Trade Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 3:07 pm, 11th September 2018

I can confirm that we have had some positive discussions with each of those third-party trading countries. We will address this in the bulk of the debate and I will also address it in my closing speech. Was that helpful?

This is also why we have engaged extensively with UK industry in developing this function, through multiple round tables, ministerial meetings, technical discussions and site visits. After all, producers play a crucial role in our economy and jobs are at the heart of their communities. This Bill will set up the TRA as a new public body and provides for a governance structure designed to make sure that the TRA is independent and operates an objective investigation process. That is why we are setting it up as a non-departmental public body, to ensure that it has the appropriate degree of separation from government. This will also ensure that businesses have the assurance they need that their complaints will be treated fairly and impartially.

Finally, the Bill lets HMRC collect information about exporters and share export data with certain third-party organisations. We intend to ask companies and partnerships, through the tax returns they already submit, to provide information, on a voluntary basis, about whether they are an exporter of goods or services, or both. Having the correct data will enable government to make better policy and align assistance and resources to help our exporters. HMRC will be able to share information with the Trade Remedies Authority, to give it the evidence it needs for its independent investigations. HMRC will also be able to share information with the Department for International Trade, to support evidence-based policy-making. This data sharing will be subject to strict controls to maintain privacy and commercial confidentiality, including the criminal sanctions in the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs Act 2005. Those four things are what this Bill is about.

I would also like to clarify those areas the Bill does not cover. It is not about new free trade agreements that will come into effect in the future. The Bill does not give the Government powers in this area, nor would it be appropriate to do so. We do not yet know what those agreements will look like; nor can we, because until March next year our duty of sincere co-operation with the EU prevents us negotiating them. The Secretary of State recently set out the process for consultations on new free trade agreements, which I shall explain in further detail in a minute.

The Bill is not directly about Brexit. Of course, we would not have had the Bill if we were not leaving, but the Bill itself is not about whether or how we leave the European Union. Leaving the EU flows from the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, both already debated in this House. Whether this Bill passes makes no difference whatever to whether we leave the EU, when we leave the EU, or who gets what votes on the final deal. The nature of our withdrawal and our future relationship with the EU—hard, soft or any other form—will not be changed in any way via the measures in this Bill. Clearly, this Bill is happening because of Brexit—