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

I said at the beginning that this is likely to be a wide-ranging debate; my noble friend’s remarks will indeed be fed into the processes being considered at the moment.

I would like to address a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, who asked what access parliamentarians would have to negotiating texts. We take seriously our commitment to keeping Parliament apprised of the Government’s negotiating intentions. That is for the purposes not just of transmitting information but of inviting scrutiny and allowing Parliament and its committees to take informed views. While we support Parliament’s important scrutiny role, Ministers have a specific responsibility, which Parliament has endorsed, not to release information that could undermine our negotiating position. On transparency more generally, I reiterate our commitment to a transparent approach. We are developing proposals for the release of updates on negotiations; we will bring these forward shortly.

Let me say more about the consultation process, an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. The amendments also seek to ensure wide consultation on FTAs, which is a good idea; indeed, that is the approach the Government are taking. We conducted one of the largest consultation exercises ever undertaken for the new FTAs we are considering with partners without an existing FTA with the EU—the US, New Zealand and Australia—and for our potential accession to CPTPP. This included a 14-week public consultation open to all businesses, individuals and other organisations in the UK and abroad, and 12 outreach events throughout the UK, including in each of the devolved nations. We have also conducted ongoing engagement with stakeholders on trade policy, including “town hall” style briefings, roundtables with different groups of stakeholders, regular stakeholder briefings and webinars designed to engage with smaller and regional stakeholders.

I would also like to touch on impact assessments. I do not propose to address—