The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) established the Safeguarding our Standards (SOS) campaign in response to the Government’s proposed Retained EU Law Bill (REUL Bill). The Bill threatens food safety, product safety, animal health and welfare, fair trading, legal metrology and protection against scams and rogue traders. UKMA is concerned about the Bill’s threats to weights and measures legislation, which could undo many years of metrication progress. Last month, CTSI invited UKMA to join the Safeguarding our Standards coalition and UKMA agreed to join. SOS comprises a coalition of organisations and individuals with an interest in maintaining the protections that the people of the United Kingdom have benefited from for years.
The revelation on 8 November that a further 1400 laws could be affected by the REUL Bill – in addition to the 2400 previously announced – suggests that the full scale of the process outlined in the Bill has not been comprehensively understood. It also raises the prospect of even more pieces of legislation being affected as the deadline of 31 December 2023 approaches.
The Bill has a sunset clause of 31 December 2023 for all EU-derived laws. This means that they will automatically expire (i.e., disappear from the statute book) on that date unless a minister decides to save them. This threatens our standards, rights and protections, which could harm consumers and businesses. This would affect the ability of Trading Standards Officers to do their jobs and that would ultimately affect people and businesses across the UK. This could have disastrous consequences and could ultimately put lives at risk.
For this reason, the coalition urges the Government to scrap the REUL timetable. The coalition is asking the Government to give a cast-iron guarantee that British consumers will be no worse off – including upholding the highest standards for food, the safety of the products we use and the protections that safeguard so many of us on a daily basis. The Government must not rush to rewrite laws designed to protect the public without fully considering whether they are proportionate, enforceable and fit for purpose. Extra time would give legal experts, charities and other professions the opportunity to properly understand the consequences of any proposed changes to the law, time for Parliament to scrutinise those changes, and time for consumers and businesses to be consulted.
The CTSI Press Release contains a number of poll findings, including:
- Most people think the Bill is a waste of Parliamentary time.
- 92.5% of Trading Standards experts think that the Government should drop its 31 December 2023 sunset clause.
- 72% of Trading Standards experts think that there should be no arbitrary timetable to sunset all EU-derived legislation.
- 36.2% of the public are most concerned about lower food safety standards.
- 31% of the public are most concerned about lower product safety standards.
- The public want Government and Parliament to give priority to tackling the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting lists.
- Incorporating EU legislation into British law was ranked last by the public in a list of the Government’s priorities.
The REUL Bill threatens to divert huge amounts of time and resources from the public’s priorities to an unnecessary and pointless exercise. The need for ministers and civil servants to review almost 4000 pieces of legislation by a very tight self-imposed deadline will take up a great deal of their time. In its current form, the REUL Bill shuts out the role of Parliament and removes the normal democratic safeguards that protect our standards.
Rushing the job to scrap or reform thousands of laws in a very short timetable is likely to lead to botched changes and do a lot of damage. Under the Government’s proposed timetable, thousands of pieces of complex and vitally important legislation will need to be reviewed, rewritten – and, potentially, scrapped – in a little over a year. Mistakes, omissions and contradictions are inevitable. In its current form, the REUL Bill could cause serious harm to the people, businesses, environment and economy of the UK.
CTSI recently wrote a letter to PM Rishi Sunak on behalf of the SOS coalition to express their and our concerns about the REUL Bill. You can see a copy of this letter here:
The following organisations are part of the SOS coalition and appear in the letter:
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection
- Chartered Trading Standards Institute
- Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
- The Anti-Counterfeiting Group
- Electrical Safety First
- Child Accident Prevention Trust
- Institute of Licensing
- Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
- British Safety Industry Federation
- Action on Smoking and Health
- UK Metric Association
- UK Weighing Federation
The letter ends by saying:
“We recognise the opportunities that reviewing legislation can bring and we appreciate that there are areas where divergence from EU law could benefit the UK. There is certainly potential to modernise and improve several aspects of consumer protection law. However, undertaking such a massive project, particularly during such a turbulent period, will require an appropriate amount of time and deliberation – otherwise it may end up doing more harm than good.”