Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 6:15 pm, 21st January 2019

It was necessary for the noble Lord to ask about the word “absolutely”, but I object to being asked to calm down. I was trying to give your Lordships the clear advice that we have had because I thought that that was the advice and information they were seeking.

Given that any use of this Clause 2 power will already be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, and given that we will lay the reports and our continuity free trade agreements will again be ratified by Parliament, Parliament will be fully appraised of the Government’s actions. I hope your Lordships will accept that that means that it will in fact already be fairly difficult for the Government to use the Clause 2 power without Parliament’s consent in one way or another.

I turn to Amendment 11. Clause 2 helps to facilitate a smooth transition by helping to implement the non-tariff obligations of continuity trade agreements. We realise that there are concerns about this power, so we have sought to constrain it as much as possible, and this has a number of parts. First, the power can be used to amend only UK primary legislation that is retained EU law and not any other UK legislation. Secondly, it is valid for only three years, and its lifetime can be extended only with agreement from both Houses of Parliament. We would seek to extend the powers only if it were considered necessary to ensure that our continuity agreements remained operable over time. Thirdly, the use of the power is subject to the affirmative resolution. Fourthly, the power will be used only in relation to continuity trade agreements, as we have made clear in the Explanatory Notes. Fifthly, to provide additional transparency for our programme as a whole, Clause 3 commits, in statute, the Government to providing reports on all continuity trade agreements, explaining our approach to delivering continuity in each case. In addition, I should make it clear to the Committee that regulations made under the Trade Bill will already comply with Section 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, so this part of the amendment is unnecessary.

On Amendment 101, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, I assure the Committee that our existing trade agreements have already been examined by Parliament as part of its regular scrutiny of EU business. Ratified free trade agreements have already been through the normal parliamentary scrutiny process for treaty ratification. Our continuity agreements will also go through the CRaG process. The noble Lord raised some concerns about that but it gives parliamentarians an opportunity to challenge them in the established manner. Any regulations made under the Clause 2 power will be introduced under the affirmative resolution, which will provide an opportunity for lengthy examination if we need to make a change to the law.