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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Brown of Cambridge Baroness Brown of Cambridge Crossbench 9:15 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendments 90A and 90B in my name. Again, I thank my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for adding his name to both amendments.

As we have heard, the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act sets the overarching rules under which the UK’s new Trade Remedies Authority will operate. The Act states that trade remedy measures do not need to be adopted if the TRA or the Secretary of State decides that they do not meet the economic interest test, as we have heard. When applying the EU’s equivalent—the Union interest test—special consideration must be given to the need to remove the injurious practice, that is the dumping or subsidy by another country, and restore competition. It is this special consideration that gives the EU test a presumption in favour of the adoption of measures. The materials industry, in particular, is concerned that this consideration is absent in the UK Act.

I appreciate that government amendments at Report stage of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act improved the wording around the economic interest test and Ministers have assured manufacturers that the intention is that there is a presumption in favour of adoption. However, the words contained in the Act fall short of such a presumption. Amendment 90A would give clearer direction to the TRA in exercising its duty to conduct an economic interest test. The intent is to establish firmly a presumption in favour of adoption of measures and hence to continue the protections that UK manufacturers currently benefit from while we are members of the EU. I recognise that the Government have indicated that the presumption in favour of adoption is their intent and that there may be other ways to strengthen this message to support and assure our manufacturers. I look forward to the Minister’s response as to how this might be addressed.

I think we have probably already discussed Amendment 90B. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, already highlighted the issue of rules about the operation of trade remedies coming through secondary legislation as a result of the provisions of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act. I will not go on for much longer about it because we have already heard the Minister’s response. But I would like to take the chance to emphasise again that these are hugely important rules that will have a profound impact on UK manufacturers’ ability to get a level playing field when overseas competitors are not playing by the rules. I also emphasise my strong conviction that these statutory instruments should be affirmative ones, approved by resolution of both Houses.