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

That is a helpful contribution from the noble Viscount. I think he has some experience in these matters, so I will certainly pass that on. I would like to move on fairly rapidly to talk about impact assessments, but I do not propose to address the aspects of these amendments regarding impact assessments in this speech, as the issue was addressed in earlier Committee debates and I believe the Government’s position is clear. Nor will I revisit the assurances that we have already given on our absolute commitment not to lower standards through trade agreements.

Let me move on to the future relationship with the EU. One amendment in this group—Amendment 59, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis—is targeted specifically at our future relationship negotiations with the EU. I appreciate what the noble Lord is trying to do here in replicating Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. However, Section 13 was drafted for the very particular context of our withdrawal package under Article 50. It is not an appropriate or necessary mechanism for Parliament to approve our future relationship treaties with the EU. With Section 13, we knew what form of documents were coming to us for approval. We then judged it necessary to create a role for Parliament over and above the existing provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, or CRaG, to ensure that the withdrawal agreement treaty and the accompanying political declaration could be considered as one package.

This amendment, however, is grappling with the difficulty of trying to legislate for a treaty or treaties where the number and form of those treaties is not yet known. The amendment attempts to bypass this issue by linking its provisions to any trade agreement that,

“gives effect to any or all of the provisions set out in the framework for the future relationship so far as they relate to trade”.

However, this leaves it unclear which treaties would be caught and whether it would remain active long into the future, beyond the conclusion of our future relationship negotiations. The Committee can be reassured that our future trade agreements with the EU are bound to be subject to the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Furthermore, those agreements will almost certainly require detailed implementing legislation, which means that the arrangements could not come into force without the authorisation of Parliament. No doubt this is a question to which we will return. I hope this reassures the Committee and that noble Lords will withdraw, or not move, their amendments.