Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:21 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade) 4:21 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I support these amendments and will speak to Amendment 100, which is in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol. The Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for tabling these amendments and allowing us the opportunity of looking in a little more detail at some of the consequences of the Government’s intention to, in effect, join an institution by virtue of leaving it. It is not automatically as straightforward as the Government may suggest. My understanding is that the approval in principle that has been made for the UK to join the GPA in its own right, separate from being a member of the European Union, has a number of riders attached to it that we will discuss when we come to Amendment 4A in my name. But on the strength of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, one core element of consultation will now be important.

I took the opportunity to look at the schedules to the Canadian annexes relating to its membership of the GPA. It was interesting. One annexe specifies the 82 federal bodies; there are further annexes for each of the federal provinces with the organisations, bodies or elements of government that are included at a provincial level and the exceptions that they all bring to the GPA agreement. There is no automatic consistency across Canada because it is a federal system. In many respects, it is a model of what the United Kingdom’s could be when it comes to procurement policy and procurement agencies.

Interestingly, in Canada the legislative bodies are excluded from the provincial instructions, and at federal level shipbuilding and repair is excluded as well as, of course, defence. There is no automatic inclusion of certain bodies and, necessarily, there is automatic exclusion of certain bodies. The Government have an opportunity to explain in a little more detail how they expect those bodies to be included in the GPA schedules and annexes. As they have indicated reviewing and perhaps updating them, when it comes to expectations about what we will see with links to devolved Administrations and organisations—for example, any bodies or agencies in Scotland, where I live and where I was a representative in the Scottish Parliament—are they automatically to be included within the rollover or have there been discussions about whether they continue to be relevant?

I have no comment on the other amendments, other than to say that I consider Amendment 3 to be appropriate. Looking back at 2013 when Parliament approved the accession and considered the European Council’s decision and the role of the Parliament, it is interesting that the European Scrutiny Committee of the other place highlighted that the Government had got the procedure for application wrong. I am certain that that will not be a precedent with regard to how the Government consider any international agreements and how they will be ratified by Parliament. It is interesting that it is necessary for such an amendment to be put forward to ensure that there is the correct procedure and that there is transparency and scrutiny.

Amendment 100 is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord McNicol to ensure that transparency. It is important as it means we will see a draft and be able to consider its implications. If we have asymmetrical devolution—it may be an ugly term—when it comes to an agreement such as the GPA, if the United Kingdom is in that in its own right, we need a debate, and we need it now, on how the devolved Administrations will be included. When we consider the proportion of public procurement expenditure, which has been estimated by the International Trade Centre as between 10% and 15% of GDP, when we are working with international partners on our development side and when it comes to countries which will potentially have access to the UK market, it is vital that the devolved Administrations and, increasingly, mayors and the regions of England are included. I therefore support these amendments.