Implementation of international trade agreements

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 25th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

That is a concern to me. Although the Minister has said there are restrictions on how the modification process can be used, subsection (6)(a), (b), (c) and (d) allows for the modification of retained EU legislation or primary law. It confers functions on the Secretary of State or any other person, including conferring discretion. It allows for the delegation of function, and for civil penalties to be introduced for failing to comply with regulations. The only restriction in subsection (6) is the restriction on the power to make subordinate legislation. I will have to check Hansard carefully, because I think the Minister spoke about amending secondary legislation in the previous debate. That would not be possible under this restriction, but it is the only restriction in terms of the ability to modify.

That brings us to the other flaw in clause 2—namely, the five-year or 10-year limit. Subsection (7) says:

“No regulations may be made under subsection (1) after the end of…the period of five years”—

so far, so good—

“or…such other period or periods as are specified in regulations made…in accordance with subsection (8).”

Subsection (8) states:

“Regulations under subsection (7)(b) may not extend the initial five year period…by more than five years.”

This is not simply, as the Minister suggests, to ensure that regulations are up to date. This five-year period and the five-year extension—this 10-year period—actually allows for the modification of principal EU legislation or EU laws under subsection (6), with the exception of the power to make subordinate legislation. That is an extraordinarily wide power that the Government have given themselves—a 10-year period. While I accept that the Bill is principally about rolling over existing deals, the ability to modify in a fundamentally unrestricted way for a period of more than two full Parliaments is an extraordinary power for the UK Government to seek to give themselves.

On that basis, if there is a vote on clause 2 stand part, I will certainly vote against the extension of these discretionary powers to the Government.