Implementation of international trade agreements

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 12:00 pm, 25th June 2020

I have just explained that we think that five years, not three, is the appropriate time, so we will vote against the hon. Member’s amendment if he has the audacity to push it. Given that the fundamental premise is incorrect, I would be surprised if he were to push it to a vote, because it is based on a misunderstanding of what the power is all about.

The DPRRC report did not indicate any concerns about the Government retaining the power to renew this clause. Amendment 17 proposes to render the clause renewable only once and for not more than a period of 10 years after the end of the transition period, but that is unnecessary. The clause can be extended only with agreement from both Houses of Parliament and only for a period of up to five years at a time. If Parliament judges that our use of the sunset clause has not been appropriate, it has the power to vote against renewal. As I have stressed before, without the ability to renew the clause, we will not have the power to ensure that signed continuity agreements remain operable, which risks the UK’s ability to fulfil its international obligations. If we do not have this power, we will need to put in place other powers. We should not do tomorrow what we can do today.

Amendments 20 to 23 propose to shorten the sunset period from five to three years. I have already explained why we need the power and the changes the power would make. We believe that a five-year period strikes the right balance between flexibility of negotiations and constraints placed on the power. Our signed continuity agreements are evidence that this is a limited, technical exercise to replicate the effects of existing obligations. Seeking parliamentary permission to renew this capability every three years, rather than five, would be disproportionate and places an unnecessary burden on parliamentary time.

I repeat that the amendments, or at least the description of them, are based on a fundamental misunderstanding. The five years are not extra negotiating time. They allow technical changes to regulations on an ongoing basis, to keep operable agreements that have already been signed. I hope that that reassures the Committee, and I ask the hon. Member for Harrow West to withdraw the amendment.