Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 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) 6:00 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I support these amendments. They make eminent sense. I shall speak also to Amendment 101 in this group which, in essence, suggests that in moving forward on these agreements the CRAG process is not the most appropriate; and that there is a better way forward by ensuring a more appropriate role for Parliament, and for Parliament to have greater knowledge of why an agreement should be approved. In many respects, this is now becoming fairly standard procedure in other countries, where the Government give much greater information to Parliament about why agreements should be ratified and where each House of Parliament has a greater role on the basis of scrutiny by committees. I am convinced that when it comes to complex, deep and comprehensive agreements, the CRAG process will be shown not to be the appropriate route, and we will need to decide another. This Bill is a very good basis from which to start on a more transparent and open process.

As I mentioned earlier in the debate on whether the House resolve itself into Committee, our agreements amount to 60% of UK trade and are therefore highly significant. The complexity of trade agreements now—they go far beyond simply a discussion of tariffs and the financial element, and have wider impacts on domestic policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, mentioned—means they require a different form of engagement with Parliament. It starts with information and with greater understanding of the consequences of these agreements. It will no longer be acceptable that agreements such as these can be made under traditional prerogative power for Parliament simply to approve without there being a more meaningful process. That is the intent behind the amendment. It is meant in a positive manner. I believe it is framed in a better way than CRAG, and I hope it will gain support.