Trade Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:41 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 8:41 pm, 11th September 2018

My Lords, your Lordships are weary and so am I, so I shall be short. As far as possible, I shall restrict myself to the structure of the Bill and its purposes, and not the great field of foreign policy and philosophy in which it is being fought out.

I begin with pleasure in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, on a most remarkable maiden speech. I suspect from what she told us that she will bring to this House a bigger measure of both patience and wisdom than most of us are able to offer. I also welcome my noble friend Lady Fairhead to the Front Bench and to her first Bill, an experience in relation to which she has my great sympathies—I remember being in the same situation many years ago. I should also welcome my noble friend Lord Lansley in breaking his silence in such a welcome manner this evening.

The Bill has four functions, all of which are necessary. Our job is to see whether they are effective or can be made more so. In Part 1, the particularly sensitive area seems to be the devolved authorities. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will give us a little more detail than we have had so far. I am interested particularly in the effect of the absence of any Northern Ireland Assembly and how that will bear on proceedings where its existence is assumed in the Bill. I would like to know more also about Scotland’s reluctance to give its approval to the Bill. I realise that it does not have a veto, but, on the other hand, there is a political price to pay if it is not listened to.

On Clause 6, I am happy to rely almost exclusively on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, who is expert in that area.

I am interested also, as is the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, in the balance between Parliament and Executive as it is affected by Clause 4, which gives Ministers an exemption from parliamentary supervision. Paragraph 46 of the department’s memorandum on delegated powers states:

“There will be textual changes to current agreements that ensure future operability. There could be consolidation of agreements. The power is broad enough to allow implementation of substantial amendments, including new obligations”.

It seems to me that we need to look very carefully at that exemption, and I look forward to my noble friend’s explanation of their necessity.

On Part 2, concerning the TRA, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine—I am always glad of an opportunity to agree with somebody in the Liberal Democrat Party—I think we need to look closely at the composition, membership and powers of the TRA.

On HMRC and data, I am no expert on information and my only view is that data is, at the moment, a highly sensitive subject and its control is not entirely understood.

The position from which I start is that I am anxious to improve the Bill, I regard it as necessary and therefore I wholeheartedly support my noble friend on the Front Bench in getting it on to the statute book—if possible, in a slightly better form.