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Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 23rd May 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State 3:10 pm, 23rd May 2016

I not only remember it but have double-checked it on several occasions, having had one or two offline conversations with my noble friends. I am absolutely sure that what I said then is exactly what the Government have done. The Government have a role to play in these matters; they have a position. Our Prime Minister negotiated the settlement that is before the United Kingdom and those who are eligible to vote. It is right that, before we reach the period of purdah, the Government should provide information. Indeed, an independent survey showed that 85% of the population wanted the Government to provide more information.

As I say, of course the task of reforming Europe goes on. We will never join the euro. We have reached agreement on that. We are in a special position. We will never be part of eurozone bailouts. We will not be part of the Schengen agreement, a European army or a European superstate. The benefits of continued membership greatly outweigh the costs of leaving.

I turn to an allied procedural matter; it may be for the convenience of the House if I do so at this stage. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, has tabled an amendment to the Motion before us. My noble friend Lord Howe will go into rather more detail than I because we have not heard the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, at this point. But it may be helpful if I say that the Government will be happy to accept the noble Lord’s amendment because we want to reassure people that this issue is already adequately dealt with. The Government’s position remains that protection of the NHS is non-negotiable, but that there is no threat to the NHS from TTIP. The current draft of the TTIP text includes a wide range of protections for the NHS that draw on the exemptions and protections that already operate successfully in the trade deals we have signed with more than 160 countries around the world. With all this in mind, we are happy to accept the principle of ensuring appropriate protections and exemptions for the NHS in TTIP. Given the range of provisions already proposed, we do not think it is necessary to bring forward domestic legislation, but we are happy to keep this under review as negotiations continue.

To close, the gracious Speech gave the Government the opportunity to set out their plans for the coming year. At a time when the challenges we face seem only to be increasing, it shows a Government determined to play a leading role in facing up to them and to use global presence and influence to boost security, prosperity and human rights around the world, both in the national interest and for the benefit of others.