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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 7:15 pm, 4th February 2019

That was an interesting and enlivening evening. I have come up with a brilliant title for my forthcoming novel—Seven Degrees of Lunacy, or could it be eight? That might be easier, although I doubt it. I have speculated at length about whether we are in Alice in Wonderland, as was suggested, but my favourite suggestion is that we are in Gormenghast, because we seem to be trapped in structures not of our own making, with a design that is not of our wish and with an outcome that is very uncertain and probably leads to madness. But enough of that.

One unifying thought was summed up neatly by the Minister in his last remarks when he said that we needed to think a little harder about what the problem is. Everyone who has spoken, other than the Minister, took the view that these issues had a common theme—the reasons may be different but the theme is that they all have the potential to derail us later down the track. The Government should think about that issue rather than the particularities of these issues. If it is going to be problematic to get an agreement in both Houses on a Motion for an extension of a customs union, because of the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the inherent asymmetry of one set of rules for the US and another for the EU, that may not be helpful. I do not think we are saying any more than that. There is an opportunity here to do something to ease the roadblocks that we can see down the track, whichever track we go down.

Amendment 78 was part of the Chequers arrangements but is now otiose and it is not beyond the wit of others to point out that it still exists in statute and might cause difficulty further down the line. Amendment 79, as my noble friend Lord Hain said, bears directly on the backstop. Is it really sensible to have this power hanging over us in another piece of legislation as we get to the later stages of that, if that is what is going to happen? On VAT, it is not really about the agreement that might be coming but a broader issue about VAT in general, because there might be a better way of collecting VAT that originates outside the UK. It is complicated and a short meeting might be a way to find the common ground that we want to take forward. I am grateful to the noble Lord for wading through that and having the doubtful honour of assigning his name to it in Hansard. It is useful to have it there and we will study it carefully.

I think there is time to have another look at this. Even if we disagree on some of the issues, it cannot be right for Parliament to pass legislation that it knows is not going to be of any use. I think that was the point the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was making. If this is where we are, why do we just not do it? We could do it differently and see if we can use the time to clear it up properly. That is the way I would like to see it go forward but it is not in my hands. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 77 withdrawn.

Amendments 78 to 80 not moved.

Sitting suspended. Committee to begin again not before 8 pm.

Amendment 81 not moved.

Clause 9: The Trade Remedies Authority

Debate on whether Clause 9 should stand part of the Bill.