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 Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 6:15 pm, 21st January 2019

I have a degree of sympathy with the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. I am grateful to the Minister for the meeting she had with me last week. I was encouraged by what she said then and by what she has said here today about an answer being given to the Constitution Committee—I think she said tomorrow. That seems to be good news.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, relates to an aspect of a wider question; it is an important aspect, but the wider question will have to be addressed before we reach Report. It is an important element in the amendment to the Motion which was carried by the House. I look forward to hearing what has been said to the Constitution Committee; I imagine that it is fairly general and that, on points like the one we are discussing now, we would be looking for something more particular from the Government before Report.

I would like to make a personal point: I hope the Government will not approach the question of to what extent parliamentary scrutiny should be allowed and what sort of procedures would be right— super-affirmative procedures, says the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and I agree with him—too restrictively. I spent my youth in Whitehall. I do not think this is a zero-sum game, where giving the legislature more of a say is damaging to the Executive; it is not like that. I spent quite a lot of time negotiating with Americans. The favourite American argument, when one has defeated them on the substance, is to say, “I hear you, I understand you, but Congress would never buy it”. Having, and being known to have, a thorough legislative scrutiny procedure is an extra card in the Government’s hand and quite a useful one. I suggest that, as the Government make up their mind on these matters before Report, Ministers should encourage officials not to be too cautious and restrictive.