“(1) A public authority specified in subsection (3) may disclose information for the purpose of facilitating the exercise by a Minister of the Crown of the Minister’s functions relating to trade.
(2) Those functions include, among other things, functions relating to—
(a) the analysis of the flow of traffic, goods and services into and out of the United Kingdom;
(b) the analysis of the impact, or likely impact, of measures or practices relating to imports, exports, border security and transport on such flow;
(c) the design, implementation and operation of such measures or practices.
(3) The specified public authorities are—
(a) the Secretary of State;
(b) the Minister for the Cabinet Office;
(c) a strategic highways company appointed under section 1 of the Infrastructure Act 2015;
(d) a port health authority constituted under section 2 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
(4) A person who receives information as a result of this section may only use the information for the purpose of facilitating the exercise by a public authority of the authority’s functions relating to trade (which include, among other things, functions of a kind referred to in subsection (2)).
(5) A person who receives information as a result of this section may further disclose the information, but only with the consent of the public authority that disclosed the information under subsection (1) (which may be general or specific).
(6) This section does not limit the circumstances in which the information may be disclosed under any other enactment or rule of law.
(7) A disclosure under this section does not breach—
(a) any obligation of confidence owed by the person disclosing the information, or
(b) any other restriction on the disclosure of information (however imposed).
(8) But nothing in this section authorises the making of a disclosure which—
(a) contravenes the data protection legislation (save that the powers conferred by this section are to be taken into account in determining whether a disclosure contravenes that legislation), or
(b) is prohibited by any of Parts 1 to 7 or Chapter 1 of Part 9 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.
(9) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations made by statutory instrument amend this section for the purpose of specifying a public authority in, or removing a public authority from, subsection (3).
(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (9) (whether alone or with other provision) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(11) In this section—
“the data protection legislation” has the same meaning as in the Data Protection Act 2018 (see section 3 of that Act);
“public authority” means an authority exercising functions of a public nature.”—(Greg Hands.)
This new clause would allow named public authorities to share information for the purpose of facilitating the exercise of a Minister’s functions relating to trade.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 6—Offences related to disclosure under section (Disclosure of information by other authorities).
New clause 1—Report on proposed free trade agreement—
“(1) This section applies (subject to subsection (2)) where the United Kingdom has authenticated a free trade agreement (“the proposed agreement”), if —
(a) the other party (or each other party) and the European Union were signatories to a free trade agreement immediately before exit day, or
(b) where the proposed agreement was authenticated by the United Kingdom before exit day, the other party (or each other party) and the European Union were signatories to a free trade agreement on the day the proposed agreement was authenticated by the United Kingdom.
(2) This section applies only if the proposed agreement is not binding on the United Kingdom as a matter of international law unless it is ratified by the United Kingdom.
(3) Before the United Kingdom ratifies the proposed agreement, a Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report which gives details of, and explains the reasons for, any significant differences between—
(a) the trade-related provisions of the proposed agreement, and
(b) the trade-related provisions of the existing free trade agreement.
(4) Subsection (3) does not apply if a report in relation to the proposed agreement has been laid before Parliament under section [Report to be laid with regulations under section 2(1))2].
(5) The duty imposed by subsection (3) applies only at a time when regulations may be made under section 2(1)(see section 2(7)).
(6) In this section a reference to authenticating a free trade agreement is a reference to doing an act which establishes the text of the agreement as authentic and definitive as a matter of international law.
(7) In this section—
“the existing free trade agreement” means the free trade agreement referred to in subsection (1) (a) or (b); the “trade-related provisions” of a free trade agreement are the provisions of the agreement that mainly relate to trade.”
This new clause reinserts a Government amendment made to the Trade Bill in 2018 and requires a Minister to lay a report before Parliament before the UK ratifies a new free trade agreement with a country that (before exit day) had a free trade agreement with the EU. The report must explain any significant differences between the proposed new agreement and the existing agreement with the EU.
New clause 2—Reporting requirement not to apply in exceptional cases—
“(1) Section [Report on proposed free trade agreement] does not apply to a free trade agreement if a Minister of the Crown is of the opinion that, exceptionally, the agreement needs to be ratified without laying before Parliament a report which meets the requirements of subsection (3) of that section.
(2) If a Minister determines that a free trade agreement is it be ratified without laying before Parliament a report which meets the requirements of section [Report on proposed free trade agreement] (3), the Minister must, as soon as practicable after the agreement is ratified, lay before Parliament—
(a) a report which meets those requirements, and
(b) a statement indicating that the Minister is of the opinion mentioned in subsection (1) and explain why.”
This new clause provides that the reporting requirement under section [Report on proposed free trade agreement] would not apply if a Minister takes the view that, exceptionally, the agreement should be ratified without the reporting requirement being met.
New clause 3—Report to be laid with regulations under section 2(1)—
“(1) This section applies where a Minister of the Crown proposes to make regulations under section 2(1) for the purpose of implementing a free trade agreement to which the United Kingdom and another signatory (or other signatories) are signatories.
(2) A draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations may not be laid before Parliament unless, at least 10 Commons sitting days before the draft is laid, a Minister of the Crown has laid before Parliament a report which gives details of, and explains the reasons for, any significant differences between—
(a) the trade-related provisions of the free trade agreement to which the United Kingdom and the other signatory (or other signatories) are signatories, and
(b) the trade-related provisions of the existing free trade agreement.
(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if, at least 10 Commons sitting days before a draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations is laid, a report in relation to the agreement has been laid before Parliament under section [Report on proposed free trade agreement](3).
(4) In this section—
“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons begins to sit;
“the existing free trade agreement” means the free trade agreement to which the European Union and the other signatory (or other signatories) were signatories immediately before exit day; the “trade-related provisions” of a free trade agreement are the provisions of the agreement that mainly relate to trade.”
This new clause reinserts a Government amendment made to the Trade Bill in 2018 and requires a Minister to lay a report before Parliament at least 10 Commons sitting days before regulations implementing a new free trade agreement are laid in draft under clause 2(1). The report is required to explain any significant differences between the new agreement and the existing agreement with the EU.
New clause 4—Parliamentary approval of trade agreements—
“(1) Negotiations towards a free trade agreement may not commence until the Secretary of State has laid draft negotiating objectives in respect of that agreement before both Houses of Parliament, and a motion endorsing draft negotiating objectives has been approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
(2) Prior to the draft negotiating objectives being laid, the Secretary of State must have—
(a) consulted with each devolved authority on the content of the draft negotiating objectives, and
(b) produced a sustainability impact assessment including, but not limited to, an assessment of the impact on food safety, health, the environment and animal welfare.
(3) The United Kingdom may not become a signatory to a free trade agreement to which this section applies unless a draft of the agreement in the terms in which it was to be presented for signature by parties to the agreement has been laid before, and approved by, a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
(4) Before either House of Parliament may be asked to approve by resolution the text of a proposed free trade agreement, the Secretary of State must—
(a) consult with each devolved authority on the text of the proposed agreement, and
(b) lay before both Houses a report assessing the compliance of the text of the proposed agreement with any standards laid down by primary or subordinate legislation in the United Kingdom including, but not limited to, legislation governing or prescribing standards on food safety, health, the environment and animal welfare.
(5) In this section—
“devolved authority” has the meaning given in section 4(1) of this Act, and
“free trade agreement” means any agreement which is—
(a) within the definition given in section 4(1) of this Act, and
(b) an agreement between the United Kingdom and one or more partners that includes components that facilitate the trade of goods, services or intellectual property.”
New clause 7—Import standards—
“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the agreement—
(a) includes an affirmation of the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under the SPS Agreement, and
(b) prohibits the importation into the United Kingdom of agricultural and food products in relation to which the relevant standards are lower than the relevant standards in the United Kingdom.
(2) In subsection (1)—
“international trade agreement” has the meaning given in section 2(2) of this Act;
“relevant standards” means standards relating to environmental protection, plant health and animal welfare applying in connection with the production of agricultural and food products;
“SPS Agreement” means the agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time).”
This new clause would ensure that HMG has a duty to protect the quality of the domestic food supply by ensuring that imported foodstuffs are held to the same standards as domestic foodstuffs are held to.
New clause 8—International trade agreements: public health services—
“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 if any provision of the agreement—
(a) would have the effect of, or could reasonably be expected to have the effect of, altering the way in which a service is provided by a specified body,
(b) would have the effect of, or could reasonably be expected to have the effect of, opening any part of a specified body to foreign investment,
(c) would open part or all of a specified body to market access but without any accompanying provision for the UK Government to reduce the level of market access in future,
(d) does not specify sectors or subsectors of a specified body to which the agreement would enable market access,
(e) includes investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in relation to a specified body, or
(f) includes changes to mechanisms for the pricing of medical or pharmaceutical products for purchase by a specified body.
(2) The specified bodies, for the purpose of subsection (1), are—
(a) NHS England,
(b) NHS Wales,
(3) In subsection (1), ” international trade agreement” has the meaning given in section 2 of this Act.”
This new clause would ensure that HMG has a duty to restrict market access to healthcare services, including medicines and medical devices.
New clause 9—International trade agreements: climate and environmental goals—
“(1) An appropriate authority may not take action in relation to an international trade agreement unless nothing in the international trade agreement restricts the ability of that or any other appropriate authority to take action in pursuit of the UK’s climate and environmental goals.
(2) In subsection (1) “action in relation to an international trade agreement” means—
(a) laying the agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (treaties to be laid before Parliament before ratification),
(b) making regulations under section 2 for the purposes of implementing or facilitating the implementation of the agreement, or
(c) making subordinate legislation under any other enactment for those purposes.
(3) In subsection (2) “laid”—
(a) where the appropriate authority is a Minister of the Crown, means laid before Parliament;
(d) where the appropriate authority is a Northern Ireland department, means laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
(4) In conducting trade negotiations and in other related activity a Minister of the Crown—
(a) must give priority to nations that are fully implementing relevant multilateral environmental agreements; and
(b) must take all reasonable steps to facilitate the achievement of the UK’s climate and environmental goals (including, in particular, by pursuing where appropriate the introduction, amendment or application of rules within the World Trade Organisation and other international trade forums).
(5) In subsection (4) “trade negotiations” means—
(a) negotiations with a view to entering into an international trade agreement; or
(b) negotiations in connection with the implementation or alteration of an international trade agreement, or otherwise connected with international trade.
(6) In subsection (4) “relevant multilateral environmental agreements” means, so far as geographically applicable, any of—
(a) the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change done at New York on
(b) the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity done at Rio de Janeiro on
(d) United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea 1982,
(e) the Aarhus Convention 1998,
(f) the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution 1979,
(g) the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) Convention 1992, or
(h) the Basel Convention 1992.
(7) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament in each financial year a report about compliance with subsection (4).
(8) In this section “the UK’s climate and environmental goals” means—
(a) the target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050;
(b) any other target set under or for purposes connected with any enactment (including devolved legislation and retained EU law) relating to the environment or climate change;
(c) any target to which the UK is committed by virtue of being party to a relevant multilateral environmental agreement; and
This new clause aligns the UK’s trade policy with the UK’s climate and environmental agenda. It would ensure that the negotiation of trade agreements facilitates the achievement of the UK’s domestic climate and environmental goals and would help prevent trade agreements from restricting action in pursuit of these goals.
New clause 10—Availability of agreement texts—
“(1) The text of any proposed international trade agreement which is being negotiated shall, so far as it is agreed or consolidated, be made publicly available within ten days of the close of each round of negotiations.
(a) document submitted formally by the United Kingdom government to the negotiations, and
(b) agenda for each new round of negotiations shall be made publicly available by the Secretary of State.
(3) All other documents relating to the negotiations and not falling within the descriptions provided in subsections (1) and (2) shall be made publicly available by the Secretary of State, subject to subsection (4).
(4) The Secretary of State may withhold from publication any document of a kind falling within the description in subsection (3) but must publish a statement of the reasons for doing so.
(5) In the case of any document withheld under subsection (4), the Secretary of State shall provide full and unfettered access to that document to—
(a) any select committee of either House of Parliament to which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, the proposed agreement is relevant, and
(b) any other person or body which the Secretary of State may authorise.
(6) In the case of a document to which access is provided under subsection (5), the Secretary of State may specify conditions under which the text shall be made available.
(7) The Secretary of State shall maintain an online public register of all documents published under subsections (1), (2) and (3) or withheld under subsection (4).”
This new clause would give select committees access to more confidential negotiating documents and would provide a process for further transparency of negotiating texts beyond that.
New clause 11—Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day—
“(1) After IP completion day, agricultural goods imported under a free trade agreement may be imported into the UK only if the standards to which those goods were produced were as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law relating to—
(a) animal health and welfare,
(b) protection of the environment,
(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and
(d) plant health.
(2) The Secretary of State must prepare a register of standards under UK law relating to—
(a) animal health and welfare,
(b) protection of the environment,
(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and
(d) plant health which must be met in the course of production of any imported agricultural goods.
(3) A register under subsection (2) must be updated within seven days of any amendment to any standard listed in the register.
(4) “Agricultural goods”, for the purposes of this section, means anything produced by a producer operating in one or more agricultural sectors listed in Schedule 1.
(5) “IP completion day” has the meaning given in section 39 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”
This new clause would set a requirement for imported agricultural goods to meet animal health and welfare, environmental, plant health, food safety and other standards which are at least as high as those which apply to UK produced agricultural goods.
New clause 12—Review of free trade agreements—
“(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a review of the operation and impacts of each free trade agreement to which this Act applies.
(2) Each such review shall be laid before Parliament no later than five years from the day on which the agreement comes into force.
(3) A further review of the operation of each agreement shall be laid no later than five years after the day on which the previous such review was laid before Parliament.
(4) Each review shall be conducted by a credible body independent of government and shall include both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the impacts of the agreement, including as a minimum—
(a) the economic impacts on individual sectors of the economy, including, but not restricted to—
(i) the impacts on the quantity and quality of employment,
(ii) the various regional impacts across the different parts of the UK,
(iii) the impacts on small and medium-sized enterprises, and
(iv) the impacts on vulnerable economic groups;
(b) the social impacts, including but not restricted to—
(i) the impacts on public services, wages, labour standards, social dialogue, health and safety at work, public health, food safety, social protection, consumer protection and information, and
(ii) the government’s duties under the Equality Act 2010;
(c) the impacts on human rights, including but not restricted to—
(i) workers’ rights,
(ii) women’s rights,
(iii) cultural rights and
(iv) all UK obligations under international human rights law;
(d) the impacts on the environment, including but not restricted to—
(i) the need to protect and preserve the oceans,
(iii) the rural environment and air quality, and
(iv) the need to meet the UK’s international obligations to combat climate change;
(e) the impact of any investor-state dispute settlement which forms part of the agreement;
(f) the impacts on animal welfare, including but not restricted to the impacts on animal welfare in food production, both as it relates to food produced in the UK and as it relates to food imported into the UK from other countries; and
(g) the economic, social, cultural, food security and environmental interests of those countries considered to be developing countries for the purposes of clause 10 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, as defined in Schedule 3 to that Act and as amended by regulations.
(5) The elements of the review to be undertaken under (4)(f) must be sufficiently disaggregated so as to capture the full range of impacts on different groups of developing countries, and must include both direct and indirect impacts, such as loss of market share through trade diversion or preference erosion.”
This new clause would introduce a review of the functioning of each FTA to which the UK is a signatory to be brought forward after five years and again after a further five.
New clause 13—Role of Joint Ministerial Committee—
“(1) The Joint Ministerial Committee is to be a forum—
(a) for discussing—
(i) the terms upon which the United Kingdom is to commence negotiations with respect to any international trade agreement;
(ii) proposals to amend retained EU law for the purposes of regulations made under section 1 or section 2;
(b) for seeking a consensus on the matters set out in subsection (1)(a) between Her Majesty’s Government and the other members of the Joint Ministerial Committee.
(2) Before Her Majesty’s Government concludes an international trade agreement, the Secretary of State must produce a document for consideration by the Joint Ministerial Committee setting out—
(a) Her Majesty’s Government’s objectives and strategy in negotiating and concluding an international trade agreement;
(b) the steps Her Majesty’s Government intends to take to keep the Joint Ministerial Committee informed of progress in reaching an international trade agreement;
(c) the steps Her Majesty’s Government intends to take to consult each member of the Joint Ministerial Committee before entering into an international trade agreement and for taking the views of each member into account.
(3) Before concluding an international trade agreement the Secretary of State must produce a document setting out the terms of the proposed agreement for consideration by the Joint Ministerial Committee.
(4) In this section, “the Joint Ministerial Committee” means the body set up in accordance with Supplementary Agreement A of the Memorandum of Understanding on Devolution, between Her Majesty’s Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive Committee.”
This new clause would put on the face of the Bill a joint ministerial committee, and give it powers to discuss international trade issues with the devolved Administrations.
New clause 14—Animal welfare and sentience—
“Regulations may only be made under section 2(1) if the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are compatible with—
(a) any provision in UK law (including retained EU law) relating to animal welfare standards and the welfare of animals in the production of food; and
(b) any obligations relating to animal sentience by which the UK is bound, or any principles relating to animal sentience to which the UK adheres.”
This new clause would ensure that any animal welfare or sentience regulations arising from trade agreements are aligned with existing commitments in UK and retained EU law.
New clause 15—Statement on equalities legislation—
“(1) This section applies where a Minister of the Crown proposes to make regulations under section 2(1).
(2) Before a draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations is laid before either House of Parliament, the Minister must make a statement as to whether the statutory instrument would, if made, modify any provision of equalities legislation.
(3) If a Minister expresses a view in a statement under subsection (2) that the draft statutory instrument would, if made, modify any provision of equalities legislation, the Minister must explain in the statement what the effect of each such modification would be.
(4) If the Minister fails to make a statement as required by subsection (2), the Minister must make a statement explaining why.
(5) A statement under this section must be made in writing and published in such manner as the Minister making it considers appropriate.
(6) In this section, “equalities legislation” means the Equality Act 2006, the Equality Act 2010 and any subordinate legislation made under either of those Acts.”
This new clause would oblige the government to publish a statement outlining whether any equalities legislation would be modified by the proposed regulations.
New clause 16—UK participation in EU and EEA organisations—
“(1) The Secretary of State must seek to negotiate an international trade agreement with the EU which will enable the United Kingdom to continue to co-operate closely with the bodies listed in subsection (2).
(2) The bodies are—
(a) the European Medicines Agency;
(b) the European Chemicals Agency;
(c) the European Aviation Safety Agency;
(d) the European Maritime Safety Agency.”
This new clause would oblige the Secretary of State to negotiate close cooperation with the four mentioned agencies.
New clause 17—International trade agreements: health or care services—
“(1) Regulations under section 2(1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the conditions in subsections (2) and (3) are met in relation to the application of that agreement in any part of the United Kingdom.
(2) The condition in this subsection is that no provision of that international trade agreement in any way undermines or restricts the ability of an appropriate authority—
(a) to provide a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery,
(b) to protect the employment rights or terms and conditions of employment for public sector employees and those working in publicly funded health or care sectors,
(c) to regulate and maintain the quality and safety of health or care services,
(d) to regulate and control the pricing and reimbursement systems for the purchase of medicines or medical devices, or
(e) to regulate and maintain the level of protection afforded in relation to patient data, public health data and publicly provided social care data relating to UK citizens.
(3) The condition in this subsection is that the agreement—
(a) explicitly excludes application of any provision within that agreement to publicly funded health or care services,
(b) explicitly excludes provision for any Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause that provides, or is related to, the delivery of public services, health care, care or public health,
(c) explicitly excludes the use of any negative listing, standstill or ratchet clause that provides, or is related to, the delivery of public services, health care, care or public health,
(d) contains explicit recognition that an appropriate authority (within the meaning of section 4) has the right to enact policies, legislation and regulation which protects and promotes health, public health, social care and public safety in health or care services, and
(e) prohibits the sale of patient data, public health data and publicly provided social care data.
(4) For the purposes of this section—
“negative listing” means a listing only of exceptions, exclusions or limits to commitments made by parties to the agreement;
“ratchet” in relation to any provision in an agreement means any provision whereby a party, if (after the agreement has been ratified) it has unilaterally removed a barrier in an area where it had made a commitment before the agreement was ratified, may not reintroduce that barrier, and
“standstill” in relation to any provision in an agreement means any provision by which parties list barriers which are in force at the time that they sign the agreement and undertake not to introduce any new barriers.”
This amendment would aim to protect the NHS and publicly funded health and care services in other parts of the UK from any form of control from outside the UK.
New clause 18—Trade agreements: approval—
“A Minister of the Crown must not make regulations to implement an international trade agreement unless—
(a) a statement on the terms of the agreement has been approved by the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown,
(b) a statement on the terms of the agreement has been approved by the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown,
(c) a motion relating to that statement has been approved by a resolution of Senedd Cymru,
(d) a motion relating to that statement has been approved by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament, and
(e) a motion relating to that statement has been approved by a resolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
This new clause would require the UK Government to secure the approval of both Houses of Parliament and the devolved Parliaments of Scotland and Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly before implementing any international trade agreement agreed after the passing of the Bill.
New clause 19—Involvement of judicial systems in trade disputes—
“(1) The United Kingdom may only become a signatory to an international trade agreement if the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied.
(2) The Secretary of State may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied.
(3) Legal proceedings brought against the United Kingdom under investment protection provisions included in an international trade agreement must be heard by the courts and tribunals system of the United Kingdom.”
This new clause would provide protection for UK firms, public bodies and the Government in the event of proceedings under investment protection provisions such as the Investor-State Dispute Scheme (ISDS).
New clause 20—Multilateral investment tribunal—
“(1) The United Kingdom may only become a signatory to an international trade agreement if the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied.
(2) The Secretary of State may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied.
(3) The condition under this subsection is that an international trade agreement must include a commitment by all parties to the agreement to pursue with other trading partners the establishment of a multilateral investment tribunal and appellate mechanism for the resolution of investment disputes.”
This new clause would ensure that a multilateral investment process would be used to adjudicate on investor disputes.
New clause 21—Human rights and economic impact assessments—
“(1) Before laying a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament an impact assessment taking account of short and long-term human rights and economic impacts of that agreement on different sectors including, but not limited to—
(c) race and
(2) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament reviews of each international trade agreement which has come into effect from January 2021.
(3) A review under subsection (2) must include an assessment of short and long-term economic and human rights impacts on different sectors including, but not limited to—
(c) race and
(4) Reviews under subsection (2) must be laid within two years of the day on which the agreement to which they relate comes into effect, and at intervals of no more than two years thereafter.”
This new clause would ensure that the HMG has a duty to commit to undertaking human rights impact assessments of all trade deals before and after implementation, taking account of short and long-term economic impacts across different sectors, including but not limited to gender, age, race and class.
Amendment 11, in clause 1, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) No regulations under subsection (1) may be made until the Secretary of State has entered into negotiations with other parties to the GPA with the objective of enabling greater labour market interventions and compliance with ILO standards in any UK procurement contract to which the GPA applies, and
(a) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has been achieved either in full or in part, or
(b) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has not been achieved.”
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations to secure greater labour rights in procurement contracts that the GPA applies to, and to report back on the outcome of these negotiations.
Amendment 12, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) No regulations under subsection (1) may be made until the Secretary of State has entered into negotiations with other parties to the GPA with the objective of securing greater environmental exceptions and carbon considerations in any UK procurement contract to which the GPA applies, and
(a) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has been achieved either in full or in part, or
(b) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has not been achieved.”
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations to secure greater environmental protections in procurement contracts that the GPA applies to, and to report back on the outcome of these negotiations.
Amendment 13, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) No regulations under subsection (1) may be made until the Secretary of State has entered into negotiations with other parties to the GPA with the objective of securing greater scope for UK small and medium-sized enterprises in any UK procurement contract to which the GPA applies, and
(a) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has been achieved either in full or in part, or
(b) the Secretary of State has made a statement to the House of Commons that the objective has not been achieved.”
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations to secure greater access for SMEs in procurement contracts that the GPA applies to, and to report back on the outcome of these negotiations.
Amendment 14, page 1, line 16, at end insert—
“(1A) No regulations under subsection (1) may be made until the Secretary of State has entered into negotiations with other parties to the GPA with the objective of securing improvements to public health as a consequence of any UK procurement contract to which the GPA applies, and
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to enter into negotiations to secure improvements to public health in procurement contracts that the GPA applies to, and to report back on the outcome of these negotiations.
Amendment 1, in clause 2, page 2, line 10, leave out “is a signatory” and insert
“was a signatory on
The most recent EU FTA which was rolled over, was in December 2019. This amendment would provide that any further FTA entered into would not come under the EU FTA roll over provisions of Clause 2.
Amendment 29, page 2, line 14, at end insert—
“(2A) Regulations under subsection (1) to make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement may only be made if—
(a) the requirements under subsection (3) and under paragraph 4(1) to (1D) of Schedule 2 have been met;
(b) the requirements under subsection (4) and under paragraph 4(1) to (1D) of Schedule 2 have been met; or
(c) the provisions of section [Parliamentary approval of trade agreements] have been complied with and the requirements under subparagraphs 4A(1) to (1D) of Schedule 2 have been met.”
This amendment would put in place a structure for greater Parliamentary scrutiny of proposed international trade agreements.
Amendment 15, page 2, line 15, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—
“(3) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 shall apply to any regulations under subsection (1) which make provision for the purpose of implementing a free trade agreement if the other signatory (or each other signatory) and the European Union were signatories to a free trade agreement immediately before exit day.
(4) Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 shall apply to any regulations under subsection (1) which make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement other than a free trade agreement if the other signatory (or each other signatory) and the European Union were signatories to an international trade agreement immediately before exit day.
(4A) Paragraph 4A of Schedule 2 shall apply to any regulations under subsection (1) which make provision for the purpose of implementing any international trade agreement not falling within subsection (3) or subsection (4) above.”
This amendment would apply the provisions of the Bill to trade agreements other than EU rollover trade agreements, allowing the Bill to act as a framework for a future trade policy.
Amendment 16, page 2, line 15, leave out subsections (3) and (4) and insert—
“(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing a free trade agreement only if the other signatory (or each other signatory) and the European Union had ratified a free trade agreement with each other immediately before exit day.
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement other than a free trade agreement only if the other signatory (or each other signatory) and the European Union had ratified an international trade agreement with each other immediately before exit day.”
This amendment would mean that a trade agreement would need to be ratified before regulations could be made to implement it.
Amendment 17, page 2, line 23, at end insert—
“(4A) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not conflict with, and are consistent with—
(a) the provisions of international treaties ratified by the United Kingdom;
(b) the provisions of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on
(c) the primacy of human rights law;
(d) international human rights law and international humanitarian law;
(e) the United Kingdom’s obligations on workers’ rights and labour standards as established by but not limited to—
(i) the commitments under the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Fundamental Rights at Work and its Follow-up Conventions; and
(ii) the fundamental principles and rights at work inherent in membership of the International Labour Organisation;
(f) women’s rights and are in accordance with the United Kingdom’s obligations established by but not limited to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
(g) children’s rights and are in accordance with the United Kingdom’s obligations established by but not limited to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
(h) the sovereignty of Parliament, the legal authority of UK courts, the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law.”
This amendment would ensure that regulations made under the Bill can only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement does not contravene the UK’s international commitments with specific reference to human rights and related treaties, and must respect the sovereignty of parliament.
Amendment 18, page 2, line 23, at end insert—
“(4A) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not conflict with, and are consistent with the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations in international law and as established by but not limited to—
(a) the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
(b) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); and
(c) the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.”
This amendment would ensure that regulations made under the Bill can only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement does not contravene the UK’s environmental obligations.
Amendment 19, page 2, line 23, at end insert—
“(4A) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not in any way restrict the ability—
(a) to make public services at a national or local level subject to public monopoly;
(b) to make public services at a national or local level subject to exclusive rights granted to private operators; and
(c) to bring public services at a national or local level back into the public sector for delivery by public sector employees.”
This amendment would ensure that regulations made under the Bill can only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement does not contravene the ability of a UK government to take public services back into public ownership.
Amendment 20, page 2, line 23, at end insert—
“(4A) Regulations may only be made under subsection (1) if—
(a) the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are consistent with standards for food safety and quality as set and administered by—
(i) the Department of Health;
(ii) the Food Standards Agency;
(iii) Food Standards Scotland; and
(iv) any other public authority specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
(b) the Secretary of State is satisfied that mechanisms and bodies charged with enforcement of standards for food safety and quality have the capacity to absorb any extra requirement which may arise from the implementation of the agreement;
(c) the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are consistent with policy to achieve reduction in the risk of disease or contamination as set and administered by—
(i) the Department of Health;
(ii) the Food Standards Agency;
(iii) Food Standards Scotland; and
(iv) any other public authority specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
(d) the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are consistent with achieving improvements in public health through any food policy priorities set and administered by—
(i) the Department of Health;
(ii) the Food Standards Agency;
(iii) Food Standards Scotland; and
(iv) any other public authority specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
(e) the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are compliant with policy to achieve targets for farm antibiotic reduction set by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate;
(f) the provisions of the international trade agreement to which they relate are compliant with retained EU law relating to food standards and the impact of food production upon the environment; and
(g) any food or food products to which the provisions of the international trade agreement apply meet standards of labelling, indication of provenance, and packaging specified by the Food Standards Agency or Food Standards Scotland.”
This amendment would ensure that regulations made under the Bill can only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement enshrines UK standards in legislation and adheres to UK standards of food production and food safety.
Amendment 21, page 2, leave out lines 27 and 28.
This amendment would remove Henry VIII powers from the Bill.
Amendment 10, page 2, line 33, at end insert—
“(6A) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 6 of Schedule 1), unless the Scottish Ministers consent.
(6B) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1), unless the Welsh Ministers consent.
(6C) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of a Northern Ireland department (within the meaning given in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1), unless a Northern Ireland devolved authority (within the meaning of paragraph 9 of Schedule 1) gives consent.”
This amendment would ensure that the consent of a devolved government is required for regulations under section 2(1) if those regulations contain matters which are within the remit of the devolved government.
Amendment 22, page 2, line 34, leave out subsections (7) and (8) and insert—
“(7) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) in relation to an agreement which meets the criteria in subsection (3) or (4) after the end of the period of five years beginning with IP completion day.”
This amendment would bar any extension to the five-year window for making regulations to implement EU rollover agreements.
Amendment 23, page 2, line 34, leave out subsections (7) and (8) and insert—
“(7) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) in relation to an agreement which meets the criteria in subsection (3) or (4) after the end of—
(a) the period of five years beginning with IP completion day (“the initial five year period”), or
(b) such other period as is specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State in accordance with subsection (8).
(8) Regulations under subsection (7)(b) may not extend the initial five year period or any subsequent period beyond the day which falls ten years after IP completion day.”
This amendment would limit any extension of the window to a maximum of ten years.
Amendment 2, page 2, line 35, leave out “five” and insert “three”.
This amendment reinserts a Government amendment made to the Trade Bill in 2018. It proposes to reduce, from five years to three, the time period during which a) EU FTAs can be rolled over and b) previously rolled over FTAs can be reamended.
Amendment 3, page 2, line 36, leave out “five” and insert “three”.
Amendment 4, page 2, line 39, leave out “five” and insert “three”.
This amendment reinserts a Government amendment made to the 2018 Trade Bill in 2018. If the Government decides to extend the period to make regulations under Clause 2, any such period should not be more than three years.
Amendment 5, page 2, line 41, leave out “five” and insert “three”.
Amendment 27, in clause 4, page 3, line 26, at end insert—
““international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than a free trade agreement” means a strategic partnership agreement or mutual recognition agreement that is ancillary to a free trade agreement, or an investment agreement”.
This amendment defines what is meant by international agreement that mainly relates to trade, reducing ambiguity.
Amendment 28, in clause 6, page 4, line 22, at end insert “and
(c) analysis of the impact of any exercise by the Secretary of State of the power under section 15 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 (as amended by section 94 of the Finance Act 2020) to vary an amount of import duty if he or she considers that it is appropriate to do so.”
Government amendments 6 to 9.
Amendment 24, in schedule 2, page 11, line 26, leave out from “section 1(1)” to the end of line 27 and insert
“may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
This amendment would specify an affirmative resolution procedure for regulations under section 1 (1) (Regulations relating to the UK’s membership of the GPA).
Amendment 25, page 13, line 25, at end insert—
“4A (1) A statutory instrument containing regulations of a Minister of the Crown acting alone under section 2(1) in respect of an international trade agreement which does not meet the criteria under section 2(3) or section 2(4) may not be made except in accordance with the steps in subparagraphs (1A) to (1D).
(1A) The Minister shall lay before Parliament—
(a) a draft of the regulations, and
(b) a document which explains why the Secretary of State believes that regulations should be made in terms of the draft regulations.
(1B) The Minister may make an order in the terms of the draft regulations laid under subparagraph (1A) if—
(a) after the expiry of a period of 21 sitting days after the draft regulations are laid, no committee of either House of Parliament has recommended that the regulations should not be made, and
(b) after the expiry of a period of 60 sitting days after the draft regulations are laid, the draft regulations are approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(1C) If a committee of either House of Parliament recommends that the regulations should not be made, the Secretary of State may—
(a) lay before Parliament revised draft regulations, and
(b) after the expiry of a period of 40 sitting days after the revised draft regulations are laid, make a motion for a resolution in each House of Parliament for approval of the revised draft regulations.
(1D) If a motion under subparagraph (1C)(b) is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament, the Secretary of State may make the regulations.”
This amendment would establish a form of super-affirmative procedure for scrutiny of regulations implementing all trade agreements covered by the bill. The procedure would apply to agreements other than EU rollover trade agreements if amendments extending the application of the bill were agreed to.
Amendment 26, page 13, leave out lines 33 to 35 and insert—
“(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations of a Minister of the Crown acting jointly with a devolved authority under section 2(1) in respect of an agreement which falls within the description in section 2(3) or section 2(4) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(3A) A statutory instrument containing regulations of a Minister of the Crown acting jointly with a devolved authority under section 2(1) in respect of an agreement which falls within the description in section 2(4A) may not be made except in accordance with the steps in subparagraphs (1) to (1D) of paragraph 4A.”
This amendment would extend the super-affirmative procedure under Amendment 25 to regulations where the Minister was acting jointly with a devolved authority.
Amendment 31, page 15, line 21, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
“(3) No person may be appointed as a non-executive member of the Authority under subparagraph (1)(b) unless—
(a) the Secretary of State has first consulted the Chair of the Authority on the proposed appointment, and
(b) the International Trade Committee of the House of Commons has consented to the appointment.”
This amendment would establish a procedure for appointing non-executive members of the Trade Remedies Authority other than the Chair.
Amendment 30, page 15, line 22, at end insert—
“(3A) In making any proposal under subparagraph (3), the Secretary of State must ensure that there is on the Authority a representative of—
(b) trade unions,
(c) consumers, and
(d) each of the United Kingdom devolved administrations.”
This amendment would ensure that the Trade Remedies Authority includes, among its non-executive members, representatives of stakeholder bodies potentially affected by its recommendations.
It is a pleasure to open consideration on Report of the Trade Bill and to speak to new clause 5. This is all legislation that contains key measures that will deliver for UK businesses and consumers across the country, providing continuity and certainty. Amendments have been tabled by the Government and from across the House, and with the permission of the House I will outline the Government’s position on these more than 50 different amendments, and on other amendments tabled, before we hear from hon. and right hon. Members.
On Government new clauses 5 and 6, together with amendments 6, 7 and 9, the Government have been consistently clear that the priority for the UK’s existing trade relationships as we leave the EU is continuity. Our partner countries are clear on that too, and this Bill is about continuity. But it is about more than simply transitioning agreements. It is about ensuring that businesses—UK and partner-country businesses—can continue to benefit from smooth-operating borders once we have become a wholly independent trading nation at the end of the transition period.
The Government have set out our ambition to have a world-leading border by 2050. This will support our aim to make the UK a globally attractive place to do business as we move forward. To achieve that ambition, the Government need to make better use of the data we currently hold, and new clauses 5 and 6 are aimed at doing just that. Unlocking the full potential of the data, without placing any additional burden on businesses, will not only allow us to achieve our vision for the future, but benefit those business and consumers who depend on a frictionless border to ensure continuity of our trading relationships today. The smooth flow of traffic, goods and trade after the end of the transition period and during the introduction of import controls will support the manufacturing sector, especially those using the just-in-time methodology and individuals who enjoy using the online sector.
New clause 5 creates a new legal gateway so that Government data can be used, first, to ensure continuity of trade by safeguarding existing trading relationships in countries both in the EU and in the rest of world so they are not frustrated by friction at the border for goods and services at the end of the transition period; secondly, to provide better services to UK businesses and consumers by supporting the effective management of the end-to-end border process; and, thirdly, to underpin the delivery of a world-leading border—protecting the UK, protecting revenue and growing international trade.
This is an amendment that external border industry stakeholders are very supportive of; indeed, they have been calling for exactly this type of action for a long time. I want to be clear to the House on a number of important issues in relation to the new clause. First, this all relates to existing data; there are no new powers for data collection in these Government amendments. Secondly, it is discretionary and specific: it does not create a data-sharing free-for-all between public authorities. The new clause is carefully drafted to limit the data that can be shared to only that related to trade functions. These are functions that, in the main, are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for International Trade or the Minister for the Cabinet Office. If the information is not required for trade functions, it cannot be requested under the gateway. Before any data can be disclosed, the public authority making the disclosure must also be satisfied that it has complied with its own existing data protection obligations—most notably under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation.
The Government recognise that there may be concerns about what happens to the data once it has been passed to the Cabinet Office, the Department for International Trade or other Departments. I want to assure all Members of the House that no data will be made available or sold to third parties outside Government—a concern which I know a number of colleagues have raised in the past —nor will it be used to monitor citizens or businesses, or to target individuals to be stopped at the border. These measures are, as I have said, about making sure that border flow is maintained, and that traffic, goods and services are free to flow with as little friction as possible.
Furthermore, new clause 6 makes it an offence to disclose unlawfully any personal data shared under the amendment. The Government have also tabled amendments 6 to 9, which make minor changes to the existing clause 8. These amendments are to enable Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs data to be shared with all Ministers of the Crown, where HMRC is satisfied that the data may be shared for the Minister’s functions relating to trade. The current drafting enables HMRC to share data with the Secretary of State for the same purpose. The practical effect of the amendments is to enable HMRC to share data with the Cabinet Office, which is not headed by a Secretary of State.
New clauses 1 to 3 seek to replicate the effects of Government amendments brought forward to the 2017-19 Trade Bill. Over the course of this legislation, and its 2017-19 version, I have had constructive discussions with my hon. Friend Mr Djanogly regarding the purpose of the Government’s continuity programme. I would like to thank him for his work and the interactions he has had with me, particularly on the important issue of transparency. His efforts have directly changed the Bill through inserting the use of the affirmative procedure when exercising the power in clause 2, and ensuring that Parliament has transparency in relation to continuity agreements through the laying of parliamentary reports, alongside signed agreements setting out significant changes with the underlying EU agreement.
As Members across the House know, the purpose of our continuity programme is to provide certainty to businesses and consumers by retaining the preferential trading arrangements from which the UK benefits as a signatory to trade agreements that the EU had signed with third countries before exit day. That is why we have now concluded 20 continuity agreements with 48 countries, accounting for £110 billion of UK trade in 2018, which represents 74% of the trade with countries with which we were seeking continuity before the withdrawal agreement was signed. Each of those agreements has been accompanied by a parliamentary report, and I can confirm that we will continue to publish reports for all continuity agreements yet to be signed. As those parliamentary reports make clear, our continuity programme has remained true to its mandate: replicating our existing trade relationships. Let me repeat that standards have not been lowered in these 20 agreements. Unsafe food will not be entering our market, and our right to choose how we deliver public services has been protected.
New clause 3 would stipulate that the parliamentary reports must be published at least 10 sitting days before any statutory instruments are made under this power. As I explained to colleagues in Committee a few weeks ago, and as I think we all know, trade negotiations have a habit of going down to the wire. I have only to remind colleagues of the negotiations surrounding the EU withdrawal agreement as evidence of that fact—although I should point out, before I get people too excited, that that particular negotiation is not included in the scope of this Bill. As such, it is possible that we may not be able to sign continuity agreements until shortly before the transition period ends. That may make it very difficult to leave a period of 10 sitting days before any SIs are brought forward if we want continuity agreements to enter into force on day one after the transition period.
I thank the Minister for his earlier comments. He talks about continuity agreements, but are they still continuity agreements? For instance, the agreement with Japan looks like it will be very different from the one that the EU had, and Canada is saying that it is not going to have the same agreement; it wants to see what we get with the EU first. Why does he still call them continuity agreements? Is this clause not looking at a position that we had two years ago? Should we not now move on?
Let me be clear: we are talking about continuity. My hon. Friend can judge us not just by what I say but by our actions. Of the 20 reports that we have published, five have been called for debate in the other place, and not a single one of those debates has resulted in a motion of regret. He is right about one thing, and that is on Japan. I will come on to examine this shortly, but Japan is different. We have been clear that that will lead to an enhanced free trade agreement based on the original EU agreement, which is why we have put in place different and more considerable scrutiny arrangements for the Japan agreement than for the rest of the continuity programme.
We want continuity agreements to enter into force on day one to avoid a cliff edge for both businesses and consumers. I remind colleagues that all continuity agreements will be subject to the CRAG—Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—ratification procedure. That already provides for a period of 21 sitting days in which agreements, and the parliamentary reports and explanatory memoranda published alongside them, can be scrutinised by parliamentarians before they are formally ratified. I will now address amendments 1 to 5 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, as well as amendments 22 and 23.
The Minister talks of CRAG as if it is a process under which this Parliament has any power. He knows that it is the Government who enable Parliament to have a debate whereby it could vote against what is tabled under the CRAG process. He must look again at the way in which real scrutiny and accountability can be brought to bear in the way that the hon. Member for Huntingdon suggests.
It is good to see the hon. Gentleman back. I remember that he was originally a Blairite Minister in Tony Blair’s Government, and it has been really instructive to see the journey that he has been on over some time. I saw him take the seat in the extreme corner of the Chamber earlier and thought, “Not only has he taken on the views of Jeremy Corbyn, but he has now even taken his previous seat.” The hon. Gentleman voted for CRAG in 2010, as did I. [Interruption.] We both voted for CRAG in 2010. CRAG allows Parliament to block a trade deal. It allows Parliament to block international treaties. That was the intention—his Government designed it in that way to give Parliament the ability to block an international agreement, and that remains the case today.
I will make a little bit more progress.
As I have said, the other place has held debates on six of the agreements, and not one carried a motion of regret. We have also retained the affirmative resolution procedure for regulations that are required to implement single agreements. The Government recognise that there may be concerns that the power in clause 2 could be used to implement completely new agreements with continuity countries, both now and in the future, with inadequate opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny. In Committee we heard suggestions that some of the upcoming continuity agreements, such as those with Canada and Singapore, will go beyond continuity, and will therefore require a more comprehensive scrutiny process—my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon made that point.
Let me reassure hon. Members that we view the underlying EU agreements as sufficient, and we are not seeking to enhance those deals or go beyond continuity. These will be technical changes to make the agreements function in a UK-specific context. The Government acknowledge that the UK-Japan agreement, although based on the EU’s existing agreement with Japan, will be an enhanced agreement, and that is an exception.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All my interactions, and those of the Secretary of State, with the ceramics industry and with MPs who represent key ceramics constituencies, indicate that the Japan deal is extremely important for this country. I am disappointed that the Opposition parties seem to have no enthusiasm for the continuity of our trade with Japan, or its enhancement.
I will not give way just now. We are committed to additional scrutiny arrangements for any deal with Japan. We believe that the current sunset provisions in the Bill strike the right balance between flexibility for negotiators and the ability to keep agreements operable, and that they provide sufficient constraints and scrutiny to Parliament.
The Government are aware that during the 2017-19 Trade Bill there was uncertainty and concern in Parliament about the nature of the Government’s continuity programme—indeed, I can testify to that, because I was the Minister at the time—and that is why we have tabled a number of amendments to the Bill. There is, however, a crucial change in circumstance since the previous Bill, because Parliament can now see that we have not strayed beyond our mandate to deliver continuity. The transition agreements have not resulted in new or enhanced trading obligations, standards have not been reduced in any way, and our right to choose how we deliver public services has been protected.
In that context, I understand why there is limited scrutiny for small trade deals, and the Minister has spoken about enhanced scrutiny for the Japan deal. He will know, however, that for many constituents, the US trade deal and the China trade deal will raise the most concerns. Can he give us some assurance that the process of increased scrutiny in Parliament will be higher for those deals than for the ones mentioned earlier?
I absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance, and I will come on to discuss those deals in a moment, although they are not within the scope of the current Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon has tabled new clause 4 on new trade agreements, and that gives me the opportunity to stress the importance that the Government place on parliamentary scrutiny, and the commitments we have made in that space. The House will know that the negotiation and entering into of international agreements is a prerogative power of the Executive. The new clause would give Parliament veto rights over our negotiating objectives.
“This would impinge inappropriately on the Government’s prerogative power and limit the Government’s flexibility in the negotiations.”
I agree, and as the House will know, there are already rigorous checks and balances on the Government’s power to negotiate and ratify new agreements through the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. [Interruption.] Emily Thornberry is fond of heckling, but she voted for that Act.
I concur entirely with what the Minister is saying. Is it not the case that if we allow further parliamentary scrutiny, we will not get the best deal from these negotiations, and that at present this is the Westminster-style democracy with the greatest parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals?
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that our scrutiny offer compares very favourably with Australia’s and New Zealand’s and is at least equal to Canada’s. He is right in other regards as well. Some of these amendments would obligate the Government to publish the text after the end of each negotiating round. At the moment, we publish a written ministerial statement. The idea that we publish the interim text with the United States so that Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all our partners could see it when this Government—this country—are undergoing simultaneous negotiation with different partners is not a sensible way of proceeding.
I am going to make more progress.
This Government understand the desire of Parliament to have effective scrutiny of our FTA programme. That is why we have gone above and beyond the baseline provided by CRAG in committing to publishing comprehensive information ahead of entering into negotiations with partner countries. We have already done this—
I am going to make progress.
We have already done this for the US, for Japan, for Australia and for New Zealand. This has included publishing negotiating objectives and initial economic assessments. We have also committed to laying final impact assessments once negotiations have concluded and we know the content of the proposed agreement in its entirety.
I am going to make some more progress.
In addition, the Government have committed to providing regular updates to Parliament on the progress of negotiations. We have already adopted a similar approach for Japan, because that is an enhanced agreement. There is an important distinction that new clause 4 does not make, requiring, as it does, the roll-over agreements not yet signed to be subject to the same scrutiny as new agreements, even though the original EU-third party agreement has been subject to both EU and UK scrutiny.
I am going to make more progress.
For new trade agreements, the Government have already committed to working closely with the relevant scrutiny Committees in both Houses throughout negotiations. This includes providing confidential briefings, as appropriate, to keep them apprised. This approach is in line with the recommendations of the former Member for Blackburn, Jack Straw—who served in government with Barry Gardiner. He said in his evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee that
“it should be for the negotiators to decide how much privacy and confidentiality there should be” during negotiations
“and certainly not others”.
Finally, when negotiations have concluded, we will work with the relevant Select Committee to ensure, where practical, that there is time for the Committee to produce a report on the final agreement before it is laid in Parliament under CRAG.
I am not going to give way further during this section of my speech.
Similarly—this is an important point—if the Committee were to recommend a debate on an agreement prior to ratification, the Government would of course consider that request, subject to parliamentary timetabling. Taken together, this means that Parliament will have comprehensive information, including economic assessments, on our agreements prior to negotiations commencing, at key points during negotiations, and at the conclusion of talks.
Finally on this point—this is extremely important—international agreements cannot themselves alter domestic law, and any changes to UK legislation would need to be scrutinised by Parliament in the normal way. We are strongly committed to transparency, as demonstrated by the steps we have taken to provide comprehensive information to the public and Parliament at the start.
I just want to make a point about the nature of the scrutiny. A few weeks ago, the Government rightly came forward with the Trade and Agriculture Commission to add weight to the scrutiny of trade deals with regard to animal welfare, environmental standards and labour standards. What can the Minister do to give more assurance to farmers, in particular, that these deals will not lead to an undermining of their business and their standards, and put that into the Bill to ensure that those cannot then be let down?
“a hugely important development in ensuring UK farming’s high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined in future trade deals.”
There are three crucial things. First, we have a strong manifesto commitment to have no compromise on Britain’s standards of animal welfare, food safety and the environment. Secondly, we are transposing the EU rules into UK law to take effect on
No, I will make some progress. The Government are strongly committed to transparency, as demonstrated by the steps we have already taken.
New clause 12 proposes a review of free trade agreements every five years after entry into force. We have already established regular dialogue with the International Trade Committee, and that is perhaps the best forum to provide information and assessment of the UK’s wider trade environment and trade relationships to Parliament.
New clause 18 seeks to give Parliament and the devolved legislatures binding votes on, or vetoes over, international agreements, which would be to fundamentally undermine the royal prerogative and, worse, limit our flexibility to negotiate the deals that will best serve the interests of UK consumers and communities.
I accept the Minister’s point that for devolved Parliaments to be able to undermine a national trade deal would be wrong. However, will he give us some guidance on the position for Northern Ireland? We may find ourselves having not continuity deals, but new deals, and we could be excluded from some of the benefits of those deals. How will he make an assessment? How will he enable the devolved Administration to have an input into decisions made on those deals if we find that we are disadvantaged by being excluded from them?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The first thing to say is that I have regular dialogue with his colleague the Minister for the Economy. I am meeting her tomorrow—indeed, I am meeting her twice—to talk about these issues. I reiterate that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK customs area and will benefit from UK free trade agreements. We have been absolutely categoric on both those points. As I say, new clause 18 seeks to give Parliament a veto over those arrangements and to ensure that the Government seek approval from the devolved legislatures on the final agreement. I am in regular contact with the Ministers for the devolved Administrations on these issues.
I will now address new clauses 7 to 9, and others in relation to standards. In answer to the intervention from Tim Farron, let me say that we have already given cast-iron commitments, during debate on this Bill and the Agriculture Bill, that we will not be diluting standards in any area, or in any way, following the UK’s departure from the EU.
I acknowledge the undertakings that the Government have given on agriculture and food production, but will the Minister also assure me that future UK trade policy will be fully aligned with our climate change and environmental policies? Will he also assure me that in striking new trade deals we will, at all times, promote low-carbon industries such as offshore wind and will not undermine UK businesses that are working hard to lower their own carbon footprint?
I absolutely give my hon. Friend those assurances. The Government’s climate change agenda—indeed, the whole country’s agenda—is incredibly important for us at the Department for International Trade. We have put a lot of time and effort into promoting our capability and capacity in things such as offshore wind. I am regularly saying to international investors and trade partners that the UK now has the largest offshore wind capacity in the world. This is something we are seeking to export and it is something trade agreements can be helpful in. We are working with some of our key partners on these aspects of trade agreements, but they can also be something that the whole of government can work together on.
I am going to make some progress. Let me address matters related to animal welfare, food standards and food safety. I recognise the strength of feeling that those issues generate among colleagues in all parts of the House, but as I have told the House on many occasions, as have the Secretary of State and my Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs colleagues, this Government will stand firm in trade negotiations. We will always do right by our farmers and aim to secure new opportunities for the industry, and we will not dilute our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.
There is not just concern on both sides of the House; my right hon. Friend knows that there is a lot of concern out there among the public and our constituents. We have heard commitments from the Front Bench, and when I was food safety Minister I gave those commitments too, around domestic food standards. Many people want it set out in black and white in the Bill. I suspect that the Minister will go on to say why he will resist new clause 7, for instance, so what assurance can he give me, my constituents and many others who will be listening to the debate that that is not necessary because those standards are protected in law, not just in word?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, which allows me to explain the difference. Some of the amendments seek to dynamically align other people’s methods of production with those that we use in the UK. Yes, we will have, and maintain, exceptionally high standards of domestic production, domestic products and import controls, and we can influence our trading partners.
However, I cannot put into legislation a dynamic regulatory alignment playing field for our trading partners. That would be impractical and it would render inoperable most of our existing trade agreements, and potentially render impossible doing a future trade agreement with the European Union. If all these trading partners had to sign up to dynamically aligning their standards with the UK, that would make it extremely challenging not just to keep our existing trade agreements but to do trade agreements with partners in the future.
Order. May I assist by indicating that so many people want to take part on Report that those who have indicated that they wish to speak and are on the call list should be thinking about four minutes? I call the Minister.
I have much more to say, in relation to 50 different amendments, but I appreciate that there are a large number of other speakers, so I will call it a day there in order to allow other people their say. I think I have covered the main areas, outlining why we have the requirements in new clauses 5 and 6 on data, why we are confident of our robust approach to parliamentary scrutiny, using the CRAG process and enhanced things that we have introduced to ensure that Parliament gets the information and has the say that it needs, and finally our absolute commitment to not compromising on standards for food safety, animal welfare and the environment.
International trade has rarely been more important. It is critical as we forge a new place in the world outside the European Union. It is also critical to how we recover from the pandemic, as it has the power to deliver prosperity at home and abroad, especially in the developing world as we aim towards the sustainable development goals. We will support the Government where they are right and challenge where they are wrong.
There are three key areas to which our amendments to the Trade Bill refer: social, environmental and democratic. First, on social, the Bill has profound implications for workers’ rights, human rights, public services and the economy. Secondly, on environmental, as my right hon. Friend Emily Thornberry reminded us on Second Reading, international trade agreements have a massive impact on our ability to tackle the climate and environment emergency. Meanwhile, food production and animal welfare standards are matters of enormous concern to farmers and consumers alike. Thirdly, on democratic, the complete absence of scrutiny runs like the Sant Andreas fault through the Bill. [Hon. Members: “San Andreas.”] Thank you—the San Andreas fault.
I will give way in a moment. Our amendments attempt to rectify the Bill’s serious shortcomings and the lack of accountability. We were promised a modern framework for international trade negotiations in the Queen’s Speech. The Bill was supposed to be the opportunity to deliver that framework. It does not. The Bill gives Ministers powers to make changes to retained EU law upstairs in a Committee of 17 MPs after a maximum debate of 90 minutes. These powers are retained for up to 10 years. That is quite some grab by the Executive—and it is far from the whole story, either.
The final text of an agreement depends on the Government granting debates to the Opposition during a 21-day period: something that did not always happen in the last Parliament. It relies on the Opposition using their limited opportunities to determine the agenda for such a debate. The Government should be holding the debate and a vote in both Houses as a matter of course. New clause 4 is an opportunity to address some of the democratic deficit in the Bill.
Only half of the 40 agreements covered by the Bill have been signed. We are told by the Minister that they have already been scrutinised by the European Union. But these are not the simple matters of continuity that the Minister would have us believe. Only three out of 20 existing mutual recognition agreements have been signed with Switzerland, our third largest non-EU trading partner. South Korea has only signed a temporary agreement and wants to start again, and a number of the remaining 20 are going to be completely new. Japan—new agreement; Turkey, our 10th largest non-EU trading partner is in a customs arrangement with the EU and is waiting for the UK to sign a free trade agreement with the EU. Canada is in no hurry to negotiate at all. As I said, these are far from being simple matters of continuity, which is why they need proper scrutiny.
Does my hon. Friend share with me the sense that the Government have told us that they needed the Bill to be able to produce these roll-over agreements? Yet the Minister has stood at the Dispatch Box today and said that we have concluded 20 of these roll-over agreements. In fact, they have managed to do that without this Bill having passed into law. Is not what he is saying absolutely relevant? It is these future agreements that we need legislation for, and it should be proper legislation that sets out the framework under which this Parliament scrutinises what is going on.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to his time as the shadow Secretary of State and the work he did on scrutinising and opposing this Bill first time around. He is also absolutely right to say that what we have heard already from the Minister just bears out everything that we have been saying for the past three years.
As I say, these are not simple matters of continuity. That is why we need proper scrutiny. The problems do not end there. The Bill will put in place the framework for a new generation of new agreements, including those with the United States and Australia, and the controversial so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership: CPTPP.
I am a member of the International Trade Committee, which of course has cross-party membership; I wonder why the hon. Gentleman cheapens that Committee by saying that there is no scrutiny. I welcome the involvement from the Government to date. I ask the hon. Gentleman directly: prior to the CRAG protocol Act, how many trade deals did this place vote on while the power rested in Brussels?
As the hon. Gentleman knows from being on the International Trade Committee, CRAG was part of the process that we had as EU members. I will come to that in more detail a bit later.
I just note that, as a member of the European Parliament’s trade committee, I had far more powers of scrutiny over trade agreements as an MEP than I have ever had as an MP here. However, does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the Government’s refusal to bar imports from producers that produce to lower environmental or animal welfare standards spells real disaster for our farmers? If they are going to get undercut by cheaper produce that does not meet the same standards, how on earth can they make a living if they have to meet higher standards, and therefore probably higher costs as well?
The hon. Lady anticipates some things I am going to say a bit later. What she says is entirely consistent with what I said about the environmental aspects of the Bill.
There is widespread recognition across society that parliamentary scrutiny is essential in international trade agreements. Mr Djanogly and his colleagues deserve credit for their sterling efforts to build consensus. Their new clause 4 has many elements of good scrutiny practice that a modern, confident, outward-looking country should want to adopt: scrutiny of, and a vote on, the negotiating mandate; assessment against domestic standards; consultation with the devolved Administrations; and a vote on the deal by both Houses. These are a good place to start. We can also learn from good practice elsewhere. For example, a very different approach is taken in the United States, where advisory committees have access to negotiating texts, trade unions are represented as well as employers and confidentiality agreements ensure that consultation is at an appropriate level. The result is that agreements can be amended, as with the recent United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, of which a strengthening of the labour chapter is intended to end union busting in Mexico.
How do we compare? Oh dear. So-called expert trade advisory groups—ETAGs—in this country are completely different. The Government do not tell us the criteria for membership or who the members are, and trade unions are excluded from a number of groups that were not set up to scrutinise trade deals. Talk now of a room-next-door approach has raised concerns because of the over-restrictive nature of the non-disclosure agreements, which, as drafted, would prevent sensible consultation and analysis of the text, even by the existing self-selecting and very limited memberships of the ETAGs.
Does my hon. Friend accept that we can learn through failure as well? One reason that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership failed was the lack of involvement of trade unions, industry and a number of different partners until right at the last minute, when people were asked to vote on something that they had not been brought along with.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I shall come to TTIP as an example of how not to carry out scrutiny and of why it is so important to have that wider engagement.
I will give way a little later, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, because a lot of Members are waiting to speak. This talk of a room-next-door approach has raised concerns because of the over-restrictive nature of the NDAs. The chaotic way in which the Government plan to create their room-next-door system sounds more like a sketch by Mr Michael Spicer than how a responsible Government might engage with scrutiny.
The shadow Minister talks about scrutiny and refers to trade unions. However, if we have trade unions at the table, who will scrutinise the trade unions to ensure that they are not pushing their own agenda from their own sector on a UK-wide deal? How will we ensure their impartiality if they are beholden to a militant number of members? As we know, not every trade union member is politically motivated or engaged.
It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman has taken up other hon. Members’ time in the debate with such rubbish. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 is the only formal parliamentary process in place for agreements not covered by the Bill, including with the United States. That is not scrutiny, is it?
Just to backtrack a moment, I remind my hon. Friend of the claims made by the Minister in his opening remarks, when he claimed we would enjoy better scrutiny than countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which I think is disputable. There was an exceptional omission, which was the United States. Should that not concern everyone?
Absolutely. We compare very badly with the scrutiny in the United States, some of which I have already described. My hon. Friend is right to make the comparison. Is it not ironic that we are in the middle of trade talks with the United States, where they have full scrutiny and we do not? While we are stuck with CRAG, in the United States debates and votes will take place in Congress, alongside the engagement with business and the unions that I described earlier.
Let us remind ourselves that CRAG was introduced as part of our scrutiny process while we were EU members, because trade agreements were an EU competence. The process included full scrutiny in the European Parliament —scrutiny that has not been replaced by an equivalent system. Caroline Lucas reminded us of her experience performing exactly that role.
The Minister wrote to MPs last week. I think he read out quite a lot of his letter in his speech. He told us last week that legislation will be debated and scrutinised by Parliament in “the usual way”. The usual way? There is no “usual way”, because the usual process only worked alongside the scrutiny carried out for us in the European Parliament. Despite what the Minister says, CRAG on its own makes no sense unless the Government wish to avoid scrutiny.
Today’s amendments to the Bill are similar to those passed in March 2019. The Minister is fond of telling us how vital it is that the Bill passes, so why did the Government not accept the amended Bill last year? It could have saved a lot of trouble.
And time. What possible reason can the Government have for wanting to avoid scrutiny, and why on such important areas? Perhaps there are some clues in the topics covered by the various amendments. The threat to our NHS is right at the top of the list. Investor-state dispute settlement was a scandal that came to prominence during the TTIP negotiations. Let us look at some examples of the threat posed by ISDS. The Portuguese Government were sued using ISDS when the Lisbon metro was returned to public ownership. ISDS clauses in bilateral investment treaties are being used now to prepare a series of cases against the UK Government for pausing construction contracts during the pandemic.
ISDS is not the only issue. Standstill clauses prevent Governments from returning privatised public services to the public sector. Ratchet clauses require further services to be privatised. Then there are negative lists, which require Governments to specify exactly which services are to be exempt from privatisation, with everything else up for grabs. The Prime Minister told us he favours a social insurance system in his Daily Telegraph article, so when Ministers tell us not to worry about the NHS, it simply will not wash.
Statements alone are worthless. It is very simple: the detailed text of all agreements must include cast-iron commitments, because it is not just the Prime Minister who wants to hand over our NHS to the healthcare corporations; it is his friend the US President, and it is in the US negotiating objectives, which refer to
“full market access for US products”.
They want access to NHS medicines and more, and they are not shy about saying so.
Scrutiny matters, nowhere more so than in the protection of our NHS in international trade agreements. That is why our new clause 17 is so important. Ministers say that they want export opportunities for our farmers in the United States and Australia. Export opportunities? Really? Ministers are missing the point. Farmers have to survive first. If food imports are allowed with lower production, welfare standards and costs, farmers will struggle to stay in business. They will be undercut. As trade representative Lighthizer warned us, on issues such as agriculture
“this administration is not going to compromise.”
There is no ambiguity in Mr Lighthizer’s commitment not to compromise, is there? The idea that farmers will make up for domestic sales by exporting more is a fantasy. The magical thinking of Ministers will not stand up to scrutiny—that is, of course, if scrutiny is ever allowed.
Northern Ireland producers in the agrifood sector export 75% of their products, so it is really important for us to have more markets and more markets will come across the world. Mash Direct, in the agrifood sector in my constituency, already exports its various vegetable and potato products to the United States. So there are markets that we can grab and take forward to get more jobs and employment. Northern Ireland will do better because of that.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point about Northern Ireland. When the Bill was published, the Government were sticking to the mantra that there would be no border. How the new arrangements will operate in Northern Ireland and the impact on the UK is exactly why there needs to be proper scrutiny of the agreements and their impacts.
The Trade and Agriculture Commission is advisory, not regulatory. It has no teeth. It is not representative. It does not report to Parliament. It cannot enforce import standards and it will be gone again in six months’ time anyway. It cannot stop changes to food standards if the Government agree them in a trade deal with the US because it does not have any teeth. Neil Parish said that he had been led up the garden path by the Government on the Agriculture Bill. The Government should lead him and his colleagues back down again, accept his new clause 4 and our new clause 11, and guarantee them in primary legislation. Mega-farms in the United States and Australia stand to benefit from any lowering of animal welfare and production standards. When we banned sow stalls in the UK, we had to admit pork from countries that had not caught up with our standards. What happened? Half our pig farmers went bust. If we were to accept chemical-washed chicken, our poultry industry would go bust, too. It must not happen again.
Public health, animal welfare and food production are inextricably connected. Hormones in animal feed may cause cancer in people. Industrial farming techniques affect the environment and global warming. In the middle of a global pandemic, minds should be concentrated. The use of antibiotics in farming is linked to the ability of diseases to jump between species. A coalition of businesses, unions, consumers, environmentalists and civil society is warning of a democratic deficit. The coalition is headed by the International Chamber of Commerce, which states:
“We no longer live in a world where trade can be treated separately from our international commitments on issues such as climate action, digitisation or building a more resilient health system. The public need to feel confident that trade decisions and processes are working for them and the Bill is a good opportunity to embed a more transparent, consensus based, democratic approach that clearly demonstrates a net benefit to all. It’s an opportunity to set a new gold standard.”
I am not going to take any more interventions because I am about to finish.
I said at the start that the Bill is really about social responsibility, environmental protection and democracy. The lack of scrutiny threatens to leave the NHS wide open to pharmaceutical giants and to undermine farmers and consumers. Chemical washes of chicken, hormones in beef, ractopamine in pork and GM crops are banned in the UK. What is wrong with keeping it that way? If the Government are saying, “We are going to do it anyway”, what is the objection to putting it all in primary legislation? The trouble is that we all know what is really going on here: they do not want to put protections for our NHS farmers and consumers in law or take the action needed on the climate crisis, because they have no intention of keeping their promises.
There are four significant flaws with this piece of legislation: the absence of devolved consent, real protections for the NHS, the preservation of food standards and meaningful parliamentary scrutiny. I believe that our amendment 10 and new clauses 7 and 8 deal with the first three, and that new clause 4, tabled by Mr Djanogly, deals with the final issue.
I wish to speak to amendment 10 and new clauses 7 and 8, which are in my name, and I will start, slightly in reverse order, with amendment 10. It relates to the powers of the devolved Administrations, or as I said in Committee,
“more accurately, the ability of the UK Government to make regulations under subsection (1), which makes provisions within devolved competencies, without the consent of Scottish or Welsh Ministers or a Northern Irish devolved authority”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
I am aware that in the previous Trade Bill, under consideration between 2017 and 2019, there was a problematic provision for regulation-making powers to be available to the UK Government, but the good news is that those provisions have been removed from this Trade Bill. It is the case, however, that there remains no statutory obligation for the UK Government to even consult, let alone seek the consent of, Scottish Ministers before exercising the powers in this Bill in devolved areas.
I know that the Minister has said that these powers would not normally be used without seeking consent, and his predecessor did offer a number of a non-legislative commitments to the Scottish Trade Minister Ivan McKee in March. I am genuinely pleased that the Minister, during the Bill Committee, committed to honouring those non-legislative commitments. He said:
“I restate the commitments made by my right hon. Friend, when he was a Minister, in his March letter to the Scottish Minister Ivan McKee”,
and that is genuinely very welcome. However, he went on to say, in opposing what was then amendment 8 and similar Labour new clauses that dealt with the same issues:
“In short, we are already delivering the engagement envisaged by proposed new clause, and we have achieved that while continuing to observe the important constitutional principles enshrined in the devolution settlements.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
I disagree. Giving the UK Government the ability to directly effect devolved powers without the statutory requirement to even seek consent is not observing the devolved settlement.
Our trading ability is something that concerns each and every one of us across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to support new clause 4, which would give the authority to the devolved Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament, and further, would mean that proposals came to the Floor of the House for ratification? Surely supporting new clause 4 would be a step to making that happen.
I am more than happy to support new clause 4, not least because I have signed it, but it is a slightly different thing. Ensuring parliamentary scrutiny, about which I shall say a little more later, is important, but it is different from the seeking of consent from those Administrations whose policy direction may be affected by a UK Government decision.
When we debated the identical new clause in Committee, the Minister went on to say that
“this proposed new clause would give the devolved Administrations a statutory role in the reserved area of international trade negotiations, which would be constitutionally inappropriate.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
He was partly right, in that it would give the devolved Administrations a statutory role, but only in so far as the provisions of a trade deal affected devolved competences. That is not constitutionally inappropriate; it is a matter of good administration and respect.
The Minister’s key argument against what was proposed was that it was not “practical”. He said:
“It would lock us and the”— devolved Administrations—
“into prescribed ways of working under the existing intergovernmental memorandum of understanding, a document last updated in 2013.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
Well, that may be an argument for revisiting the MOU, and it might also be an argument to say that the Government should adhere to the terms of the MOU under any circumstances, but it is a strange argument for opposing this amendment. Surely it is better to base negotiations on an agreed framework, or better still an agreed statutory framework, rather than to leave them to chance, make up the rules on the hoof and give an impression of UK Government acting in an arbitrary way.
The Minister’s key argument was as follows:
“As parts of these agreements touch on devolved matters, this legislation will create concurrent powers. We have sought to put in place concurrent powers to provide greater flexibility in how transitional agreements are implemented”.
So far so good; however, he went on to say:
“This approach permits greater administrative efficiency, reducing the volume of legislation brought through the UK Parliament and through the devolved legislatures.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
It cannot be right that the UK Government intend to legislate, or can legislate, in areas of devolved competence for the sake of administrative efficiency. There are far bigger and wider principles at stake than that.
Let me turn to new clause 7, tabled in my name. We know that trade deals can put pressure on food standards and lead to the importation of low-standard food. For example, the US Administration has made it clear that they want the UK to lower its food and animal welfare standards. The new clause includes a ban on the importation of food that is produced to standards lower than that in the UK. We know that the US and other countries have far lower animal welfare standards and adopt practices—including chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-fed beef and the use of various pesticides and GM crops—that are illegal in the UK for health and environmental reasons. None of that is a great surprise to anyone in the House. We believe that the quality of Scotland’s food and drink produce and, indeed, of food and drink produced elsewhere in the UK, and the related standards, are essential to the maintenance of our established international reputation in those areas.
I wonder whether the people in Scotland, like the people in England and in my constituency in Winchester, might not be way ahead of the politicians. Ultimately, will not the consumer decide? Just recently, we heard Waitrose make it clear that it would not be selling any imported product that was produced to a lower standard than we currently enjoy in this country, with its new boss citing chlorine-washed chicken. I just wonder whether the public might be ahead of us on this already.
I want to be careful in how I answer that. I hope the hon. Gentleman understands that perhaps those who can afford to shop in Waitrose—the Minister boasted in Committee that he was Waitrose fan—have a choice; perhaps somebody who is counting every penny and does not have access to anything other than the cheapest food is not in the position to make the same choice.
In effect, new clause 7 would do two things: it would affirm the UK’s rights and obligations under the SPS agreement—that is, the application of the sanitary and phytosanitary measures in annex 1A of the WTO agreement; and it would prohibit the import of food into the UK if standards in the exporting country were lower than those in force in the UK. I do not think there is anything contentious about that.
It is not just campaign groups like the Trade Justice Movement that back this. It is not just Scottish Land and Estates and the National Farmers Union that back measures like this one. The British Medical Association has weighed in, saying:
“The Bill presents an opportunity for the UK to present itself as a global leader on standards on food imports for the benefit of human, animal and plant health, and the environment. To fulfil this opportunity, it is vital that our current high standards are upheld and protected in any trade deals.”
It suggests that new clauses 7 and 11 should be backed in order to achieve that.
It is also necessary to have this on the face of the Bill because the Government’s approach to protecting food standards is slightly confused. In Committee, the Minister said:
“This Bill is about…continuity… Imports under continuity agreements must continue to comply with our existing import standards.”
I welcomed that. However, he added:
“Decisions on those standards are a matter for the UK and will be made separately from any trade agreements.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee,
There is the point of concern, right there. The UK could, if it wished, lower standards, opening the door to all sorts of imports. Let us make sure that that is not possible, at least in the roll-over arrangements, by including the UK’s obligations under the WTO phytosanitary agreement in the Bill. That is important because although the purported objectives of the Bill are about roll-overs, the definition of “trade agreement” is very wide and the long title does not restrict its use only to roll-overs.
New clause 8 would ensure that the UK Government have a duty to restrict market access to healthcare services, including medicines and medical devices. We tabled the new clause precisely because trade deals potentially have a negative impact on health services. While the UK Government have repeatedly pledged that the NHS is not on the table in trade negotiations, leaked documents detail conversations between UK and US negotiators and reveal that health services have been discussed, including the US probing the UK’s “health insurance system”, and the US has made clear its desire for the UK to change its drug pricing mechanism. The new clauses therefore include specific carve-outs for the NHS, all relevant services and regulation, meaning that it would be illegal for the Government to conclude a trade agreement that altered the way that NHS services are provided, or liberalised further, or opened up to particular sorts of foreign investment.
There could be no use of negative listing because such clauses require that all industries are liberalised in trade agreements unless there are specific carve-outs, and it is not always easy to define what services count as health services. For example, digital services may seem irrelevant to health, but NHS data management and GP appointment systems are increasingly digitised. There could be no standstill or ratchet clauses, because these provisions mean that after the trade deal has been signed, parties are not allowed to reduce the level of liberalisation beyond what it was at the point of signature.
There are many examples of real-world potential impacts; I will give just one. The Scottish Government had private cleaners in the NHS and quite a high degree of hospital acquired infection. The private cleaners were replaced by NHS cleaners, and the level of hospital acquired infection fell dramatically. Had a ratchet been in effect, let alone ISDS, it might not have been possible to do that, with detrimental mortality and morbidity consequences for real patients. The clause also states that there should be investor-state dispute settlement clauses in trade agreements. They only allow private investors to challenge Government policy when it affects their profits. The BMA piled in to this debate, as well, saying:
“The Bill must rule out Investor Protection and Dispute Resolution mechanisms which undermine the supremacy of UK courts and risk deterring, delaying or blocking public health improvement measures.”
We have seen examples around the world of where that has happened. It is fundamentally quite wrong for large corporations to be able to use ISDS-type arrangements to sue Governments simply for taking steps to protect the wellbeing of their citizens, or for enacting public health measures that they believe to be right and for which they may well have an electoral mandate.
The hon. Gentleman is making a fine speech. Does he agree that it seems a considerable irony that those Government Members who were so determined that this country should not be subject to any supranational court system should hereby, in an ISDS clause, enable our Government to be sued by foreign companies in specialist supranational courts in a way that is not even accessible to our own domestic companies?
Yes, and I made that point. It is wrong for these provisions to be available only to investors in the way that has just been described. If we want a supranational body that adjudicates, arbitrates and works, let us have the UK Government put some pressure on their friends in the United States and get the WTO appellate body back up and running and functioning again. That would be the best thing for trade around the world.
New clause 8 would also instruct that there should be no changes to drug pricing mechanisms, which could also happen through intellectual property and non-patent exclusivities. That would be bad news for patients, taxpayers, health boards and trusts around the country, and our view is that trade deals should not be used to facilitate it.
In opposing a new clause like this one in Committee, the Minister said that
“the NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector”.
Fine. He said:
“We have always protected our right to choose how we would deliver public services in trade agreements, and we will continue to do so.”
Fundamentally, his argument was that “however laudable” the new clause was, it was “unnecessary”. He went on to explain that the UK already had
“rigorous checks and balances on the Government’s power to negotiate and ratify” trade agreements
There are two big issues that jump out, given what the Minister said—and I have it in full if he wants to re-read it. First, there is absolutely no practical reason why protections for the NHS demanded by the public should not be included in the Bill. Secondly and more importantly, because the so-called “rigorous checks and balances” in CRAG amount to little more than a take-it-or-leave-it choice at the end of the negotiations, the need to protect the NHS from the outset in legislation is paramount.
I commend amendment 10 and new clauses 7 and 8 to the House, and I hope—time permitting—that we can press new clause 7 and amendment 10 to a vote.
I rise to support the Bill because I believe that removing unnecessary barriers to trade can boost jobs and growth, but I hope that the Minister and the Government will consider seriously whether changes can be made to strengthen parliamentary oversight, whether via the amendments we are considering today or in the other place.
I was one of 18 Conservative MPs to back new clause 2 of the Agriculture Bill. I did so because I believe our trade policy should be consistent with our values. The Government were elected on a manifesto with stronger commitments on the environment and animal welfare than any of their predecessors, but maintaining our domestic rules on animal welfare and environmental stewardship of land will have less and less real-world impact if more and more of our food is imported from countries with lower standards and fewer qualms about these matters than we have.
I would therefore like to hear the Minister confirm this evening that the Government will keep in place the import ban on chicken washed in disinfectant and will not at any stage ask this Parliament to remove it from the statute book. I hope that he will say the same about the ban on beef from cattle whose growth has been artificially boosted by hormones. We know that in the United States, many of them are intensively reared on feedlots containing thousands of animals fed off soy production, contributing to deforestation in the Amazon basin.
The reality is that more or less every country in the world reflects sensitivities over food in its approach to trade policy for the good reason that food security is crucial to any society. I warmly thank the Minister and the International Trade Secretary for agreeing to establish a commission to consider how we can secure the economic advantages of free trade agreements without undermining our world-class food standards. Those standards would be undermined if we allowed an unrestricted tariff-free influx of food produced using methods that would be illegal in this country. A good deal with the United States, a mutually beneficial deal, could see tariffs coming down even in sensitive sectors such as beef so long as incoming food complies with animal welfare and environmental standards that are equivalent to our own. Many US producers are perfectly capable of doing that, and it should not be beyond the wit of man to develop a certification and compliance system.
Contrary to what some have claimed, this is not a rerun of the debates on the corn laws, and it is a caricature to suggest that those of us raising concerns have somehow been captured by producer interests as our Victorian forebears in this House were. All I am asking is that we do not sell ourselves short in this country. The UK is the third biggest market for groceries in the world. Even conditional access to that market is a valuable prize. Just because we would like a trade deal with the US does not mean that we should give it everything that it wants. There is so much that we can offer our trading partners in the US and in other countries, and is it so unreasonable to say that, when it comes to food, there are limits to liberalisation?
This Trade Bill is fatally flawed. It could have been a bold statement about our future trade deals in which we used our independence from the EU, whatever we feel about it, to build in high environmental and food standards, workers and consumer rights, and commitments to achieving sustainable development goals and human rights and to modernise our trade rules in conjunction with constructive, modern, democratic scrutiny. Instead, this Bill is stripped of any of those. I urge Members to vote for new clause 4, which will enable the people’s elected representatives here in this House and in the devolved Administrations to say what is important for the British people.
High standards should be written into trade agreements from the start to the finish of negotiations and ensure that, for example, secret deals do not end up with selling off the NHS to the highest bidder. Chlorinated chicken could be just the start. These are not the words of doomsayers or baseless concerns; more than 400 NHS and senior public health professionals have signed an open letter, demanding legal guarantees in post-Brexit trade legislation to provide specific protections for the health service in any future trade negotiations, such as those with the US. US trade deals are already under way in secret, but even in the US both Houses of Congress get a guaranteed vote on trade agreements, and America’s process for public consultation prior to negotiation is impressively far-reaching in contrast with this Bill. The British public are being sold out by this Bill. What are the Government afraid of? What are the Government planning to do? What desperate deals will be struck to get a deal done, but on worse terms?
In my own constituency, 39% of jobs are in sectors identified as being severely impacted by a no-deal Brexit, or a bad deal with the EU. I am extremely angry, as are my constituents that, as an MP, I will have very little say over preventing this. Food standards are also a very huge concern to my constituents who are deeply worried that decades of progress in animal welfare, hygiene, husbandry and environmental management are going to be stripped away. Farmers and consumers will be worse off.
I am very disappointed that the Bill went through several days of scrutiny in the Committee, which I was a member of, without any changes whatsoever, and today we have just a few minutes of parliamentary debate starting in the late afternoon on only one day before the Bill goes to the next stage. In Committee, we heard evidence about how much stronger our trade negotiators could be if they had the backing of parliamentary red lines written into our legislation, but we were told over and over again by the Minister that proposals for parliamentary scrutiny of food standards, environmental standards and workers’ rights were not necessary.
I only have a few seconds left.
If the planned negotiations will include all those rights and standards, that should be guaranteed by being written into parliamentary legislation. If the Government are planning to agree a bargained down, watered down race to the bottom, I can see why they would reject these amendments. That is why we should all be very worried about our future and about this Trade Bill.
It is a great honour to speak in this debate, having spoken briefly on Second Reading and sat on the Bill Committee and being a member of the International Trade Committee. We had a wide-ranging, well-informed and constructive debate in Committee, and it is good to see so many of its members speaking in the debate.
I would like to address a number of points, including the clauses relating to the NHS and to scrutiny, but because of the time limit, I will confine myself to just one, which is standards, and in particular new clause 11. Simply put, new clause 11 would allow the import of agricultural goods into the UK
“only if the standards to which those goods were produced were as high as” the standards that apply under UK law. On the face of it, that sounds reasonable because it just seeks to ensure what we already have. Nobody has any difficulty with that—everybody here wants to maintain the high production standards, animal welfare standards and environmental standards that we have. That is why the Government have been absolutely clear that they will do precisely that. That is why the Minister stood on a manifesto commitment to do exactly that. That is why I stood on a manifesto commitment to do exactly that, as did all my hon. Friends.
There are a number of misunderstandings, which I will briefly address. We have already heard a number of times from Opposition Members about chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef, and I am sure we will hear about it again before the end of the debate. Those are already illegal in UK law. They are illegal because they are in European Union law, and European Union law is put into UK law by the terms of the withdrawal agreement. When Opposition Members plaintively say, “Why won’t the Government just put this in primary legislation?” the answer is because it is already there. If it were to be removed, the Government would have to bring something to the House and get us to vote on it—they would have to change the law, and we have all expressed our view about that. That prohibition is already there, so new clause 11 is simply unnecessary.
New clause 11 seeks to go further than maintaining our high import standards. It is crucial that we distinguish between import standards, which is the safety of food brought into this country, and safety standards, which is the way that they are produced domestically. The new clause seeks to have us say to all our trade partners, “We want to go further than ensuring that we import safe food. We want to reach into your domestic legislation and tell you exactly how you produce that food.” No self-respecting independent country will want to do that.
That is patently false. All the new clause does is to say, “If you want to produce food to export into our market, it must be produced to these standards.” It does not in any way seek to impose legislation in the United States or anywhere else that would govern the way in which they can produce food.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman on the wording of the new clause. It talks about
“standards which at the time of import applied under UK law”,
which means that the same standards have to apply in the foreign law, so it goes far further than what is intended by the Bill. No country is going to accept dynamic alignment imposed on it by us, any more than we would accept it. We cannot say to Mr Barnier, “We do not want to accept dynamic alignment from you, but by the way, we want you to accept dynamic alignment from us, because you’ve got to mirror the standards we have in our domestic legislation.”
These amendments are intended simply to kill trade, because nobody wanting a trade deal would accept such terms. Trade deals that allowed food to be imported from the poorest areas of the world, in particular in the developing world, would be impossible. The amendments would obviously kill off any prospect of any trade deal with anybody else. They would kill off our existing trade deals that the Minister is trying very hard to roll over with this Bill, and they might even render it impossible to secure a trade deal with the European Union. These are, therefore, trade-killing amendments. They are wholly unnecessary, and I urge the House to reject them.
It is extremely interesting to follow Robert Courts, who seems to be labouring under a completely false set of perceptions. First, the standards referred to in new clause 11, and indeed in many of these amendments, are the standards for products exported from country A to us here in country B. We are not making any comment about the products that are circulating within that country. We are simply saying that, if we want our farmers not to use sow stalls, for example, it makes no sense not to apply such conditions to the imports of food coming from countries that are using those standards. If our standards imply higher costs and we do not have some way of moderating the goods coming in from countries that are not imposing those standards, our farmers will be undercut. I really wish he would get his facts straight before standing up and saying that these amendments do not make sense, because they do.
I stand to speak to new clause 9, tabled in my name. New clause 9 stipulates that no international trade agreement may be ratified or implemented if it restricts the UK’s ability to pursue its climate and environmental goals. It requires the Government to make full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements by all participating nations the priority during trade negotiations, and to prioritise facilitating action to that end at the World Trade Organisation. It requires regular reporting on compliance with the above. Overall, it would ensure that the Government’s trade policy is in line with their international climate obligations and domestic environmental targets.
The Trade Bill should have been an opportunity to provide a clear direction of travel on the UK’s new trading status. It should have set out a democratic, environmentally and socially just framework for a new, pioneering and independent trade policy. The Conservative election manifesto promised that the Conservatives would not
“compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
Yet, as we have seen, the gap between reality and rhetoric is a yawning gulf. We do not want yet more warm words and nice rhetoric. What we want are some red lines in the negotiations, and the way to get them is to write them into this Bill. That is all that those on the Opposition side of the House are asking for.
Instead, what we have with this Trade Bill is the same rehashed, controversial proposal from before the general election. It is one that fails completely to take account of the long-standing climate and nature crises or, indeed, of the covid-19 pandemic that has happened since. The UK’s objectives for trade deals must change to keep up. They must prioritise action to tackle the climate crisis, sustainable food supply chains, decent work and, as has been so sharply highlighted, universal and affordable access to medical supplies.
As it stands, this Bill risks undermining the UK’s social, labour, environmental and agricultural standards. It fails to ensure that imported products adhere to at least equivalent standards. I therefore welcome all the amendments that have the same objectives as my new clause 9, which would provide us with a framework for protecting the standards that keep us safe. This is not an academic discussion, as we know. We know that the US Administration have made it very clear that they want the UK to lower its food standards to allow the export of products currently banned in the UK, and that is why we need to be on our guard.
I am listening to the hon. Member carefully, as I always do, but we are dealing in facts. She said, following my hon. Friend Robert Courts, that we should deal in facts; for the record, I thought he dealt in facts beautifully. Does she accept the point that the Food Standards Agency, for which I used to be responsible as a Minister, would have to propose any change in lowering regulatory standards—let us say, for instance, in how one washes chicken. It would have to propose such a regulatory change, which would have to be bought through these Houses of Parliament. Does she accept that as a fact?
I am happy to accept that as a fact, but does the hon. Gentleman accept that the unwillingness of this Government to put their objectives into the Bill is causing massive concern? Thousands of people are writing to the Minister to say that they are deeply, deeply concerned, so why not put them in the Bill? Unless they are there, we are not going to take them seriously. [Interruption.] I am sorry; I just do not think that people are going to believe warm words; they want such things in the Bill.
We need to be listening to those people who are contacting the Minister. That includes, as we have heard before, not just the National Farmers Union, but many other organisations and many people from civil society. We also need to be listening to the science.
I want to end by speaking to the issue of climate change and the fact that all our policy arrangements going forward need to be aligned to the essential fact of not exceeding the threshold of 1.5°. This year, 2020, is on course to be the warmest ever. Aligning trade policy with environmental and climate objectives is not just something that would be good to do; it would be reckless and perilous to do anything else. Despite the hype of a brave new post-Brexit world, this Trade Bill perpetuates the status quo. It is totally unfit for purpose from the point of view of standards; democratic scrutiny; secret courts that can also undermine values of the kind we want enshrined in trade Bills going forward.
It gives me great pleasure to rise in this debate and I welcome the fact that the Minister sailed the Bill through Committee unamended. I say to Caroline Lucas that the rhetoric, facts and a couple of other statements that she made simply all mix together and I am afraid that I agree fundamentally with my hon. Friend Robert Courts. The fact that she wants something in the Bill that is already the law of the land gives excellent credence to what rhetoric is.
One of the reasons that I want things in the Bill is that they might otherwise be changed through statutory instruments, which might not even see the sides of this Chamber. We want them in the Bill so we can have the debate here in this Chamber.
The hon. Lady, I know, understands the process of this House probably better than me, and a statutory instrument sailing through this place without a vote on the Floor would mean a dereliction of duty by those on the Opposition Benches. I know as well as she does that it would be easy to facilitate such a vote. Not only that, but those on the Treasury Bench have been absolutely clear.
In the short time I have, I want to echo my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers, with whose thoughtful contribution at the start of the debate I agreed very much. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Neil Parish, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. I think he is the grandfather of the commission we now have for trade and agriculture, although I do not want to age him. My hon. Friend did more to engage me with my farmers than the National Farmers Union has done in a decade. I suspect that was done in 10 minutes amending the last Bill, rather than what the NFU tried to do in an ongoing dialogue.
My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour mentions the commission. We were lobbied by many of our farmers who urged us to set up that commission. The Government have listened. Does he agree that that is evidence of this Government listening to farmers and upholding our manifesto commitment?
I dare not disagree with my parliamentary neighbour. I very much welcome the commission and I say to those on the Treasury Bench that it is welcomed by my farmers and my agricultural community. The membership of that commission gives a certain amount of comfort to the farmers I engage with daily in representing one of the largest agricultural communities in this country.
I want to focus for a second on what my hon. Friend the Member for Witney said around the subject of chlorinated chicken, which has become a lightning rod, a focus stone. I re-emphasise that there is an import ban in place; there is a law of the land in place that that cannot be imported into this country, and it would be an incredibly brave Government, Treasury Bench and Chief Whip who ever brought that issue to this House.
It seems to be Opposition Members, over and over again, who are trying to charge the whole debate emotionally with that product, despite the full knowledge that it is illegal to import it into this country. That brings shame on them for trying to whip the issue in such a fashion.
The horsemeat scandal revealed significant vulnerabilities in the traceability of our food supply chain. Given that pork and horsemeat found their way into what was meant to be beef, does the hon. Gentleman not accept that we risk a similar scandal in future if additional protections for consumers against chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef are not written into the Bill?
I have won the argument on chlorinated chicken and we have moved on to another product. I say to the hon. Lady that working with the Government, as I am with the Secretaries of State for both DEFRA and International Trade, on traceability, accountability and labelling, is the right thing to be doing—not making cheap political points in what is one of the most essential debates and Bills for this country right now.
I was trying to get to a point about the scrutiny in this place. As a member of the International Trade Committee, I commend our illustrious SNP Chair, who has brought real teeth and scrutiny to the process. The willingness of the Secretary of State and our negotiators to brief the Committee in private session has been extremely welcome.
The fact is that we have the CRAG procedure, which has been talked about at length—I see some Members starting to smile on the Opposition Benches. It would be an Opposition who really could not use the process to full advantage who could not bring a vote against any kind of trade deal that came forward. For anything to be able to be snuck through, there would have to be a complete dereliction of the Opposition’s duties—never mind the Back Benchers on the Government side, who will hold our Government to account, as is our job.
Having spoken to the Minister on the Treasury Bench at length on these issues, I feel safe in the knowledge that the trade deals that we are doing will be welcomed in my farming and agricultural community. The deals will open up not just markets that that community wants, such as lamb to the United States of America—the second largest importer of that meat in the world. They are already opening up the beef market, which has been lying dormant for so many decades and they will enable the import of products of a reasonable standard. Consumers in my constituency and across the United Kingdom can take huge comfort from the import bans in place in the law, which will not be removed.
I know that there is a time limit and that other Members want to speak. I commend the Treasury Bench for their engagement with our farming community, with me and with the International Trade Committee. I commend the Bill unamended.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that trade is an important part of the Welsh economy. It was worth £17.5 billion in 2019 alone. While the Government pursue trade deals across the world to explore new opportunities, the hon. Gentleman will also agree with me, I think, that they should not squander the opportunities on our doorstep. Although Wales is a proud global partner, we cannot escape the fact that at present more than 60% of Welsh exports are destined for our friends—and, hopefully, our continued close trading partners—in the European Union. I hope that negotiations with the EU will conclude without there being new barriers to that trade or additional costs for our businesses.
I am certain, however, that the UK’s approach to trade with other members of the global community must champion the interests of each of the UK nations—an objective far more likely to be realised successfully if all four Governments of the UK play a role in formulating trade mandates and scrutinising negotiations as well as ratifying agreements.
I commend the remarks of Stewart Hosie, who eloquently detailed the Bill’s deficiencies in this regard; I add only that the Government should guarantee the democratic rights of the devolved Administrations in the Bill as well as offering legal protections to our public services and strengthening some of the safeguards when it comes to parliamentary scrutiny of standards.
Unfortunately, as it stands, the Bill in my opinion denies the role that the Welsh Parliament has in articulating Wales’s interests. That is why Plaid Cymru has tabled new clause 18, to ensure that all four nations must consent to any trade deal struck in their name. We will also be supporting new clause 4, in addition to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee East, which would ensure not only that that deficiency is addressed, but that UK parliamentary oversight is strengthened.
There has been much debate in recent months about the issue of standards, especially those of agricultural and food imports. I put on record that I welcome the establishment of the trade and agriculture commission, but I am concerned that a six-month remit will mean that such a valuable forum will not play a constant role in UK trade policy. I would appreciate the Minister addressing concerns conveyed to me as to how precisely the work of the commission will feed into some of the negotiations already under way. With Welsh food and drink exports worth more than £530 million in 2018 alone, Members will appreciate why international trade is such an important part of Wales’s rural economy and why these concerns will feature heavily in some of my rural communities.
Before I conclude, I wish to add to the comments made by the hon. Gentleman about the need to reform the investor state dispute mechanism. That is particularly important as we deal with the global socioeconomic consequences of covid-19. I welcome moves recently by the European Commission, as well as by some of the candidates to be director general of the World Trade Organisation, seeking to explore new multilateral investment courts to replaces the investor-state dispute settlement system. I hope the Government will consider engaging constructively in those discussions. I hope the House will support new clause 4 and the amendments he tabled, as I believe they will improve future UK trade policy and the integrity and our democratic engagement in those negotiations.
I rise to add my voice to calls for more trade and more opportunities for business in global Britain, especially those close to my heart in South Ribble and wider Lancashire. This Bill allows for more than 40 existing trade agreements with other countries to be kept in place, for us to access a £1.3 trillion global procurement market and for us to protect vital industries from product dumping by overseas actors. Finally, we clear up the rules on sharing data in customs environments, all of which are vital to the health of our domestic and export businesses. This useful and practical Bill tidies up the details on laws currently with the EU and adding them to the UK’s statute book.
I also rise to put to rest the concerns I have heard from many of the good people of South Ribble who have been worried by some of the noise and misunderstandings around the Bill.
Does my hon. Friend agree that Opposition Members wish simply to sow doubt among the public about the NHS? We have had 10 years in which to privatise it, but we have not done so. The last time it was privatised was in 2006, with Tony Blair’s independent sector treatment centres. Does she agree that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy coming from those on the Opposition Benches?
My hon. Friend is entirely correct on that. Having been part of the Bill Committee in the past weeks, I have had the opportunity to hear at length the arguments made on this Bill and on today’s amendments. I have listened hard to the details and drawn my own judgments. The advocacy for new amendments is strong and their proponents on the Opposition Benches articulate them well. They express fears that, at first glance, seem reasonable, but they are fears and not realities. I worry that Opposition Members are seeking to conflate what is actually in the Bill with fears about what could be in the Bill and wider conversations about trade. I know I am relatively new to this House, but that does not make sense to me. So what are the actualités of this piece? There is much noise about Parliament voting on future trade deals—we can do that, more so than is the case in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The CRAG process allows us to vote on trade deals and if we change our own law on trade, we will vote on that in this place too.
In reference to new clause 4, I must draw on my business background. As anyone who has negotiated any type of deal before knows, if you are at a table and have to say, “I agree but I have to get 650 other people to agree”, it rather ties your hands in the negotiation. Let us trust our elected Government to act in the best interests of global Britain, and as hon. Friends have mentioned, trust those on these Back Benches to hold them to account. Should it be needed, there is still a backstop. If we, as a Parliament, need to block a trade deal after negotiation, we can. If it changes our laws, it will need a vote in this place, and FTAs cannot, by their nature, unilaterally change UK law. This is similar to Canada’s system, and it is forging on with trade deals and doing all right.
I have had much correspondence from the people of South Ribble raising concerns about our farmers and their wonderful, quality produce. People say, “You need to reassure constituents. There is concern that if a clear and explicit Government commitment to uphold food standards is not included in the Trade Bill, existing food law, including retained law, could easily be changed.” If I were in their shoes listening to that, I would be worried too. Let me put their fears to rest. We will not remove the UK’s current food standards. For example, hormones and chlorine in food are banned now and will remain banned—full stop. The current standards are in EU law and will be rolled over when we leave the transition period. We have promised to keep import standards in place, and we will. For those concerned about having a say, should they ever be changed, that will be voted on here in the UK Parliament.
If we put food standards rules into this Bill and ask those overseas to adhere to them, then we are asking those abroad to abide by our law. That is something we would not and do not accept from other countries, and our friends abroad will almost certainly say, “No thanks. That will put a restriction on trade that will hurt us—let’s not.” To put it another way, putting food standards regulation into a Bill rolling EU law into UK law is a bit like putting a frock on a frog: it will look more than a bit out of place down at the negotiating pond, and people will be disappointed when they kiss it and it does not turn out to be a protectionist princess. There is a right place to protect the UK’s food standards when products are imported, and we will, but it is not this Bill.
It is always a pleasure to follow Katherine Fletcher, as I recall I did when she made her maiden speech. I rise to speak in support of new clause 4 tabled by Mr Djanogly, who I know is scheduled to speak immediately after me and will doubtless give a detailed account of the reasons for it. In anticipation of that, I wish to set out why the Liberal Democrats support it.
We have a complex economy currently disrupted by the need to beat the coronavirus, and on the verge of major change as we transition away from carbon-emitting activity. Technological change offers both threat and opportunity. We must also consider that our economy is imperfect in its distribution of wealth and opportunity, and look for ways to address this challenge. Increasingly, the UK is being called on to stand up for the defence of fundamental human rights and liberal democracy and use the powers at its disposal to effect change internationally. Our trade policy and agreements touch on all those urgent challenges. How can we best leverage our economic advantages to deliver current and future prosperity for UK citizens and influence peaceful progress abroad?
To determine that those decisions are best made behind closed doors without consultation or discussion is an assault on our very idea of what Parliament is for. We need to balance all the competing pressures from different economic sectors and geographical regions, fully considering the impact on different groups of workers, and determine whether we prioritise climate commitments over economic growth. How can that be done effectively without recourse to Parliament? The British people deserve to have their interests properly represented when these questions are being asked and for the answers given by Ministers to be put on the public record and judged accordingly.
I also speak in support of new clause 9 tabled by Caroline Lucas and supported by the Liberal Democrats because we recognise the urgency of taking action against the very real threat of climate change. It is essential that we enshrine that urgency in our trade legislation, so that negotiating partners know, before the first papers are exchanged, that they must comply with our environmental goals. Our economy is transitioning away from carbon emissions, in accordance with the democratic mandate to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, and that progress must be underpinned in every trade agreement we negotiate. Our commitment to net zero cannot be traded away in pursuit of other goals.
The Liberal Democrats have also tabled amendments that relate to dispute resolution and human rights. Dispute resolution is fundamental to ensuring that democratic decision-making that relates to the expenditure of taxpayers’ money, or regulation of food standards, cannot be undermined by law suits from foreign corporations. At this stage, the UK Government should rule out any use of investor-state dispute settlement procedures from UK trade deals, to safeguard our ability to determine our own regulatory environment, without the threat of sanction from foreign investors. That is fundamental to ensuring that our NHS remains free at the point of use for all UK citizens, and that we set our own standards on animal welfare and food quality.
Earlier I referred to the UK’s powers to effect change internationally, and to how we can use our trade agreements as leverage. We have been forcefully reminded of our need to use those powers to influence foreign partners to respect human rights, thanks to recent events in Hong Kong and China. It would send a powerful message to the Chinese regime, and to others around the world who hope to trade with us, if we enshrined in law our commitment to upholding human rights as a non-negotiable element of our trade deals. That message will be compelling only if we lead by example, and that example starts with parliamentary oversight of negotiating mandates and trade deals. I implore colleagues to support new clause 4 this evening.
I speak to the new clauses tabled in my name, and those of others, concerning the scrutiny of free trade agreements. Simply put, today the House must address the question of whether, post Brexit, the UK will have less scrutiny of free trade agreements than we had before Brexit. That is the current Government proposal, which I suggest flies in the face of the claim that we leave the EU to take back control. The Government have split FTAs into two categories. First, and in the Bill, are all trade agreements that the EU signed with third countries before Brexit, which the Government wish to roll over to become agreements with the UK. Secondly, and not in the Bill, there are FTAs with any other countries, such as the US.
New clause 4 suggests a new scrutiny process for all FTAs. It will still be the Executive that negotiate FTAs, but Parliament would get a yes/no vote on the negotiating objectives and, importantly, on the final draft agreement, as happens in the US and Japan. Not only has such a provision not ended up in the Bill, but the Government’s position has seemingly reverted to us having less scrutiny than we had as a member of the EU. For the past 40 years, the EU has negotiated our trade deals, and as part of the EU scrutiny process, a yes/no vote would be taken by the EU Parliament on the draft FTA, prior to signature.
Does my hon. Friend welcome the commitment from our Government on welfare and the environment, and all the conditions in the Bill? Does he find it somewhat confusing that the Government will not accept new clause 4? Surely scrutiny is fine, because they are going to do exactly what they said they will do.
I absolutely agree. In January 2018, on Second Reading of the 2017-19 Bill, the then Secretary of State stood up and said that he would be looking for a new approval process and take soundings on that, but that has simply not happened. As things stand, there is no longer a parliamentary veto, and no formal scrutiny committee has yet been established, despite US negotiations having started.
The important point of a parliamentary veto is not that it is often used, but rather, as seen in other Parliaments, that it encourages the Executive to seek consensus on their negotiating mandate, and keeps legislators in touch during negotiations through regular discourse and discussion. A wise Executive will naturally wish to avoid an unnecessary bust-up just before signing an FTA. Of course, that is where it all went wrong with the TTIP negotiations between the US and the EU, because the US Congress and the EU Parliament were disclosing information to their respective elected representatives that was not provided to UK parliamentarians.
My hon. Friend is mentioning very large trade deals. Does he mean that the crux of this oversight is really required with those big trade deals, such as those with the US, China, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
New clause 4 does deal with all trade deals, but obviously the amount of scrutiny would be proportionate.
As a result of the disclosures, and with the inevitable leaks, the whole debate surrounding thousands of lines of deal negotiations on TTIP was reduced to accusations of selling the NHS and Brits being forced to eat American chlorinated chicken. I totally take the point of my hon. Friend Robert Courts that that was a false accusation. One might have thought that the UK Government had learned their lesson from that TTIP experience.
The Bill needs to provide a statutory framework that encourages the Government to take early-stage consultation and ongoing soundings through the course of FTA negotiations, in order that business, digital, farming, environmental and international development representatives, and other citizens, feel that they are being listened to, with similar rights to their counterparts in the country with which we are negotiating. Sadly, that is not currently the Government’s position.
The Minister constantly suggests that the CRAG process, allowing a short delay mechanism before ratification, is adequate. This is the same CRAG process that was implemented by Labour in 2010 at a time when the UK had the EU parliamentary veto. By the way, it is also the same process that was described in 2019 by the Lords Constitution Committee as “anachronistic and inadequate.”
The Minister suggests that the Trade Select Committee could be utilised to provide scrutiny for proposed new FTAs, a plan that I totally support. Let us assume that the Trade Development Department, and therefore its Committee, will survive a rumoured merger with the Foreign Office. Even so, and despite negotiations with the US and Japan having already started, no such detailed arrangements with the International Trade Committee have yet been agreed. We know that from an on-the-record letter sent from the Chair of the Committee to the Secretary of State on
I am not suggesting that MPs should be able to impede Government negotiations on FTAs. Nor am I saying that MPs should be able to amend draft FTAs. However, proper scrutiny means that we need legislation that provides for Parliament to approve FTAs on a yes or no basis before they are signed, which is why, without having received any Government offer to redress the issue, I shall ask that new clause 4 is voted on this evening.
I have many amendments and not very much time, but I shall get in what I can. Amendment 1 questions whether the time has come, or actually came at the start of this year, to draw a line under the 20 potential roll-over agreements not yet activated. The last roll-over signed was with Kosovo, just before Brexit, and since then it has become clear that most potential roll-over countries wish to see what we do with the EU first, such as Canada.
Japan has offered a quick deal, but that will not be a roll-over deal, as it appears that we are being offered something less than the EU’s deal with Japan. However, under this legislation the Japan deal will still be treated as a roll-over for scrutiny purposes. That somewhat undermines the Government’s main contention to date that a light scrutiny regime for roll-overs is appropriate as the deal has already been scrutinised by the EU Parliament. I do not just mean Japan. The clause 2 powers may have been suitable before Brexit, when the Bill was drafted in 2017, but I suggest that they should now be looked at again.
I rise to speak to new clauses 17 and 11, and on the principles of workers’ rights, national health service protection, and environmental and human rights. First, in relation to workers’ rights, we could not imagine a trade deal with such a country as Colombia when we know that the International Trade Union Confederation rates it as the most dangerous place to be a trade unionist. That means that the lives of many Members in the Chamber, who may be members of a trade union, could be at risk. To begin a trade deal with such a country without even mentioning workers’ rights seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous.
The problem with the Bill is how silent it is. It is silent on workers’ rights, as I have said. It is silent on the real protection of the NHS. We have had some reassurance on the NHS, but in particular I am worried about medicines and the cost of medicines, and about our data. We know that the national health service, unified as it is, provides the most fantastic data for research and for pharmaceutical companies. My fear is that, if we do not have more protection in the Bill, it will be open to those companies, through whichever country they are based in, to have a kind of values-free trade negotiation, which we as MPs will not be able to scrutinise effectively, and they could end up using our data, which, given the extent, longevity and detail of that data, is probably the best health data in the world. I therefore seek reassurances from the Minister on that specific point.
On environmental concerns, in leaving the European Union, we are leaving the gold standard of environmental protections, but it would be easy to write that protection in and lead on that in this Bill. Instead, the Bill is almost values free in terms of the importance of the environment. After covid, climate change and dealing with the climate emergency are probably the biggest concerns of our generation.
Many Members have mentioned the gold standard of food. I would also say that not everybody can afford to shop at Waitrose, which is the supermarket that has said that it will not buy low-quality goods. Many people will not be able to afford not to buy the cheapest food, particularly following the economic crash we are entering, the worst recession for 200 years, so we have to see the Bill in that context.
Does my hon. Friend agree that many people who go to restaurants or to fast-food outlets will have no way of knowing the provenance of the food that they are consuming? It is not simply a matter of labelling in the supermarkets.
My hon. Friend makes such an important point. It is one that I will not repeat.
On the question of our role in this place, surely the past four years have taught us that people want us to be here to make these decisions. Tucking away a bit of legislation in the Library for 21 days is not what we are here for, and nor is running upstairs to an SI when we are in the middle of all-party group and all the rest. We need to have proper scrutiny in this place and the Select Committee needs to have an enhanced role. Having enjoyed my time on the International Trade Committee, I feel very strongly that it should have a key role in ratifying the role of the Trade Remedies Authority Commissioner. If that six-month commission continues, the Committee should also have a role in appointing its head. I will be lobbying very hard with colleagues who represent very rural seats—unlike Hornsey and Wood Green, which is one of the most urban seats—to have a proper commissioner continue in that role. Why have it for six months; let us have it forever. Let us have the International Trade Committee ratifying those two appointments. Let us also have a trade union voice and an industry voice on the TRA. If there is one thing that we have learned from covid, it is how well the TUC has worked and how well the CBI has worked together. They have led our Government and told them what to do on covid. Why cannot they do that with the Trade Bill?
We can get on. We can move forward together, but we must try to militate against this strong executive model that we have been saddled with by having these other checks and balances in place. We can do that through this Bill tonight and by supporting the sensible cross-party clauses, which share a lot of support. Let us try to enjoy that consensus building because we are in a new chapter. Let us not spoil it by having an inferior Trade Bill that is silent on the key issues of the day that concern us, be they human rights in China, environmental standards, which we have had a legacy of from our 40 years in the European Union, or the important question of what we are doing here as MPs.
It is an honour to follow Catherine West. The Bill is an opportunity for us to take a nimble approach to doing business for the future for our country. I say an “opportunity”. In listening to some Members tonight, I see it as probably a hindrance, because they will seek every opportunity to frustrate the Bill and to make it more difficult to drive it through. There is talk of reporting back on every single deal that is being done. I am not an advocator of playing cards or anything like it, but definitely that is showing your full hand, which is not a wise thing to do. I am not saying that you should be playing poker, but I have been in business and I know what it is like: you do not let your enemies, or those with whom you are doing business, know what you are doing, and you can work out a deal every way.
However, we have concerns about many areas. We have had a very strong lobby in relation to our agrifood and agricultural industry, especially from those involved in the fishing industry.
Does my hon. Friend agree that our fishing industry similarly needs the Trade Bill, to show our strength of purpose and ability to stand outside EU rules and regulations and stand upon the quality of goods and services we are ready, willing and able to provide throughout the world? The fishing sector can grow if it is given the opportunity.
I agree with my hon. Friend about our fishing industry. We have a fantastic product. I have eaten in many countries around the world, and I understand why they would want to buy Northern Ireland produce—it is the best in the world. You will know that if you have had a soda farl from Northern Ireland; I know of some previous Secretaries of State who can bear that out.
We have had the agrifood sector lobbying us. Many in our farming sector lobbied us about changes that they wanted to be made to the Agriculture Bill, which went through the House recently. We see this as a second opportunity to give protection. I understand that some say we already have protection within legislation. I do not always say that it is important to gold-plate things, but sometimes we have to reinforce the stance that we are taking. That has to happen, and it is important that we support our farmers.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the devolved Administrations play a key role in any future trade policy, and that given Northern Ireland’s dependence on agriculture, it is vital that this Government listen to the devolved regions?
I am a great Unionist. I believe that we are part of the United Kingdom and we should be working together to ensure that we get the best bang for our buck, to use an American term, as a United Kingdom. That is vital.
We already have protection in some areas. I come from an engineering background. We lead the world in electrical standards. Many other countries manufacture a lot more, but we lead in electrical safety. We set those safety standards. We make sure that goods coming into our country are made to those standards. Sony makes the monitors that we have in the Chamber. It makes specific monitors that are only for the UK, because we have such stringent electrical standards. It has the flexibility to do that. There are farms in Europe and throughout the world that make food to sell into our market that is bespoke, just to suit our market. That can be done, and it is being done. I want to make sure that we give our farmers and our industry an opportunity to export on to the world stage, so that our product is sold. We can use this Bill to do that.
Northern Ireland farmers export to 70 countries in the world, many of which have lower standards than the rest of the United Kingdom. The goods are valued because of the standard of the product. Apart from the fact that there will be a requirement to change primary legislation, is that not yet another indication that there is no incentive for us to lower standards, because we would lose those markets that we are exporting to?
I agree with my right hon. Friend. We do not want to lower our standards. We do not want a race to the bottom. We want to bring others up to the standard that we have set. We have set the bar fairly high, but by setting the bar so high, we have additional cost, which makes it more difficult for us to compete on the world stage. It is vital that we address that through whatever measures we have to put in place, with subsidy for our farming, to ensure that our product is still viable and economically possible for the housewife to buy—I used the wrong term; I apologise. We have to ensure that those who are buying their basket of fruit in a supermarket will be able to get the best value for it.
I support the Bill, but I also support new clauses 4 and 7, because they address some of the concerns that we as a nation have and Northern Ireland in particular has.
It is a great pleasure to speak after Paul Girvan. Agriculture and fisheries are very important in this country, including in Northern Ireland, and as we go forward and do trade deals, family farms and family fishing are important.
I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s putting in place the trade and agriculture commission, especially as it is to be led by Tim Smith, who I believe will be an independent chair of that commission. I assure the House that we will make sure that whatever findings with which the commission comes forward will be heard on the Floor of the House. We will make sure, too, that we will hold Ministers and the Government to account on our future trade policy.
I believe that the Government are honourable in coming forward and putting into our manifesto a real commitment to the environment, animal welfare and trading visions as we move forward in our new trade policy, but we must always reinforce that and make sure that it happens. Our Prime Minister is keen on getting trade deals with the whole of the world, and I very much welcome that—I am not one of the old corn-laws farmers who want to make protection part of the new trade system—but when we are negotiating, let us make sure that happens, because in that great moment of trying to bring about a trade deal, agriculture, food and the environment might not be quite as high up the list of importance as they should be. The City of London and all these other matters are hugely important to this country, but so too are our welfare standards for food production.
It is about not only welfare conditions and environmental conditions but the cost of production. If the cost of production is lower in other countries and animal welfare standards are lower, that will put our farmers out of business. Sonny Perdue, the US Secretary of Agriculture, went on Radio 4 and said that animal welfare is protectionism and told us to let our farmers compete. Well, we know what he means by that. I do not actually disagree with him: I disagree with his method of farming and with what is going on in the United States, with higher density of population in poultry and hormones in beef, but it is quite right for him to be able to argue that those are the standards in America so we should lower our standards to compete. I would say to Sonny Perdue, “Why don’t you raise your standards in America and compete with us?”, but I suspect that is not going to happen. That is why we have to go into trade negotiations with our eyes open and make sure that we get a good deal.
Trade agreements are good for our economy, provided that the agreement is right. We can get a trade agreement just for the sake of a trade agreement—so that we can tick that particular box, tick off that country and say we have a great trade agreement—but it will be a great trade agreement only if it is actually good for what we produce and for what the other country produces. I accept that we can get more lamb into America, and that will be a very good thing, but what if we do trade deals in future with countries such as Brazil? What does Brazil do? It ploughs up the savannah, it grows soya, cereals and sugar, and it pushes cattle into the rainforest and knocks it down to produce beef.
Let us be absolutely clear as we move forward and let us keep the trade and food commission in place, because it will give the Government the right information that they and our trade negotiators need to enter into trade negotiations and deliver a deal that is right for all people and all industry in this country.
The standards, protections and rights that we have all come to enjoy are put at risk by this Bill. The rules that govern trade must strike at the heart of the values that we expect of ourselves and each other. Trade policy must therefore be transparent and subject to thorough parliamentary scrutiny, and it must respect all the nations of the UK. On that, the Bill fails.
Now more than ever, as this country builds back better, we must ensure that the health of people and the planet are protected; that standards, workers’ rights and welfare rights are raised; and that our society becomes more resilient and sustainable. There can be no rolling back of rights, no undercutting of protections, no selling-out of our values and no compromise on standards.
At a time when we face so many crises—on three fronts: health, climate and the economy—all aspects of Government policy must be aimed at mitigating and eradicating those crises. However, despite the rhetoric, the Government yet again fail. Neither the environment nor climate are even mentioned in the Bill. The world’s poorest already bear the heaviest burden of climate breakdown. Trade policy must be rebalanced, putting justice and fairness at the heart of future agreements. There must be recognition from the Government that their lax approach on the environment in trade policy will lead to the promotion of cheaper but drastically higher-carbon and poorer-quality imported goods. That is bad for business, bad for people and bad for jobs, with UK producers, creators and innovators being undercut, and it will be a disaster for our environment.
First and foremost, the UK’s future trade agreements must be compatible with our commitment to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C by the end of this century. Trade policy must have embedded at its legal core the Paris climate agreement and the UN sustainable development goals. Only then can we guarantee a base commitment over trade policy that will be legally binding and will work progressively towards the kind of high recovery that we desperately need.
The Bill is also detrimental to food standards, the future prosperity of the UK’s agriculture sector and animal welfare rights. This is the week of the Royal Welsh show, when farmers and food experts come together in Llanelwedd to celebrate our great produce. Those farmers have really helped to put food on our tables during this crisis, but the Bill does nothing to help them—it will only weaken them. Despite UK Government promises to farmers and food producers that we would accept no watering down of standards, the Government continue to pursue the prospect of agricultural market access for the United States, where we know quality falls well below that of the UK. A selling-out of our farmers and appeasement over action—that is what we get with this Government.
This is window-dressing scrutiny while Government machinery continues to proceed down the same calamitous path. Far from handing power to Wales, the Bill will hollow out the right to regulate the standard of goods.
It is always unsettling when I speak in the Chamber and my colleagues seem to leave and the Whips come in. I reassure them that I am on their side this time. I commend the Bill in its entirety.
I listened carefully to Members from across the House as they raised concerns over food standards and scrutinising the quality of our trade deals, but we must take the Bill alongside the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill, and the Fisheries Bill when it comes through this place. The Agriculture Bill took the steps that many in this House and in this debate have been calling for. On welfare standards, the Government have moved to a position where they are performing a consultation on labelling, which I assure hon. Members does not yet go far enough for me; I will be hot on their heels in making sure that we have an extensive labelling system for agricultural produce that is sold in the UK and that goes through restaurants and supermarkets.
However, the Government have also committed to a commission—I agree with my hon. Friend Neil Parish that its six-month remit should be extended—which actually gives us the opportunity to scrutinise and to uphold the standards of our food and the welfare standards of our imports. That is important, and I do not think it can be expressed enough. It is what the NFU called for and it is what the NFU got, which we should be very clear about. That commitment is there in black and white in the Agriculture Bill, and it is exactly what the Opposition want, so to keep going on and on that we are lowering our standards is a fallacy.
Ladies and gentleman—sorry; Members, if I may—
I beg your pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Reading the Bill and looking at the amendments, I see that one of the benefits is recognising the export potential. We are trying in my constituency to take the benefits of Brixham fish or oceanographic technology manufactured in Totnes and export it across the world and open up new markets for it. The Bill allows that.
I am afraid that my colleagues from Northern Ireland pipped me to the post by mentioning the fishing sector, but there is a huge opportunity in the Bill. We can now open up new markets in the far east. The Bill allows us to do that, and we must support it in its entirety. I should also add that in doing so, we can start allowing ourselves to strengthen the Union.
I have listened to Members from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland talk about their produce and exporting it around the world, and it is time to revamp and strengthen the Board of Trade, listening to what is the best of each of those areas and then helping export it to the international community. That will not only strengthen the Union, which I am sure all Members of the House will agree about, but allow us to be able to reach those markets.
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that weakening devolution and taking back powers from the devolved Administrations means strengthening the Union, because I do not?
That is exactly why the Board of Trade was reintroduced by my right hon. Friend Dr Fox. When he reintroduced the Board of Trade, it was about enhancing and developing a conversation with the devolved Administrations to make sure we were listening to what was in their areas and taking them forward to the international markets. It is no good turning around and saying we are not listening and not working together, because that is exactly what we are doing.
The Bill covers a number of significant areas where we will be able to reopen and reinvigorate our export markets. Through that, we will be able to reinvigorate those sectors that we hold dear in this country and uphold the standards that are so important. I commend the Bill.
This Trade Bill is deeply flawed. I have been contacted by countless constituents and campaigns, each highlighting a different failing of the Bill. It seems that everyone is opposed to it, except for the Government.
While the Government may argue that the Bill simply allows for continuity, the reality is that it sets a precedent for future trade legislation. Its main failing is the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. That the Bill is essentially designed to allow for a new trade framework after we leave the European Union makes that failing deeply ironic. When people voted to take back control, I suspect they meant for the people and Parliament, not Ministers and unelected advisers. To be honest, the idea that we should trust the power to approve trade deals to Ministers is laughable.
Last month, we debated the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government having overruled his own inspector in favour of his friend and party donor, despite admitting an apparent bias. On top of that, we have Government contracts seemingly being handed out to businesses with links to Ministers and advisers. Parliament has a right to scrutinise and debate every aspect of government, especially in matters as important as trade deals. The fact that Government Members do not appear to agree with that is deeply worrying, although not surprising.
However, it is not just the lack of scrutiny that is the problem, but the lack of protections. It is no secret that the US Government want a trade deal where the NHS is on the table along with our higher food standards. It is also no secret that there are those in government who would sell off our NHS as soon as they thought they could get away with it. These past few months, the NHS and its staff, along with other key workers, have been all that have stood between Britain and complete devastation. They have given their energy, their health and, in some cases, even their lives. Rather than thanking them with applause and praise, let us start by having a Trade Bill that ensures the NHS is off the table by enshrining that measure in law.
Then there is the issue of food standards. My inbox is full of constituents worried that this Government are so desperate for a US trade deal that they will water down food standards, allowing for chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef to be sold on the shelves of British shops. No doubt the Government will say that is scaremongering, but I ask them to explain to the farmers and voters in my constituency why they will not place food standards guarantees into the Bill. Finally, the Bill lacks any guarantee of workers’ rights, human rights or environmental protections. They are vital to protecting our planet, and to improving living and working conditions across the world. They must be a condition of any trade deal and must be included in the Bill.
In order to approve the Bill, the Government are asking us to trust their judgment. Unfortunately for them, we on the Labour Benches have actually seen where that judgment takes us. Based on my inbox, the public do not trust the Government to negotiate these types of deals. The Government insist that the NHS is not on the table in the trade deal, that any trade deal must meet existing British food standards and that they intend to uphold workers’ rights and environmental protections. If that is the case, they should accept the Opposition’s amendments today and commit those pledges in law. If they do not, we have proof of what we already suspect: that they are ready to sell off to the highest bidder.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Ahead of today’s debate, and like my hon. Friend Mary Kelly Foy, I received hundreds of emails from constituents asking me to ensure that the NHS is kept off the table in any trade negotiations. I share their concerns. We know that the United States and Donald Trump expect a trade deal very much on their own terms. We also know that for the President of the United States the interests of corporate America come first and that he will demand that the NHS pays higher prices for US drugs in a trade deal with the UK.
Over 60% of my constituency of Jarrow voted in favour of leaving the European Union in 2016, but they did not expect it to lead to our NHS being controlled from outside the UK. Over the past few months, the NHS has coped tremendously throughout the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, even though it has not been properly funded for years—over 10 years—owing to the Government’s unnecessary and unwelcome programme of austerity. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the importance of healthcare being accessible to all. However, as the Bill currently stands, it gives no protection to our NHS. We know that our NHS has already been turned into a market, making services vulnerable to being included in the deal unless they are clearly and comprehensively excluded. I can see no evidence so far that the Government want to ring-fence the NHS and keep it out of trade discussions.
The Bill also gives no role for Parliament to review or oversee trade agreements, weakening parliamentary democracy. Those on the Government Benches argue that the UK has taken back control of its trade policy, but do they not find it ironic that, compared with what is being proposed now, there was more parliamentary scrutiny and democratic oversight of trade policy when we were part of the European Union?
We also need to ensure that both public health and social care data relating to UK citizens are protected. Research by Global Justice Now concluded that the United States wants its companies to have unrestricted access to UK data, including NHS health records. The value of that health data is estimated to be about £10 billion a year. The Bill in its current form gives free rein to UK data being moved to servers in America. That could mean that the NHS would be unable to analyse its own health data without paying royalties and could find itself buying back, at considerable expense, diagnostic tools, medical technologies and expertise, even when they have been created from freely exported NHS data.
It is not just the NHS that is at risk. The Bill, as it currently stands, says nothing about climate change, human rights or workers’ rights. We need to ensure that any Bill passed protects the employment rights or terms and conditions of employment for public sector employees and those working in publicly funded health or care sectors. Failure to protect our NHS will be yet another broken promise from Boris Johnson that insults us all, but particularly the sacrifices made by our wonderful NHS and care staff. Failing to protect our NHS will mean that instead of a pay rise and a stronger NHS, we will get more US companies profiteering from our ill health. However, it is not too late to put in place strong protections for our NHS, and I call on the Government to commit to protecting our health service so that it cannot be subjected to yet more privatisation through trade deals.
Order. Members might wonder why I am persistently calling those on the Opposition side of the House and no one on the Government side of the House. I will pre-empt a point of order by explaining that because of the rigid system that we are currently operating, when someone pulls out of speaking, I have no flexibility to go on to the next person on the other side of the House. Therefore, we will have another speaker from the Opposition—I call Navendu Mishra.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. With Britain heading out of the EU on
Food standards should be sacred. We do not want chlorine-washed chicken in a can or, for that matter, meat treated with growth hormones, or pork from animals that have been injected with drugs to make them leaner. We should also reject the long list of foods being produced in the United States by dangerous and cruel methods, regardless of whether higher taxes are applied to them, because even those tariffs will be scrapped within just 10 years, as the International Trade Secretary has stated, further enabling the US to secure comprehensive access to our food markets while at the same time achieving the ultimate goal of “reducing or eliminating tariffs”.
More than a million members of the public have signed a petition to protect food standards, but to date it appears that the Government have taken little notice. It is little wonder, therefore, that they are now facing the rebellion by their Back Benchers. There must be proper scrutiny of this process and Parliament should have a veto on any trade deal. Both this place and the other place should have a say over whether to approve any new deal that is agreed with any other country. Why should we leave ourselves at the mercy of the word of this Government, who cannot be trusted to deliver anything, without legislative guarantees and beholden to US food trade associations, which have enormous lobbying power and one goal in mind—profit? It should not be left to big business to challenge laws and regulations simply because they inhibit foreign investment.
Like human rights, the issue of climate change should be central to our future considerations of trade policy, but worryingly there is no mention of it in the Trade Bill, and the record for different countries, when it comes to environmental protections, is not suggested as a consideration in negotiating future trade agreements with them. New trade agreements must be compatible with our commitment to stop global warming passing the point of no return. We cannot simply trade away our commitments on climate change in pursuit of trade deals. Indeed, it should be quite the opposite: trade agreements should be used to improve environmental standards abroad and ensure that climate justice and fairness are at the heart of future trade deals. The Government must think again before selling their standards for a quick buck.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is vital that as we shape our future trade policy, we do it in a way that maximises the benefits of our new-found independence but does not sacrifice key industries in the UK. In the context of an economy facing the greatest challenges in my lifetime due to covid-19, we are certainly not in a place where we can sacrifice any industry, let alone the backbone of our economy: our agriculture industry.
It is not too long ago that the Agriculture Bill was debated in this House. In my contribution to that debate, I made clear the importance of protecting British farming and the high standards that it upholds in any future trade agreement. The opportunity to enshrine all that is good about our agriculture industry in that Bill was not taken at that time. That was deeply regrettable and caused much concern among my constituents.
In this Bill we have another opportunity—an opportunity to make it clear to the farmers and agri-food businesses that have been an essential component of the national effort against coronavirus that they will not be sacrificed in any future trade agreements. Indeed, we ought to be exploring how we can help the industry to thrive in coming years and to share in the benefits of life outside the EU. To do that, the fundamental building block is standards. In the context of our agriculture industry, future trade policy must respect the high production standards in terms of animal welfare and environmental protection to which our farmers adhere. We know that comes at considerable cost to local farmers and that overseas farmers have significant cost-of-production advantages due to lower regulatory requirements. In simple terms, if the UK market is flooded with substandard products, it will result in the demise of the industry.
To that end, the establishment of a trade and agriculture commission is very welcome, and I thank the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for ensuring that the voice of Northern Ireland is heard on the commission by appointing Mr Victor Chestnutt, the incoming president of the Ulster Farmers Union. In addition to that forum, however, we need to ensure that Parliament has a strong voice and a meaningful say in the shape of future trade agreements in relation to mandating, negotiating principles and approval of any such deals. Our role should be proactive, not passive. That is why we support new clause 4. Parliament’s role must be enhanced ahead of negotiations; it should be for Parliament to scope out the critical negotiating objectives; to ensure that the interests of all parts of the UK are actively considered and prioritised, the devolved Administrations should also have a meaningful role.
We recognise the important provision the new clause makes for sustainability impact assessments, such as of environmental effect, the impact on animal welfare and health concerns. That ensures compliance with current—
It is a pleasure to follow Carla Lockhart. Having spoken on Second Reading and been a member of the Public Bill Committee on the Bill, it is a pleasure to speak today. I intend to speak mainly about new clause 4, but first I want to say that it is worth the House remembering that this is a continuity Bill, designed to give confidence and continuity to the hundreds of thousands of businesses in this country that export to many, many countries, from Switzerland to South Korea to Chile, that they can continue to do so. I also want to voice my agreement with everything my hon. Friend Robert Courts said about how many of the amendments tabled, particularly those to do with standards, are actually anti-trade measures that will do nothing to support our exporters and everything to kill off trade.
In relation to new clause 4, it is important that we remember and that our constituents are aware that Members of Parliament already have and will continue to have the ability to scrutinise international treaties that the Government negotiate. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act gives all Members of Parliament those powers, so under the law as it already stands, if we are not happy with the contents of an international treaty, it will not be ratified. Also, I cannot subscribe to the view that Parliament needs to be more involved in negotiations, because I, like all of my constituents in Burnley and Padiham, watched the scenes in this place not that long ago when Parliament tried to be involved in negotiations, and instead of helping, it hindered them. This place was paralysed and the country was paralysed. Votes held on options were not helpful at all. I do not want to see that happen again, and in December my constituents voted to end the paralysis and embrace the new opportunities that are available to us.
When we were a member of the European Union, no MP in this place was involved in trade agreements, but since January the Secretary of State for International Trade and all her ministerial team have made sure that we are involved, with consultations on the parameters of free trade agreements and objectives published in advanced. Members of this House have engaged not just through parliamentary questions but directly. I have been able to speak to Ministers about the objectives we have, the benefits they will bring to my constituents and where my concerns are, and I have every intention of continuing to do so.
I will support this Bill and vote against the amendments. We need to embrace the opportunities and move with speed if we are going to embrace the new world.
I rise to speak in particular to SNP amendment 10 and new clause 7, in the name of my hon. Friend Stewart Hosie. I cannot quite work out whether the Government have not noticed the potential problems with the quality of imported foods or whether they just do not care. Frankly, having listened to this debate, I think it is the latter.
We hear so many platitudes, but when the chance to do something concrete came up during the Agriculture Bill, Ministers turned it down. Yes, pressures from farmers after that led to a commission to advise on a food imports framework of sorts. Craig Williams, who is no longer in his place, said its membership provided comfort to his farmers. That commission, though, has among its members Shanker Singham, a former lobbyist and favourite of various Ministers who is on record arguing that we should accept chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-injected beef and genetically modified crops from the US.
Mr Singham is not the only representative of the Institute of Economic Affairs on the commission; Lockwood Smith is also part of the IEA. That is important because the IEA is in favour of a hard Brexit and of lowering food and environmental standards to satisfy countries such as the US, China and India in trade deals. We know that because it published a paper on it in 2018 and got censured by the Charity Commission for its trouble.
Then there is the chair of the commission, Tim Smith, a former Tesco employee who said shortly after he was appointed that concerns about food standards were alarmist. I was alerted to that by the Department for International Trade; astonishingly, its Twitter account was used to publicise a link to the article. There are some who do not think the commission is there to provide safeguards for our food standards. They worry it is there to draw a veil of decency over the indecency of the Government’s position.
We were told during the Agriculture Bill that the proper place for provisions on the quality of imported food would be the Trade Bill, yet here we are debating the Trade Bill and the Government are intent on throwing those safeguards out of the window rather than enshrining them in legislation. Those are actions in bad faith and they should not be allowed to stand.
In Committee, the Minister said that Food Standards Scotland and the English Food Standards Agency will ensure that food imports comply with our standards. How? How will they do that? Will they have teams inspecting the production chains in other countries, as the EU does? How will the animal husbandry and production standards of other nations be monitored to prevent unsuitable food from ending up on our plates?
The White Paper on an internal UK market shows that the Government have no intention of letting Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland do anything to protect their people. Under those plans, lower standards introduced by England’s Government will have to be swallowed by the rest of us. Frankly, I do not fancy swallowing anything they offer.
Professor Michael Keating of the Centre on Constitutional Change makes it clear in his response to the White Paper that he considers it a power grab from the devolved Administrations for the purpose of negotiating low-standard international trade deals. The Minister underlined that when he said that involving the devolved Administrations in trade deals would be “constitutionally inappropriate”. I disagree.
I start by declaring an interest: my wife’s family are farmers. I have listened carefully to the debate and studied all the amendments, and I feel that there has been significant mission creep among the amendments. As my hon. Friend Antony Higginbotham said a few moments ago, people seem to have forgotten what the Bill is actually about. The Bill is about those all-important continuity trade agreements that are vital for British farmers, British exporting businesses and the United Kingdom as a whole. The Bill categorically is not about new free trade deals, important as those are—and I am delighted to see colleagues from the Department for International Trade busy negotiating them.
When it comes to scrutiny, I very much welcome everything that my right hon. Friend the Minister said in opening the debate about the lengths to which the Government have gone to ensure that differences in any continuity agreements are laid before Parliament and how, likewise, where trade deals are likely to be different—where the Government have an ambition to get a better deal, such as with Japan—greater lengths are taken.
On farming, agriculture and our food standards, I cannot put it better than my hon. Friend Robert Courts. He pointed out to this House that, as we leave the European Union, those all-important food standards will be transferred from EU law into British law, and the only way that that law could be changed is by this House. So it is a false argument to suggest that there needs to be an amendment to this Bill to change fundamentally what this Bill is about to secure the standards that the Prime Minister has committed to and that were in the manifesto that I and all Members on the Government side of the House stood on. My right hon. Friend the Minister has repeated that on many occasions, as indeed did my right hon. Friend Conor Burns, who did so much to get this Bill back before the House of Commons.
When I heard the Opposition spokesman, Bill Esterson, who is not now in his place, talk about this earlier, I felt he had a very one-sided view of the argument, in that it was all about protectionism and the domestic market. Of course, the domestic market is important to all our farmers, but there are opportunities for international trade out there, such as the lifting of the ban on British beef into America, which is worth £66 million. Through trade, our farming can be assured and prosperous for the future.
I have a sense of déjà vu, because it is just under 18 months ago that we had a debate in this Chamber on future trade agreements—there were a lot fewer of us in here then. We discussed the very issues that we are talking about today, and it seems that the Government have not listened substantially to the concerns that were raised then. In the time I have available, I want to talk briefly about a number of those concerns, because hundreds of my constituents have written to me about them over the last few days, and they have written to me about them time and again.
The first is the NHS and the need to ensure that it is protected from international competition. I will be supporting new clause 17, because it is essential that our NHS remains our NHS and we are able to protect it from competition. We already have some competition, and we need to make sure that the NHS is not open to the highest bidder. People actually want that written into the Trade Bill to ensure that that cannot happen.
The same goes for environmental and food safety standards. We have talked about chlorine chicken and we have heard something about the environment, but there are a whole range of issues. Animal welfare issues are at the heart of these concerns. It is not just about chlorine-washed chicken or more detail; people are concerned also about the impact of trade deals on the environment. This Bill is a lost opportunity. We could be using this Bill to be creative, and to ensure that we safeguard our environment. For example—an issue I have raised in other places sometimes—there is the issue of deforestation and ensuring that we can protect the forests through our trade deals. Steve Brine, who is not in his place, said earlier, “Aren’t the public ahead of us on this?” Indeed, the public are ahead of us on consumer protection, and they are saying to us that these safeguards need to be written into the Bill.
Finally, we have talked a bit during the debate about labour standards, and I am particularly concerned that in this Bill the Government should be protecting the trade and agreements we have with less developed countries and ensuring that fair trade and other trading agreements with them are safeguarded as an important part of their development.
On scrutiny, a great deal has been said. I certainly will be supporting new clause 4. There is huge concern—and people should not underestimate this—that deals will be signed off behind closed doors. Frankly, statutory instruments—and we have all been in loads of those Committees in recent days—are not the answer. We need proper debate and scrutiny. These are the concerns that Members have raised, and this is a missed opportunity.
I am excited by the possibilities for our future as an independent trading nation, and I support the Bill and our listening Government in taking us forward. The Bill is about necessary data gathering for future improvements, cheerleading, safeguarding and the effective communication of helpful information. It is not about protectionism or feather-bedding. The balance is to enable British exports that can compete against the world marketplace for goods and services to do so on a level playing field.
I believe that the Bill helps to get the balance right. For example, it is quite right that the Government intend to join the Agreement on Government Procurement as an independent party on substantially the same terms as we had under EU membership. The GPA provides UK businesses with access to public procurement opportunities worth some £1.3 trillion per year—opportunities for which they are willing and able to compete fairly. Of course, GPA partner access to UK public contracts will ensure taxpayers and consumers get the best value for money on major contracts, which in turn maintains the imperative for UK firms to stay innovative and competitive.
An important part of the balance is to ensure opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, not just the mega companies. The UK rightly pursues an active SME participation procurement policy, and as an independent party in the GPA we will have the opportunity to engage others on sustainable procurement, social value and workforce considerations.
When exporters do everything right, and when they produce great goods and services at the right price and in accordance with all the relevant rules, the last thing they want to face is competition that has circumvented the rules and is artificially supported, so another part of getting the balance right is to ensure that remedies are available when needed. I welcome the Trade Remedies Authority, which will have important work to do in ensuring continuity of remedial action, not least for Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramics.
I applaud the Department’s determination to secure an ever-increasing number of continuity agreements. It is important for business confidence that we make as seamless a transition into becoming an independent trading nation as possible, while signposting that the door is open to better trade agreements with various partners in the years to come. The Bill provides both continuity for agreements and remedies inherited from our membership of the EU and for the future independent free-trading policy that we wish to strike. The Bill protects our national standards for our workforce, animal welfare, the environment, our NHS and our SMEs. It is a solid first step into the world for global Britain. I will be pleased to support it tonight.
When I spoke in an earlier debate on global Britain, I was accused of
“supping from the cup of pessimism”—[Official Report,
when I spoke about Britain’s future outside the European Union. Yet what Members from both sides of the House want is what is best for our country, our economy, our environment, and the safety and wellbeing of everyone living and working here. Many of my constituents have written to me about those concerns, but they also expect me, as their elected representative, to be in the Parliament that has a say, with full accountability—not merely to receive a report once a deal is done. As the Lords EU Committee has warned,
“mere accountability after the fact” does not make for meaningful parliamentary scrutiny. There is parliamentary scrutiny in the US, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and we will have less control than we had as members of the EU.
Oversight is not merely a lofty concept; it has real-world implications. Others have mentioned threats to the NHS, food safety, environmental standards and so on, and I share those concerns, but I will give another example: car safety standards. A major reason that the US has triple the number of road deaths per million compared with the UK is because as EU members our cars are safer than those sold in the US. Our cars have front and side impact T-bone protection, which gives protection for car occupants. We also have requirements for much safer car fronts. Remember bull bars? We are not allowed to have them anymore. They are still prevalent in the US, killing and maiming children, pedestrians, cyclists and so on. New cars sold in the EU will have collision avoidance systems, to further protect pedestrians and cyclists. This Trade Bill risks cars imported from outside the EU presenting serious risks to the safety of UK road users. Can the Minister guarantee that no vehicles will be imported into the UK after these trade deals are done unless it meets recently agreed EU vehicle safety standards?
Investor-state dispute settlements have been used by corporations to get rid of plain packaging on cigarettes, scrap bans on fracking, overturn bans on certain medications and stop compensation payments after oil spills. Without transparency, those with the deepest pockets win, we lose our consumer, environmental and social rights and our planet is further threatened. Will the Minister confirm that there will be no ISDS clauses in any trade deal signed by the UK?
This Trade Bill represents a unique opportunity for us in the challenging circumstances that we face as a country due to the global pandemic and its economic impact. The only way to put it in context is to say that these are the most challenging circumstances we have faced in the last three quarters of a century, but we will come out of this, and we will come out it stronger. We cannot deny that we are entering a period of unprecedented economic disruption, not just here but around the world. We came together to protect our NHS and save lives, but now we must expand our reach to protect jobs, livelihoods and our economy. We must look beyond our borders.
I back British businesses. In the UK, we have a reputation for high-skilled, high-tech jobs. We can put ourselves in the global fast lane. We can be the most productive and the most innovative nation on earth. The deals enabled by this Bill will be great for Great Britain. There are fantastic opportunities ahead of us, not only in markets that we have explored but in new and fast-growing markets around the world. For example, through the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, we can look at markets that are growing more quickly and more explosively, doing fantastic things with data, robotics and technology—things that we cannot do now and through which we can leverage our exit from the European Union to propel the UK on to the global stage.
This is our call to arms. This is our opportunity to seize the chances of being an independent, sovereign nation. We can go global with this Bill. We can stand by and back our local businesses to really make an impact on the global scale.
Today will be a historic day that we can hopefully look back on and say, “As a Parliament, we did the right thing.” Today we have the opportunity to vote to protect our food standards and farming industry, to prioritise the environment and animal welfare, to stand up for workers’ rights and to safeguard our NHS from future trade agreements. Perhaps the Government think that the public are not interested in trade negotiations or are willing to just take the Government’s word that the NHS will be protected and that workers’ rights will not be undermined in future. I can confirm that the public are indeed interested and are not willing to accept any lowering of standards in future trade agreements.
A huge number of my constituents have contacted me in the last few days to voice their concerns over the Trade Bill. The main concern raised by constituents is the lack of oversight that Parliament will have of future trade agreements if the Bill is to pass in its current form. One constituent asked me, “Why should our nation be faced with this democratic deficit?”
I thank Mr Djanogly for tabling new clause 4, which will ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. I am pleased that he has recognised the flaws in his party’s Bill, as well as the importance of parliamentary scrutiny as we leave the EU and forge new deals with different countries. However, other areas of the current Bill are not fit for purpose, and it must be amended to offer security for workers in my constituency, to address the concerns of businesses that will be impacted, and to give the wider public confidence that the Government are serious about tackling climate change.
With the Government currently in talks with the US regarding future trade negotiations, my constituents are rightly concerned that UK food and animal welfare standards are at risk. The Government have said that our current standards will not be undermined by future negotiations, and if that is the case, I urge Members to protect standards by voting for new clause 11. That new clause will ensure that agricultural goods imported to the UK under a free trade agreement must meet the standards applicable under UK law. That will include meeting UK standards on animal health and welfare, the protection of the environment, food safety, hygiene, traceability and plant health. The new clause will give the public confidence that agricultural products must meet hygiene and welfare standards, and ensure that the British agricultural industry is not undermined by lower quality international imports.
The Government have said that the NHS is not for sale, and that the public should not be worried about the security of our NHS in future trade deals. Unfortunately, however, the Government’s word is not enough for my constituents. I ask Members to think about today, and be able to say that they did all they could to protect high standards and the public health service that we treasure.
I had the privilege of sitting on the Committee of this historic Bill, and I have scrutinised it line by line. I believe that new clauses 5 and 6 strengthen the Bill, as they create the right balance by allowing trade to be conducted efficiently, as well as providing my constituents in Stafford with the protections they deserve. Trade is not an abstract concept; it affects our daily lives. International supply chains are important for so many of the products that we use every day, which is why it is crucial to get the Bill right.
From the Perkins engines made in Staffordshire to the generators produced by General Electric at its sites in Stafford, such factories are a vital link in international supply chains, and they provide jobs in my constituency that are reliant on trade. We must not forget JCB, whose site at Hixon helps to produce the instantly recognisable yellow tractors that are found on so many sites all over the world, not only contributing to the British economy, but helping to promote British businesses and our expert engineering overseas.
The Bill, including new clauses 5 and 6, provides a framework for more prosperous long-term trading opportunities, and it also gives us short-term certainty—something we are all looking for in these unprecedented times. The Secretary of State for International Trade recognises how important trade is for the farming sector, and I am grateful that she was kind enough to visit me in Stafford early this year, and take part in a roundtable with my local farmers. Now that Britain has the opportunity to create its own trade policy, it is vital that we strike the balance between encouraging imports of goods that we need, while also incentivising manufacturing and production on home soil, to sell in Britain and export across the globe.
Britain has some of the highest food standards in the world, which we should be proud of from both a farming and animal welfare perspective. Many of my constituents contacted me to say that they are extremely concerned that the Bill potentially allows for food standards to be lowered, and I recognise why some Members of the House will support new clause 4. Having sat on the Bill Committee, however, I was able to raise that matter directly with the Minister, my right hon. Friend Greg Hands, and I was grateful for his personal assurances that there will be no compromising of our standards on food safety, animal welfare, and the environment. Combined with the new trade and agriculture mission that the Secretary of State and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have set up to support the NFU, I am reassured that the Government are upholding their manifesto commitment on food standards.
I know that I have a very short time so I just want to make one point very quickly. I am disappointed that the Government could not find any place in this Bill to give a written assurance that Northern Ireland will be able to participate fully in the international trade deals that we will strike across the world when we leave the EU. That is because they cannot give the assurance that the Northern Ireland protocol will not stop us benefiting from goods that will come into the United Kingdom as a result of trade deals or, indeed, will not make the process of selling abroad so expensive that it puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to selling in other parts of the world. We believe that we have an economy that is competitive, but it is not competitive, because we are tied through the Northern Ireland protocol to the single market and to the European customs territory, and therefore treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. The assurances that the Minister gives verbally cannot, unfortunately, override the compelling legal commitments in the withdrawal agreement.
With the leave of the House, I would like to respond to what has been a wide-ranging and often well-informed debate.
This Bill is mainly about continuity, but also about sending a clear message that we welcome traders—that we are network Britain, not fortress Britain. On standards, I remind the House that none of the 20 continuity agreements that Parliament has ratified has eroded standards in any way. Not one domestic standard in relation to animal welfare, the environment, human rights or labour has been eroded by any of those agreements.
Let me try to deal quickly with four of the myths propagated by the Opposition. First, on ISDS and protection for investment, this is in the UK’s interests. The UK has never lost a case in any of these tribunals, but for 40 years UK companies, with jobs at stake, have brought these cases. Eighty of the cases—about 1,000 overall—were brought by UK companies and UK investors directly, with UK jobs at stake. That is why this can be very important for UK business and for the jobs of our constituents in making sure that businesses operating abroad are protected.
The second myth relates to devolution. We have been clear that we would not usually legislate in devolved areas without the consent of devolved authorities and never without consulting them. Stewart Hosie referred to convenience. If it is more convenient for the UK to legislate for all four nations, then that is a sensible thing.
In terms of standards, we have seen new clause 11, and new clause 7 is even more extreme. New clause 11 wants to make sure that no goods can enter the UK unless they have been produced at standards
“as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law”.
That could have massive unforeseen consequences. The Opposition think they are talking about chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef, but are they actually able to look people in the eye and say that cocoa from the Ivory Coast has been produced to at least as high environmental standards as in the UK? Are they able to say that beans from Egypt are being produced to at least as high labour standards? Are they able to say that tea from Sri Lanka comes with the same high labour standards? I think they are putting a lot of this country’s existing trade at risk.
The fourth key myth is about the NHS. The NHS remains protected and will never be on the table at any trade deal, and that includes the prices we pay for drugs.
We have had excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), for Buckingham (Greg Smith), for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) and for Stafford (Theo Clarke), from my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers, and from my hon. Friends the Members for Witney (Robert Courts), for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher) and for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly). I thank them for their contributions and the Opposition for theirs.
The Bill is very important in securing the continuity of up to 40 EU trade agreements, the establishment of a Trade Remedies Authority to protect UK businesses and jobs from unfair trade practice, and access to the £1.3 billion global market in Government procurement.
We should accept new clause 5 and related amendments to allow better sharing of data. We should reject the other amendments, which are either unnecessary, such as new clause 4, or, in cases such as new clauses 7 and 11, potentially deeply damaging for this country’s economy.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 5 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order,
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (