Implementation of international trade agreements

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

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Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 12:30 pm, 25th June 2020

Over the past few days, I have outlined the Government’s position on our approach to clause 2 and I will not repeat that to the Committee. The general point about the continuity powers has been frequently made. I will focus my remarks on the Opposition amendments.

First, I must inform the Committee that the letter I promised the hon. Member for Harrow West on the position of Kenya and Ghana has gone out to all members of the Committee. I pledged that on Tuesday, so I think that is pretty swift. It should be in everyone’s inboxes.

New clause 18 seeks to oblige the Government to publish a statement outlining whether any equalities legislation is affected by our continuity agreements before any regulations are made. As has been rightly pointed out, and as I was aware, a Government amendment to that effect was successfully made to the 2017-19 Trade Bill. The amendment was tabled when there was uncertainty among parliamentarians over the purpose of the Government’s continuity programme, in particular its potential impact on equalities legislation.

Time has moved on, however, and I ask colleagues to consider the significant progress we have made since then—specifically, the fact that we have now signed 20 continuity agreements with 48 countries. As can be seen from the parliamentary reports that we have published alongside each of those signed agreements, none of them has impacted on equalities or required us to amend equalities legislation.

To turn to a few points made in the debate, the hon. Member for Harrow West called into question Baroness Fairhead from the other House. I think the accusation was that she left the Government after some kind of disagreement. I confirm that Baroness Fairhead left of her own accord, unrelated to any political disagreement with the Government. I put on the record my thanks to her for her excellent service to the Department for more than two years on export promotion. UK exports did extremely well under her stewardship.

Opposition Members asked about rules of origin in relation to Japan, Turkey and Canada. Those are all live situations. I am not here to comment on live situations, discussions or negotiations, but clearly we seek to get as favourable rules of origin as possible for UK industry.