Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hain Lord Hain Labour 4:30 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for coming into the Chamber just a couple of minutes into my noble friend Lord Stevenson’s speech. I hope that it is in order to continue to make a brief contribution.

I follow the speeches of my noble friend Lord Wigley and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, as well as that of my noble friend Lord Stevenson, in saying that it is vital that, particularly in respect of the devolved Administrations— I speak as a former Secretary of State for Wales and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—we do not see an action replay of what we saw earlier in this whole fiasco. I am talking about a power grab by the Government that repatriated to Westminster powers that had already been devolved but were under the European Union’s aegis. That showed a cast of mind in the Whitehall machine of the Government that I encountered as a Secretary of State, whereby the natural instinct of other departments—particularly Defra and the Home Office, although it went more widely—is to centralise, grasp and keep power, not to devolve it. It is essential that, as the amendment seeks, there is a recognition by Ministers that the natural instinct will be to consult the devolved Governments—and in the case of Northern Ireland, whatever is there; maybe senior civil servants, as now. That should be the immediate instinct of every Minister and every senior official in every government department as they process all this.

My second point relates to paragraph (e) in the amendment, which refers to “appropriate consumer groups” and so on. Will the Government consult the CBI, the FSB, the IoD, the TUC and consumer groups, let alone all the other NGOs that might have an interest? Will that be a natural reflex, as in consulting the devolved Administrations, or will they have to come back in right at the end? I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some reassurance on the record about all that.