Amendment 27

Part of Trade Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Convenor of the Crossbench Peers 6:15 pm, 13th March 2019

My Lords, I add my support to Amendment 28. I hope not to repeat too many of the points already made.

The Minister may have seen the letter from Mike Russell, dated 11 March 2019, to which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, referred. He draws attention to the fact that the Scottish Parliament is not prepared to give its consent to the Trade Bill as presently drafted, which is a matter of some concern. It is not just being obstructive; it is taking a measured position based on Clause 2 of the Scotland Act 2016, to which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also referred. In his letter, Mike Russell said, as the Scottish Government has pointed out, that many of the 24 policy areas currently identified as potentially subject to such regulations are highly relevant in terms of future trade deals, for example food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, agriculture, environmental policy, food labelling, procurement and fisheries management. It is vital that the Scottish Government and Parliament should be able to protect and advance Scotland’s interests and approach in these areas. It is concerning that the Bill as drafted does not mention either consent or consultation. I hope that the Minister will feel able to look at this matter more carefully before we reach Third Reading.

I will make two further points. First, the wording of Amendment 28, adopting the formula in the Scotland Act, uses the word “consent”. I recall long arguments, when we were debating the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, about whether the word “consent” should be included in its various provisions involving interaction with the devolved authorities. The matter was resolved, in connection with the frameworks in relation to trade, by using the word “consult” instead of the word “consent”.

Personally, I would argue that we should adopt the forms in the Scotland Act, but the fact that the word “consult” was used in the amendment to the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred, might be worth some reflection on the Minister’s part. As the noble Lord pointed out, the formula used in Amendment 15 to that Bill, which was an insertion after Clause 4, was:

“Before making regulations under section 2 that contain provision which is within the legislative competence of a devolved legislature, the Secretary of State must consult the relevant devolved authority on that provision”.

That does not go as far as the Scottish Government wish, but at least it is a step in the right direction. As that amendment was moved by a Minister to a closely related Bill—it is part of the general package that we are considering, which is all related to our departure from the EU—I hope that the Minister and his Bill team will give careful consideration as to whether, if the Minister is not prepared to accept the formula in Amendment 28, that formula should be adopted instead. The difference between “consent” and “consult” is quite significant—but consultation, at least, would go a substantial way to meeting the concerns of the Scottish Government in these very important areas.

I shall add one further point. I was in the Grand Committee the other day looking at a statutory instrument that had been made by a UK Minister, and it contained a substantial number of amendments to Scottish legislation made by the Scottish Parliament. I asked why that was being done in a UK SI, rather than being dealt with by the Scottish Parliament. When one looked at the description in the back about consultation, one saw that it was defective, because it did not make it clear that the Scottish Government had been consulted. That was an example of a statutory instrument made by a Minister, on which one would have thought that consultation was essential—indeed, during discussions on the withdrawal Bill I was assured that the Sewel convention would be applied—yet the narrative was incomplete. That may have been simply a technical error, but it illustrates how easy it is to overlook the need for consultation, at least, unless that is on the face of the statute. So I warmly support the points made by the two noble Lords in support of the amendment. If the matter is to be taken away, I hope that the Government will come back on Third Reading with something to address this important issue.