In light of recent statements by the Secretary of State for Trade and Business, Kemi Badenoch, MP, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) wishes to express its serious concerns regarding the government's persistent push towards deregulation as part of its 'Smarter Regulation' programme, potentially putting at risk regulatory standards vital to public protection.
In response to Ministerial questions yesterday, Ms. Badenoch in seeking to highlight the perceived benefits of Brexit, said, "He should be focusing on the benefits of Brexit, such as having more control over our laws, our borders and our money, as well as being able to deregulate, including through our smarter regulation programme."
The CIEH wants to underscore that maintaining a robust regulatory framework is not at odds with the aims of taking back control but is, in fact, a central component in ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of the public. The latest remarks from the Secretary of State further cement the fears expressed by the CIEH in our June press release where we cautioned that the government’s ‘Smarter Regulation’ proposals may amount to nothing more than "deregulation via the back door", putting at jeopardy the regulatory standards vital to safeguarding our communities.
Originally, the government's plan with the Retained EU Law Bill was to sunset thousands of pieces of EU derived legislation by December 31, 2023. Such a sweeping move had the potential to greatly undermine public protection mechanisms in place. CIEH played a vital role in providing vocal opposition to this Bill working with coalition partners to ensure this was met with substantial opposition in the House of Lords, resulting in a defeat of this expansive sunsetting initiative. Consequently, only 600 pieces of legislation are now set to be wound down by the end of the year.
While this was a positive outcome, the current stance from the government, as voiced by Ms. Badenoch, indicates a continued pursuit of deregulatory agendas, albeit through more surreptitious means. This remains deeply concerning to CIEH, who firmly believes in the imperative to retain, and where necessary enhance, essential regulations that protect the public and the environment.
As advocates for the environmental health profession, we urgently call upon the government to reconsider its approach. We firmly assert that 'Smarter Regulation' should not equate to deregulation, but rather foster enhancements and improvements in regulatory standards that align with the evolving needs and demands of our society. We remain committed to engaging constructively with the government to ensure that any reforms protect the vital regulatory standards that safeguard our communities.
We urge the government to exercise due diligence and prioritise public health and safety above all else and for them to dispense with the incorrect notion that public health protections and economic growth are competing interests.
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health, added:
"It is disconcerting to witness the government steering a course that could potentially undermine the critical role played by Environmental Health Professionals (EHPs) in safeguarding public health through diligent regulation enforcement and enforcing and implementing arrangements with responsible duty holders.
Much of the work spearheaded by EHPs is pre-emptive, warding off avoidable illnesses and thereby saving the NHS billions annually. This isn't merely about upholding regulatory standards but fostering a symbiotic relationship between the health of the population and the prosperity of our economy. Rather than pushing a narrative that regulation hinders business, the government needs to look beyond a simplistic 'health vs wealth' dichotomy and embrace a more holistic approach that recognises that a healthy environment and population is not only an ethical imperative but a cornerstone for more sustainable ways of doing business within a thriving economy.
"Now, more than ever, we must champion the vital, value adding work being undertaken by EHPs who are at the forefront of enforcing regulations that ensure the health, and wellbeing of the public by creating safer, cleaner, healthier environments for everyone. This mission should not be compromised by this government’s continued deregulatory agenda.”