34.This instrument delegates functions of the Secretary of State in relation to international accounting standards to the new UK Accounting Standards Endorsement Board (UKEB), making the UKEB responsible for the adoption of international accounting standards for use within the UK. An earlier instrument originally conferred these functions on the Secretary of State, to replace the European Commission’s framework for the adoption of international accounting standards within the EU, following the end of the Transition Period.
35.The Explanatory Memorandum sets out how the UKEB will operate as an unincorporated association with support of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). We note that these changes will mean additional responsibilities for the FRC at a time when the FRC itself will be undergoing transformation into the new Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority.
36.The UKEB’s terms of reference will be set by the Secretary of State and will require the UKEB to report at least annually to the Secretary of State on its technical decision-making and to the FRC on adherence with its governance and due process. The UKEB’s report to the Secretary of State will be laid before Parliament, and the UKEB’s reports to the FRC on governance and due process will also be published. The Secretary of State will retain the ability to amend or revoke the delegation of functions to the UKEB using a statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure.
37.This instrument proposes to increase the charge for a single use carrier bag (SUCB) from five pence to 10 pence and to extend the obligation to charge for SUCBs to all retailers. Only retailers with 250 or more staff are legally required to charge for SUCBs at present.
38.According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the five pence charge has been successful since it was introduced for large retailers in October 2015: the main supermarkets supplied 226 million SUCBs in 2019-20, down from 1.04 billion in 2017-18, while the reported number of SUCBs has decreased by 95% since 2015. Defra explains, however, that plastic bags continue to have a significant impact on the environment, and that an estimated 3.2 billion SUCBs were circulated by Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), airport retailers and civil and voluntary organisations in 2018, accounting for over 80% of all SUCBs placed on the market. Defra adds that while there has been some uptake of the charge on a voluntary basis by small retailers, progress has been slow. The Government committed to extending the mandatory charge to all retailers in their 25 Year Environment Plan if voluntary approaches are deemed ineffective. During a public consultation between December 2018 and February 2019, more than 80% of respondents supported the extension of the charge to all retailers, and over 70% supported an increase of the charge. According to Defra, the charge will continue to be enforced by local authority trading standards officers using a “light touch, pragmatic and complaints led” approach.
39.While this instrument requires all retailers to charge for SUCBs, the current requirement on large retailers to report on their sale of SUCBs is not extended, to avoid any additional burden on MSMEs. Defra says that a further instrument will be brought forward in due course to require producers of plastic packaging to report annually on the number of SUCBs they place on the market.
40.TThis instrument allows for variable speed enforcement on the modified M6 motorway between junctions 13 (Stafford) and 15 (Newcastle Under Lyme) where the hard shoulder has been converted to create four running lanes in each direction. The Department for Transport (DfT) states that these motorways typically provide a third more capacity than a conventional motorway with a hard shoulder..
41.There have been a number of reports in the press recently expressing concern over the safety of these SMART motorways.Further information from the DfT, published in Appendix 2, states that there are no concerns about the air quality for this stretch of road and that a number of safety measures are to be implemented including stopped vehicle detection (SVD) radar. DfT also draws attention to an evaluation of SMART motorway safety, published in March 2020, (“the Stocktake document”) which found that these roads were in most ways as safe as, or safer than, conventional ones.
42.We take the view that this statement does not sufficiently distinguish the risks: — the Stocktake document states “The risk of a collision between a moving vehicle and a stationary vehicle is higher on non-hard-shoulder motorways. But the risk of a collision between two or more moving vehicles is lower. Because when the hard shoulder is removed, technology is installed to smooth traffic flow with variable speed limits.”(page 5) That is a justification for installing SMART monitoring of all motorways rather than an endorsement of using the hard-shoulder as a running lane. We note that the Stocktake document goes on to say that “Over the four years 2015–18 (inclusive), All Lane Running and Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running motorways carried, on average, 10.7% of the traffic on the motorway network. They accounted for, on average, 11.4% of the serious casualties”. (page 10) That evidence seems to imply that motorways with hard-shoulder running are less safe. The House may wish to ask the Minister for further clarification.
43.This instrument increases the level of the television licence fee in line with the Consumer Price Index from £157.50 to £159.00 for a colour licence, and from £53.00 to £53.50 for a black and white licence for the year 2021/22. The instrument also increases the sums that are payable under licence fee instalment schemes. According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, this will be the last annual increase under the current licence fee settlement; future decisions will be made as part of a new licence fee settlement that is to take effect from 1 April 2022.
44.This instrument allows high risk plants and plant products from the EU to undergo plant health inspections away from the border at inland Places of Destination (PoDs). According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), this is a necessary contingency measure as Border Control Posts (BCPs), where these checks are due to take place, are not expected to be operationally ready until later in the year. The instrument sets out the requirements for businesses wishing to act as PoDs. Asked about the timetable, Defra told us that: “BCPs at Sevington (Ashford) and Dover White Cliffs are being constructed to undertake Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks for goods, which will be required to implement SPS controls for goods imported from the EU from July 2021.”
45.The instrument also introduces emergency measures against the import into Great Britain (GB) of host plants of Xylella fastidiosa (Xylella), a bacterium which causes disease in a wide range of commercially grown plants. According to Defra, serious outbreaks of the disease have occurred in Italy and other EU countries. This instrument re-introduces measures that were originally introduced last year but subsequently removed, following infraction proceedings by the European Commission. Following changes to GB’s plant health regime after the end of the Transition Period, the Department is now able to re-introduce these measures. Asked about the nature of these measures, Defra told us that:
“Under the new measures, imports of the highest risk host plants (Polygala and Coffea) are only allowed from countries where Xylella is known not to occur. In addition, the existing requirements applying to the import of other key host plants (Olive, Almond, Lavender, Rosemary and Nerium oleander) from countries where Xylella is known to occur have been strengthened. Imports will only be permitted under certain conditions, including inspections of the place of production and the surrounding area, testing, pre-export inspections and a one-year quarantine period prior to import.”
21 International Accounting Standards and European Public Limited-Liability Company (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 ().
22 UK Accounting Standards Endorsement Board, Terms of Reference — Draft: [accessed 18 February 2021].
23 Defra, A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, (11 January 2018): [accessed 18 February 2021].
24 For example, from the Yorkshire PCC on 16 February 2021: ‘“Abandon smart motorways”, says South Yorkshire PCC’, BBC (17 February 2021): [accessed 18 February 2021].
25 A section of motorway that uses active traffic management (ATM) techniques to increase capacity by use of variable speed limits and hard shoulder running at busy times.
26 DfT, Smart Motorway Safety Evidence Stocktake and Action Plan: [accessed 18 February 2021].
27 Official Controls (Plant Health and Genetically Modified Organisms) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 ().
28 Official Controls (Plant Health and Genetically Modified Organisms) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020 ().
29 Plant Health (Phytosanitary Conditions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 ().