I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pressing me on to the substantive part of the debate, but he will understand that the way in which international treaties progress through this House, the way in which they are scrutinised and the transparency with which that is done, is a matter of real importance. The reason it is a matter of real importance is that the substance of these treaties needs to be agreed in terms of a mandate. It then needs to be ensured that the scrutiny that applies is available to Members of this House at all stages. That is what in this situation entirely failed to happen.
The Secretary of State said:
“I am sorry that the timescales meant that it was not possible to have a debate before decisions needed to be made on CETA in the Council. This was down to the parliamentary calendar and the timescale set for us.”
Not possible? How did he know? He never bothered to ask. Why would the Government so determinedly pursue such a tack? The Secretary of State told us why when he admitted to the Committee in October 2016 that the
“UK could not be seen to block the agreement as it would send a negative signal to Canada.”
“when I asked him if I could count on his and Britain’s continued support for CETA, he told me Britain would not just be supporting CETA, Britain would be pushing for CETA at the EU table.”
Heaven forfend that Parliament might have had a say in such a deal now that the Secretary of State had given his gentleman’s agreement to Canada!
There are two key issues that Members need to consider today. One is the issue of substance, and we will come on to the reservations on that score that exist throughout Europe, not just on the Opposition Benches, where they are currently being debated in constitutional courts and campaigned on by colleagues in the trade union movement. Incidentally, they were fully set out in Labour’s general election manifesto last year. The second issue is process. Why have the Government repeatedly attempted to avoid proper scrutiny of the agreement? The reality of today’s debate is that it is nothing more than a masquerading exercise designed to give the illusion of scrutiny when there has in fact been so little. We are now too late in the process and can do nothing to alter its course.