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Trade Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:42 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade) 3:42 pm, 6th March 2019

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, we welcome the Minister’s comments from the Dispatch Box. This is an occasion when parliamentary persistence has proved effective. We started this process when the Government had indicated that the Bill would be about only the existing continuity agreements and we made a very strong case, across all parts of the House, that it should also signal a direction of travel which, in many respects, would create precedent. It is on that basis that we on these Benches welcome the Command Paper that the Minister has published and her willingness to engage with and meet opposition parties and Members from across the House.

One reason this has been so important is that it has been a consistent practice of this Government, in relation to continuity trade agreements or starting discussions with countries about future trading relationships, to delude themselves that it will be easy, then deny that there is a problem when it is highlighted that they are difficult. Then they demur when frustrated officials leak information that allows us to glean the reality from the media. Then, unfortunately, on occasions, they deflect the problem, saying that is not their problem or responsibility; it is other countries that are not lifting the burden, or the European Union that is not being forthcoming with its position on a future relationship. We want to be in a position where we can put all that behind us and move on to a platform where we have much greater clarity as to what the trading relationships, and the role of Parliament and the devolved Administrations in their oversight and approval, will be. I welcome the Command Paper as the start of that.

To quote the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, from Question Time, this can be only the start of the process, and this is the platform on which we will seek to build. This is not the end. In that spirit, I hope the Government will be very favourable to Amendment 12 later today to ensure that that platform can be built on in the most constructive manner. On that basis, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments.