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 Monks Lord Monks Labour 4:30 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, perhaps I may interject, having been general-secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation for eight years and, during those eight years, having been consulted on the trade arrangements and negotiations being made by the European Union, particularly with Canada, South Korea and, to some extent, Japan. It was a very structured and ordered process, and the logic of it was that free trade generates tremendous wealth and a lot of economic activity but can result in wiping out areas of activity where our industries are less well placed than those in some other countries. So, having a social dimension or some social protection was always our aim in the discussions in the European Union—with mixed success, I might say. The South Korean agreement I am rather pleased with; less so, probably, the Canadian one, surprising as that may seem.

I want to see in the agreements balance between free trade and some protection for the sectors that will be particularly affected. I do not necessarily mean protectionist protections. Welfare state protections, adjustment protections, retraining and redeployment programmes were the kind of things that were encouraged in the trade agreement process. That was because trade unions, employers and others were encouraged to take an active part in the formulation of these agreements. I am looking for assurances from the Government in support of these amendments that, as they approach this new responsibility for a British Government for the first time in many years, they will have that sort of philosophy and approach, and will not simply—desperate as no doubt Dr Fox is to make some agreements pretty quickly—let these be agreements that give up on the need for proper protection for the people who will be adversely affected, as they will be by these agreements.