Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 5:00 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, the previous debate was about process and how approval mechanisms were in play. This amendment has been grouped with Amendment 5, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, which I support.

Amendment 4 shows the sorts of arrangements and concerns that we might have in trying to ensure that procurement works more generally in favour of social objectives—a point made earlier by my noble friend Lord Monks about the work he did in Europe in relation to trade Bills and discussions on these areas. We do not need to spend much time on Amendment 4. The list that appears in it is a familiar one to anyone involved in policy on business during the last three or four years. There has been a sense of the Government beginning to emerge from a period of non-engagement with many of these issues into having similar concerns to those on this side of the House about the way in which it is occasionally necessary for government to raise standards, by making it clear that certain behaviour within business is not acceptable. For example, many Members of the House present today will be aware of the long-running saga over the maximum periods for payment of invoices. Over the years, we have tried to get some movement; yes, there has been some, but it would be nice to see the Government pick up and run with this issue for a change.

The list in the amendment is variable in what it does. There are some high-level issues, for example, to do with,

“the transparency of laws, regulations, procedures and practices regarding government procurement”.

I hope that that provision would be unexceptional. The amendment refers to,

“minimum employment standards, rates of pay and similar employment rights”,

which I think feature in the Statement that we are shortly to receive which was made in the other place earlier this afternoon. I have mentioned the payment of invoices and the scandal of late payment; the drag on the economy from that is now worth something like £40 billion. The list also refers to,

“environmental standards … human rights obligations … equalities legislation”,

and all those arrangements have been well worked through in terms of discussion. Would it be so difficult to require that anything done under the GPA in relation to Her Majesty’s Government’s work, or by those devolved authorities which are also involved, tries to ensure that we raise standards in the workplace? These proposals are worthy of consideration and I beg to move.