Ministers are accused of chaotic handling of a post-Brexit regime for acknowledging the qualifications of foreign professionals, meant to make Britain ‘the best place in the world’.
The government has Professional Qualifications Bill in parliament without fully realizing what professions would fall within its scope.
Baroness Sheila Noakes, a Conservative counterpart, said the bill had the characteristics of someone who was “conceived and executed by officials with little or no ministerial policy or oversight”. She said it was “no way to do legislation”.
Lord Gerry Grimstone, Secretary of State, acknowledged that the government’s handling of the legislative details was “not good enough” and that he felt “uncomfortable” listening to criticism about it.
After listing 160 professions and 50 regulators affected by the legislation, Grimstone published a revised list of nearly 200 professions and nearly 60 regulators.
Occupations added include acute internal medicine and intensive care medicine, while regulators include the Legal Services Council and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and their equivalents for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“I accept, without reservation, that it is not good enough that these lists were incomplete,” he told the House of Lords last month. He said peers “certainly felt they were playing a blind man to see who the bill applied to”.
The legislation replaces the EU regime for the recognition of the qualifications of professionals who will work in the bloc with a new system after the Brexit for the United Kingdom.
The government said the legislation “would further strengthen the reputation of UK professions for excellence and help ensure that the UK can address where skills demand is not currently being met”.
The new law enables foreign professionals to have their qualifications recognized in Britain where they meet British standards, with regulators gaining autonomy to assess the qualifications and seek reciprocal transactions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised an immigration system after Brexit to attract the “brightest and best” global talent, but ministers struggled to draft the new law to cover all relevant professionals.
“It is surprising that this legislation was introduced without the government knowing what professions or regulators are covered,” said Baroness Dianne Hayter, a Labor and shadow minister.
The Labor Party said that if the legislation was not “fit for purpose” by the time it reached its reporting phase in the House of Lords, it could be amended by peers working across party lines.
Department of State officials conceded that the legislation had developed in an ‘iterative manner’, and Grimstone acknowledged that it was difficult to set up a British regime.
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He told colleagues this month: “What has honestly come to light during this process is that not all regulators have a copy of the list of professions they regulate.”
Helen Brand, CEO of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said the bill would be a catalyst for future free trade agreements, particularly with regard to mobility and trade in services.
The business department said the legislation would ‘revoke the current, outdated EU system for the recognition of professional qualifications and establish a new approach based on the autonomy of the regulator, as well as supporting UK professionals to provide services in to deliver abroad. ‘