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

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 4:00 pm, 15th September 2020

I absolutely agree with the businessman in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I think it is the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales that has said that ensuring stability in the UK market is vital. What businesses in Peterborough want to hear is that they can trade freely across these islands. It is an economic argument, not a political argument, which is what many of the amendments tabled by the nationalists are. It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but the vast majority of business-to-business traders in the UK are selling to, and buying from, other businesses within the UK. The Scottish economy and Scottish jobs rely on UK-wide trade. The Welsh economy and the Welsh jobs rely on UK-wide trade. The Northern Irish economy and Northern Ireland jobs rely on UK-wide trade and, of course, the English economy and English jobs rely on UK-wide trade. The Office for the Internal Market is not there to lecture the devolved Administrations. Let me repeat the point that I made earlier: if the SNP had its way, it would hand the powers of the proposed OIM straight back to Brussels.

The nationalists are okay with quangos, just as long as they are European Union quangos and not British quangos. Let us be clear: as my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford said earlier, the Scottish Retail Consortium has said:

“Scottish consumers and our economy as a whole benefit enormously from the UK’s largely unfettered internal single market”.

That is what is at stake. Would amendments 28 and 29 make the Scottish economy or Scottish jobs healthier? They would not, which is why we need to reject them.

The Office for the Internal Market is there to achieve the things I have described; it is not some sort of power grab. It will advise all four Governments of the United Kingdom, including the United Kingdom Government, as equals. As was said earlier, the internal market is a shared asset of all four nations. All four Governments need to be advised equally. If the internal market is a shared asset, we want it to work well.

New clause 4, tabled by Wendy Chamberlain, would require that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Ministers have a say on who will advise them. I urge Ministers to give that due consideration and listen to those arguments, because if they do, we can avoid some of the politics that surround the argument. It does not matter how many manufactured grievances there are from the Scottish nationalists; we can avoid some of the politics and just get on with it and vote the Bill through unamended.