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Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill needs more safeguards, Committee argues

18 February 2019

The Constitution Committee today releases a report on the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, raising concerns over the Bill's use of broad delegated powers and lack of adequate safeguards.

Key Findings

The Committee agrees with the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee that powers contained within the Bill are "inappropriately wide and have not been adequately justified" and confers powers to Ministers that extend beyond measures to deal with Brexit. The Committee recommends that the Bill should be limited to making healthcare arrangements with countries that currently participate in the European Health Insurance Card Scheme and include a sunset clause to allow for subsequent parliamentary scrutiny when the policy has been established.

The Committee expresses concern that this Bill is not subject to the scrutiny safeguards set out in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The Committee recommends that the Bill be amended to reflect the distinction in that Act between principle and minor retained EU legislation and require regulations amending direct principle EU legislation be subject to the affirmative procedure. The Committee concludes that these protections should be extended to all future Brexit-related Bills.

The Committee also highlights the issue of the interaction in the Bill of the reserved power for Westminster on international relations and the devolved competence on healthcare for the devolved institutions. The Committee recommends that the Government set out how it intends to manage overlapping competences both in this Bill and other policy areas.

While the Committee recognises that the exceptional context of Brexit may justify broader than normal powers, it emphasises that detailed scrutiny and appropriate safeguards are all the more important in such circumstances.

Further information

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