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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 10:15 pm, 30th January 2019

Our position is simply that we are committed to as close a relationship as possible with the European Medicines Agency. We see its value, we are committed to it, and it is in the Bill. We have made our positions clear on that, in terms of how we would view it if similar amendments were proposed for other agencies.

Amendment 39, on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, was spoken to by my noble friends Lady Hooper and Lady McIntosh and by the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Fox. The Government have clearly set out their objectives for mutual recognition of professional qualifications in the future relationship with the EU. We recognise the importance of mutual recognition for many sectors of our economy and the public sector. It offers all individuals working in regulated professions a means of having their qualifications recognised so that they can continue to provide valuable services. However, Her Majesty’s Government must be in a position to negotiate the best possible outcome. I note the risk that this amendment could undermine that objective and compel Her Majesty’s Government to reject highly beneficial agreements on mutual recognition simply because an agreement delivered its possible outcome in a way that differed from the detailed requirement set out in this amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, asked what representations the UK will be making in the case of no deal to provide recognition of qualifications, which was the purpose of Amendment 39. The mutual recognition of professional qualifications directives will no longer apply in the event of leaving without a deal, which is of course why we want a deal. The UK will ensure that professionals arriving in the UK with EEA or Swiss qualifications after exit day will have means to seek recognition of their qualifications. The Government have prepared legislation to update the recognition of professional qualifications regulations. This will bring a new system into force for exit day. The UK has reached agreements with Ireland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to address specific arrangements for the recognition of professional qualifications.

On Amendment 44 on REACH—the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—which the noble Lord, Lord Fox, addressed, the Government recognise the importance of the UK chemicals sector and its trade with the EU. We have set out our aim for a free trade area on goods, including chemicals, which will combine deep regulatory and customs co-operation with no tariffs or quotas. As such, the UK may choose to align with EU rules in relevant areas, including the REACH regulation. In this context, we will also continue to explore with the EU the possibility of co-operation between the UK and the European Chemicals Agency, which is an important part of that regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, made an interesting point about the reputation of Ofcom, which of course we all recognise as a world-leading authority. He then offered me a pretty difficult choice of choosing between his persuasive speech and the words uttered in Committee by my colleague in government, my noble friend Lord Ashton of Hyde. Given that I speak from the Government Benches, I am afraid that I must side with my noble friend Lord Ashton in this regard. My noble friend wrote to the noble Lord on 29 January on the Electronic Communications and Wireless Telegraphy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and placed a copy in the Library—perhaps the noble Lord has not had a chance to see that. However, I will relay the noble Lord’s comments in this debate to my noble friend to see whether he is able to respond to that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, talked about equivalence for financial services. We are aiming to build on the EU’s third-country equivalence regime.

On medical isotopes, which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and which my noble friend Lord Lansley referred to, the observatory is not a formal institution of which a country can become a member. It is rather a European Commission body which works with the medical nuclear industry to monitor supplies of such medical materials. UK and other member states do not have formal membership. None the less, I am pleased to confirm that the Government have committed to seek to continue UK co-operation and information sharing with the observatory as part of the future economic partnership. However, the exact capacity in which the UK continues to participate in the observatory is of course a matter for the future negotiation.

In addressing Amendment 63, on legal services, my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lady Cooper drew from their experiences. The Government are committed to supporting the legal services sector to continue to grow. The Government are planning—