We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 23rd January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 9:15 pm, 23rd January 2019

My Lords, in speaking to Amendment 29 in my name I will also speak briefly to the Amendment with which it has been grouped: Amendment 56 from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.

At the forefront of my amendment is whether we should retain the rather disputed separate mechanism for resolving investor settlement disputes—this applies to rollover and new FTAs. The concept of ISDS is not new; it certainly predates us joining the EU in 1972. Over the years, we have had a very large number of trade agreements—some several hundred—which Members of the House will be aware of, and many of these contain clauses under which the ISDS was created. In the early days, it was done with some justification in some countries to try to ensure that investment from third parties—particularly private investment, which was obviously necessary to unlock the activity that was the focus of the trade agreement—could be protected in situations where political issues or other issues intervened. Given that the legal systems in some countries will not be regarded as being as well-developed as in other countries such as ours, it is not unreasonable to therefore concede that some sort of special protection was required. That is really where it came from.

I do not think that there is very much more to say about it, except that our argument is that these ISDS schemes are of a bygone age. They relate to a situation in the world that does not really exist anymore. It certainly does not apply to many of the countries with which we will be creating free trade agreements or rolling over existing arrangements. In so far as they have legal systems that we can respect, there should be no question that we should work with our own legal system and with theirs to reflect any requirement for the need to ensure that parties to the agreement can pursue the establishment of a tribunal and appellate mechanism for the resolution of investment disputes.

I should wait for the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, to introduce her amendment, but in case she has any doubt at all, I do not support where she is coming from. I want to make it very clear that I am not alone in this: the most numerous of the very large number of submissions we received on the Bill were on ISDS. I am sure the Ministers are aware of that. It is worth thinking about the role that civil society more generally will play, but if just about everybody is saying that the Government should move away from these as a model and should think, as the EU is doing, about moving to a system that relies on existing tried and tested systems in the countries, this is something we should bear in mind. I beg to move.