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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 Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 9:15 pm, 4th February 2019

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is absolutely right that the economic interest test is present in both Schedules 4 and 5 to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act. As set out there, the test seems to me to be capable of being, and is required under the legislation to be, taken down to the level of individual industries, looking specifically at affected industries and consumers and the likely impact on particular geographic areas or particular groups. It seems to me that the economic interest test is already capable of being disaggregated in the ways that the noble Lord is calling for.

The noble Lord and I have joined together on the issue of the public interest test in the past. I am not sure that you can define it in advance—that is the difficulty with it. Trying to write down what public interest the Secretary of State has to weigh up seems to be intensely difficult, as distinct from the economic interest test. It might include defence industries and security interests, and we see that coming through in relation to competition. We also see it in broadcasting and competition regimes. There are a range of competition-specific public interests, and I do not think that we are necessarily looking to restrict the test in that way in this legislation. Frankly, we might be better off simply looking at it and, if there are particular public interests that have to be protected as time goes on, we should perhaps have the power to add to them by way of regulation, as is the case with competition legislation.