We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 4th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade) 9:30 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, I am happy to contribute to the successful realisation of the noble Lord’s ambition to have an amendment on commencement.

I want to make two final comments because I know the Committee has been working hard in offering scrutiny to the Bill, but before I do so I wish to thank the Ministers, and indeed the whole team, who have tried to answer on what was on some occasions an impossible situation. Earlier the noble Lord, Lord Bates, aptly commented on how fast things have been moving, and I think the Ministers have had a degree of sympathy from the Committee. However, this is serious. As the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said, businesses need urgency as they operate. They need urgency in their day-to-day practices but also when it comes to knowing what the Government’s position is.

In advance of the next stage, if there is one, it is helpful that all the usual channels are here. I do not think the Committee needs any reminding of the decision of this House, very clearly stated, that greater information is needed on both the Government’s policy and intentions on how it sees trade agreements being put in place, as well as the relationship with the devolved Administrations. If that is not forthcoming, the House has sent a clear signal that there will not be a Report stage. However, on the basis that there will be, the information that is needed on the current position on the intended trade agreements needs to be forthcoming. There also needs to be clarity on—if we are going to be crashing out on WTO rules—the position of operating on non-certified WTO rules.

The relationship with the devolved Administrations, while a little clearer, needs more fleshing out. This is not just about constitutional courtesies with the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and Northern Ireland authorities. Trade agreements could disproportionately affect parts of the United Kingdom, which will affect livelihoods and public services in those areas. They need to be not just consulted, but involved. Contrary to the Government simply wanting continuity agreements for trading relationships, we also want to see the rolling over of the same amount of parliamentary scrutiny that the European Parliament would afford trade agreements, which this Parliament will be denied unless this Bill is amended.

Finally, we need to be looking forward to the future. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and others, have made very constructive contributions. If we are to have a customs arrangement—which, if it covers the majority of our trade with our biggest market, will be a customs union—then the clarity about how that will be conducted will be important. While we are at the end of the Committee stage, I hope that the Minister has received strong signals that there are still questions that need to be answered. Those answers need to be forthcoming before this House will consider the Report stage.