Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 30th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 5:15 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Purvis, for tabling Amendments 32 and 52. I note the noble Lord’s statement that we should not focus too much on specific wording. I am very taken by the suggestion of my noble friends Lady Cooper and Lady Neville-Rolfe that simplicity is a good approach, but I would welcome any conversations about specific wording.

As the House is aware, we are seeking continuity as far as the existing EU trade agreements are concerned. This means the existing impact assessments of the existing trade agreements that the EU is in will continue to be relevant. They have already enabled Members of both Houses, as well as the public, to consider the impact to the UK. There is an impact assessment, for example, of the EU’s free trade agreement with South Korea. It is online, and it has been available since February 2010, alongside many others that are also available online.

As for a broader evaluation of policy, the Government also undertake evaluations of the impact of their policies as a matter of course. In addition, I am happy to confirm that we are developing proposals for how monitoring and evaluation can best be conducted when the UK takes responsibility for our own trade policy. I would be happy to meet noble Lords to reflect their views, and I take to heart my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe’s suggestion of a contemporary approach.

Further, the Government have already committed, through Clauses 3 and 5 of the Trade Bill, to lay in Parliament a series of reports explaining our approach to delivering continuity in each of our existing trade agreements. They will also explain, if any, significant changes to and the economic impact on the new UK bilateral agreement when compared to the existing impact assessment. We believe that this is proportionate and better suits this unique programme, which seeks to preserve existing benefits rather than establish new ones. In the earlier debate before Committee, we made a firm commitment to bring forward proposals on our future trading relationships. We have been clear: we will ensure that Parliament plays an appropriate role when the UK has its own independent trade policy.

I am not trying to avoid the questions of my noble friend Lord Lilley and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, about future parliamentary scrutiny. On the Floor of the House, I have been clear that we will bring forward proposals because we understand fully how critical proper parliamentary scrutiny is. I have stated, and am happy to restate, that I am open to suggestions. We are looking at the suggestions of the ITC in the other place and waiting for input from the Constitution Committee. This issue will be covered in much more detail by my noble friend Lord Younger in the debate on the next group of amendments, so with the leave of noble Lords I will leave that to him.

On Amendment 60, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, the Government have met their commitment to provide Parliament with a robust and extensive analysis of the long-term economic impact of our future trading relationship with the EU. As I understand it—we can discuss this if I am incorrect—the amendment asks for a short-term analysis. However, as the Chancellor said in his letter in reply to the Treasury Committee, the cross-government group is not suited to provide analysis of short-term impacts. Within their statutory mandates, the Bank of England and the OBR produce short to medium-term forecasts for the UK economy. The Bank of England has already provided the Treasury Committee with its analysis of short-term impacts and the OBR will continue to update its forecast in line with its mandate.

The amendment also asks for the economic impacts of the backstop to be modelled but, as the Chancellor made clear, the backstop is an insurance policy that neither side wishes to use and, if triggered, would be explicitly temporary. Furthermore, there is not yet sufficient specificity on detailed arrangements for modelling purposes. This would be a matter for further discussions through the joint committee; without such detail, the Government would not be able to model its impacts meaningfully. Ahead of further discussions on those arrangements, Ministers have a responsibility not to release information that could reveal or imply potential negotiating positions.