Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

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

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 5:30 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, it is pretty much an open secret that amendments of the type we have just spoken to are usually tabled by Oppositions when they have very little to say about a topic. You call for a review and that usually ties up the civil servants for days trying to work out what that is supposed to do. It gets the Minister into a knot and allows you to have a relatively easy passage, especially if the Bill is a bit boring at that particular point. That is not what has happened today, and indeed we have been reminded that it has worked in the past. I recall the discussion during the passage of the Intellectual Property Act and it has worked out well.

There is a case here for thinking really hard about what we want to see happen as a review. I accept absolutely that my amendment is ridiculously overspecified and gold-plated. I am happy to learn from noble Lords who have served as Ministers and those who have experience of this on the other side. We could probably with advantage put together quite a sensible, minimalised amendment which would cover the ground. The Minister spoke about wanting to meet to discuss this; that would be worth while. If we can get sensibility, scale and scope in a reasonable approach, we can make some progress here.

I do not think this can just be left to the passage of time. It is true that the Bill as currently drafted has considerations of reviews, but these were late additions and are not well drafted. We have already noted earlier in Committee that while Clauses 3 and 5 make provision for reports to be provided, Clause 4 provides an opportunity for Ministers to duck out of that; and they deal with the process of agreement, not of review. I therefore think there is a bit of a lacuna here in the Government’s approach. We may be able to resolve it by statements in the House, but there may be a case for having at least something in the Bill to cover it.

Other points were made in this very rich debate. I do not think we need to look too hard—I was going say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, but he is not in his place. The EU model, although it exists and operates, is not perfect, and there is already much documentation on how it needs to be improved if it is to be effective. The question of independence is not dealt with in the current drafting of the Bill. I think there is a sense around the Committee of a coming together on this issue. We should take advantage of that—a meeting would be very useful—and I look forward to being able to make some progress on this in a relatively easy way. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 32 withdrawn.