A man cradles a mobile phone while smoking a cigarette

Brexit bill could block public health advances

Improvements could be challenged on basis of additional cost.
02 December 2020 , Katie Coyne

Public health improvements could be blocked by the Brexit bill, the chief of Food Standards Scotland told a Lords select committee.

In the internal market bill’s current form, public health considerations and improvements involving changes between UK nations that create an additional financial cost can be challenged.

The committee heard that the benefit to the consumer of public health improvements is not factored in to the current bill. Only considering costs – and not other values – could also cause a lowering of standards.

Geoff Ogle told the Lords common framework scrutiny committee on 24 November: “The bill defines consumer interests pretty much in relation to cost… it makes no provision for public health improvement.

“The question I would ask from a consumer perspective […] is: how and where does this bill facilitate high standards and maintenance of high standards? On the face of it, as far as we can see and interpret it, it encourages lower standards and deregulation.

“From our perspective, because the consumer benefit is defined solely as cost, it means that public health improvement is really difficult.”

There are examples of important public health interventions led by, or required by, individual UK nations that if they were implemented today, potentially would be blocked by these proposed regulations.

Scotland, for example, was the first nation to introduce a ban on smoking in public places in 2006, which was subsequently adopted across the whole of the UK. And following an outbreak of E. coli O157 in Wales in 2005 where a child died, an inquiry was held and changes made to prevent reoccurrence.

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