Clause 315 - Dumping, subsidisation and safeguarding remedies

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 18 May 2023.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 12:15, 18 May 2023

I hope I will be able answer some of the questions that the hon. Member for Wallasey asked about why the changes are being made. We announced our decision to reform the trade remedies framework in June 2021, and this is the end of a review process to look at how our framework is working. As I suspect Members across the House, not just this Committee, might expect, we have been talking and listening to industry, asking it for its views on how the trade remedy system could be improved. Consultations on including bilateral safeguard provisions have taken place as part of new free trade negotiations, and those will continue to occur for each negotiation. Importantly, we have asked not only the industry but the TRA, and we will work with it to ensure that the changes are implemented effectively.

The hon. Member for Ealing North asked about international comparators. I confirm that all the changes we are making are in line with our obligations under the WTO. Advance rulings are a key component of the UK’s accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and other key free trade agreements, but they also help business. Those are some reasons for introducing them. On clause 317, no statutory right of appeal for traders has existed since we left the EU, but we continue to offer the trader the right to be heard scheme, which gives a trader a period of 30 days to present additional information before HMRC confirms the decision.

The hon. Member for Wallasey asked some important questions about the TRA and its independence, including why this has to be done through legislation. The TRA very much remains an independent body, and we genuinely value its expertise and advice. Its core objective will be to investigate allegations of unfair trading practices and unforeseen surges in imports, and to make recommendations to Ministers. It will continue to run fair, impartial and evidence-based investigations. The Secretary of State will then decide whether a measure should apply based on the evidence provided.

The Bill injects another element of transparency, because the Secretary of State for Business and Trade will have to make a statement to Parliament if Ministers decide to apply an alternative remedy to that recommended by the TRA—I imagine that the Treasury Committee would take a great interest in that—and the statement would set out the reasons for their decision. The TRA will continue to maintain a public file of the evidence and publish its conclusions as well. I hope colleagues will be reassured by the transparency that we seek to bring in.

On the TRA itself, it started to investigate cases in 2021. To date, its completed cases include one new investigation and 11 measures transitioned from the EU. It investigates, for example, allegations of dumping, subsidy and unforeseen surges in imports, and it provides objective, independent and evidence-based advice to Ministers, which we will very much continue to value.

As to why we have to make the changes through legislation, the TRA is a statutory body, it can therefore only act within its statutory powers. That is why we have to bring forward the legislation. Furthermore, it will give certainty to parliamentarians should it be needed in future—though I hope that will not be the case.