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Trade Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:42 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 8:42 pm, 23rd January 2019

My Lords, I sense there has been a bit of a change in the composition of the House—I cannot imagine why, because we have reached some of the more interesting elements of the Bill. Had the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, who is absent, been present, he might have learnt quite a lot. That will help me avoid the more sharply put questions.

Amendment 27 is a probing amendment in the sense that it is there to invite the Government to set out their plans, should they be necessary, in relation to GSP, the EU’s generalised scheme of preference. It is open to a wider range of issues, and in his dual capacity as Minister responsible for development, the noble Lord, Lord Bates, might well have a view that will add to our overall understanding of where we are. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has a similar amendment, although it is much more detailed and sharply drafted than mine is, and I look forward to hearing his comments.

It can be said in very few words that one of the things that one gets by being part of the EU is participation in schemes of the type that is being discussed here, which is an attempt to try to bring some sort of structure and order to the way in which trading relationships can sometimes impact on development activity and vice versa, by recognising that very often a good trading opportunity in a developing country is perhaps going to do more than any amount of aid, however well delivered and whatever focus it has. On the other hand, the impact of either favourable tariffs, reduced costs or support for various aspects of work on the trading side of that relationship can have quite a devastating effect.

It is to the credit of the EU—and I am sure that Ministers have been heavily involved in the shaping of the way this goes—that the GSP arrangement is being set up so that it is constantly monitored. We have recently seen the interim relationship of that. In short, the results are broadly supportive of the way the EU has taken forward this programme, with some reservations in the sense that it is probably too soon to say quite what some of the outcomes will be. It is recognising that there are longer-term benefits that will not be picked up by short-term measuring techniques, and of course there are dangers that come in relation to trying to focus too narrowly on some of the econometric figures without thinking about some of the wider social issues.

The GSP relationship, combined with Everything But Arms arrangements, is a way of seeing development happen in a constructive and progressive way, which is something that we support. In moving this amendment, I invite the Government to respond to the thoughts behind it. I beg to move.