Implementation of the Agreement on Government Procurement

Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 25 January 2018.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment) 2:00, 25 January 2018

I beg to move amendment 33, in clause 1, page 1, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1), unless the Scottish Ministers consent.

(1B) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1), unless the Welsh Ministers consent.”

This amendment would ensure that the consent of the Scottish Ministers or Welsh Ministers is required for any regulations that deal with matters within the competence of devolved authorities in Scotland and Wales.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 34, in clause 2, page 2, line 40, at end insert—

“(7A) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 7 of Schedule 1), unless the Scottish Ministers consent.

(7B) No regulations may be made under subsection (1) by a Minister of the Crown, so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 8 of Schedule 1), unless the Welsh Ministers consent.”

This amendment would ensure that the consent of the Scottish Ministers or Welsh Ministers is required for any regulations that deal with matters within the competence of devolved authorities in Scotland and Wales.

Amendment 36, in schedule 1, page 7, line 24, at end insert—

“(4) This paragraph does not apply to regulations made under section 1(1) or 2(1) by the Scottish Ministers or the Welsh Ministers.”

This amendment would give the Scottish and Welsh Ministers power, by regulation, to amend direct EU legislation that forms part of domestic law on and after exit day in devolved areas.

Amendment 37, in schedule 1, page 8, line 5, at end insert—

“(4) This paragraph does not apply to regulations made under section 1(1) or 2(1) by the Scottish Ministers or the Welsh Ministers.

3A (1) No regulations may be made by the Scottish Ministers or the Welsh Ministers acting alone under section 1(1) or 2(1) so far as the regulations are to come into force before exit day unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with a Minister of the Crown.

(2) No regulations may be made by the Scottish Ministers or the Welsh Ministers acting alone under section 2(1) so far as the regulations make provision about any quota arrangements or are incompatible with any such arrangements unless the regulations are, to that extent, made after consulting with a Minister of the Crown.

(3) In sub-paragraph (2) ‘quota arrangements’ has the same meaning as in paragraph 3.”

This amendment would replace the requirement for the Scottish and Welsh Ministers to obtain the consent of the UK Government when acting alone under section 1(1) or 2(1) with the need to consult before making such regulations.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

It is a pleasure to kick off what I think we all agree is a hugely important debate. We are pleased that the amendments were selected.

It is important to say at the outset that our amendments to clauses 1 and 2 would ensure that the principles of devolution are safeguarded in the Bill as the UK leaves the EU. Just over 20 years have passed since devolution, and it is important to pause for thought. There has been a lot of discussion—on Second Reading and in the public discourse—about how the cross-party agreement that brought us devolution and the Parliaments and Assemblies of the devolved nations of the UK all those years ago is threatened. Much in the Bill drives a coach and horses through the cross-party agreements that brought huge changes to the devolved nations of the UK. I say to fervent defenders of the United Kingdom that by threatening devolution and devolved powers—the Scottish National party has set out 111 areas in which they are under threat—the Bill threatens to undermine the Union.

We agree with the provision in clause 1 that aims to ensure continued access to Government procurement markets after the UK leaves the EU, but we believe that UK Ministers should have to seek consent, not just to consult. During our debates on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the Prime Minister promised that the devolved nations of the UK would be consulted. As we know, it has not been possible to seek proper consultation in Northern Ireland because of the situation there; we look forward to seeing what happens in Northern Ireland and what threat that poses. However, I think it is fair to say that the devolved nations do not really feel that consultation has happened. For us, consultation and consent are absolutely the bottom line.

Amendment 33 would ensure that the consent of the Scottish Ministers or the Welsh Ministers is required for any regulations made under clause 1 that deal with matters within the competence of devolved authorities in Scotland or Wales. The Library briefing for the Bill states:

“If responsibilities for much of procurement law move from the EU to the UK with Brexit, there are questions about who takes on these responsibilities. At present, responsibilities for procurement are generally either devolved or set at the EU level.”

The devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales implement EU directives directly.

Let me draw on a specific example. Procurement is probably quite a dry and technical subject to many people, but it is very important. Back in 2008, we had a big challenge with superbugs and sickness in hospitals in Scotland, as did much of the UK. Through Government procurement measures, we were able to take contracts with private firms back under Government control. That was absolutely vital. If our amendments are not agreed to and we are unable to guarantee our procurement rights, there is a risk that they will be lost in the 111 areas I mentioned.

My Labour colleagues should think very carefully, given that it was their party that was instrumental in devolution. Labour should be congratulated on that. Labour Members must reflect on the impact of the Bill and the opportunity presented by the amendments, which have been laid with a degree of cross-party consensus and support. If we choose to push the amendment to a vote—obviously we will listen to the full debate—it would be excellent to have their support, and perhaps that of some Government Members. They might deem the promises made to Scotland in the past to lead not leave the UK, to be an equal partner—all those words and rhetoric—to be not rhetoric, but something that Members actually stand by.

On amendment 34, we agree with the provision in clause 2 that aims to provide continuity to existing trade deals that the UK is part of by virtue of its EU membership. There are about 40 trade deals, with more than 60 countries. We have heard a huge amount of evidence from a number of different organisations, including today from Devro, a company that makes sausage skins—we might argue that there will be no breakfast after Brexit if Devro is not able to produce the skins for sausages. We also heard from Hologic, a company I visited some time ago that operates in my Livingston constituency. Its representative spoke about the importance of consultation and consent and the involvement of the devolved nations.

We believe that UK Ministers ought to seek the consent of devolved Ministers when amending the law in devolved areas. The amendment would assure that the consent of Scottish or Welsh Ministers is required for any regulations made under the provisions of clause 2 that deal with matters within the competence of devolved authorities in Scotland and Wales.

I ask colleagues on both sides of the Committee to think about when trade deals are being negotiated. I know the Bill is about transferring current deals across, but it is also about what happens beyond that; it is about the framework that is put in place and ensuring that that framework is good and robust for everybody in the UK, wherever their business is and wherever they live. It is incredible to think that we would not get support, particularly from our Labour colleagues, on ensuring that the devolved Administration in Wales, whoever that may be, would have a say and would be able to give consent on the decisions that are made for those businesses.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

Let us say a major treaty was going forward that was in the interests of Scottish whisky, for example. Is it the hon. Lady’s position that Welsh Ministers should be able to veto that?

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

Those are things that can be discussed. I am not going to draw on particular areas—if it were Welsh lamb, for example, should we have a veto?—and say that we should be interfering. I would like to think that if it came to that situation, the Welsh Government—whoever was in power in Wales—would take a sensible approach and realise it was the right thing that the Government in Scotland, whichever colour they may be, should be able to consent and be consulted on the products of their nation. We should have an even hand across the UK.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

I note that the hon. Lady said no to that. In other words, as it stands, what she is saying about consent means that the treaty in question could not go forward. I put the question to her again: what if there was a major interest in Scotland that, under her amendment, was vetoed by Welsh Ministers? Is that what she intends?

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

No, that absolutely is not the intention. We all live in a world at the moment where we can put scenarios forward and say this or that might happen.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

That is the point of this Committee.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

And the point of the amendments is that in relation to goods coming from whichever part of the UK, we do not create a democratic deficit. That is what the Bill creates. The amendment rectifies that.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I am proud of the Labour Government’s role in delivering devolution to Scotland and Wales, and I appreciate the hon. Lady mentioning that role. Can she set out when she sees there is a need for the consent of the devolved Administrations and when there is a need to consult them? Perhaps she could give some examples to demonstrate the difference.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

To be honest, the point is that we have the powers and we can have that discussion on an issue-by-issue basis. We have many examples of where we have worked well with the UK Government on trade and on rights, but we can consider other things—workers’ rights, for example. I know that when the Bill that became the Trade Union Act 2016 came to Parliament, many Members in the hon. Gentleman’s party and in other parties had huge problems with it, and it was hotly debated and discussed. Unfortunately, what we have seen is a rolling-back, despite the fact that there was opposition.

If we turn that on its head and say, “Could there be vetoes from other parts of the UK?” or, “Could we be in a position where one country is blocking a trade deal on a particular product over another within the United Kingdom?”, I would like to think that people will not use those powers in the way that the UK Government have often used their powers to impose legislation on devolved nations against their will. The whole point is that the rights, protections and opportunities, the access to and membership of the single market and the customs union are so vital to Wales, Scotland and the rest of the UK that we must not row back on those things and not give the devolved nations the opportunity to consent and be consulted. We could pick any particular issue and we could all have a discussion about whether there should be consent or consultation. The point is that we have the powers and they are powers for a purpose, and we should not have powers taken away.

Amendment 36 would amend schedule 1, which provides that Scottish and Welsh Ministers have

“No power to modify retained direct EU legislation etc.”,

such as EU regulations, or to make regulations that would create inconsistencies with any modifications to retained law that the UK Government have made, even in devolved areas. However, those restrictions are not being placed on UK Ministers. We believe that, as a matter of principle, devolved Ministers should have the same power in respect of matters falling within devolved competence as UK Ministers are being given. That is not is an unreasonable request. We are in a Union and we have devolved powers and devolved Governments; Ministers in each of those countries should have the same power as any UK Minister. Amendment 36 would remove the restrictions placed on the Scottish and Welsh Ministers’ ability to amend directly applicable EU law incorporated into UK law, bringing the powers into line with those being given to UK Ministers.

Amendment 37 would replace requirements imposed on Scottish and Welsh Ministers to seek UK Ministers’ consent when

“acting alone under section 1(1) or 2(1)” with a requirement to consult UK Ministers before making those provisions. We have heard from stakeholders on this matter. I am sorry I was not here at the earlier evidence sessions; I was at the Council of Europe, but I have watched and read the contributions that were made. As we know, stakeholders were invited to give evidence and discuss their concerns. Chris Southworth from the International Chamber of Commerce UK said,

“Overall...I would be concerned if I were in the devolved Administrations. There is specifically no opportunity for the devolved Administrations—or the regions, I have to say—to feed into decisions on trade. I would be very concerned about that, particularly in the devolved Administrations, where there are vulnerabilities on a whole range of different industries.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 35, Q80.]

That is not SNP Members or Members of other parties just making political points; it is what we have heard in the Committee.

Today, we heard Elspeth Macdonald from Food Standards Scotland say that one of the reasons her organisation is supporting the Scottish Government on withholding a legislative consent motion is that it feels there could be a lowering of food and drink standards. Given that Scotland’s food and drink industry has grown at twice the rate of that of the rest of the UK and is a leading light of our exports, that is something.

On Scotch whisky, an interesting point was raised by a number of hon. Members about the vital place of geographical indicators. I know that no Minister in the UK Government wants Scotch to lose its GI; I absolutely believe that. However, we have to ask ourselves this question: once we get into trade deals and into a situation where these things are being debated and we are going back and forth, with a number of competing priorities, how do we know that, without the protections of the EU, those things will not be denigrated? We simply do not. The thought of it happening and of the impact it would have seems incredible, but Sarah Dickson said that the Scottish Whisky Association was having to look at what the impact would be. It is spending vital time, money and energy on all of this—unnecessarily, I would argue.

Michael Clancy of the Law Society of Scotland said:

“There is clearly an issue about how the Sewel convention or legislative consent convention is interpreted in respect of that…any proposals in UK Parliament legislation that seek to alter the legislative competence of the Parliament or of Scottish Ministers require the consent of the Parliament.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 56, Q107.]

Professor Winters, from the UK Trade Policy Observatory, said,

“Parliament and the devolved Administrations need to have an important role in setting mandates, and there need to be consultation and information during the process.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 58, Q111.]

In written evidence, of which we received a huge amount, the Fairtrade Foundation, Trade Justice Movement, Global Justice Now and Traidcraft all clearly expressed the need for devolved Administrations and Chambers to be given a formal role in the UK’s future trade policy. I have met with about 50 different businesses and volunteer organisations in the last eight months, and all agree not only that the threat is significant, but that the devolved nations should have that vital role. They did not all necessarily agree that we should have the right to veto, but many of them could see it from our perspective.

I hope that our Labour colleagues will take our amendments in the positive spirit in which they are intended. Devolution has delivered for all the devolved nations. It has brought us greater rights and protections and a unique and distinctive voice in the world. While Brexit sadly diminishes the UK’s reputation in the world, it would also diminish the powers of the devolved nations. We cannot let that happen.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy) 2:15, 25 January 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I will make a few remarks on the principle of devolution and the amendment that has been tabled.

During one of the evidence sessions the hon. Member for Corby threw out the proposition that Opposition Members should not have voted against Second Reading of the Bill, even though we believed it to be flawed. He suggested that we should have voted for it and tabled amendments in Committee. Well, the proof will be in the pudding now. How many amendments will the Government back? Will we be back at square one and left with a flawed Bill?

The blunt reality is that both the Welsh and Scottish Governments have said they will withhold their legislative consent motions if the Bill remains as it stands, so it certainly needs amending if it is to get buy-in from the Scottish and Welsh Governments. Our amendments were drafted in agreement with the two devolved Administrations. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston said, it is slightly disappointing that Labour MPs have not backed an amendment that was drafted by the Welsh Government.

We also heard in the evidence sessions a number of witnesses agree that the Bill in its current format excludes input from the devolved Administrations. As a result, agreements could be forced on devolved Administrations. The UK Government can legislate and make regulations that affect devolved competences. During the witness sessions we heard about tariff rates and quotas, which could be an issue; the subdivision of quotas within the UK will need to be considered, as will rules on origin. That is why it is critical, in the spirit of co-operation, that the devolved Administrations have to give consent to agreements or regulations that the UK Government put forward.

We are constantly told that the Scottish Parliament is the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world, but that is incorrect. We heard during our evidence sessions about the devolved Government of Wallonia in Belgium, which was able to veto the entire comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada. That is a devolved Parliament with real power. It is vital that we hold on to and do not allow any erosion of the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

We were promised that clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would be amended to protect the devolved nations. That did not happen. That is why we need to amend this Bill and to get agreement from the UK Government that they are willing to work with the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. It is essential that their competences are protected.

I think that is all I need to say in support of the amendments. I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

It is good to have you back in the Chair, Mr Davies. I look forward to the Committee making progress under your guidance.

The Labour party brought forward and delivered the devolution settlements when it was in government, so we absolutely support the rights and powers that are conferred on the devolved Administrations by their respective devolution settlements. Matters of devolved competence must not be subject to overreach by Ministers of the Crown who seek to amend or overrule the will of the people, as expressed through their devolved Governments. For Labour, that is absolutely the starting point of this debate. We believe that the powers of those devolved Governments must be enforced and, indeed, reinforced where appropriate.

That said, we have real concerns about some of the implications of this group of amendments in the context of implementing our legally binding obligations under international law. The amendments might, in effect, create a veto power, which in turn might result in the UK failing to deliver on its binding obligations under a treaty. We have a conundrum. Often in Committees like this we have what are, in effect, set-piece debates, but this is a real debate about a profoundly complex constitutional issue, which I do not think will be easily resolved. Let me try to set out what I think is at the heart of it.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford, whose question went to the heart of the matter. Interestingly, the spokesperson for the SNP, the hon. Member for Livingston, used the words consult and consent in the same sentence as if they were interchangeable. The difficulty is that, in law and in effect, they are not.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I will happily give way after I have made a little more progress. I do not seek a point-scoring debate, because we have to get to the heart of some extremely technical and complicated issues, but I will of course give way in due course if the hon. Lady wishes me to.

In respect of the devolution settlements, trade agreements and the negotiation thereof remain exclusively reserved to the UK Government. International treaties are also the exclusive reserve of the UK Government. I have no doubt that the devolved Governments recognise that and supported that approach when the relevant devolution Acts were passed. Our membership of the European Union has meant that the competence for trade has been exercised by the EU under the common commercial policy—in effect, it has been taken up a level from the UK Government to the EU. That relationship has meant that no devolved Government—nor, indeed, the national UK Government—has been able to legislate in any way that contravenes EU law. In respect of trade agreements, that has meant that we have amended our domestic legislation where required to align it with the terms of agreements concluded on our behalf by the European Union. No devolved Government therefore has any effective veto on the implementation of those agreements, nor have they ever had such a veto.

Of course, the Bill prepares us for life outside the European Union, when that common commercial policy will no longer apply and the competence for trade will be returned to the United Kingdom. Similarly, the obligation on the devolved authorities to ensure compliance with EU law may also no longer apply. That, in effect is the crux of the issue.

The amendments would, in some respects, extend upwards powers of devolved Governments that they might not currently have in respect of international trade agreements. It was telling to hear from the gentleman from Business for Scotland this morning—I am delighted that you managed to squeeze me in to ask my question at the last minute, Mr Davies. In his response to whether the Scottish Government or a devolved Assembly should, in effect, have the right to consent regarding the content of the trade agreement, with reference to his chlorine-washed chicken example, he said that, yes, he thought there should be a consent power at that level.

Whether the Bill is about an agreement with America is completely by the bye. That was a thought experiment to show the sort of situation that could arise. If we want to bring it slightly closer to home, we could talk specifically about one of the agreements the Minister proposes to have a corresponding agreement with through the good offices of the Bill: CETA. Of course, one of Canada’s main objectives when negotiating with the European Union was to be able to get chlorine-washed beef and chicken into the European market. It failed in that endeavour, because that was not agreed to by the European Union in the eventual treaty. However, it is not beyond the wit of any of us—we heard this on many occasions from our witnesses—to construct a situation in which Canada might do what other countries at such a juncture might do, which is seek to reopen the negotiations in a particular way to its advantage, to try specifically to achieve with the European Union that which previously it had not been able to.

That brings the example much closer to home, and to the Bill in particular. The key point is that, as was said by Business for Scotland’s witness, the Scottish Government’s view is that they should have the power of consent to the substantive measures of the international treaty. We recognise that there are clear implications for what might be set out in the international trade agreements on matters of devolved competence. Agricultural policy, food safety, fisheries, the environment and so on are all areas that are touched upon by modern trade agreements. They are all areas where trade agreements will of course have an impact.

We tend to talk about trade agreements as if they are only about tariffs and quotas, but that is a very old-fashioned view of what a trade agreement is about. In the modern world, they are much more about non-tariff measures, often referred to as non-tariff barriers. Those non-tariff measures are the very standards of food safety and certification and so on that we believe make for the sort of society in which we want to live. That is why we have those regulations. The thought that they can be affected at the level of international trade by the substantive embodiments in the agreements is something that we have to understand ramifies throughout every layer of our society.

The Bill ostensibly seeks to replicate the terms of agreements that we are currently party to, albeit with notable exceptions—I am sure the Minister does not wish to replicate all of the terms of the treaties with Norway or Turkey, for obvious red-line reasons that his Government have made very clear to the public. However, the Government are asking us to take in good faith their word that the new agreements will be the same as those that are currently in place. Many witnesses told us this week that they are sceptical about that and believed that it was not a given.

In the explanatory notes to the Bill, there is explicit provision made where the Government accept that there can be substantive changes. That is one of the reasons that they have put the very strong powers into the Bill—the Henry VIII powers that Ministers would have—in the event that such substantive changes were necessary.

The agreements must be different. They will of course be “legally distinct”, as the Government recognise in the explanatory notes, but may also be “substantively” and substantially different, as they have also recognised. The existing agreements with Turkey or Norway, for example, cannot simply be rolled over. In respect of other agreements, where EU bodies are referred to or have been established for regulatory oversight, those will have to be replaced. Those are the substantive changes that will be made. All those changes may well be in areas that are currently recognised as devolved competences.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment) 2:30, 25 January 2018

I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s point. The notion of consent is an interesting one. Let me just expand a little on my take on it. The idea of consent—not just consultation—for us is that we cannot have certain aspects of our regulatory framework, or deals done, that go against the principle of devolution.

The memorandum of understanding concordat from devolution was binding

“in law, but promises cooperation on exchanging information, formulating UK foreign policy, negotiating treaties and implementing treaty obligations.”

In our view, the Bill goes across that.

For the sake of argument, say that Scotland or Wales could not give consent to a trade agreement. That would force the UK Government to go back and look at why consent could not be given, and hopefully bring something forward. If we only have the power of consultation—we could argue that consultation is not really a power—we are at the mercy of whatever the UK Government of the day do. It could be argued that the power of consent is absolutely vital in negotiating trade deals.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

It is not that I do not understand the force of the position the hon. Lady is taking and the way in which she is trying to express it, but of course those powers are powers that the devolved Administrations do not currently possess vis-à-vis the European Union. That is why, as I said, the levels at which we consider this, and the change in those levels, are absolutely material to the discussion we have today.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that if the substance of a trade agreement or any of the corresponding agreements that the Minister is seeking to roll over from our existing EU trade agreement is substantively changed, it may well have an impact on areas that are devolved competences. But that is the substance of what is agreed at the international level. Trade is a reserved matter. Treaties are a reserved matter. Therefore, the question of the implementation comes in two ways. I do not want to depart from my notes too much, but I am seeking to respond to the hon. Lady’s intervention in the spirit in which she made it.

The difficulty is that our legislative language is poor. We talk about implementing an international agreement in UK law and we also talk about implementing the terms of the agreement within the devolved competence. It is very easy to have a confusion about which implementation we are talking about. I will progress the argument, because it seems to me that it is not cut and dried. There are serious issues here that we need to consider as a Committee.

I cannot say that I normally say this, but I very much look forward to listening to what the Minister says on this occasion, because I trust he has had the benefit not only of parliamentary counsel, but of constitutional legislators, who will have looked at the matter very carefully when they saw the amendments. I look to what the Minister is going to say in the Committee to guide us on these matters.

Picking up from where I left off talking about the substantive changes, new institutions may be required—institutions that might otherwise be within the devolved competence of the Scottish and Welsh Governments. That simply arises from the changes that will be made to the free trade agreements, because they might specify the European Food Safety Authority and that would need to be changed. New institutions may have to be established to fulfil the competences that the European Food Safety Authority or any other such agency had, and they would have to be designated in the roll-over Bill.

Of course, it may be that the Minister specifies the Food Standards Agency in England as the body that will now make the specifications. It might be better to use Food Standards Scotland, which we heard from earlier today. It is absolutely right that there is a process of consultation between the devolved Administrations and the Minister at that point to say, “You’re proposing to specify that body, but actually there are far more relevant skills in this other body.” Consultation is absolutely essential to try to ensure that they get this right.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

In one moment. I hope the hon. Lady will intervene in a moment, because this is the question I think she may wish to respond to. Imagine a situation where Wales said, “We believe our agency should be the certification body,” Scotland said, “No, it should be our agency,” and because both had the power of consent and not simply the right to consultation, the Minister and the UK were unable to fulfil our international obligations under an international treaty.

The hon. Lady may say, “Surely no devolved Ministers would be so pig-headed as to say, ‘It’s got to be ours.’” The Westminster Minister may well be the one who is being pig-headed—who knows? However, I cannot imagine that it is right for the Committee to pass an amendment that could give rise to a situation in which we were unable to fulfil our international treaty obligations.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

I guess the simple answer is that they would have to consult each other. I argue that what is proposed drives a coach and horses through many aspects of devolution, and others also have serious concerns. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there is an overreach in the amendments, what answers does he propose? Given the supposed “consultation” that was part of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill process, does he really have faith in that aspect of today’s legislation? I know that I do not.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I said at the beginning that I was not going to engage in point scoring, so I will not take up the hon. Lady’s invitation to beat the Minister over the head about the lack of consultation. The witnesses have amply displayed their dissatisfaction with the consultation process, but she has, in effect, made my point for me. She said, “Well, they would have to consult.” Of course they would; that is why I believe that it is vital that consultation with the devolved Administrations is statutorily required, in a way that is not transparent on the face of the Bill. Consent, however, which could bring about the sort of impasse I referred to, should not be built into the legislation.

It is one thing to imagine legislation working in a benign, perfect scenario where people have good will, are engaging with each other and want to come to an agreement. Sadly, that is not always the case, and we must make our legislation such that it survives not only when things go right, but when things go wrong and a way through an impasse is necessary. The danger in the amendments is the reaching upwards into what would currently be seen as the competence and the rights of the European Union to negotiate the substance of those trade agreements. That is why I am fearful of the route down which the amendments would take us.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

Has the hon. Gentleman discussed this with the Welsh Government, and explained that his concerns about the devolved Administrations “reaching upwards”, in his description, outweigh his concerns about the UK Government being able to impose regulations on them?

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

Yes, of course I have. I went down to Cardiff just last Friday to meet the Minister there and some political advisers. We talked through precisely these issues, and I have done the same with Welsh colleagues here. On Monday, I even met the special adviser from the Scottish National party group here. I have also spoken with my own Scots colleagues. I think that there is a recognition that we are dealing with genuinely difficult constitutional matters. That is why we have a difficult job as a Committee.

This is not easy. It is not straightforward; we are charting completely new territory in our UK legislative framework. It will affect the legislative framework within the devolved Administrations as we go forward, but it will also affect our international legal obligations. The UK Government might, for example, use powers under the Bill to agree standards or regulations for particular goods that diverge from what exists in the corresponding agreement of the EU. If doing so ensured speedy trade deals, one could certainly see that there might well be an appetite within Government to do so. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that our counterparties to the agreements might seek to pursue more advantageous terms for their domestic producers, knowing that we are in a hurry to get deals done.

We are extremely concerned that the Bill allows the Government to agree such divergence and implement changes with no scrutiny and no real prospect of challenge. We will obviously return to such matters later, but any such changes might contrast starkly with the regulations and standards enforced by the devolved Governments, so it is right that those devolved Governments should have a say in what is agreed internationally.

Ministers of the Crown should not be afforded the power to implement such changes without being required to consult the devolved authorities. That would be absolutely wrong. However, if a UK Minister seeks to intervene and change the method of implementation by a devolved Administration, that is the how, rather than the what, in respect of the international agreement being implemented. At that point, because the Minister would be overreaching down into the existing competences —the existing things that are exercised by the devolved Administration—and changing something, it is absolutely right that the devolved authority should have the power and the right to consent, and not simply to be consulted. That is ministerial overreach from Westminster and interference in the competences of the devolved Administration.

We must distinguish between the two. The question is whether these are matters of devolved competence. At what stage does procurement, food safety or fisheries stop being a matter of trade and international agreements —reserved matters—and become a matter of devolved competence? What cannot be allowed is for agreements between the UK and another country to be subject to a veto at the point when the treaty is enacted in UK law. That could result in the UK being unable to fulfil its international treaty obligations.

Sometimes it is useful to extrapolate into thought experiments, Mr Davies, so I hope that you will allow me to pick out some hypothetical examples that might illustrate the points that are vital to this debate. On the government procurement agreement, which the hon. Member for Livingston discussed, the powers to implement the GPA contained in the Bill relate to two agreements and, in consequence, to the accession of any other party to those agreements. The Government have said that they want to join the GPA on existing terms. I might say that we should actually look at our schedules—we might take a lesson from some of the other countries that have introduced annexes that protect their small businesses and local suppliers in a way that we do not—but the Government have made their view on the GPA clear: they want to roll over the existing schedules.

Under the Bill, they would also have the power to make amendments in implementing the agreement if another country acceded to the GPA. The GPA is, of course, a plurilateral agreement, not a multilateral agreement, at the World Trade Organisation. I think that 14 WTO members are currently members of the GPA. What would the Government actually do? What does the Bill envisage the Government doing? In effect, the Government would issue something—it might be a statutory instrument, a regulation or just guidance—saying, “Add Xanadu to the list of countries that you, as a devolved Administration, have to include in your procurement.”

Do the Scottish Government really need the power of consent to do that? That would be ludicrous. One can hardly envisage that they would ever use it, but it sets up the principle that here is something that is a substantive requirement upon our Government to do, in order to implement an international treaty in UK law. Whether any devolved Administration would ever use that power of consent to say, “No, no, no—you cannot put Xanadu on the list of countries whose companies we have to open up our procurement arrangements to,” is not the issue; the issue is the principle.

The principle is that there has been a reaching upwards to that level of international law and treaties by the devolved Administrations. If that logic applies to amendment 33, the first the hon. Member for Livingston spoke to, it also applies to the others. That means that when it comes to such substantive changes as we have considered in food safety, agriculture or other matters, that principle would be established, meaning that they could also reach up and say, “No, we veto the substantive element of this treaty.”

Let us pursue a couple of examples to draw that out. I am grateful to the Committee for its indulgence on this; I seek it only because these are phenomenally important and difficult issues that we are grappling with.

Imagine that Xanadu had an animal welfare regime that was far more stringent than our own and that stipulated rules regarding chicken farming requiring far less chicken-population density per square metre and controls on buildings and temperatures. Perhaps a fictional devolved Government had a very different view on the conditions within which chicken may be farmed that would be at odds with that. An agreement reached between the UK and Xanadu could be concluded on different terms to the corresponding EU agreement, and might see the UK agreeing that chicken farming standards would be elevated to meet those of Xanadu. Our fictional devolved Government might object on the grounds that such matters, regardless of the fact that it is the UK Government’s exclusive right to negotiate the agreement, become a devolved competence at implementation in their law. As such, they would refuse to give their consent. What then?

Let us imagine a different scenario.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I will give both scenarios, and then the hon. Lady can choose.

Our fictional country, Xanadu, has very relaxed laws about the rearing and sale of chicken for consumption. In Xanadu, chickens may be hormone-fed, genetically modified or chlorine-washed prior to slaughter for consumption. In the UK, one of the devolved Governments may have a particularly robust animal framework code, coupled with robust agriculture and food standards regulations, which would not allow for the production or consumption of such chickens. What happens if the UK agrees terms with this country that ultimately liberalise trade in chickens between our nations, such that hormone-fed, genetically modified, chlorine-washed chicken is allowed to be imported into the UK and sold on the shelves of our supermarkets for consumption by British citizens?

The devolved Government would argue, “These are matters of devolved competence, and we have right of consent regarding the implementation of the agreement, especially as it conflicts greatly with our standards.” They might also think, “There is no way we are allowing these products on to our shelves, and we will not give our consent.” In that example, I would probably be cheering and saying, “Good for them. We don’t want those chickens on our supermarket shelves.” However, the point is that if the agreement had been made, we would be bound by the obligations under it, whichever way they went—whichever example we use.

Failure to implement would result in remedial action being pursued by Xanadu. Indeed, many such countries might not even come to the negotiating table if they had significant concerns about potential consent reserve functions distorting their access to the market on terms that had been agreed at state-to-state level. When we heard from the witnesses this morning, the example of Canada was used. We have already seen that the provinces in Canada are brought in at the beginning of the process precisely to get round countries’ reluctance to engage in trade agreement negotiations without certainty that devolved Administrations cannot veto what is agreed.

The hon. Member for Livingston asked me whether I had spoken to my Welsh counterparts and I explained that I had, as well as to two of my Scottish counterparts. We have also spoken with the House of Commons constitutional law experts. They explained to us that they cannot answer the question. They do not know. They have recognised that this is a problem, and that neither the Bill nor the amendment address the issue in a way that would prevent our reaching the situation that I have tried to articulate.

We have spoken with House of Commons trade experts, and have similarly drawn a blank. They advised us that the matter has not been considered because it was not an issue before. They said they had just not come across it. What everyone has recognised is that there must absolutely be consultation in advance, to ensure that no trade agreements come unstuck if a veto is exercisable at a later stage. Also, how will the UK Government ensure that the provisions of a concluded trade agreement are implemented across the United Kingdom, as they are bound to by their obligations under international treaties?

The Bill fails to set out how the Government intend to resolve the issues. It does not define what implementation frameworks will be constructed to mitigate the extent of conflicts between the powers of the UK Government and the devolved competence of the devolved authorities. It does not differentiate between the incorporation of the terms of the agreement into UK law and how that might be considered to be separate from implementation at a devolved level. It does not set out what consultation processes will be instituted to address those issues early on, and to ensure that the interests and experience of the devolved Administrations are represented at the negotiation stage to avoid any conflict at implementation stage.

Of course the devolved Governments must have a say in the process. They must have the capacity to scrutinise it to ensure that it is compatible. The Government’s approach to consultation has not been what it should. Ad-hoc meetings between the Secretary of State and representatives of the devolved Governments cannot be considered a formal consultation process, even if the Secretary of State donned his President of the Board of Trade hat for them.

It is our view that a formal consultation role must be established for each of the devolved authorities and, indeed, for a much wider group of stakeholders with an interest in the outcomes of any trade agreement. Their views are essential in ensuring not only that any future implementation issues are addressed up front, but that their constituent interests, be they commercial or public, are properly considered before negotiations begin and as negotiations progress. It is our view that the Government must be obliged formally to consider and respond to representations made through that stakeholder engagement process, whatever those might look like.

We fundamentally believe that the powers of the devolved Governments must be respected with regard to how agreements are implemented, and that the devolved Governments must be consulted prior to the terms of international trade agreements being agreed, but we cannot allow a situation in which the devolved Governments have the power to say what will be implemented once an agreement has been concluded. We therefore will not support this group of amendments. However, we will listen very carefully to what the Minister says, and will at a later stage bring forward amendments, if he does not, to protect properly the rights of the devolved authorities in matters of devolved competence. We will also seek to ensure that a robust consultation framework is put in place before any such agreements are concluded.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 3:00, 25 January 2018

Let me start by saying what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.

The UK Government have made clear their commitment to working closely with the devolved Administrations to deliver an approach to future trade agreements that works for the whole UK and reflects the needs and individual circumstances of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have been clear that we will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations as we transition our current agreements, and that we will work together to prevent disruption to UK business and consumers. The Department for International Trade engages regularly with the devolved Administrations: DIT Ministers and senior officials visit the devolved nations frequently and engage devolved Governments and stakeholders right across the UK.

Let me turn to amendments 33 and 34. The concurrent powers in the Bill that allow either devolved Administrations or the UK Government to implement in areas of devolved competence will ensure that, where it makes practical sense, it is possible for regulations to be made once for the whole UK.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Shadow Minister (International Trade)

What does the Minister think are the best examples of things under the government procurement agreement that would be matters of devolved competence?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

If I understand the hon. Lady correctly, she asks about signing up to the GPA and the schedules to the GPA. I might add that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Brent North said, the UK’s joining the GPA will actually be subject to a separate process in Parliament. There might be a question about which authority within these islands has a right to administer a particular part of the GPA. For example, the relevant Scottish body might be the right body in Scotland, the relevant UK body in England, the relevant Welsh body in Wales, and so on.

The approach I described is essential for providing continuity to UK businesses, workers and consumers. As set out in our recent trade White Paper—this is the nub of the argument—we will not normally use these powers to amend legislation in devolved areas without the consent of the relevant devolved Administration, and we will certainly never do so without first consulting them. It is crucial to understand that.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State made the point that there is nothing in the Bill about a formal consultation. Does the Minister accept that point, and does he accept the need for such a formal process in the Bill?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

It is crucial to draw out what we are talking about. This is about transitioning existing agreements that are already in effect right across the United Kingdom. As I have already laid out, the Secretary of State and I have met the devolved Administrations in different capacities and in different ways. Our officials have certainly exchanged a lot of views on that.

I will come on to where we are with future trade agreements in a moment. Our intention is to involve fully devolved Administrations, devolved Parliaments and so on in that process.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

On Second Reading, the Minister acknowledged that there may well be changes to those existing agreements. In the case of Norway and Turkey, can he confirm that that would almost certainly have to happen? Otherwise, they would cross the Government’s red lines. What consultation does he anticipate in those situations?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

As you know, Mr Davies, perhaps better than anyone, it certainly it is not for me to suggest what may or may not happen as part of the ongoing negotiations with the European Union. Clearly, aspects of the European economic area agreement will be dependent on those. It is our intention for there to be no substantive changes in those agreements as we go forward and transition. It is very important to understand that.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

Is that not at the heart of the issue? The Minister does not know what may happen in the future, or what may have to be traded off so that we can tread water and stay where we are. The power of consent is, in some ways, a negative power and a threat, but it means that a negotiation and an agreement have to be reached by all the devolved Administrations. Until now, consultation has not been a very positive experience for Scotland and the other devolved Administrations.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

We made a commitment in the trade White Paper to not normally use these powers in areas of devolved competence without consultation. I repeat that commitment to continuing that consultative process as we go forward. That commitment can be heard loud and clear.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

I try to speak on behalf of my constituents and others in Scotland. “Not normally” is, quite frankly, not good enough. The Minister might be as good as his word, but what about future Governments and future Ministers?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I know that the hon. Lady takes up issues for her constituents—she and I have meetings about particular issues in her constituency. I repeat that we would not normally use these powers, and we would never do so without consultation. I will refer to some of the other reasons, which have been alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford, and by the hon. Member for Brent North, why we will not go down the road of requiring consent. We would not normally use the powers, but it is very important that we do not require consent to use them. That is a very serious commitment, which should offer the hon. Lady reassurance.

Amendment 36 seeks to remove the restriction on devolved Administrations amending direct retained EU law. Some EU law applies directly and uniformly across all EU member states without needing to be implemented in domestic legislation. On the day that we exit the EU, that type of EU law will be converted into what will be called retained direct EU law.

As the Government’s guiding principle is that no new barriers to living and doing business in our own Union should be created on exiting the EU, it is right that there should be only a co-ordinated set of changes made to that type of law, in order to maximise continuity and certainty for businesses and consumers. We are committed to consulting the devolved Administrations on the most appropriate way to legislate in areas of retained direct EU law that have effect in otherwise devolved areas.

Regarding amendment 37, we also consider it right that where measures affect the whole UK, such as quota arrangements or the use of powers in clauses 1 and 2, before we exit the EU, decisions are taken at UK level before the devolved Administration can take the measures.

Let me turn to some of the individual points raised. The hon. Member for Livingston asked whether a proper consultation could not be sought in Northern Ireland. It is important to recognise that, for reasons of arithmetic, there is not a Northern Irish Member on the Committee, but I will try to answer her point. We are working hard, as she will know—I think she will agree—to restore devolved Government in Northern Ireland as soon as possible. We are committed to working to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests are represented in the meantime. The Department for International Trade engages with officials in Northern Ireland on a regular basis.

The hon. Lady also asked whether the GPA allows Governments to nationalise or privatise anything, whether for procurement or any other purposes. The UK Government will be bound to open up procurement markets only to the extent they have committed to do so in the new schedule to the government procurement agreement as lodged with the WTO. That will preserve the present position in relation to procurement in areas such as the NHS.

I think the hon. Lady asserted that procurement is devolved. This is a complicated area. The UK Government accept that some procurement is devolved, and the Scottish Government have made some regulations about procurement. However, the UK Government’s position is that procurement is an activity for devolution purposes rather than a subject matter. In other words, whether a procurement is devolved or reserved depends on the functions of the public body carrying it out. I think the saying is that if the public body answers to part of the Scottish Government, it might be devolved, but if it is a UK body of Her Majesty’s Government that operates in Scotland, it is likely not to be devolved.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun referenced the power that Wallonia has. I am familiar with such arguments: I think the hon. Member for Brent North debated that at some length in relation to CETA in February last year. To be clear, I expect he knows that the UK and Belgium have very different constitutional arrangements. Foreign relations are the responsibility of the UK Government under each of the devolution settlements.

The hon. Member for Brent North made some interesting points. For the first third or so of his speech, I thought I was coming close to being in complete agreement with him—at least in his thrust that the proposal in the amendment to have in effect a veto power for the devolved Administrations would make the whole endeavour unworkable. He is right. He made reference, as I will, to the short, succinct intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford about the potential for a Welsh Government veto over something that was felt to be particularly important in Scotland. That, or vice versa, is a very real example. Our approach is best: not normally to use the powers to amend legislation in devolved areas without consent, and never without consultation with the devolved Administration.

I was surprised by the approach taken by the hon. Member for Brent North. It was my impression that the amendments were drafted by the Scottish and Welsh Governments together. Therefore, much as I welcome him saying that he will not vote for the amendment, it surprised me a little that he seems to be at odds with the Welsh Government viewpoint. Anyway, I am glad that he may be joining us on this occasion.

In terms of the GPA and rolling over the existing schedule, yes, that is the intention, but—I repeat—the terms on which the UK enters the GPA in our own right will be subject to a separate vote in Parliament. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 applies to the terms of the UK’s new membership of the GPA —in other words, it is possible to bring a vote in Parliament on the terms under which the UK will join the GPA.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

The Minister just assured the Committee that there will be a vote on accession to the GPA. I am surprised that he says he can assure the Committee of that, because the procedure of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 does not ensure that there will be a vote at all. CRAGA procedure is precisely the statutory instantiation of the Ponsonby rule of 1924, which means that all the Government need to do is lay the text of the agreement before Parliament for 21 days. Unless Her Majesty’s official Opposition, or any of the Opposition parties, raise that as an objection in an Opposition day debate, it goes through—that is if they are granted an Opposition day motion within that 21 sitting days, which is by no means guaranteed. You will recall, Mr Davies, that between 27 January and September 2017, the Government did not grant the Opposition a single Opposition day debate. Even if they were to object through an Opposition day, the Minister would simply have to acknowledge it, re-table the text, and it would lie on the Table for another 21 days. Unless we went through the same process, there is no process for the Opposition to amend or vote unless we are given an Opposition day debate.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 3:15, 25 January 2018

I know the hon. Gentleman has a particular fascination with the Ponsonby rule of 1924, but I remind him that that rule was made otiose by his own party’s legislation—the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. I went back and checked. Mr Davies, you and I were in Parliament at that time as Members of the Opposition

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

In 2010. The hon. Gentleman supported that Act. That is why I was careful to clarify that it is possible to bring forward a vote on the UK’s terms of entry into the GPA. For all those reasons, I ask the hon. Member for Livingston to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

The UK Government must have meaningful engagement with devolved Administrations about the shape of the UK’s future customs and tariff regime post-Brexit. That has not been the case so far. Just like the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the Trade Bill puts restrictions on the Executive capacity of the Scottish and Welsh Governments, while placing no restrictions on the capacity of the UK Government.

Essentially, under the Bill, UK Ministers will be able to legislate in devolved areas without consent from Welsh or Scottish Ministers. That is an overt power grab and a rolling back of devolution. I am proud to have played a part in bringing devolution about in Wales 20 years ago. It is vital that we maintain what devolution was set up to deliver: a proud and confident nation.

It is also disappointing that there is no provision for the Trade Remedies Authority to have any input from devolved nations. It is important for it to be an independent and impartial body, separate from the Government, but it must also represent all parts of the UK, including Wales and Scotland.

It is important to remember that in the trade White Paper, the UK Government stated that the Bill would have provisions for UK Ministers to seek consent from Welsh and Scottish Ministers when making secondary legislation under the Bill, but that has now disappeared.

In 2016, First Minister Carwyn Jones told the Welsh Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee that it was “hugely important” for devolved Administrations and legislatures to have a say in the negotiation of future agreements that would have an impact on Wales. He gave the specific example of a free trade agreement with New Zealand:

“The impact of that might be to remove the current controls that exist on the import of New Zealand lamb. If they were to go, that would clearly be a great difficulty for Welsh lamb producers. That issue might not be as apparent in Whitehall as it is in Wales, and that’s one example there of why it’s important that the views of the devolved Governments are understood and the interests of the devolved nations are respected.”

It is not new. We are not advocating new devolved powers. It is not even about extending devolution. It is about preserving devolution. It is important to remember that there are restrictions on competence. The devolved settlements of both Wales and Scotland ensure that both Welsh and Scottish Ministers cannot legislate in ways that interfere with UK international obligations. That comes under the Government of Wales Act 2006, specifically sections 82 and 114. It simply cannot legislate to interfere.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

The hon. Lady is making an excellent speech and highlighting the importance of the devolution journey we have travelled. Particularly on the devolution settlement, does she agree that there might be challenges if this amendment passes—it is about consent? As she says, it is written into the devolution settlements and that agreement would have to be reached to ensure that that legislation is passed. Does she agree that it would be absolutely in the interests of devolution, and in the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that those amendments pass today?

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

It is absolutely about consent, agreement and consultation. Essentially it is about not rolling back on the devolution settlement. Amending the Bill to explicitly ask for the consent of devolved Administrations for secondary legislation under the Bill would therefore not interfere with that, nor would it amount to a veto power.

As I already said, what was already drafted in the UK Government’s White Paper should be in the Bill. Consent and consultation are at the very heart of devolution. If there is secondary legislation being made within an area that is currently within devolved competence, the devolved Administrations and Welsh Ministers must give consent and ensure the democratically elected Welsh Assembly or Scottish Parliament is able to debate it. That is why I agree with the principle underlying the amendments, as agreed by both the Welsh and Scottish Governments.

Professor Jones, a Welsh political expert, told the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs:

“We see the UK Government in effect reintroducing a kind of conferred powers model where it will decide which bits of the powers returning from Brussels will be conferred on the Welsh Government… That—in the context of this constant churn and change—looks one-sided and objectionable.”

The most disappointing aspect of this Bill’s disregard for devolution is that the UK Government know it is completely unacceptable.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

It is excellent to have a Member from Wales speaking. Naturally we have heard from the hon. Member for Livingston, the Scottish Member who is moving this amendment. Do I take it from what the hon. Member for Cardiff North is saying that she supports the principle and therefore will be supporting the hon. Lady’s amendment?

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

As I said, I absolutely support this principle, which has been agreed jointly with the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government.

Ministers, Conservative MPs and civil servants privately acknowledge how extremely ill-advised it is to remove the power of devolved Governments over devolved areas. Clearly the issue is one of trust: trust to exercise devolved powers responsibly; trust to carry out measures that represent the people of Wales and Scotland; and trust to provide meaningful scrutiny of legislation. As it stands, under this Bill, and after Brexit, the devolved Governments will be at the mercy of Whitehall, which will have complete control of all areas, including those which are currently devolved. That is called rolling back devolution. As set out in the Government’s White Paper, devolved Governments must have the right to give consent to secondary legislation in areas of devolved competence.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade and Investment)

I have listened carefully to hon. Members. I am not saying that there are not areas of concern, and I understand that we are in unchartered territory. I am sure when we look back, when the history books are written, how we have handled this matter will probably not reflect well on politicians, but we have had a good and detailed discussion.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff North. She has been extremely brave in standing up to say what she has said. She has stood up for her country and for the devolution settlement and the devolved nations. I commend her for that, and for her point about conferred powers and the evidence given in the Brexit Committee. That is really about protecting and preserving devolution.

I understand that the UK Government might have concerns about losing their grip on power, but they have to understand that for generations the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had power wielded over them at times by the UK Government, and devolution sought to move forward from that to create a more consensual approach across the UK. That has been absolutely vital in the development of our society and of how we see ourselves as nations and as the UK. As a result, internationally, we have been looked on as a world-leading model for how different nations in a union can share power.

I believe in Scottish independence and that we could sort all this out if Scotland had all the powers of a fully devolved nation. I appreciate that that is not necessarily going to happen straightaway. However, if the UK Government and the Conservatives continue on this road by stopping and encroaching on the devolved powers of Scotland and the other nations, Scottish independence is increasingly likely. They should bear in mind as we leave the EU the creation of a situation in which consent is required.

I understand the point made by the Labour spokes- person, the hon. Member for Brent North, about Xanadu, chickens and so on. I would make a point in return that UK Ministers will have power that Scottish Ministers and those from other devolved Administrations do not. Why should they be allowed to wield those powers and encroach on the powers of devolution? If we have the power of consent and there is a concern that something may not be agreed to, surely instead of being concerned about not adhering to our international obligations, it would not be beyond the wit of those Ministers and that Government to go back to the devolved nations to ask, “What will it take for you to give your consent and reach an agreement?” I am sure that that is entirely plausible.

I appreciate that we are in uncharted territory, but unfortunately those in government have got too used to having power over the other nations. If they are not willing to listen to and concede the points being made not just by us politicians but by people outside—organisations, trade bodies, law societies—who say that that is encroaching on the powers of devolution, that will be at their peril. That is absolutely something that will befall them. I will not withdraw my amendment and will press it to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 2, Noes 9.

Division number 1 Caledonian Pinewood Forest — Implementation of the Agreement on Government Procurement

Aye: 2 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2