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 did not say it was not happening because of Brexit. In fact, I was clear that the Bill is happening because of Brexit. But Brexit is not happening because of the Bill. It is a fine point but it is clear. There is the decision on Brexit and then this is about the four areas that I talked about. We will come on to rules of origin in the debate. It is a really complex and important area, and something that we are negotiating with both the EU and the third countries in the continuity agreements. I have little doubt that we will talk about this and I expect to cover it in my closing speech. If the noble Lord is happy with that, I will proceed.

Lastly, the Bill is not an attempt by the UK Executive to take power from Parliament, the devolved Administrations or anyone else—in fact, the opposite. On devolution, the Bill grants devolved Ministers the powers they need to implement existing trade agreements and procurement legislation, respecting their competence in these areas. It retains for the UK Government the powers they need—nothing more. We have also agreed changes to the Bill with the devolved Administrations, in the other place. We look forward to continued engagement with the devolved Administrations throughout the passage of the Bill and hope to work together to secure legislative consent Motions.

On wider public engagement, the Government have no desire to push through trade agreements without public support. Frankly, that is not in our interests. When Governments try to push through trade agreements, not only is it the wrong thing to do but it almost always backfires, as we saw with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—TTIP. In any new free trade agreements, the Government will engage with the public right from the start. In June we published our engagement strategy for the pre-negotiation stage of future trade agreements. The comprehensive four-point plan includes open public consultations. We launched four online consultations on 20 July, open for 14 weeks. These ask for public feedback on potential free trade agreement negotiations with the United States, Australia and New Zealand. They also ask for views on the UK potentially seeking accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific PartnershipCPTPP.

We also set out detail on UK-wide outreach events; detail on thematic and sectoral groups of stakeholder experts; and information on our intention to convene a strategic trade advisory group, consisting of experts from across the country from academia, trade unions, consumer groups and businesses from different sectors and of different sizes. That is just for the pre-negotiation stage. There will be more targeted engagement as we move forward. As I said, the Bill is about existing trade agreements. These agreements are already in place. Maintaining their effects in UK law merely preserves the status quo and will not involve changes on the ground for businesses or consumers.

Finally, on the role of Parliament, as noble Lords will know, these trade agreements have already gone through the normal parliamentary scrutiny processes for EU legislation and have already been scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament. In any case, the power to implement continuity trade agreements under Clause 2(1) is exercisable only for three years from exit day—unless both Houses agree extensions. This is one of only seven delegated powers in the Bill and one of only two Henry VIII powers. The other Henry VIII power relates to HMRC data collection. This is also subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and is very narrowly defined, as requested by HMRC itself. All these delegated powers are necessary. It would be simply impossible to implement our continuity trade agreements or the GPA membership in the time available without them. We would also miss the opportunity to understand how best to help UK businesses by collecting export data. That is why the Government have requested them, and for that reason alone.

In conclusion, we are forging a new trade policy to make the most of the opportunities of Brexit but we need to get the practicalities right first. I look forward to hearing the views of all noble Lords today as we enter the detail of the Bill. I will listen carefully and seek to engage as fully as I possibly can, whether with groups, by party or with individuals, to ensure that proper scrutiny is given to the content and intent of the Bill. It is a necessary and pragmatic Bill. It is one that respects Parliament, respects the devolution settlement and puts in place a firm foundation for our future trade policy for the years to come. It is with that in mind that I commend this Bill to the House. I beg to move.