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Backbench Business — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Part of National Insurance (Renaming) – in the House of Commons at 3:16 pm on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Minister without Portfolio 3:16 pm, 25th February 2014

I will certainly try to address all those concerns. That is the key reservation that is being expressed. A lot of Members say that they are in favour of a TTIP but are extremely worried that it will affect our ability to set standards, and it is important that we address those fears. I genuinely believe that they are unfounded, but it is feared that people are getting conspiratorial and somehow plotting to reduce farming, food safety, health and environmental standards on both sides of the Atlantic. The fact is that the British Government are convinced that a trade deal is not the place to raise or lower standards for the consumer, for the environment, for health and safety, for employment or for farming and food safety. Those are matters for the legislative authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to decide for themselves. On neither side of the Atlantic is anyone proposing to undermine those standards.

Caroline Lucas drew our attention to the matter of financial services in the United States. When I go to the US, I find myself having to reassure people that we are not trying to reduce their standards in relation to Dodd-Frank. When I meet people in the Democrat party who are close to the labour unions, I have to reassure them that our labour market standards on this side of the Atlantic are as good as, if not dramatically better than, those in the United States, even if our pay rates are not so high. The issues are not the same between us as they are between, for example, the United States and some of the Pacific rim countries. On neither side of the Atlantic is there any weakness in the lobbying from NGOs and others on all these issues. The negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic and the Governments of the European Union—certainly the British Government—have no intention of allowing our own right to legislate in the appropriate spheres to be compromised. Nor are we choosing this particular instrument to enter into a conspiracy to get round or lower the standards that we in this House and the people of this country wish to see applied.