Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 4:00 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, if I may add something to this group of amendments, first, I say well done to the noble Lord, Lord McNicol. He passed the first test: one of the Opposition’s central jobs is to know which subjects should be raised in Committee and make sure that they are raised. He has done us a service by doing exactly that.

Turning to these two amendments, neither is practical as drafted, but we can probably leave that to one side and focus on what we want to achieve on rules of origin. The first reason it is not mentioned in detail in this Bill is that Section 17 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act effectively puts the rules of origin requirements into law. They are the same, as far as I can see, as would apply generically to rules of origin under the revised Kyoto convention. The country of origin must be identified as that country or territory in which the last substantial process took place. But that does not really answer the point.

This is where we come to the existing international trade agreements that we might roll over. They will have been constructed on the basis that any processing that took place in the United Kingdom was processing within the European Union. We cannot assume that, when these international agreements are rolled over—whenever that will be, but a couple of years from now, I hope—products originating in the United Kingdom will be defined as including processing inside the European Union. We will have become a third-party country. That is unless, in the form that they rolled over, the countries with which these agreements have been made, and with which we enter into our future agreement, accept that origination should be cumulated between us and the European Union.

If I am asking a question of my noble friend the Minister it is: can we look to cumulation between the United Kingdom and the European Union as being a feature of the rollover agreements, such that, from the business point of view, what they have understood to be the situation prior to exit day becomes the situation after exit day? That is essentially what we are looking for.

Declaring an interest, 28 years ago I was deputy director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce. That movement was and is responsible for the issuing of certificates of origin, so it understands this rather well. Of course, that applies outside the European Union at the moment. If we are in a customs union, all those problems go away, but we had that debate on day two of Committee.

If we must deal with this issue, I say to my noble friend that I hope the Government’s discussions with the British Chambers of Commerce have been productive. I know that two years ago, the movement said that, given the nature of international supply chains, ensuring that a “Made in Britain” badge can continue to be displayed proudly on products originating in this country will require us to re-enter some complex definitions of the relationship between international supply chains and origination in the United Kingdom. It also said that it was happy to work with government to look at how that might be achieved in future. I hope that this will come forward in our discussions on Report to demonstrate that the Government have an idea of what future trade agreements might say about origination to ensure that the “Made in Britain” scheme is not frustrated in circumstances where we think of a product as British.