Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 9:15 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and thank him for having introduced this debate and moving his amendment. I also congratulate those who tabled the other amendments in this group. I will make only a couple of observations.

After a long life in politics I get very disturbed about self-deluding sentimentalism and effective legislation. We have all sorts of aspirations about food safety and hygiene. We also have aspirations about our commitments to the third world and the rest. But the test of effectiveness is whether the muscle is there in the legislation to turn these aspirations into reality. This is where we have to face the truth: a market will of itself not look to all these interests. The one firm principle operating in the market is of course price and profit; after a long life, let alone in politics, I am totally convinced that you have to have some other absolutes within that. The absolutes concern turning these aspirations into reality.

I am so glad that my noble friend Lady Henig spoke to her amendment with so much feeling and conviction. If we are serious about food hygiene, why can Ministers not put it into the Bill? What is behind their real, underlying position? Is it going to interfere in some way with the liberty of people in future to undercut these aspirations—indeed, these principles and policies which we have established in the past?

I have been deeply involved for much of my life in the third world, which is tired of sentimentalism. The third world wants to see policies that are really going to be effective. It is when we come to trade that this is tested. Are we going to enable third-world countries to build up their economies and look to the interests and well-being of their people, or are we going to turn them into playgrounds for people who are trying to make money? It involves having some discipline in the process and saying that the aspirations which we have held high are actually effective in our trade policy.

I really do not want, in the context of the Bill, to go down as just another sentimentalist who is a completely hapless victim of the open-market, liberal economics principles which are not accountable in effective legislation to the interests of real people in real situations—not least, the well-being of us all in what we eat and our ability to enjoy good health. The people who have moved and spoken to these amendments have done a very good job on our behalf and I hope that they will pursue the issues on Report.