Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 7:30 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I need to manage noble Lords’ expectations as to what I am going to be able to say. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, has given a polemic based on his deeply held views on the situation in Northern Ireland, born of great experience and service. I do not think I will be able to persuade him on this issue and Amendment 46, so he will doubtless come back to it on Report. I will, however, put some important points on the record regarding where, as of today, Her Majesty’s Government stand on these crucial issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, talked about the internal energy market. Again, I have to be careful: I am not able to give him an answer at this stage, beyond that set out in the political declaration. I know he has read that carefully, along with the explanatory note; section XI deals with energy co-operation.

Let me first put some comments on the record about the nature of the internal energy market, and then I will turn to the single energy market and north-south co-operation, addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. The Government continue to support the development of energy interconnectors—which bring benefits to countries at both ends of the cables, including improved security of supply and the lowering of prices for businesses and consumers—and support efforts to decarbonise. That is why we set out in the political declaration that both the UK and the EU should co-operate to support the delivery of cost-efficient, clean and secure supplies of energy and gas, and to ensure as far as possible that efficient trading over our interconnectors continues. Our aim is to secure the best possible future arrangements for trade in energy, and which achieve the objectives set out in the declaration, to which I referred.

On the effect of the shared wholesale market, the all-Ireland single electricity market provides significant benefits to consumers and the economy in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain, alluded to. It is also an example of north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland. The Government are firmly committed to facilitating the continuation of a single electricity market in any EU exit scenario. The agreement reached on the single electricity market annexe, as part of the Northern Ireland and Ireland Protocol to the withdrawal agreement, should ensure that the SEM is maintained. We also expect to reach an agreement with the EU on a future economic partnership that will maintain the SEM without engaging the backstop. As set out in a technical note on electricity trading, published in October 2018, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, referred to, we will take all possible measures to maintain the SEM in the event that we are unable to reach an agreement. Even in this scenario, which I stress—