Clause 1 - Meaning of the “CPTPP”

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 20 February 2024.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.

As we commence examination of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, or CPTPP, the Labour party is sharply focused on its wide-ranging implications for the United Kingdom. Our commitment transcends merely increasing trade volumes; it extends to enhancing the welfare of our industries and to improving the wellbeing of our citizens, pivotal to safeguarding our nation’s interests.

Despite the insights provided during previous debates in the Chamber by Government Members, who championed the agreement as a gateway to market access and economic prosperity, we observe a disconnect in our approaches towards trade, in particular regarding its broader societal and economic repercussions. The CPTPP introduces extensive modifications in key areas such as procurement, intellectual property and the regulation of conformity assessment bodies. However, the Government’s depiction seems to gloss over the profound and complex impacts of those provisions. Our steadfast dedication to promoting trade development is matched by our resolve to maintain high environmental standards, to protect workers’ rights and to uphold the sovereignty of our legal and regulatory frameworks.

In addressing clause 1, it is pivotal to reference the discourse from the Minister for Trade Policy and the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, who in the Chamber espoused the agreement as a beacon for market access and economic opportunity. However, that optimistic portrayal does not encapsulate the nuanced and potentially adverse socioeconomic and environmental consequences. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s adjustment of the GDP boost projection to a mere 0.06% necessitates an exhaustive assessment of its tangible benefits, directly conflicting with the Government’s depiction of substantial gain. That projection is a stark downgrade from the initial Government claim of a 0.08% GDP boost over 10 years, now halved to a mere 0.04% in the long run. The Trades Union Congress emphasises that CPTPP could

“significantly threatens workers’ rights, regulatory standards…and democratic decision making”, providing a stark contrast to the Government’s optimistic economic forecast.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

As members of this Committee, we have been lucky enough to have had the Business and Trade Committee publish its report on the UK’s accession to CPTPP. In that, one of the explicit recommendations—it would be good to hear from the Minister whether he will accept it—is that the Government should

“provide a revised impact assessment, setting out its current expectations of the gains from CPTPP”.

The report goes on to say that the Department should

“explain what steps it is going to take to help ensure that UK business exploits the treaty to the full.”

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Secretary of State was trying to run away from the estimates of the little, albeit important none the less, benefits that might accrue from CPTPP, so why should we not have that revised impact assessment now if Ministers think that it will lead to a huge increase in benefits for the UK?

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

I thank my hon. Friend the shadow Minister, who speaks with a great deal of knowledge and experience of the issue, having been involved in various meetings. I fully agree with him: we need transparency. We need that impact assessment, and I do not understand why the Government are stepping back from that. Indeed, the clause compels us to dissect the real economic benefit of joining the CPTPP, challenging the buoyant economic forecast.

Clause 2 looks at parliamentary approval and democratic oversight. The proposed Labour amendments carve a pathway towards safeguarding our national interest. In advocating for parliamentary approval of regulations under the clause, we underscore our dedication—

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Order. We are not yet discussing clause 2; there will be time enough to come on to that. We are discussing clause 1, which is about the definition and the meaning.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

Thank you, Mr Davies, for that clarification.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

This is probably one of those rare occasions when we are actually fortunate to have the hon. Member for Totnes on the Committee with us, because he is a member of the Business and Trade Committee, which brought out the report this week. As I understand it, he was one of those who supported the idea that the Government should provide a revised impact assessment. One can only hope that he will have the courage of his convictions to speak in this stand part debate to underline why he thinks that the Government should provide the revised impact assessment. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough will join me in encouraging him to have the courage of his convictions and speak.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

I thank my hon. Friend the shadow Minister again for his intervention. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes was kind enough to intervene on me in the Chamber on Second Reading, and no doubt he will be contributing on the need for an impact assessment and requesting that the Minister and the Government follow that course of action.

As I was saying on clauses 1 and 2, there are certain intertwined aspects of what we are discussing today that must be brought out, including the fact that we must ensure that Parliament remains committed to rigorous scrutiny and transparency when it comes to regulatory changes. Our concerns on this clause extend to intellectual property rights under the CPTPP and the controversial investor-state dispute settlement—ISDS —mechanism.

We remain particularly concerned about the inclusion of provisions for ISDS and its implications for the NHS, the environment and workers’ rights. We are concerned about how this provision in particular could increase the risks that this association brings to jobs, workers’ rights and sovereignty. Transform Trade, for example, has highlighted that restrictions on farmers’ rights to seeds under the CPTPP could severely impact biodiversity and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, contradicting the UK’s commitments under international agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and the sustainable development goals.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

My hon. Friend is setting out nicely the series of concerns that we in the Opposition have, which it would be good to hear the Minister address when he winds up the debate. One of the particular questions related to ISDS, which it would be good to hear the Minister deal with early in his response, is why Ministers, on the one hand, have supported ISDS staying in the CPTPP treaty, but were actively trying to have it excluded from the bilateral free trade agreement with Canada, before those negotiations were collapsed by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

My hon. Friend the shadow Minister makes an excellent point. It is these anomalies that are of concern, and the more we delve into the inclusion of ISDS in the agreement, the more we recognise the fact that it poses a formidable challenge to our national sovereignty and regulatory autonomy, enabling corporations to sue Governments over policies designed to protect public health, the environment and social welfare.

My hon. Friend the shadow Minister highlighted the issues around Canada, and indeed, in our recent meeting with the Minister and the lead negotiator for Canada, we looked at various aspects. I know that the trade deal with Canada has itself now arrived at a very rocky and bumpy interval, given the fact that we have now stopped—or paused, as the Minister would like to convince us— those negotiations, but these aspects, such as why it is one rule regarding the CPTPP and another regarding our negotiations with Canada, are things that need to be clarified during the deliberations today in Committee.

That is why, while I know that we will be discussing ISDS in full detail later on, it is important that the Minister provides the answers on that. Market analysis has shown instances where corporations have leveraged ISDS to challenge essential socioeconomic reforms, which underscores the mechanism’s potential to undermine democratic governance and public policy. Therefore, this particular amendment is pivotal, embodying our commitment to transparency and ensuring that regulatory changes introduced by the CPTPP are subject to rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way—again; it is early in the morning. One of the concerns, surely, about the Government’s insistence that ISDS should stay part of the CPTPP treaty that we are acceding to, is the inconsistency with the approach taken to ISDS by other parts of Government, such as by Ministers in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. The Minister will remember his experience there and the energy charter treaty in particular. Britain has paused its use of the energy charter treaty, because of widespread concerns internationally about the use of ISDS provisions. As I understand it, Ministers have also acknowledged the risk of ISDS to the Paris agreement objectives. That therefore begs the question posed by my hon. Friend even more so: why are Ministers so adamant that we as a country should support ISDS—

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, because it seems as if we are in almost telepathic agreement: that was the very thing that I was coming on to in a short while. He firmly and eloquently made various points about the anomalies to which I hope the Minister will provide answers. Our concerns extend to intellectual property rights under the CPTPP and the controversial ISDS mechanism.

Transform Trade has highlighted the CPTPP’s adherence to the 1991 international convention for the protection of new varieties of plants. The agreement severely restricts farmers’ rights to save, exchange and use seeds, potentially impacting on biodiversity and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. That restriction stands in stark contrast to the UK’s obligations under the Paris climate agreement, referenced by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West—the shadow Minister—and the sustainable development goals that are aimed at promoting sustainable agriculture and protecting biodiversity.

Furthermore, the inclusion of ISDS in the CPTPP poses a significant challenge to our national sovereignty and regulatory autonomy. The mechanism allows corporations to sue Governments for enacting policies intended to safeguard public health, the environment and social welfare. The Trade Justice Movement has pointed out cases in which corporations have used ISDS to contest socioeconomic reforms vital to public wellbeing, thereby threatening democratic governance and public policy-making processes.

Additionally, the CPTPP’s potential to remove tariffs on palm oil without regard to the environmental consequences of the palm oil trade exacerbates concerns about deforestation and its cascading effects on climate change and wildlife. Nearly 90% of global palm oil production occurs in Malaysia and Indonesia, where deforestation attributed to agricultural expansion is a pressing environmental crisis. The deforestation contributes significantly to global carbon emissions, threatens indigenous wildlife such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers, and undermines the UK’s commitment to combating climate change and preserving biodiversity.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

I am sorry for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but this debate is about the clause and the meaning of “CPTPP”. Will he tell us whether he is going to agree or disagree with that meaning, so that we may move on to other clauses?

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

I thank the hon. Gentleman, my hon. friend from Totnes, but patience is a virtue. As I said in my introduction, during our deliberations it is important that we look at the multifaceted nature of what is going on, including with regard to the definition. However, I am glad that he has come to life, and I look forward to hearing from him very soon about the impact assessment nature of the Bill.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 9:45, 20 February 2024

As my hon. Friend was talking about deforestation, I was almost excited to see the hon. Member for Totnes leap to his feet: in the Select Committee report, which I understand the hon. Gentleman fully supports, is a significant reference to deforestation linked to palm oil, as my hon. Friend was rightly pointing out. Professor Bartels, the chair of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, noted that one reason why it appears that a high proportion of current UK imports of palm oil from Malaysia meet a voluntary standard higher than the current Malaysian national standard may be the impact of the EU’s deforestation regulations, which are much tougher than the UK’s certification requirements.

I gently suggest that the Select Committee, and perhaps Professor Bartels, had a nagging concern that the provisions of CPTPP may actually lead, in the long run, to more deforestation than we might as a country be comfortable with.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Order. Before the hon. Member for Slough resumes, I should say that I have given him a great deal of latitude so far, but he is in danger of covering all his new clauses and amendments in his opening speech. I do not know whether that is what he is planning—not to speak to any of the amendments but just to cover them off at the beginning—but I am not prepared to let that happen. The amendments and new clauses are down in a specific order, and the hon. Gentleman or his colleague will be able to speak to them at the relevant time. We do not need to rehearse what will be debated later on.

I also do not want to get into a rehash of a Second Reading debate. I have given the hon. Gentleman a lot of latitude, but I urge him to stick to clause 1, rather than giving us advance notice of all the future amendments and new clauses that he might wish to move at a later date.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

Mr Davies, I thank your good self for your sage advice. This is all important, as I am setting the scene with regard to clause 1 and the Labour party’s perspective on what is happening under the Bill. That is why I was setting the scene. Later in the debate, I will delve into great detail; I do intend to speak, with your permission, on subsequent clauses. I will be contributing in detail, but I think that it was important for me to set out the scene at the very beginning.

Another reason is that the Trade Justice Movement and Transform Trade have urged careful consideration of the environmental implications, advocating for trade policies that align with the UK’s international commitments to environmental conservation and sustainable development. Labour’s amendments—in due course, Mr Davies—are a vision for equitable trade.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the Labour party’s stance on the CPTPP is founded on a principled approach to trade policy that prioritises collective wellbeing over narrow economic interests. Our amendments, which we will debate, reflect a comprehensive strategy to ensure that trade serves as a force for good, enhancing our national and global standing without sacrificing our core values and commitments.

As we contemplate the future of UK trade policy, let us be guided by the vision of fairness, sustainability and inclusivity. The Labour party calls for a cautious and considered approach to the CPTPP, and advocates for trade policies that benefit the many. In doing so, we champion a future where the UK not only engages with the world but leads by example in establishing fair, equitable and sustainable trade relations.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I am grateful to you, Mr Davies, for calling me, and for the opportunity to serve again under your chairmanship. I have noted your advice—or instruction —not to go into the detail of the amendments, but I do wish to ask a number of questions of the Minister to help to guide the points that I will make on some of those measures further down the selection list.

One concern raised on Second Reading was about the collapse of the bilateral talks with Canada. That specific issue is perhaps not directly germane to this Bill, but it raises the question of whether relations with the Canadians have been affected by the collapse of those talks such that Canada may not want to ratify Britain’s accession to CPTPP. It would be good to hear from the Minister how he sees the progress among other countries of accepting that accession. I say in passing that we have still not had a clear explanation of the timing of the decision by the Secretary of State to collapse talks with Canada, given that we are still some two months away from the deadline to negotiate a rollover of the EU cumulation rules of origin that were so important for British manufacturing, notably cars.

Also on Second Reading, we heard the Secretary of State querying her own Department’s figures about the 0.08% lift to economic growth after 10 years, which was downgraded to just 0.04% by the Office for Budget Responsibility. I take the opportunity again to underline the recommendation of the Business and Trade Committee in its report this week for the Department to bring out a revised impact assessment. It also called for an urgent debate on the benefits—or not—of acceding to CPTPP. If Ministers were willing to support such a debate, it would be good to have that impact assessment brought out urgently. As I said, I hope that the hon. Member for Totnes, who is a member of the Committee, does not resile from those recommendations.

Given that, sadly, our country is now in recession after mismanagement by the Conservative party, and given that exports are set to rise by just 0.1% on average over the next three years, any increase in the modest gains that CPTPP is currently set to offer will be very welcome. However, as part of the discussion about our accession to CPTPP, I want to take the Minister back to debates we had some three years ago on the Trade Act 2021, when he was adamant that there should be no improvement in the scrutiny processes available for the discussion of trade treaties. He will be aware of the concerns raised by a series of organisations—from trade unions all the way through to the slightly less left-wing, one would suggest, noble Lord Frost—about the lack of scrutiny for trade treaties, notably CPTPP. It would be good to hear how the Minister thinks scrutiny of the impact of CPTPP could be improved even a little.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

As my hon. Friend is delving into the issue of workers’ rights, does he share my concern that the Trades Union Congress has voiced significant anxieties regarding the impact of the CPTPP on workers’ rights, particularly in sectors vulnerable to increased exports from countries where labour standards may be compromised to lower production costs? Does he agree that that could potentially threaten the livelihoods of British workers and undercut our domestic industries?

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I hope that we will get on to some of the concerns that the TUC has raised about labour standards, which I think would be in order during a later debate on clause 3. It would be good to hear whether the Minister shares any of the concerns of the TUC, which has often struggled somewhat to get a hearing with Ministers. I believe that the situation has improved a little recently, but it was certainly pretty grim when Elizabeth Truss was Secretary of State for International Trade.

In his opening remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Slough rightly drew attention to concerns about ISDS, and I will touch on those a little. Concerns were also raised about issues to do with performers’ rights. I accept that there is an opportunity to go into detail about some of those concerns during debates on clause 5, but I wish to ask the Minister a couple of questions, which I hope will inform better the debate on performers’ rights in clause 5.

Concerns were raised on Second Reading about environmental and animal welfare issues. Again, there will be an opportunity to talk about some of those a little later. One issue that there might not be such a good opportunity to discuss later, which I gently suggest is appropriate for this clause 1 stand part debate, is the question of future membership of CPTPP. One of my excellent staff discovered an article that the Minister wrote on 24 November 2022, where he hints at the United States rejoining CPTPP. That could have huge implications for the use of ISDS and animal welfare and environmental concerns, and would probably make a nonsense of the current impact assessment, so that is all the more reason for a revised impact assessment to be made.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (AI and Intellectual Property)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech and doing a very good job of highlighting the issues that sit within this area of policy. Is he going to come on to the more detailed concerns around the environment and animal welfare in relation to the United States should it become a member of the CPTPP? Many British consumers have significant concerns about hormone-treated beef, standards of animal welfare and a range of other consumer and environmental issues.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is absolutely right to raise those concerns. I hope to touch on them in this clause 1 stand part debate, but I do not want to upset the Chair by delving into too much detail. But the RSPCA has raised concerns about the lack of explicit language on animal welfare in CPTPP. It has drawn the Committee’s attention to that and has raised a series of concerns around eggs, pig meat, chickens, animal health and genetically-engineered products. Will the Minister respond to the concerns of the RSPCA, which is in order in these debates? It would be good to hear the Minister respond to the concerns of an organisation as reputable as the RSPCA.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

My hon. Friend the shadow Minister has spoken up about the USA, but does he agree with me that during the previous debate we did not get clarification from the Government regarding the potential membership of China? We need to determine, within our definitions, the Government’s stance on the potential membership of China.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. I explored whether there was any way to table an amendment that might allow us to probe the Minister about not just China but any new country acceding to CPTPP. Unfortunately, it did not appear to be appropriate or in order to table such an amendment in Committee, but I hope to revisit the issue on Report—indeed, I understand that it was discussed on Report in the Lords.

Nevertheless, any hints that the Minister can offer us as to how his Department would deal with a new country acceding to CPTPP would be good to hear—whether that country is the US, as he hinted at in his article; whether it is China, as my hon. Friend referred to; or whether it is Taiwan, Indonesia or any of the other countries that have expressed an interest in joining the CPTPP.

On Second Reading, I expressed a series of concerns that had been raised with Labour Members about the clauses on performers’ rights. The Minister was good enough to write to me after that debate to try to answer some of the concerns put to me.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:00, 20 February 2024

Order. I should say to the hon. Gentleman that clause 5 is specifically entitled “Performers’ rights”. There will be a debate on whether or not clause 5 should stand part of the Bill. He said that he did not want to upset me too much; I advise him to try not to upset me at all. I gently suggest to him that a debate on “Performers’ rights” would perhaps be better suited to when we are considering clause 5.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I hear the Chair’s sage advice; I think my hon. Friend the Member for Slough used that term. I will attempt to pick up all my concerns about the Minister’s letter and about performers’ rights more generally during a later debate.

I will briefly touch on ISDS, which my hon. Friend referred to in some detail. The Minister has previously claimed that Britain has never lost an ISDS case and that that explains the determination of Ministers to keep ISDS within the CPTPP. My understanding is that that is not entirely accurate and that we lost a case involving Eurotunnel some years ago and had to pay out significant costs. It would be good to have clarity from the Minister about that when he winds up on this clause, to help to inform our later debates around ISDS. It would also be useful to hear whether Britain has ever been threatened with an ISDS claim by other organisations—again, that would help us understand just how much of a threat ISDS being within the CPTTP is at the moment.

The concern is that Britain is, in general, a net exporter of capital at the moment, which is perhaps why we have not been hit with so many ISDS claims as a series of other countries have been. Obviously, however, with Canada a significant player in the CPTTP, and with the US, as the Minister said, potentially rejoining the CPTTP, that would not necessarily be the case. The question is this: would we not be more vulnerable in those circumstances? I gently suggest that that is a material concern, so it would be useful to hear at this stage from the Minister about it before we address the other concerns later. On that note, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

May I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Davies, and welcome all members to this Committee for line-by-line consideration of this important Bill? Over 40 extraordinary minutes, we have heard an attempt by the Labour Front Bench to reopen the Second Reading debate, but I will try to answer the questions put to me.

Clause 1 is a non-controversial clause that defines the terms used in the Bill. “The CPTPP” means the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership signed at Santiago on 8 March 2018, including the UK accession protocol as it has effect in the United Kingdom from time to time. “The UK accession protocol” means the protocol on the accession of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the CPTPP, signed at Auckland and Bandar Seri Begawan on 16 July 2023.

We heard on Second Reading that the official Labour party position is to support the accession of the United Kingdom to the CPTPP, but over the past 40 minutes we have heard a series of speeches that give the opposite impression. That is often the case in today’s Labour party: there is a diktat from Keir Starmer up above, but below him something different is done, particularly by Members who were active when Jeremy Corbyn was the party leader. The hon. Member for Harrow West reminded us of his time on the Trade Bill Committee, when he was opposed to all UK trade agreements. Without myself embarking on a Second Reading speech, I wonder how much of that dichotomy is still there in today’s Labour party.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

I caution the Minister that there is no dichotomy here. As we said in the Chamber on Second Reading, although we are in favour of acceding to the CPTPP, the job of His Majesty’s Opposition is to go through the Bill line by line and point out the various anomalies, issues and concerns—not just our own, but those of movements including the Trades Union Congress and other voluntary and civil society organisations. Otherwise, we would be heading towards another car crash. Given that the governing party has managed to crash the economy, does the Minister agree that we need safeguards from the Opposition?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the fact that this is all about line-by-line scrutiny. I certainly welcome that, if it is indeed the approach that he will be taking. None the less, I feel that I should answer the questions that he and the hon. Member for Harrow West have raised.

Having been an Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson myself, I should point out that the way a Bill Committee generally works is that Members table amendments about things they wish to speak about, rather than seeking on clause 1 to shoehorn in all kinds of additional questions and issues on which they have not tabled amendments. The Labour party has been in opposition for some time now—close to 14 years—and one might have thought that it would have learned some lessons about how to be a more effective Opposition. None the less, I will respond to the questions in the spirit in which they were asked.

The first question was about Canada. Of course, the hon. Member for Harrow West was a frequent rebel when it came to the UK and EU trade agreement with Canada, so he has a bit of form here. He said that there is an important roll-over of the rules of origin, and he is absolutely right, but what he did not tell us is that he opposed those rules of origin in the first place when the comprehensive economic and trade agreement was passed in this very Committee Room seven years ago. It is a bit rich for him now to say that something is important today when he was one of a small minority of Labour Front Benchers who opposed it.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

Of course, if the hon. Gentleman is going to explain whether he has changed his mind. Is he still opposed to CETA? I am sure he is going to tell us.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

First, I thank the Minister for describing me as a frequent rebel. I am hugely grateful to him for that characterisation: it will appear on my election leaflets for years to come. He has raised my vote on CETA many times, and I suspect he will do so many times in future; I do hope so. I gently make the point that he promised us he would help to negotiate a better deal with Canada, but he has not done so. In fact, we have worse terms of trade with Canada than when we were in the EU .

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

I do not think that this is the time to discuss the whole future and present of our overall trading relations with Canada, but I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that he has form on this. We remain open to restarting the bilateral talks; of course, that rolled-over agreement remains in place and nothing has been undone by the pause on the bilateral talks. We continue to work with Canada on its CPTPP ratification.

The hon. Member for Harrow West called for an urgent debate—we support having one, if parliamentary time can be found—under the CRaG process. I think he has grown to dislike the CRaG process, but I point out that he is one of the few members of this Committee who voted in favour of the process back in 2010.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

I well understand the Minister wanting to reach for a piece of Labour legislation for comfort in the difficult circumstances of this particular Bill. I gently point out to him, however, that we have now left the European Union, which the CRaG process, when put into legislation, assumed we would continue to be a part of. I therefore gently suggest that we need to update the scrutiny processes. The Minister appears to be one of the last people on the Government Benches who is opposed to improving parliamentary scrutiny. With an election coming, given that he might be sitting on the Opposition Benches—if he survives—he should appreciate better scrutiny arrangements. Perhaps he is willing to seek the advice of the hon. Member for Totnes on how scrutiny arrangements might be improved.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

The hon. Gentleman and I were in Parliament—as you were, Mr Davies—when CRaG was passed, and it was not dependent on or linked to the UK’s membership of the European Union. It was a process for the parliamentary ratification of all international treaties. I gently remind the hon. Gentleman of that.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentions parliamentary scrutiny, because I have looked back through the annals of time. As the Committee may know, I have been closely involved with CPTPP for a long time—since I first became Minister of State with responsibility for international trade back in 2016. I checked back on the parliamentary scrutiny that we have had over the years, as I was specifically asked to.

In June 2021, we published our negotiation objectives. We have provided regular updates to Parliament on CPTPP: two oral statements and, extraordinarily, 16 written ministerial statements. I do not think that there has been a lack of parliamentary scrutiny. Ministers and the chief negotiator have appeared before five separate Select Committees to discuss CPTPP and to answer questions about it. We had the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s report in December 2023 and the section 42 report in January 2024, and the CRaG process has now started. There has been no shortage of parliamentary scrutiny.

The hon. Member for Harrow West asked about future membership. I will not be drawn on that subject, but I refer him to the Auckland principles; he can check out what those are all about. Had he really wanted to talk about future membership, he could have tabled an amendment. I will certainly look at the RSPCA concerns, but, again, he has not tabled an amendment on them.

As for the Select Committee, the hon. Gentleman has been trying to get it to do his job for him. He cited a recommendation from the Select Committee that we have a fresh impact assessment, but I note that that is not a recommendation on which he himself has tabled an amendment. Had he done his homework over the past couple of weeks, he need not have made a speech today covering all kinds of new areas on which he has failed to table an amendment.

As for ISDS and palm oil, we will come on to debate them with new clauses 5 and 1. I think the hon. Gentleman floated something about a Eurotunnel case from many years ago; if he wants to give some detail on that, he can write to me as to what that may have all been about. Of course, it may well have been in his own time as Trade Minister under the last Labour Government.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 10:15, 20 February 2024

On the Eurotunnel question, the Minister might like to check with Lord Johnson, because he seemed to know a little bit more about the case than the Minister appears to. Perhaps when the Minister goes back to his Department he might seek out his noble Friend and get some background from him.

The problem with ISDS, particularly in the Eurotunnel case, is that War on Want had to table a freedom of information request to find out what had happened. That level of secrecy is one of the problems with ISDS. As the Minister has access to those records, it would be useful if he published or made clear what happened in that case. That would help us, as a country, to learn how we might avoid such claims in future.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

Again, if the hon. Gentleman had wished to debate that, he might have tabled an amendment on it. Maybe he will do so later in the Bill’s passage.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

On a point of order, Mr Davies. I gently ask whether you might draw the Minister’s attention to new clause 5, which is specifically about ISDS.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that was not a point of order. I should say that he was leading with his chin by pointing that out, because his remarks should have been confined to our debate on new clause 5.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade)

In conclusion, I urge that this short, technical and non-controversial clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.