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Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Conservative 10:00 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I apologise for being tail-end Charlie in this discussion—at least, I hope I am. I agree that this is a very important group of amendments. I shall concentrate particularly on Amendment 39 because that is the overarching amendment giving mutual recognition of qualifications, which has been so important for frictionless commercial activities and relationships throughout our membership of the European Union. I trust and hope that the mutual recognition and—dare I say it?—harmonisation to some extent of professional qualifications will be able to continue, to give the continuity to which my noble friend Lord Lansley referred, but also, for example, in the field of education, where university qualifications and degrees have been based on mutual recognition of qualifications and the ability to work in professional fields in more than one country.

My own interest in this is that as a solicitor I went to work in Paris in 1973, a year after we joined the European Community. Although I did not need a carte de travail—a work permit—at that stage, I still needed a carte de séjour, but that was progress. There have always been particular difficulties for the legal profession simply because of the difference between the common-law system and the civil law system. That has led to a different approach to our understanding of what we have been trying to do within the European Community throughout our membership.

I may not be up to speed on all the detail. There may have been discussions, and possibly solutions, about continuing the recognition of professional qualifications, but I am not aware of them. I am surprised that the Law Society, for example, has not provided any briefing in this respect—at least not to me. Still, I would like to hear what the Minister has to say about this. At the next stage of the Bill I would hope that we could be given more certainty about what may happen in future. I am curtailing my remarks because it is a late hour, but I feel that this would be so important, not only to British and Scottish lawyers—I look to my noble friend Lady McIntosh in this respect—but to all the European Union lawyers who have set up offices and are operating in London and other parts of the country, making our commercial activities ever more possible.

Perhaps, as a sort of PS, I might refer to Amendment 48 and the tripartite agreement. I am not sure how this applies to polo ponies. As your Lordships will know, I take a great interest in Latin America and Argentina. Polo ponies are not only from South America and the UK; they have passage rights within the EU. I do not think the tripartite agreement itself applies to polo ponies but I hope that any consideration of this element of the debate could include that important aspect.