Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:15 pm, 30th January 2019

The noble Lord makes a good point. I reassure him that what is also very important is that the negotiation and scrutiny of these trade agreements has to allow for a certain flexibility. I will go on to say a little more about the process, because implicit in it is that treaties between different types of countries using different types of products can be extremely different, as the noble Lord will be aware, so flexibility is very important.

The legislation must be brought forward before ratification, as I was saying. The same will be true of our future relationship with the EU, which will surely require detailed implementing legislation. I hope this demonstrates that the Government are already committed to Parliament being able to shape and scrutinise future trade agreements. I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said about current processes and steps in considering trade agreements. However, since July work has been taking place in both Houses to consider Parliament’s role in future free trade agreements. The Constitution Committee has an ongoing inquiry into the parliamentary scrutiny of treaties. The Joint Committee on Human Rights is inquiring into human rights protections in international agreements, and that touches on Parliament’s role. In the other place, the International Trade Committee published a report just after Christmas that makes a number of recommendations in this area.

To assist the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the Government are listening carefully to these views and we are conducting our own work. We have little quarrel with his remarks and aspirations, and I hope there is agreement there. We recognise, not least following the resolution of this House on Monday, that more detail is needed on how we envisage Parliament—and particularly this House—being involved in the scrutiny of trade agreements. The question of how Parliament scrutinises future FTAs must be answered, with the benefit of close and considered dialogue between the Government and Members of Parliament. I have listened to the contributions of noble Lords today, and I assure the Committee and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that we will reflect on them seriously. I confirm again that we will bring forward our proposals with more detail before Report.