Disclosure of information by HMRC

Trade Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 17th July 2018.

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Amendments made: 59, page 5, line 38, leave out “Data Protection Act 1998” and insert “data protection legislation”

This amendment and amendment 60 reflect the fact that the Data Protection Act 2018 has now replaced the Data Protection Act 1998.

Amendment 60, page 5, line 40, at end insert—

‘( ) In this section “the data protection legislation” has the same meaning as in the Data Protection Act 2018 (see section 3 of that Act).”—(George Hollingbery.)

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 59.

Title

Amendment made: 79, line 1 after “the” insert “ratification and”—(George Hollingbery.)

This amendment is consequential on NC12.

Third Reading.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade 6:44 pm, 17th July 2018

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Let me begin by thanking right hon. and hon. Members from across the House who have shared their time and expertise to help enhance the Bill. We have spent today on Report thoroughly examining the measures in this short but significant proposed legislation. This followed four days of line-by-line scrutiny in Public Bill Committee. I would like to thank those who gave oral evidence to the Committee, and the individuals and organisations who provided written evidence and recommendations. I also extend particular thanks to the members of the Committee, on which Barry Gardiner led for the Opposition and Kirsty Blackman led for the Scottish National party, for their detailed examination of the Bill and the positive way in which they contributed to debates on its provisions. I would also like to pay particular thanks to my right hon. Friend Greg Hands, who as Minister of State for Trade Policy played a vital role in developing the Bill and in steering it through the preceding parliamentary stages. I, and all my parliamentary colleagues, owe him a great debt.

This is an important Bill. It provides continuity and stability as the UK leaves the European Union for individuals, businesses and our international trading partners. It will be the confident first step that the UK takes towards establishing itself as an independent training nation for the first time in over 40 years. As the hon. Member for Brent North concluded on Second Reading:

“The need for a Bill to establish a trade remedies authority, to establish our independent membership of the WTO government procurement agreement, to enable us to maintain strong trading ties with partner countries that have had historical agreements with us through the EU, and to establish the power to collect and share…information—all are uncontroversial requirements.”—[Official Report, 9 January 2018;
Vol. 634, c. 221.]

I wholeheartedly concur.

As the UK leaves the EU, the Government are committed to seeking continuity in our current trade relationships. One way we will achieve this is by introducing powers to let us make domestic legislation implementing our independent membership of the Agreement on Government Procurement, or GPA. This continuity is important for both business and the taxpayer. GPA membership will maintain the access of UK businesses to a global public procurement market estimated at £1.3 trillion every year, across major economies such as the United States, Canada and Japan.

Taxpayers and users of public services will also benefit. The GPA has led to increased choice, quality and value for money in the public sector. TheCityUK, which represents financial and related professional services, wrote to the Public Bill Committee to say:

“We fully recognise the need for the UK to become a party to the WTO GPA”.

As it explained:

“The GPA requires that open, fair and transparent conditions of competition be ensured in government procurement…which cover both goods and services”.

The Federation of Small Businesses said:

“it is essential that the UK is able to become an independent member of the GPA, allowing small businesses to have continued access to government contracts and procurement opportunities.”

It is clear that the agreement is of great value to UK businesses and its importance is endorsed by organisations representing their interests.

As an EU member, the UK participates in many trade agreements with partner countries. We want continuity as far as possible in our existing trading relationships with these existing partners. As these agreements account for 12% of the UK’s total international trade, this will be important in preventing disruption to businesses, consumers and workers. The International Trade Committee observed in a recent report that:

“Almost no one who contributed to our inquiry suggested that the Government’s policy objective of seeking continuity was the wrong one.”

Additionally, the Scotch Whisky Association, which I have much pleasure in promoting at home and abroad, has said that

“continuity of current EU trade agreements is vitally important to us”.

British Sugar stated:

“We support the Government’s overriding intention to maintain continuity by replicating existing trade as closely as possible and believe that this is the best means by which to provide certainty to business.”

Continuity for the taxpayer, businesses, consumers and our international partners—that is what this Bill is about. To be absolutely clear, and as I made clear in my statement yesterday, this Bill is not about signing new trade agreements or making substantial changes to existing ones.

Despite many misleading claims to the contrary, the Government will not use measures in the Bill to implement substantially different agreements with existing partner countries. Our policy has always been, and remains, one of securing continuity first and seeking new opportunities second. We have been clear with our trading partners that continuity remains our primary objective, as I made clear earlier this evening. However, as debated on Report, to further reassure the House, the Trade Bill requires the Secretary of State to table a report outlining all the changes made to existing agreements as part of the transition into UK-only agreements. This places in statute the Government’s clear commitment to transparency—to aid appropriate parliamentary involvement, allowing Members of both Houses of Parliament the opportunity to see what changes have been made to secure continuity.

Additionally, the use of the clause 2 power will now be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, allowing both Houses to debate regulations made under that power. The Government will not use the powers in the Bill to implement the obligations of new free trade agreements—ones with countries with whom the EU does not already have a free trade agreement. We consider these to be future trade agreements and we announced this week our proposals for them.

The Bill also provides for the establishment of the Trade Remedies Authority. The World Trade Organisation allows its members to provide a safety net to protect domestic industries against injury caused by unfair trading practices, such as dumping and subsidies, and unforeseen surges in imports. Trade remedies level the playing field and restore the competitive balance. They are key to ensuring an effective rules-based system for international trade. The European Commission is currently responsible for undertaking trade remedies investigations and imposing measures on behalf of the UK. The Government are establishing the TRA to ensure that the UK can continue to provide a safety net for domestic industries after we have left the EU. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for the support that they have given on this issue.

Specifically, the TRA will be responsible for making an assessment in a case for a trade remedies measure, based on the evidence available. It will then make impartial recommendations to Ministers. This includes protection from goods that are heavily subsidised or dumped in the UK market at below domestic price. It also includes injury caused by unforeseen surges in imports. The investigative and decision-making framework that the TRA will be responsible for delivering is set out in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill.

The Government’s commitment to establishing the TRA has been recognised by stakeholders—by both producers and consumers. The Public Bill Committee was told by the British Ceramic Confederation:

“It is clear that we need a TRA, and it is certainly welcome that the Bill establishes one.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018;
c. 64, Q123.]

In its written evidence, consumer organisation Which? stated that it

“recognises the need to develop a trade remedies regime and establish a new TRA which will be able to consider the need for remedies objectively, on a case by case basis”.

As the International Trade Committee also recently acknowledged:

“Establishing a trade defence regime is critical to protect UK domestic industries from injury from adverse trading practices.”

The Committee described the Trade Bill and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill as “important, necessary steps” and stated that

“we welcome the Government’s attention to this subject.”

The Bill also includes measures that will allow HMRC to collect more detailed information on trade and share it with appropriate bodies, primarily the Department for International Trade. This will allow the Government a sharper picture of how the UK trades and where we can best target support for British businesses. These provisions will also ensure that the UK is able to fulfil its international transparency obligations to share data with organisations such as the WTO. This function is currently undertaken by the European Union and it is vital that the UK can take over this responsibility, if we are to operate an independent trade policy.

Appearing as an expert witness before the Public Bill Committee, Professor Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory said:

“Information is very important, not least in my trade, for analysing what goes on. The case for collecting reasonable amounts of information, as long as it is cheap to do so, is very strong indeed”.––[Official Report, Trade Bill Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018;
c. 57, Q108.]

In a similar vein, the British Chambers of Commerce told that Committee:

“If, in the future, there can be a more robust collection of data and stronger assessments of UK-third country trade, that would be helpful.”––[Official Report, Trade Bill Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018;
c. 72, Q136.]

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee

Given the vote just now and that the UK is turning its back on the customs union, we will most likely have a border in Ireland. In that eventuality, we will not have a transition agreement with the Republic of Ireland. If we have a border but no transition agreement, will the Government be ready in March 2019 with the TRA and will they have in place the 40 trade agreements that are vital for industry?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

I do not accept that the Government’s proposals will require a border in Ireland. In fact, the Cabinet took a specific decision to bring forward a proposal to take to the EU that will prevent us from having that border. Nor will we accept a border down the Irish sea, because all parts of the UK, however much the hon. Gentleman might dislike it, will be treated the same by this Government, who are proud to be a Conservative and Unionist Government.

The Bill also brings forward measures that will ensure a joined-up UK approach to implementing the GPA and continuity trade agreements. However, the Government respect the devolution settlement, as reflected by the amendments tabled by the Government on Report and accepted by the House. We have worked closely with the devolved Administrations to make progress towards legislative consent. Let me reiterate the Government’s commitment to not normally using the powers in the Bill in areas of devolved competence without the consent of the devolved Administrations. These powers are primarily here for administrative efficiency. We will not be taking back any powers currently in the hands of the devolved Administrations, however much the nationalists pretend that we will be. In fact, as powers return from Brussels, more will sit with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments than ever before.

As we leave the European Union, we want to provide continuity for businesses, for consumers and for our trading partners. This Bill sets the scene for the United Kingdom’s independent, sovereign trade policy. We will approach that with optimism and confidence. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 6:57 pm, 17th July 2018

I thank the Minister for Trade Policy for stepping into the shoes of Greg Hands with great aplomb. He has displayed his customary tact in all our engagements and has helped the Government deliver the Bill, despite all the pressures he has faced. I pay tribute to Mr Djanogly, who I thought made an exceptionally thoughtful speech on Report and gave the Government a great deal of wise counsel that they might have done better to take even more notice of than they did.

In particular, of course, I want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) for their exceptional work in preparing for the debates on Report and in Committee. It has been a long process since last October. We were not quite sure whether we would see the Bill this side of the summer recess, or whether it would even resurface before Christmas, but it is a great tribute to them that they were able to scrutinise the Bill with the care it deserved.

I echo the Secretary of State’s remarks about the expert witnesses. It is one of the great features of the innovations over the past 15 to 20 years in this House that expert witnesses now give their testimony to Committees at the beginning and inform our procedures. We certainly benefited hugely from all they said. Of course, I wish that the Secretary of State and the Minister had taken a little more notice of what they said, because they were often extremely critical of the Government, but that was not to be.

Finally, let me apologise to the Government Whips. I am not known in this place for speaking with brevity, and I must apologise to the Whips because when I curtailed my remarks this afternoon, it meant that the session did not go the full length, and I think that they took their wrath out on the Minister for ending it early.

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 317, Noes 286.

Division number 224

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Aye

No

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.