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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 10:00 pm, 21st January 2019

Earlier in the debate, we went through the process for agreeing these continuity agreements. We have not talked about the scrutiny for future trade agreements, but maybe there was some confusion in how I articulated this.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and my noble friend Lady Byford raised a number of important points about future free trade agreements but I think we agreed to defer those to later in Committee. We have already been clear that we will introduce bespoke legislation as necessary to implement those future free trade agreements. The Secretary of State for International Trade has already launched four consultations on prospective future trade agreements and announced that the Government will introduce bespoke primary legislation as necessary to implement these.

Turning to Amendment 26, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the Government have listened to representations from stakeholders both within and outside Parliament on this point. In response, the Government have already amended the legislation in the other place so that the interests of producers are explicitly stated as one of the factors for consideration, just as the new clause before us seeks to do. This completed the list of core considerations when setting the tariff, while not making it unmanageably long.

The Government acknowledge the wide-ranging impacts that changes to import duty can have on the economy. The Secretary of State and Her Majesty’s Treasury will have regard to many factors when recommending and setting the rate of import duty applied to goods in the standard case. It would, however, be inappropriate and unrealistic to specify an exhaustive list in the Bill.

I hope that noble Lords will see that the Government take extremely seriously interests relating to animal welfare, food safety and environmental protection, and that we have taken active steps to ensure that this is reflected in our trade policy. In particular, I want to be clear that the Government are committed to upholding and strengthening our high standards in food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare as we leave the EU.

We have made it clear that as we leave the EU we will maintain and enhance our reputation as a global leader on animal welfare. The Government will ensure that any necessary changes required are made rigorously and comprehensively to ensure that animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.

On food standards, the Food Standards Agency has stated:

“From day one we are committed to having in place a robust and effective regulatory regime which will mean business can continue as normal”.

However, the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Act relates to matters of national taxation. It had the status of a Bill of aids and supplies, similar to a finance Bill. This status as a Bill of aids and supplies is usual for Bills dealing with taxation and, in accordance with established practice, such Bills are not amended by this House. I ask noble Lords to consider that the other place has a well-established privilege over financial matters, which the Act that this new clause seeks to change falls under.

I turn to the point the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, made about specialised automobiles. That concerns the debate about the power of being in the EU as a negotiating body and that of the UK on its own. I have only a small addendum on specialised automobiles. I went to a country in Asia recently where there was a particular issue with exactly that sector. Representing HMG, I was able to point to the issues that would create on this very specialised and highly prized sector in this country. Changes were made. The noble Baroness talked about whether the EU would be as protective. She will know that the EU cannot act in a discriminatory way. The power of consumers is also very strong. We could have a much longer discussion about the power, but I did not want to leave that lying.

I turn to Amendment 53, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering. I have already spoken at length about most of the standards that the amendment seeks to protect. We are absolutely clear that public health and public safety will be paramount. Under all international agreements, any country is allowed to regulate on human and animal health. On my noble friend’s particular request about the food safety alert agency, I know that, as with a number of agencies, it is the Government’s intent to participate as fully as possible. I do not know specifically about the food safety alert agency, but I am happy to write to her on that.

I will briefly touch again on public services. We have been clear that protecting the NHS is of the utmost importance. Public services are under no threat from this Bill. We will continue to ensure that decisions are made about public services and outcomes are delivered for UK citizens that are made by UK Governments, not our partners. The NHS has robust protection under existing EU FTAs and this Government fully intend that to continue.

At the heart of a stipulation of an impact assessment against such a long list of criteria appears to lie concern that the Government will lower our standards through our trade policy, whether that be on the environment, labour rights or our adhering to international obligations. We have asserted before, and I am pleased to do so again before the Committee, that we want to uphold our standards. The UK has long supported the promotion of our values globally, and this will continue as we leave the EU.

We want to ensure that economic growth, development and environmental protection go hand in hand. I hope that that reassures the House and I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.