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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:15 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, it sounds as if we are starting off a new train of activity or various letters. I suspect that it might also be helpful if we had a short meeting on some of the issues just to draw them together. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, I was entranced by the detailed nature of the early part of the Minister’s response and I got a bit lost—I think it was on the fourth point the second time round. We will need to read him and understand not only what he was saying but where these points are to be found in more detail. The chance to be able to do that in the context of the very rich debate we have had would be helpful.

That is not to say that I think there is that much between us: with friends like the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, how can I complain? We are on the same side here, most unusually and extraordinarily, agreeing on points of some substance. There is some progress, it has not always been easy going and I think the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was right to point out that this is partly because we are centring on an agreement which is brokered by the WTO through the GATS system. He is correct—his background in the chambers of commerce means that he reads these documents carefully and understands their provenance—that the wording of the amendment is indeed taken from the four pillars, but I was unable to get the fourth pillar in; the clerks would not accept that. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, managed to get it into the next amendment but one, so we will have that debate shortly. That complication sets us off in slightly the wrong direction: we are not trying to change that structure in essence, because that is the overarching world system and we have to be careful we do not try to take on too many battles at the same time.

The political declaration is not the same as the agreement and of course all that gets wrapped up into some form of yet-to-be-understood free trade agreement which may or may not include both customs elements and services agreements. I think the noble Baroness is right to pick up the question of how all that melds together: will we be able to trade off some aspects of our services in order to achieve a better tariff arrangement, or is it better to keep them separate and deal with the different arrangements? I do not think we have a clear answer to that, but I do not think we are very far apart on it. We want this to be the best for Britain. We have done pretty well, against all the odds. Why change it if it is not certain that the changes are going to be beneficial to us?

Having said that, the question from my noble friend Lord Davies is right: what is the point of this amendment if it does not improve where we are? That is where the test has to be. We must look carefully at the responses and make sure we have the right view. There may be some argument for having something, either in this Bill or in the non-continuity Bill yet to come, if that is the Government’s intention. However, at this stage we are unable to say that, so with that in mind, but with thanks to all who have contributed to a very rich debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 45 withdrawn.

Amendments 46 to 49 not moved.

Amendment 50 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 51 to 60 not moved.