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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 9:00 pm, 23rd January 2019

My Lords, it is welcome to move from the group of amendments that caused maximum divergence to the group of amendments after dinner where there is maximum convergence. I think we all side with the way that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, led this debate by pointing to the immense benefits in achieving sustainable development goal 1, the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030. We are not going to do that by aid—aid is around £1.5 billion a year. It requires significant trade flows and therefore this is crucial.

I will make some very brief general remarks. Around £20 billion of goods a year are shipped to the UK from developing countries, accounting for around one-third of our clothing, one quarter of our coffee and other everyday goods such as cocoa, bananas and roses. This trade also creates jobs, helping people to work their way out of poverty. Consequently, I am pleased to confirm to the Committee that this has already been legislated for in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act. My noble friend Lord Lansley might still have been on vacation when on 4 September I took that Bill through this House. Although the debate on it was brief, it was very good. I shall come back to that point later.

The trade White Paper confirmed the Government’s intention to provide, as a minimum, the same level of import duty reductions to all current beneficiaries of the EU’s GSP scheme as we leave the EU. I am also pleased to assure the Committee that Section 10 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act enshrines in UK law the obligation to provide duty-free and quota-free trade access for least developed countries. The Government will lay secondary legislation to set out these details of the scheme before we leave the EU if needed by March 2019, or at the end of the implementation period. In the future, we will look to improve the UK’s trade preference scheme by making it even more generous, simpler to attain and capable of working better for the poorest people around the world. Alongside this, our aid spending will continue to provide support and expert advice to help break down barriers to trade and to promote investment so that developing countries can take better advantage of these arrangements.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned, I also have the privilege of being the Minister with responsibility for economic development in the Department for International Development. It may be of interest to my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, that in that context I am undertaking a review of how we might approach the opportunities to look at more beneficial trade and tariff-reduction packages and economic partnership agreements in future as we leave the EU. I would be delighted to take this conversation into the Department for International Development, for those who are interested, to meet officials so that we can delve more into some of the great expertise and ideas that we have heard today.