing the border into Ireland (not for British motorists travelling to Ireland)

(5) the EU has removed the need for re-tagging when animals move multiple times between Britain and Northern Ireland during their life – the European Commission adopted an implementing act to that effect on 29 June 2021 (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1064).

The EU also announces the European Commission is working on a regulatory solution to facilitate the swift return of livestock to Northern Ireland from exhibitions or trade fairs in Britain, so that the animals concerned will not have to wait for a minimum residency period in Britain – the relevant delegated and implementing acts will be adopted in October 2021.

The EU also announces work is ongoing on a solution regarding the risk control of scrapie, to facilitate the movement of sheep and goats between Britain and Northern Ireland.