36.Under existing legislation, there are a set number of designated days on which the Union flag must be flown on specified government buildings in Northern Ireland. On Europe Day, which falls on 9 May, there is currently a requirement to fly the Union flag and, where a building has two flagpoles, the European flag. This instrument, laid by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), seeks to remove the existing legal requirement to fly any flag on 9 May after the UK has withdrawn from the EU. Flag flying is a controversial issue in Northern Ireland and, given the political and legal sensitivity of this matter, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee recommended when this instrument was laid as a proposed negative, that it should be upgraded to the affirmative resolution procedure to allow the House the opportunity to debate the issue. The NIO accepted the Committee’s recommendation in September 2018, nearly six months ago. The House may wish to ask the Minister to explain the reasons for the delay in laying this affirmative instrument, particularly given the imminence of exit day and the number of instruments which have to be approved by the House before that deadline.
37.All healthcare professionals are required to have appropriate indemnity or insurance arrangements in place before they are able, lawfully, to practise. Currently, most purchase such cover from medical defence organisations, which are private companies that operate on a not-for-profit, mutual basis. However, the cost of such indemnity subscriptions has risen sharply over a number of years, by approximately 10% per annum, and was being cited as one of the reasons why GPs were reducing their hours. To address this, these Regulations, laid by the Department for Health and Social Care, establish the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice to provide indemnity cover for healthcare professionals and others (including locums, trainees, dispensing doctors, nurses and clinical pharmacists) working in general practice as part of the NHS in England. The Scheme will automatically cover liabilities for clinical negligence arising from 1 April 2019 and no payment into the scheme is required. It is understood that the Welsh Government are in the process of establishing a similar state indemnity scheme for general practice in Wales.
38.As a Member State of the EU, the UK is currently subject to bilateral agreements between the EU and third countries which allow conformity assessment bodies in these third countries to assess certain products against EU regulations or equivalent national regulations. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says that these arrangements remove product safety compliance as a key barrier to trade, and that the EU has such bilateral agreements with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, South Korea and Israel. According to the Department, the purpose of this instrument is to give the agreements explicit grounding in UK law before exit day, so that it is clear that conformity assessments in these third countries should be treated as if they had been carried out by the relevant body under EU law. BEIS says that this will also ensure that products can continue to be placed on the UK market for a time limited period after exit under separate EU exit legislation. BEIS adds that the Government are seeking to replicate the effect of the EU’s current agreements and are progressing reciprocal continuity agreements with the same third countries to provide a more permanent arrangement after exit. According to a factsheet that the Department has provided on this instrument, continuity agreements were signed earlier this year with Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Israel, and discussions to provide continuity of an agreement with Japan are ongoing. In addition, an agreement with Switzerland was signed in February which includes mutual recognition of conformity assessment for three product sectors. We are publishing the factsheet at Appendix 1.
12 Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, , Session 2017–19 (HL Paper 183).