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There has been considerable concern regarding what many believe to be a deregulatory approach from the incumbent government. In September 2022, the UK Government tabled the Retained EU (Revocation and Reform) (REUL) Bill which aimed to repeal, replace, or revoke over 4,000 pieces of existing EU legislation that remained on the UK statute book by 31st December 2023.
In addition to the REUL Bill, in May 2023 the UK Government also published its ‘Smarter Regulation to Grow the Economy’ policy paper. The Government claimed this new approach to regulation will ‘deliver rules that are proportionate to the outcomes they are trying to achieve’. They added that the reforms will ‘end the default expectation of government departments that regulation is a first choice’, tasking government departments to come up with non-regulatory policy solutions before regulation is even considered. In the event regulation is considered, it must ‘align with UK interests’ and will be subject to assessments as to its impact on business, trade, competition, and innovation.
In other words, the Government aims to significantly reduce regulatory burden on business by weighing regulation against economic factors in the form of cost-benefit analysis.
Government departments will also be subject to additional scrutiny in that they will be tasked with providing clear justification as to why regulatory options are being pursued as well as sharing early-stage criteria for monitoring and evaluating how successful regulation has been in practice.
Retained EU law still regulates vital areas of environmental health, including occupational health and safety, environmental protection and food safety and standards. Therefore, initial proposals to sunset vast swathes of regulation in these areas threatened to undermine key regulatory standards vital for public health protection.
With respect to the Smarter Regulation proposals, there are genuine concerns that the outcome of this will see a reduction in vital standards protecting public health in favour of non-regulatory alternatives. CIEH are also concerned that government departments may divest their regulatory responsibilities to local authorities, many of whom are already under-resourced.
Since the REUL Bill has been tabled, CIEH have been a consistent voice in opposition to wholesale sunsetting of regulatory standards by 31st December 2023.
Working with parliamentarians in both Houses we have tabled over 30 parliamentary questions, and played a pivotal role in forcing legislative changes to the Bill in the House of Lords which ultimately removed the arbitrary sunset date originally included in the Bill.
CIEH also joined with partner organisations to launch the OSH Alliance, presenting a united front of health and safety organisations highlighting the detrimental impact this Bill would have on Health & Safety standards.
CIEH also supported the CTSI’s ‘Save our Standards’ Campaign, joining a roundtable of Peers designed to pressurise the government to remove the arbitrary sunset date within the REUL Bill.
CIEH have also highlighted our concerns with respect to the government’s deregulatory direction of travel as evidenced by the REUL Bill and ‘Smarter Regulation’ proposals in our recently updated Manifesto for Environmental Health.
We will continue to raise our concerns and to urge the government to dispense with their ‘health vs wealth’ dichotomy, instead presenting how a healthy population is vital to a thriving economy.
Letters to Political Leaders