Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 4:45 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 64 in my name in this group. I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, to the joys of tabling amendments. They provide the ability to lead scrutiny and discussion of significance in a very freewheeling way. I was also going to say “succinct”, except that the previous group, on rules of origin, took nearly an hour.

My amendment is inspired by Amendment 32, which was just moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. However, having studied other amendments to the Bill and the Government’s reaction to them, I have opted for a simpler formula in the hope that this might attract support across the Committee. It provides for a review, after five years, by the Secretary of State of the impact and effectiveness of each international trade agreement under Clause 2, but it deliberately omits the long list of criteria in Amendment 32. That is because I believe in simplicity. I do not believe we should lay down detailed areas that the review should cover, worthy though they may be. As we know, policy priorities change over time and the review should be conducted from a contemporary perspective.

I pray in aid a precedent that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, will remember well: the report on innovation and economic growth provided for under the Intellectual Property Act 2014. I believe that was the result of an amendment that he tabled during the passage of that Act. As a Minister, I found the process of producing the report every year very helpful, as did the Intellectual Property Office. In fact, its CEO confirmed that to me only last week.

I have some doubts about the wisdom of setting up a special compliance monitoring agency, as proposed in Amendment 81, which is also in this group. It seems a big stick, given the Bill’s scope. However, on a separate point, compliance would appear to be in the purview of a general review of effectiveness. I have provided for such a review to be laid before the devolved Parliaments, to which the noble Lord attached importance, because I believe this would be a good way to keep them up to date, ensuring that the reviewers, looking back, think about their interests as well as English and UK interests. Such a review would also cover SMEs, which we discussed in another long debate last week. I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister.