Official Report: Minutes of Evidence
Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, meeting on Thursday, 15 October 2020
Members present for all or part of the proceedings:Mr Declan McAleer (Chairperson)
Mr Philip McGuigan (Deputy Chairperson)
Ms Clare Bailey
Mrs Rosemary Barton
Mr John Blair
Mr Maurice Bradley
Mr Harry Harvey
Mr William Irwin
Mr Patsy McGlone
Witnesses:Mr Anthony Courtney, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Ship Recycling (Facilities and Requirements for Hazardous Materials on Ships) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
The Chairperson (Mr McAleer): We will move on to the Ship Recycling (Facilities and Requirements for Hazardous Materials on Ships) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. We now have Anthony Courtney with us. Can you give us a three- to four-minute overview of the regulations? If members wish to ask any questions after that, they can do so.
Mr Anthony Courtney (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs): Yes, I can, and apologies for the technical difficulties earlier. Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Committee on this. I will give a brief overview of the purpose and the content of the SI, including some brief background to give it some context. It is a short UK-wide SI that contains both reserved and devolved content. The Department for Transport intends to lay the SI later on today. The purpose of the SI is essentially to ensure that Northern Ireland can continue to comply with the requirements of Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013, which is the EU regulation on ship recycling. This is necessary because it is a requirement of the NI protocol that Northern Ireland continues to comply with that.
The EU regulation itself provides a basis for improving environmental and safety standards in respect of the recycling of EU-flagged ships. While a number of aspects of the EU regulation relate to reserved matters, one of the key elements of the EU regulation is to require that EU-flagged ships are recycled at an approved ship-recycling facility on the EU's European list. For Northern Ireland, regulations were made in 2015 that designated the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Health and Safety Executive in Northern Ireland as joint local competent authorities to authorise ship-recycling facilities in Northern Ireland so that they could be added to and included on the European list. In preparation for exit day, in 2019, some amendments were made to the 2015 Northern Ireland regulations and to the EU regulation itself so that UK-flagged ships will need to use an approved ship-recycling facility on a United Kingdom list, which is to replicate the EU list. The 2019 amendments also replaced and updated some references to EU member states and references to the Commission and so on, but, because the EU regulation is listed in the NI protocol, some of the amendments made in 2019 needed to be revisited and, in some ways, reversed.
In summary, this SI reinstates the European list of facilities for EU-flagged ships in respect of Northern Ireland. The 2015 NI regulations are revived so that, as is the case now, Northern Ireland facilities are prohibited from accepting an EU-flagged ship for recycling unless the facility is on the European list. Along with ship-recycling facilities in the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland facilities will not be able to accept any UK-flagged ship after the implementation period completion day unless that facility is included on the UK list. It is important to recognise that the UK list will mirror the EU list.
One of the other changes in the SI is that the competent authorities in Northern Ireland, which will be the NIEA and the Health and Safety Executive, will need to inform the Secretary of State about the status of any NI facilities on the European list if the status changes — for example, if a ship-recycling permit has been renewed, suspended or withdrawn. There will then be an onus on the Secretary of State to notify the European Commission of any such changes. The SI also makes some very minor operability amendments to the retained version of the EU regulation covering reserved matters, but, again, that includes placing a requirement on the Secretary of State to inform the European Commission about any changes to facilities in NI.
At the moment and in the past couple of years, there has been only one NI site on the European list, which is Harland and Wolff, and the effect of this SI is that it can remain to be treated by the EU as a facility with an equivalent status to facilities that are located in an EU member state, whereas the facilities in the rest of the UK will have to go through a different process to get added onto the European list again. Ultimately, there will be no real change after the transition period. The positive impact is that it will be easier for NI facilities to gain access and remain on the European list in comparison with the facilities on the UK mainland. That is the crux and the basic impact of the changes in the SI. That is all I have to say at this stage. I am happy to hear comments or take questions from members.
The Chairperson (Mr McAleer): Thank you, Anthony. Is it right that, in the North, the only EU-recognised ship-recycling facility is Harland and Wolff?
Mr Courtney: That is right, yes. It is the only facility from Northern Ireland on the European list, yes.
Mr Harvey: I welcome that. To me, having read through it all, it seems like there is an opportunity for Harland and Wolff there. That should be good.
Mr Courtney: Yes, that is an important point. Essentially, it allows Harland and Wolff to continue to be on the European list, and therefore it should be open to taking on more business in recycling EU-flagged ships.
Members indicated assent.
Mr Courtney: Thank you very much for your patience, Chairperson.