Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 21st January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade) 5:15 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Livingston, has great experience in this regard, and I take note. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, who has opened the floodgates to talking about the future. Part of the discussion about continuity is that none of these discussions which have been taking place over the last 18 months—I am sure that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—will have been taken in a vacuum of considering what the UK’s position going forward may well be. Those countries that we have the agreements with have not been approached like that. The noble Lord and other Members of this House will have met many Members of Parliament, government officials and Ministers who do not simply look at continuity but look at what may well be the ethos in which their relationship will begin. Therefore, the line to draw is not an easy one, although I respect the noble Lord and I have great respect for the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper.

I support the amendment and the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. One of my happiest moments as a Member of the Scottish Parliament was being credited with saving the kilt of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Since Victorian times, Robert Noble—a tweed manufacturer in Peebles, as it then was—had had the contract to weave the cloth for the regiments of Scotland. However, this was under threat because a quirk of government procurement policy did not specify that the tartan had to be woven on the traditional Dobcross loom; instead, it could be printed cloth, which could be made anywhere in the world. The then Defence Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, was very supportive but I suspect, as was relayed to me, that the government U-turn on procurement policy was as a result of a word from the Palace that Her Majesty might not appreciate it if the colour ran from the tartan at the parade of the colour.

Essentially, government procurement—or local government procurement—is the lifeblood for the future of many small businesses, whether in weaving, which can be very high-tech, or in the dynamic industry that has been mentioned. Therefore, it is helpful to put on the record what the Government’s likely intentions are. As I have said before, and as we will no doubt talk about in the discussion on the next group of amendments, the Government have committed not only to carry over the GPA schedules but to revise them going forward; they have already said that in discussions with the WTO. It is appropriate that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is asking for that positive statement today.