Implementation of international trade agreements

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 12:00 pm, 25th June 2020

I enjoyed very much the answer that the Minister provided. In particular, it is a relief to hear that the Secretary of State has finally got round to launching negotiations with Turkey. I hope that those negotiations will be completed by 31 December, given the huge and dramatic impact that it could have on jobs and steel businesses in the UK. I gently remind the Minister of the considerable scepticism we heard from representatives of UK Steel that that would be achieved. It would be interesting to hear later in our proceedings whether Ministers have any sort of contingency plan for the steel industry, if negotiations cannot be completed in time to get a UK-Turkey deal through.

On the substance of the Minister’s argument, I draw to his attention the section in the House of Commons Library briefing on the sunset clause. It explains that subsections (7)(b) and (8) allow the period in which regulations can be renewed to be extended by up to five years at a time, with the approval of both Houses of Parliament. Ministers have put a never-ending power into the Bill.

The delegated powers memorandum goes on to say:

“the Department is conscious of the breadth of the power in Clause 2 and is of the view that it should not remain in place beyond the point at which it is needed.”

I can accept that it may be necessary to make some technical changes over a period of one, two or three years, but it is difficult to imagine why the power would be needed beyond five years, without giving the House of Commons and the other place scope to review whether the changes Ministers want under the provision are necessary as a result. Furthermore, the Minister did not really give a clear explanation as to why the three years—a deal his colleagues had done with the hon. Member for Huntingdon and others on the Tory Back Benches—was switched back to the original five years. I therefore intend to press these amendments to a vote.