Clause 28 - Functions of the CMA under this Part: general provisions

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Nadia Whittome Nadia Whittome Labour, Nottingham East 3:45 pm, 15th September 2020

It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham, and to speak to new clause 2, which was tabled by Labour’s Front Benchers. This new clause seeks to put common frameworks on a statutory footing. Only yesterday the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster reassured Members of the importance of common frameworks. If that is the case, I expect the Government to have no problem accepting this amendment, which seeks to prevent Ministers from overriding and imposing lower standards on devolved nations against their will. However, the devolved nations have every reason to be worried because when it comes to empty words, meaningless platitudes and empty promises, I am afraid that this Government have form. There is a pattern here: the Government promise to maintain our standards while simultaneously passing laws to allow themselves to lower them.

Let us take, for example, the Environment Bill, which the Government used not to set targets, but to give themselves the power to set their own targets in the future. They voted against the principle of non-regression to stop environmental standards being lowered. We have also heard about agriculture today. The Agriculture Bill offered nothing to guarantee that food standards would not be lowered and undercut in new trade deals. Hon. Members might be wondering why the Government would keep making promises and then refuse to legislate for them. The agenda is pretty clear to me. This is about creating a race-to-the-bottom economy. It is about undermining our standards. It is about the Government allowing themselves to sell off our rights and protections in dangerous trade deals that will undermine our future for decades to come.

Meanwhile, when we tried to amend the Trade Bill at least to ensure parliamentary scrutiny, the Government rejected that, showing very clearly what taking back control actually means—not parliamentary sovereignty, but an Executive power grab. Now with this Bill, especially in its current, unamended form, the Government are trying to cement that power grab by giving themselves the right to impose lower standards on devolved nations while ripping up the withdrawal agreement that they so proudly campaigned on just nine months ago, and breaking international law in the process.

The Government’s posturing will do nothing to protect the millions of workers in all four nations across the country who are worried about losing their jobs; nothing to reassure the British farmers who are worried about their products being undercut and dangerous trade deals that lower food standards; and nothing to foster the international co-operation that we need to defeat this pandemic or tackle the climate crisis. I urge people who have spoken passionately about our food, environmental and trading standards, and the Union, to vote for new clause 2 so that the Bill does not ride roughshod over our devolved nations and so that it resembles something that is fit for purpose.