Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill had its second reading in the Commons on 25 October 2022 and will catch the full range of health and safety regulations, which will automatically be repealed on 31 December 2023 unless ministers make specific decisions to save them.
What laws are caught by the EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill?
The Bill is designed to deal once and for all with the approximately 2,500 EU derived laws that were saved by the EU Withdrawal Act. These laws have mostly been identified on a Government dashboard, which currently lists 58 of them as being in the health and safety category; and many more cover product safety, food safety and environmental protection.
The changes do not apply to primary legislation, i.e., anything with a title ending in the word “Act” such as the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974. But they do apply to all the UK Regulations which set out specific safety duties or deal with specific risks, ranging from health and safety management, welfare, consultation and first aid, through to work at height, lifting operations, PPE, manual handling, asbestos and CDM; i.e., all the rules with a title ending in the word “Regulations”.
What will happen to these Regulations?
The Bill sweeps up all these health and safety Regulations, along with all other EU retained laws. The first step is that all these Regulations are automatically repealed on 31 December 2023 without any consultation or parliamentary scrutiny (a so called “sunset clause”), unless something is specifically done to reprieve them.
The Bill sets out options to avoid the automatic sunset on each specific set of Regulations. The first option is that Ministers can decide to postpone the repeal, but this stay of execution is only permitted as far as June 2026.
The second option is that Ministers can replace the Regulations with new ones. The replacement regulations are permitted to be changed to become less burdensome (i.e., offer less protections) but they cannot become more burdensome. This fits with the de-regulatory purpose of the Bill.
Some businesses may welcome the deregulation. However, many will be perturbed by the uncertainty and annoyed by the extra cost of taking health and safety advice and updating their policies and procedures to keep up with the changes. We might receive a clear reassurance that all health and safety Regulations will be replaced with identical protections. But we may not get such reassurance and even this would be fraught with risk of unintended changes or gaps arising from the cross referencing and interlacing of the rules, with limited time and scope for scrutiny.
Watch this space!!
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