Motion

Trade Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 5:13 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Moved by Baroness Fairhead

That the Bill do now pass.

Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

My Lords, I request the indulgence of the House to say a few words to express my sincere gratitude. I begin by thanking all those who have participated in our debates on this Bill. As has already been mentioned, this is the first Bill I have steered through your Lordships’ House. It has been a rewarding and constructive—although, I have to confess, at times challenging—experience. Your Lordships have spoken eloquently and with great knowledge about the changes you thought necessary to improve key provisions of this Bill—for example, the need for post-implementation assessment of continuity trade agreements, maintaining UK levels of protection when the power in Clause 2 is used, and clarifying the scope of the Clause 2 power in relation to civil penalties. The Government listened, agreed and responded, and I have no doubt whatever that this Bill is improved as a result. A further important change was the confirmation that the chair of the TRA would be subject to a pre-commencement hearing by the International Trade Committee.

I turn to individual contributions, starting with my noble friends Lord Bates and Lord Younger. They have been towers of strength, their support has been invaluable, and I am hugely in their debt. I also pay particular respect to the noble Lords who have set aside some of their valuable time over the past few weeks to meet me and my colleagues and discuss these important issues, so that together we could ensure that the Bill reflected the genuine intent of this House. I thank in particular the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride and Lord Grantchester; and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I also thank my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lord Lansley, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the noble Lords, Lord Pannick, Lord Wilson of Dinton and Lord Beith, the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, Lady Henig, Lady Brown of Cambridge and Lady Deech, and the noble Earl, the Earl of Kinnoull, for their constructive approach. In particular, I single out the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his tireless efforts and his contribution to achieving a better Bill. My noble friend Lady McIntosh has already referred to his charm and graciousness; I would add his effectiveness and his integrity.

This has been very much a team effort. Behind the scenes, the extraordinary Bill team have put in an unbelievable amount of effort. My thanks go to them, to my private office, and to all officials who have provided support. They have taken on an exceptional workload and have demonstrated huge expertise and commitment—but I have to give a special award to the Bill manager, Suzanne Greaves. She has been spectacular. Finally, I thank the doorkeepers, the clerks and all the staff, because their patience and professionalism has been unwavering.

To conclude, I have now seen at first hand the value that I have long known that this House adds to the legislative process. There may be aspects of the Bill as it leaves this place with which the Government do not agree, but I really believe that your Lordships can be justly proud, and we should all be proud, of the contribution made here to this important piece of legislation. I am immensely grateful to you all.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, it usually falls to me to embarrass Ministers, not the other way round. I felt myself blush just then, and I hope it was not caught too closely on television—but I thank the Minister very much indeed for her comments.

Leading on a Bill in your Lordships’ House, whether in a government position or in opposition, is an honour and a privilege—but those who have done it before will know what I mean when I say that it can take over your life. It is not just the bad dreams and the nightmares of waking up and thinking, “Did I actually say that?” or “Did I forget that amendment?”; it is all the other work that goes with it: meetings with third parties who feel that they should participate in the Bill, and in our case—this may not be true of the Government—talking to our colleagues in the Commons, and to other groups in this House that have to be involved. It is well known that it is simply not possible to improve a Bill unless those of all parties, and none, join together to see what the public interest requires.

There are also meetings with the clerks, and Back-Bench liaison on our side, and voting strategy meetings. There is a lot going on, and that does not get any less as we come towards the end of the process. It gets to the point where you eat, sleep and dream the Bill. That is fine when it takes six weeks, but it is not fine if it takes six months, as this Bill has done, to get through to its final process.

There are pluses too. Working on a Bill means working intensively with colleagues. I do not just mean my noble friends Lord Grantchester and Lord McNicol, and our extraordinarily hard-working legislative assistant Ben Wood; it also means working with the Bill team. I agree that all credit is due to Suzanne Greaves and her team, because they have been fantastic to us as well as to Ministers, giving us information and responding, to a very high standard, to often ridiculous requests at very short notice. Ministers, including the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, have been excellent at the Dispatch Box, both in what they have said but also in saying it very quickly. That is, I believe, often the hallmark of a good Minister.

I am sure I speak for the whole House when I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, on what is, extraordinarily, her first Bill. She has it brought it to the House with consummate skill and considerable confidence. She ensured that we met regularly outside the Chamber for the meetings we have referred to, which were robust but extremely good and fruitful. We made progress and we were given all the information we needed.

We did not always agree—the Minister has acknowledged that—but where we differed, we did so only after all avenues for compromise had been explored and we proceeded on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s point of view. In doing that, we upheld the best standards of this House.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade)

My Lords, at this awards ceremony I am delighted to be nominated for best supporting actor. I, too, thank the Members of the Government Front Bench for their patience and their willingness to engage. The Minister said this was the first Bill she has taken through. This is the first time I have been on a Bill’s scrutiny team, although I have had the privilege of taking through a Private Member’s Bill.

The Minister and I now know more about World Trade Organization terminology than we ever wanted to know. We hope it will become useful in the future. The Bill arrived in this House eight months ago. It started its considerations 15 months ago and the Trade Bill 2017 is now the Trade Bill 2017-19. That demonstrates that it has been a long process. The Minister said in her speech at Second Reading on 11 September that this was merely,

“fundamentally a pragmatic and, in most parts, a technical Bill”.—[Official Report, 11/9/18; col. 2204.]

We have had to scrutinise many technicalities and the Minister has been pragmatic in the way she has responded. She also said that the Bill was about continuity and certainty. These two things have been lacking on Brexit over the last months. On this Bill we have been unaccustomed to having such a large attendance in the House as there is now; given the next Statement on Brexit preparedness, I am sure it is in the context of this Bill having to be in place to provide some of that preparedness.

In thanking the Government Front Bench, and having worked closely on a cross-party basis with the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Stevenson, and others, I should also mention that I have had the stalwart support of my noble friends Lady Kramer and Lord Fox, and the unsung heroes of our Benches, Andrew Burrell and Elizabeth Plummer.

This is now a better Bill having gone through this House. We sought to enhance parliamentary power in setting the negotiating objectives and a mandate, and that is now in the Bill. We sought that consultations with the devolved Administrations would be enhanced, and that is now in the Bill. We said that there should be parliamentary approval of these continuity and ongoing agreements, and that is now in the Bill. Participating in a customs union is now in the Bill. A mobility framework for the movement of people is now in the Bill. Non-regression of standards—important across different areas from animal welfare to food standards—is now in the Bill.

The Minister said that this was a rewarding, constructive and challenging experience for her. In many regards she has met that challenge and I commend her for it. She has certainly been constructive in how she has engaged with us. The rewarding aspect will be how she can persuade her colleagues at the other end of this building to ensure that all the wise amendments that this House has passed are not overturned. We will have to see how she does on that business. If she does it, I commend her for it.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.