Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 6:30 pm, 21st January 2019

I would like to say a brief word on this group of amendments. On the latter point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I entirely agree. He is quite right about the use of, as it were, the scrutiny reserve in negotiations. It is important to have it available. But in these negotiations, of course, one is negotiating to bring in what are effectively new provisions in new agreements. The question is: what is required in relation to existing agreements?

On Amendment 101, I am a bit confused because it refers specifically to free trade agreements and to those which come under Clause 2(3). It seems that we are talking not only about free trade agreements, but about international trade agreements arising under Clauses 2(2) and 2(3). The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, might be looking for something slightly wider than what he has put down in his amendment. We will leave that to one side for a moment. The point is this: in the Explanatory Notes, Ministers are quite clear that the intention is to bring existing agreements into effect through the Bill; we are working on that basis. However, there are circumstances in which the substance of an existing agreement, when it is converted into UK law, has to be amended to make it compliant with, or to enter it into, UK law. Paragraph 56 of the Explanatory Notes, for example, says:

“Although the Government’s policy intention is to ensure continuity as far as possible in the effects of the UK’s current trading arrangements, the new UK-partner country agreements that are implemented using”— if the small typo “of” is deleted—

“this power will be legally distinct from the original EU-partner country agreements on which they are based. It may also be necessary to substantively amend the text of the previous EU agreements … so that the new agreements can work in a UK legal context”.

The point of this paragraph is that trying to achieve the same effect does not necessarily mean that we will not have to amend the agreement; we may have to do that. We are getting ahead of ourselves. Surely the point is that what happens in those circumstances should be covered by Clause 3(3). A specific report must be laid before Parliament for that purpose.

I do not subscribe to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is proposing to go about this but, particularly when we come to talk about Clause 3, we might make sure that parliamentary scrutiny is applied to the differences between the provisions of the existing agreements and the agreement as it will be incorporated into UK law. That is the point we have to look at. Everything else, frankly, has been scrutinised in the way that the Minister made clear.