Parliament

Draft United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Services Exclusions) Regulations 2023

Published date : 25 October, 2023
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott. As the Minister said, my party did not support the United Kingdom Internal Market Act. The powers that ought to have gone to devolved Governments in the aftermath of Brexit —which, again, we did not support—seem to have found themselves stuck in Westminster, largely due to the Act. Many of our fears have been borne out in the way that the Act has operated, particularly with regard to how the UK Government have used it to interfere utterly unjustifiably in things such as a simple deposit return scheme. That is not how we would wish an internal market to work, and the Act has not helped in that respect.

The lack of legislative consent motions is largely academic. I say that for two main reasons. First, the UK Government have shown over the last few years—this one have, anyway—that even if they do not have a legislative consent motion, they will just go ahead anyway. Secondly, in this case, as the Minister said, there has been constructive engagement with the devolved Administrations, even if some issues remain. Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that there has been constructive engagement.

I draw Members’ attention in particular to two areas—heat regulation and the exclusion of the education sector, particularly qualifications-awarding services—where the UK Government have recognised that there are sound policy objectives for having different regulatory approaches in different parts of the UK. I very much welcome that. Of course, it is well known and well understood that Scotland and the rest of the UK have different education and qualification systems, and—if I may be so bold as to say so, Ms Elliott—long may that remain so. Next time the Minister has the ear of the Prime Minister, who has been talking enthusiastically about his British baccalaureate, which he wishes to replace A-levels, he might wish to try to prevail on the Prime Minister to refer to it as what it is: an English baccalaureate. We will be keeping our system in Scotland, so long as the internal market Act does not get in the way of that.

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