The regulations, in the form of the Nutrition Labelling, Composition and Standards (NLCS) framework, would need ongoing parliamentary scrutiny after the end of the transition period, according to the House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee.
In the letter sent on 17 November in response to correspondence with Argar, Baroness Andrews, chair of the committee, identified three areas of concern about the NLCS framework and made a recommendation to facilitate future parliamentary scrutiny.
First, the committee observed that 'there are sections that are highlighted as incomplete and subject to further discussions between the four administrations', which raises serious concerns about the process for scrutinising this framework.
"While the provisional framework was laid in parliament on 9 October, in line with the process outlined in the letter from the minister for the constitution and devolution on 1 June 2020, it is clearly an unfinished document," the letter states.
"Even once it is implemented, it will continue to be refined in the months to come. We believe that this undermines our ability to conduct effective parliamentary scrutiny and renders the formal scrutiny period meaningless."
Second, the committee highlighted that 'there appear to be clear tensions between the framework and the Internal Market Bill as currently drafted', making it difficult to understand how the framework will operate in practice.
Northern Ireland Protocol
Third, the committee raised concerns that the provisional framework does not sufficiently account for the Northern Ireland Protocol, despite this meaning that EU nutrition rules would continue to apply to Northern Ireland: "While you state in your letter that you 'do not currently anticipate any issues arising as a result of policy divergence at the end of the transition period', the likelihood of such divergence will increase over time and could have serious implications for the future operation of this as a UK-wide framework."
The committee recommends that the annual report on the NLCS policy group should be shared with the UK parliament and devolved legislatures, not just ministers, to “ensure an appropriate degree of transparency of the development of UK nutrition rules after the end of the transition period” and facilitate parliamentary scrutiny.
The latest letter is part of ongoing correspondence between the committee and the minister for health. Baroness Andrews previously wrote to the minister about the NLCS framework on 20 October and received a reply on 2 November.